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The Elimination Diet: What it is and How to Do it?

We tell you everything you need to know about the elimination diet and be able to start taking it in a proper way.

Person eating from a plate

The elimination diet is one of the main tools used in Functional Integrative Medicine to identify sensitivities to different types of food. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Dieta de la eliminación: ¿qué es y cómo aplicarla?

The elimination diet is one of the main tools used in Functional Integrative Medicine to identify sensitivities to different types of food. It is a diet that completely avoids, for at least 21 days, the intake of food commonly associated with allergies, intolerances and inflammation. After this period, the eliminated foods are reintroduced one by one to detect if consuming them causes negative symptoms in the body.

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Although its name carries the word diet, it has nothing to do with losing weight. However, its use has become popular due to its dissemination on social networks. It is a process that requires proper planning, a lot of discipline and monitoring. However, it can be a great ally to improve the understanding of your body and establish eating patterns that generate well-being and vitality.

 

Latinamerican Post spoke with Margarita Sanz, Functional Physician, Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, who states that the elimination diet can benefit many people: “Many of the symptoms associated with the presence of food sensitivities are not gastrointestinal, such as problems in our skin (from acne to eczema), joint and muscle pain⁠, fatigue, lack of energy, feeling tired, headache, migraines⁠, concentration problems, nasal congestion, depression and metabolic disturbances. Also, not all people with dysfunctions in the digestive system have gastrointestinal symptoms. For example, you may have skin lesions as the only symptom and the underlying cause is alterations in your digestive system ”, explains the doctor.

Food allergies and intolerances are increasing every day in the population and although there are laboratory tests to detect them, these are usually expensive. Therefore, the elimination diet is an alternative to specialized tests, which can be done at home and at a low cost. In this regard, Dr. Sanz explains that both the elimination diet and blood tests have pros and cons. Hence the importance of applying them with medical monitoring: "Identifying if there are food sensitivities is a very important step but it is not the only one, it is just as important to determine if there is adequate digestion of the proteins you consume, if there is an increase in intestinal permeability, improve the oral tolerance of the immune system and increase the diversity of the intestinal microbiota ”.

According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the elimination diet has a positive impact on patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, allowing them to reduce their discomfort and improve their quality of life. However, Dr. Margarita Sanz indicates that it is important to understand that it is not a diet to be done for long periods of time.

On the other hand, The Institute for Functional Medicine has pointed out that the elimination diet in addition to helping to identify the foods that trigger negative reactions, has benefits to reduce fatigue, reduce inflammation, stress and pain, increase phytonutrients in the body and support the proper growth of the microbiome.

In the book the elimination diet: discover the foods that are making you sick and tired, a plan designed in 3 stages is offered: detoxify the body, identify and eliminate the foods that harm you, in addition to personalizing a rich long-term diet in nutrients. Its authors, nutrition experts Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, say that there is a deep relationship between what we eat and how we feel, even on an emotional level. Therefore, they raise the need for each person to become aware of their body's relationship with food.

Research in the field of nutrition is pointing to the fact that common diseases and disorders start in the intestine because cells of the immune system are found there.

What foods are eliminated?

According to a guide published by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health , the foods to eliminate, for a period of 2 to 4 weeks, are:

  • Dairy products and their derivatives.

  • Citrus

  • Eggs.

  • Gluten-free foods. That is, those made with wheat, rye or barley.

  • Soy.

  • Walnuts and peanuts.

  • Red meat and seafood.

  • Corn.

  • Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.

  • Processed foods or with preservatives.

  • Alcohol.

However, the foods to eliminate may vary in each patient, depending on their initial symptoms and nutritional needs. However, during the elimination diet, mainly foods of 100% natural origin should be consumed, with abundant servings of fruits, vegetables and quality proteins.

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For this reason, it is important to plan when the process is going to start, since it is necessary that the eliminated foods are not included in any way, even in small quantities. After finishing the elimination phase, small portions of each of the suspended foods are introduced. To do this, a calendar must be established that allows the tests to be organized, leaving a day of rest between each reintroduced food. That is, if you try gluten on a Monday, you should rest on Tuesday from the reintroduction of foods.

It is necessary to keep a record of the reactions or symptoms caused by each food to mention them to the treating doctor and determine if it is convenient to eliminate it from the diet. In other words, once all the previously eliminated foods have been tested, a nutritional plan must be established that is appropriate to the results.