What is the elimination diet?

My wife and I knew it was time for a change. We were a six months away from our wedding date and we wanted to get in shape. The lifestyle of dental school and working life had made unflattering changes to our bodies. Essentially, we wanted to get in shape before we said ‘I do.’ We joined a gym to begin our fitness journey. After a month we were seeing some results, but not as rapidly as we needed. Gym leaders discussed the opportunity to participate in an ‘elimination style’ diet. I had never heard of an elimination diet before, but we were both intrigued. Our decision to participate in the diet provided us the results we desired in time for our special day. But what is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is nothing new. Originally published in 1944, Elimination Diets and the Patient’s Allergies, Dr. Albert Rowe proposed a diet that selectively eliminates certain foods to identify patient allergies. The model of the diet is essentially a test for your body. The diet is structured to be completed over the course of two to four weeks. There are two main phases of the diet: elimination and reintroduction. The first phase of the diet requires a cleansing phase, which is the elimination phase. During this phase foods simply need to be eliminated from your diet. Although it may seem simple, the first week of the diet can be a real challenge. The purpose of the elimination phase is just that– to eliminate foods from your diet that you may unknowingly react to.  

There are several foods that can be initially eliminated. When we completed the diet we followed a paleo-type model, which is common for elimination diets. A paleo-type elimination diet is one of the more rigid elimination models. According to WebMD, common food allergens tested  include milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, shellfish and soy. Therefore elimination of foods that contain these ingredients may be a good place to start when considering the diet. It can be as simple as eliminating one of these food groups or all of them. The benefit of the diet is that it lets you explore foods that may be negatively affecting you.

After cleansing your body, it is important to begin adding suspect foods back individually. Add each food item back one-at-a-time over a few days helps determine how your body responds. Over the course of a month, I found that processed dairy products causes my face to break out. This allowed me to learn that if I avoid processed dairy products I can have clearer skin. It must be noted that each individual may develop different sensitivities to different foods. The purpose of the diet is to identify the foods that have negative effects on your body and eliminate them. It may even take multiple rounds to pinpoint specific reactions to foods. I can attest that the more times you try eliminating food the easier it gets.

I am certain I would not have been as successful with the diet without the support of my wife. If you are interested in experimenting with the diet I recommend trying it with a roommate, classmate or significant other. Meal preparation will easier with multiple people and will provide a support system. Changes to lifestyle are difficult, but development of a support system can help.  Following reintroduction, you can decide if you would like to permanently the irritating foods. But if you choose to not eliminate them at least you know the consequences.   


ASDA’s Wellness Month is generously supported by ADA student members insurance plans underwritten by Great-West Financial.

~Jerad Servais, Minnesota ’18, electronic editor

Jerad Servais

Jerad Servais is a fourth-year dental student at the University of Minnesota school of dentistry. When he is not performing duties as an electronic editor for ASDA he enjoys spending time with his wife, family and friends.

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