Ask the Diet Doctor: Elimination Diets
The benefits of cutting out foods go beyond clearing up your skin
Q: I wanted to go on an elimination diet, as I've heard that it may be able to help me with skin problems that I've had most of my life. Is this a good idea? Are there any other benefits to elimination diets other than clearing up skin issues?
A: Yes, it is a great idea. Elimination diets are the simplest and cheapest way to discover very useful information about how foods are impacting your body and health. Specifically with respects to clearing up your skin, an elimination is a great place to start, but the benefits of an elimination diet go far beyond just figuring out if dairy or soy is causing you to break out.
The other common benefit of going on an elimination diet is improvements in digestion. I have found that many people with digestive pain or problems have resigned themselves to always feeling gassy, bloated, and unforgettable. They have felt this way for so long that it just feels normal to them. It isn't until we remove allergens and/or irritants and the digestive issues go away that they realize how bad they were constantly feeling.
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Aside from clearing up your skin and digestive discomfort, elimination diets can lead to improvements in immune function, mood, and excessive digestive inflammation. Uncontrolled or excessive inflammation of your digestive track is a big problem, as it can be a precursor to "leaky gut." This is a condition that is gaining more and more traction and attention with health professionals that deal with clients with IBS, IBD, or idiopathic digestive issues. When there is excessive inflammation and damage being done to your digestive tract, this can actually cause holes and gaps between your intestinal cells, allowing for unfriendly bacteria, toxins, and other foreign particles to pass to cellular and intracellular spaces where they should not be. Some people think leaky gut can play a role in chronic fatigue, diabetes, and certain auto-immune diseases.
Start Eliminating, Start Discovering
Depending on the client's health situation, an elimination diet can be very, very restrictive. Without going to the extreme end of elimination dieting, you should start by eliminating the following food classes from your diet.
- Anything with added sugar
Keep your diet fully eliminated for at least two weeks and use a food journal throughout the entire process. If the symptoms you had been experiencing were caused by nutritional irritants, then after two weeks you should start to see improvements in your symptoms. From there you want to start reintroducing food groups to your diet, one group at a time. If you have a relapse of symptoms, stop adding back food groups, and remove the most recent food group addition to your diet, as this is most likely a "bad" food group for your body. Once your symptoms go away again, start to add back the remaining food groups aside from the one that caused your problems.