Elimination Diets and Food Intolerance Testing
There is some argument surrounding intolerance testing and elimination diets. While many condemn intolerance testing saying that a simple elimination diet is sufficient, others swear by food intolerance testing and its efficacy in dealing with food intolerances. At Lifelab testing, we take a different approach. We say, is it too much to ask for both?
Intolerance testing and elimination diets should go hand-in-hand. Both should be used as tools towards achieving a healthier, symptom-free life. In this article, we’ll cover:
Let’s dive into what an elimination diet is and why it matters.
What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is a short-term diet where you restrict the foods you eat, with the intention of alleviating existing food intolerance or allergy symptoms. From there, you can gradually introduce foods back into your diet one-at-a-time, and any subsequent signs of discomfort may help you identify which food you are allergic to.
Elimination diets are used when people suspect that they have a reaction but haven’t been able to identify the root cause of their symptoms. They’re also commonly used following a food intolerance test or allergy test to confirm the exact offending item.
An elimination diet should last for at least 4 weeks to allow time for all eliminated foods to be completely flushed out of your system. After the initial 4-week elimination period, you can begin to reintroduce those foods, one at a time, to determine which foods were the root of your symptoms.
It is not uncommon for the elimination period to be enough for a reaction to dissipate entirely. However, this is not always the case, and you should be cautious when reintroducing items – especially those you suspect you might be allergic to.
Elimination Diets Must Follow Intolerance Testing Anyway
Intolerance testing alone will only tell you which foods your blood has responded too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those foods are the root cause of your symptoms.
In order to get the benefits from food intolerance testing, you need to commence an elimination diet. But, how so?
Who is an Elimination Diet for?
An elimination diet is ideal for anyone regularly experiencing digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, abdominal cramping, or gas. It may also be useful if you are suffering from brain fog, regular headaches, or constant fatigue. These are all common symptoms of food intolerance or allergy and may be alleviated through an elimination diet.
Research indicates that an elimination diet guided by an IgG intolerance test or IgE allergy test can help with symptoms of other conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis and IBS. This is promising, as approximately 80% of IBS patients report that a specific food item triggers their symptoms. A 2013 study found that an elimination diet based on the results of an intolerance test may significantly reduce symptoms in IBS patients who also experienced migraines¹.
This positively impacted their quality of life. A separate 2018 study looked into the effects of intolerance test guided elimination diets in patients with Ulcerative Colitis as well. The study had both an intervention group (who commenced the elimination diet) and a control group (who did not alter their diet).
Reported symptoms lowered significantly within the intervention group compared to the control. With this, they concluded that the elimination diet had helped to reduce the severity of the patient’s symptoms²[. As more research is conducted, it’s becoming apparent that food intolerances play a part in various health conditions. And simply avoiding certain foods could be all it takes for many of us to live without these uncomfortable symptoms.
How to Do an Elimination Diet?
Follow these simple steps to make a start on your dieting.
1. Maintain a Food Diary
‘What gets measured, gets managed.’ So, it’s paramount that you keep track of the foods you eat during both the elimination period and the reintroduction stage. This will be invaluable in determining which foods cause symptoms and to what degree. It’s particularly important when reintroducing items back into your diet.
2. Begin Symptom Monitoring
Ideally, your food diary will also have a ‘symptoms’ section for you to monitor how each food item affects your body. This will help you spot any patterns in symptoms or lack thereof. It will also keep you motivated in moments of weakness when an old craving strikes or you’re offered something containing one of your known problem foods.
It’s helpful to give your symptoms a severity level, to both monitor your progress and determine which foods you may want to continue avoiding indefinitely. Just list the symptoms you notice, note the severity of those symptoms and list the foods you recently consumed, which may be the cause.
