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The elimination diet

Reviewed by Dr. Amber Hayden, DO

If you have digestive symptoms, certain foods you eat regularly may be to blame. An elimination diet will help you pinpoint troublesome foods by giving you the information you need to avoid dietary culprits and allow your gut to heal.

elimination diet food sensitivities

The elimination diet is simple in concept and you can do it on your own. It takes some time to complete, but it is a tried-and-true method for identifying the specific foods and ingredients that can wreak havoc on your belly when you ingest them. This diet has rescued thousands of women from the misery of gastric distress and it can help you too.

Your digestive symptoms may be caused by an exotic delicacy, but common, everyday foods are often even more problematic. While you may not have a full-blown allergy to a food or ingredient, your system may still be sensitive to it. And it’s quite possible that you simply eat too much of a problem food, or you eat it too often. Any of these scenarios can be tested using our elimination diet.

We offer easy-to-follow guidelines as part of our at-home Digestive Reset, but the principles of our elimination diet are straightforward:

1. Write it down: keep a food diary.

Over the course of a few weeks, keep track of all the food you eat and how it makes you feel. Write down everything you eat and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and include snacks, desserts, cocktails and other liquids — and even the little morsels you pop in your mouth while cooking, etc.

Also record any digestive changes or other symptoms you notice after eating, and when they occur. Make sure to jot down everything, even if it seems unrelated to food. While gas and heartburn are obvious digestive effects, fatigue, mood swings, congestion or feeling foggy are not, but they can also be related to a food sensitivity. Even if it feels tedious, maintain your diary — it’s the key to revealing the secret foods that spell trouble for your digestion.

After a few weeks, look back at your diary entries. Can you see any connections between particular foods you ate and symptoms you noticed afterwards? This can be easier to spot if you’ve eaten the food several times and have noted symptoms (the same or different) each time within a few hours of ingestion. And note: many people have more than one troublemaker on their menus, so write down information about all suspicious foods and drinks.

2. Cut it out: eliminate symptom-causing foods.

After you pinpoint the foods that may be linked to your belly issues, you will eliminate them from your diet, at least temporarily. To save time, you can cut all of them out at once. Common trigger foods include dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, alcohol, cocoa, corn, and certain additives like colorings, preservatives and artificial ingredients, but there are many others that have bad reputations. (You’ll find a more complete list accompanying our Digestive Reset.)

If you think one of your trigger foods is gluten, for example, you will completely remove gluten from all your meals. You’ll need to be vigilant to ensure that you cut out all sources of gluten. The obvious foods will be breads and rolls, wheat-based cereals and cookies. But gluten can hide in unlikely food sources as well, like salad dressings, marinades and condiments — so you will need to also set those aside during this phase of the diet.

3. Timing is everything: don’t eat suspect foods for a full 14 days.


Digestive issues develop — and can worsen — over time, so you’ll need to completely avoid each trigger food for two weeks. This helps ensure that all the food is fully out of your system. It also gives your digestive tract time to calm down and return to a baseline.

When you’ve finished the elimination period and are clearly symptom-free, it’s time for the moment of truth: reintroducing the suspected trigger food. (If you have multiple foods to test, you will need to reintroduce them one by one, with a “rest” period in between each.) Eat an average portion of the selected food — all by itself — after you get up in the morning.

Using the gluten example again, you would start by eating something containing gluten, like wheat toast. Don’t eat any other food, and don’t drink anything except water for at least the next 2 hours. This will isolate that one suspect food and allow you to confirm whether or not that food causes symptoms.

You probably won’t have to wait long — most food reactions occur within an hour of consumption. If you have a clear reaction, bingo! You’ve identified a problem food. If you have only a minor reaction, have another portion of the suspect food and wait another couple of hours. If you have no reaction, that food is likely not your culprit.

4. One by one: test each food alone before you try another.

After your first test, wait 3-4 days, and introduce your next food in the same manner until you’ve tested all suspect foods. Make sure to write in your food journal how you feel after each food.

And don’t forget that sometimes, a particular food isn’t the source of the problem, but an offender on or in the food, perhaps a chemical or pesticide. You can help pin this down by introducing only organic forms of potential problem foods first. If you get no reaction, you’ll know at the very least that the food itself can stay on your safe list, just in organic form.

Enjoy eating again!

Will you have to live forever without eating a banned favorite food? Maybe not. We recommend avoiding trigger foods for 1-3 months. Then you can introduce them again, allowing 3-4 days between servings, and see what happens. You may be able to eat that food again every now and then, in moderation of course. Listen to your belly — it will tell you which foods are friendly and which ones to avoid.


An elimination diet is a bit time consuming, but the results will prove to you that it’s worth it. Knowing for sure what you can eat — and what you can’t — can help you feel good, happy and healthy every day. Along with relief from gas, bloating, constipation and nausea, you’ll experience relief for other less obvious symptoms and will have more energy.

When you’ve completed your elimination diet, you can replace your trigger foods with whole, nutritious choices like vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, and healthy grains (that don’t contain gluten!).

Along with our full elimination diet, we provide a detailed list of foods and recipes in our eGuide that comes with the Digestive Reset. You also get our Super Biotic and L-Glutamine to help with symptoms and healing while supporting your metabolism, gastro-intestinal tract and immune system.

Last Updated: January 10, 2022
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