Elimination Diet and Pelvic Floor
You may or may not notice that when you eat or drink certain foods and/or fluids, it affects your urinary and bowel function. Food allergies or food sensitivities may even exasperate your pelvic floor pain issues.
The elimination diet can also help find the cause of leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability. The idea being that some foods irritate the intestines and cause food proteins to leak through the intestinal wall where they shouldn’t be. Once there, the proteins come into contact with large numbers of immune cells that live just below the intestinal wall, says Dave Rakel, director of the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Program at the School of Medicine and Public Health.
It is important to note that food sensitivity is an inflammatory process. Your symptoms result from the release of inflammatory chemicals that act on body tissues and cause the health condition. Removing foods that you are sensitive to is part of an anti inflammation diet and critical to restoring gut health.
Elimination diets are potentially useful in identifying hard-to-detect food intolerances that proponents believe are responsible for a wide range of ailments, including constipation;headaches or migraine; infections of the ear or sinuses; frequent colds, post nasal drip, chronic nasal congestion, sore throats or chronic cough; eczema, hives , or acne; asthma; pain or stiffness in the muscles or joints; heart palpitations; indigestion; ulcers of the mouth, stomach, or duodenum; Crohn’s disease; diarrhea; yeast infections; urticaria; edema; depression or anxiety; hyperactivity; weight change; and generalized fatigue. (1)
Symptoms that may be linked to food allergies and/or intolerances
- Foggy Thinking/Memory Issues/Lack of Focus
- Moodiness/Anxiety/Depression/Aggression/ Hyperactivity/Racing Thoughts
- Heart Palpitations/Rapid Pulse or Breathing
- Recurring Nausea/Vomiting
- Muscle pain/Joint Pain
- Sinus Congestion/Coughing/Asthma
Before you begin an elimination diet, start at your head and go through to your toes listing everything you notice in your body however subtle or long-standing the symptom has been. Capture this in a list for future reference, as this sets you up to notice important changes when they happen.
In addition to listing your symptoms Amie Vulpine, a blogger at The Healthy Diet finds it helpful to ask yourself the following questions.
What foods do you eat most often?
What foods would you have trouble giving up?
What foods do you eat to feel better?
What foods do you crave?
Your answers can be an eye-opener as to what foods could be causing you grief.
So, What Exactly is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet involves avoiding foods that can cause inflammation for several weeks in order to identify food intolerances or sensitivities. After several weeks on these restricted foods, one new food is introduced in larger than normal amounts. If the reintroduction of any food initiates a negative reaction then you have probably found an offending food! NOTE: Food considered healthy can also be the culprit, so just don’t think junk food only. You should avoid all medicines containing aspirin (salicylates) and food colorings.
Foods You Must Avoid on the Elimination Diet
Dairy Products – any food that contains milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, whey, casein, sodium caseinate, and calcium caseinate.
Wheat – most breads, spaghetti, noodles, pasta, most flour, baked goods, durum semolina, farina, and many gravies, etc…
Corn – products using corn oil, corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose,popcorn, corn chips, tortillas, .
Citrus Fruits – lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, grapefruits.
Eggs – avoid whites and yolks, and all products containing eggs.
Refined Sugars – including table sugar, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, maltose, and levulose.
Coffee, tea, alcohol – both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea. Herb teas are generally okay, except those containing citrus.
Food Additives – including artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, texturing agents, artificial sweeteners, etc.
Any Foods You Eat Often – Any food you are now eating 3+ times a week or should be avoided and tested later.
Known Sensitivites – Avoid any food you know you are sensitive to, even if it is allowed on the diet.
How Many Days?
Antibodies, which are proteins that your immune system makes when it reacts to foods, can take 21 to 23 days to turn over so you won’t get the full effect of eliminating them if you don’t eliminate for at least three weeks.
If you do decide to try an elimination diet, planning is key. “Plan a shopping list so that your kitchen is stocked with alternatives!”
So, What Do I Eat?
- Protein, i.e. organic, hormone-free, grass-fed, happy, lean beef, chicken, and wild fish and shellfish
- Vegetables, legumes (think beans and lentils), nuts, seeds, seaweeds, and gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, brown rice.
- Try to eat lots of fiber, fresh whole foods, and unprocessed meals you make yourself.
- Consider using healthy fats found in olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, sunflower oil, flax oil, walnut oil, and avocados.
Whole Health Chicago, has a wonderful list of foods that you can eat.
How do I Reintroduce Foods?
On day 24, pick one thing you eliminated— only one item, and eat it that day. (Some suggest eating the same food 2 – 3 times that day) See how you feel over the next two days. If you have no reaction after two days, eat that same food again, and for a second time, notice how you feel. Then capture it on a “safe to eat” list.
Once you’ve made a call on the first food you reintroduce, pick another one and follow the same steps.
Remember to ask yourself questions after you eat the food, and throughout the next two days. Like how do you feel physically, and emotionally. For example, I found that I got agitated after eating wheat and slightly nauseous.
What If The Food Failed?
Foods that failed the re-introduction test should be avoided for about 4-6 months and then re-tested, as you may find out that you are no longer sensitive to that food or food group. If it is a healthy food choice you may not want to unnecessarily avoid this food long term.
Some Further Thoughts on the Elimination Diet
Before making big changes in your diet, always talk to your doctor. If you randomly remove foods from your diet, you may not have a balanced diet — and that can cause other health problems. You may also become frustrated because it may seem that everything you eat is causing a reaction.
As you shift your diet toward the food allergy diet, you MAY experience some cleansing and detoxification symptoms at first. The most common symptoms include headaches, fatigue, joint pain, a flu-like aching or nausea. They tend to come and go throughout the day. Chronic conditions may flare up temporarily or old symptoms may re-occur for a while. These may be signs that you have a food allergy. The challenge tests will reveal which foods are the problem.
So, if you suspect a food intolerance or sensitivity, the Elimination Diet is an empowering process and a great way to explore what may be causing the problem so that you can cut it out of your diet and start feeling great!
Websites to Check out for Recipes and Advice
Some great recipes and information.
Dr. Liz Lipski discusses the basics of the Elimination diet. Right click here and ‘Save Link As’ to download the video.
1. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 4th Edition,Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014, pp. 820-822.