Five Steps to Elimination Diet Success

The following is an excerpt from Doctor Stillman’s online course, “Practical Wellness.” To find out more or to subscribe, visit

I have been eliminating and playing with my diet since I was diagnosed with food allergies at the ripe old age of seven. I had to cut out dairy, eggs, and wheat. It did work. I felt better. I could not stick with it, however. The world has come a long way in twenty or so years and it has never been easier to follow an elimination diet. Here are ten quick steps to success on your elimination diet.

  1. Prepare. You can’t just reinvent your diet overnight. You should plan it out. You should research and compile a list of recipes you’re excited to try. Start integrating them into your diet slowly long before you plan to start your elimination diet. Get them just right, so you can smoothly transition to them without feeling like you’re starving for good food. It takes time to learn to cook with new foods, which is what you’ll be doing on an elimination diet.
  2. Rotate. Don’t quit everything all at once. Pick one or two things (more if you think you can handle it) that you think are most likely at the root of your problems. Cycle these things out of your diet for at least two weeks. Cycle them back in and see if you see any worsening of your symptoms. Then pick the next two suspects — rinse and repeat until you’ve found your problem foods.
  3. Find replacements, and make them similar to what you’re used to. If you’re quitting dairy, you have so many options for replacements now it’s almost absurd. They’re even affordable. The importance of replacements should not be understated. You are going to want to eat similar things to what you were already eating. Pay attention to subtle differences too. You may not realize why you even like certain foods. When you eat cake, is it the sweetness you want, or the creaminess of the frosting? Identify what you love about your favorite foods — then go out and find similar foods that are healthy and free of what you’re eliminating.
  4. Eliminate foods with a buddy. There is power in this shared experience. Maybe your buddy has similar problems and is trying to figure out what bothers them. Whether you’re avoiding the same foods or different foods, having someone to talk to, commiserate with, and troubleshoot with can go a long way. You’re also less likely to cheat on your elimination diet if you feel like it would be betraying someone else.
  5. Know what foods you’re avoiding and where they are. There would be nothing worse than going to all the time and trouble of an elimination diet and find out that something you were eating was contaminated. This is why I created Foodwise Mobile! But Foodwise isn’t perfect (we’re working on it — believe me). If your elimination diet isn’t working, get to work reading labels (or scanning barcodes!) to figure out if something you’re eating could be contaminated with something you’re trying to avoid.

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