Elimination diets, where a person undertakes a diet removing certain food groups one at a time to see if they have an impact, are not just for people with severe allergies, a health expert is advising.
Dr Robin Berzin, writing on Mind Body Green, recommends that we should undertake them at least once in our lives.
Food allergy tests can be expensive, and this is a good excuse to do a stock take of the food you eat. For most of us, our eating habits are formed when we are quite young, and there may actually be foods that don't particular agree with us and may inflame the gut.
Say goodbye to dairy
Some experts have said that what you eat can be linked to asthma, skin conditions, arthritis, migraines, kidney problems and mood disorders.
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Writing on Precision Nutrition, Bryan Walsh says: "Our gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the interface between food and body. And this huge organ system – the size of a tennis court when stretched end to end – is responsible for converting our food into chemical messages through the processes of digestion and absorption.
"However, the GI tract doesn’t just digest and absorb food. Surprisingly, the GI tract also has its own independently working nervous system (aka the enteric nervous system). Therefore, the GI tract is rich in neurotransmitters, hormones, chemical messengers, enzymes, and bacteria. Indeed, it’s even home to seventy percent of your body’s entire immune system!"
But eliminating foods such as dairy - especially if you're used to having it in your tea every day - isn't easy.
Grass-fed beef is fine
In her feature, Dr Berzin advises taking a seven-step approach.
The first step is to figure out what you want from the diet, so make a note of certain symptoms you're prone to. Do you have bloating from time to time? Itchy skin? A bad tummy after a certain type of meal?
Once you have this list, you'll know what you're looking for.
Then comes the hard part: no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, fast food, or alcohol for 23 days.
It has to be that specific time-frame, says Dr Berzin, because: "Antibodies, which are the proteins that your immune system makes when it reacts to foods, take around 21 to 23 days to turn over, so if you don’t quit things to which you're sensitive for at least that time, you won’t get the full effect of eliminating them."
As this will cut out a lot of things in the average western diet, she says that you want to introduce 'clean protein' - so fish, chicken and grass-fed beef - alongside 70% of vegetables, "legumes (think beans and lentils), nuts, seeds, seaweeds, and gluten-free grains like quinoa."
"On day 24," she writes, "pick one thing you eliminated—like gluten, OR dairy, OR eggs—but not more than one, and eat it.
"See how you feel over the next 48 hours. If you have no reaction after two days, eat that same food again, and for a second time, notice how you feel. From there, it’s up to you whether or not to re-incorporate that food into your diet on a regular basis."
Recording your reactions is crucial. Bryan writes: "Because you’ll be introducing eliminated foods one at a time, you can be very observant of food-related changes. And virtually anything that is different than you felt during the previous three weeks could be a symptom, negative or positive.
"Interestingly, some people actually report increased energy when a given food is reintroduced. Unfortunately this may be created by a stress response to the particular food. And that’s actually a negative thing. So it’s important to keep a log of all reactions – positive or negative."