What Is an Elimination Diet?

Updated: Nov 19

You may have heard a lot about an elimination diet, but do you actually know what it is….or why it is such a popular tool in functional medicine and holistic treatments?

As its name suggests, an elimination diet is about eliminating certain foods. Technically, an elimination diet could entail any diet where you are removing a certain type of food or food group, such as gluten, dairy, soy, FODMAPs, oxalates, histamines, and more. Many elimination diets include a list of foods that you should eliminate for a period of time.

What It Isn't

An elimination diet is not intended to be something that you do forever. It is a trial to help you identify problematic foods. The purpose is to test out the elimination of the foods for about four weeks to see if your symptoms improve. After the four weeks, you try to reintroduce the foods, keeping a journal of any symptoms that may return.

The foods to which you do not react, you can reincorporate into your diet, unless you should avoid them for some other health reason, as directed by your doctor, nutritionist, or another healthcare practitioner.

Conversely, those to which you do react remain eliminated for a period of time. Some people may be able to successfully reintroduce those foods months or years later, especially if they heal the underlying reason for the sensitivity or intolerance to the food. However, some may never be able to eat those foods again, depending on the situation, the person's reaction to the food, and the underlying reason for the reaction.

An elimination diet is not about losing weight or about unnecessary limitations. Therefore, it is not a restrictive diet in terms of calories or macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). You can continue to eat the amount of food in the proportion to macronutrients that work for you. The only real restriction is the foods on the do not eat list, although your practitioner may emphasize that you focus on eating certain healing foods.

What You Can and Cannot Eat