A term familiar to all naturopathic students and a concept repelling to patients, the ‘elim diet’ (a.k.a. the hypoallergenic or elimination diet) is used by NDs to identify food sensitivities.
While food allergies are more easily identified (eat a peanut, throat closes) food sensitivities are less obvious because of the delayed and more subtle symptoms that follow (eat toast, stomach bloats 30 minutes later).
Allergies are mediated by IgE antibodies resulting in immediate and acute reactions (ex. anaphylactic shock, rashes, or tongue swelling). Sensitivities on the other hand are triggered by IgG antibodies causing delayed and/or low grade reactions (ex. bloating, acne, headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and possibly even joint pain) that are harder to pinpoint.
As a tool, the elimination diet is used to determine the common food allergens that a person might be sensitive to. Foods such as egg, wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar and caffeine are taken out of the diet (note: this is the shortlist of common allergens avoided in the elim) for a period of 3-4 weeks after which each type of allergenic food is brought back one at a time while on the lookout for any possible symptoms indicating sensitivity.
As the dedicated naturopathic student that I am, I was coerced into trying the elim diet and lasted 3 weeks without noticing a large difference, mainly because I caved and ate everything in sight at a wedding putting an end to my attempt at the elim.
Recently I decided to try a different route and dished out roughly $200 dollars for IgG testing. All that was required, aside from the $200, was 5 drops of blood used to check for IgG antibodies to 96 common allergenic foods. Lo and behold I was sensitive to everything:
- all dairy (milk, butter, cheese, goat’s milk, yogurt, ice cream)
- gluten & gliadin (protein content found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, kamut)
- citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit)
- nuts (including peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios)
- a large proportion of legumes
- soy (including soy sauce, tofu, soy beans, miso, soy milk)
- bell peppers
To make matters worse, I was also diagnosed with Candida (a yeast-like infection) forcing me to also eliminate
- all sources of sugar (including natural sugars such as carrots, peas, and all fruits)
- caffeine including black tea
- starchy carbohydrates and glutinous foods (wheat, spelt, rye, brown rice, pasta, corn, potato)
- yeast containing foods
- fermented vinegar
- pork and processed meats
- any foods containing citric acid
- condiments (only natural spices allowed)
Through some miraculous spark of motivation it has been 2 1/2 weeks since I’ve been on this stream-lined diet. So far my skin has cleared and noticeably improved, I’ve had fewer PMS symptoms and my chronic joint pain (which started since age 8) has almost completely disappeared. Though not part of the plan, I’ve also lost 3lbs and on the whole am feeling quite good. Despite all the noted health benefits I still crave sweets, dairy, gluten and my sidekick cup of coffee.
Besides spending time online looking at delicious cakes and pastries I am often researching recipes that are suitable for my current diet and have become pretty creative at adapting recipes to create delicious dishes that are nowhere near lacking.
I can’t say that this experience has been easy as I am constantly cooking to keep up with my suddenly effective digestion and eating out has been basically impossible, but the benefits that I’m experiencing are invaluable and I am now wholeheartedly encouraging my patients to consider it as well.