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Elimination Diets: Heal Your Gut and Lose Weight (2024)

What is an Elimination Diet?lose weight woman fork and knife

An elimination diet is a short-term dietary approach that can help identify foods causing uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and headaches. The process involves removing certain foods from your diet for a few weeks, then slowly reintroducing them one at a time while monitoring your reaction. This process of elimination and reintroduction allows you to methodically determine your trigger foods. Some people, including myself, have also used elimination diets as a strategy to lose weight as it naturally leads to eating in a calorie deficit.

Why Try an Elimination Diet?lose weight Woman showing apple and bitten doughnut

As a health coach focused on gut health and nutrition, I’ve seen firsthand how impactful identifying food sensitivities can be for my clients. An estimated 20% of people worldwide experience food intolerances, yet they are not always easy to diagnose. Elimination dieting provides an simple, low-cost way to collect evidence on how foods make you feel by systematically testing your response. This process has helped many of my clients overcome symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, migraines and more. Elimination diets also yield surprising benefits like clearer skin, better sleep and reduced inflammation.

How Does an Elimination Diet Work?

An elimination diet typically involves three key phases:

1. Elimination PhaseWoman Slicing Gourd

During this 2-3 week period, you remove foods that commonly cause issues like dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts and nightshades from your meals. This gives your body a chance to heal from any inflammation  triggered by sensitivities.

2. Reintroduction Phaseassorted vegetables

Once the elimination phase is complete, you begin slowly reintroducing foods one at a time over 2-3 days. I recommend spacing introductions about 4-5 days apart so your system has time to respond. Pay close attention for any returning symptoms.

3. Identifying Trigger Foodsperson holding DIET quote board

If symptoms flare up during reintroduction, you’ve likely identified a trigger food to avoid long-term. With patience and awareness, the process reveals your personal sensitivities.

Common Foods to Eliminate

As a nutrition guide focused on gut healing, here are some of the most common foods and food groups I recommend removing during the first phase:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten-containing grains like wheat
  • Eggs
  • Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes and peppers
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits
  • Soy
  • Corn

Create a Healthy Elimination Diet Meal Planelimination diet four clear plastic bowls with vegetables

When you first start an elimination diet, it’s important to plan nutritious alternatives. If you don’t plan and prepare healthy and nutritious meals, that you actually enjoy eating, then you are never going to succeed on an elimination diet. Here is my list of 5 delicious elimination-friendly recipes that I still prepare for myself regularly:

1. Almond Flour Waffles (dairy/gluten-free)

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Combine dry ingredients. Whisk in wet ingredients until smooth. Fry in a preheated waffle iron until golden brown.

2. Turkey Chili with Squash Noodles (nightshade-free)

butternut squash turkey chili noodles

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini, spiralized

Brown turkey and onion. Add garlic, beans, tomatoes and spices. Simmer 30min. Serve over zucchini noodles.

3. Zucchini Noodles with Pesto Sauce (nut-free)a white bowl filled with pesto pasta on top of a table

  • 3 zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Blend basil, garlic and oil until smooth. Toss with zoodles and top with cheese.

4. Coconut Rice with Shrimp (dairy/soy-free)a plate of food

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled
  • Lime wedges

Cook rice in coconut milk until fluffy. Stir in shrimp last 5min of cooking. Serve with lime.

5. Carrot Cake Protein Baked Oats (egg-free)Close-up of a Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1⁄2 cup almond milk
  • 1⁄2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup protein powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Combine wet ingredients and bake at 350°F for 20min.

Be sure to also include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, avocado, olive oil, sweet potatoes and leafy greens to support your gut during the process. Proper planning makes the elimination diet surprisingly easy to follow.

The Benefits of Elimination Dietswoman in red knit sweater holding lemon

In addition to identifying trigger foods, elimination diets provide several benefits:

  • Calms inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract which can improve IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Reduces migraine headaches and other pain caused by inflammatory foods.
  • May improve attention and behavior issues in cases where food sensitivities cause ADHD symptoms.
  • Often leads to clearer skin by removing contributors to conditions like eczema.
  • Can even help you lose weight by avoiding craving-inducing, hard to digest foods.

An elimination diet is also simply an enlightening way to learn more about how your unique body responds to different foods. The self-awareness it provides lasts a lifetime.

Conducting Your Own Elimination Dietperson holding white paper with green grapes

I hope this guide has helped explain everything you need to know to start your own elimination diet journey. As always, consult your doctor or dietitian before making any extensive dietary changes. Approach the process with patience, keep a food journal and focus on how your body feels. With awareness, you have the power to overcome sensitivities and achieve optimal gut health through nutrition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. What is a typical elimination diet?

A typical elimination diet involves removing many of the most common trigger foods for 2-3 weeks. You’ll eliminate things like dairy, gluten grains, eggs, nuts/seeds, corn, citrus fruits, nightshades, soy and alcohol. The goal is to remove major dietary intolerances and give your gut a chance to heal before slowly reintroducing foods.

Q2. What are the 6 foods in the elimination diet?

One of the most well-known elimination diets is sometimes called the “Big 6”. It involves removing the top 6 allergenic foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, and wheat. Many people find taking out just these 6 major food groups is effective at identifying sensitivities and reducing digestive symptoms.

Q3. What is the top 8 elimination diet?

In addition to the Big 6 foods, some nutritionists suggest also removing the next top 2 food intolerances from your diet – soy and citrus fruits. Collectively eliminating the top 8 foods – known as the Big 8 Elimination Diet – gives your body an even deeper cleanse and makes it very likely you’ll pinpoint any sensitivities present.

Q4. What are the top 4 food intolerances?

According to many studies and my experience helping clients, the most common food intolerances are dairy, gluten/wheat, eggs and corn. These top 4 accounted for the overwhelming majority of my clients’ sensitivities. Many people feel significantly better avoiding these foods.

Q5. What are the 3 main food intolerances?

The three food groups I see causing issues for most of my clients are gluten/wheat, dairy and eggs. Together, these make up the majority of food intolerances. So for people wanting to start simply, focusing first on eliminating just these top 3 foods can already deliver noticeable results.

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