What is an elimination/provocation diet?
An elimination diet mindfully removes foods that are commonly known to cause inflammation in the human body. The most inflammory foods are gluten containing grains/grains, dairy, soy, processed oils (vegetable and hydrogenated oils), legumes, sugar (including alcohol). The elimination phase is usually a minimum of 21 to 30 days. The provocation portion of the diet is when one reintroduces the inflammatory foods systematically in order to see if the food provokes a response. The response to any foods that you are sensitive to will occur in a matter of minutes, hours, or sometimes as long as a couple of days. That is why the reintroduction must be deliberately planned (meaning one food at a time), so that you know exactly what food causes the reaction.
awake each morning feeling refreshed and ready to start your day
fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly throughout the night
are always in a great, uplifting mood
maintain good energy throughout the day without dips of fatigue
have vibrant skin
are at your ideal weight
poop well (daily, sausage like poop with earthy smell)
have positive outlook and love life
manage and handle stress well
then, you probably don’t need to do an elimination diet.
However, most of us don’t feel great and would benefit from an elimination / provocation diet. As a matter of fact, I can guarantee many won’t believe how bad they actually felt, until they feel great!
Some Options for Elimination Diets:
You can find different varieties of elimination diets on the internet. These diets will differ in the foods eliminated and the duration. The version you choose to do may depend upon a couple of different factors, which include your current state of health and your goals. A person that is really inflamed and in a lot of pain, might complete an autoimmune version of the diet that eliminates more inflammatory foods (nightshades, for example) than someone who generally feels well but feels addicted to sugar. If you generally feel pretty well, you might eliminate the most highly inflammatory foods, perhaps only grains, soy, and dairy, or maybe you decide to do a sugar detox. No matter which version you decide to do, the most important factor is that you must not cheat or deviate for the entire elimination phase (21 to 30 days depending upon the timeframe established) or you need to start over. The reason is because if you are sensitive to foods, eating even only a bite can keep the inflammation high in your body because the immune system is overactive. Here are some popular options:
Whole30 (Melissa Urban)
Paleo Diet (Robb Wolf)
Autoimmune Paleo Diet (Paleo Mom)
GAPS diet (Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride)
21 Day Sugar Detox (Diane San Fillippo)
Sugar Impact Diet (JJ Virgin)
The Elimination Diet (Tom Malterre)
Low FODMAP diet
Doing an elimination diet is an important first step for individuals with any type of issue. If you go to the doctor to get a medication, let's say for example, an immunsuppresent drug for autoimmunity, or acid block drug for heartburn, you are not addressing the problem. Your issues may continue to manifest in other ways until you address the underlying cause, which always has to start with looking at the food you are eating as it impacts the immune system that largely resides in our guts.
What will I Eat??
You might be asking, "OK, so if I eliminate everything I normally eat, what is left for me to eat??" The specific foods you personally will eat will depend upon the program you decide to follow, based upon your own individual health issues and goals. Real food. Generally speaking, meat, vegetables, some fruit, nuts/seeds, heathly fats (like coconut and olive oil, avocados). There is still quite a variety of foods to eat and you may discover new foods you love! But what you eat largely depends upon what is being eliminated. For example, if doing a low FODMAP diet, there are some fruits and veggies you will eliminate.
What Influences our Gut Health?
In the past decade or so we’ve come to realize how much our gut microbiota influence our overall health. Our world is quite toxic and our bodies have not yet adapted to handle this overburden of toxins. Let’s look at some things that we know can negatively influence our gut health and can contribute to food sensitivities.
Medications - Acid blocking drugs and other medications cause major nutrient depletions, such as Magnesium, B vitamins and therefore can cause many issues in the body because the body doesn’t have the building blocks to for the biochemistry to work correctly.
Anti-biotics – wide spectrum antibiotics destroy even healthy bacteria. This can lead to gut dysbiosis and gut related symptoms.
Gut infections, such as parasites, fungal overgrowth, bacterial infections. Parasites are completely unavoidable because they are everywhere. If we have a healthy production of stomach acid (and not taking acid blocking medications), we often can take care of these exposures. However, if our digestion is compromised for some reason and we are exposed to a parasite, it can thrive, creating havoc throughout the body.
Low fiber, high sugar, processed food-based diets – Can feed yeast and cause overgrowth of non-commensurable bacteria.
Stress – can alter the gut flora.
Toxins – heavy metals , such as mercury for example, toxic mold exposure.
Lack of enzymes or stomach acid for digestion caused by zinc, vitamin B12 deficiency, etc or from medications.
How Food Sensitivities cause Issues in our Bodies:
Food sensitivities have been linked to a very long list of issues. Here’s a short list:
Depression/Anxiety, Mood disorders
Asthma & allergies
Obesity / weight gain / failure to thrive
Digestive issues, constipation, diarrhea, or mixed
Emotional & behavior issues in kids
I have personally done several elimination type diets and they have been very therapeutic for me. I initially did the Whole30 before it was ever an official program, website, or book. I met both Dallas and Melissa Hartwig when I went to their two day workshop. This experience has been life-changing for me and this is what started me on my journey to where I am today. I love helping people on this journey because I know it will be an eye opening experience as it was for me. At minimum, you will learn so many things about our food supply that you had no idea about. You will realize the value of counting ingredients rather than calories (although eating the right amount of calories is important too) and voting with your $$ for quality food. Most importantly, you will find your own ideal dietary template, so that you can potentially reverse your health conditions and restore your health. I was able to put my autoimmune disease in remission and this helped me realized the power of food as medicine or food as poison.