By Ryan Raman
Food intolerances and sensitivities are extremely common. In fact, it's estimated that between 2–20 percent of people worldwide may suffer from a food intolerance (1).
Elimination diets are the gold standard for identifying food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies through diet.
They remove certain foods known to cause uncomfortable symptoms and reintroduce them at a later time while testing for symptoms.
Allergists and registered dietitians have been using elimination diets for decades to help people rule out foods that are not tolerated well.
What Is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect your body can't tolerate well. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction.
In that way, an elimination diet may alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
Once you have successfully identified a food your body can't tolerate well, you can remove it from your diet to prevent any uncomfortable symptoms in the future.
There are many types of elimination diets, which all involve eating or removing certain types of foods.
However, if you have a known or suspected food allergy, then you should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a medical professional. Reintroducing a food allergen may trigger a dangerous condition called anaphylaxis (4, 5).
If you suspect you have a food allergy, check with your doctor before starting an elimination diet. Symptoms of an allergy include rashes, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing (6).
Summary: An elimination diet is a short-term diet that helps identify foods your body can't tolerate well and removes them from your diet.
How Does It Work?
An elimination diet is divided into two phases: elimination and reintroduction.
The Elimination Phase
The elimination phase involves removing foods you suspect trigger your symptoms for a short period of time, typically 2–3 weeks.
Eliminate foods that you think your body can't tolerate, as well as foods that are notorious for causing uncomfortable symptoms.
Some of these foods include nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs and seafood (7).
During this phase, you can determine if your symptoms are due to foods or something else. If your symptoms still remain after removing the foods for 2–3 weeks, it is best to notify your doctor.
The Reintroduction Phase
The next phase is the reintroduction phase, in which you slowly bring eliminated foods back into your diet.
Each food group should be introduced individually, over 2–3 days, while looking for symptoms. Some symptoms to watch for include:
- Rashes and skin changes
- Joint pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in breathing
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Changes in bowel habits
If you experience no symptoms during the period where you reintroduce a food group, you can assume that it is fine to eat and move on to the next food group.
However, if you experience negative symptoms like those mentioned above, then you have successfully identified a trigger food and should remove it from your diet.
The entire process, including elimination, takes roughly 5–6 weeks.
If you plan to eliminate many food groups, seek advice from your doctor or a dietitian. Eliminating too many food groups may cause a nutritional deficiency.
Summary: An elimination diet works by removing foods you think cause discomfort. It then reintroduces them individually to check for symptoms.
What Can't You Eat on an Elimination Diet?
The best elimination diets are the most restricting.
The more foods you remove during the elimination phase, the more likely it is that you will discover which foods trigger uncomfortable symptoms.
Foods that are commonly removed during the elimination phase include:
- Citrus fruits: Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits.
- Nightshade vegetables: Avoid nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper and paprika.
- Nuts and seeds: Eliminate all nuts and seeds.
- Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas and soy-based products.
- Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats and bread. Also avoid any other gluten-containing foods.
- Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish.
- Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and spreads.
- Beverages: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda and other sources of caffeine.
- Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces, relish and mustard.
- Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts and chocolate.
If you suspect that other foods not on this list make you feel uncomfortable, it is highly recommended to remove them as well.
Summary: A good elimination diet is very restricting, which helps you identify as many trigger foods as possible.
What Can You Eat on an Elimination Diet?
Although an elimination diet is very restricting, there is still enough variety to make healthy and delicious meals.
Some foods you can eat include:
- Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables, excluding nightshades.
- Grains: Including rice and buckwheat.
- Meat and fish: Including turkey, lamb, wild game and cold-water fish like salmon.
- Dairy substitutes: Including coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk.
- Fats: Including cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil.
- Beverages: Water and herbal teas.
- Spices, condiments and others: Including black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (excluding cayenne pepper and paprika) and apple cider vinegar.
To stay motivated during this restrictive phase, try designing new recipes and experimenting with herbs and spices to add delicious flavor to your dishes.
Summary: Although elimination diets are restricting, there are still plenty of food options to make healthy and delicious meals.
Other Types of Elimination Diets
Besides the traditional elimination diet described above, there are several other types of elimination diets.
Here are a few different types of elimination diets:
- Low-FODMAPs diet: Removes FODMAPs, which are short-chain carbohydrates that some people can't digest.
