Elimination diets are often recommended to determine the cause of gastrointestinal issues and food intolerances. An intolerance being where you have trouble digesting a particular food and experience some manageable symptoms, as opposed to an allergy which is a lot more serious. The point of the diet is to temporarily remove all potential causes of the symptoms and to reintroduce them slowly to test how you react. While the approach sounds simple in theory, it can in reality be rather challenging to do as we are so used to the foods we eat every day. Radically changing our eating habits, even temporarily takes some planning, preparation, and determination. There is however a simple version that can prove to be helpful for many.
The most restrictive of elimination diets removes every possible cause of any symptom all at once. This would include alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, nightshades, corn, eggs, processed meats, shellfish and more. If many of these foods are part of your every day life, then removing them all at once will of course be incredibly challenging. This type of elimination diet requires a couple of months’ commitment and would ideally be supported and recommended by a health coach, nutritionist or functional medicine doctor who can guide the process, and may be necessary for more serious symptoms.
For milder but ongoing symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, occasional constipation or diarrhea, headaches, rashes or fatigue, then a simpler approach of temporarily removing just a few food types at a time can still be helpful. To keep it simple focus first on foods that are most likely to be causing issues, which for many would be gluten from wheat and cow’s milk protein, the two most common culprits for intolerances. Of course many of us can benefit from reducing or eliminating sugar, alcohol and caffeine so feel free to remove any of these also especially if they feature highly in your diet. The simple approach takes a commitment of around one month including preparation, two weeks of elimination and the reintroduction period.