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How to Follow an Elimination Diet Effectively

Updated: Aug 31

Are you curious about elimination diets?


Many people are interested in starting an elimination diet but don’t know how to go about it. We are going to share some tips on how to follow an elimination diet effectively, but first it’s essential to understand why you should try it.


An elimination diet can help you determine which foods are causing inflammation that may be the root of your health problems. It can also help you identify food sensitivities or allergies. If you're struggling with chronic health problems, an elimination diet may be the solution you've been searching for!




In this article, we’ll talk more in depth about the elimination diet. This name can be a little biased, as it is not only about identifying and eliminating inflammatory foods from our diet, but also adding in more nutrient-dense foods.


The Purpose of the Program


The goal of the elimination diet is to identify food triggers that may be causing our inflammation. We want to untangle the inflammatory web we’ve created in our bodies through all sorts of channels – environmental toxins, food, etc – so that we can begin decreasing inflammation and help support the body's ability to detoxify. We want to reduce the overall toxin burden and help support the liver.


However, with this “diet”, instead of focusing more on calorie counting and restriction, we focus on how your body and the foods you consume interact, and even how that interaction changes once when you decrease the inflammatory burden. First, we want to work on incorporating more whole foods that fuel our body. But beyond that, we really want to promote body awareness to food and identify how your body responds to certain foods. Once we become more aware of that relationship between food and our bodies, we can begin the work of healing the gut microbiome and creating balance within the body.


The primary questions we like to ask during the elimination diet are as follows:

  • What are your unique needs?

  • How does food influence your health?

  • How does food Interact with your biology?


So how do we find out the answers to these questions? The most obvious answer to identifying how our body responds to specific foods is to complete food sensitivity testing. These tests are often an appropriate and valuable resource, but they can also be a pricey option. This is one reason why the elimination diet is considered the gold standard for pinpointing our bodies reactions, as it really allows us to tune in to our symptoms in direct correlation with the foods we are eating (even when they are just mild symptoms), specifically during the reintroduction phase of the diet.


Allergy and Reaction Issues


There are many ways the body can show a reaction to food. Immunoglobulins are antibodies designed to protect us against invaders. When you think of an allergy in the sense of a prophylactic reaction (such as hives or swelling), that's an immunoglobulin E (IgE) immune reaction, and it’s more of an immediate reaction.


More commonly, however, we can have intolerances or sensitivities which typically result in a more delayed response and can present with many different types of symptoms. The symptoms can range from brain fog, to hyperactivity, weight gain, mood disorders, sleep disruption, eczema, joint pain, acne, and more.


When we implement an elimination diet, we start by removing some of those inflammatory foods and then we reintroduce them slowly, one by one, while paying attention to the symptoms that we experience. It's much different than how we identify a true food allergy, but it’s essential to your health to determine how your body is reacting.


Leaky Gut


I think of the GI system as a large coffee filter. When you make a cup of coffee in the morning, you don’t want coffee grounds in your coffee cup, right? The same goes when you absorb the food in your gut. You don't want whole proteins to leak easily across the gut barrier. You need those vitamins and minerals to be absorbed, so you can't have large gaps in your gastrointestinal tract. This is why we try to avoid things that can cause these gaps like inflammatory foods, processed foods, NSAIDs, stress, and infections.


There's a physician by the name of Alessio Fasano. He's a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist. He was coined saying that all disease begins in the gut. He talks a lot about Zonulin. Zonulin is a protein found within your gastrointestinal tract that can indicate the level of permeability in the GI tract. If you have elevated Zonulin levels, it can increase permeability and widen these gaps. It can allow proteins and inflammatory triggers to leak into your bloodstream triggering a more robust immune response.


You don't want a leaky gut. Your goal, again, is similar to drinking coffee without the coffee grounds in your mug. You want to create tight junctions for your GI system. The possibility of what might happen is having However, a combination of inflammatory foods and harmful gut bugs can cause a release of Zonulin. In response, when the epithelial barrier is weakened it allows pro-inflammatory cytokines (or proteins) to pass through and trigger an immune response. As a result, this response again increases your risk of increased permeability. It's this vicious cycle. The solution is to start focusing on the elimination diet by identifying ‘food triggers’ and eliminating them so we can heal and create a more robust immune system and healthy gut barrier.



