When you determine the foods your body loves, and root out which foods don’t agree with you, your health will improve – often in very dramatic ways. Perhaps you’d like to lose some weight, or you need to repair a digestive issue. Maybe you are suffering with brain fog, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or you simply want to explore dietary strategies to promote healthy aging.
If you’re at all like the women over 50 I work with, you certainly want to grow older with vitality, feeling and looking your best. Eating the right foods for your unique needs is the ticket you need to support you on your journey to a vibrant second half of life.
This article is an introduction to the elimination diet – just a general overview. I’ll be covering these basic concepts:
- The 6 key reasons an elimination diet may be the best dietary experiment you’ll ever engage in
- The purpose and benefits of an elimination diet
- In general, what’s included in the two phases of the process
My hope is that this introduction motivates you to give it a try. Not only will you feel great, but once completed, you’ll also be well on your way to discovering the perfect diet for YOU.
No matter what type of condition a woman presents with, I always recommend an elimination diet as the ideal and most profound way for each woman to begin her healing journey. Why have I found it to be such a powerful tool?
Six Key Benefits of an Elimination Diet:
- Empowering – When you’ve lived for 5 or more decades, you’ve learned that no one knows exactly what’s best for you… Except you. On an Elimination Diet, you’ll feel first-hand results, unlike following externally imposed rules and restrictions – something you perhaps used to do when you were in your 20s and 30s.
- Personalized – In the initial phase, you’ll follow clearly defined parameters, like a list of foods you must avoid. However, you have the freedom to choose what to eat from the list of foods included, when to eat, how to combine foods, and how much to eat to ensure your body is satisfied. These particulars of your diet morph over time as your body grows older, so now is a great time to hone in on your own body’s unique needs.
- Based On Sound Nutritional Principles – Plenty of evidence exists to demonstrate that certain foods have a high likelihood of causing intolerances for a large percentage of the population. As we age, intolerances can increase due to repeated exposure over time. These foods are avoided in the initial phase of the diet, making it an ideal discovery process for women over 50.
- Inexpensive – There’s no need to buy supplements, powders, or prepackaged foods. Since I know you value healthy aging, apply the money saved through your diet toward some much deserved self-care like a massage, a few personal training sessions, an acupuncture treatment, a kitchen gadget you’ve been eyeing, or a cookbook.
- Easy to Do – It’s really not difficult to stick to, even though most patients might think so before they actually give it a try. Eat foods on the “allowed” list. No calorie counting or obsessing about macronutrient ratios, like how much fat, protein, or carbs to eat.
- Effective – I say this based on over 20 years of my personal and clinical experience with thousands of women, and most recently, women over 50. See the benefits below.
It all begins with sound nutritional science. During the initial phase, you eat only foods that have a very low risk of having a negative impact on your digestive system or an undesired immune response in your body. The elimination diet is not based on some diet guru’s guidelines. It’s an intuitive journey to self-discovery, which is one of the reasons I love it! I don’t consider it to be a diet. A diet is an externally imposed set of rules, including restrictions that require you to ignore the signals from your body.
Your Mindset – Are You Ready?
During the initial phase, you’ll have a list of “eat this and don’t eat that,” that you’ll need to adhere to. This can seem dogmatic, rigid, or too restrictive. If it feels that way to you, I suggest you forego embarking on an ED… At least for the time being. Here’s the question I pose to the women I work with before I make any recommendation:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what do your feel is your likelihood of successfully completing this lifestyle change?”
If you don’t feel a strong 8, 9, or 10, just say no – which doesn’t mean never.
It’s empowering to focus on the extensive list of healing, whole, fresh foods that you CAN have, instead of giving too much thought to what is not included in the plan. During that time, you may choose which foods to include, at what time of day, in the right quantity your body needs, and in combinations that appeal to you. Right from the outset, this program asks you to tune in to the messages from your body.
The real magic of the elimination diet occurs in the reintroduction phase. This is where you listen to your body’s signals as you craft your ideal eating plan – the one that only you can determine.
When you cease eating foods that up-regulate your immune system, powerful rejuvenation of your body takes place. Inflammation is quelled, as you begin the important process of healing the damage those foods have been causing in your gut.
The Two Phases of an Elimination Diet
The purpose of an elimination diet is to identify any foods that you may have a sensitivity to. You first eat from a list of foods, eliminating certain other foods for a period of time. This is followed by a reintroduction process where you monitor your body’s response to the foods you were avoiding.
First Phase: Avoiding Common Allergens
The initial phase varies in length, but is typically 3 to 6 weeks. After over 20 years of guiding patients through elimination diets, I have found that if compliance is high, three weeks is long enough for the average woman. However, if you are dealing with a long-term health issue, or have multiple metabolic processes that need rebalancing, you may require more time for the initial phase.
I’m often surprised to discover that many women choose to continue past three weeks in the initial phase, especially when they had concerns about sticking to the protocol for 21 days at the beginning of program. This occurs because they feel great, are losing weight, and don’t really miss the foods they have taken a break from.
I focus on what you CAN have. If you’ve been eating the SAD, this plan is going feel restrictive or limited. However, the more potential allergens you avoid in the initial phase, the greater the payoff. In addition, one way you may have developed intolerances to certain foods is based on the frequency of consuming them. Are there any foods you eat on a daily basis? Maybe you eat cucumbers or chicken breast almost every day. These are not going to be on the “eliminate” list because they aren’t typically foods that cause sensitivity responses, but you may want to replace them with other sources of protein and other veggies as part of your personal elimination experiment. I know – more restrictions, but it’s only for 21 days! And remember, there are so many yummy foods you CAN enjoy. The results will be more dramatic the tighter you adhere to the plan.
Second Phase: Reintroduction
This is the most crucial part of the program, but it’s also where many people cut corners. Since it is a slow process, often necessitating an additional 3 to 6 weeks, I find that there is a degree of impatience for many people. So, it’s important that you think things through ahead of time, and plan well in advance for this phase of the elimination diet.
During reintroduction, you’ll be paying close attention to your body’s responses. The innate wisdom of your body is extraordinary, and this is how you’ll begin to craft your perfect diet. Your ideal eating protocol – the one I suggest you adhere to 80% of the time – should include only the foods that agree with you… And the ED is hands down the best way to determine that list of foods. The remaining aspects of creating your ideal eating protocol will entail listening to your body’s messages regarding when to eat and how much to eat. I’ll be covering exactly how to do that in future articles.
Benefits of an Elimination Diet
- Jump Start Weight Loss
- Easily Maintain Your Ideal Weight
- Reduce Chronic Pain
- Resolve Brain Fog
- Fix Chronic Fatigue
- Begin to Restore Healthy Digestion
- Deepen your Mind-Body Connection – the protocol itself fosters a deepening of your trust in your inner authority and becoming more familiar with your body’s innate healing wisdom.
Crafting Your Best Diet Can Be Overwhelming
…But it doesn’t have to be! We offer guidance and support for completing my version of the elimination diet. You can chose to work with me individually by coming to the office or via a video call. The other option is join one of the group classes offered online a couple of times each year. In each case, it is not necessary that you live in the Houston area. Contact us for a COMPLIMENTARY call to determine the best course of action for you.
I’ve created two PDFs that you can obtain in one download from my website. Fill out fields below and you will be redirected to the download page. On the page you will find links to both:
- Foods to Include
- How to Do Re-Introduction