William Cole, DC, a functional medicine practitioner, is an expert at identifying the underlying factors of chronic conditions and offering natural, holistic approaches to optimal health. In this piece, he shares what everyone needs to know about using the elimination diet to heal. To learn more, check out his new course, The Elimination Diet: A 60-Day Protocol to Uncover Food Intolerances, Heal the Gut, and Feel Amazing.
The elimination diet was instrumental in my own health journey.
This protocol—in which you eliminate certain foods for a period of time before reintroducing them one by one—helped me uncover hidden food intolerances, overcome chronic fatigue, heal my gut, and improve my digestive and skin problems. That's why I'm so eager to share it.
But in my work with clients, I often find that many people are unsure what the elimination diet is or how to use it. Here's what I wish everyone knew:
1. It's the gold standard for uncovering your food intolerances.
During the elimination diet, you'll focus on delicious foods that are also the least likely to irritate your immune system and trigger inflammation. In other words, you'll avoid the most common inflammatory foods for at least 60 days during the elimination phase.
This gives your body the time to calm down and start to heal. After the eight weeks, we reintroduce those potentially inflammatory foods one by one to see which foods your body has no problem handling and which ones you have a food intolerance to.
2. It's designed to restore your energy.
The elimination diet focuses on the world's most nutrient-dense and healing foods. As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, once said, "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." And that's exactly what the elimination diet allows us to do.
Once your body is fully nourished with good food medicine, inflammation levels come down. That's why many people overcome fatigue and brain fog and regain that zest for life with an elimination diet.
3. The food is filling and delicious.
One concern that many people have about the idea of "eating healthy" is that they'll starve or be unsatisfied because all they can eat is mounds of unfilling grass. That may be true for some food plans, but not with the elimination diet.
Hearty, filling foods like grass-fed steak, sweet potato fries in coconut oil, and a coconut milk smoothie with greens and berries will satisfy the biggest of appetites. For proof, check out what a typical day on the elimination diet looks like.
The meals we eat should be enjoyable. Sure, there are some foods that we will have to tolerate because we know they are good for our health, but overall, let's make life delicious.
4. The meals are easy to prepare.
Another common worry people have about healthy eating is that it'll be too difficult to cook the meals.
In reality, you don't have to be a culinary chef to do the elimination diet—eating well is actually pretty simple. And I break it all down for you with a meal plan guide and food lists in my mindbodygreen video course.
5. It's not about dieting or counting calories.
The word "diet," has been made synonymous with "dieting" in our culture, or restricting foods to lose weight instead of a rational, healthy way of eating. The elimination diet is not about dieting! It's a food plan, and you eat until you are full.
Your body is intelligently designed, so listen to it. If you are chewing slowly on filling, nutrient-dense foods, your brain will tell you when it's full. It's as simple as that.
6. It's a great way to heal your gut.
As Hippocrates also once said, "all disease begins in the gut." So whether you have digestive problems or not, your gut can also influence your hormones, brain, and immune system.
By finding out your food intolerances, avoiding inflammatory foods, and eating lots of nutritious meals, your gut can finally start healing.
7. It allows you to customize a food plan that works for you.
When you're finished with the elimination phase and start reintroducing foods, not only will you uncover your intolerances, but you'll also discover which foods work best for your body.
By definitively finding out exactly which foods your body thrives on, you can tailor a food plan just to you. In this way, the elimination diet serves as a sustainable, rational way of eating—instead of just another fad diet to add to the pile of things that have not worked for you in the past.