Elimination Diet: Plan, Benefits, & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Going on an elimination diet is a popular approach to figuring out potential food allergies, but there can be some other benefits as well!

What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is a dietary approach to remove one or more foods to determine whether certain gastrointestinal symptoms diminish.

An elimination diet is typically recommended for:

  • People who suspect that they have a food allergy, but may not be able to determine what specific food is triggering the symptoms.
  • It is used for identifying foods that cause excess fatigue, inflammation, poor sleep habits or any other chronic symptoms.

Our diet is critical to countless metabolic processes and can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. An elimination diet can narrow down the list of foods you should avoid optimizing your diet. Of all the different diets that have recently gained popularity, elimination diets are considered one of the best. Based on their trial-and-error method, they are consistently effective and can change your life.

A board with 'elimination diet' written on it next to a measuring tape and orange slices

An elimination diet involves omitting a food or group of foods believed to cause an adverse food reaction to the body. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Elimination Diet Plan

Let us look at the step-by-step process on how to do an elimination diet.

  • Step 1: If you want to go on an elimination diet, you should pay close attention to your diet for a few weeks to a month.
  • Step 2: Identify potential triggers, such as dairy, gluten, eggs, or any other potential problem food.
  • Step 3: When you want to begin an elimination diet, you must completely eliminate these foods from your diet.
  • Step 4: This elimination phase should last for no less than two weeks.
  • Step 5: It should only be considered “complete” when you experience five days with no negative symptoms (e.g., vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, etc).
  • Step 6: Following this elimination phase, you will begin a trial-and-error reintroduction phase with one food at a time.
  • Step 7: If the symptoms return, then you have a clear sign of what foods may be causing inflammation and discomfort.
  • Step 8: If the symptoms don’t return, then you can keep that dietary item and move on to the next potential suspect.

Given the simple efficacy of this diet, most people find success within a matter of months and see some or all of their symptoms resolved.

Benefits of an Elimination Diet

The powerful benefits of an elimination diet include identifying unknown food allergies, a reduction in irritable bowel symptom, and improved skin health, among others.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), one of the common causes is an unknown food allergy. By eliminating potentially inflammatory foods, you can mitigate the symptoms very easily.

Migraines

Our gut is intimately linked to the rest of our body, and chronic migraines have been well documented as being connected to our diet. Elimination or exclusion diets are known to help calm these inflammatory symptoms.

ADHD

Research has found that hyperactivity can be caused by dietary allergies or poor dietary habits; this approach to dieting can solve this problem in both young and older people.

Food Allergies

The most obvious benefit of this diet is to identify the foods that your body cannot properly process; once they are eliminated, your quality of life will inevitably improve.

Skin Health

Food allergies often manifest as inflammation of the skin, such as psoriasis or eczema, but eliminating the right foods can also clear up these unsightly symptoms.

Autism

Recent studies show a close link between diet and autism, so an elimination diet may help minimize the symptoms.

Elimination Diet Side Effects

There are some side effects of elimination diets, most of which relate to the gastrointestinal system. When you change your diet, it can take time for your body to adjust, and that readjustment period can be fraught with:

While elimination diets are effective, it can occasionally be hard to recognize whether you are experiencing allergic symptoms or the growing pains of your stomach as it adapts to a new diet. Working with a dietitian or nutritionist can be very helpful in such cases.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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