There are many examples of effective elimination diet protocols available in books, blogs, magazines, and websites (like this very thorough one from Precision Nutrition). Although they are slightly different, they all follow the same basic timeline:
- Eliminate the chosen set of foods for 3 – 4 weeks. This is the wash-out period that will change your immune system, gastrointestinal health, taste buds, and habits. (Note: this is also a good time to do a full cleanse / detox… but we’ll discuss that in a later post!)
- On the first day after the wash-out, select one (and only one) of the eliminated foods and eat it at least once during the day. Monitor for and record any symptoms that appear. (It is helpful if you enter the elimination diet with a list of symptoms that you suspect may be linked to a particular food so you’ll remember what you are looking for. At the same time, be open to other symptoms that you may not have realized are linked to food.)
- On the second day, eat the same food from step 2 twice during the day. Continue monitoring for and recording any symptoms.
- On the third and fourth days, remove the food again and continue monitoring for and recording any symptoms. (The process is 4 days as it can take up to 72 hours for a symptom to appear.)
- Continue steps 2 – 4 for each eliminated food until you have tested your reaction to each eliminated food.
- After each food has been tested, you can permanently reintroduce the foods that did not trigger symptoms for you.
If you have a reaction to a food when you reintroduce it, the process takes a detour…
- Immediately remove the food again… and, if it’s a food you really like, have a short pity-party that you might have to learn to live without that food.
- Wait for all symptoms to resolve.
- Once all symptoms have resolved, pick up the process at the next food to be reintroduced.
For all foods to which you had a reaction and to which you have not already been shown to have antibodies, leave them out of your diet for at least 6 months. This gives your digestive system time to heal and your immune system time to reset. After 6 months, you can test them again using the same protocol as above. It’s possible you have some primary food sensitivities/intolerances and some others that are minor. Once you have removed the primary problem foods, your body may handle other foods perfectly fine, especially if you only eat them every 3 or 4 days.