If you’ve been feeling unwell and none of the treatments you’ve tried have worked, look to your diet. Systematically cutting items from your diet and seeing how you feel can be one way to see if food is making you feel crummy. And if so, which foods, says Heidi Turner, M.S., R.D.N., a medical nutrition therapist at The Seattle Arthritis Clinic.
Elimination diets are used to pinpoint the underlying cause of a wide range of health problems, from digestive issues and heartburn to joint paint, allergies, migraines, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and skin issues, she says.
“If you’re saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have these hives every day and these medications and supplements aren’t working,’ then you want to be looking at the foods you’re eating,” says Turner. “Food has the ability to impact our immune system so significantly.”
Has a healthcare provider suggested you try an elimination diet, or did you Google your symptoms and now you’re wondering if you should try one yourself? Maybe your best friend keeps telling you how the Whole30 diet changed her life? This is what you should know before cleaning out your fridge.
What is an elimination diet?
Typically completed under the guidance of a registered dietitian or a primary care provider who specializes in integrative medicine, an elimination diet removes antigenic foods, which are those found to create an immune response in some people, says Turner.
Wheat, dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn, citrus fruits and nightshade plants are typical culprits, she says. In people who are sensitive to them, gluten and dairy consumption may cause digestive issues or lead to mood issues, for example. And nightshades—tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, pepper, paprika and tobacco—may aggravate arthritis in some people, Turner says.