Elimination Diets: Still the Gold Standard?
“Can’t I just take a test?” A question I get often from patients who are encouraged to try an elimination diet. While it is true that food sensitivity testing is becoming more available and may seem like the easier choice, has it really replaced the need to complete an elimination diet? Here at the UltraWellness Center, we recommend most of our patients complete some variation of an elimination diet if they are unsure of food reactions, and for good reason. People can react to foods in many ways and food sensitivity testing is not always going to capture all of them. Different ways you can react to foods are listed below:
- Food sensitivities / IgG and IgA
- Food intolerances
There are a few factors worth mentioning if you are considering getting food sensitivity testing done. Besides the fact that they can cost a pretty penny, another thing to consider is that you have to be eating the foods that are being tested on the food sensitivity tests to receive a positive result. Also, some food sensitivity testing can be so sensitive that it will have you eliminating too many foods, eliminating foods that you may not even react to, or removing foods that provide important vitamins and minerals, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies if continued long-term. For these reasons, it can be useful to complete an elimination diet in conjunction with food sensitivity testing or on its own, if on a budget.
Most people are aware of food allergies, the ones that cause immediate and often severe reactions, possibly even anaphylaxis. These allergies are classified as IgE (and/or histamine) immune system responses but there are other ways your immune system can respond to food. IgG and IgA reactions are called food sensitivities and these reactions tend to have a delayed response, taking as long as three days after eating a particular food to show symptoms. You can imagine how difficult it can be to determine what foods are triggering the reaction when you are eating many other foods before the symptoms even present themselves. Food sensitivity symptoms tend to be chronic and vary from anything to fatigue, mood swings, headaches, asthma, joint aches/pains, and eczema etc.
There is also another type of food reaction which causes digestive difficulties such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and this is called a food intolerance. This type of reaction is likely to develop within 3-4 hours after eating a particular food. Food intolerances are not going to be identified in a food sensitivity test since the reaction is in the digestion system, not the immune system.
Although any food has the potential to cause a reaction, we know the most common culprits. When one does an elimination diet, common food triggers are simultaneously eliminated for a specific amount of time. During this initial phase, many people see improvements in their symptoms, something I like to call their “new normal.” Then one food at a time is systematically added back into the diet over the course of a day and then removed again for 72 hours to see if the newly introduced food causes a reaction. Those that do not notice a huge change during the elimination phase, often notice a difference as they go through the reintroduction process. You may ask, “How will an elimination diet tell me what foods I am reacting to if the symptoms are delayed?” During this process, we often see an immune response happen faster than usual because your immune system is already ‘primed’ and ready to react to the food that has been triggering it previously.
When you are removing the top common food sensitivities all at once on an elimination diet, you end up eating a cleaner, whole food based diet, which supports your body in multiple ways. You will reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and throughout the body. This allows for healing of the gut and a rebalancing of the microbiome, which supports and balances your immune system. Decreasing the toxic burden from processed foods helps support the liver and kidneys through the detoxification process. Not to mention your taste buds will adjust to this new way of eating which can lower sugar cravings and enable you to enjoy flavors that you may not have noticed before. These positive dietary changes will help to prevent and/or improve chronic illnesses. You may even be able to get off certain medications that come with additional side effects.
From experience, many people feel better and have more energy when completing an elimination diet because inflammation is reduced, which is at the root of so many chronic illnesses. It is an easy and powerful way to learn which foods work well for one’s body and which ones don’t. Everyone is looking for the diet that is tailored to them, and this is the best way to find it! Join us at the UltraWellness Center for our “Eliminate and Feel Great!” 5-week virtual course walking you through how to complete an elimination diet to uncover your hidden food triggers, the common sources of inflammation. The course will start on October 1st and occur every Thursday at 5pm until October 29th. If interested, please contact the UltraWellness Center at (413) 637-9991. Space is limited as we’d like to keep this class small so that participants have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and share their experiences! For more information, please visit the event listing.