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An Introduction to Elimination Diets

An Introduction to Elimination Diets

An introduction to elimination diets
©️ Andres Ayrton on Pexels

Food is important for staying strong and keeping healthy, but there can be times when it upsets your body and thyroid condition. Learn about elimination diets, and how they can help you figure out what isn’t working for you.

The thyroid is a small gland found at the base of your neck, and it is responsible for balancing the hormones that control your bodily functions. 

Eating the right foods is key to managing your thyroid health and condition, which can be accomplished by eating healthful and nutritious foods as well as following an anti-inflammatory diet

However, what is healthy for someone else may cause adverse reactions in your body and it is important to figure out what isn’t working for you so you can cut it out of your diet. Elimination diets are very helpful in this way in that they can pinpoint exactly what foods are causing the physical symptoms of your thyroid condition.

This article will cover the following topics:

  • What is an elimination diet?
  • Commonly eliminated foods
  • Tips for managing your elimination diet

What Is An Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is a process of cutting out a specific food item/type at a time and monitoring any alterations in health or symptoms following the change. Generally, people try elimination diets if they find that they are allergic to something they are eating, but are unsure as to what could be causing their flare-ups. Some signs that you may have a food sensitivity/allergy include:

  • Brain fog
  • Nausea
  • Rashes and acne
  • Bloating and related digestive issues
  • Joint and muscle pain as well as 
  • Headaches.

These symptoms are also commonly associated with various thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism and could be exacerbated by certain types of inflammatory foods. Understanding the relationship between what you eat and how they affect these symptoms can help you to mitigate, if not eliminate, these symptoms.

Commonly Eliminated Foods

Dairy

Dairy is commonly eliminated as lactose intolerance leads to intestinal discomfort and inflammation in a significant portion of the global population; current estimates show that more than 65% of people have some form of difficulty in processing milk-derived sugar.

That being said, eliminating dairy completely is a double-edged sword – fortified milk products represent a significant dietary source of Vitamin D and calcium. Cutting out dairy completely thus predisposes many people to a shortage of these nutrients. Therefore, before making any changes to your diet, consult your doctor. 

 

Gluten

Over the past decade, awareness surrounding gluten insensitivity has steadily increased. While some of this concern is just chatter, many people find relief when they eliminate gluten from their diet. 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can occur in anyone and may cause symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain as well as joint pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may find it useful to eliminate wheat grains from your diet temporarily to see if gluten is responsible. 

 

FODMAP

FODMAP refers to fermentable short-chain carbohydrates (sugars), which are found abundantly in many fruits, legumes, grains, and alcohols, and are often poorly absorbed by the small intestine. Typically, the FODMAP elimination diet can last anywhere between 8 to 12 weeks. 

It is usually recommended for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but it can also be helpful for people who experience other kinds of digestive issues and chronic inflammation as in thyroiditis. 

(FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols).

Tips For Managing Your Elimination Diet

Plan Ahead

Because these elimination diets involve cutting out certain foods over a considerable length of time, the most important part of starting an elimination diet is to first consult your doctor.  Suddenly cutting out foods without appropriate planning can lead to:

  • Inadequate nutrition → Suddenly cutting out large groups of food or important sources of nutrients for extended periods of time can prevent your body from accessing appropriate levels of the nutrients it needs to function properly. You may find that your immune system is compromised due to a lack of proper minerals and vitamins, which means that you can get sick more easily and be unable to shake flu, colds, and other infectious diseases for longer than normal. 
  • Digestive difficulty → Cutting out groups of food without appropriate planning or macronutrient substitution can lead to difficulty digesting your food and absorbing any nutrients. If you do not consume enough daily fiber, for example, you may become constipated 
  • Trouble sticking to the diet → Sticking yourself into this diet plan without proper advance planning can make it difficult for you to successfully eliminate certain foods for an appropriate amount of time. Say for example that you are trying to eliminate potato chips and other fried food, which you generally consume as a late-night snack. By quitting cold turkey without thinking of a substitute, you may be tempted to eat these foods during your elimination phase, or even develop worse eating habits to fill your cravings. 

 

Keep A Food Journal

The whole point of the elimination diet is to track how any changes in your food consumption affect your symptoms. As such, you should be prepared to note down your eating habits as well as your physical reactions diligently after commencing this diet. 

This is useful as there can be a significant delay between eating certain food and observing a physical change. If you are tracking your physical symptoms over several weeks and notice a change, you can go through your food journal and try to identify the culprit even though it may not seem obviously linked.

 

Try to Keep Everything Else Constant 

As with the scientific method, it is important that everything other than the independent variable is kept constant in order to determine how any experimental changes affect the dependent variable. 

In this case, the independent variable is the incorporation or elimination of a certain food group, which affects the dependent variable which is your presentation of symptoms. If you are making other significant changes in your life like living in an unprecedented environment, trying out a different exercise regime, or trying new body care products, it can be difficult to tie any changes you observe in your symptoms strictly to the changes you make in your diet.

Key Takeaways

  • The thyroid is a small gland found at the base of your neck, and it is responsible for balancing the hormones that control your bodily functions.
  • Eating the right foods is key to managing your thyroid health and condition, which can be accomplished by eating healthful and nutritious foods as well as following an anti-inflammatory diet. 
  • Elimination diets are very helpful in this way in that they can pinpoint exactly what foods are causing the physical symptoms of your thyroid condition.
  • An elimination diet is a process of cutting out a specific food item/type at a time and monitoring any alterations in health or symptoms following the change. 
  • Some commonly eliminated groups in this diet include dairy, gluten, and FODMAP-contain foods. 
  • If you plan on trying an elimination diet, consider planning ahead, keeping a food journal, and keeping everything else constant. 

By helping you track your diet, your medications as well as your symptoms, the ThyForLife app can assist you in managing your thyroid condition and understanding how your lifestyle impacts your health.

Disclaimer

At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. For detailed medical information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and general practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider.
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