How and Why To Do an Elimination Diet

Rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms and body aches can be concerning, especially when there's no explanation. Even after routine testing, it can take a while for doctors to come up with a diagnosis. Some people conclude that their problems are, at least partially, related to diet. But how do you learn to fine-tune what you're doing other than to "eat healthy"? One option is to pinpoint the underlying problem through an elimination diet. This is a strict but decisive way to find out what's causing the body distress. Here are some ways to get started.

Why Do an Elimination Diet

According to a study published in Social Science and Medicine, 2 to 20% of people around the world have some sort of food intolerance. This ranges from mild sensitivities to allergies and life-disturbing digestion issues all triggered through diet. And the symptoms may not always be gastrointestinal in nature. Symptoms may be all over the map—rashes, headaches, even joint pain can be caused by food intolerance.

Where to Start with an Elimination Diet

Begin by logging your food and symptoms for a couple of months. In one column list everything eaten that day and then in the other list any symptoms or bodily distress. Make sure to rate things like pain on a scale so you can determine if they're reducing. Know too that pain on one day may be related to food consumed days earlier. So don't necessarily read the columns across, but instead try looking at an angle to see if you can deduce any patterns such as, "Every time I eat corn I have increased joint pain the next day."

once you have accumulated some notes and ideas, the elimination itself begins by removing foods that are normally eaten on a regular basis like starchy foods, nightshade veggies, grains or dairy. (Here is where your notes can help you figure out where to start.) For 3 to 6 weeks, the person on an elimination diet will eliminate these foods completely. For things like grains, this is especially tricky since wheat shows up in a number of things that don't even slightly resemble wheat, like soy sauce.

Keep another log to see if any symptoms have improved. Watch for things like:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Breathing or asthma
  • Joint pain
  • Rashes or even phantom itching
  • Sleep patterns
  • Energy level
  • Blood pressure changes

There are two approaches to the elimination diet:

  1. Eliminate all possible trigger foods for a period of time and then add them back over time, very slowly.
  2. Eliminate foods one at a time, watching for improvement.

When Should the Elimination Diet Be Considered?

When we are facing body challenges that feel unsolvable, or when the doctor isn't able to pinpoint exactly what's happening for you, it may be time to try an elimination diet. Pain, nausea, and frequent bowel problems are just part of a myriad of health symptoms food can cause and even if you have received a diagnosis an elimination diet may help to alleviate symptoms and boost the results offered by the doctor. Allopathic medicine and diet are linked and they can definitely compliment one another.

Always check with your healthcare provider before starting this or any type of new diet. It’s possible that what may appear to be food intolerance could be the sign of another underlying health condition, so it’s important to rule that out first and, as above, to use diet changes in conjunction with the help and advice of a physician.

Common Food Triggers

Here are the foods that are most often considered for part of an elimination diet.

  • Citrus
  • Nightshades
  • Sodas
  • Caffeine/coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar and sweets
  • Added fats and oils
  • Salt
  • Corn
  • Dairy
  • Latex cross-reactions (can include avocado, banana, melons, and more)
  • Grain or even just wheat/rye/barley
  • Gluten
  • Meat or animal products
  • Soy
  • Some nuts such as peanuts

Journal, journal, journal. Record keeping is the key to a successful elimination diet.

Long-Term Benefits of an Elimination Diet

Once an allergen or irritation is discovered, it may be easier to manage some health conditions by avoiding that food. Finding trigger foods might reduce bothersome symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, eosinophilic esophagitis, some skin conditions and more. When health feels totally out of our hands, it may help to know that there is something we can do to change the course of our fate. We are not powerless in the process.

Reducing inflammation and irritation in the intestinal tract allows the rest of the body to work and perform to its best capacity. And ultimately, we all just want to be and feel healthy. This may be one way to help some of us get there.

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9/16/2020 5:36:05 PM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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