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A Guide to Doing an Elimination Diet

A 30-day elimination diet can be a game-changer if you've been battling chronic symptoms such as:

  • Acid reflux

  • Bloating

  • Constipation and/or diarrhea

  • Stomach pains & cramping

  • Allergies, sinus issues

  • Brain fog

  • Fatigue

  • Skin problems, acne, eczema, rash, rosacea

  • Join pain

  • Autoimmune conditions

  • Sleep troubles

  • Mood imbalance, anxiety, depression

  • and more!

If you're ready to embark on a transformative journey towards better health then keep reading to explore the ins and outs of following an elimination diet program.


The Power of Elimination:

Embarking on an elimination diet is not just about cutting out certain foods – it's a strategic reset for your body. By temporarily removing potential culprits known to cause inflammation you're providing your system with a chance to detoxify, heal and recalibrate.


What is "inflammation"?

Imagine your body is like a city with different neighborhoods. Inflammation is like the city's alarm system that goes off when there's trouble in one of the neighborhoods.


When something harmful, like a bacteria, virus, toxic compound or injury enters your body, your immune system sounds the alarm by releasing special chemicals. These chemicals bring in the "clean-up crew" – immune cells – to deal with the problem.


Now, the clean-up crew does its job by getting rid of the harmful stuff as well as removing and repairing any damage done by the foreign invader or injury. This process is inflammation. It's your body's way of protecting itself and starting the repair work.


However, sometimes this alarm system is triggered much too often. This can be due to exposure to toxins in our environment (food, air, water, etc..) as well as stress. This eventually causes your immune system to become very sensitive and can trigger it to start sounding the alarm even when there's no real threat, such as in the case of allergies or autoimmune diseases. These such symptoms occur when there is prolonged inflammation, which instead of helping, can cause damage to healthy tissues and result in other serious health problems.


Inflammation is your body's natural response to protect and heal, but it's important for it to be well-regulated in order to avoid triggering other health complications.


How can an elimination diet help?

An elimination diet can be a powerful strategy to calm inflammation in the body. By removing potential triggers such as gluten, dairy, soy, industrial oils, refined sugars, and artificial ingredients, you essentially give your immune system a break from constantly dealing with these substances. Think of it as temporarily turning off the alarms in your body's defense system.


As a result, the immune response and inflammation associated with the consumption of these potential irritants are dampened. This break allows your body to reset and gives you the opportunity to observe how your system reacts when the inflammatory triggers are removed. After the elimination period you will gradually reintroduce these foods in order to help identify specific culprits, to see which foods you can bring back in, eat sparingly or keep out entirely.


This process will help to empower you to make better informed dietary choices that will support your health and minimize the inflammation that is contributing to your health problems.


What does an elimination diet entail?

I recommend that adults complete a full 30 day elimination diet program while children complete a 14-21 day program. Depending on the severity of your concerns, such as a health issue that has persisted for many years, you may decide to continue for 6-8 weeks.


During your initial elimination diet phase you will focus on nutrient rich, whole foods while removing foods that have been shown to cause problems which include:

  • Interfering with proper digestion

  • Irritating your intestinal lining

  • Triggering your immune system

  • Contributing to microbial imbalances within you GI tract

What can you eat during the initial elimination phase?

You won't need to count calories. Just focus on enjoying a wide variety of whole foods.

**Stick to organic as much as possible, or at the very least choose "non-GMO".

  • Vegetables & leafy greens - all different colors and varieties. Vegetables should be the majority of your diet. Fresh is best, frozen is ok. Canned is meh and must at least come from BPA free cans.

  • Fruits - all different colors and varieties, Fresh or frozen is fine. Avoid dried fruits and fruit juice as these spike blood sugar. Keep to 1/2 cup per serving (to avoid blood sugar spikes).

  • Healthy fats - olive, avocado and coconut oils, grass-fed butter & ghee, pasture raised tallow & duck fat. Choose unrefined, raw & cold-pressed.

