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How To Navigate An Elimination Diet | Organic Pharmer

By Dr. Susan Blum

elimination diet


Elimination diets are becoming increasingly recognized not only as a method for identifying specific food intolerances, but also as a powerful tool for transforming overall health. By systematically removing and reintroducing certain foods, individuals gain direct insights into how their bodies react to what they eat. This approach can lead to marked improvements in various health metrics, including energy levels, digestive health, and systemic inflammation, offering a clearer pathway to optimizing personal well-being.

The process begins with understanding the relationship between diet and the body's immune response. Foods that commonly cause sensitivities are often integral to our daily meals, making it difficult to identify them without a structured approach. The elimination diet simplifies this discovery process by cutting out these potential triggers, allowing the body a respite from constant immune activation. This break can be crucial for those suffering from chronic conditions, as it allows the body to reset and the individual to notice changes in their health and symptoms.

Supporting this dietary journey is critical, as it involves significant changes to one’s eating habits and lifestyle. Preparation is key, involving planning meals that exclude the targeted foods while ensuring nutritional balance. It is also essential to approach this process with patience and an open mind. Success relies on carefully observing and recording changes in one’s health during the exclusion and reintroduction phases, making the connection between diet and well-being clearer and more actionable. This proactive engagement not only empowers individuals to manage their health better but also paves the way for a deeper understanding of how food affects their body in unique ways. Now on to Dr. Blum's explanation of how to Navigate an Elimination Diet. 

How to Navigate an Elimination Diet

Elimination diets are the most effective way and can be the cheapest way of identifying the foods that trigger inflammation and disease in your body. For many, elimination diets hold the key to conquering chronic pain and I use one with arthritis patients as outlined in my book Healing Arthritis.

The great news, is that elimination diets are generally short and easy to follow. My elimination diet requires just two main steps.

Step 1:  Remove Gluten, Dairy, Corn, Soy, Eggs and Sugar From Your Diet For 3 Weeks

Gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs represent the most common culprits for food sensitivities. Eliminating them makes it likely you’ll be cutting your problem foods from your diet. Sugar is also removed because it is a trigger for inflammation and removing it will help you learn to avoid processed foods, which usually include the common culprits, too.

A lot of times my patients ask me why we are removing all five foods at once, and whether it would be better or just as good to remove one at a time.  However, first you have to remove the foods and feel better, and then you can reintroduce each food one at a time to see if you feel worse.  If you only removed one food, you might not feel better because you are still eating another problem food.  It would be hard to complete the experiment because you might not notice you feel worse when you reintroduce the food, because you never felt better in the first place!

Continuing the diet for three weeks will give your immune system a chance to quiet down without the food triggers around.  More importantly,  it should reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.

Step 2:  Reintroduce Each Food One at a Time

Good job on making it three weeks without eating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar! Now, you begin the second, and final, step, which is the reintroduction of each food, one at a time.

This is when you will gather all the information about whether the food is good for you or not and you’ll uncover some food sensitivities.  Use this symptom chart to help you keep track.

Symptom Chart - Blum

For each food that you reintroduce, think about the symptoms on your list and use none, mild, moderate, or severe to describe your reaction to it in the boxes provided. This will help you remember later when you look back.

After the three weeks on the elimination program, do the following. Introduce one food at a time:  It doesn’t matter which order you choose to reintroduce the foods.  I usually tell my patients to choose the food you miss most to go first. Eat that food at least twice each day, for two days, noticing how you feel.  On day three, don’t eat the food, but continue to observe how you feel. If you have no reaction to the food, you are ready to move on to the next food on day four.

If you do have a reaction – such as headache, rash, brain fog, fatigue, digestive reaction, or other symptoms – stop eating it, and write it down in the above table so you don’t forget later.  [Once you know a particular food isn’t good for you, remove it again.]  The food reaction should go away within a day or two, but for some people it can take longer.  Try the next food: Once that reaction goes away, it is time to try the next food.

Finding out if you are having a noticeable reaction to gluten is important. If you don’t have a reaction and don’t have an autoimmune disease, you can add it back into your diet.  However, keep in mind that gluten is known to damage the gut, and so we still recommend eating it in limited amounts.

Be patient, because it will take you another two weeks or so to reintroduce all the foods you have eliminated. At the end of those weeks, you should now know whether gluten, dairy, corn, soy, or eggs are creating an immune reaction in your body.

Once you’ve identified the triggers you can successfully avoid them. But the better news is that it may not be permanent. Some people, after an additional period of healing, can reintroduce the foods and be symptom-free. In my own experience, I have been eating a diet 95% free of these foods for more than ten years, my reactions when I do eat them are minor compared to what they once were. They are still there, but it’s much more pleasant than it used to be!


Looking for some assistance with your elimination diet? All of the products at Organic Pharmer are elimination friendly! Always organic, plant-based and Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Corn Free and Egg Free. Shop here!

dr susan blumLeading Functional Medicine Physician
Founder of Blum Center for Health, Dr. Blum is a leader in the fast-growing field of functional medicine. She is the author of the best-selling book The Immune System Recovery Plan and most recent book Healing Arthritis. Her expertise at Organic Pharmer ensures that every ingredient has a medical reason and health benefit and that every dish is nutritionally sound.

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