An elimination diet is an organised way of identifying and eliminating foods that may be causing you problems individually. It may have potential therapeutic value for some with visual snow.
What Is An Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is when you eliminate foods for a certain period and then re-introduce them, noting down how you feel afterwards. The aim is to discover which foods cause adverse reactions for your body.
An elimination diet is a powerful and sometimes quick way to experience and reinforce healthy changes. It can be a stepping stone to a healthy long-term diet.
Food “allergy” involves an immune response, “intolerance” more broadly involves other physiological responses. It is possible to not be “allergic” or be suffering from an autoimmune disorder and still experience adverse reactions to a food which can impact upon your health.
An elimination diet can help identify both allergens and other food-related sensitivities. It can also help to reveal underlying health issues such increased intestinal permeability or gut microbiota dysbiosis. The presence of which may lead to or aggravate food intolerances and neurological symptoms. I may have experienced some of these benefits when I removed dairy from my diet.
Elimination Diet studies that may link to visual snow
30-59% of visual snow sufferers may have migraines according to a 2017 review
Removing food allergens with an elimination diet eliminated migraines in 85% of patients
Minimising food allergens in diet allowed 93% of patients to recover from migraine
Removing milk protein from diet produced a marked alleviation in 33/45 patients suffering from either migraine or asthma.
ADHD was found to be comorbid in some of those with visual snow (1,2)
Concentration problems are also a highly reported symptom of visual snow (according to one study 60%)
“A strictly supervised restricted elimination diet is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food. The prescription of diets on the basis of IgG blood tests should be discouraged.”
Visual snow is suspected of being a disorder of cortical inhibition, with sufferers having too little inhibition in parts of the brain. Those with autism are also suspected of having too little cortical inhibition.
81% of 70 autistic children had significantly improved symptoms 3 months into a gluten free casein free diet.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease was found to be comorbid in some visual snow sufferers.
Food intolerance has been suggested to play a role in symptom development of GERD and may be a possible therapeutic approach.
A recent study found a pattern of food intolerance in those with GERD.
5 Simple Steps
Start a food diary for a couple of weeks before, making a note of which foods you actually eat within your diet and when. If there are any noticeable symptoms you encounter during this time make a note as well. This will help inform your judgement during the actual elimination diet.
Decide which foods you want to or perhaps “should” remove:
Common culprits: Citrus, Dairy, Eggs, Fish, Peanuts and other nuts, Soy, Gluten, Shellfish, beef products, corn, food additives, flavour enhancers (visual snow sufferers should stay well clear of MSG), food colours, preservatives, thickeners/stabilisers.
Decide how long you are going to eliminate the foods before starting to re-introduce them. Generally 2 weeks is considered the absolute minimum – clinical reactions have been found to be delayed by 13 days or perhaps even more. As an example for neurological conditions with often underlying digestive issues such as autism: the time-frame for such diets is in months, not weeks.
Be honest and realistic with your motivations and what you aim to achieve. Don’t do this expecting your visual snow to improve, do it with the motivation of making positive changes for your health.
Commit To Changes
For whatever you decide – commit to the changes. Skip this step and you will fail.
Autism studies indicate that where dietary interventions such as a gluten-free casein-free diet can be effective you have to be strict to receive the most benefit.
Remove the foods completely for your designated time period and stick religiously to your new diet.
After your chosen time period you may re-introduce a food for a day. This is the only time during which that food is re-introduced until the diet is over.
You should then use the following two days to wait and watch for symptoms. After that you can re-introduce the next food, go through the same process and so on. If you notice something within those two days it is a sign that you should think about removing the food more permanently.
Example – eliminate bananas, lemons, oats for 90 days
Day 1-90 – no bananas, lemons, or oats, on elimination diet.
Day 91 – on elimination diet but eat bananas.
Day 92 – on elimination diet.
Day 93 – on elimination diet.
Day 94 – on elimination diet but eat lemons.
Day 95 – on elimination diet.
Day 96 – on elimination diet.
Day 97 – on elimination diet but eat oats.
Day 98 – on elimination diet.
Day 99 – on elimination diet.
Day 100 – elimination diet over. Decide outcome.
Make It Work
If you find certain foods are causing you problems then you have to change your diet for the long-term and make it work for you. This may involve seeking out and finding foods which you haven’t tried or considered previously and seeking to “heal your gut” – that process may take much longer.
Example Elimination Diets
There are different elimination diets for different people and different purposes – going as limited as possible for as long as possible before re-introducing is probably better, but also more difficult. You should make this decision during your planning phase. Here are a few standard suggestions and my personal recommendations from experience:
1. Go dairy or a1 beta-casein free
2. Go gluten-free
3. Try these three sample diets below as a starting point
Animal proteins – eliminate all including eggs and milk, apart from lamb.
Vegetable proteins – eliminate all, including beans, bean sprouts, lentils, peanuts, peas, soy, all other nuts.
Grains and starches – eliminate barley, millet, oats, rye, wheat. Allow arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, rice, sweet potato, tapioca, white potato, yams.
Vegetables – no peas or tomatoes.
Fruits – no citrus or strawberries.
Sweeteners – allow cane or beet sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup. Eliminate everything else including aspartame.
Oils – eliminate animal fats, butter, corn, margarine, shortening, soy, peanut, other vegetable oils. Allow coconut, olive, safflower, sesame.
Other – eliminate chocolate, coffee, tea, colas and soft drinks, alcohol. Allow salt, pepper, minimal spices, vanilla, lemon extract.
A Few Foods-Diet
Eat ONLY these food items
Apples, Apricots, Asparagus, Beets, Carrots, Chicken, Cranberries, Honey, Lamb, Lettuce, Olive Oil, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Rice, Safflower oil, Salt, Sweet Potatoes.
A Compromise Diet
This is a compromise diet because it includes some initial foods which may still cause problems. But is a fairly realistic casein-free, gluten-free diet that is health-focused and tailored to visual snow. It is similar to a diet I have followed in the past:
Pears, Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa, Honey, Lamb, Coconut products, Amaranth, Almonds and Almond products, Hemp milk, Lamb Liver, Ghee (be careful, check labels as it should not contain protein), Carob Powder, Fish, Squash, Cucumber, Salted Gherkins (not pickled), Red Cabbage, Beetroot, Olive oil, White Potato, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Turmeric, Salt, Green tea, White tea, Rooibos/Red Tea, Herbal tea.
- Do keep track of exactly what you eat and how you feel.
- A worsening of symptoms is also possible and it may be quite dramatic, this should subside.
- A negative result does not necessarily mean that a food is safe to be kept – e.g. a substantial subgroup of those with coeliac disease do not respond to a gluten-free diet.
- I didn’t follow a traditional elimination procedure but my improvement from removing dairy and changing my diet was noticeable after 2-3 weeks. The benefits and outcomes from an elimination diet will however be highly individual.
- Some effects of food will only be seen with a longer term dietary change.
- Be strict, otherwise you’re cheating yourself.
Pay Attention To These Symptoms
- Sores or swelling in and around the mouth area
- Headaches, tinnitus
- Stomach bloating and cramps
- Paresthesia (tingling sensations)
- Ease of breathing through the nose
- Fatigue or tiredness
- How clear your tongue looks
- Red skin patches, irritation or itching
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes to visual symptoms
Reference: Rindfleisch, J. 2012. Food Intolerance and Elimination Diet. In: Rakel, D. ed. Integrative Medicine. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, Ch. 84, pp 776-788.