Elimination Diet Benefits: Seeing Results
The Elimination Diet is an effective way to identify inflammatory triggers from the food we eat. With three weeks of exclusion and another 3-4 weeks of structured food reintroduction, it does require some serious commitment and guidance. Is it worth the trouble? Who can benefit from going through this process?
In my previous post in this series I discussed how certain foods can create inflammation within our bodies. Frequent ingestion of these foods pushes your body into a state of imbalance, where it never really resolves one assault before it’s subjected to another. This is the mechanism of chronic inflammation. Helen, over at Health Ambition, discusses one very common trigger food that causes digestive havoc for the majority of the population and silently sets us up for many major health problems. You won’t want to miss it!
Luckily, knowledge is power! Let’s take a look at how to determine whether chronic inflammation might be a problem for you.
Signs of Inflammation
Some general signs that you or a loved one are battling chronic inflammation include (1,2):
As a rule, if you have any of the signs or symptoms in this list that have not resolved in awhile, you should be seen by your doctor. Inflammation can have many causes, so it’s important to rule out anything serious before trying to resolve your health with diet changes. If you do have an underlying condition contributing to your chronic inflammation, you might be surprised to realize that the elimination diet could benefit you!
Health Conditions Influenced by the Elimination Diet
According to the research, the elimination diet can prove helpful to a number of chronic conditions. This elimination process is all about negating inflammation from our diet, which gives our digestive tract the chance to repair. It’s no wonder that so many of these conditions are linked to overall “gut health” and are also positively influenced by this diet protocol.
Let’s dive in!
IBD (Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis)
Studies show that food does play a role in these disorders, with enteral nutrition therapy (usually a nutritionally-complete liquid diet) pushing patients into remission (3,4). Overall, the elimination of red meat, some grains, and refined oils, showed patient improvement in some studies (3). Common food sensitivities linked with IBD include cereals (grains), milk, eggs, vegetables, and citrus fruits (4).
The elimination diet proved successful in maintaining remission in some patients, while less effective for others. Results show that the frequency, type, and severity of food sensitivity widely varied, giving mixed results to this diet (4). The evidence points to a potentially beneficial mix of diet restriction, anti-inflammatory foods, occasional enteral therapy and bowel rest (fasting), but more conclusive research needs to be conducted (3).
Food Sensitivities, EoE, FPIES & Eczema
To be clear, those with severe allergy (called IgE-mediated allergy, or type 1 hypersensitivity) should NOT take part in an elimination diet. Honestly, people with severe food allergies eat this way all the time because ingestion of allergenic foods will cause potentially life-threatening reactions. Severe allergies should be managed by Board Certified Allergists, and food reintroduction should never take place outside a specialist’s office.
Delayed food sensitivities, asthma, eczema, food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, and eosinophilic esophagitis are all forms of atopy, or immune hypersensitivity. Studies show that the elimination diet effectively reduces symptoms in patients with these conditions [5, 6, 7, 8]. In one study, an 8-week elimination of cow’s milk, egg, wheat, and soy, from the diets of children with eosinophilic esophagitis resulted in remission from reactions in the majority of participants .
The fields of Nutrition and Psychiatry are working together, and one emerging theory links depression with gastrointestinal inflammation along the gut-brain axis [9, 10]. This is an area where there is a solid body of clinical (or anecdotal) evidence, but more scientific research is necessary [10, 12]. Evidence does show that depression is 25-35% less prevalent in cultures who eat traditional, anti-inflammatory diets when compared to a Western, proinflammatory diet . Additionally, two studies have shown that excluding casein (from cow’s milk) and gluten from the diet may reduce depressive symptoms [11, 12]. Since the elimination diet excludes these foods and is anti-inflammatory in nature, it may be effective in improving the symptoms of depression.
ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder
Research looking at the benefits of an elimination diet for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been ongoing for years . In fact, there are so many different types of exclusion diets for these populations, and such a broad range of symptoms within these conditions, that it’s hard to gather solid evidence showing specific food triggers . Excluding food additives, colors, and salicylates are common approaches for ADHD, while gluten and casein are often considered in ASD [13, 14, 15]. Again, this is an area where physicians are noticing some symptom reduction among their patients, but randomized, double-blinded clinical trials are lacking.
