Our digestive system is a huge portal into our bodies. Lots of things can get in there that aren't always good for us. And because the system is so complex (knowing which tiny molecules to absorb, and which keep out), lots can go wrong. And that's one reason why 70% of our immune system lives in and around our digestive system.
This makes food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances a huge contribution to an array of symptoms all over our bodies. Things like autoimmune issues, inflammation, and even our moods can be affected by what we eat. If you have digestive issues or any other unexplained symptoms, you may consider trying an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is one where you strategically eliminate certain foods to see if you react to them. It can help immensely when trying to figure out if a particular food is causing symptoms because you’re sensitive to it.
You generally start out by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks. Then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms (better or worse).
Let’s go over the pros and cons of this diet, but let me be honest;
if you are suffering from any symptoms that are making life difficult, my opinion is that you need to be a grown-up and start eliminating the most common offenders from your diet, which usually means the junk that you think you can’t live without, so that you allow your gut to heal, that is, if you wish to ever feel better; just a little tough love for you today!
Pros of elimination diets
The main benefit is that, by tuning into your body's reactions to certain foods, you can pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of. Experiencing results first-hand can be very motivating when it comes to sticking to eliminating a certain food.
Elimination diets can be less expensive, and in some cases more reliable, than standard allergy testing.
It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat, learn about food and the compounds they contain, and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good plan makes things much easier (even exciting). If you love grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, and trying new recipes, you’re going to draw on all these skills.
These diets can be customizable, which is a great pro (see first con below).
Possible ‘Cons’ of elimination diets, although there' more like ‘myths’
You may not figure out everything you're sensitive to. Your plan should be strategically created to ensure that the most common food allergens are eliminated. This will give you the highest likelihood of success. It can become complicated if you let it, but with a good program that guides you through it, you can gain a lot of insight.
It's a commitment for around 4-6 weeks, if not longer (which can be difficult for some people). But let me assure you that once you find out the thing or things that are hurting you, you won’t go back!
If you’re not used to tracking all foods and all symptoms every day, you’re going to have to start doing it. This may sound difficult at first, but a food journal is essential in this case.
You may find that you're intolerant to one of your favorite foods, or even an entire group of your favorite foods; so, so sorry if that happens, but guess what??? You shall survive and there are tons of substitutes out there, so don’t let this deter you!
When you're eliminating certain foods (or parts of foods, like gluten), it can be HARD, no doubt! You almost need to prepare all of your foods, snacks and drinks yourself from scratch. If you don't take full control like this, it can be so easy to accidentally ingest something that you're cutting out. And at that point, you might need to start all over again. Just be mindful and read labels, you can do it!
Have you done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe: Steamed Salmon and Vegetables (elimination diet-friendly)
2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
½ pint mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
4 tsp water
2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, no more than 1 ¼ “ thick
½ clove garlic, diced
2 dashes salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 450F.
Toss vegetables with olive oil.
Tear two sheets of parchment paper and fold in half. Open the sheets and place half of the vegetables onto each sheet on one side of the fold.
Add 2 teaspoons of water and place a fillet on top. Top with garlic, salt, and pepper.
Fold the other half of each sheet over the fish, and tightly crimp the edges.
Put packets flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and check to ensure fish flakes easily with a fork (be careful the steam is hot).
Open each pack and place onto plates.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can mix up the vegetables or herbs, following your elimination diet protocol.
‘til next time,