The Elimination and Detoxification Diet ~ It's about Feeling Good!

Ali Segersten Jan 02, 2010

What is the Elimination Diet? It is a program of eating designed to calm inflammation and balance the body. Once the body is calm, and the disease symptoms diminish, it becomes noticeable to a person when a “trouble” food is eaten and the symptoms come back.

If you have felt sluggish, had chronic health complaints, or just not felt quite right then an elimination diet is a useful tool that may help bring you to that optimal state of health you desire. Yes the elimination diet usually results in, on average, a 10 to 15 pound weight loss, but more importantly it promotes healing at the cellular level by identifying foods that are causing an immune reaction.

The Elimination Diet Cover Thumbnail

Everything you need to know about elimination diets is now in Print!

Learn how to safely and effective follow an elimination diet with our new book!

Complete with 125 delicious recipes, shopping lists, and meal plans, The Elimination Diet is a complete functional medicine resource for you to improve your health and feel better, naturally.

Go to our other website,, to download your FREE Elimination Diet Cookbook and Quick Start Guide!

The main focus of the Elimination Diet is getting the gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn, and soy out of your diet. Doing this, along with eating a diet high in plant foods, calms inflammation and gives your body a break. Additional foods that can be problematic for some people are citrus, nightshade vegetables, certain nuts, among others. These foods are removed in the first two phases and are then slowly added back during phase 3 to note any negative reaction. 

An Elimination Diet is useful in treating the following health conditions:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • IBS
  • Chronic Migraines
  • GERD
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation / Diarrhea
  • Sinus problems
  • Weight loss / Weight gain
  • Infertility

Items to stock in your pantry and fridge:

please make sure you always use "organic"
  • dark leafy greens (dandelion greens, kale, collards, chard, bok choy, mustard greens...)
  • cabbage (all varieties)
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • onions
  • yams
  • winter squash
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • carrots
  • celery
  • avocados
  • cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • blueberries
  • bananas
  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • plantains
  • pears
  • apples
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • wild rice
  • adzuki beans
  • mung beans
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chia seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • pumpkin seed butter
  • sunflower seed butter
  • wakame and nori seaweeds
  • wild salmon
  • organic chicken
  • organic ground turkey
  • organic lamb
  • wild game
  • organic virgin coconut oil
  • organic extra virgin olive oil

Visit the Elimination Diet page on our other website to get started today with a Free Cooking Video Series!

Ready to get started now?

Go to the Elimination Diet Recipes page on this site to view all recipes for each phase of this diet. 

Add Comment


Hi Ali,

My household and I are embarking on the elimination diet this month and I noticed that you recommend a salmon recipe during phase one. I have done the diet before and believed fish to be a phase 3 food, but i would love to introduce it sooner if it is recommended. thoughts?

I just started doing "Clean" a detox/(preceeded by an elimination diet) as perscribed in the book by Dr. Junger. At the same time I purchased a fairly large amount of grass fed beef from one of my friends (very responsibly raised, slaughtered and butchered). Can I use this in the elimination diet?

Oh...and to answer your question about when to introduce these, I recommend the challenge phase -- after the 28 days.

Janet - we intentionally left out all animal foods during phase one and two. This is to assure that we are not adding in any excessive toxic burden while you are "detoxing". Animal foods bioaccumulate toxins at levels much higher than any plants. One of the goals of the elimination diet is to give the liver a break during this time and let built-up toxins get released. Animal tissue is often more difficult to digest as well. This may lead to more non-benficial bacteria and metabolic by-products such as putrescine and cadavarine that may be harmful. Interestingly, some people that react to dairy also cross-react to beef and lamb. For these reasons and more, we just like to play it safe in phase one and two and wait to introduce these later on. Hope that helps.

Can I assume that beef, lamb, pork and shell fish (particularly prawns, clams and crab) would fall into the challenge group? I am planning on beginning the elimination diet in March as I am finding that going gluten free just hasn't cut out all the little irritations I seem to have. The meat I do eat is purchased only at the Food Coop - not organic but otherwise raised as grass fed and hormone free or wild caught.

Kelly - it looks like I never responded to your question, sorry. Crucifers can be particularly hard on an infant's digestive system. I could never eat broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts without ending up with screaming babies. A little kale and collards was fine in smoothies however. Beans can also be a hard one. Lentils are usually easier though. Have you looked at the post I did on Nourishing the New Mom? This post has plenty of tips for food ideas. Hope this helps. :)

Evaline - This pancake recipe sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing the link. Yes, ground pumpkin seeds are perfect for phase 1. Now I just need to give it a try! :)

I hope it is ok to post links to recipes here, but I wanted to help out others on the elimination diet that might want something a little different for breakfast.

I made a flourless, whole-grain pancake this morning that was really delicious topped with a little maple syrup!