  • Quality animal proteins - All types of meat, poultry, fish, eggs & organ meats. Choose wild caught, grass-fed/finished, pasture-raised & organic.

  • Nuts and seeds (if tolerated) - soaked and sprouted are ideal

  • Beans and lentils (if tolerated) - soaked and sprouted are ideal

  • Fresh herbs

  • Herbs, spices, salt & pepper

  • Filtered water & Salt Solé

  • Bone broth

  • Herbal teas

To ensure proper digestion >> enjoy your meals sitting down, chew slowly and eat until satiation. You may also try drinking 1 tsp of bitters 10 minutes before meals to help prime your stomach for digestion.


What foods should be removed during the initial elimination phase?

The following are foods that are known for being inflammatory to your intestinal lining and immune system which is why it is recommended to temporarily remove all of them during the initial elimination period:


Gluten

Found in wheat, barley, and rye and anything made with these grains such as bread, bagels, pizza, pasta, crackers, pastries, cakes, cookies, and many packaged foods. Gluten has been found to disrupt digestion by damaging the microvilli of the small intestine, which is responsible for helping us to absorb nutrients. Gluten also triggers a chemical in your gut called "zonulin" which contributes to the walls of your intestines becoming more permeable, leading to "leaky gut", food intolerances and other histamine issues.


Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include: weight gain, joint pain, brain fog, headaches, skin problems, digestive problems such as bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, stomach cramps, osteoporosis, autoimmune conditions, anxiety, depression... need I go on?


Gluten hides in many packaged foods including sauces & dressing, so be sure to read labels carefully. Avoid foods that are touted as “gluten free” replacements as they are likely loaded with other fillers, hydrogenated/trans fats & refined sweeteners. There are many great pre-packaged gluten free products out there. CLICK HERE for my “Clean Pre-packed Foods” list.


Dairy

Majority of the dairy that is commercially available today is not at all the same as the dairy that our ancestors enjoyed. Cows are meant to roam through meadows and hillsides enjoying a diet of fresh grass with exposure to sunlight and fresh air. Instead, large scale industrial farms dominate over 90% of the dairy industry where cows are confined to small indoor spaces, packed in like sardines with hundreds of other cows.


These cows are fed GMO grains like corn and wheat that are not a natural part of a cow’s diet and are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick from the over-impacted and unhealthy living conditions. They are hooked up to automatic milking machines and pumped full of hormones so that they will produce milk non-stop. This is not natural and certainly not healthy for the cow or the milk products that you are to eventually consume.

The milk is then pasteurized prior to going to market, which involves heating it up to very high temperatures. This process essential “cooks” the milk, destroying majority of the nutrients and enzymes that are the reason that milk is touted as a “health food” to begin with. After pasteurization, you are essentially left with a processed food that is void of nutritional value and that has been shown to trigger an immune system reaction for a large percentage of the population.

Considering how modern commercial milk is produced and processed, it’s no wonder that millions of Americans are sensitive to it. A sensitivity reaction to dairy can cause symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, gas, nausea, headaches, skin problems, allergies and sinus congestion.

With all that said, after the initial elimination phase is over, if you find that you can tolerate dairy I recommend sticking to raw & full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised cows, sheep and goats. This way it retains its nutrients and enzymes that help with the break down of lactose and milk proteins.


Processed Oils:

Vegetables oils have been touted as "heart healthy" for decades but in reality they are the exact opposite. They are made by processing the seeds from vegetables at very high temperatures along with chemical solvents in order to extract their oils. These seed oils are very sensitive to temperature and therefore become oxidized (aka rancid) during the processing. The manufacturers then use more chemicals in order to cover up the off flavors, aromas and colors of these rancid oils. When you consume these industrial oils you are consuming free-radicals that cause extreme damage to your cells and will lead to to chronic inflammation, the catalyst for premature aging and 90% of disease. They are also drived from GMO crops (which means toxic pesticides ☠️).

