Have you ever gone through the rigor of an elimination diet to see if there are foods in your diet that are causing unpleasant symptoms? Many of us have, or at the very least thought about it. The classic Elimination Diet is still the gold standard for uncovering food sensitivities. It was originally invented and popularized by Dr. Albert Rowe in his book Elimination Diets and Patient’s Allergies, written in 1941. We are still using his concept to this day. Many healthcare practitioners, even medical doctors, recommend these diets on a routine basis. They too know that IgG tests, as I wrote about previously (insert link), are fraught with errors and are frankly unreliable.
So what does an Elimination Diet entail exactly? As aptly named, this type of diet seeks to eliminate many of the known common allergens (or as they should be more appropriately called, sensitivities) from the diet for a set period of time, usually 3 or 4 weeks. This gives the immune system enough time to calm down, so to speak, and ample time to see a reduction in symptoms. When foods are reintroduced, the symptoms they provoke are typically obvious and more severe than previously experienced. This makes it much easier to pinpoint the culprit foods.
Here are the foods typically eliminated on a basic elimination diet:
Other foods eliminated on stricter plans:
Beans, peas, lentils
All seeds and nuts
ALL sugar (including maple syrup, honey, etc)
Certain chemicals (tyramine, phenylethylamine, nitrates, MSG, etc)
As you can imagine, these diets are clearly no walk in the park. They are typically only suggested for patients that are willing and able to follow the protocol with the strong suggestion that the diet be guided by a trained practitioner. The rigor of the diet can be a hurdle for some, but this can be overcome with proper education, advice, and support. Most of us Dietitians have had training and practice during our schooling and are well qualified to walk patients through the process.
While you know now that elimination diets have been around for some time, you may have noticed they have started to become re-popularized lately, almost faddish in nature. Nowadays there seems to be countless books hitting the shelves talking about anti-inflammatory diet plans and specialized eating plans that claim they will help you shed weight, increase your energy, and even make you look years younger. What do all these diets have in common? They are based on the classic elimination diet!
As noted previously, these diets can be moderately restrictive or very restrictive based on what criteria you follow. That criteria is usually decided upon by you and your practitioner and what foods they seem to think are likely problematic in your particular case. While guided, informed and well-meaning, it’s essentially a guessing game. Similarly when you follow the plan put out by some author who has never met you and certainly doesn’t know your history or symptoms, it is an even greater guessing game.