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Elimination Diets

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If you've tried this--how long is considered long enough to eliminate the food? I'm finding info that's conflicting or not from credible sources.

And, once you eliminate the food for a period of time, how much are you supposed to deliberately eat to see if you have an adverse response to it?

Also interested in others' experiences with trying this. Did you discover you were/weren't sensitive to something you guessed you were? Was it hard to give up the culprit food? How did things change for you once you gave it up?

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  1. I can't remember how long I did it for - over a month, certainly. On eating mushrooms I got an immediate adverse response that I was not expecting at all. Despite adoring mushrooms I found it easy to give them up, as I felt so much healthier without them. It's been about 20 years and apart from a few accidental mushroom incidents (that I reacted to) I'm still mushroom free.

    1. Like Peg, I've found it pretty easy to avoid the foods that I've discovered don't sit well with me. The changes were so quick (a week or so of not eating it,) that it was pretty obvious there was a problem with those foods for me (grains.)

      I occasionally slip and want bread or pizza or I'm in a situation where that is all there is to eat but the change in how I feel quickly reminds me of how much better I feel when I don't eat grains, especially wheat. Fortunately it's not a dangerous reaction for me but a night of indulging in pizza means lethargy/low energy for a few days. Usually not worth it for me.

      1. four weeks is really the minimum amount of time to do it properly, but i actually prefer six weeks if possible. some people take longer than others to clear the offending components from their systems, get through withdrawal, and resolve/heal any reactive symptoms or damage.

        when you're ready to reintroduce a suspect food, limit the amount to half of a typical serving. if you don't have a reaction, you can increase to a full serving at a later meal and see how you do. if there's no reaction after the full serving, you can assume you're okay to eat that food in regular portions going forward.

        about a year after i was diagnosed with thyroid disease, i started having symptoms again - leg cramps, hair loss, breakouts - even though my meds were stable and my blood work didn't indicate a problem. this was back when soy foods were still things that only "health nuts" ate, and i was a vegetarian at the time so i ate a lot of tofu and snacked on roasted soy nuts. i started doing research and found a couple of studies that showed a link between soy isoflavones and thyroid problems...so i stopped eating soy. within a month my symptoms cleared up, and i haven't eaten soy since - it's been 15 years. of course nowadays the contraindication is common knowledge.

        when i gave up gluten about 5 years ago, some of my digestive issues began to resolve within a week. the long-term damage to my intestines took quite some time to heal, but within 6 months my lab tests showed marked improvement in my vitamin & mineral absorption (most notably iron & calcium), and my joint pain was considerably less pronounced.

        it's always hard to give up foods you enjoy, but you have to weigh the benefit against the "sacrifice." i'd rather miss the foods that made me sick than go through the rest of my life feeling like hell.

        unfortunately my list of things to be missed is growing longer - i've recently developed an allergy to eggplant, which is easily one of my favorite foods. fortunately it's not severe enough [yet] to cause hives or anaphylaxis, but the itching in my throat (and on my hands if i handle it) has become intolerable. giving it up won't change my life, it just pisses me off ;)

        1. You might try getting Dr. Mark Hyman's book (s) from the library. Ultrametabolism or Ultra-Simple Diet-both involve elimination diets to detrmine sensitivites.

          While you may not be looking to rev up your metabolism or lose weight, the elimination process is the same.

          In reading these you'll loearn a lot about how foods affects us and if you follow the program you'll feel great and be able to tell what, if anything, affects you adversely.

          1. From the age of about zero to the age of twenty-one, I was sick all the time. I rarely slept through the night because I would wake up with horrible stomach aches, diarrhea and nausea. Today I like to say that considering how smart I turned out without ever sleeping through the night, if I'd got my stomach problems under control and given my brain a complete night's sleep once in a while I probably would have found the cure for cancer for by now.

            When I was twenty-one I went completely cold-turkey on a major elimination diet. Overnight I gave up gluten, processed sugars, most dairy (I kept plain yogurt), coffee, nightshades, fruit (except bananas), meat (I was already vegetarian so that was no big deal), alcohol... the list goes on. It was a plan from the book "Dr. Joshi's Holistic Detox", which was all the rage at the time. After three weeks I felt SO GOOD. Like, disturbingly good. I would get up at 5:00 in the morning, jump out of bed, get ready for work and then go for a walk around my neighborhood because my energy levels were out of control. I was SO HAPPY all the time. One of my friends actually said, "You're a lot less b****y!" I also got extremely thin. I was never hungry and never counted calories, but there really was only so much I could eat. And my nightly stomachaches were GONE. So, the book says to follow the diet for three weeks, but I stuck with it for three months because I was deliriously happy. Then I moved back to North America (I'd been in Italy... imagine living in Italy and trying to explain that you don't eat pasta, cheese, pizza, meat or chocolate!) and returned to my previous eating habits. The weight came back and my energy levels dropped to "normal", but my stomachaches have never returned. Like, ever. Not once.

