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Is an elimination diet right for you?

Food sensitivities, like non-celiac gluten intolerance, can make some people feel miserable. For others, the effects may be more subtle. The challenge is determining which foods are causing a reaction. One option is to try a food elimination diet.

Healthy Set Go:What is an elimination diet?
Barb Brower, integrative nutritionist: An elimination diet is when you remove foods or groups of foods from your diet for a period of time to clear them out of your system. Then you reintroduce them in a systematic way to monitor for any adverse reactions or symptoms.

Who should consider an elimination diet?
Elimination diets are not for everyone. It depends on your symptoms. We generally recommend an elimination diet for people who are experiencing a group of symptoms like gut problems, joint problems and fatigue, especially if allergy tests or other types of tests have been inconclusive.

Can an elimination diet ever be harmful?
Food restriction is a serious step, and it can be a challenge to do it in a healthful way. You should not restrict food groups without making sure you are getting the right nutrients from other sources. That's where a nutrition professional can help. Also, sometimes we see people who have over-restricted their food intake to the point of eating just a few types of food. A nutritionist can work with you to balance your individual needs. 

How does an elimination diet work?
It depends on the individual, but I'll often start by having you eliminate all wheat, gluten, dairy, corn and nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. The key is to keep a detailed food diary to track food intake and any symptoms. After a set period of time, you reintroduce a food type for a day. For the next several days, you watch for symptoms while continuing to avoid the eliminated foods. Following this process helps you know which food or foods might be causing an adverse reaction.

How can a nutrition professional help in this process?
We can help you decide if an elimination diet makes sense for you. An elimination diet is not easy to do, and there may be other steps you can try before attempting one, like switching to a whole food diet without processed foods or additives. If you do want to try food elimination, we can guide you through the process and help you interpret the results. We can also provide resources and suggestions on food substitutions and recipes that meet your needs.

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