Elimination Diet Procedures


The most important thing is preparation!. You must be mentally prepared to make a lifestyle change, as it can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time trying it. We want you to be excited about your journey, as it makes it easier to stay on track. We recommend that you have a list of recipes to follow and always be prepared with a grocery list of all the supplies and ingredients that you are able to continue eating during the process.


Remove Inflammatory Foods


In the elimination phase of the diet, we spend the first month focusing on removing those inflammatory foods. Those are going to be very individualized. We will determine which foods you will be removing in the elimination phase during your very first visit. It could be gluten, nightshade foods, eggs, dairy, or a combination of any/all of these.



Reintroduce the Foods


In the second visit, we'll talk more about reintroducing those foods. Usually, we reintroduce one food at a time, about every three to four days in more of a stair step process, so you can monitor closely any reactions you might be experiencing. along the way. It's a great idea to have a little symptom log or journal that you can use to monitor those symptoms.


Nightshade Foods


One of the most frequently asked questions we get is in regards to vegetables -- can you eat any and all vegetables, in any form (steamed, raw, etc), during the elimination diet? The answer is 'yes' in almost all cases. However, if you have a history of arthritis or joint pain, it may be recommended to remove nightshade vegetables. And those will be things like white potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, chili peppers, etc. It’s because nightshades contain an alkaloid called Solanine. The alkaloid is toxic in some concentrations.


We also discuss fruits within the elimination diet, and you may be surprised to find out that most fruits are allowed. The exception would be for people who have documented yeast problems, like a Candida overgrowth. In this case, we tend to monitor your fruit intake more carefully or limit how much you eat because fruit usually contains high levels of sugar. This may feed and worsen an already present Candida overgrowth. You may also want to avoid canned fruit during this time because it can contain sulfur byproducts (sulfites and sulfur dioxide) as a preservative, which some people are sensitive to.


Grains


When it comes to grains, we almost always make modifications in this category. However, we may recommend you cut out gluten only, or we may suggest removing all forms of grains during your elimination phase.


Constipation


Often during the elimination diet, our patients bring up issues with gut related symptoms. One primary example is constipation, which can be the result of too little fiber in the diet. Removing certain high fiber foods from your diet during the elimination phase, such as fruits and vegetables as discussed above, can be a factor in this. The appropriate daily serving is about 30 grams, and we really want try to get as much of that fiber intake as possible through our normal daily food intake. Another helpful tip when it comes to constipation is to make sure you are staying hydrated and are actively keeping the body moving. You could also try drinking chamomile or peppermint tea, which can help calm the muscles of the intestine. Magnesium Citrate is another good resource, as it helps pull water into the bowels to allow for a more formed, yet soft stool. You can also try buffered vitamin C, as well.


Sugar Cravings


If you notice feelings of low blood sugar, it's important to make sure you are still getting enough healthy fats and protein to help keep your diet balanced. When you start to notice coffee or sugar cravings, vitamin C can also help curb those cravings. It's also important to point out that sugar feeds on more sugar. Therefore, the more we eat sugar the more we crave it and we end up creating a vicious cycle. The same idea even applies for artificial sweeteners, like Splenda and Aspartame. So during this phase, it's important to try to get rid of sugar or minimize it as much as possible.



These are all general guidelines and tips that we discuss as you are being introduced to an elimination diet. But as we have discussed, each person's version of the elimination diet is individualized. Remember, preparation is the biggest key to being successful on this journey!


Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for guidance. We'll offer you resources to help you find the right kind of cookbooks and recipes that are simple, yet delicious and balanced. Your meals can be as simple as combining a protein and vegetables. You don't have to make the most expensive meals or follow the most complicated, in-depth recipes in order to be successful.


We applaud you for feeling adventurous and for wanting to try an elimination diet. We think you’ll find the experience life-changing. Just be sure to follow the procedure outlined above so that you can reap all of the benefits and avoid any potential issues.


Are you ready to start your elimination diet journey? Let us help make it as smooth as possible by scheduling a discovery call today. During this call, we can discuss your specific goals and create a plan tailored just for you. With our help, your elimination diet will be easy and delicious to follow!



If you’re experiencing problems with your health with nutrition issues and would like help getting to the bottom of it, we’d be happy to schedule a Discovery Call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.


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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional


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