What’s an Elimination Diet and Should I Try One?

By on February 18, 2018

By Allegra Gallian—

Eating healthy is all the rage these days. You see people from all walks of life on social media, tv, and everywhere else discussing the benefits of eating whole foods, well-balanced meals, and a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables. This isn’t just a fad though. Changing your eating habits has the power to change your whole life.

It’s no surprise that the topic of eating is such a popular one. We need food for nourishment, energy, and proper body function, but, of course, it goes beyond that. We also want to enjoy something delicious that’s fully satisfying and provides great happiness, especially when you know that what you’re putting in your body is healthy.

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That being said, not all foods, even healthy ones, agree with everyone. You may have noticed that you experience unpleasant side effects after eating certain food items. While you may have just written off these sensations, the truth is that you shouldn’t be negatively affected in such a way.

What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is exactly what it sounds like. You create a meal plan that eliminates certain types of foods and ingredients from your overall diet. Some of the most common food items to eliminate are:

  • Gluten
  • Grains
  • Refined and added sugars
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Packaged/processed food
  • Alcohol

Elimination diets are typically short-term. Once the time period is up, you can begin to reintroduce the foods you’ve eliminated. During this reintroduction period, you’ll want to watch out for any negative reactions such as fatigue, headaches, rashes or skin reactions, insomnia, joint pain or inflammation, bloating, sinus/respiratory issues, bowel changes, and/or brain fog. It can be helpful to keep a journal during this time to monitor which of the reintroduced foods is the culprit. Then you’ll know what you’re reacting to and you can choose to eliminate that from your diet permanently.

Why Would Someone do an Elimination Diet?

The goal is an elimination diet is not weight loss, though it could be an added benefit. Once your body stops reacting negatively and is being fueled properly, you may see numbers decrease on the scale. That always feels great, but it’s important to remember that the non-scale victories are more important. One of the biggest goals is to better understand your relationship with food and eating so you can make better, healthier choices for your body. Elimination diets give you more knowledge about how you react to food, and it can help you figure out a better approach to your life as a whole. 

Popular Elimination Diets

Whole30: The Whole30 is probably the most well-known elimination diet right now. It was founded by Melissa Hartwig in 2009, and it’s a “short-term nutrition reset” to help end unhealthy eating habits, restore a healthy metabolism, balance the immune system, and heal the gut. For 30 days, you eliminate food items from your meal plan, and you follow the guidelines set by the program. After the 30 days, you begin the reintroduction period.

Low FODMAP: FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that the body can’t absorb well, which can result in stomach pain or bloating. FODMAPs can be found naturally in some foods or as additives. A low FODMAP diet eliminates foods that are high FODMAP in order to help your gut heal. Do this for three to eight weeks, then start the reintroduction phase to see what foods can and cannot be tolerated.

AIP: AIP is the Autoimmune Protocol diet, which aims to reduce intestinal inflammation. AIP protocol works to calm and heal the gut, and as well as soothe inflammation in the body. People with autoimmune diseases can be seriously impacted by inflammation and flare ups. This elimination diet is also done for six to eight weeks followed by a reintroduction period to determine which foods you’re affected by. It’s possible to follow a Whole30 or low FODMAP diet as well as an AIP diet, as there are some overlaps between what is and isn’t allowed.


About Allegra Gallian

Allegra Gallian is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in lifestyle, health, wellness and fitness. She lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. When she’s not writing, Allegra enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with friends and family.

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What’s an Elimination Diet and Should I Try One?