What To Expect From An Elimination Diet

One effective way to address food intolerances and sensitivities.

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Men ask me about elimination diets a lot. Some of the guys have specific health issues they’re trying to solve (like irritable bowel syndrome), while others’ concerns are more vague (like ‘brain fog’).

Either way, an elimination diet is a good place to start. By temporarily removing certain foods, then slowly reintroducing them back into your diet, you may find a culprit for your health concerns.

Even if you don’t find a direct cause, you’ll learn a lot about your body and its relationship to common foods.

And that can be some pretty powerful knowledge.

What should I remove?

The more widely you restrict foods, the more quickly you can work through the process of elimination. A thorough elimination diet will remove gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans/lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade vegetables. This cuts out the most common allergens and problematic foods.

Admittedly, that example is pretty restrictive. Depending on your health concerns, you may focus on one or two particular areas first (for example, gluten and dairy), while still eating the full range of fruits and vegetables.

The goal is not to remove these foods forever, but to learn which foods agree with your body, and which ones don’t.

During the diet, it’s also important to consume adequate amounts of water: aim for between two to four liters daily.

When do I reintroduce foods back into my diet?

The length of an elimination diet can vary depending on your age and the severity of your symptoms.  Most guys do well following the program for around three to four weeks.

That means after three weeks of elimination, you would reintroduce a single food for a single day only.  And then monitor your symptoms for two days.

For example, say you reintroduce dairy on a Monday.  That day you could have some cheese, ice cream, and a glass of milk. Then you would return to your elimination diet, and monitor for any abnormal reactions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you have no observable symptoms, you may try reintroducing another food (i.e. eggs) on Thursday.  You can continue this process for a couple more weeks, reintroducing one new food every few days, until you’ve determined what foods are causing you problems (if any).

The whole process will take approximately five or six weeks and, at the end of the experiment, you’ll know a heck of a lot about how your body responds to different foods.

What should I look for?

Pay attention to how you’re feeling.  For example, monitor your sleep, mood, energy, digestion, bowel habits, etc. I recommend keeping a journal throughout the diet and tracking any physical, mental, or emotional signs and symptoms.

If you feel better during the elimination period (i.e. more energy, better sleep), it may indicate that a food you commonly eat is causing you problems.

Make sure to log any symptoms – negative or positive – during the reintroduction.  Negative reactions can include:

  • insomnia

  • fatigue

  • joint pain and/or inflammation

  • skin breakouts or rashes

  • headaches

  • bowel changes or GI pain

  • bloating

  • brain fog

  • sinus or other respiratory issues

Stay positive

Regardless of the outcome, an elimination diet can teach you a lot. It can help you know your body better, minimize health issues, and help you eat well for your body’s particular needs.

But elimination diets can also take a lot of patience and self-discipline. So be nice to yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for making the effort. Your body thanks you.


Looking for the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle advice for you? Download this free guide: Fitness for men: The busy man's guide to getting in shape and living better.


And for more about Dr. John Berardi, including links to his latest men's health articles, click here.

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