The Elimination Diet is an approach to figuring out which foods you are sensitive to so that you can eat mindfully and manage any digestive issues, fatigue or joint pain . The gut is where the majority of your immune system is and it is now considered to be the “second brain” in your body. It is vital to avoid foods that may be your particular form of poison and that could be inflaming your gut.
What to eliminate
In the Elimination Diet, you start by eliminating common food allergens for a period of at least 4-6 weeks, you then follow a reintroduction protocol that allows you to determine which foods you may be reacting to. I have known people that saw the disappearance of joint pain simply by eliminating nightshades, or an improvement in energy by eliminating dairy. By eating real food that is nourishing instead of hurting your gut, you give your body the chance to heal.
The categories of food to eliminate are:
- Gluten and Corn—gluten grains and corn are both highly allergenic and on an elimination diet both should be strictly avoided. Gluten has been found to be one of the causes of leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. Some people will find that they need to take it a step further and go grain-free in order to heal severe digestive issues.
- Dairy—many people have developed an intolerance to dairy due to a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Eggs–egg whites can be difficult to digest. Some people are able to consume the yolks only during the elimination phase, while others will need to eliminate eggs completely.
- Soy—an overconsumption of unfermented soy has led to an intolerance of soy in many people
- Nightshades—are well known to cause joint inflammation in sensitive individuals.
- Gut Irritants – caffeine and alcohol can wreak havoc on a weak digestive system. Avoid these while you are healing.
- Processed Foods—there are many toxic chemicals (like MSG, artificial colors, and flavorings) and other undesirable ingredients (like GMOs, trans fats, and HFCS) in processed food that can impede digestion and even cause disease.
- High Glycemic Foods – large amounts of starches and added sugars can feed a bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and other gut imbalances.
- Unrefined Oils – these can cause inflammation throughout your body.
- FODMAPS – not everyone needs to eliminate FODMAPS (short-chain carbohydrates) however if you are not making progress it could be FODMAPS that are feeding the bad bugs in your gut.
Adding foods back in
There is a 3/3 guideline for adding foods back into your diet:
“Do not conclude a food causes symptoms, unless symptoms occur within 3 days of eating the food and occur consistently on 3 separate occasions after eating it.”*
You will know, as you begin to add foods back in, what works and what doesn’t. I suggest starting slow; give the diet at least four weeks to work, while nourishing your gut with plenty of good bacteria. When you feel ready, start adding foods back in one at a time. If a food causes symptoms on three different occasions, you will know that you are sensitive to that food and to avoid it for a while longer as you heal, you can then retry later.
It is possible to start out with an “easy” version of the diet—eliminate gluten, dairy, corn, soy and nightshades (if you are experiencing joint pain) and see how you feel. If there are persisting symptoms you can then look at eliminating eggs for example. If you tune into your body after eating you will soon determine which foods may be causing your symptoms.
Of course, throughout this whole process it is important add in healing foods that nourish your gut like probiotics, fermented foods, bone broths and/or gut-healing supplements. Eventually you will come up with a plan that your body will love. Everyone is different and finding your own unique way of eating to feel good will change your life.
*Heizer, W D., Southern, S, McGovern, S. The Role of Diet in Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults: A Narrative Review. JADA 2009; 109: 1204-1214