Health Professionals offer Insight on Elimination Diet Benefits & Guidelines

Elimination Diet Tips

The Elimination Diet is a framework for better understanding how food and nutrition impact overall health and wellbeing. This powerful nutritional tool is used by health practitioners around the world to help their patients better understand their unique nutritional needs. To better understand how the Elimination Diet can be applied to help create a more balanced health plan, I reached out to several health professionals to lend their perspective.

Quick Rundown: What is the Elimination Diet

The Elimination Diet is a dietary protocol that dictates that certain types of foods are to be removed for a period, during which the body can experience life without their burden. After the initial elimination period foods are introduced, one by one, back into the diet to gauge how they may be impacting health and wellness. The number of foods eliminated, as well as the length of the elimination period, are subject to interpretation. The Elimination Diet is a framework that can be adapted to meet the needs of the individual. For an in-depth discussion read our article The Elimination Diet: When You Feel Like Sh*t and Don’t Know Why.

Elimination Diet Consultation
Elimination Diets are powerful tools but should always be done in concert with a licensed professional

Professional Insight

Health matters are so wildly dependent on individual circumstances that it’s always advisable to consult with a professional when considering a change in diet or medications. What works for one could destroy another and having professional oversight is an indispensable resource for those seeking better health. When endeavoring to apply the Elimination Diet to one’s own life, it’s important to be aware of any pre-existing conditions that may increase the chances of an unfavorable outcome. For instance; a person suffering from a Vitamin C deficiency, rare as that may be, should consider how the removal of many high-vitamin C foods from their diet may further exacerbate symptoms of that deficiency. For some deeper insight into the benefits of the Elimination Diet, considerations to make before undertaking the diet, and what to expect, I reached out to several health professionals to offer their perspective on the subject.

What are some of the benefits of the Elimination Diet you’ve seen in your practice?

The Elimination Diet is able to be catered to the needs of an individual by addressing unique health symptoms and responses to certain types of foods. This diet doesn’t require any special recipes, mail-order supplements, or crazy calorie counting but can be much more powerful when catered to an individual’s specific needs. Health practitioners are able to get a first-hand experience of this diet’s potential to address many different health conditions. To get a better idea of the types of benefits that others are finding after beginning an Elimination Diet, consider the accounts of these professionals:

I use elimination diets often in my practice. I work a lot with individuals with digestive disorders and find it can be a helpful tool to determine foods contributing to their digestive issues. The downside is that this can be a restrictive diet which sometimes makes compliance a challenge. However, an elimination diet is not meant to eliminate certain food forever, but rather take them out for a period of time and then re-introduce them.

I use the Wahls Elimination diet …. which is an adaptation of the Wahls Diet. It is very helpful for neurological, psychiatric and autoimmune conditions.

I use the Wahls Elimination diet …. which is an adaptation of the Wahls Diet. It is very helpful for neurological, psychiatric and autoimmune conditions.

I use the elimination diet, or some version of it, in my practice frequently. I often find that an elimination diet is an excellent way to pinpoint common foods that are causing inflammation and contributing to health imbalances. Many clients report reduced aches and pain, congestion, digestive discomfort, and a positive change in their overall health while participating in an elimination diet.

Unfortunately, many clients seeking nutritional advice have complaints about what I call “the mysteries” (undiagnosable digestive issues, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, skin problems). I always make sure my client has visited their doctor to discuss symptoms and have appropriate testing. If nothing is revealed from that consultation, we examine their current diet and I suggest eliminating common offenders that they are consuming regularly when symptoms are present (wheat, dairy, soy, corn, etc). If they are willing we eliminate these foods for 6 weeks while creating a meal plan that meets nutritional needs. Then we add one food back at a time (favorites first), one week at a time to determine any resulting symptoms. They keep a journal. The downside of this approach is compliance. It’s a pain. And if we’re talking about multiple foods, it can take months. But what I always say is what’s a few months compared to the rest of your life discomfort-free?

I frequently use customized forms of elimination diets in my practice. I have found them to be very beneficial in assisting clients with weight loss and healing chronic illnesses that are the result of chronic low-grade inflammation.

I recommend an elimination diet for all of my clients if they are not already practicing one. The specifics vary based on the client and their case, but I recommend removing gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol at a minimum, for at least 30 days, so we can evaluate the degree to which these foods are involved with their symptoms. I may suggest other foods if it seems like they could be a problem. For people for whom this would be a huge challenge, I design a plan to help them slow down the elimination process, so they can be successful.

Health Concerns Illustration
The Elimination Diet’s flexible framework allows it to address a wide range of health concerns.

What health concerns have you found the Elimination Diet to be particularly effective in addressing?

The Elimination Diet allows one to isolate food as a potential cause of many health issues. This approach won’t necessarily offer specific insight into how a food is causing issues—it only demonstrates what life may be like without that food. Some health concerns are much more influenced by foods than others and are likely to see more profound changes when an Elimination Diet is put into place. To get a better idea of the types of issues people are finding the Elimination Diet to be most beneficial in addressing, consider the following accounts:

The elimination diet has worked really well when it comes to diseases related to inflammation and diseases related to digestion. In my clients specifically who experience inflammation and digestive symptoms, their symptoms are reduced drastically or completely resolve when they are put on an elimination diet.

