How to Do an Elimination Diet to Check for Gluten Intolerance
We often think of food as fuel for our bodies, but in many cases it may be the very thing that makes us feel less than energized. For those with certain food allergies or who may be unable to tolerate certain foods, an elimination diet is a great way to identify foods that are anything but beneficial to our health.
Blame Food Intolerance/Sensitivity for Poor Health
It seems that substances in foods are rubbing our guts the wrong way, which leads to increased complaints of illness and fatigue. Those familiar with a gluten intolerance know the havoc it can do to their health, causing migraines, depression, constipation or diarrhea, or any of a long list of ailments.
Gluten is also the culprit behind celiac disease, for which lifelong avoidance of gluten is the best course of action one can take to stay well. Many people who suffer from any of the ailments associated with gluten report better results once they eliminate it from their diet.
Doing an elimination diet helps you confirm whether or not your diet is to blame for your health troubles. An elimination diet helps you answer the question “is my food making me sick?” Once you have the answer, you can make better informed choices about your health in the future, as well as learn new ways to shop smarter, prepare better meals for yourself, and create a better sense of well-being. An elimination diet is the next step you can take towards an improved diet.
How to Do a Gluten Elimination Diet
An elimination diet is fairly simple to do yet requires a bit of time and dedication. You will be avoiding foods that you are used to eating for a few weeks, which may be challenging if you are tempted during the elimination period.
This method also works well for eliminating other foods and substances, such as soy, dairy, eggs, nuts, or corn.
Step 1: Keep a Food Journal
A food journal is the most important thing you will need during your elimination diet, and something you may want to keep track of even, once it has ended.
Make your first entry about the reasons why you want to eliminate gluten from your diet, such as less migraines, for clearer skin, better GI health, etc.
If you haven’t decided on a substance to eliminate yet, now is also a good time to decide on one that you would like to focus on.
Step 2: Avoid the Foods you Want to Eliminate for 30 Days
Choose a date to start avoiding the foods or substances you want to eliminate from your diet. In this case, that would include gluten. Other top offending foods include soy, eggs, corn, dairy, sugar, and grains. A time period of 30 days should give your body enough time to clear the foods from your system, so that you can begin to notice whether or not you feel better without them.
Be sure to record each day what meals you ate and how you felt afterwards in your food journal, as well as how you are doing with the symptoms you wish to clear by eliminating gluten or another substance from your diet.
Step 3: Read Labels and Update Your Journal
During your elimination diet, be sure you read the labels on everything you eat to make sure you don’t accidentally consume something you wish to be avoiding. Gluten is found in many foods, such as breads, salad dressings and gravies, and is under many different names. Soy sauce, for example, contains gluten. Be very careful in reading labels.
Each time you come across a new name for something or a food that contains an ingredient you’re trying to avoid, make a note in your journal for future reference. Also continue to update it each day. Be sure to include new recipes that you may come across.
Step 4: Reintroduce ONE Food Back into Your Diet
Now, you’ve reached the end of your elimination period. It is time to add one of the foods in question back into your diet. For example, if you were eliminating gluten, you would add a gluten-containing food back into your diet and record whether or not your symptoms begin again in your journal.
If you’ve eliminated more than one food group (for example, you got rid of gluten, dairy, and eggs at the beginning of the diet), only add ONE thing back in for the reintroduction, otherwise you will not be able to know which food is the one causing issues.
Note that many people realize that they feel much better after 30 days. They know that eliminating the offending food, whether it is gluten, or something else, has helped them. Because of this, they choose to skip this step and remain off the food indefinitely.
Step 5: Wait 48 Hours
You’ve eaten one thing with gluten, great! Now wait 48 hours. How do you feel? Record that in your journal. If you feel fine, try eating something else with gluten in it. Wait and notice how you feel again. If you don’t feel anything or do not have any reactions, then you may not have any gluten intolerance. However, if you do feel sluggish or notice any returning symptoms, then it looks like gluten may NOT be a friendly food for you. Record this information in your food journal. If you’ve eliminated other foods, give a day or two before you try to reintroduce them as well using the same methods.
An elimination diet is an easy way to identify which foods are having negative impacts on your body. However, it can seem a bit daunting if eliminating a part of one’s normal diet is involved.
During the elimination period it is good to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and get plenty of protein. Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated as well. If you’re avoiding gluten grains such as wheat, barley, or rye, quinoa is recommended.
Once you know if your food is making you sick or not, you’ll be able to live a more wholesome life and prepare better meals for yourself. You’ll get the full benefit of the foods you love without feeling run down or ill. Just a little knowledge from an elimination diet can go a long way towards improving your health for the better!