• Elimination Diets and Ayurveda

    There is a greater emphasis being placed upon nutrition these days especially when it comes to food allergies. You will often hear nutritionists recommending elimination diets to self-test for possible food intolerances and allergies. To a certain extent, I feel that elimination diets are great because they allow you to focus on yourself and see how you feel after consuming certain foods. The bonus with using an elimination diet for testing for potential allergies is that it is a non-invasive form. However, I feel that if you want to do an elimination diet, you should do it the Ayurvedic way.

    First of all, what is in elimination diet? An elimination diet is a diet in which you remove all potentially allergenic foods. The top eight allergenic foods are dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc), fish (bass, cod, flounder, etc), shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp, etc), soy, and gluten. For an elimination diet, you remove all of these foods plus any others that you feel may be causing you health problems. You basically strip your diet down to the bare minimum of soups with fresh vegetables (non-nightshades, such as eggplants and tomatoes) and eat that for a few days. Then, you introduce one item at a time back into your diet and eat only that for three to four days and see how you feel. One by one, you add each food item back into your diet and notice any physical symptoms you may have.

    The problem with the western approach to the elimination diet is that there is no consideration given to improving digestion. The process seems simple. For example, you strip your diet down for three days and then you introduce yourself to dairy for example. Well, dairy is hard to digest, so after having a liquid and easy to digest foods, you are bound to naturally have a tough time digesting dairy. It will be natural to feel an upset stomach after drinking a glass of milk or eating some cheese. The same applies to all of the potential allergenic foods because they are all heavy and hard to digest.

    Here is my recommendation for doing an elimination diet:

    1) Start by having a light diet for three days. Have only soups along with warm and cooked foods only. Nothing raw except for ripened fruits. Avoid all cold foods and drinks. Avoid leftovers, processed foods, fast foods, trans and saturated fats, and all foods with artificial ingredients or additives. If possible, have a vegetarian diet and eat your largest meal at lunchtime. Follow this diet for about 3 days at minimum.

    2) While having a light diet, work on improving digestion. Drink hot water and use digestive spices in your cooking and in your teas. Some spices that improve digestion are ginger, cumin, black pepper, fennel, turmeric, and coriander. Lemon juice and honey in warm water is also a good tonic for cleansing the digestive tract.

    3) During this time, it is important to eat at least three meals a day, so do not starve yourself. Staying hungry will not help with improving digestion.

    4) Then, on day four, introduce your first food back into your diet. Whatever you do, do not over eat or stuff yourself. This will not help you when figuring out how you feel after consuming the food. Overeating will lead to all sorts of different symptoms that mimic the signs of food allergies, including constipation and nausea.
    I suggest starting with dairy. Now, keep in mind that dairy is hard to digest. So, be sure to have some fresh ginger before your consumption of dairy to aid with digestion. Start with fresh cheeses or boiled milk. And then see how you feel for the next few days.

    5) And then slowly, one by one, add everything back into your diet and consume all vegetarian foods before testing any meats. It is important to keep an eye on your digestion during this time, as your digestion is very sensitive. Continue to use spices, drink hot water, and have some fresh ginger before every meal.

    6) Pay attention to how you feel and your digestion. If you are having a reaction, you will feel it within 72 hours and that is why you add only one food at a time every three days. Constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, headaches, and fevers are just some of the symptoms of potential food allergies. And of course, during this time, if you feel that you need to seek medical attention and see your doctor, please do so. Important thing is to monitor how you feel before and after consuming each of the different foods.

    Best of luck with your elimination diet!

    – Varsha


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