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  • Dr Amina Davison

How to work out your food sensitivities

Do you suffer with digestive problems, headaches, nasal allergies, low energy, eczema, skin irritations or joint aches? Health problems such as these and more, may be related to a specific food or foods eaten frequently. Many people with food sensitivities don’t even realise how awful they feel until the trigger foods are removed from the diet.

Some reactions occur immediately after eating the food (allergy), but in other cases, symptoms may be delayed by several hours or even days (referred to as food sensitivity or food intolerance). Removing specific foods from your diet will allow the body to recover and begin to function efficiently again.

The Elimination Diet helps to uncover food(s) that may be the culprits by removing them for a 4-week period, then gradually introducing them back into the diet one by one and observing for any reaction. It is a very useful tool for diagnosing adverse food reactions, whether true allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. It is also a key step in allowing the gut to rest as part of the 5R gut healing program.

When the burden on the immune system is decreased, the body has the opportunity to heal and many chronic symptoms should improve.

What to eat

Start by removing the following foods from your diet; corn, dairy, eggs, gluten grains (barley, rye, spelt, wheat), white sugar, shellfish, soy, beef, pork, processed meats, coffee, tea and chocolate.

During the elimination period it is important to make sure that your diet is still enjoyable and nutrient dense. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods. Pay special attention to eat anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds, brightly coloured vegetables, grass fed meats, extra virgin olive oil and spices such as turmeric, ginger and oregano.

Foods to enjoy include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, heathy fats, nuts, seeds and non-gluten whole grains


Once the plan has been completed the eliminated foods should be reintroduced to your diet at 2-day intervals. For each category of food, identify pure forms of a sample food to eat. For example if reintroducing gluten grains, consume just the whole grain such as cooked whole wheat or barley, not bread which contains additional ingredients. If reintroducing chocolate, consume plain cocoa powder mixed with water rather than a commercial product which may have added sugar.

Any foods that produce a clear negative reaction should be removed for 3-6 months. Potential reactions could include diarrhoea or constipation, fatigue, depression, anxiety, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, headache, muscle or joint pain, skin irritations, insomnia, congestion, itching or flushing.

Avoid reintroducing unhealthy foods such as processed foods and foods high in trans fats and refined sugars.

Top tips for success

Plan ahead- prepare a meal plan and shop in advance. Make sure you have healthy snacks and quick meals to hand.

Don't go hungry- eat enough food and eat regular meals to help keep blood sugar stable and avoid hunger pangs and cravings. Add extra vegetables and fruits as needed.

Read all ingredient labels carefully- many ingredients will be well hidden under different names. Think carefully if there are more than 5 ingredients on the label, avoid if you can't recognise the ingredients on the label!

Eliminate caffeine slowly- if consuming caffeine on a regular basis, slowly reduce your intake prior starting the diet to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Drink enough water- aim for about six to eight 230ml glasses of filtered water per day.

For some people it may be necessary to investigate further with a qualified healthcare provider if symptoms do not improve. Also be sure to discuss with your doctor before following an elimination diet.

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