With growing concerns about food intolerance, elimination diets have become increasingly popular procedures for diagnosing and treating harmful reactivity to foods.
Let's take a deeper cut at the primary tool for dealing with this problem. First, we need to be clear that we are not necessarily talking about the type of elimination diet mentioned in the Edgar Cayce readings where foods are used to increase elimination (eliminate toxins) from the body. Rather, the modern use of the term means that foods that are thought to produce negative reactions in the system are carefully eliminated from the diet.
Presumably, Edgar Cayce did not need to rely on this type of elimination diet - when necessary he simply gave readings that listed which foods each individual should avoid. Without Edgar Cayce around to provide this service, the modern elimination diet serves a useful function for applying the Cayce model.
Elimination Diet Basics
Most elimination diets have two phases - exclusion and reintroduction. The exclusion phase is a systematic avoidance of any food that might be causing trouble to see if the symptoms go away. If the symptoms decrease or clear up, the offending foods are then systematically reintroduced to confirm the intolerance. Keep in mind that elimination diets are an assessment technique. If you fail to follow the diet fully, it simply won't work. The problem is that if your symptoms don't clear you can't be sure whether the indiscretion, no matter how slight, caused the symptoms. So if you do use an elimination diet, take it seriously and follow it faithfully.
Variations on a Theme
Practitioners who have worked extensively with patients with food intolerance have noted that the system often is most reactive to common foods that are eaten regularly or in quantities. Thus the elimination procedure often focuses on strategies for eliminating common foods. If you are serious about doing an elimination diet, I strongly recommend that you obtain and study Food Allergies and Food Intolerance by Jonathon Brostoff, M.D., and Linda Gamlin. This is the best resource on the subject that I have seen. Here are some of the variations on the elimination diet theme from the Brostoff and Gamlin book:
Lamb-and-Pears Diet - Just as the name implies, you only eat two types of food. Originally developed in the United States where lamb and pears are not frequently eaten, this form of elimination diet may be helpful for individuals with a great many food sensitivities. Due to its blandness, it does require substantial willpower. In countries where lamb is eaten regularly (e.g., Britain and New Zealand), turkey can be substituted for lamb.
Few-Food Diet - This variation allows about a dozen or more foods that are not eaten often. Naturally, the list will vary from region to region and patient to patient. Typical foods for this format include parsnips, turnips, and carrots.
Rare-Food Diet - This is an extension of the few-foods approach, except that the food list focuses on exotic items such as cassava or buckwheat. Because these foods are never (or rarely) consumed, they are unlikely to provoke a reaction. For diagnostic purposes, this is an especially useful variation, because if you fail to get better eating only foods that you have never eaten before, you are probably not having food intolerance problems. Although this diet can be costly, it does offer increased palatability for those ready for a culinary adventure.
Elemental Diet - The items utilized in an elemental diet are made from ordinary foods, except that the molecules are broken down into smaller units. The concept is similar to formulas used for babies that are sensitive to cow's milk. Theoretically, the smaller molecules are less likely to produce altered reactions in the digestive system, although in practice this is not always the case. The main drawbacks to this variation is that it usually tastes dreadful and can be expensive. Brostoff and Gamlin regard this as the last resort option for those who have not responded to other types of elimination diet.
A Three-Stage Approach
Recognizing the challenges of implementing an elimination diet, Brostoff and Gamlin have devised a three-stage approach designed to provide the optimal chance of success with the least chance of harm. Here are the three stages:
1. The Healthy-Eating Diet - For one month eliminate all foods and drinks that have a drug-like effect on the body, namely: coffee, tea, colas, cocoa, chocolate, alcohol, and sugary foods. Be aware that you may experience some withdrawal symptoms during this stage. You may also experience substantial healing from this stage and not need to go further.
2. Simple Elimination Diet - This stage just excludes the most common offending foods such as grains, dairy, citrus, peanuts, and any foods that you normally eat in large quantities or that you crave.
3. Rigorous Elimination Diet - This stage is for those unfortunate individuals who may have sensitivities to many different foods. Although the exact form of the diet will vary with each individual, the fewfood diet or rare-food diet are leading contenders for this stage.
As with any diet, an elimination diet should only be done under the supervision of your physician. As noted above, you may experience negative side-effects from withdrawal as your system adjusts. The elimination diet is a powerful assessment and treatment modality that must be used carefully. Get the book and consult with your physician if you think this approach may be indicated for your situation. Of course, you will need to plan carefully and keep a record of what you have done. Patience, consistency, and commitment are required. This is where mental and spiritual ideals come into play. You may find that you are eliminating negative reactions at more than just the physical level.
David McMillin has written numerous articles for the Association for Research and Enlightenment, founded by Edgar Cayce in 1931. McMillin's articles on holistic health and alternative healing have helped members for many years.