If you are suffering from:
-Asthma or Allergies
The root cause might be a food allergy or insensitivity.
But how can you know? Find out more below
There are multiple systems for finding out what foods you are actually allergic or sensitive to.
One is allergy testing, but unfortunately, this is expensive and unreliable. It also only tests for allergies and sensitivities can be a problem as well.
The gold standard for figuring out what you are allergic and/or sensitive to is…
The Elimination Diet
There isn’t just one version of the elimination diet, there are several. When I coach people I usually recommend a relatively strict version, from Precision Nutrition.1
This is because as we increase the number of foods we remove, we increase the chances that we find all the foods that are problematic for you.
The most important thing to know about the elimination diet is that we don’t want to remove all of the foods on the list forever.
That would be terrible.
What we want is to understand how your body reacts to the foods that science and experience have shown are likely to cause problems.
Once you understand how you react to these foods, you can make an informed decision about which foods to include in your diet and how often.
What am I getting myself into?
The entire process will take at least 5 - 6 weeks.
The first 3 weeks will be very strict in one (and only one) aspect.
You are not allowed to consume any of the foods on the eliminate list, at all.
Apart from this, there are no rules, so don’t worry about other things, such as calorie intake or food timing.
Then you will have a 2-3 week period of reintroducing one food (or food group) back into your diet, for one day (and only one day). Then you will monitor how your body reacts on that day, as well as the next two days.
This is important because we can find any lagging effects of the food, as well as get you back to the baseline for the next trial.
Writing down how you feel is a very important part of this process. Because your memory isn’t as reliable as you think it is.
Then you will repeat this process with a new food until you have tried all the food (or groups) that you eliminated, one by one.
You DO NOT keep the newly added food in your diet for the next trial, even if you felt great and had no symptoms.
It is only a few weeks, that food will still be there when you are finished.
You will survive.
Where do I start?
The biggest mistake that people make implementing this system is immediately removing foods from their diet.
You need to start by preparing.
I recommend an entire prep week before starting.
What does preparing involve?
Reading ingredients to learn what is in the food you are eating, as well as researching recipes for the foods that you are allowed to eat.
Focus on what you are allowed to eat, not on what is (temporarily) forbidden.
It is also a good idea to start removing foods that are being eliminated from your house.2
You want to minimize temptation during the elimination phase.
Some people read this as “I should eat all the food that I am eliminating in a glorious gluttonous goodbye party.”
But before you do that, consider that something there might be poisonous for your body.
Do you want to ingest a large amount of poison into your system?
The choice is yours.
You should also set your reintroduction schedule (more about this in the reintroduction section) before you start, so you have an idea of how long this experiment will take.
It is easier to stick with something hard if the end is in sight. But remember you only need to focus on succeeding one day at a time.
Some people choose to make lengthen the diet during the reintroduction phase. This allows for a deeper dive into how specific items in a particular food group affect you.
But you should start with an end date marked on your calendar.
What foods am I eliminating?
Here is a list showing what is allowed and what is not allowed(3):
Foods to Include:
Fruits - Almost all fresh fruit
Vegetables - Almost all fresh raw, steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetables
Starch - Rice*, buckwheat*
Legumes - None
Nuts and seeds - None
Meat and fish - Fish, turkey, lamb, wild game
Dairy products and milk substitutes- Unsweetened rice milk, coconut milk
Fats - Cold-expeller pressed olive oil, flax-seed oil, coconut oil
Beverages - Drink plenty of water herbal teas (e.g. roobios, peppermint, etc)
Spices and condiments - Sea salt, fresh pepper, fresh herbs and spices (i.e. garlic, cumin, dill, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric)
Sweeteners - Stevia (if needed)
*May also be removed if you suspect specific sensitivities to grains
Foods to Exclude:
Fruit - Citrus fruits
Vegetables - Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes(sweet potato and yams are okay)
Starch - Wheat, corn, barely, spelt, kamut, rye, oats, all gluten-containing products
Legumes - Soybeans tofu, tempeh, soy milk, all beans, peas, lentils
Nuts and seeds - All nuts and seeds
Meat and Fish - Beef, chicken, pork, eggs, cold cuts, bacon, hot-dogs, canned meat, sausage, shellfish, meat substitutes made from soy
Dairy products and milk substitutes - Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, non-dairy creamers
Fats - Margarine, butter, processed and hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, spreads
Beverages - Alcohol, caffeine (coffee black tea, green tea, soda)
Spices and condiments - Chocolate, ketchup, mustard, relish, chutney, soy sauce, barbecue sauce.
Sweeteners - White or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, desserts.
You can find a printable info graphic of this list at https://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet-infographic
Remember you aren’t giving these foods up forever, just for the next 3 weeks.
Is this an exhaustive list? Absolutely not.
Feel free to remove any additional foods that you think might be causing you problems.
Another thing to consider is anything an immediate family member is allergic to or intolerant of. You do after all have shared genetics and your reaction might just not be as severe.
