The elimination diet is the process of eliminating certain foods for a period of time and then reintroducing what has been eliminated to observe how they impact your body. It’s a pretty hot topic in the wellness world right now with Whole30, Paleo, and Low FOD-MAP diets all a version of elimination. These diets aren’t free from their fair share of controversy. These elimination diets are extremely restrictive, and when the guidelines are not followed strictly, people often feel frustrated and deprived.
There is some research that has shown benefits for using elimination diets for food induced ADHD. Many websites and some health professionals also promote elimination for autoimmune diseases; however, more research is needed to support these claims. Historically, this diet has been used to find food intolerance that has not presented in allergy testing such as the skin prick test
With all of the recent hype around this way of eating, I wanted to give it a try. I generally feel “okay” but was curious to see if any specific foods might be contributing to fatigue, acne, sleep disruptions, and joint pain. I set out to follow an elimination protocol for 4 weeks (most protocols range from 4 weeks to 3 months).
The foods that I eliminated included:
Sugar and sugar substitutes
Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, peppers, etc,.)
The foods that I did eat included:
Nuts and nut butters (I did limit peanut butter)
LaraBars in a pinch
I have honestly never felt better! The first few days were definitely the most difficult but nothing close to what I expected. I experienced a few “caffeine headaches”. I made sure to always have plenty of snack options with me so I never felt deprived. The specific results that I noticed most were related to:
- Caffeine: I feel so much more energized without caffeine. I never thought caffeine had much of an effect on me because I can go to bed less than 5 minutes after a cup of coffee. When I reintroduced it after a few weeks, I noticed more restless sleep and heartburn.
- Nightshades: This is another group that I never expected to impact me. This is a confusing food group because we generally consider all vegetables to be healthy – and they are! However, some people have a specific sensitivities to this group of vegetables, but more research is needed to figure out exactly why. I was eating tomatoes and peppers weekly prior to the elimination diet. After elimination and reintroduction, I noticed extreme reflux after eating tomatoes and peppers. As a salsa lover, this was heartbreaking!
- Alcohol: I usually consume 2-3 drinks each week socially. With this minimal consumption, I didn’t expect much response to cutting it out for a few weeks. I was so wrong. I noticed that when I completely cut out alcohol, I slept SO MUCH better and just felt lighter and more energized.
- Sugar: Before the elimination diet, I knew that sugar increased inflammation and sometimes caused my knee pain to flair. During the reintroduction phase of sugar, I noticed joint pain in more than my knees. My hands, neck, and back all ached when I added sugar back to my routine.
- Water: I tried to drink at least 10 glasses of water everyday while eliminating and reintroducing. I didn’t hit this goal everyday but I noticed that my brain fog and energy were significantly improved when I was intentionally drinking more water. I also think this contributed to my improved sleep.
Overall, I had a great experience with the elimination diet and learned some really useful information about my body. Like I said above, this is a super restrictive way of eating for a short period of time to figure out what works best for your body. For me, it was totally worth the disciple; however, if you are considering a restrictive diet like this, please discuss with your doctor to make sure that it is appropriate for you. Also, work with a physician or healthcare professional to monitor your symptoms and outcomes when doing a diet such as the elimination diet. I do not endorse any specific diet and strongly recommend working with a qualified healthcare professional when making any dietary or lifestyle changes.