Elimination diets have been around for years. But, as time goes by, they seem to get more and more extreme. Whether it was due to scarcity or for religious reasons, societies have been practicing some form of elimination for a long while. Today we are in an era where fitness and aesthetics have become almost unhealthy obsessions. As we get more and more creative in our pursuit of the perfect body, many tend to go to extreme lengths.
These days, it is not uncommon to find diets that require complete avoidance of certain ingredients or even entire food groups. But how bad is it really if it seems like everyone is doing it? Let’s take a look at the science behind elimination diets and what dangers depriving yourself of essential nutrients could pose to you.
What could possibly go wrong?
A variety of things could go wrong if you deprive your body of certain food groups. No, junk food does not count as an essential food group in this case so, by all means, eliminate those unhealthy treats like candies and fast food. We are talking about essential food groups here including carbohydrates, proteins, and so on.
There are five main essential nutrients, not counting fiber and water. They are obtained from four main food groups…
- Grains and starches. This includes rice, wheat, oats, potatoes, yams, and so on. This food group is rich in carbohydrates. Your body utilizes these foods as an energy source to keep every system from the brain to your immune system functioning optimally.
Many weight-loss focused elimination diets are centered on eliminating carbs from meal plans in order to remove excess calories that are often stored as fat.
The problem with complete elimination or extreme reduction is that you deprive your body of much-needed fuel. As you make this transition your body utilizes your fat stores and other compensatory mechanisms. However, with time your body can start to develop complications.
- Meat and dairy. Meat, poultry, and dairy products are best known for their provision of protein to build muscle and strength. They are, however, not the only sources of proteins as there are many plant-based alternatives.
It’s actually the micronutrients that you need to be aware of when eliminating meat and dairy from your diet. This food group is a source of vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Omega 3 fats (found in lower concentrations in animal product alternatives), and B12. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products and is an essential vitamin when it comes to ensuring optimal brain function.
- Vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables are by far the most diverse food groups when it comes to the presence of micronutrients and macronutrients. They have it all from carbohydrates and proteins to minerals and vitamins not to mention the additional water and fiber needed for optimal body function.
Not very many diets out there that advocate for the complete elimination of fruits and vegetables. However, some that focus on reducing carbs can result in consuming less than sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Elimination of fruits and vegetables has several consequences that range from mechanical issues like constipation to deficiency conditions.
- Fats and oils. This is another food group that is often the target of fad elimination diets. To be fair, there are several unhealthy fats that deserve the boot especially trans fats and bad cholesterol. However, fats have a lot to offer the body.
Healthy fats help with the absorption of vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K. They also serve as a complementary source of energy to carbohydrates. Others like Omega-3 oils are good for cognitive development and function as well as skin health.
Eliminating good fats from your diet can certainly have an impact on your ability to absorb and utilize important vitamins.
The Impact of Elimination Diets on Gut Health
While many systems are affected, the gut takes the hardest hit when it comes to elimination diets. No matter the diet, if it’s eliminating a food group, studies show that they alter the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is made of over 1,000 species of tens of trillions of small organisms known as beneficial bacteria. And, these beneficial bacteria play a crucial role in gut health and overall health. They are largely responsible for important body functions and have the capability to affect the body’s mineral and vitamin absorbency, digestion, hormone regulation, immune response, and the body’s ability to get rid of toxins.
When it comes to the health of the gut microbiome, we are looking for both richness and diversity, in other words, a large community of diverse bacteria. And, when certain food groups are removed we begin to limit the diversity the gut microbiome requires.
Is it ever ok to eliminate?
We are going to keep it short and sweet, here. Yes.
If you have food allergies by all means leave those foods out and seek alternative options for nutrients. If you experience food sensitivities, however, there are a number of things you can do to help eliminate those sensitivities. And, it starts with balancing and repairing your gut. If you embark on this journey (and it’s well worth it), be patient. Repairing your gut takes time.
If you follow a religion that eliminates certain foods by all means continue to follow your religious practices and seek alternative avenues to obtain your nutrients.
Great Health Starts in the Gut
When it comes to gut health, restrictive and elimination diets and not the answer as the gut thrives on diversity of real whole nutritious food.
Your gut is running your life—helping to control things like your mood and mind (courtesy of the gut-brain axis), your immune system (over 70% to be exact), your skin, and your ability to lose weight (thanks to your gut microbiome), and your ability to process and utilize the nutrients from your food and so. much. more!
It’s an amazing system that deserves a support system to match… A support system that replenishes your gut for all that it does for you and keeps it running smoothly. A system that provides your gut with an abundant supply of love and nourishment.
Interested in focusing on your gut health? Join us on our next 30 Day Gut Reboot.
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