            I know my story isn't typical, and it probably doesn't help you much, but I credit Dr. Joshi's Holistic Detox with radically transforming the quality of my life. I would name ALL of my children Joshi if I could.

            1. The one I am doing: three weeks to eliminate all suspicious foods. Then add them back one at a time, starting from the least commonly allergenic to the most. In order to add a food back, you eat as much as you can manage of that food in one day. Then for two days, don't have any of it. Observe your reactions. If you don't react, you can keep eating it in a regular way now... if it seems like you do, don't eat it and perhaps retest later after you're body's had another break from it. (It can also help to test different foods from the same group separately. For instance, I know I react to some forms of dairy, but as far as I know not to yogurt, etc... so I'll start by just adding back yogurt by itself.) Anyway, on the fourth day you'll add in a new food, eat a lot of it, don't eat it for two days... etc.

              I should also add... after the 3 weeks my problems were way less severe, but I still had problems. My ND says this is because I probably am not sensitive to anything I'm currently eating, but I still need to do gut healing. I'm taking a tincture, and a powder I make into a drink that is primarily psyllium husk with a bunch of herbs such as slippery elm bark--it smells pretty good, sorta like fake coffee, and I add it to homemade chocolate nut/seed milk, but it still has that unpleasant psyllium husk texture, and I have to drink a lot of water to make sure it doesn't solidify (I might be a little overly worried about this).

              Another thing. One way I motivate myself is that I promise myself that once I KNOW what I am sensitive to, and the diet is finished, I can stuff my face (that phrase is key...I actually usually visualize mashing a particularly delicious chocolate mousse pastry I once had into my mouth/face, unless I'm being tempted by some other food like dim sum...) with whatever I want. In reality, once that time arrives, I may not want to make myself sick. But the point is that the most valuable thing is having that knowledge--once I have that I can make whatever choices I want--but if my gut is very irritated all the time, I can't tell what I'm reacting to because the reaction is spread out over time.

              1. I agree that, especially with gluten, a week or two is not always long enough to tell. It's also good to try to minimize confounding variables. For example, if you are suddenly eating regularly and well where you used to skip meals and have dinner out of the vending machine, you're going to feel a lot better. Strictly avoiding any food is likely to push you towards unprocessed ingredients and home cooking. The more consistent you can be throughout the whole thing, the better you can deduce your reactions to foods. There's also likely to be some simple placebo effect. Then there's the phenomenon where you become more sensitive to small exposure, and even cross contamination may begin to matter, so that you're not sure whether you feel better. So, the more data you can gather, the better. It took me a couple months to get to the point where I started getting unequivocal, intense GI pain within hours after eating gluten. Before that, I wasn't sure because I wasn't being careful enough to get a baseline. And a lot of people have a noticeable GI response to dairy (for example, gurgling, gas, needing to poop after eating, or soft poop)- some foods are digested easily by our native enzymes, and some require more bacterial involvement. Since most adults have low levels of lactase, our gut bacteria are doing a lot of the heavy lifting, and they make themselves known. So, don't be too quick to diagnose yourself with a dairy problem, unless you're having symptoms that are more intense than that. You may have a similar response to fish, which tends to have cold-hearty bacteria that can survive refrigeration or freezing, which again is not necessarily any kind of allergy or intolerance. Try to keep your fiber content consistent, too- in fact, both soluble and insoluble should be kept constant if possible. Sudden changes in fiber intake are almost guaranteed to cause GI distress, which indicates nothing about food intolerances, and likely just indicates that your population of gut bacteria is shifting. Likewise high fiber content may make you less sensitive to the foods you're eating, if your digestive tract is moving much faster. Fiber can also make a reaction occur more quickly or more slowly, again depending when the food hits whatever part of your digestive tract doesn't like it. If you have an underlying problem like Crohn's or something that hasn't been diagnosed, you may in fact not tolerate lots of fiber well, even after an adjustment. Or alternatively, high fiber may make you feel really good and confound your experiment that way. Or, removing wheat may unintentionally cause you to eat more protein and fat and fewer carbs, which may stabilize your blood sugar and make you feel great. Removing eggs may cause you to have a lower protein breakfast, and have an energy crash midmorning.

                So, I hope I've convinced you that it's important to be really careful about standardizing things as much as humanly possible, to avoid drawing false correlations.