Elimination Diet Isn't Working?

January 14, 2020
Diet & Nutrition

It's the season for new beginnings! And many of us are trying to start (and keep!) new habits. At this time of the year, many people decide to eliminate one or more foods or food groups from their daily diet; some do it in pursuit of good health trying to "undo" the holiday overeating, some to get rid of annoying gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, unpredictable bowels, some others because it's a fresh start to the year and they have been waiting to implement their doctors' recommendations and many others in the hope of losing some weight. No matter what the reason, after 3 weeks of an 'elimination diet', it can be frustrating if you do not notice any positive changes whatsoever!
There can be multiple reasons why you aren't seeing changes in your health. These are important to consider and address. Here I have listed these reasons in the order of most likely to least likely as I have observed in our clinical practice:

Reason#1: The eliminated foods/food groups aren’t problematic for you
Though this may sound like a very obvious reason it can often get ignored. Most elimination diets require you to leave out the “usual suspects” including:

  • Sugar
  • Wheat/gluten containing grains
  • Dairy
  • Red meat

However, in addition to these foods there are other foods that can be potential troublemakers. Since each of us is a genetically unique individual, besides functional deficits, some people may not have the ability to process all components of even seemingly healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Consider getting a food sensitivity panel through your doctor. Food sensitivities are very different than food allergies and the one we offer at our practice tests for over 85 different foods! The information from that the test results reveal can be used to design a more specific elimination diet beneficial for you.

Reason#2: Increased intake of processed foods
In an effort to eliminate specific foods, people often start buying packaged foods that are labelled as being compliant to their diet. Labels such as gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat, paleo etc. are very attractive but it is important not to overlook the actual ingredients list in any packaged food. Multiple chemical additives and preservatives often make their way into “special” packaged foods to help these foods taste and stay good. This is not always the case, but be sure to read the actual ingredients and rely more on fresh foods than packaged foods.

Reason#3: Food elimination is not enough!
Let’s say that you have persisted at least 4 weeks with an elimination diet designed based on a food sensitivity panel and have minimized use of packaged foods, and even then, you see no benefit or positive change in your symptoms or overall health- this most likely indicates that food may not be the root cause of your troubles. It is time to look at other factors influencing your health.
A weakened, diseased or sub-optimally functioning digestive system, adrenal or other endocrine imbalances or nutrient deficiencies are important factors to investigate when an elimination diet fails. Once these other factors are addressed, your practitioner may recommend repeating an elimination diet to assess if specific foods can aggravate or cause your symptoms to revert.



If you or someone you know, has tried elimination diets and have had limited or zero success in improving your symptoms or actually identifying trigger foods, it is time to take alternate factors into consideration.

It is essential to know that food sensitivity tests are different than food allergy tests.A thorough food sensitivity panel must include not just the usual suspects, but even "innocent" fruits and veggies like avocados, mangoes, tomatoes, celery, spinach, kale  to name a few, foods that you wouldn’t typically doubt of being  problematic foods.

Food sensitivities are different from food allergies and can manifest in both obvious or subtle ways such as weight gain, lethargy, hormonal irregularities, migraines, skin disorders, mood swings and even anxiety. Repeated ingestion of such foods can lead to complications such as increased inflammation, especially in the digestive system, making you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, which in turn can cause other symptoms. To summarize, it is as important to investigate food sensitivities as it is to investigate severe and life-threatening food allergies.

Here’s the best part---most food sensitivities can change over time and can also potentially be completely resolved (with a few exceptions)! In our practice, we make it our goal to help patients be able to narrow down their list of reactive or trigger foods to the smallest possible number so that they can stop agonizing over what or what not to eat and simply enjoy a meal!

If you would like to investigate food sensitivities and/or other aspects of your health with us, call our office for a free consult today or send in a request through our website. We will be happy to partner with you to investigate your food sensitivities and the root cause for your health concerns.

Related Posts