Elimination Diet to Find Problem Foods

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Elimination diet in a Lyme disease treatment image from Marty Ross MD

Elimination Diet

An elimination diet removes most foods that cause food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances to find out what foods cause a person problems. In the diet a person removes foods known to cause any person problems for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks a person adds food items 1 at a time every 2 days. If a person has a problem with a food when it is added back, it gives health problems like abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, body pain, confusion, or even headaches. By adding a food item back every two days it is possible to determine which foods a person should avoid.

The reason foods are removed for 3 weeks is to decrease tolerance. When someone has food allergies or sensitivities, the immune system gains tolerance when it is regularly exposed to the problem food. After 3 weeks this learned tolerance goes away causing a much stronger reaction.

Food Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances

There is a difference between allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. In allergies an immune reaction takes place where allergy antibodies called IGE antibodies bind to food particles. Bound to the IGE antibodies the very small food particles attach to allergy cells called mast cells. Mast cells then release histamines and other inflammatory chemicals causing may health problems. To read more about mast cells see Mast Cell Activation Syndrome & Lyme Disease.

In food sensitivities, there is an immune reaction that triggers the production of a different family of antibodies called IGG antibodies. Or the sensitive food triggers inflammatory reactions in the immune system. These appear days after a food is eaten. By comparison a food allergy involving IGE antibodies produces a more immediate reaction.

In food intolerances, the body is not able to handle the chemicals or nutrients found in a food because it cannot process the food. An example of this is lacking an enzyme that causes a person to have lactulose intolerance to dairy products. For these people lactulose free milk works, or adding lactase, the missing enzyme that breaks down lactose sugars found in milk, solves the problem.

Blood Testing Does Not Work

There is blood testing to identify foods that cause elevated IGE and IGG antibodies. While those foods that trigger IGE antibodies do always cause problems, ones that trigger IGG antibodies do not always cause problems. And blood testing does not find all foods that trigger non-antibody inflammatory immune reactions. Blood testing does not identify food intolerances either.

So the best way to find which food cause a person problems is to do an elimination diet.

The Institute For Functional Medicine Elimination Diet

Here are two documents from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Download both documents to learn how to carry out an elimination diet.

The Elimination Diet Food Plan includes foods you can eat during the 3 weeks on a clean diet. (download)

The Elimination Diet Comprehensive Guide provides background and information about how to remove and add foods back. (download)


The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.

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