Elimination Diet Basics


Unfortunately, intolerances and food sensitivities are common in today’s world. I think this is really obvious when you go to a restaurant. A little over 10 years ago I was a waitress and things were quite different. The menus did not list gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free options. I would have had no idea what to tell someone if they asked for those things…and they never did! The experience of going to a restaurant today has changed dramatically and in just 10 years!


Many children have sensitivities and intolerances to food as well; this is not just a problem for adults. Actually, it seems to me that the younger my client, the more sesitivities they have! (I have a theory about this but won’t get into it here). We learned this lesson very early on with my daughter. When she was 2 she had an eczema rash that wouldn’t go away for months. Once the lightbulb finally went off and I put her on an elimination diet, we quickly discovered gluten and dairy were the culprits. Within 2 days the rash was gone after removing those foods.


When you ingest food to which you are intolerant, the body releases histamines into the bloodstream, causing inflammation. If the body thinks it is under constant attack, then we start to feel sluggish and may experience other health issues including candida, digestive issues, or blood sugar imbalances.


An elimination diet starts with the premise that everybody is different, and as such, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. What works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. One person might thrive on grains, for example while they make another person drag.


Food allergy tests are pricey and are not always reliable, as intolerances shift over time. When my clients test their food sensitivities while their gut is still compromised, their tests often show they are sensitive to EVERYTHING! If we retest after a few months of gut healing it seems to me that at that point we are actually seeing the foods they are sensitive to, instead of a list of the whole grocery store. The most inexpensive and accurate way to determine various foods’ effects on you is to do an elimination diet, in which you eliminate common allergens and add them back in one by one to determine your reaction.


You can hear more about Chris Kresser’s opinion on the accuracy of food intolerance tests here.


We all have one or many foods that may be wreaking havoc on our system, but if we’re eating several of the main culprits (wheat, eggs, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, and caffeine), it’s hard to tell exactly what’s triggering the reaction. Sometimes symptoms of intolerance manifest themselves immediately upon eating food, but other times there is a delayed reaction, further complicating matters.


Using a food diary will allow you to systematically and objectively track your physical and emotional reactions to each meal and determine exactly which foods suit you or not. Ironically, it’s often the foods we crave the most that are harming us.


You will be amazed how great you feel when you eliminate your personal culprits from your diet. And the great news is you can use the same technique of the elimination diet if you ever feel tired or have health issues in the future.


Here are the basics. I suggest you remove the list below:

  • Remove the foods that people are most commonly sensitive to as well as foods that are hard on digestion. Ideally you will remove these foods for 3 weeks (this would be ideal if you are dealing with multiple health complaints, autoimmune conditions or severe gut dysfunction) but during the seasonal detoxes that I offer we are only strictly removing the whole list for 1 week. Most people can tell when a foods does not agree with them after eating so cleanly for only 1 week. I also suggest that you remove additives, artificial ingredients, sugar and caffeine. By removing these items you will have a very clean slate to reintroduce foods and see how you feel.

Foods to remove

  • Coffee
  • Sweeteners (white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, agave or cane juice
  • Eggs
  • Sugar alcohols (often found in chewing gum, like xylitol)
  • Soy milk
  • Yeast
  • Nuts
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy products
  • Corn
  • Cheese
  • Gluten
  • Grains (only low-glycemic grains, soaked, allowed)
  • Soy (except miso)
  • Processed foods
  • Soft drinks
  • Nitrates
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Potatoes (except for sweet potatoes or yams)
  • Beans (except for lentils, mung, and adzuki)


  • Reintroduce slowly and systematically. The most common food sensitivities are to gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs. These are good foods to start with and to watch carefully for reactions (if any of these foods are already removed from your diet than there is no need to add them back in).


  • Every 2-4 days, add back in foods that are common allergens or hard to digest, giving you the opportunity to see how your body reacts after you have cleansed for at least 7 days.


  • Be conscious of how you feel emotionally and physically when you consume food you have not eaten for at least 7 days and take the time to write this down. A journal is really important for this process!


Watch out for any of these signs when adding food back into your diet. These signs can signify a food intolerance:


  • White coating on the tongue
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Foul-smelling stool
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Sinus issues
  • Clogged ears
  • Rashes or hives
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Water retention
  • Gas and bloating
  • Dry eyes
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Racing heart
  • Bags under the eyes
  • Food cravings, sugar or salt
  • Canker sores or a sore tongue
  • Difficulty breathing or cough
  • Poor concentration
  • Swelling of hands/feet

This is your opportunity to see what fuels your unique body. I always suggest that you first test the food you most suspect is giving you a problem, often the foods that we can’t live without! Note how your body feels in your food diary during this process.


By eliminating the foods from your diet that you are sensitive to, you may notice great improvements in your health without expensive tests! And this process can be used to check back in anytime in the future if you are not feeling your best. You can be a true health detective!!


Is this overwhelming?


If you feel like you wouldn’t know where to start or would have a hard time sticking to these changes, you can join one of our group seasonal online detoxes!!! The group follows a basic elimination diet over 18 days and you will be provided with recipes, what to eat, what to add back in, daily detox tools , daily emails and an amazing Facebook group for support.


Join us!



  • September 20, 2015

    […] an elimination diet – I say consider because taking this on takes a bit of preparation and reading.  If you want […]

  • Casey
    October 6, 2015

    This is a great list and one I’m considering starting very soon. I’ve been Paleo-ish for 3 years, so I know I can do it 🙂 Can you expand on what low-glycemic grains would be allowed? I’ve seen so many folks feel worse after going AIP for awhile, so I’d like to include as many foods as possible while detoxing!

    • October 11, 2015

      Hi Casey!! If your digestion is strong enough for grains, most of my clients do well with gluten free grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat and rice. Test each of them and see how you do and feel. Let your body tell you what is best 🙂

  • December 28, 2015

    […] daily movement or exercise and removing the processed foods out of your diet.  Next up I suggest a basic elimination diet if you haven’t already completed one.  You will be amazed how one food that you eat daily […]

  • July 18, 2016

    At last some ranittalioy in our little debate.

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