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How to Do an Elimination Diet for Diarrhea & Constipation

Digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation are incredibly common yet incredibly annoying and uncomfortable at the same time.

Just how common are they?

According to an article on US News, adult Americans experience about one bout of diarrhea (acute) on average per year.  And constipation is said to be one of the most common digestive problems as well, affecting around 42 million people in the US a year.

Usually such conditions pose no real threat and not much concern, but they can lead to additional problems or stem from something that might be worthy of raising alarm.

Do you want to eliminate foods that are causing diarrhea and/or constipation?

OF COURSE YOU DO! Who Wouldn't?

Our suggestion: Do an elimination diet

Elimination diets, while not 100% accurate, are very simple and are something that you can do on your own. Below we will go over exactly how you should be doing them for the best results possible... and in the easiest way possible.

Elimination Diets In a Nutshell..

You might have an idea of what an elimination diet is just from the name. 

In a nutshell, it is a diet where you eliminate foods from your diet to try to find out what food in particular is causing some symptom or symptoms.

This type of diet can be used to find out the cause of any diet related symptom and it is pretty effective considering how easy it is. In this case of course we are trying to find out what is causing either diarrhea or constipation.

Makes sense right?

You eliminate a food that is causing a symptom and the symptom goes away. Pretty simple logic here.

For the fastest and easiest results you should follow this method of going about it...

The 3 Step Process

Step 1: Elimination

The first thing you are going to want to do is eliminate food that you think might be the cause of the problem.

Are you eating anything that you have a gut feeling might be the culprit? Do you notice any upset stomach, bloated feeling soon after eating certain foods? These are what you might want to start with.

We suggest eliminating a handful of foods at the same time.

Don't have any idea what is causing your diarrhea or constipation? Don't worry... we'll touch on this next.

This first step, or phase, can take several weeks. It really just depends on what your particular situation. One food might be causing diarrhea from too much fiber that, when eliminated, symptoms could disappear in a couple days.... while another cause of diarrhea could be an allergy, and this takes much longer to go away.

Now this doesn't mean you HAVE to wait weeks. It all depends. If you eliminate foods and the symptoms go away within days, then you are ready to move on to step 2. 

Step 2: Reintroduction

Now in this step, or phase, you will be reintroducing foods back into your diet. However, this is not the complete opposite of that above. It differs.

You are going to want to reintroduce each food one at a time, allowing 2-3 days after each is introduced to check for symptoms.

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Change in bowel movement frequency
  • Stool consistency

... these are all things you really want to keep a close watch on as you reintroduce these foods.

If you don't see any symptoms for 2-3 days after beginning to eat a certain food once again, move on to the next and do it all over again.

As soon as you notice symptoms related to diarrhea or constipation, such as those listed above, stop eating the food.

This should take care of it and you should now know what the cause of your unpleasant bowel movements was!

HOWEVER... if you stop eating the food that was recently reintroduced and the symptoms are not going away as expected, it could be possible that it was the food reintroduced prior and the effects were just taking longer than expected to show. 

In this case you will want to stop eating that food.

Other Ways to Go About It

You might be thinking... 

Well why not just start eliminating foods one by one from the start and wait to see if the symptoms go away?

This could be done but it will likely take longer. It is fastest to eliminate a handful of possible trouble foods right from the start. This will help really narrow it down quickly... and then you can further narrow it down by reintroducing them.

Who Should & Shouldn't Be Doing This

Wondering if this diet is even worth your time?

It is pretty darn simple... but it can take a while so we completely understand that it may be a bit intimidating.

It might be worth a try if you...

  • Recently changed your diet and started experiencing issues
  • Have had the same diet for a while and have had issues all the while

If your situation falls into one of these categories then it very well could be a problem related to the foods you are eating and an elimination diet could do the trick.

However, if you have had just a single occurrence of diarrhea or constipation and have not made any recent changes to your diet, it could be just a "freak occurrence". The symptoms could be due to something that an elimination diet isn't really going to help with, such as food contamination or an illness not related to your diet... which you may want to go to a doctor over if it lasts long.

What Foods Should You Remove First

There could be a thousand reasons why you are experiencing these unwanted conditions. They could be caused a diet too high or low in a certain nutrient, too much or too little fiber, being intolerant or having an allergy to some type of food, and the list goes on.

Some people get diarrhea from orange juice, most don't; some people's digestive systems get triggered by eggs, most don't;... and the list goes on.

While there is no sure list of foods that everyone can remove and be successful with, those listed below are common causes of diarrhea and constipation... and you might want to try removing them first.

For those with diarrhea...

  • Spicy foods
  • Foods high in fiber
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Diary products
  • Coffee & caffeinated beverages 
  • Fast food
  • Foods high in fat
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Foods commonly associated with allergies and intolerance (ex: peanuts)

For those with constipation...

  • Dairy products
  • Red meat
  • Fast food
  • Caffeine
  • Foods with gluten
  • Foods low in fiber (white bread, white pasta, etc)

If Your Situation Isn't Going Away or Getting Worse

This could potentially be the symptom of a more serious underlying condition. In this case we would suggest consulting with a doctor and getting to the bottom of things.

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Starting his writing career in 2015, Kyle is a leading contributor here at GutAdvisor, and for good reason. Having a passion for health and the awareness that proper digestion plays a key role one's overall well-being, he regularly keeps the community informed with valuable information regarding gut health.

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