Why Elimination Diets Don’t Work

You are not alone if you feel like you have tried everything with elimination diets and have found nothing new with your health. I experienced this with my own daughter when she was a baby, and have been through it myself.

I’ve made it my purpose to uncover the mystery of root causes of our health issues. I’m often presented with cases where individuals are frustrated, maxed out, and overwhelmed with conflicting information. And elimination diets have led them nowhere.

Here are some reasons why I believe elimination diets are not working for them and for you:

#1 The food isn’t removed for long enough

It isn’t enough in most cases to remove a food for just a couple of weeks (I’ve even heard clients who were told to just remove something for a day or two).

#2 Eliminating more than one food or category of food simultaneously

How can you pinpoint the culprit when you have multiple variables?

#3 Relying solely on food to make the change

Your health issues may be more complex than just a food group. You cannot overlook properly supporting your immune system and levels of toxicity.

Damaging to your mental and physical health

Full elimination diets aren’t sustainable for most. It leads to feelings of  disempowerment, frustration, and even more food restriction and emotional eating (or NOT eating), which becomes its own vicious cycle.

Those in the biggest pickle with this (no pun intended) are nursing moms trying to find what food is triggering their baby’s fussing, grunting, bloated belly. I get on a discovery call with her and hear how hungry, tired, and overwhelmed she is. It’s particularly tricky because we need to keep that mama well nourished and often see the milk production begins to diminish because of the restricted eating and additional stress that goes along with the process.

Dealing with the unknown doesn’t work. And I get it, I was that mom. It was frustrating and I was running out of options. I wish I knew what I know now.

When elimination diets do work

You must remove the food for at least four weeks. When I say “remove” I mean “remove” in every aspect.  If, for example, you want to see if gluten is a problem for you, you would need to remove it from your diet. But it’s not that simple. You have to check things like sauces, condiments, cereals, baking mixes, pastas, rice mixes, breads, desserts, candy, and gum.

Removing it from the big stuff is easy: buy gluten free pasta, cereal, and baking mixes. However, those pre-packaged items that are gluten free often contain lots of starch and sugar in the first few ingredients. So people often trade gluten for sugar, which is an even bigger offender on the body’s ability to heal and function optimally.

Sometimes people will notice when they remove the offending food all is well. Others will notice they feel good initially, but over time they start to feel the way they did before removing the food from the diet. In those cases, the body liked the initial break but then realized it was still getting sugar and starches, which can be just as problematic.

If you’re a purist, you’ll want to keep the body clean of that food or food group for 90 days. This is what it takes to clean out those nooks and crannies where foods can be hiding in the body.

You can try removing the offending food for a month and then add the food back in slowly to see what happens. Have a whole wheat cracker or a quarter slice of bread the first day and see what happens. Do it again the next day.

If you add it back in slowly, a couple of things will happen. First, you’ll begin to realize HOW OFTEN you previously ate the offending food. Second, you’ll notice if it’s a problem for you, and this manifests differently based on the individual.  For some it’s gas and bloating, for others it’s full blown gastric distress with explosive loose stool. Perhaps for you it’s a headache, body aches or pain, and for others it’s a skin condition. Doesn’t matter what it is, just notice.

I recommend keeping a log of everything you eat (including candy, drinks, and the nibbles you grab while walking through the kitchen) so you have an accurate list. Keep in mind you can have a reaction to food 7 – 10 days after you eat it, so keeping a log for a couple weeks at a time is very beneficial.

What to eat if you’re on an elimination diet

When you’re eliminating a food — let’s go with gluten as an example — you’ll be looking for what to replace it with. Keep in mind some things just don’t have a substitute, and probably shouldn’t. The obvious is to buy gluten free bread, gluten free waffles, gluten free crackers, etc. But notice the ingredient labels on lots of the pre-packaged gluten free convenience foods— full of words you can’t pronounce and perhaps aren’t even food!

What’s funny is the less obvious and more healthful option of simply eating real, whole foods. Preparing foods from scratch will give you total control over ingredients. And watch that sugar content in what you’re making, because it’s even more inflammatory than gluten.

Stick with grass-fed meats, whole fat, and cultured dairy products, lots of fruit and vegetables (double the amount of veggies than fruit), and you could even eat wild rice, quinoa, brown and white rice, and lentils to keep you satisfied.  You won’t go hungry, especially when getting those healthy fats in every day.

How to find out what foods YOU need to eliminate

Nutrition response testing is a muscle testing modality we use in our practice that can not only help you discover foods you may be struggling with, it can also unveil toxicity and pathogens that may be causing those food intolerances to begin with. Together we can begin working through the process of bringing about optimal health by building your body’s resilience by bringing down the toxicity levels and bringing nutrient dense foods and healing into your body with an individualized plan indicated by your own body’s needs.

If you’ve gone rounds and haven’t found the relief you are looking for, I invite you to join me in a discovery call to see if I can offer you any support.