The more dietary stress you put on yourself, the more likely you are to experience inflammation that can worsen your autoimmune reactions or interfere with your thyroid function.
Dietary triggers can lead to increased gastrointestinal (GI) distress, chronic inflammation, and a possible elevation in thyroid antibodies that indicate the presence of Hashimoto's disease. Exposure to reactive food may cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, gas, or cramping in the GI tract. You may also experience respiratory, muscular, or skin symptoms.
Using an elimination diet may help to identify these dietary triggers.
When we eat how we always eat, it can be hard to connect the dots between specific foods and uncomfortable symptoms. Something may be wrong, but it seems too overwhelming or confusing to pinpoint the trigger. The more you eat the problematic food, the body's ability to protect itself weakens, and the reactions become less specific, more chronic.
An elimination diet is a short-term process that helps identify foods your body can't tolerate well to remove them from your diet. This process involves two stages: removing potential food triggers and then carefully reintroducing them into your diet to determine whether they're to blame for your reactions.
Overall, the process takes about two months. First, you eliminate antigenic foods - that is, foods that induce an immune response in the body - for a few days to a few weeks. Then, when you reintroduce the reactive food(s), the body will produce a stronger or more specific reaction to those that are particular triggers for you. This process helps identify which food or foods may be problematic.
An elimination diet, when done correctly, requires planning and monitoring by a professional.
The most common antigenic foods are gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, shellfish, and preservatives. For the first three weeks of this diet, you should eat a diet free of these reactive foods. You can eat gluten-free grains, except those made of corn.
After three weeks, introduce these foods back into your diet one by one. Start with nuts, and follow with corn, eggs, soy, dairy, and then gluten. Allow three days between each reintroduction.
Keep a journal to identify which foods cause which symptoms. For instance, perhaps dairy causes joint pain, or eggs cause gas and bloating. This log helps locate your dietary triggers.
Some symptoms to watch for include:
It may take a few days to see a reaction from a particular food. However, if after a few days, no symptoms appear, you can assume that the food group is safe to eat and move onto the next group.
If you experience adverse symptoms, you can assume this is a trigger food and remove it from your diet.
As mentioned, an elimination diet involves removing grains, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, shellfish, and preservatives. You may also try to eliminate or limit other possible food culprits like nightshades, caffeine, alcohol, legumes, citrus fruits, fructose, grains, and potatoes. The more foods comprehensive your list of foods to eliminate, the more likely you are to discover the primary offenders.
Of course, you want to work with your doctor to make sure you still get enough nutrients and eat a balanced diet.
So far, this elimination process may sound very restrictive or daunting. Fear not! There is still enough variety to make healthy, balanced, and delicious meals.
Try experimenting with new recipes and meals during this phase! Plenty of resources out there like these recipes that are elimination diet-friendly.
If followed for too long, an elimination diet can reduce the intake of essential nutrients needed for general health and thyroid health. An elimination diet should only be followed for a short time, between one to two months. Any longer than this and this diet could cause nutrient deficiencies, which can worsen symptoms or prevent thyroid medication from doing its job.
If you have a known or suspected allergy, you should be under the supervision of a trusted professional while you go through the elimination process.
Food intolerance is very different from a food allergy. Different parts of the immune system regulate the two.
An allergy causes an immune system reaction that may affect several organs in the body. An allergic reaction typically shows up right away and could be severe or life-threatening.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, is generally less dangerous, though it may cause uncomfortable symptoms. An intolerance can take longer to emerge after you've been eating a type of food for a continued time.
Immunoglobulins are proteins that are produced by the immune system in response to a perceived threat. The body makes different immunoglobulins to combat different antigens.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is associated with allergic responses. When an allergic person exposes to an allergen, the body produces IgE specially targeted against that allergen. These antibodies bind to white blood cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) has high concentrations in the body's mucous membranes, specifically the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. When you eat a food to which you have an intolerance, IgA causes irritation or inflammation in the respiratory and digestive systems. These foods, then, may cause IBS, gas nausea, skin rashes or acne, asthma, or headache.
If you experience no change in your symptoms during the elimination phase, this may mean that the foods you removed are not the primary cause of your symptoms. Alternatively, if you find relief during the elimination phase, and then notice reactions or symptoms during the reintroduction phase, you'll know to remove that food or foods from your diet. In either case, take this information to your thyroid specialist to develop a plan that addresses that food or foods impact on your thyroid function.
Many nutritional factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. Paloma Health offers you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist in collaboration with a physician to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health.
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