The decision to begin an elimination diet was not one that I made lightly. I knew that if I were going to do this, I had to be very prepared because I wanted to do the most strict diet I could in order to really pinpoint any food allergies or sensitivities I might have. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and I recommend consulting with your trusted practitioner before and during your elimination diet to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
A doctor recommended this idea to me some time ago, and at that time I wasn’t ready to address my issues in this way. I have always had digestive issues, from daily nausea to sometimes vomiting to stomach pain and pressure and bloating. I have had a string of tests including upper gastrointestinal series, a stomach emptying study, and an endoscopy and colonoscopy at the age of 25. There was damage and irritation found, but nothing more conclusive than that. Right before I made the decision to start this diet, I was feeling worse than ever. My energy was low, I had trouble waking up in the morning, nausea would last all day, every day and there was this pressure and bloating in my stomach that was there (daily) for weeks. In addition, my regular migraines had come back, something I hadn’t experienced much in the last 4 years. After 20 some years of never feeling “great”, I had had enough. I did my research on various elimination diets and chose what to cut. I didn’t expect an elimination diet to be the answer to everything, but in many ways it seems as though it has been.
Here’s the plan that I am on (I’m following this one from Precision Nutrition most closely), I wanted to be as strict as possible with what I was cutting out, even things that I was sure weren’t causing me any problems:
*May also be removed if you suspect specific sensitivities to grains.
Keep in mind, along with peppers being eliminated, you should also eliminate crushed red pepper and paprika.
I found it helpful to create a list that was more “positive”, aka a list of the foods I CAN eat. That made this whole experience seem more realistic and do-able:
When you look at it in list form like above, you realize there are actually a lot of foods you CAN have. Not too shabby!
The length of your elimination diet will vary, but it is recommended in most cases for adults to do 3-4 weeks before adding foods back.
When you are ready to reintroduce foods, the idea is to add things back slowly and one at a time. For me, I’m planning on introducing a food group for one day then monitoring my body for any changes or reactions for two days before adding another food group. In total, the process should take 5-6 weeks.
I’m most closely monitoring my body for digestive issues, changes to skin (mainly oil levels and acne), migraines and fatigue. Here’s a list of things to pay attention to:
- joint pain and/or inflammation
- skin breakouts or rashes
- bowel changes or GI pain
- brain fog
- sinus or other respiratory issues
The Precision Nutrition link above is helpful for finding more information on starting an elimination diet. Here’s one last excerpt (tips) from the article:
- Prepare. People who spend the week prior to starting the program looking up recipes that are elimination-diet friendly do far better than people that jump right into it.
- Have the foods that you will need on hand. Know how to cook them, and prep as much as possible in advance. For example, making a large pot of rice, complete with vegetables, protein and seasonings ahead of time can help increase compliance during those times when you get hungry and have few options nearby.
- Clean out your kitchen. People aren’t particularly good with willpower. Get rid of the foods that aren’t part of your elimination phase (or hide them really well).
- Keep a journal. Record symptoms, energy and mood throughout the day to help identify any patterns with food intake. Remember, this is a self-experiment. And every good scientist needs a lab book in which they can keep their notes and experimental details.