Over the years, I’ve assisted many people at doing elimination diets, and I’ve witnessed many people find revolutionary information about themselves. I’ve seen “diseases” cured, conditions improved, and quality of life shoot through the roof. I’ve also seen many people not stick with it (because it can be difficult), and miss out on the benefits. One of the most interesting phenomena with my clients is that they often prefer to wait for a doctor to diagnose them with something (hypothyroid, pre-diabetes, candida, anxiety…the list goes on forever) before they’ll do anything to address their symptoms nutritionally.
The great thing about an elimination diet is that is is:
1. not calorie-restricting (but people starting from a standard American diet may find themselves eating fewer calories)
3. something you can do on your own
I empathize with people who are frustrated with their healthcare experiences, and I have seen people who are un-diagnosable with any condition, yet they are clearly not as well as they could be—not thriving.
Over time, I have investigated and discovered many things about what foods work and don’t work for me. I started this with Dr. Hyman’s UltraSimple Diet (probably in 2006). We could discuss the Ins and Outs of why to do what in an elimination diet, but I want to focus more on how to do it. Check out Dr. Hyman’s site for tons of great functional medicine information, including elimination diets (he’s my hero). Also, check out the Precision Nutrition site about elimination diets as well.
1. cut out potential trouble makers for a significant amount of time (enough time for it to be out of your system and for your system to have recovered)—like 3-4 weeks.
2. After 3-4 weeks, add one thing back in for one day, and see what happens!
3. If you have any reactions over the next 48 hours, document them. My advice is to take note of whether or not any of your symptoms return (if they disappeared when you began the elimination diet). PN recommends to: “monitor your sleep, mood, energy, digestion, bowel habits, etc….and [track] any physical, mental, or emotional signs and symptoms.”
4. If no reactions, add in a different thing for one day, and see what happens! (repeat step 3)
5. Continue this process with each food you initially eliminated, putting each in for one day and then removing it again. At the end, you’ll have a documented semi-scientific study on yourself and what foods make you feel better and worse (and what might be contributing to symptoms you’re having)!
So, what the heck do you do when you’re done and you have the log?
Review the findings. Sometimes it will be obvious—especially if it’s something like a skin rash that appears when you eat eggs. It can be very subtle though, and that’s why it’s important to track physical and mental/emotional symptoms. My advice? Grab a few highlighters, and highlight things in your journal that jump out at you!
Get help if you need it—doctors often don’t consider nutritional links to symptoms, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that most people will uncover something useful from an elimination diet.
Here are the top foods to eliminate, but also consider eliminating a food if you eat it every single day:
dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, corn, beef, pork, chicken, nuts, beans, lentils, coffee, citrus, and nightshade veggies
Note: the difference between an elimination diet and a cleanse or detox is that an elimination diet is not about weight loss (as a primary effect—many people find elimination diets help them uncover what is stalling their weight loss). It is not about reducing toxin load in the body (for example: you don’t have to eliminate alcohol unless you suspect it being a trouble maker). It is about finding out what foods are causing negative symptoms or reactions. I’ll save my opinions about doing a detox/cleanse for another day.
I have a few ideas of what my own elimination diet may uncover, just based on general observation…but I’m going to do the organized documented version because I want that kind of information! In my experience, doctors have been supremely unhelpful in this quest, but I do not believe all doctors are this way. If you can find a Functional Medicine Doctor, you will have better luck! Note: I do recommend having the help of a professional if you do an elimination diet, even if it’s just Dr. Hyman’s book or the Precision Nutrition site. PN has a great list of foods you can refer to as well!
Here’s my plan:
I’m eliminating everything listed above for 3 weeks starting tomorrow, except eggs. I honestly don’t think eggs are my problem, and I like them and don’t want to give them up. I won’t rule out testing egg-elimination at some point in the future if I think I need to. I am not going to promise I won’t drink coffee either. I drink organic fair trade coffee, usually half a cup a day. Same as eggs, I’ll try that later if I feel the need to.
I won’t post updates everyday, I promise
But I will post periodically, because I have several clients who are looking forward to this information, and I want to provide information that could help someone else who is looking for this type of thing.
As for implementing this plan, it will surely take extra effort for me. I realize I need to plan more in advance for eating. So if you have any great veggie or bison recipes, please share!
I have a great story to share soon about how this has worked for someone I know. I just have to cross-check the details with the person first!
As for the rest of this week—I have some big plans! Ok, not really—I am working, visiting with friends, and doing more work…I got so much done today that I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week!
Have you ever done an elimination diet? Would you ever consider it?