What is an Elimination Diet?

2-20% of people have a food intolerance of some kind, but many aren’t aware, and continue to eat foods that are triggering a negative physical reaction. 1  A common course of action that naturopathic doctors recommend to their patients is an elimination diet, which can be helpful to determine whether certain foods are causing health problems.

An elimination diet is divided into two stages, beginning with the elimination stage, which involves removing specific foods from your diet in order to identify allergies and/or food intolerances that may be triggering health issues. 2  After a set period in the elimination stage, you will switch to the reintroduction stage, where previously eliminated foods are gradually introduced back into your diet one at a time. 3 

Elimination diets are very safe as long as you follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and make sure that you are still getting the nutrition you need from other foods during the elimination phase of the diet. 4 

Who Can Elimination Diets Help?

Elimination diets can help those experiencing a variety of health issues, including IBS, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), autoimmune disorders, and symptoms such as migraines, digestive pain, fatigue, and difficulty focusing. 5  6 

What to Expect from an Elimination Diet

Before beginning an elimination diet, you and your naturopathic doctor will need to spend some time coming up with a plan for your diet. It is important to do the elimination diet at an appropriate time, and not during a period when you expect to be dealing with a lot of stress, travel, or other events that might get in the way of success. Your naturopathic doctor (ND) will collaborate with you to come up with a list of foods to eliminate based on your current diet, symptoms, and other diet and lifestyle factors. 7 They can also provide recipes and strategies to help you achieve your goals.

Next, you will begin the elimination stage of your diet, wherein you completely avoid the specific foods recommended, usually for a period of two to four weeks. Common foods to eliminate include gluten, dairy products, beef, soy, corn, and tree nuts, but your ND will come up with an individualized plan for you. 8 

After the elimination stage of the diet, you will begin gradually adding the eliminated foods back into your diet, paying close attention if any of your symptoms return with the reintroduction of certain foods. 9 At this point, you will work with your ND to come up with a new diet going forward, which will not include any foods that appear to have triggered your symptoms. 10  Depending on the outcome, you may benefit from trying multiple different elimination diets in order to discover any underlying food intolerances or allergies as well as working with your ND to help balance your gut microbiome and heal any other impacts from food allergy and sensitivity. Everyone’s body responds differently and it may take a few different tries before you discover the best long-term diet for you going forward. 11 Talk to your ND to determine what is the best course of action for you.

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