If you’re dealing with unidentified food sensitivities or intolerances, figuring out what to eat can feel more like a math problem than a fun endeavor. Identifying which foods cause your symptoms is no easy task. However, with strategic planning, you’ll start to see the light at the end of the dinner table. Today, we’ll look at how elimination and reintroduction diets phases can be valuable tools for discovering which foods work best for your body (and which don’t). Let’s jump in!


Woman holding notebook thinking about the differences between food allergies and sensitivities

Recap: What are Food Sensitivities, Intolerances, and Allergies?

While food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances can produce similar symptoms, they have distinct underlying causes that require different treatment strategies. Understanding the differences between these conditions is critical for finding out which foods work for you – so hang on with us while we delve into some science.

If your body interprets a particular food as an invader, it will trigger the immune system to attack it, which can cause food allergy or sensitivity symptoms. Think of your immune system as a country’s military. It has the option of deploying its navy, army, or air force to handle invasions. Similarly, your immune system has various soldiers it can use to fight off perceived threats. Immunoglobulins, or Ig, are your immune system’s soldiers. They’re proteins that function as antibodies to protect your body from harmful foreign substances.

Food allergies and sensitivities differ in the type of immunoglobulin your body sends to attack the invader. There are four major types of immunoglobulins, but IgE and IgG play significant roles in food allergies and sensitivities. IgE triggers an immediate response to a foreign substance, resulting in dangerous allergy symptoms like difficulty breathing, rashes, and swelling. On the other hand, IgG triggers delayed and subtle reactions, such as headache, poor immune function, fatigue, and GI distress.

Food intolerances are a bit different from allergies or sensitivities. In this case, your body lacks the tools needed to break down a specific component of your food. For example, lactose intolerance occurs because the body lacks lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, a sugar found in dairy. As a result, people with lactose intolerance often experience GI distress. Similarly, people with histamine intolerance struggle to produce enough of the enzyme needed to break down histamine. Check out our recent blog on the topic to learn more.

Given the similarities between the symptoms of sensitivities and intolerances, it can be challenging to distinguish which one you’re dealing with and what is causing your symptoms. Elimination diets can help. These elimination diets involve temporarily eliminating suspected trigger foods from your diet and then reintroducing them one by one to identify the problem foods. Elimination diets can also give your body the break it needs to calm and reset the immune system.

Let’s take a look at elimination diets and learn a bit about why they can help.


Man diving into the ocean

Diving into Elimination and Reintroduction

Elimination diets can be a lifesaver for those of us dealing with mysterious or unidentified food intolerances or sensitivities. However, the process can be challenging, especially during the reintroduction phase. With proper planning and support, though, it can be very rewarding.

The first step in an elimination diet is choosing what to eliminate. Food sensitivities or intolerances often take a few days (and sometimes longer)  to cause problems, and sometimes the culprit can be a tiny ingredient; for that reason, it can be challenging to identify patterns accurately. Keeping a food log to track any symptoms you experience after eating certain foods can help identify patterns and help you figure out which foods to eliminate during your elimination period. While certain foods or food groups are common triggers, such as gluten and dairy, the process is highly individual, and sometimes, relatively niche foods end up being the culprit. I highly recommend working with a functional nutritionist!

Once you’ve decided which foods to eliminate, engage in careful planning before getting started. You’ll want to ensure that your new diet includes plenty of foods that contain ample macronutrients and micronutrients. Trading a food sensitivity for a vitamin deficiency or messed up metabolism is not a trap you’d want to fall into along your journey. Plan in-hand, you’ll want to go grocery shopping and stock your fridge with plenty of elimination diet-safe foods.

Remember, the point of the elimination diet is to shed light on what stresses your system. Gradually eliminating foods can help you adapt to the diet and avoid giving up before you find answers. Though eliminating tons of food can be challenging, the grind is worth it for the information you’ll gain.

Working on reducing your exposure to environmental toxins like endocrine disruptors and pesticides is also an essential part of this planning phase. This means eating as much fresh, organic food as possible and avoiding things like canned goods. We wouldn’t want to screw up your results just because your body had to handle a hefty dose of pesticides on a specific day. Remember, this phase is temporary and relevant for the information it will bring to light – you’ll get through it!

