(WFLX) - The saying goes: "You are what you eat", and now the latest diet craze is taking that to heart with people cutting entire food groups out of their diets to cure a variety of ailments -- often without the guidance of a health professional.
Can these elimination diets really help or could they cause bigger health problems than they may cure?
When Jessica Lee Anderson decided to go on a diet, it wasn't so she would look better, but rather so she would feel better. "I ate a lot of processed food. I ate a lot of fast food, and I had just gotten so tired. I wasn't feeling very well."
So after doing some online research, she decided to go on an elimination diet. She cut out wheat along with eggs, nuts and most processed foods. "Eliminating certain things in the diet had helped other individuals, so I figured what the heck let's give it a chance."
While medically supervised elimination diets have been around for a long time, they've recently become a hot trend amongst everyday people says dietician Marjorie Nolan Cohn, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Elimination diets are definitely gaining popularity. We have wheat free, gluten free, nut or seed free, as well as dairy free."
She says the idea is that cutting out certain foods can cut down on certain symptoms, ranging from digestion issues to skin irritations, while improving immune system health and increasing energy levels. "For someone who has a medical condition that warrants eliminating certain foods or food groups, the quality of life just improves dramatically."
But Gastroentologist Linda Bee believes many people mistakenly go on an elimination diet who don't actually need to do so. "The problem is that people think that often it's an allergic reaction that's triggering these symptoms when actually there's no allergy at all. Sometimes diet is not a cause of symptoms. You might end up eliminating a lot of foods and not feeling any better. If you eliminate too fiercely, then you can run into nutritional problems."
Marjorie adds cutting out certain food groups without the guidance of a medical professional could leave you at risk of other health problems down the road. "Someone who goes gluten free could actually increase their risk of diarrhea on a regular basis. People who go on a carb free diet are actually increasing their risk for constipation. And a dairy free diet is also going to contribute to potentially setting yourself up to have low bone density or osteoporosis later in life."
Dr. Lee suggests instead of elimination, many people should consider moderation instead. "If you have specific symptoms that you want to address, I would really encourage you to discuss it with your doctor first before you decide that you're going to embark on an elimination diet."
As for Jessica, she says, her elimination diet gave her a new lease on life, and she's committed to staying on it for the long haul. "I do miss pizza. I miss other type of things, but nothing tastes as good as just feeling awesome."
Marjorie says it's important to remember that elimination diets are a treatment not a cure to what ails you. If you do find one that eases your symptoms, you'll have to eliminate that food group forever to keep reaping the benefits.