If you suspect you have an allergy to certain foods or have symptoms such as aching joints, stomach pain after eating, wind, diarrhea, headaches, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you may have intolerance to one or more foodstuffs, which can exacerbate your symptoms. The elimination diet involves removing specific foods from your diet to work out which ones may be causing your symptoms. Exclusion diets should be followed under the supervision of a doctor, dietician or nutritionist to ensure you are still eating sufficient nutrients.
Elimination diet guidelines
Start with a simple baseline diet, excluding foods that are more common triggers (dairy products, soy, corn, meats, wheat, oats and rye, eggs, citrus fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, nuts, and coffee). If there are any foods you suspect cause your symptoms, remove them from your diet. The following foods listed below should form the basis of your new diet. Make sure you read food labels and ask in restaurants how foods are prepared so you ensure you know exactly what you’re eating.
After approximately 6 weeks on this diet, if symptoms have improved or disappeared you may introduce previously eliminated foods ONE AT A TIME, every 2 days. You should keep a food diary and add these foods in generous amounts to observe which cause your symptoms. Foods listed above as common triggers should be added last. A newly added food that brings on your symptoms should be removed from your diet for 1 to 2 weeks, and reintroduced to see if the same reaction occurs. If no symptoms are experienced, that food can be kept in your diet.
Keeping a Food Diary
Your diary should record all food eaten over a period of 4 weeks. You should note down EVERYTHING eaten in the day. The diary must also include notes on your condition such as when your symptoms improve or worsen.
It may only take a couple of weeks for you to start to see a pattern in your symptoms and food choices. For instance, when reading the previous entries of your diary, you might notice that your symptoms get worse 30 minutes after eating a steak for dinner.
The next step to discovering whether a food is having an adverse effect is to exclude it from your diet for a period of at least one month. You need to be patient when trying to pinpoint troublesome foods as the process may take several months.
The elimination diet is not always successful. Other factors can affect the results. If you randomly remove foods from your diet, you may suffer from an insufficient amount of certain macro- or micronutrients that can cause other health problems.