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Elimination diets are a great way to pinpoint undiagnosed food allergies

Nutrition plays such an important role in health and in many lifestyle-related chronic illnesses. Optimising your diet for your unique needs can be one of the most important interventions for you can do for your health.

The Institute for Functional Medicine's (IFM’s) Elimination Diet is a three-week program designed to identify and tailor your diet for your unique physiology.

After the three weeks are complete, a careful reintroduction of foods can identify previously hidden food triggers that may have been contributing to illness, causing fatigue, and reducing overall vitality.

    Although short-term, the Elimination Diet requires careful planning for success. We advise that you consult your healthcare practitioner and dietitian before starting any elimination diet and work closely with them to construct the best elimination diet for you.


    As a short-term intervention, the Elimination Diet has several benefits:

    • Identify food triggers
    • Reduce inflammation
    • Support the microbiome
    • Increase phytonutrients
    • Promote body awareness to food


    Nutritional changes can necessitate learning new cooking skills and experimenting with new ingredients. Here are some of the common pitfalls:

    1. Not scheduling appropriately

    A proper elimination diet requires a time commitment of about five weeks, including the reintroduction process. Scheduling this over a vacation, wedding, or a bunch of parties can be very challenging. Sometimes it’s better to wait until you have the time to do it correctly.

    2. Having too many processed foods

    Don’t just aim to follow trendy labels like "gluten-free" or "dairy-free." Eating an excessive amount of processed foods, even if they're free of the eliminated foods, may not lead to the results you want. Try to stick with all-natural, whole foods.

    3. Not having enough healthy food

    Because you are eliminating foods, it’s important to plan and make sure that your body gets the nourishment it needs. An easy way to do that is to add in plenty of vegetables, fruit, and 'clean' sources of protein. By doing this, you'll also feel less restricted.

    4. Loading up on certain foods

    Nuts, avocados, and maple syrup and honey are common staples that people tend to enjoy a little too much when on the elimination diet. Eating these in excess can cause GI distress, which can interfere with your ability to pinpoint food sensitivities and give your gut the rest it needs. These foods are also either high in calories, fat, or sugar, which can lead to unintended weight gain.

    5. Restricting calories

    You can’t just take out the bad without putting in more good. For every calorie that you are removing from your diet, you should replace it with one from a nonprohibited food, particularly foods filled with antioxidants, fibre, and phytonutrients, which can help your immune system in a number of ways.

    While some people do use elimination diets to lose weight, restricting calories can create unwanted symptoms like fatigue that mask how you ought to feel. You shouldn’t be starving yourself or skipping meals; rely instead on natural reductions from cutting out processed and inflammatory foods.

    6. Failing to keep a written log of symptoms

    During the reintroduction phase of the process (when you add back the foods you’ve eliminated), you have to write it down and analyze everything you consume right away. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to remember accurately, you’ll never see the patterns, and the whole experiment becomes a missed opportunity. Here’s a simple chart for keeping track.

    7. Expecting that you will feel miraculously better

    Everybody is different, and it may take time to see and feel results. While many people do feel great, don’t expect to feel amazing on Day 1, Day 3, or even Day 15, but rest assured every day is a step closer to healing your gut and identifying triggers for chronic ailments.

    If you’ve unsuccessfully tried an elimination diet previously, now may be the time to try again. By following the proper steps and avoiding these common mistakes, you will better understand which foods you should avoid and which foods fit into a balanced diet that can keep you feeling great.



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    Learn more

    The IFM is a wonderful resource if you would like to learn more about Functional Medicine or if you are a healthcare practitioner wanting to become a certified Functional Medicine practitioner. Learn more about 'Functional Nutrition' in this free online IFM course: Introduction to Functional Nutrition: Clinical Solutions for Addressing the Underlying Causes of Disease.

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