These two little words tend to have the most negative connotation, yet when implemented correctly, the benefits of an elimination diet are truly profound.
Elimination diets have single-handedly improved the quality of life of hundreds upon hundreds of my clients, even more so than medication in many instances.
How can this be? How can removing foods that are touted as “healthy” be the reason someone’s migraines, asthma, IBS, arthritis, or insomnia disappear?[1,2]
I once asked the same question. I thought it was hogwash and I criticized the dietitians and health care practitioners who were taking this approach. I almost declined an amazing job opportunity because I knew elimination diets were the mainstay of that particular clinic’s plan of care.
At the end of the day, it was a lack of knowledge and experience on my part. Now, I am fighting to reverse the stigma. Keep reading to learn the top 3 benefits of an elimination diet and why you should consider one today to help address your fatigue, bloating, or other health issues.
Summarize it for Me: What Are The Top 3 Benefits of an Elimination Diet?
Let’s cut to the chase. Here is the quick and dirty version of why elimination diets have been the reason for the biggest energy boosts and most remarkable disease reversal process my eyes have ever seen.
The overarching theme here is that elimination diets fight inflammation. A well constructed elimination diet benefits you in a variety of ways including:
- support the microbiome
- increase phytonutrient uptake (phytonutrients are beneficial chemicals that are anti-inflammatory and act as antioxidants)
- reduce total body burden/toxic load
This is what happens when we clear the body of foods and chemicals that may be lighting your immune system on fire! Together all of these pieces can help someone who struggles to get through each day, suddenly operate like a well-oiled machine.
How Does an Elimination Diet Help Health Issues Outside of Your Gastrointestinal System?
Some of you are sitting there thinking “Uhh, how is food related to my knee pain or sinus issues.”
Well, think about it, you have to eat each day to survive and function, there’s no way around it. So what you are shoveling down the hatch day in and day out has the biggest effect on the way your body feels and functions. The microbes in your gut act as the control center for your body and when they are off-kilter, it should be no surprise that you feel less than optimal.
The idea that these microbes or healthy microorganisms in your gut acting as a control center can really seem like a stretch at first glance. However, we can promise you there is loads of research coming out showing the connections between the gut and brain such as decreased “HPA axis” function in those with depression and how probiotics, prebiotics, and diet may affect the brain as they all affect the health and function of the gut and there is bidirectional communication between the gut and brain.
Most specifically, a study by Mohajeri, La Fat et al. sate, “It has become increasingly evident in recent years that the gut microbiome and the brain communicate in a bidirectional manner, with each possibly affecting the other’s functions.”
So, long story short, when you remove inflammatory foods or foods that for whatever reason your body reacts negatively to, you can reduce whole-body inflammation, thus improving a multitude of health issues from your energy to your joints and sinuses, as well as improve both gut and brain function.
Please note, an elimination diet is not recommended for everyone. Eliminating major food groups is generally not recommended for those with a past or current medical history of an eating disorder and those who are suffering from acute illness, especially the elderly. If you are pregnant or you are interested in learning more about placing your child on an elimination diet, please speak with your doctor and dietitian together.
Alright, Here are The Details on The Top 3 Benefits of an Elimination Diet
1. An Elimination Diet Will Help You Catch What’s Falling Through the Cracks
According to the British Allergy Foundation, food sensitivities are significantly more common than food allergies. (And if you are new to food sensitivity vs. allergy. vs intolerance, we have an article that explains everything you ned to know.) Worst of all, food sensitivities are much harder to diagnose. This is because…
a) Many of the heavily marketed food sensitivity tests on the market are either using outdated technology or are testing the wrong people. For example, someone with severe intestinal permeability would typically not be a great candidate for food sensitivity testing. Why? This person is going to flag for a million and one foods, even if those foods are not truly an issue. This is to be expected when the immune system is in overdrive.
b) Some practitioners are not trained enough to accurately interpret results or, are not allotted enough time during their patient visit to thoroughly explain the results and provide specific diet recommendations accordingly.
c) Food sensitivity related symptoms are so diverse and unique to each person. My personal food sensitivity issues may lead to hives and headaches whereas yours could be fatigue and constipation.
d) Symptoms from food sensitivities can vary from coming on in a half-hour to actually taking several days to appear in some individuals, therefore, testing is not always the most reliable. Sometimes it is really hard to capture this concept.
