Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Milo Martinovich
Having trouble with digestion, excessive gas, inflammation, sleeping, or other adverse reaction to subtle adjustments to your eating? That’s when it may be time to start an elimination diet.
Some people just don’t tolerate certain foods well. They may cause serious conditions or just a nuisance, like bloating. This can change as you age as well. For example, I never had problems with bell peppers of any sort, but now they make me burp for hours, regardless of my preparation of them.
Performing an elimination diet can narrow down your dietary intake to foods that most suit you and cause little to no ill effects. But, the process can seem challenging and confusing. So, I put together a guide on how to start an elimination diet and the exact protocol I’d recommend.
How does an elimination diet work?
An elimination diet works by only eating foods you know your body responds well to and slowly adding in more variety over time while tracking your results from adding in different foods. As you progress, you’ll easily spot those foods who give you a problem and allow the foods that agree with you to stay in your regular intake.
The process can be as long, or short, as you’d like it to be. However, the longer you stick to a rigid process, the more you’ll learn about your body and the more foods you’ll discover that you can enjoy without any problems arising.
What can you eat on the elimination diet?
While there are tons of elimination diet plans out there, I think my design is simple and borrows the best ideas from many different plans. I divide it into 5 phases to work through over time.
Elimination diet phase 1
This phase is known as the Carnivore phase. If you haven’t heard about the Carnivore diet and all of the benefits reaped from this style of eating, you are missing out (sorry Vegans).
Eating a strict Carnivore diet of muscle and organ meats from Ruminant animals and including some grass-fed butter and/or tallow and seasoning your food with salt alone is the start of this process. You can also utilize bone broth, so long as it isn’t made with anything other than bones/meat, water, salt, and a little vinegar to extract the collagen.
Don’t worry, you aren’t going to have any nutrient deficiencies if you do this right. People eat Carnivore for years on end and are perfectly healthy. For more on the Carnivore way of life, I recommend checking out The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino.
Luckily, for an elimination diet, you only need to stay Carnivore long enough for all symptoms of your usual dietary intake to disappear. That means no more digestive issues. You shouldn’t need any Pepto Bismol (nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea)…I know you sang that in your head just like I did!
For most people 30 days is plenty.
Next, we approach adding in more food to the diet with fermentation. The idea comes from the GAPS protocol, which relies on fermented foods greatly.
Stick to fruits and vegetables that you enjoy and know you know you don’t react to. Start with one fruit or vegetable for a few days and add in one at a time as you discover your response to the previous additions.
The fermentation removes a huge chunk of the anti-nutrients and negative substances found in vegetables and fruits, making them more digestible for us.
This phase can last for a long time depending on the number of fermented fruits and vegetables you’d like to live with.
Most people don’t prefer fermented foods all the time, so moving to the next phase will open up more possibilities.
All those foods from the previous 2 phases that you responded well to can be eaten daily if you’d like. In this phase, we’ll look at your tolerance for boiled fruits and vegetables. You can try all the same varieties from the last phase, as fermentation and boiling both works to reduce anti-nutrients.
You may find that some foods work well when fermented but not boiled, and vice versa. Again, this phase lasts as long as you want to figure out what fruits and vegetables you can enjoy boiled.
Now, we can repeat the process from the last two phases but with raw fruits and vegetables. As I said, you probably don’t want to eat all your fruits and vegetables boiled or fermented for the rest of your life, so finding which you can enjoy raw is important.
Don’t be discouraged when you find that this list is smaller since plant toxins are not nullified. These compounds can cause you digestive distress when consumed raw, so your list of raw fruits and vegetables that agree with you may be small.
By now you have meats and fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy either fermented, boiled, or raw. Some people may stop here as they have a complete menu to choose from.
But, others want to try out nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, and other foods. These foods are usually much more reactive than the first 4 phases of foods.
You can go through the same processes from phases 2 through 4 for foods you want to eat regularly. For example, you might want to test fermented oats, boiled rice, and raw walnuts. Pick and choose your preparation method for your preferred food and go one by one as you continue expanding your food menu.
This phase can be indefinite since you already have a large number of foods to fall back on whenever you’d like.
How long does it take for an elimination diet to work?
You can experience relief from your symptoms in a matter of weeks. To find out a plethora of foods that react well with you may take months or even years.
The answer to this is based on the individual and how long they want to try this out. You can jump in and out of the phases as you wish.
Can you drink coffee on an elimination diet?
I wouldn’t since it contains Caffeine, which can cause digestive stress. Even decaf still risks containing mycotoxins, which are not good for anybody.
Do you lose weight on an elimination diet?
If your body is overly inflamed from your diet, you may lose water weight readily once starting. But, for most, the foods you eliminate aren’t the cause of weight gain, per se.
Eating a healthier diet overall may help you lose weight, but you can still overeat healthy foods and gain weight.
What can I eat for breakfast on the elimination diet?
No eggs, processed meats like bacon, cereals, or bread. What can an elimination diet breakfast even be?!
The typical breakfast foods are out, but you could enjoy Greek Yogurt with active cultures and maybe some raw honey, if you tolerate it, as early as phase 2 if you can’t shake your need for a “normal” breakfast.
Or, you can use this time to test out the benefits of Keto and Intermittent Fasting and reap those benefits at the same time you embark on an elimination diet.
Your Elimination diet shopping list
Grass-fed, organic Ruminant meats, and organs (beef, lamb, bison, including steaks, ground meat, liver, etc.)
Bones for broth or use the bones from your meat cuts
Salt – preferably natural, like Pink Himalayan
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar to make broth
Other meats, like Chicken and Pork – shouldn’t be the main focus
Your favorite, organic fruits, and vegetables, one at a time, for fermentation
Greek Yogurt with active cultures
Raw honey, if tolerated
Organic fruits and vegetables to experiment with boiling
Organic fruits and vegetables to eat raw
All other foods you want to experiment with, one at a time
Ready for your experiment?
Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how an elimination diet can work for you. It’s a slow and deliberate process, but it’s well worth the time invested!
Have any tips or have you completed an elimination diet yourself? Tell us your story in the comments below.