Examples of industrial oils include:

  • Canola

  • Soybean

  • Vegetable

  • Safflower

  • Cottonseed

  • Corn

  • Hydrogenated & Partially Hydrogenated


Refined Carbohydrates & Sugars

Refined carbohydrates and sugars cause a cascade of devastating effects on your body. This is because they have been processed and refined to the point of removing most of the fiber and nutrients. This over-processing enables the sugar molecules to be absorbed into your blood stream very quickly, causing a quick spike in blood glucose levels. You body then has to go into action producing hormones to bring your blood glucose back into normal range, which is very stressful on the body and can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) fatigue and then cravings for more sugar & caffeine.


Here's. helpful example: when ou juice an orange you are taking away the fiber (pulp) and leaving just the sugar (juice). The pulp/fiber is an essential part of the orange because it slows the digestion of the sugar molecules into the blood stream. This keeps your blood sugar from rising too high, too fast. So it's better to eat the whole orange to avoid those blood sugar spikes. Also, you have to juice 6-8 oranges to get a 8 oz glass of juice. When would you ever eat that many oranges in one sitting? You woudn't! Fiber helps you feel full & satiated longer. It also helps with regular bowel movements and feeds the good gut bacteria.


Another problem with sugar is that is causes cellular damage (because the refining process makes it an unstable molecule) that leads to inflammation and other symptoms including premature aging (and wrinkles), high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and Alzheimers.


Corn

Corn is actually a grain, not a vegetable. Corn is also one of the most pesticide ridden crops in the world because it is grown as a "commodity crop". This means that it is used as a filler for processed food products as well as for feed for livestock. It is has a high-glycemic index which means that it causes your blood sugar to spike rapidly, wreaking havoc on your immune system, adrenals and causing free-radical damage to your cells.


Similar to soy & gluten, corn, corn sugars and corn by-products can be found in many processed foods, so be sure to read your food labels!


Peanuts:

Peanuts are highly susceptible to aflatoxin mold, which is toxic to your brain and nervous system as well as provokes allergies. They are also high in physic acid and lectins which can be hard to digest and cause damage to your intestinal lining. Avoid peanuts and opt for organic almond, cashew and sunflower seed butters instead. Make sure that these butters are organic, sugar and hydrogenated oil free.


Soy

Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops which allows for farmers to load these plants up with toxic chemical pesticides and commercial fertilizers. When you eat soy you are also eating all of those poisonous chemicals which leads to damage to the gut lining, liver congestion, chronic inflammation and extreme cellular damage.

Soy also can cause your body to attack the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism and a lowered rate of metabolism. Soy has pseudo-estrogen compounds which can lead to your body producing excess estrogen causing hormonal imbalances, fertility issues and weight gain.


Artificial Sweeteners, Food Dyes and Other Additives

If an ingredient is made in a lab your body doesn't recognize it as food and doesn't know what to do with it. Instead your body will view it as a "foreign invader" that needs to be eliminated. This triggers your immune system (because it needs to go an break down & eliminate the invader) creating inflammation. These foods can lead to weight gain due to the fact that when your body is burdened with toxins and inflammation it creates more fat cells to stash the excess toxins in.


Artificial sweeteners are not only lab created, but they also trick your brain into craving more and more sweets. Our goal is to reduce sweets cravings so that you can feel happy and satisfied when enjoying healthier treat options like dark chocolate and fresh fruit.


What Happens After the Initial Phase Ends?


How you are feeling after your elimination phase will determine your next steps. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where have you noticed improvements?

- Think energy, focus, digestion, skin, mood & sleep.

  • On a scale of 1-10 how much better do you feel?

  • Are any of your health concerns still the same?

  • Were you hoping for better results?

- Did you follow the guidelines rigidly, or did you go off course too much or too soon? You may benefit from continuing the program but be more compliant this time around.

