This is a brief distillation of a lot of ideas that have come from conducting various elimination diets with individual patients and patient groups over a number of years.
The main point of having it here on this website about the paleolithic diet is that the paleo diet is entirely suited to making the type of inquiry that typical elimination diets attempt to address, especially for omnivores.
What's it all about?
The main reason for doing an elimination diet is to identify hidden allergies. Elimination dieting, on its own, is often surprisingly effective in getting rid of symptoms that may be associated with allergy or inappropriate immune response to foods.
The culprit foods discovered by elimination and challenge studies vary from patient to patient in a highly individual way, but certain foods keep cropping up again and again. So most elimination diets will pick the usual culprits to exclude - wheat, other grains, dairy, shellfish, etc.Looking around at the more common recommended elimination diets one can start to see the patterns that emerge and, surprise surprise, most of them generally end up looking like the paleo diet.
Thus, if you want, you can wade through the details of the main tried and tested elimination diet regimes, listed on the right. I and several of my patients have tried these out over the last few years. Or, more simply, why not just adopt the paleo diet recommendations for a minmum 30 day trial, and see how that goes? You can then start to reinstate various foods that you have been excluding, to find out the main culprits.
Prerequisites for successful elimination dieting
An aperient is a mild laxative that will help to clear the bowels at the start of the diet. Examples include epsom salts, milk of magnesia, or if you want to try something natural, senna or rhubarb root.
Keep yourself thoroughly lubricated by drinking large quantities of bottled spring water. This allows for the testing of tap water as a challenge test later on.
There must be absolutely no break in the diet, otherwise how else are you going to trust that what you learn is accurate? Reactions have been traced to the licking of a food-soiled finger in the preparation of foods for others.
Foods used in exclusion diets should be fresh if possible, but frozen or dried if not. However, the latter two heighten the likelihood of hidden ingredients, natural or synthetic. Ideally, organic foods should be used to lessen the likelihood of contamination from pesticide or herbicide residues.
Toothpaste, drugs and medicines (including the oral contraceptives) contain food substances and should be discontinued to avoid false-negative challenge tests due to incomplete unmasking. Cigarettes carry the same risk as they contain sugars. Also tobacco is botanically related to tomato and potato (solanaceae) and may cross-react and therefore cross-mask.
Knowlege of hidden food and synthetic ingredients is is essential for the accurate diagnosis and management of food allergy. Here is a list of e numbers and what they refer to.
If you are on long-term medication seek medical advice before stopping it, as some will need to be stopped by stepping down gradually.
A daily diary of symptoms should be kept. Careful note should be made of craved foods. See here for further details.
Timing is very important if you are embarking on an elimination diet as part of a health inquiry because, as previously stated, there is no point in doing the diet unless you are absolutely going to comply with the rules.
Birthdays, Christmas, family get-togethers, and holidays can all cause quite a few problems. Iseally you should plan things so the diet falls in a quiet period, or postpone celebrations until afterwards.