9 min read

Using an Elimination Diet

Before I need to start another series of elimination diets, I am grateful for this fresh food.

The elimination diet is perfect for people who struggle with their chosen ‘diet.’

Tired of bouncing between archaic, time consuming, complicated ‘diet plans?’

Do you have trouble with bloating, nausea, gas (and other bowel impediments), rashes, acne, lethargy or another strange symptom that you might not need medical treatment for?

Talk to your doctor but they will probably refer you to what I’m about to discuss anyway.

This is probably the starting place for you, to get on the path of the Skill Based Eating — which I almost debated calling the Agnostic Diet or Anti-Diet… — and hopefully soon we’ll have reformed the word ‘Diet‘ into something a little more wholesome — as opposed to something you ‘go on.’

Regardless, if you’re looking for a starting point at reforming your diet, then an elimination diet strategy will help you realize what you might want to cut out, or what you feel better eating.

Here is a list of the foods that people are most commonly allergic to, have an intolerance to, or a sensitivity to:

  1. Wheat/Gluten
  2. Milk
  3. Soy
  4. Tree Nuts
  5. Seafood
  6. Peanuts
  7. Shellfish
  8. Eggs
  9. Yeast
  10. Food Additives (Likes Sulphites, Amines, artificial colour and other preservatives)
  11. Bee By-Products (Honey, Bee Pollen, etc… if you’re allergic to bees…which you can be tested for easily)
  12. Salicylic Acid (Which can be found in many foods such as blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, dates, raisins, guava, apricots, green pepper, olives, tomato, radish, mushrooms and chicory)
  13. Fructose (High Levels are typically more the concern, as these are processed by the liver; it’s unlikely you’ll consume too much through whole sources)
  14. FODMAPS (I’ll get around to writing about these at some point)

There are easy tests you can get for some or many of these these in the form of things like the ELISA Test or skin tests, but you’ll need to talk to your doctor about getting one done and be aware that they are not always reliable.

All the same though, I still recommend everybody get a standard allergy test as a proactive health assessment to rule out anything serious. 

I had a client recently who experienced extreme anaphylaxis eating something she had eaten before. In hindsight, she believed there may have been other indicators leading up to the experience, or perhaps it was the dosage.

I can’t really say, I’m just weary and I recommend talking to your doctor over things like unexplained rashes or strange occurrences of gastrointestinal issues. Then rule out anything potentially serious. A medically guided elimination diet might be the better option.

It is also beneficial to at least consult with your physician or a registered dietician before engaging in an elimination diet over the long term, as excluding certain foods may leave you deficient in certain nutrients that you could or can obtain from other foods you’re not eliminating. 

For instance the lack of Vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets, usually warrants the need to supplement with Vitamin B12. There could be deficiencies in your approach to an elimination diet that should be discussed with a dietician prior to attempting one.

That’s my disclaimer before you attempt this. I happen to feel this version is a safe application, provided you get a great deal of balance from what you can eat and don’t eat too much of the same stuff for too long.

Over 90% of food allergies can be attributed to the first 8 things on that list.

The last 5 are less common, though new research into FODMAPS is fascinating.

There are others worth noting and trying for some people, but rather than raise a panic about otherwise healthy foods that are only an issue in a very low-percentage of the population (and that your doctor/physician should probably be helping you with anyway), I’m excluding them.

Dosage Is Important

I’d also like to note that toxicity of most foods found in the diet, is a matter of dosage, and not merely consumption.

There are lots of foods that have low levels of what would normally be considered ‘bad for you‘ chemical compounds already, but these foods are often very healthful for you, because the dosage of that bad ‘ingredient‘ in the food is so ridiculously low that the dose isn’t high enough to do anything to you.

For instance, apples contain cyanide (a known and lethal poison) in them, but at such a low dose that it would never harm you, even if you ate nothing but apples all day.

You shouldn’t avoid apples for this reason, because the healthful properties of the apple, far outweigh the meaningless dose of cyanide relative to your system.

The elimination diet isn’t attempting to vilify certain foods, it’s attempting to help you individualize your eating.

Most foods actually have hundreds, perhaps thousands of compounds in them that we are either unaware of, or have been unable to classify, and quite often we have no idea how these compounds interact with one another either because it is difficult to take a holistic vantage point in research environments.

Furthermore you see increases in levels of potentially toxic substances after processing and through long periods of exposure.

For example, corn is only about 5% Omega-6 on it’s own, but when turned into a corn oil it’s over 50% Omega-6 oils, which once and a while probably won’t throw your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios off that much, but over-exposure via the consumption of a lot of fast food cooked in corn oil, can and does lead to health concerns after months or years of exposure.

This makes a strong case for the consumption of whole foods, in moderation and variety.

Sound Bite

Any toxic effects as a result of food consumption are a matter of dosage, not just the type of food. You always have to consider dosage!

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I’d encourage you (if you can tolerate scientific writing) to read this article on food toxins. They are individual and are often naturally occurring.

Pretty much anything can be a toxin in an inappropriate dosage.

In other words, I don’t want people to read this and presume that peanuts or soy are ‘bad for you‘ simply because proportionately speaking, more people might be allergic to them.

There a plenty of people drawing outlandish correlations of this variety (gluten…cough…) to a variety of ailments in which dosage is usually the key distincter, not the type of food. I don’t want to be included as one of those people.