- If you followed the guidelines closely but still didn't notice significant benefits after the initial 30 day phase then there are likely deeper issues that need to be resolved. I recommend seeking out a practitioner in the "functional medicine" space who can help you investigate and address the deeper root causes to your concerns. CLICK HERE to book an appoint with me.

  • Are your feeling good and ready to start bringing foods back into your diet? Follow the reintroduction guidelines below.

Remember, your health issues didn't happen overnight and are not going to be completely resolved within 1 month. It's important to have realistic expectations and to know that this elimination diet is not a cure-all. Instead it's a great jumping off point for calming chronic inflammation and learning how to incorporate better diet & lifestyle habits in order to boost your health & vitality for the long-term.


Reintroduction Guidelines:

Once you have completed your initial elimination diet you can slowly begin to reintroduce foods. Start by only adding back in 1 food at a time, and wait three days before adding in another. Pay attention to how your body responds. If you notice any adverse reactions such as headache, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, brain fog, continue to limit this food for the next 1-2 months. If you don't notice a reaction, you can add that food back into your diet.


There are some foods that I recommend not bringing back into your diet, or consuming very sparingly. These foods are:

  • Gluten (triggers leaky gut)

  • Conventional dairy (poorly treated & sick cows + nutrients zapped during pasteurization)

  • Ultra-processed & fast foods. (These should be renamed "food-like-substances".)

  • Fried foods (restaurants use bad oils to fry and rarely ever clean out their friers. Talk about RANCID & TOXIC! 😝)


Here are some helpful tips:


Plan ahead

Strategies like meal planning and meal prepping for the week ahead can make a huge difference in helping you stick to your elimination diet guidelines. Chop up veggies a head of time so that they are easy to grab when you need a snack or to add to dishes when you want to make a quick meal.

Hummus, salsa, chimichurri and coconut yogurt dips are very versatile and a great way to zhuzh up dishes.


Embrace cooking

The reality is that if you want to live a healthy life, you're going to need to cook for yourself (or at least have a partner or personal chef who does). Once you get the hang of eating healthy and have determined what foods work best for your body then it will be easier to make recipes and choose restaurants/meals that fit with what you need.

Unfortunately 99% of restaurants use vegetable oils & non-organic ingredients in their meals (majority use other toxic food additives as well) and therefore eating out ALL the time is a sure fire way to stimulate chronic inflammation and feel like crap. However, eating out is an enjoyable part of life and therefore shouldn't be a guilt ridden experience. As long as you are feeling good, taking care of yourself and cooking healthy meals at home majority of the time, you shouldnt be bother by restaurant good.


Get creative

Create a Pinterest board with recipes that look enjoyable to you so that you can feel inspired to make healthy meals. Here are some of my favorite recipe websites:

Don't forget the seasoning!

- Salt, fat (esp. butter) & lemon are a super simple way to add flavor to any dish.

- Try different seasoning blends. I love this brand for clean and delicious seasonings: Primal Palate

- Check out this show on Netflix. She isn't cooking for an elimination diet (far from it) but it teaches you principles of cooking which are so helpful when learning to cook: Salt Fat Acid Heat


Enjoy the process and remind yourself of the end-game.

Yes, it's going to be a challenge, but keep reminding yourself that you are doing this so that you can support your health for both now and the future. Savor the whole food meals that you are nourishing your body with. Take lots of deep breathes and relax into the feeling of knowing that you are taking control of your health. Remind yourself that if you were to keep going the way that you were, your symptoms would just get worse and could eventually lead to irreversible health consequences.


Seek Out Support

Whether that means enlisting a friend or partner to do it with you, joining an Elimination Diet Facebook Group or hiring a nutritionist for guidance, seek out the support you need to help keep you motivated & accountable.


With a positive attitude + dedication, you'll soon get the hang of it and I have no doubt that you will love the way you feel!


Interested in learning how I can help you heal from your chronic digestive, skin or weight concerns?





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