Experiencing Food Sensitivity? An Elimination Diet Might Provide the Key
Updated: Feb 28
By Dr. Sharon Hunter
For nearly a century, naturopathic doctors have been recommending elimination diets to assess food sensitivities, improve digestion, address ailments, reduce inflammation and stress, and to promote wellness.
In recent years, variations of the elimination diet have increased in popularity, including examples like The Whole 30. But the best and safest way to embark on the elimination diet journey is to consult your naturopathic doctor.
The doctors at Bloom Natural Health suggest considering an elimination diet as a reliable, low-intervention, low-cost method to broadly assess food reactions and overall health concerns. Bloom Natural Health’s naturopathic doctors provide the expert tools to guide patients through the elimination diet process, to identify the regimen that helps you to feel your best.
Why Consider an Elimination Diet?
If your digestion feels amiss, you experience bloating, hunger pangs between meals and snacks, skin reactions, headaches, and more, you may benefit from an elimination diet.
An elimination diet helps you to:
Assess if foods are playing a role in your health concerns.
See how you will feel if you eat in a different way.
Eliminate processed foods, and try eating a whole foods unprocessed diet.
Evaluate food reactivity, regardless of the degree or type of reaction (including allergies, intolerance, sensitivity, etc…)
Elimination Diets vs. Lab Testing
Lab testing can be a valuable tool in assessing food sensitivity, helping to guide a focused, personalized elimination of allergens or irritants.
However, lab testing has certain limitations: most lab tests only identify one particular type of reaction (such as IgG food reaction or IgE food reaction. Labs test multiple foods at one time, but might not test intolerance to salicylates or histamine or other types of food reactions concurrently.) Additionally, lab testing is not typically covered by insurance.
Consult your naturopathic doctor to find out if lab testing is right for you, and to select the best lab-based food sensitivity test (some are better than others).
Note: if you are experiencing food-triggered hives, tongue swelling, shortness of breath, or severe stomach pain, visit the emergency room immediately and follow up with your doctor to identify the cause.
What Are the Benefits of an Elimination Diet?
The doctors at Bloom Natural Health have consistently witnessed the alleviation of symptoms in patients who have practiced an elimination diet. In our experience most people feel better in some way on the elimination diet, often MUCH better. Following the diet under the supervision of your naturopathic doctor will help to ensure a safe and effective process.
The symptom(s) your Bloom Natural Health doctor will help you to target, including IBS, ADHD, migraine headaches, and joint pain, typically improve on the diet. Other symptoms, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, and problems with concentration, often improve as well.
What Is the Process of an Elimination Diet?
The Phases of an elimination diet include:
Phase 1: Planning
Prepare yourself for your upcoming food elimination journey with the following steps:
Meet with your naturopathic doctor to decide if an elimination diet is right for you, and to determine next steps.
Familiarize yourself with the progression of the diet.
Look at your schedule to decide the best timing to begin. Avoid scheduling your diet during vacations, major holidays, and planned significant life or family events (weddings, etc…), as it can be more difficult to follow the routine under these circumstances.
If you and your naturopathic doctor are suspicious of gluten sensitivity, your doctor will recommend lab testing before you begin the diet.
Your doctor may modify the standard elimination diet to tailor it to your specific body and circumstances.
Start with some meal planning, recipe research, and ingredient evaluation (check those labels). Find a few breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas, to begin with. (Your Bloom doctor can help with suggestions!)
Head to the grocery store: prepare for your diet by shopping in advance, to avoid any snags at the start.
Set yourself up for success with batch cooking and meal prep, if time allows.
Fill out the initial symptom questionnaire, provided by your naturopathic physician, before beginning your elimination diet.
Resources for elimination diet menu inspiration:
Local meal delivery service, supportive of the elimination diet:
Phase 2: Elimination
For the first 3 weeks of the diet, follow your doctor’s guidance, eliminating foods accordingly. During this phase your doctor will typically suggest that you eliminate 10-12 specific foods from your diet.
Phase 3: Assessment
Completing a symptom questionnaire before beginning the diet will allow you to rate your areas of concern, and for your doctor to assess a baseline for comparison.
Throughout the 21- day elimination phase of your diet, fill out a weekly symptom questionnaire to help assess how things are progressing and what areas are improving. This process will help you to notice any changes in how you are feeling, great or small. The more improvement you experience, the more likely it is that certain foods are contributing to your health concerns, and the more specifically your doctor will be able to single out and identify these foods.
Phase 4: Reintroduction
Congratulations! You have made it to the reintroduction phase of your elimination diet, where we begin to add foods back into your diet, gradually, over time (approximately 4-6 weeks).
Begin by completing a final symptom questionnaire, to evaluate how you are feeling at the end of the elimination phase.
Meet with your naturopathic doctor to discuss the process of reintroduction. Your doctor will instruct you on how to reintroduce foods, one at a time, in a prescribed process, to assess if and how each food affects you.
The reintroduction process is as important as the elimination phase, because it is how your doctor will determine which foods may be causing which concerns. For example, one food may be triggering IBS symptoms, while another may be triggering migraines. You and your doctor will work together to identify the causes of your symptoms, to help you feel your healthiest.
Phase 5: Maintenance
In the final phase of the elimination diet, the maintenance phase, continue to eat a whole foods unprocessed diet, free from the allergens or irritants that you and your doctor have identified throughout the process.
During this phase:
Meet with your doctor after the reintroduction to review the results.
Discuss what the maintenance diet plan should be. Most often this will include the continued avoidance of certain problem foods, and otherwise returning to a normal, healthy, balanced diet.
Continue consuming a diet that minimizes or eliminates processed foods. All of the healthy whole foods you’re eating will make you feel all the better!
Enjoy the feeling of freedom: minimizing or eliminating persistent symptoms linked to food intolerance can help you to feel a greater sense of overall well-being.
Consult your Bloom Natural Health doctor for further information about the potential benefits an elimination diet might have for you!