Consumption of any of the foods in people without issue, particularly from whole unrefined sources, can still be very nutritionally beneficial, provided they are not over consumed.

For instance, a recent paper on the Gluten Free diet found:

GF-diet was found to be poor in alimentary fiber due in particular to the necessary avoidance of several kinds of foods naturally rich in fiber (i.e. grain) and the low content of fiber of GF product that are usually made with starches and/or refined flours. Micronutrients are also found to be poor, in particular Vit. D, Vit. B12 and folate, in addition to some minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. Moreover, an inadequate macronutrient intake was reported related above all to the focus on the avoidance of gluten that often leaving back the importance of nutritional quality of the choice. In particular, it was found a higher content of both saturated and hydrogenated fatty acids and an increase in the glycemic index and glycemic load of the meal.

In other words you need to be careful with any diet that dramatically reduces something that can contribute a great deal towards your health (Paleo, Atkins, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, etc…).

To ensure you are still getting adequate nutrition where it may have been prior to your new diet, you should find replacement foods that fit within the new diet.

This means if you are a celiac, you should take steps in working with a dietician (they specialize in pathological nutrition) to come up with a plan of eating that does not leave you nutritionally devoid.

Sadly, this is not often the case, as people casually on a gluten-free diet — for the record I’m not knocking it, as it is sometimes necessary — often just substitute even more processed and nutritional void gluten-free versions of foods they were eating a lot of before.

I got a bit off topic but basically realize that over consumption of a food (dosage) is often the bigger problem than strictly just the type of food you are eating when it comes to an elimination diet.

FODMAP sufferers for instance, can often get away with small dosages of problem foods provided the frequency of consumption is low.

This is why you have to remove things for a period of time, so that the body can adjust.

It may also be why you don’t want to use the elimination diet too frequently or eliminate something of a staple (without a replacement), as you don’t want to end up like the example above — nutrient deficient.

The Elimination Diet

On with the elimination diet…

Typically in an elimination diet it’s recommended that you remove all potential allergens upfront. This is detailed to a greater extent in the free download below. No email required.

Then you gradually reintroduce one thing at a time in 3-4 week intervals, as generally not eating something for a week yields little change.

Then you should keep a daily qualitative food journal — recording how you feel daily, try this free online tool —  and note how gradually reintroducing things makes you feel.

For instance:

-Dec. 10, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, still feeling bloated

-Dec. 11, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, still feeling bloated

-Dec. 12, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, starting to feel better actually

-Dec. 13, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, much better today than yesterday

-Dec. 14, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, better still

-Dec. 15, 2012 – Eliminated Everything, feeling good. Will wait a week from 13th to introduce something. Haven’t decided what.

With this elimination diet approach, you need to eliminate pretty much any potential culprit and get to a point of feeling good.

If you feel worse, or gain weight, feel bloated, get diarrhea, get constipated, feel nausea, get headaches, or other consistently bad sensations, then something is afoot.

Once you reintroduce an item, those sensations might mean that particular item isn’t right for your diet.

It doesn’t mean you can try that food at some point in the future, but you probably want to eliminate for now.

You can try again to reintroduce it at a lower dosage in the future and see how you feel.

Similar to a FODMAP reintroduction, but I’ll discuss that a future date (I need to do more research on that in particular).

Now sure the placebo effect might be taking effect, but if you feel better, then it’s probably worth it.

That’s one strategy, the more common strategy, my recommended strategy.

Strategy #2

Do it the other way, remove one thing (group really) from your diet for a month, and gauge how you feel — again qualitative journal as above…

If you feel better without that food, or you notice that you stop getting headaches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, etc… or you notice that you sleep better, perform better, have more energy, are more focused, etc… then you might want to consider keeping that food out of your diet.

This version is slower because you have to test multiple combinations (people tend to have an issue with more than one thing) but is often more manageable for people because you’re not eliminating everything at once. A huge reduction can be a real drag.

I’d start with any food(s) you suspect to be an issue and eliminate them for at least 2 weeks.

The problem with this method is that other foods could be creating the symptom, so you don’t feel better eliminating one thing and it’s easy to think that something else is the culprit, and not whatever you eliminated.

Whereas it is possible for you to have a problem with whatever you eliminated and something else.

For this reason, I recommend elimination strategy #1 and only opt for #2 if you have patience and a willingness to experiment with combinations of foods you may suspect as issues. #2 can take a very long time and be inaccurate in the long run.

Free Stuff

I've put together a cheat sheet for you that is free to download. Just click the button.

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Wrapping Up

Essentially with either method of an elimination diet, you keep a journal of how you feel for about a month, 28 days. The first one is the better and more accurate method but some people can still find some relief with a less restrictive approach using the latter approach.

There is a possibility that a food in your diet is wreaking havoc on your weight loss pursuits and you didn’t even know it.

I encourage everyone to experiment a little with their food consumption, or hire a good coach to help.

** Unofficial announcement, Fitnack has launched to a small group of clientele **

Yes I know, I’ve been working on this stuff forever and many people email me in suspense all the time. I’m sorry, I’m a perfectionist and I’m using this small group of people as incentive for creating a ton of new exclusive content. I’m up to 300 videos now and 6 months worth of coaching data. If you’d like to be involved in the process head over to this page and get on the waiting list.

To keep the numbers manageable and the program development smooth, I’m only sending out invites to small numbers of people (2-5 at a time)