Here is the recipe, with nutrition info:

Alissa, maybe you can confirm that this is ok - I wasn't sure about whether "no flours" included home-ground pumpkin seeds since they are ok. Also, please feel free to "steal" the recipe and make it better - I'm not much of a blogger/cookbook author, myself!

hi there,
breastfeeding my 1.5 year old and trying to figure out digestive issues he's had since birth. have been on phase 1 of elimination diet for months since it is somewhat helping - however he cramps up painfully when he or I eat beans and lentils and crucifers (amoung others). even when i follow your instructions re: cooking beans. we've been eating tons of meat - im getting weary of it and worry about his nutrition. any thoughts?

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I'm off to the health food store to look for one of the recommended supplements, and I'll be starting the elimination diet on Saturday. Very excited for it!

So happy to have found your site! I do have one question. How many days is each phase supposed to be? I just started the Smoothie cleanse and I am trying to plan ahead. Thanks!

Ali: Thanks for doing this. A group of friends will be starting up together soon!

Just another quick iron comment: You might try cooking in cast iron--especially acid foods. I was anemic as a child, but as an adult I cook about half my food in cast iron, and my iron and hematocrit levels are almost high enough that I could be barred from the Olympics on suspicion of taking EPO! ...Not that I could get into the Olympics in the first place.... ;-)

I just got your book today via Amazon. I am excited to dive into it. I did an elimination diet in the fall, a different version of yours and the foods weren't introduced back slowly enough - I don't think I had the patience! I found out that I am gluten intolerant, but I feel there is something else I'm having an issue with. Looking forward to going through your book - I love your blog. Thanks! ~Alecia

Iris - It sounds like you have had a few great suggestions already here in regards to your iron. Thorne also make a great gf / cf supplement. The elimination diet is designed to heal your digestive system so it is able to absorb the nutrients from your food. Hopefully the combination of a great dairy-free supplement and the healing diet will do the trick and you will have the energy you need. :)

Lisl - Yes I know that other detox diets eliminate all sweeteners, however, our focus is on the elimination aspect (cutting out foods and then slowly reintroducing them). Small amounts of these sweeteners are okay. Stevia is fine but it is best to keep xylitol out since it can cause digestive upset.

Thanks anon for the iron tip!

Linda - An elimination diet may help. All of the details, phases, and things to look for when reintroducing foods are in our book, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. :)

Jory - Yes coconut oil and coconut milk are on the documents listed on the Elimination Diet on our website: It looks like I need to update them to add shredded coconut which is allowable in phase 1.

Hi Ali,

I may have missed it but I dont see coconut (oil, shredded, milk, etc) anywhere on the food lists, neither as a possible allergen to introduce or something to eat freely. Could you comment on that?Thanks!

Also, Iris, I take liquid iron. I love Integrative Therapeutics Liquid iron with folic acid and b12. You may only be able to get it from a health care provider. Ive had many problems with other forms of iron but this one is great and tastes yummy too. Its cinnamon.

I just found your blog. I really want to start this diet but I am nervous. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in March and have been GF since then. I have had some major health issues since my diagnosis so I think that this diet might really help. my question so far - how long does each phase last? what should I look for when I reintroduce each food?

Specially to Iris, from another low-iron person:

If you look for iron bisglycinate (bis-glycinate whatever, Solgar and other folks offer it), this comes with no dairy at all.

I'm hoping that staying off gluten in the long term will clear up my perennial low-iron issues, but in the meantime, it's good to have a solution that doesn't hurt my tummy!

Hi Ali,
Many other detox diets eliminate sugar completely, and don't allow agave, honey or maple syrup. Can you share your rationale for allowing these sweeteners...
Also, are stevia and xylitol ok?

Thanks so much!

I got your cookbook for Christmas (yay!) and am planning on doing the elimination diet once I get back from my vacation. My concern is that I have been having a lot of problems with exhaustion due to low iron. Most days I feel like I can't function past 3pm. Iron pills seem to be the only thing that help, but they have lactose in them, and I'm sure they wouldn't be good while on the elimination diet. I work full-time and am starting school again at the end of the month, so I can't be taking afternoon naps every day as I have been. Do you have any suggestions for making sure I'm getting enough iron while on the diet?


Thanks Wendy, I love how seaweed can simply disintegrate into a pot of cooked beans or whole grains. Glad you are enjoying the book! :)

The brown rice cooked with Wakame is so good! The Wakame just sort of disintegrates at the end of the cooking time and gives more flavour to the rice! Got the idea from your book. There is so much good information in there - hope people are buying it and not trying this elim diet without it, they will miss out on so much!

Metta - I am ok with pears and apples in smoothies. I have a harder time with eating large amounts of apples (not blended) but that's it. We harvested and froze a ton of organic peaches, pears, berries, and cherries this past summer to use during the winter. If you don't have any summer fruits to use then all I can think of at the moment is to use pears and apples. If you come up with something else let me know. :)

Shirley - Great to hear you are gearing up for green smoothies! I think the mind-set of health care providers is different on the west coast. The elimination diet is highly recommended by most out here. Cheers to a new year! :)

Barb - Yes go for it and add an extra 2 days to phase 1! Have fun! :)

I'd love to start this after the green smoothie fast--otherwise I just won't do it at all! So, should I lengthen Phase I to include a couple of extra days?
Thanks! Barb

Thank you so much Tom! I do still have symptoms so I am going to give this a try. Happy New Year!