This phase gives you your baseline. It is important to keep a journal of how you feel during this time.
The final week of this journal is the most important. By this time you will have normalized, the eliminated foods are out of your system, and your body has had time to recalibrate.
After your 3 weeks of strict dieting, it is time to bring back the food!
One at a time.
For one day only.
Then you are back on the strict diet for 2 days.
Then you try a new food group and remember DO NOT KEEP THE PREVIOUS ADDITION.
It looks something like this:
What is a food group?
It depends on how technical you want to be.
For example, you could introduce “Starch” as one group. As an example, on this day you could have oats for breakfast, wheat bread with lunch, and corn as a side dish with dinner.
The disadvantage is that if you have reactions, it could be the oats, the wheat or the corn.
Or two of them.
Or all of them.
On the other hand, you could try just wheat for one day, then you know that any reactions were due to the wheat.
The disadvantage here is that you can make the reintroduction phase very long.
Like months, or years.
I recommend using general groups as a baseline. Then try the individual components if you notice something.
A major factor of your considerations should be how long you want your experiment to be.
Map out a plan before you start.
When you are in the reintroduction phase you can extend it if you want to get more information.
What am I looking for?
Your baseline and how food affects that baseline.
Noticing and tracking are the most important parts of this system.
Some ideas of things to monitor are sleep, mood, energy, focus, digestion, and bowel habits.
But you can track anything that matters to you.
You need to keep a journal for what you choose to track. It is too much information to keep in your head, and you will want to reference it at the end.
It is also important to remember that you are not only looking for negative signs but positive ones too.
Noticing that you feel better during the elimination phase is a sign that there is something in your diet that is causing a problem.
Noticing you feel worse during the elimination phase is usually a sign that you have created a dietary deficiency through elimination. Make sure that you are eating enough of the foods that are allowed (especially veggies, proteins, and fats) to get all of your necessary nutrients.
During the reintroduction phase, there are some common negative reactions including:
-joint pain or inflammation
-skin breakouts or rashes
-bowel changes or GI pain
-sinus or other respiratory issues.
But don’t forget to write down positive things as well! If some foods make you feel great you want to know what those are!
What do I do when it’s over?
So you have reached the end! You have a journal full of useful information.
Now go over the information, one trial at a time.
First, you need to decide if you want to do more experimenting.
Using our example from before, maybe you tried grains as one experiment, but you had corn and oats and wheat.
Remember it took 3 long weeks to get to baseline. While you are still there it is a great time to dive deeper into a group.
Especially if there are one or two items in a group that you really love.
Or maybe you decide that you won’t miss any of them, and can cut all of them all from your diet.
After you have decided no more trials are necessary, review how you felt in each trial and ask yourself, “Do I want to bring these feelings into my future?”
Your options are:
There is no rule that says because you are intolerant of something you can’t still choose to enjoy it. You survived eating it before, and you will probably survive if you continue to eat it (except for severe allergies which you don’t need an elimination diet to discover).
But you won’t necessarily thrive.
You have to accept how it affects your health.
You are responsible for dealing with the consequences.
Since you are an adult you have the option of choosing that path.
It’s OK to choose that path.
What is important is that you make an informed decision. One that is the best decision for your life right now.
And remember that in the future you can always change that decision.
There is also a middle ground of “sometimes.” You can decide that you are going to cut way back but occasionally indulge.
That’s also fine. Make the decision that is best for you, which only you can answer.
What if you don’t want to stop?
Some people feel so great on an elimination diet, that they choose to stay on it for an extended period of time.
Usually, this happens because the benefits bring so much value to your life, that you find the restrictiveness worth it.
I have most commonly seen people choose to do this for weight loss and pain levels.
You are free to continue as long as you want. There is also the option of only doing a few trials of things that you really miss, and what to bring into your life.
For example, I have one client who after starting an elimination diet felt all her joint pain go away and also lost over 50 lbs in about 5 months.
As of this writing, she is still losing weight.
She feels like this is the most sustainable diet she has ever done and doesn’t find it challenging because of how she feels.
The only things she really misses are enjoying ice cream with her family after hikes (which occur about once a month) and occasionally having homemade delicious bread (which she runs into once every few months when being hosted for Shabbat meals).
So we discussed it and she decided to make exceptions for those circumstances.
Dieting is about making your life overall better, not overall worse.
And those exceptions are making her life better.
Food is not fuel.
Food is how you talk to your body.
Your body talks back.
Things like excess body fat, pain, and other symptoms are messages from your body.
Messages you should be paying attention to, instead of trying to force your body to change.
The elimination diet is a great way for you and your body to stop screaming at each other, reset, and have a productive conversation.
A conversation that leads to compromise.
And in the end, you can both get what you want.
If you have any questions, send me a quick email David@magenfitness.com
2. It is important to be considerate of others while you are doing this. While it is much easier to do this if everyone does this together, you don’t want to force roommates, spouses or children into the diet.