Two Months to Better Health?
Are you ready to try an elimination experience for yourself? I’ll share my own story of how it changed my life and how I walk through the process with parents of young children in my next post – Elimination Diet Surprises: 7 Reasons to Give it a Try. If you take the leap, leave a comment and share your wins, challenges, and whether these elimination diet benefits resonated with you. Or, if you feel you need some guidance with the process, schedule a free focus session with me so we can discuss a plan.
- 1. DiCorleto, P. (2014). Why You Should Pay Attention to Chronic Inflammation. The Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/10/why-you-should-pay-attention-to-chronic-inflammation/
- 2. Petrucci, K. (2016). 10 Signs You Have Chronic Inflammation. MindBodyGreen. Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-24782/10-signs-you-have-chronic-inflammation.html
- 3. Lee, D., Albenberg, L., Compher, C., Baldassano, R., Piccoli, D., Lewis, J. D., & Wu, G. D. (2015). Diet in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Gastroenterology, 148(6), 1087–1106. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2015.01.007
- 4. Rajendran, N., & Kumar, D. (2010). Role of diet in the management of inflammatory bowel disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 16(12), 1442–1448. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v16.i12.1442
- 5. Kim, J., Kwon, J., Noh, G., & Lee, S. S. (2013). The effects of elimination diet on nutritional status in subjects with atopic dermatitis. Nutrition Research and Practice, 7(6), 488–494. https://doi.org/10.4162/nrp.2013.7.6.488
- 6. Wechsler, J. B., Schwartz, S., Amsden, K., & Kagalwalla, A. F. (2014). Elimination diets in the management of eosinophilic esophagitis. Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 7, 85–94. https://doi.org/10.2147/JAA.S47243
- 7. Kagalwalla, A. F., Wechsler, J. B., Amsden, K., Schwartz, S., Makhija, M., Olive, A., … Chehade, M. (2017). Efficacy of a 4-Food Elimination Diet for Children With Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 15(11), 1698–1707.e7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2017.05.048
- 8. Meyer, R., De Koker, C., Dziubak, R., Godwin, H., Dominguez-Ortega, G., Chebar Lozinsky, A., … Shah, N. (2016). The impact of the elimination diet on growth and nutrient intake in children with food protein induced gastrointestinal allergies. Clinical and Translational Allergy, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13601-016-0115-x
- 9. Karakuła-Juchnowicz, H., Szachta, P., Opolska, A., Morylowska-Topolska, J., Gałęcka, M., Juchnowicz, D., … Lasik, Z. (2017). The role of IgG hypersensitivity in the pathogenesis and therapy of depressive disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 20(2), 110–118. https://doi.org/10.1179/1476830514Y.0000000158
- 10. Selhub, E. (2015, November 16). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved December 18, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
- 11. Rudzki, L., Pawlak, D., Pawlak, K., Waszkiewicz, N., Małus, A., Konarzewska, B., … Szulc, A. (2017). Immune suppression of IgG response against dairy proteins in major depression. BMC Psychiatry, 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1431-y
- 12. Brogan, K (2014). Two Foods That May Sabotage Your Brain. Retrieved December 18, 2017, from http://kellybroganmd.com/two-foods-may-sabotage-brain/
- 13. Ly, V., Bottelier, M., Hoekstra, P. J., Arias Vasquez, A., Buitelaar, J. K., & Rommelse, N. N. (2017). Elimination diets’ efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 26(9), 1067–1079. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-017-0959-1
- 14. Nigg, J. T., & Holton, K. (2014). Restriction and Elimination Diets in ADHD Treatment. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 23(4), 937–953. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2014.05.010
- 15. Salvador Marí-Bauset, Itziar Zazpe, Amelia Mari-Sanchis, Agustín Llopis-González, & María Morales-Suárez-Varela. (2014). Evidence of the Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review. Journal of Child Neurology, 29(12), 1718–1727. https://doi.org/10.1177/0883073814531330