Conduct Your Own
Elimination Diet to Determine Eczema Triggers.
Food sensitivities are a common trigger for eczema. Your digestive system is related to your eczema and other reactions in a variety of ways including but not limited to microbial imbalance, enzyme deficiency, inflammation, and intestinal permeability. When a food doesn’t agree with you, it can lead to poor gut health which can trigger skin conditions, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, mood disorders, ADD/ADHD, and migraines.
We are all unique and have individual nutritional needs. Eating foods that you don’t tolerate could be interfering with your quality of life. If you suffer from sensitivities, one of the most effective ways to determine the source of your irritation is to conduct your own elimination diet. By eliminating and removing foods groups you can see major improvements to your skin as well as your overall health.
How does an elimination diet work?
Completely eliminate specific foods from your diet for a period of time, usually 21 to 28 days. After the elimination period, slowly reintroduce each specific individual food and monitor your reaction for symptoms.
Why not just get food allergy testing?
Of course, you can. However, food allergy testing can be unreliable and inconclusive, not to mention expensive. For that reason, elimination diets are considered to be the most reliable way to identify your unique food sensitivities. Elimination diets still aren’t perfect, but it gives you the chance to experience and experiment first-hand with what does and doesn’t work for your body, which can be very educational and empowering.
Eliminate the following foods from your diet for a minimum of 21 days:
- Gluten: all wheat, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, faro, fu (found in Asian foods), gliadin, graham, kamut, matzo, semolina, spelt.
- Dairy: all dairy products from cows, goats, sheep, or any other animal.
- Soy: including all tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame
- Coffee and caffeinated tea
- Citrus fruits: lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc.
- Nuts and peanuts
- Nightshade vegetables: peppers including hot peppers and spices derived from peppers like cayenne and paprika, eggplant, potatoes (sweet potatoes are okay), tomatillos, tomatoes, goji berries, gooseberries, cherries.
- Processed sugar: for a bit of sweetness, choose stevia or honey.
- Processed foods including condiments, frozen, and prepared foods.
The list might sound daunting, but there are plenty of other foods that you can eat and explore while on the elimination diet. Rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes can be eaten for carbohydrates, fish, turkey, lamb, and seeds like sunflower seeds for protein (you don’t need to eat as much protein as you may think) most fruit, and most types of vegetables are all fine to eat during your elimination diet. Aim to eat 20% lean protein and 80% vegetables and grains.
This is an intentionally restrictive list. You can find other lists on the internet that allow more or fewer foods as part of the elimination diet. The key is that the more you remove, the more your body will act as a clean slate which will make it easier for you to determine your reactions when the time comes to re-introduce each item.
Phase II - Re-Introduction
After (at least) 21 days of eliminating all of the foods listed above, you will be ready to start to introduce one single food or food group for one day. Then, monitor your reaction for the next 2 days. Keep a journal to make notes of your re-introductions and reactions.
Example: On Monday, re-introduce wheat bread to your diet. On Tuesday and Wednesday, return to eliminating wheat and all gluten from your diet again and make note of how you feel. Does your skin feel itchy? Do you feel sleepy or lethargic? How is your digestion? Make note of any abnormal activity.
- Negative reactions can include:
- Skin reactions of any kind
- Sleeping reactions like insomnia
- Fatigue or brain fog
- Joint pain and/or inflammation
- Bowel changes or GI pain
- Sinus or other respiratory issues
If you have no reactions, that food can be considered “clear” and you can move on to the next food or food group on Thursday. If you are uncertain about your reaction, rather than moving on to the next food, try the same food again and wait another 2 days to see how you react.
If you do react to a food, you’ve found a food sensitivity. Keep it removed from your diet for the duration of the elimination diet, and know that it’s a food that you are better off avoiding in general.
If you don’t react to a food, you can continue to have it as part of your diet during the rest of the elimination, however the more simple that you keep your diet throughout the duration of the elimination, the easier it will be to determine your reactions to foods.
Once you’ve made a decision about the first food on your re-introduction list, pick another one and follow the same steps.
The process of the elimination diet takes about 5-6 weeks and proves to be very enlightening for most people. While you might miss eating whatever you want to eat, most people feel exceptionally well while they are on the elimination diet and learn a lot from the experience.
If you suspect a food sensitivity, why not give it a try? Isolating each food and discovering what food or food group might be causing your eczema symptoms is worth the effort of the elimination diet. Discovering what foods are better removed from your regular diet can be a life-changing experience and can improve your comfort and quality of life. It’s a self-experiment worth exploring.