The Risks of Trying an Elimination Diet on Your Own

Elimination diets are a popular way to identify and treat food intolerances and sensitivities, as well as food allergies. During this type of diet, certain foods such as citrus fruits, dairy products, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts and nuts, seafood, beef and corn are eliminated for a period of time. This allows individuals to identify food triggers that may be causing digestive symptoms and other health problems. It is important to note that the FODMAP diet (as well as any other elimination diet) should not be followed forever and should be guided by a medical professional specializing in nutrition.

When considering an elimination diet, it is important to be aware of the potential risks. If someone eats a type of food and immediately gets a rash or has a sore throat or trouble breathing, they should seek medical help right away. A common side effect of an elimination diet is weight loss; however, excessive weight loss (more than two pounds a week) should be avoided because this often indicates a loss of lean body mass rather than a loss of fat. When reintroducing foods into the diet, individuals should keep track of how they are feeling as they return.

A dietician can help them find eliminated food replacements to ensure they are getting all the nutrition they need. Sometimes symptoms may worsen before they begin to improve; this usually occurs within the first few days of the start of the elimination phase. For people with irritable bowel syndrome, a specific type of elimination diet that focuses on eliminating fermentable sugars rather than proteins from food is often prescribed, called a low-FODMAP diet. Once potential trigger foods are eliminated for a specific period of time, they are strategically reintroduced into the diet.

Based on symptoms, a doctor or dietician can determine which foods may be the triggers, creating a personalized elimination diet plan that is designed to get results with the least difficulty for the individual. On the other end of the spectrum, once the health of the gastrointestinal system improves, people can sometimes learn to tolerate foods, at least in small doses, that they previously had to eliminate from their diet. Some elimination diets will also recommend reducing or eliminating added sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Participating in an elimination diet can help individuals discover if there are certain foods that they are not digesting well or to which their body is reacting negatively. It also allows the health care provider to customize a new long-term eating plan to help treat any chronic conditions they may have, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammation, migraines and eczema.

If someone has digestive problems or reactions that seem to be related to food, they should talk to their doctor since their doctor is the best person to decide what the appropriate diagnosis is and if a referral to a specialist is necessary.