A current trend that has taken hold is the elimination diet. I’m here to tell you that elimination diets are more than just a fad, and I can help you determine if one is right for you and your chronic condition.
When done properly, completing an elimination diet may help you stop dieting forever! As a person living with a chronic condition or sensitivities, when you complete an elimination diet, you identify the foods that are your trigger foods. These foods can exacerbate your unwanted symptoms, cause you headaches, acne, weight gain, mood swings, skin breakouts, joint pain, joint swelling, fatigue, etc. Identifying these foods will assist you in creating “your perfect diet.” This may keep you from ever having to experiment with trendy Paleo, calorie-counting, or keto-type diets ever again.
How to do an elimination diet with psoriatic arthritis
Completing an elimination diet involves removing specific food groups from your diet for a set period of time. Then, the foods are reintroduced, one at a time, to see how your body reacts. This reintroduction phase is done systematically to identify specific reactions of the food you’re testing. There are many different schools of thought on how long you should remove types of foods. I truly believe that if you have an autoimmune disease or a chronic condition, you must eliminate for at least 6-8 weeks. I recommend this because it takes your body at least 3 weeks to realize any dietary change.
Why is an elimination diet helpful?
Eliminating your specific trigger foods can help you cut down on the inflammatory reactions within your body. Having a condition deeply rooted in inflammation, it’s imperative that we help our body through what we eat, and cut down on what is irritating our immune system further. Therefore, when you complete an elimination diet, you can identify your specific trigger foods and identify which foods your body may be reacting to.
There are numerous reasons why food can cause inflammatory reactions. When managing a chronic illness while our bodies are waging a war on themselves, we can start to develop new food sensitivities. Our bodies are already attacking our own cells, therefore you could understand how easy it may be for our body to also start attacking outside proteins.
In addition, many of the foods we consume today aren’t the same as they were 50 years ago. They’re genetically modified, they’re pumped up with additives and preservatives, and they’ve become more “food-like substances” than actual “food." These foods, once ingested, can be mistaken as foreign to the body, and attacked, causing inflammation.
Is there an easier way?
A gastroenterologist or board certified allergist can help you identify foods you’re allergic to, but in order to get a full work-up of your food sensitivities (meaning, all the ways your immune system may be invoked, NOT just allergic reactions) you may want to see a functional or integrative medicine doctor. There are different tests that can be prescribed that could help you identify these sensitivities, though many are unproven, so it’s important to have the results interpreted by a qualified health care professional.
Having said that, I truly believe that completing an elimination diet is the best way to identify these trigger foods because you’ll experience the difference for yourself! It’s easy to say, “remove dairy and your symptoms will subside.” But it’s completely different to remove dairy and actually FEEL the difference. When you can see and feel the difference, it makes it SO much easier to stick to eliminating these foods.
I’ve identified my trigger foods. Now what?
Stay away from these foods. For example, my body gives me intense headaches when I eat bananas or causes me fatigue if I have grains. So I don’t eat them.
Once we allow our bodies to settle down, our digestive and immune functions will begin to balance out. That’s why you can test the foods periodically. I suggest waiting at least 6 months to test a food you initially had a reaction to. Remember, you didn’t develop your condition overnight, therefore you can’t expect your gut to heal itself overnight. Some people can see great results within a few months and others may take years. It really depends on your diet, lifestyle, disease progression, nutritional deficiencies, supplements and medication that you take, and a whole host of other issues.
What are some great elimination diet resources?
If an elimination diet is something you’d like to explore further, I urge you to look into it! There are a TON of different resources that you can check out. Start by researching videos and written articles about different resources that are beneficial when it comes to elimination diets.
People always protest about how it’ll be so hard to give these foods up, and they’re right, it is hard! We’re accustomed to a certain way of eating in our society, but the fact of the matter is, if you have a chronic condition you MUST manage your inflammation. Once you eliminate the foods, you’ll start to get accustomed to having fewer and less severe symptoms. Managing what you’re eating is a direct way you can help cut down on the inflammation in your gut, decrease the activation of your immune system, and aid in settling and balancing your health.
If your body has less to worry about, it can focus on healing. And given half a chance, your body will heal itself, by itself!