Elimination diets are the gold standard when it comes to figuring out food sensitivities. Despite all the finger prick or saliva swap food sensitivity/intolerance testing available, a true elimination diet is still considered the gold standard as many of those tests are unreliable- showing both false positives and false negatives. Sure the elimination takes more time and probably money, but it also ensures higher accuracy.

It has been very helpful for reducing pain, improving energy, improving mood. It is also very helpful for reducing weight in the overweight/ obese patients.

I feel there are a lot of health conditions where elimination diets can be beneficial. Again, I primarily use it with digestive disorders but they can also be used for issues such as skin problems, kids on the Autism spectrum, and several autoimmune disorders just to name a few.

The elimination diet has been used as the go-to protocol in functional nutrition therapies for gut issues. One of the most noted symptoms in gut dysbiosis is bloating. We use the “four R’s” as the stages of treatment: Removal or elimination diet of potential dietary offenders like soy, dairy, gluten, or corn; replacement with beneficial foods and nutrients; re-inoculation with pro-bacteria and prebiotics; and repair through diet, lifestyle, and nutraceuticals modifications.

Laurie Endicott Thomas
Elimination diets can provide relief from some serious inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. For many patients, simply removing the offending foods from the diet is enough to solve the problem. Elimination diets can solve many problems that people would not imagine are dietary, such as many cases of inflammatory arthritis or a migraine headache. In general, any mysterious chronic health problem should be presumed to be at least partly the result of diet, until proven otherwise by an elimination diet.

I think that is someone is struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory diseases, migraines, etc. then an elimination diet can help identify what foods are triggers for the person and need to be avoided or eliminated.

The elimination diet is all about reducing inflammation so that the body can focus on healing. Since inflammation lies at the heart of most chronic conditions, this approach can be very effective as the first step in healing.

If food is truly the problem, digestive issues generally resolve. Migraines, which are often blamed on food, are complicated and while they may get better after eliminating certain foods, often require a multidisciplinary approach (I speak from experience). There are currently no reliable tests for “sensitivity”. [Elimination] is the only way to determine if a food is really the problem. It also helps eliminate food fear if we determine that the suspected ingredient is in fact not the issue.

It’s most effective in addressing disease stemming from chronic low-grade inflammation, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, anything autoimmune, migraines, the list goes on and on.

Elimination diets are particularly useful for any inflammatory health condition. And because most health conditions have abnormal inflammation at their roots, reducing inflammation with dietary practices will help with many issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, autoimmune conditions, IBS, and many more.

Supplements head illustration
Short term Elimination Diets don’t typically benefit from supplements but longer-term implementations may.

What is your opinion on the use of dietary supplements while on the Elimination Diet?

Any diet has a nutritional component that should be considered—especially when said diet involves the addition or removal of major food groups. The Elimination Diet is designed to offer insights based on short-term (~4 weeks) dietary changes that involve removing lots of different types of foods. In most cases, there aren’t any great nutritional issues that would arise from such short-term restriction. However, those with existing nutritional deficiencies might find themselves in a much worse state of being without proper supplementation. A professional can order and analyze the types of tests one needs to be certain that all nutritional risks of the Elimination Diet have been minimized. In some cases, supplementation might be a preferable course of action:

I evaluate patients for nutritional deficiencies based on their history, physical examination and lab tests as indicated by history/ physical exam. It can be very helpful to address vitamin D def, correct homocysteine, and insulin resistance. Additional testing may be necessary to guide more specific supplementation.

Molly Morgan
Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all elimination diet, the duration of the diet would influence my opinion if dietary supplements are needed. In general, I would say no – supplements are not needed but that varies from person to person.

Many dietary supplements contain common allergens, which are ingredients avoided on an elimination diet. Aside from a professional quality multivitamin with clean ingredients, I prefer to limit supplements and focus on food while on an elimination diet. If it is done properly, an elimination experience focuses on much more than simple dietary restriction. This can be an incredible opportunity to shift one’s approach to food and eating, which has lasting benefits long after the elimination diet is complete.

If gluten and dairy are ingredients in question, supplements containing them should be eliminated. Or, the client can switch to a gluten/dairy free brand.

I think dietary supplements or nutraceuticals are critical in the repair and maintenance of cellular health. Even if we eat a well-balanced diet, there are still vitamins and minerals (and sometimes fatty acids or amino acids) that are required to have the healthiest expression of our body possible. The key is not to replace traditional pharmaceutical options with supplements and instead, to make the lifestyle changes required to heal the body at the root cause.

Inflammation and poor dietary practices can deplete the body of certain nutrients. American agricultural soils are also deficient in certain minerals like magnesium and zinc, due to ongoing poor farming practices. Including supportive supplements to plug these leaks for a client is very useful for helping the body repair the damage done by the health challenges, and shorten the time to see results. I often find my clients are deficient in B vitamins, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, probiotics, and others. As we remove inflammatory foods with the elimination diet, I also work to help the client include nutrient-dense foods that provide nutrients they may be deficient in and also provide supplements to provide further support.

