Health & Wellness - Self-Care Tips for the Winter Blues or SAD. Could you benefit from an elimination diet?

Courtney Rupertus

You’ve likely heard about elimination diets already, and unlike most other diets or cleanses, there is a very specific purpose to doing an elimination diet. For a set period of time, one eliminates common allergens like dairy or gluten and then slowly re-introduces them into their diet one at a time, taking note of any uncomfortable reactions.

This is one of the best ways to identify unknown, existing food allergies that could be silently wreaking havoc on your body’s systems.

We typically only take note of the most obvious symptoms of food allergies, such as rashes, hives, swelling, difficulty, breathing, itchiness, or the most serious, anaphylaxis.

However, if we happen to be sensitive to a certain food or group of foods, sometimes we don’t notice the more subtle signs like inflammation, acne flare-ups, eczema, or even migraines.

An elimination diet can help you identify any food-related triggers that could be causing the following:

  • Acne, eczema, or other skin inflammation
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Leaky gut or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Irritability 
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia 

Many of the uncomfortable symptoms we come across in our daily lives, ranging from barely noticeable to sort of bearable to outright miserable, can be solved by changing our diets in some way.

Before you start an elimination diet, it is usually best to discuss any health issues ahead of time with your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist. They can help you refine your diet in a way that is best suited to your needs and monitor your nutrient intake during the elimination period.

Those with significant health issues already such as diabetes, children, or seniors should probably avoid doing an elimination diet, unless under direct supervision from a medical professional. Eliminating too many foods groups can cause a nutritional deficiency if not monitored.

An elimination diet typically lasts three weeks or a minimum of 23 days, as that’s about how long it takes for the antibodies in your system (the ones that react to the food you eat) to reset and for your body to heal itself. You should notice your symptoms dissipate or completely disappear around this mark.

Foods that are most often eliminated during this time are:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugar
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Eggs 
  • Processed, packaged, or fast foods (particularly hydrogenated oils)

Foods that you focus in preparing and eating from home during this time are:

  • Bone broth 
  • High quality proteins
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables 
  • Fresh fruits
  • Healthy fats 
  • Probiotic-rich/fermented foods

 Once you’ve successfully eliminated the most common irritants from your diet for at least 23 days, you can slowly, one at a time, add a food back into your diet. When you do this, you’ll only add one thing at a time, say gluten, and wait for 48 hours before trying something else. You’ll be on the look out for any red flags from your body like cramping, bloating, fatigue, etc.

It can be extremely beneficial to keep a food journal during this time to track any symptoms you might easily forget about.

If you do not experience any negative symptoms from that food, continue to re-introduce others back in. If you experience discomfort after eating a certain food, say dairy, it is a pretty clear indication that your body may have trouble processing that food group and you may benefit from completely eliminating it from your diet.