7 Benefits of a Food Elimination Diet:
A food elimination diet can be extremely helpful for a number of different health conditions. There is growing interest in the role of the gut microbiome and its effect on human health. We are discovering that how we feed our gut microbes plays an enormous role in the level of inflammation and quality of life we experience. This understanding has opened the door to experimental use of a food elimination diet to improve various health problems.
A food elimination diet is an eating plan that eliminates specific foods that can be contributing to inflammation and other reactions. Following this restricted diet for a period of time leads to a reduced level of inflammation and improved self-healing capabilities.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the use of a food elimination diet for a wide variety of health issues.
Helps to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome:
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability syndrome is a condition in which the gut lining is damaged. In this condition, large food particles, bacteria and environmental toxins are able to seep into the blood stream (1). Roughly 70% of the immune system is held within our digestive tract, so when the gut is irritated, it will drive up inflammation throughout the body.
Every autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory condition has some association with leaky gut syndrome. The development of leaky gut not only increases whole body inflammatory levels but it also leads to malabsorption of key nutrients such as zinc, iron and vitamin B12.
A food elimination diet reduces the inflammatory provoking foods which tones down inflammation and allows the body to heal and seal the gut lining more effectively. Once the gut is sealed, the individual will experience less food sensitivity reactions and less overall inflammation.
Improves Autoimmune Conditions:
Food intolerances are known to provoke autoimmune conditions and worsen their severity. Many case reports have shown that individuals can see huge relief from these conditions by commencing on an elimination diet.
One such report, published in 2010, showed a 42 year old woman with Sjogren’s syndrome (autoimmune disease) and premature ovarian failure have a restoration of normal menses after using an elimination diet protocol. Her menses had ceased 3 years earlier and after 4 months of eliminating gluten, beef, eggs, dairy, nightshades, refined sugars and citrus fruits her menses returned (2).
Another study of a 50 year old woman who had suffered with ulcerative colitis causing diarrhea with mucus and blood, abdominal pain, thinness, anemia and lowered immunity for over 30 years showed dramatic results on an elimination diet. She came off of gluten, dairy and eggs for 1 year and her stools were normal, she had gained healthy weight, no longer had anemia and their was no longer any presence of antibodies to her colon tissue (3).
AutoImmune Conditions Improve:
A 1997 study showed that 30-40% of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis could see significant improvement within 10-21 days of beginning an elimination diet (4). A 2004 review of the literature discussed systemic lupus as a possible masquerade for an extreme gluten sensitivity that does not cause digestive complaints (enteropathy) but instead causes autoimmunity to skin and connective tissue.
There is also an enormous amount of research on the connection between gluten intolerance and auto-immune thyroid conditions and how the removal of gluten can potentially reduce thyroid antibodies and improves thyroid function (5). From a clinical perspective, I have seen so many people with autoimmunity thrive when placed on an elimination diet. I have witnessed such great results with this that I now use this protocol as my front-line treatment for all autoimmune cases that I consult with.
Reduces Gastrointestinal Symptoms:
A 2006 study at the University of Kansas Medical Center showed that all 20 patients with irritable bowel syndrome experienced significant improvements in their digestive symptoms (6). That was 100% of the participants in the study that reported noteworthy changes in their GI complaints!
The individuals in the study followed the elimination diets for 6 months and took probiotic supplements before being reassessed. The researchers noted that not only were the individuals GI symptoms greatly improved but all of them had increased levels of beneficial bacteria present in their gut flora.
Improves Skin Irritations:
There is a strong clinical relevance between conditions like acne and eczema and unknown food intolerances. One large study involving over 13,000 adolescents showed that those with acne were more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as halitosis, constipation and acid reflux. In particular, abdominal bloating (a common symptom of a food intolerance) was 37% more likely to be associated with acne and other skin related disorders such as eczema and rosacea (7).
A specific study out of Rome looked at 15 adults with eczema that went onto an elimination diet. Nuts, eggs, milk, tomatoes and cereal grains were removed and 14 of the 15 individuals saw significant improvements in their skin condition (8).
Reduces Migraine Headaches:
Many people who suffer migraines have noticed an association between foods they eat and the frequency or severity of their symptoms. Others have not been clued into this connection.
The gut and brain communicate through a series of messages and any increase in inflammation in the gut can cause the inflammation and vasospasms associated with headaches and migraines.
An elimination diet can be profoundly beneficial for a migraine sufferer. A 2013 study took 21 migraine patients and put them on an elimination diet after doing an IgG anti-body test to assess for food intolerances. The majority of these patients experienced significant improvements with a reduced frequency and severity of migraine attacks on the elimination diet (9)
Discovering Your Food Intolerances:
There are many people who consume a healthy diet, yet still deal with ongoing health challenges. What they often don’t realize is that they are consuming one or more foods regularly that they are sensitive too and that food is provoking inflammation and preventing them from healing properly.
A 2014 study took 52 patients with eosinophilic esophagitis, which is a disorder of the esophagus that is triggered by food and airborne allergies. In this study, the patients removed dairy, gluten, eggs and legumes from their diet for a 6 month period (10).
The results were astonishing as 70% of the patients went into remission in this time period. In 65-85% of the study participants, just one or two food triggers were responsible. These patients had had years of previous pharmacological treatments and hadn’t responded favorably. They never knew they struggled with these foods until they began the food elimination diet.
Prevents and Improves Learning Disorders
Many individuals have noticed improvements in their children’s learning ability and behavior when they removed certain foods like gluten and dairy from the diet. Food intolerances can lead to major nutrient deficiencies and chronic inflammation that alters brain development in critical areas responsible for learning and behavior.
A 2012 study at the Children’s Memorial Hospital found that ADHD symptoms were lower in children after dietary changes were made to reduce sugar, additives and preservatives and omega 3 fatty acid supplements were given (11). Another group of researchers at the University of Southampton found that children with restrictive elimination diets had less ADHD symptoms than children on other types of diets (12).
There is a large and growing amount of scientific literature that is demonstrating the clinical efficacy of using a food elimination diet to improve many different health conditions. The most progressive health practitioners are using some sort of elimination diet as a foundational strategy to help their clients improve their health.
Here is a helpful article on 7 ways to reduce food sensitivities and improve your immune tolerance.