We’re constantly told to exercise more, sleep better, and eat healthier foods, but sometimes the answer to feeling better is doing less. Enter the elimination diet, which is designed to remove foods that your body might be sensitive to, helping you understand whether those intolerances are leading to fatigue, poor sleep, skin reactions, or other health issues. This six-step plan gives you all the tools you need to benefit your digestive system and your overall health.
Everyone has different “trigger” foods and allergies. But on the whole, the foods that can often harm digestive health through inflammation or other unfavourable symptoms include gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, conventionally raised meats, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, and artificial sweeteners. You should also consider removing alcohol, which can lead to bacterial imbalance in your gut.
Foods you frequently eat might not feel problematic, but studies have shown that constant exposure to many foods can lead to intolerances. The only way to find out is to eliminate them for long enough to let your system heal.
Eliminating these foods allows the antibodies of these foods to completely leave your body. You might see relief after a few days. Depending on the severity of the reaction or symptoms, you may need to clear them from your plate for longer, but most adults should stick to a window of two to four weeks. Children can usually determine reactions after eliminating foods for up to 10 days.
What counts as “safe” will vary between people, but most elimination diet protocols will allow all fresh fruit except citrus, fresh vegetables, rice, olive and coconut oil, pastured meat, and wild-caught fish. That list may sound restrictive, but the more you eliminate, the more you’ll learn. You should also drink plenty of water. Herbal teas are fine, too.
Precision is key when you begin to reintroduce foods after a month. Start by choosing one food, and eating it with each meal. Reintroduce each food you’ve eliminated 48 hours after. Giving yourself two days with each food will help you determine whether you react to it before moving onto the next one.
If you don’t notice a negative reaction after two days of reintroducing a food, try that food once more and listen to your body. If your system’s good, you can reintegrate it into your regular diet. The big four factors to watch for are sleep, mood, energy, and digestion. Keep an eye on your mental clarity too, as problematic foods can often lead to “brain fog.”
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