Treatments & Therapies

Elimination Diet – Treatment, Effect & Risks

Elimination diet

The elimination diet is a diagnostic method for determining food intolerance when allergological tests have not provided sufficient information. With the elimination diet, one food is left out on a daily basis according to a fixed scheme and then reintroduced into the diet in order to be able to trace back the body’s reactions to its consumption.

What is the elimination diet?

Allergological tests do not always provide enough information about a food intolerance to one or more foods. A safer diagnosis, on the other hand, is possible with the elimination diet. It is divided into two phases, the elimination and the provocation phase.

During elimination, potentially intolerable foods are all removed from the diet. Only a few approved foods may be eaten. In this way, the elimination diet ensures that the patient does not react to a food that may still be in the digestive tract . Instead, he only eats foods that he can definitely tolerate, as there are no known intolerances to them. During the elimination phase, a lot of weight can be lost due to water loss. This alone indicates that there is an intolerance.

As soon as the provocation phase is initiated after a few days, it can become apparent what the patient cannot tolerate. In this phase of the elimination diet, one potentially intolerable food is eaten each day. It is important that consumption takes place early in the morning so that the body has a full day to react. The patient documents his symptoms and observations over the next few days. Based on this documentation, the doctor can determine after the provocation phase whether there are intolerances to one of the tested foods. The elimination diet lasts about a month through these two phases.

Function, effect & goals

An elimination diet is used to diagnose intolerance to a variety of foods. It is used when other methods have not provided sufficient information. The patient can also do it himself, but the elimination diet is only really meaningful if it has taken place under the supervision of the doctor.

An elimination diet can determine intolerance to a total of 20 different substances. It can of course be expanded to include other foods at any time. Typically, the elimination diet tests for intolerance to alcohol , coffee , tea, cow’s milk , soy products, wheat ( gluten ), citrus fruits, eggs , or rice , among other things . If the patient reacts with symptoms on the day of the elimination diet after eating one of these foods, then it can be said quite clearly that this is a reaction of his body to that very food.

During both phases of the elimination diet, he receives a symptom questionnaire from the doctor, on which the typical signs and symptoms of intolerance are noted. The patient can then indicate on a scale of 1-10 to what extent he perceived a symptom if it should have occurred. The doctor can then evaluate the sheet and knows what the patient has reacted to and whether there are any connections. On the one hand, the elimination diet can therefore provide a reliable diagnosis, but it can also provide information for further examinations, for example to find cross-allergies or to uncover several parallel intolerances at the same time.

Following the elimination diet, these results are used for advice from a dietician or nutritionist, as the person affected must respond naturally to the diagnosis and change their diet.

Risks, side effects & dangers

An elimination diet is a relatively low-risk method of detecting intolerance or allergies to certain foods. One risk is that the patient may not follow the elimination diet diligently, misinterpret their symptoms, or fail to adequately document them.

At best, the symptom questionnaire is carried along at all times so that a note can be made immediately if a symptom occurs. If this is forgotten, the doctor then works with falsified results. It is also important on an elimination diet that the foods to be tested are eaten early in the morning. The only exception to this is the alcohol test , which usually follows the last day of the elimination diet. This can of course be drunk in the evening. However, if the other foods are eaten too late in the day, the patient may be asleep when symptoms appear, or they may not appear until the next day when the next food is tested. This would also falsify the results.

If this happens, it is best to consult your doctor immediately. This delays the elimination diet by one day and re-tests the food that was eaten too late from the previous day. A rare hazard of the elimination diet is allergies to the foods tested. Every allergy, no matter how slight, represents a certain risk. Because it can happen at any time that the body of the person affected reacts unusually violently to contact with the allergen . This may end in shock .

Most of the time, allergic reactions to a food are detected during an allergy test, so they are no longer included in the elimination diet. However, if symptoms such as severe redness and itching of the skin , shortness of breath , increased heart rate, and feelings of anxiety occur, the patient should go to the emergency room immediately and state that they are on an elimination diet.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.