Definitely gearing up to do gren smoothies and lighter meals here. Good luck to everyone who is embarking on the full-blown elimination and detox diet! Detoxing is something we all need to do, that's for sure and I'm amazed how it's continually dismissed by the traditional medicine folks, even the ones who seem more "up" on alternative (non-drug) methods of treatment. Detox works! Thanks for all you guys do in this area. You are a godsend to sooo many! :-)

Happy New Year!


Hi Ali,

I'm Vata too and have noticed within the past 2 months an unbalanced feeling after eating apples and pears. I do great with mangos, pineapple, peaches, cherries, and berries, but they aren't in season right now. What fruits do you use in your green smoothies, or are you ok after apples and pears?


Thanks Melissa!

Jennifer - This is definitely a personal decision. Since my boys are barely nursing I feel it is a fine time for me to do the diet. We recommend that nursing moms avoid the smoothie fast because of the possible risk of chemical overload to the infant's immature liver. Fasting and cleansing causes toxins to be released into the bloodstream which go straight into mother's milk. :)

Katie - Tom here. What I have seen with hundreds of clients is that the Elisa, RAST, or other IgG/IgE combo tests looking at food sensitivities/allergies do NOT pick up many people's problem foods. They are great tools in addition to an elimination diet but are not a substitute. I can't tell you how many people that have had major issues with corn, soy, and gluten and had their blood work come back saying they were negative. Thankfully you have two of these three taken care of. Other reactions like those found in tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant may be coming from plant components that blood tests are not looking for. There are a host of other intolerances from foods that do not stimulate the immune cells that those tests look at. If you still have symptoms of headache, fatigue, lethargy, bowel issues, or joint pain, it may be worth the time and energy to dig deeper.

Thanks Betty!

Lynn - Like I stated above, you'll want to discuss this with your doctor or midwife before making any decisions. I don't know if it would help with the nausea you are experiencing, though it's possible. Although we don't recommend following this strict diet while pregnant, if you do decide to go ahead with it you'll want to do a modified version. No smoothie fast, and possibly adding in salmon, lamb, chicken, and maybe all beans.

Pam - thanks! :)

mymy - Probably best to wait until the organic produce is available to you. The reason we state "organic" is to rule out reactions from minute amounts of chemicals and the risk of GMO's.

What if organic versions of the foods required are not available? Is it best to wait to do the diet until they are available?


I just seen your book at Barnes and Noble...very nice!


Hi, I am 9 weeks pregnant and wondering if an elimination diet would be appropriate to assist with extreme nauseousness? thanks for your lovely blog!


I gave a shout out to you on my blog this morning!!


Would you recommend this diet for a person like me who already has known food allergies such as gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and yeast? My Dr. says since I have already had a detailed blood test which says I'm not reactive to corn, potatoes, etc that elimination diets wouldn't "do any good" but I was curious what you and Tom have to say about that. Thank you!


Is the green smoothie phase okay when nursing older toddlers, or should that part still be skipped entirely when nursing. D is showing no signs of weaning any time soon.


Perfect timing! I'm on board with everything you mention here, with a few of my own minor alterations. I am periodically amazed (annoyed) with myself when I fall off my clean eating bandwagon as I've done over the past few weeks. Nothing major, but all that baking has done me in. Even though I choose healthy GF grains – eating too much grain always gets me. Not to mention the sugar (in any form). Ugh, I'm with you guys on this one -- 100%. Great post, as always. Your cookbook has SO many good recipes for this kind of thing. Thanks for all your hard work!

Peace, love and green smoothies!
Melissa xo

City Books -I'll need to have Tom answer this question. Though I think it deserves its own blog post! Maybe he can write something up this week. :)

Anon - Yes chia seeds are okay for the entire diet. Glad you mentioned it.

Fresh and Feisty - The elimination part is okay but the detox part isn't. So no green smoothie fast. You may want to consider adding in salmon, lamb, and chicken during phase 1. Be sure to talk with your doctor or midwife before starting the diet.

Thanks for all of your comments and meal ideas! Looking forward to hearing more throughout the month!

Happy New Year! :)

What about being 5 weeks pregnant...not really a good time to try the elimination diet or would it be okay?

This new year is going to be fantastic! Good luck with this diet, it looks like a fabulous way to reset for the new year =D.

I am wondering if Chia seeds are ok to use in Phase I?

I'm so glad you will be blogging about the elimination diet, Ali! I am on Day 4 and have been experimenting with different foods. One dish that worked well was Nori rolls that we made successfully for the first time with Nori, brown rice, carrot, green onion, cooked green peas, and a little dried plum and ginger. We had that with oven baked sweet potato "fries". Looking forward to seeing what delicious recipes you come up with!

I'm going to start the elimination diet tomorrow. This will be my second time--in the past 6 months I've reintroduced too many of the foods that I have sensitivities to--not smart. I loved the plan the first time round--looking forward to that great feeling that comes from taking such good care of my body! Thank you Ali & Tom for this fantastic path to health & well-being!

What if you have hypothroidism? Aren't cruciferous veggies meant to be avoided with this condition?

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