Despite numerous advances in medical testing, a comprehensive elimination diet is still considered the “gold standard” for finding food intolerance and sensitivities. Although a blood draw and lab test for food antibodies can be a useful tool to identify true allergies as well as some food intolerance, it may not provide the whole picture. Why is this?
A food antibody test is a snapshot in time of an ever-changing environment. Our bodies are constantly evolving and may react differently over time to different foods. In some cases, a food sensitivity may be a temporary condition. In addition, if a food is not consumed on a regular basis, antibodies may not be present to a sufficient level to indicate a problem on a blood test, even though it is producing undesirable symptoms. Furthermore, for certain people, such as those on immunosuppressant medications, the test may prove completely unreliable.
So, what is a “comprehensive elimination diet” and why would you do it? Is it for weight loss? A comprehensive elimination diet is not intended to be a weight loss strategy, although some people do lose weight during this process. It is not intended to promote calorie restriction or deprivation. The purpose of the comprehensive elimination diet is to temporarily remove (for a period of 3 weeks) the most common food allergens and inflammatory foods. Once the 3 week elimination phase is complete, there is process for systematically re-challenging one food at a time in order to determine if food is causing any adverse effects. During the reintroduction phase, it is critical to reintroduce just one food at a time and to monitor any symptoms. For food allergies, there is generally an immediate or near immediate reaction, within 24 hours. For food sensitivities or intolerances, however, symptoms may be more subtle and are often delayed. Adverse effects may not appear for 36-72 hours.
Three weeks of eliminating inflammatory foods may not seem like much, but it is remarkable how much the immune system can quiet down and what kind of progress can be seen in such a short time. During a recent group class at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center, participants met weekly with our health coach and Nurse Practitioner over the course of five weeks. At the start of the class, all participants filled out a Medical Symptoms Questionnaire (MSQ). The higher the score, the greater someone’s symptoms. After just 3 weeks, everyone saw an improvement in their symptoms. By the end of 5 weeks, the improvement in MSQ scores was amazing. On average, the group saw a 32-point improvement in their scores.
There were a number of successes reported including reductions/eliminations of medication, weight loss, relief of various health symptoms and all together, the group lost 72 lbs. Everyone handled the elimination and reintroduction process like champs, sharing recipes and tips along the way.
One of the most notable things about the class was the emphasis on community in helping people be successful. A number of participants noted that they had an easier time doing the elimination diet because they knew others were doing it too. Some people had tried previously on their own but had not followed through. Interestingly, all of the participants also reported a surprising lack of cravings, even during the strictest phase of the process.
Old habits can be hard to break and having the support of a group of like-minded people can be very helpful when you’re trying to change your behavior or reach a challenging goal. We find, in our practice, that knowledge is most powerful when people are learning not only what to improve but how to apply it in their own life. Sharing amongst the community, in our classes, group workshops, free webinars and our Facebook group are some of the ways we’ve seen people get engaged in learning from us as well as from each other how to implement positive changes to optimize their health.
Trish Chaput, health coach at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center is a certified Precision Nutrition coach. In addition to providing 1:1 coaching, she leads Dr. Murray’s signature D.E.N.T. program and our group classes (online and in-person). Looking to make a start in your own journey to better health? Get yourself a copy of Dr. Murray’s new book: “Make a D.E.N.T. in Chronic Disease: Your Guide to Living Pain Free through Functional Medicine”, check out our upcoming events, or sign up for a Free Consult with Coach Trish or Dr. Murray right on our website: discoverhealthfmc.com