- Few foods elimination diet: Involves eating a combination of foods that you don't eat regularly. One example is the lamb and pears diet, which is popular in the US, where lamb and pears are not commonly eaten.
- Rare foods elimination diet: Similar to a few foods diet, but you can only eat foods that you rarely ever eat, as they are less likely to trigger your symptoms. Common foods on a rare food diet include yams, buckwheat and starfruit.
- Fasting elimination diet: Involves strictly drinking water for up to five days, then reintroducing food groups. This type of diet should only be done with permission from your doctor, as it can be dangerous to your health.
- Other elimination diets: These include lactose-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and wheat-free diets, among others.
Summary: There are many different types of elimination diets, including the low-FODMAPs diet, the few foods diet, the rare foods diet, fasting and more.
Benefits of an Elimination Diet
Elimination diets help you discover which foods cause uncomfortable symptoms so you can remove them from your diet.
However, an elimination diet has many other benefits, including:
1. It May Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common gut disorder that affects between 10–15 percent of people worldwide (8).
Many people find that an elimination diet improves IBS symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps and gas.
In one study, 150 people with IBS followed either an elimination diet that excluded trigger foods or a fake elimination diet that excluded the same number of foods but not ones linked with uncomfortable symptoms.
People who followed the actual elimination diet reduced their symptoms by 10 percent and those who best stuck to the diet reduced symptoms by up to 26 percent (9).
2. It May Help People With Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) is a chronic condition where allergies trigger inflammation of the esophagus, the tube that delivers food from mouth to stomach.
People with EE have difficulty swallowing foods that are dry and dense, increasing their risk of choking.
In one study of 146 patients with EE, more than 75 percent of all patients experienced significantly fewer symptoms and less inflammation through an elimination diet (12).
3. It May Reduce Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a behavioral disorder that affects 3–5 percent of all children and adults.
One analysis looked at 20 studies that restricted certain foods to improve ADHD symptoms. Researchers found that elimination diets helped reduce ADHD symptoms among children who were sensitive to foods (15).
However, children should not follow an elimination diet unless supervised by a medical professional.
Elimination diets restrict many essential nutrients that are important for growing children, and long-term restriction could stunt their growth.
4. It May Improve Skin Conditions Like Eczema
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that appear as red, itchy, cracked and inflamed skin.
There are many different causes of eczema, but many people find that eating certain foods can worsen their symptoms.
In one study of 15 participants with eczema, 14 found that an elimination diet reduced their symptoms and helped identify their trigger foods (18).
5. It May Reduce Chronic Migraines
Roughly 2–3 million people in the US alone suffer from chronic migraines (19).
The causes of migraines are still unclear, but studies have shown that inflammation could be a trigger (20).
In one study, 28 women and two men with frequent migraines followed an elimination diet for six weeks, which helped reduce the number of headache attacks during that time from nine to six (22).
Summary: An elimination diet may benefit people with IBS, ADHD, migraines, eosinophilic esophagitis and skin conditions like eczema.
Risks of an Elimination Diet
Although elimination diets are a great way to discover which foods cause you problems, they also come with a few risks.
For starters, elimination diets should only be followed for a short period of time, or between four and eight weeks.
Following an elimination diet for longer is not recommended, as it could cause nutrient deficiencies as a result of eliminating certain food groups.
Additionally, children and people with known or suspected allergies should only do an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor.
Because elimination diets are restricting, taking away certain food groups for even a short period of time could stunt a child's growth (23).
Children are also more prone to severe reactions, like anaphylaxis, when reintroducing a food group. This is because their bodies can become extra sensitive to foods after avoiding them (24).
Summary: Elimination diets can reduce the intake of important nutrients if followed for too long. Children and people with known or suspected allergies should not follow an elimination diet unless supervised by their doctor.
The Bottom Line
Elimination diets can help you determine which foods your body can't tolerate well.
If you're experiencing symptoms that you think may be related to your diet, then an elimination diet could help you discover which foods are causing them.
However, elimination diets are not for everyone. Children should not try an elimination diet unless supervised by a doctor or dietitian.
Likewise, people with known or suspected allergies should only try an elimination diet the under the supervision of a doctor.
Finally, it's important to note that elimination diets should only be done short-term, as long-term restrictions may cause nutritional deficiencies.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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