So, it’s no surprise that the gold standard for detection is an elimination diet. Sure, in some situations I will implement food sensitivity testing, but more times than not, an elimination diet is an answer when someone has unexplained symptoms and does not want to spend hundreds, even thousands on unnecessary testing.
2. An Elimination Diet Will Save You TIME and MONEY
Ok, so you haven’t felt well for quite some time now. Whether you already dived deep into testing, specialized procedures, supplements, and prescription medications or not, the road is exhausting and EXPENSIVE. Also, how about time!?
Do you have time to sit hours in 3 more doctor’s waiting rooms only to be told they aren’t sure what’s going on or to be offered another prescription to simply cover up the symptoms? I don’t! And even if I had the time, that is not where I want to be. What about the time it takes to price shop and fumble around with different websites in order to get the best deal on your supplements and medications? Time is valuable and it’s better spent with family, relaxing, or making money.
Please do not fork cash out of your wallet until you have attempted and considered the incredible benefits of an elimination diet. Think of this process of food removal as the “windshield wipers” or “clearing the cobwebs” if you will. We have to try and remove the most inflammatory components of your life to see what is still left to tackle and since the majority of the human immune system lives in the gut, food should be your first line of defense.
I have seen clients come off powerful sleep-inducing medications like Ambien after the removal of wheat and sugar. I have seen others come off their reflux, migraine, and IBS related meds after the removal of foods such as egg and cow’s milk. I once had someone spend >$9,000 over a seven-year stretch from all of his doctor’s visits, procedures, and prescriptions...and then 12 days into the elimination diet meal plan, he was symptom-free from something he suffered from his entire life. I could go on and on but I think you get it. Plus, there is a growing body of research to reinforce the concept.[3,4]
I am certainly not saying that an elimination diet is always the answer, but why wouldn’t you at least try? More times than not, it has saved my client’s thousands of dollars in the long run. I have actually had quite a few individuals who also said their grocery bill went down in the process once they began eating only real food and removed the soda, chips, candy, fancy latte’s, etc. #bonus
3. An Elimination Diet Can Provide Almost Immediate Symptom Relief
As previously stated, food is powerful and it is the one thing we come in contact with consistently every day. Therefore, it can greatly improve your life or completely ruin your quality of life…and it can all happen very quickly. It is not unusual for a client to tell me that within 24 hours of following a well-balanced elimination diet that they can already feel some of their symptoms subside.
Now, considering that many medications can take a while to get into your system before they are effective (especially immunosuppressants) and even then sometimes if you are eating foods that your immune system does not like (aka they trigger an immune reaction for some reason), you still may not feel well even if you are consistent with taking those medications.
– 5 Cornerstones of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan
– How to Reduce Inflammation in the Body – 10 Top Tips
Another fun fact, it only takes about 5-7 days for the cells in your gut to start turning over. The intestine is actually the most regenerative organ in the human body, regenerating its lining, (the epithelium,) every five to seven days. That is incredible!! Think of what could happen after just 10 days of following a diet free of the top inflammatory foods!
Even the most minute amounts of allergenic foods (i.e. corn, cow’s milk, egg to name a few) can set the immune system into a cascade of anger. If a certain food is inflammatory to your unique immune system, a range of serious clinical symptoms can arise. When working with some of my most sick and inflamed clients, literally one bite of a certain food can send them into a downward spiral for 2 weeks.
Lastly, think of the elimination diet approach kind of like ripping off the bandaid. We are typically removing all of the most inflammatory foods at once. While it can be tough initially, most people experience symptom relief anywhere from 24-72 hours with the remainder of clients saying they definitely feel a difference by 7-10 days. Most people feel like a new human at the 30 day mark.
Worth a try, right!?
If I’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to dive a little deeper into the benefits of an elimination diet as well as how to begin the process, our Ultimate Elimination Diet Meal Plan Guide is a great place to start. If you still want to learn a bit more about what exactly an elimination diet is and how it works, check out our post on What is an Elimination Diet? | 3 Crucial Things to Know.
Happy eating and happy healing!