Leaky Gut & Elimination Diet
Leaky Gut & Elimination Diet

Leaky Gut & Elimination Diet

Nutritionist Guide to Weight Loss Series

Weight Loss and Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut .” I am a registered dietitian and over 15 years and a great many of my clients came to me for weight loss. 

In the first part of this series, Nutritionist Guide to Weight Loss Series, I explained that gut health is key to weight loss. Without a doubt, a big miss with most diets is they ignore gut health as a precursor to weight loss. Why does that matter? A happy gut has good bacteria that can break food down, get that food digested and add calories. Too much, and things do not work the way it’s supposed to, which can make weight loss that much harder. The most common cause of an unhealthy gut is food sensitivities.

What is a food sensitivity test? 

The purpose of a food sensitivity test (also referred to as a food intolerance) is to measure your body’s immune response to specific foods. Food sensitivity tests range from 26 items to, I believe I saw, 296 items.

My test was a blood draw, but there are other methods: finger prick, hair strand, and a mouth swab. Recently, I read an article on Healthline that lists the best-at-home tests. You can decide on testing or eliminating suspect items on your own. Later, in this series I’ll provide a complete list of possible offenders.

In hopes of creating a healthier gut, I took out the top foods that I seem to struggle with that caused the most issues:

  • egg yolk
  • almonds
  • baker’s yeast
  • brewer’s yeast
  • corn
  • green beans

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is an eating plan that takes out specific foods or food groups that appear to cause adverse outcomes. For example, People that frequently experience bloating, gas, digestive issues, diarrhea, and bowel movements less than once a day.  

Food sensitivities are symptoms of an unhealthy gut. In fact, overt gut issues are always a red flag. Additionally, other issues that show up seemingly unrelated are congestion, joint aches and pains, skin rashes, excess body fat, and even mood changes.

There is another gut issue that is related to food sensitivities and referred to as “leaky gut syndrome. “ The theory is that the intestinal lining is damaged, making it challenging to filter needed nutrients and other substances. Ultimately, the result is bacteria, toxins, and waste “leaking” into the bloodstream. As a result, an autoimmune reaction is triggered, and the above symptoms occur.

The illustration demonstrates a healthy gut function versus a leaky gut that can not perform properly.

Medical Guidance

In my research I found a great resource, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Clinicians Guide, that gives a more clinical view of an elimination diet. Moreover, The Clinicians Guide offers a fundamental approach to decreasing inflammation which can impact many chronic diseases. Such as, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc.

The guide does suggest a few pre-diet tips to consider prior to starting the elimination diet:

  • limit alcohol intake
  • keep stress low
  • get enough rest
  • balance glucose (insulin can spike and is pro-inflammatory). Foods high in glucose are honey, agave, molasses, dried fruit, fruits, and fruit juices. 

Generally speaking, the above tips will help you be more successful on a elimination diet by helping to reduce inflammation caused by many other diseases. For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on eliminating foods that cause an adverse reaction that leads to an unhealthy gut environment and contributes to extra weight.

Where to start: Pre-Diet Phase

Before you jump into any diet you should do some preparation so that you can be successful. There are a few things to consider:

  1. Substance use: caffeine, alcohol, illicit drugs, and smoking can interfere with gut health. Ideally, limit these items while you are on this diet.
  2. Life stressors: stress eating is a thing and can affect gut health. Feelings of high stress can go right to the gut. In fact, some people can feel nausea or intestinal pain. If you are feeling moderate to severe symptoms seeing a physician first is recommended.  
  3. Medical history: Irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, asthma, and respiratory allergies are diseases that require medical analysis. All diseases could benefit from an elimination diet but results can come slowly. Be patient and give yourself extra time for success. For example, instead of the suggested 30 days you may want to extend that to six weeks.
  4. Family history: many things are hereditary. Knowing what food intolerances run the family, would be good to know. For example, my older brother can’t eat corn, which turns out to be a big problem for me.  
  5. Food sensitivity lab test: They vary in price and will give you a list of what foods are causing issues. However, it won’t tell what symptoms each food could be causing. By the way, you do not have to take a test unless you just can’t figure out what foods are causing adverse issues.

Potential issues

If you are thinking about doing an elimination diet, you may want to consider this is not like other diets you may have tried. In fact, this plan is not intended as a weight loss plan. Weight loss is a happy coincidence. However, the reason to do this diet is that you probably are struggling to lose weight and are having problems that will get in the way of weight loss.

Don’t start being afraid of food. Foods also heal and are necessary for life function.

If you have had an eating disorder, you will have to be careful that introducing an elimination diet could activate that issue.

Don’t bring back foods that have caused issues in the past and have already been eliminated. You can do that another time to see if they still cause an issue. 

Plan on keeping a food diary

  • Keep track of what you are eliminating. Later you will reintroduce those foods to see if they still bother you. 
  • The best way to keep track of symptoms and reactions is to keep a diary of what you have eaten and any adverse body reactions.  
  • I would go as far as keeping track of how you feel each day; tracking things like stress and sleep is also helpful. Discovering your go-to food when tired or stressed is helpful to identify triggers. Triggers can undermine what you are trying to accomplish.

If you are debating whether to do an elimination diet you can do a bit of research on your own.  There is plenty of studies and recommendations available out there.  Be sure that the information you are getting is based on science and not just an opinion piece. 

Part I of Series: Introduction to gut health

Part II of Series: Gut health and food food sensitivities


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