I tend to avoid supplements while on an elimination diet since it can be hard to know where certain supplements ingredients are derived from. For example, vitamin C in supplements is often derived from corn and Vitamin E is often derived from soy- two ingredients eliminated in an elimination diet.

I tend to not supplement with it as I only do the initial phase for 4-5 week’s but if someone is keeping it long term then it is worthwhile checking blood for nutritional deficiencies and repleting accordingly.

Elimination Diet Illustration
The Elimination Diet has potential to help address many chronic health issues but should always be catered to the individual under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Closing Thoughts

The Elimination Diet provides us with a powerful framework by which we can better understand the role foods play in our overall health and wellbeing. The real power behind of this diet is its ability to reveal a personalized eating plan without a battery of expensive food sensitivity tests. Certainly, those tests may still be needed for some, but the Elimination Diet can be an effective (and more affordable!) first step for those seeking a better understanding of their own dietary needs. The Elimination Diet is designed to be a short-term diet meant to provide insights to design a long-term dietary outline better. One could easily begin to develop nutritional deficiencies if continuing a restricted diet over a long period. Either way; consulting with a licensed professional to help guide you through the process, as well as apply the insights gained, will ensure your greatest chance of success with the Elimination Diet.

Contributors

These professionals were kind enough to take time away from their busy schedules and provide deeper insight into the issues of magnesium deficiencies, magnesium supplements, and everything related. For more information regarding their qualifications, practices, and unique specializations I encourage readers to visit each of their websites and take advantage of the informational resources available there.

Dr. Stacy Berman, Ph.D

Dr. Stacy Berman is the founder of The System by Stacy, a luxury line of organic whey protein powders. She holds a Doctorate in Natural Medicine and her background combines over twenty years in the health and fitness industry with scientific research to reveal how our thoughts affect the way we feel. Her work on body image disorders has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Healthline, The Doctors, ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, MD

Dr. Feuerstein is currently the director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital, where he runs an insurance-based consultation service using nutrition, hypnosis, acupuncture, botanicals and stress management to help treat chronic medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol hypertension, coronary heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

Dr. Terry Wahls, MD

Dr. Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A., where she teaches internal medicine residents in their primary care clinics. Dr. Wahls also does clinical research and has been published in over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers.

Dr. Alexis Conason PSY.D

Dr. Alexis Conason is a licensed psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in the treatment of overeating disorders, body image, and psychological issues related to bariatric surgery. She also treats people struggling with sexual functioning, depression, anxiety, adjustment problems, relationship issues, and other psychological issues.

Stella Metsovas

Author of Wild Mediterranean: The Age-old, Science-new Plan for a Healthy Gut and strong advocate of healthy eating habits which hold dear the ways of our ancestral past.

Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD

Molly Morgan is a registered dietitian that works closely with Fortune 500 companies, major national brands, and professional sports teams to better understand the role of nutrition in optimizing performance. She is the owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions and creates interactive workshops for organizations to better understand the role of nutrition in their member’s performances.

Emily Cerda, MS, CNS, LDN

Emily is a Board Certified clinical nutritionist with an M.S.in Nutrition & Integrative Health. She is also the parent of a child with multiple life-threatening food allergies, an educator, and a vocal advocate for food allergy awareness and children’s nutrition. In 2016 she founded Thrive InsideNutrition, an integrative clinical practice that focuses on food allergy &sensitivity.

Barbie Boules, RDN, CHC

Barbie Boules was born in Italy and raised in Chicago She is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Coach. She holds an RDN from Loyola University Chicago and a Health Coach Certification from the National Society of Health Coaches. Additionally, she is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition, Culinary nutrition, food allergies, and vegetarian nutrition.

Lisa Hayim, MS, RD

Lisa started her journey in the healthcare field with the desire to look and feel better. Her mantra, “Eat Real and Be Mindful” help guide her practice, the Well Necessities, and her video information resources project TWV TV.

Audrey Christie, MSN, RN, CCMA

Audrey is a holistic wellness with functional medicine + energetic medicine approach to wellness. Her processes are simple and get to the root cause using a holistic approach that includes the body, mind, and spirit.

Amanda Malachesky, FNLP, FDN-P, CINHC, CMT

Amanda Malachesky is a Functional Nutrition Practitioner, who helps people with complex, confusing health issues find root cause resolution by creating a connected relationship with their body. She is the founder of Confluence Nutrition, a virtual functional Nutrition clinic, based in Northern California, and she is passionately engaged in reimagining health care in America.

Malorie Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT

Malorie is an integrative registered dietitian nutritionist with over a decade of experience teaching clients on how to improve their life through eating better. Malorie also works as a Dietician within Eduplated, a novel new service to help connect people to health professionals. Malorie focuses on incorporating whole foods, using targeted supplementation and appropriate functional medicine testing in order to help treat and manage numerous health conditions.

Zack West

Zack West

Editor

Editor of the Organic Newsroom, self-confessed health nut, and spends much of his time working to better understand issues of modern health, nutrition, and living a balanced lifestyle.

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