3. Start Replacing Nutrients
Before beginning an elimination diet, it’s recommended that you consider the foods that you’ll be avoiding, and the nutrients that these foods are rich in. You should make you aren’t removing any single primary source of nutrients without planning a replacement. For example, if you’re eliminating fish, then it’s important to make sure you still get plenty of omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids. While most experts would recommend that you get all of your vitamins and minerals from food sources, rather than supplements, there are times when supplementation may be necessary.
4. Explore Intolerance Testing and Allergy Testing
We recommend that your elimination diet is guided by the results from an IgG intolerance test and/or IgE allergy test, rather than your own gut instincts. Using appropriate test results to inform your elimination diet means you won’t be needlessly restricting your diet (and, as a result, risking vitamin deficiency). It’s also a much more efficient path to becoming symptom-free.
Our Tips Around Completing an Elimination Diet Successfully
Beyond the steps we’ve outlined, consider these tips to maximise the effectiveness of your diet.
Go Cold Turkey with Potentially Problematic Foods
You should start your elimination diet by removing all of those foods highlighted in your test results from your diet. Don’t try removing one item at a time, as that’s what the reintroduction stage afterwards is for. This is the most effective way to conduct the diet and will help you become symptom-free much sooner compared to eliminating the foods one at a time.
Reintroduce Food Strategically
After the 4-week elimination period, you can begin to reintroduce those foods that you removed. Remember that intolerance symptoms can appear anywhere from a few hours to two days after consuming a problem food, so we recommend reintroducing one item at a time, every couple of days. This is the point when monitoring your food intake and symptoms is most important. Be sure to track your meals and make a note of any symptoms you experience.
Start with Small Amounts of Each Food Item, Instead of Going All-in Right Away.
Food intolerances are a digestive issue, so the more you eat of a food that you have an intolerance to, the worse your symptoms can be. If you removed almonds from your diet, for example, have a handful of them at most – preferably less – and see how your body responds to them.
This is where you’ll be able to pinpoint the foods that have causing the most issues for you, and learn what your body can and can’t deal with. You may discover that your body can tolerate certain foods only in small quantities, which can help you avoid symptoms in the future.
Like we said before, the most effective way to conduct an elimination diet is following a food intolerance test. It’ll help you save time and alleviate your intolerance symptoms as quickly as possible.
Can I Do Elimination Diet Without the Intolerance Test?
A lone elimination diet leaves you constantly guessing which foods are causing your symptoms and needlessly lengthens the whole process. It makes you suffer intolerance symptoms for longer than necessary while you keep adding foods to the ‘avoid’ list, hoping to find relief. Because of all this guesswork, the reintroduction period is also much longer than it would be had you followed the guidance of an intolerance test.
It’s far quicker to start off with a solid base of foods highlighted through testing than to hope you can accurately tell which foods aren’t agreeing with you.
IgG Food Intolerance Testing is Scientifically Backed
Unlike a simple elimination diet, IgG testing is medically proven and has various studies supporting its efficacy in reducing symptoms. More research is always being conducted on IgG food intolerances and indicating how people with various conditions can benefit from the tests. So far there are studies looking into IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and even depression in relation to food intolerances.
There’s no argument here, the elimination diet is a key part of overcoming your food intolerances and getting back to a symptoms-free life. It should be considered one of the vital tools in finally leaving those intolerance symptoms in the dust. Purchase the Complete Intolerance Test today to discover what’s causing you issues, or fill in our Find My Test quiz to find out what test is best suited to you.
 Aydinlar, E.I., Dikmen, P.Y., Tiftikci, A., Saruc, M., Aksu, M., Gunsoy, H.G. and Tozun, N. (2013). IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache, [online] 53(3), pp.514–25. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23216231 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2020].
 Jian, L., Anqi, H., Gang, L., Litian, W., Yanyan, X., Mengdi, W. and Tong, L. (2018). Food Exclusion Based on IgG Antibodies Alleviates Symptoms in Ulcerative Colitis: A Prospective Study. Inflammatory bowel diseases, [online] 24(9), pp.1918–1925. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29788288 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2020].