One of the most powerful tools in an Integrative Nutrition Coach’s kit is the elimination diet. This diagnostic tool helps us to determine which foods (if any) are adversely effecting our clients and which foods are not. This allows a client to learn how to tailor their lives towards foods that help them thrive, rather than just get by.
While it is relatively rare for someone to have a severe allergic reaction to foods (think the typical anaphylactic reaction we see in the movies), general immune responses to foods are becoming increasingly common. Because symptoms of a reaction can vary and can also be delayed by hours to a few days, it can also be difficult for someone to realize that every time they eat dairy or gluten or whatever problem food, they get xyz reaction 2 days later. This is why an elimination diet is needed: to help you identify what foods, if any are triggers. If you knew that the root of a particular nagging health complaint (like insomnia or muscle soreness) was actually caused by a food you were eating, you’d want to stop eating it, right?
An elimination diet is a temporary restriction of the types of foods that commonly cause immune reactions. If you are staring an elimination diet, you record in detail how you are feeling prior to the diet. Once common problem foods have been eliminated from the diet for about 4 weeks, they are reintroduced one at a time to see if a reaction occurs. You would journal how you feel again while reintroducing foods to see if you can find a pattern between the foods you eliminated and any symptoms. If you’ve ever heard of the Whole30 program, this is an elimination diet.
While elimination diets are extremely helpful in improving your health and nutrition overall, they can also be pretty hard to implement. During the elimination period, your food choices are extremely strict. This requires a lot of planning, cooking/preparing all of your meals at home (so you aren’t accidentally eating a food that is on the no list), support from your family and friends, and sheer willpower at times to be successful. The entire process can also take up to 3 months to complete!
If you are considering going on an elimination diet, I would highly recommend the Whole30 program to get started. This program is great because it gives you a very clear set of rules, a ton of recipe resources, and a large support community to get you through the full 30 days. It will still take commitment and planning on your part, as well as the local support of your friends, family, and coworkers, but it is by far the best elimination program that I have worked with.
But what happened when you are the mom of 3 kids under 3, who is also working full time while still waking 3x a night with your youngest and barely making through the day? Getting through 30 days to 3 months of additional effort and willpower may just be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. If you want to be able to target problem foods more immediately, you can take a IgG blood test to determine some of your triggers. If you take a food allergen test, you provide a blood sample, and a report comes back showing which IgG antibodies you have in your system. If you have antibodies to a food, then this is a food causing a reaction and it should be avoided. Often having a more targeted list of foods to start with is exactly what someone needs to take the first step towards better health.
You can work with your doctor to order a food allergen test, or you can go through an online service. I recently tested out this Food Allergen Test from EverlyWell and was completely impressed with the results. Their website is easy to navigate and ordering the test is simple. Everything you need comes in the mail, taking the test takes practically no time at all, and it comes with prepaid return shipping to the lab processing the results. I mailed my test off on Friday and had my results by Wednesday.
Here is what the kit looks like when it arrives.
When you open it up, there are detailed instructions inside and all the materials that you need to provide your sample. When taking the test you want to be hydrated. You’ll relax your arm and hang it at your side for a minute or so, so that your blood flows to your finger tips. I’m a total chicken when it comes to needles, but the lancets they provided were not bad at all! Then you just dab your card in 6 spots, put on your bandaid, and wait for the sample to dry. Then dump everything into the prepaid envelope to ship back for analysis. The entire process took about 30 minutes, with me pausing to take pictures.
As I said above, I mailed my results on a Friday and had them by Wednesday of next week. You will get a general and a detailed report of your results (the detailed report is to share with your physician). Here’s a few screenshots of what I got back.
When you tap on any of the foods, it give you additional detail about how severe your reaction to that food is and additional information about sources of the food (in case it is in ingredient like gluten, for example). I can tell you, while my issues with gluten and dairy have been pretty obvious, I would not have figured out that I was having issues with green beans easily!
I’m hoping that learning about this EverlyWell test will be able to help any moms out there who need to start feeling better right away but who are worried about the implementation of a full elimination diet. If you decide to try an elimination diet or one of these tests and want help with how to navigate life while avoiding your food intolerances, feel free to contact me. It’s my job to help my clients figure these things out!