Once you’ve got your plan in the books, it’s time to get started! The elimination phase should last at least a couple of weeks to allow your body to adapt and adjust. I usually recommend at least 3-4 weeks but sometimes longer is necessary.  When you and your healthcare provider deem that you’re ready, you’ll begin the reintroduction phase.

The reintroduction phase can be the most challenging part of the process, especially if you were feeling great during the elimination phase. However, this is for the greater good: finding out what your body loves and what it can’t handle!

The reintroduction phase consists of reintroducing a food by eating it two to three times in one day. Then, you’ll return to the elimination diet and track your symptoms. If you don’t experience symptoms, you’ll repeat this process by adding a new food in another 3-4 days. If you’re good to go again, congrats – you can incorporate it into your diet!

One by one, you’ll bring food groups back into your diet. This process may take weeks or months, but many people find the information invaluable. Let’s take a look at an example plan.


Weeks 1 & 2: Food Journal Evaluation + Planning

  1. From my food journal, my nutritionist and I determine my potential trigger foods. In this example, let’s say we identified them as peanuts, dairy, eggs, and corn.
  2. Next, we plan out some healthy substitutions for these foods, like almonds instead of peanuts and coconut milk instead of cow milk.
  3. I get together recipes for the meals and snacks I’ll have during my elimination phase, and I go grocery shopping!


Weeks 3, 4, &5: Elimination phase

  1. With my fridge stocked, I eat a nutritious diet while avoiding my trigger foods. I continue to log my food and track my symptoms.
  2. By Week 5, I begin to feel better, and my nutritionist and I decide it is time for the reintroduction phase.


Week 6: Reintroduction phase 1

  1. Day 1: I bring my favorite food back, peanut butter. I have two tablespoons with each meal.
  2. Day 2: I return to my elimination diet – luckily, I don’t experience any symptoms.
  3. Day 3: I redo my peanut butter experiment.
  4. Day 4: I’m still feeling good, so I incorporate peanut butter back into my diet.
  5. Day 5: I repeat this process with dairy by eating it three times in one day.
  6. Day 6: Many of my symptoms return. This is a sign that dairy might be a food sensitivity or intolerance for me.
  7. Day 7: I return to my elimination diet.


In the following days, I rerun experiments with the other trigger foods we had eliminated. In this fictional case, it was eggs and corn.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different. What makes one person feel better may not have the same effect on another person. You may need to eliminate specific foods or follow a modified elimination diet throughout the process to achieve the best results. Sometimes, we have people continue to track how they feel for a few weeks after reintroducing a food or food group, or you may need to at least wait 3-4 days in between a reintroduction to be certain since sometimes it can take up to 72 hours to experience the effect of a food reaction.

Also, don’t lose hope if certain foods cause issues for you. It’s possible to retry or re-challenge that food again after a 3-6 month break from eating it. And we have other ways to help reduce food reactions through immunotherapy, so stay tuned.

It’s also important to manage your expectations: a few days of elimination may not reverse any and all health problems you have. But you’ll come out of it with some valuable information about how to keep your body happy at the dinner table and beyond.


Elimination Diets

Takeaways: Elimination Diet for Food Sensitivities or Intolerances

Identifying food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies is crucial for understanding which foods work best for your body. Elimination diets can be valuable tools for discovering which foods to avoid and which ones to include in your diet. The elimination phase involves temporarily eliminating suspected trigger foods from your diet, while the reintroduction phase involves reintroducing one food at a time to identify problem foods.

Proper planning, careful tracking of symptoms, and working with a nutrition professional are essential for successfully completing an elimination diet. This process can be challenging, but the information gained from it is worth the effort. Remember to include plenty of substitution foods that contain ample macro and micronutrients, reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like endocrine disruptors and pesticides, and take your time to adapt to the new diet.

By going through an elimination and reintroduction diet, you can make more informed decisions about what to eat, leading to a happier and healthier you. So, don’t be afraid to take the first step in identifying your food sensitivities and intolerances – we’re here to help! My functional nutritionist, Sarah, is a pro at guiding our patients through this process.

Schedule a session with Sarah today!

Visit our store for more products that support your health.  Enzalase is a great digestive enzyme to help during the elimination phase to improve the breakdown of foods.  And the GI Repair kit is essential after the reintroduction to reduce the avoidance time of the foods to which you are sensitive!

Stay tuned for more information to help you uncover the root cause of your health issues, improve your nutrition, repair your body, and regain your health naturally.