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The Facts On the Elimination Diet

An elimination diet requires removing all foods that are common allergens or irritants and promises dramatic results. Are you up for it?

There is a reason the elimination diet is also known as the challenge diet. It's a mental and physical challenge to remove foods you may comfortable with eating, even adore, to see how their absence impacts your body. While you may have noticed you have a stomach ache or feel groggy after having that delicious bowl of pasta, are you ready to give it up? Maybe forever?

The proponents of this diet claim it helps you repair yourself, improving digestive and overall health. You may also shed some major pounds. The opponents say it's too extreme. So, what is required to complete this diet and can you live by it long term?

Reasons to Try It
The purpose of this diet is typically to determine if you suffer from any specific food allergies, so you can make permanent lifestyle changes. It involves eliminating foods known to cause allergic reactions and replacing them with foods known to be less irritating, over the course of several weeks. During this time, it's important to keep track of any symptoms, good or bad. The next step is to begin slowly adding the foods back in to check for a reaction -- typically one food group everything three days after a week or two of cleansing. This will help you realize which foods your body can't handle.

Symptoms of a sensitivity or allergic reaction include stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, rash, nausea and gas or bloating. All are signs your body is taxed for some reason and the digestive system is reacting.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow brought attention to the diet, praising it for helping her cut our foods from her entire family's diet that were causing them discomfort. Paltrow remains loyal to the diet, leaving out many of the foods listed below, while most would consider it a temporary experiment. The diet's growing popularity have taken it from essentially a medical test to a detox and weight loss program, inspiring people to make drastic changes to their daily eating habits in hopes of shedding pounds quickly. These versions can involve regular colonics and the use of laxatives, which we don't recommend unless under the recommendation and supervision of a medical professional.

What You Can't Have
The word "elimination" gives the impression you can't eat anything on this diet, which simply isn't true. While you're eliminating foods, an equal number of healthier options are put in their place. You just have to be willing to try them. Some programs are more specific than others, but here is a list of the foods typically outlined to avoid:

  • Dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Gluten-containing foods like wheat, barley and oats
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Cold cuts/deli meats and sausage
  • Shellfish
  • Raw fish
  • Soy products, including soy sauce
  • Caffeine, as found in tea, coffee, energy drinks and soda
  • Alcohol
  • Processed foods
  • Simple or refined sugars
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fruits high in sugar or acid like oranges, grapefruit, grapes and bananas
  • Acidic or starchy vegetables like tomatoes, corn and potatoes
  • Mayonnaise
  • Canola Oil
  • Peanuts
  • Condiments

Seem like a lot? Thankfully there are plenty of options for replacements, which we'll get to in a minute. While you're supposed to avoiding all processed and packaged foods, if you do purchase something packaged, even a juice, it's important to read labels carefully.

What You Can Have
OK, now you know what foods you have to cut out of your diet, so now it's time to learn what you need to shop for to feel full and satisfied and get the daily nutrients your body needs. Here are examples of foods to shop for:

  • Non-dairy milks like almond and hemp
  • Whole grains like quinoa or brown rice
  • Cold-water fish like salmon
  • Lean poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Green tea
  • Almonds
  • Nut butters other than peanut
  • Mineral water (add some fresh fruit juice)
  • Stevia
  • Vinegar
  • Dried or fresh spices
  • Fresh, whole fruits and vegetables
  • Lentils

Considering the wide variety of options for substitution, this diet doesn't seem as extreme or scary. You just have to be willing to try new things. You can use these ingredients to create plenty of dishes to satisfy your cravings for salty or sweet while sticking to the plan. Get adventurous with your shopping and you may discover new foods you like better than the old ones.

Tips for Success
Interested in trying an elimination diet? Here are some more things to consider to make sure you get the most out of it:

  1. Drink water throughout the day.
  2. Maintain your normal routine, including work and exercise. Scale back exercise if needed to accommodate for the changes, but still move daily.
  3. Buy organic produce when possible.
  4. Keep a diary of symptoms and foods consumed for you and your doctor.
  5. Get plenty of rest.
  6. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The elimination diet is a smart way to determine what foods agree and do not agree with your body, so you can make better decisions. As long as you listen to your body and embrace the changes, it could really help you. If you're currently being treated for allergies or have a digestive disorder, it's especially important to discuss the diet with your doctor before, during and after. Your doctor may want to do additional testing to determine an exact cause of your symptoms. If you experience an allergic reaction like a rash or have trouble breathing, be sure to contact your doctor and get help if necessary.

Shop for healthy foods to help you at eVitamins and let us know how it goes!


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