If you’re considering trying a detox & elimination diet, I highly recommend it! I’ll tell you up front it won’t be easy and is best to do under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed medical provider with any questions you may have before undertaking a new health care regimen. Please do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
What is a detox elimination diet?
Detoxify simply means to remove toxic substances. Our body does this naturally – no juicing required! 😆
When a substance enters our body, our digestive system filters out toxins using the liver and kidneys. You can read more about this process here: Information on Detoxification
When we partake in a detox diet, we’re simply supporting our body’s naturally occurring detoxification process by lessening the amount of toxins we consume. Additionally, we’re adding in foods that help our bodies optimize the naturally occurring detoxification process.
An elimination diet is the process of removing common allergenic foods for a period of time and then adding them back in one at a time so you can rule out certain food sensitivities.
For example, to test if you’re sensitive to dairy, you can eliminate dairy for 10 days and then add it back into your diet to see how your body responds. An elimination diet is one of the most effective ways to test yourself for food sensitivities because you’re eliminating most allergenic foods (except fruits and vegetables) and testing them one at a time.
A detox elimination diet is the combination of the two at the same time – so you’re boosting your detox powers AND testing for food sensitivities all together!
Why should I do a detox elimination diet?
I did my detox elimination diet for many reasons. I suspected I had several food sensitivities but I wasn’t sure which foods were irritating me. The elimination diet allowed me to narrow that down.
I like to think of this as a “reset” time. A cleanse, but without all that annoying juicing. This can help give our bodies an extra boost, to re-energize us and get us focused on what we should be filling our bodies with.
I found that when I did my detox elimination diet, the foods I ate energized me more than the normally do. Perhaps because there wasn’t a bunch of toxins weighing it down or because I wasn’t consuming foods I was sensitive to!
What should I eat on a detox elimination diet?
The short answer: lots of fruits and vegetables.
You should not consume foods that you KNOW you are allergic or sensitive to, or foods that you suspect you’re sensitive to. The whole point is to give your system a break from those foods, and then test them to confirm or rule out sensitivities.
There are lots of different ways to go about a detox or elimination diet, but I’ll share with you what I did:
During my detox elimination diet, I removed all meats, refined sugars, processed foods, dairy, alcohol, caffeine and known/suspected allergies or food sensitivities.
Throughout the 10-day detox, I removed one at a time – gluten, all grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes – until I was only consuming fruits and vegetables for a few days. Then, I tested each potential allergenic food group one at a time – first legumes, then nuts and seeds, then grains, gluten, and so on. I did not mix any of the allergenic foods with each other until I had completely reintroduced all of the foods.
For example, if I wanted to test out if I was sensitive to legumes AND gluten, I wouldn’t eat them both on the same day. I would eat legumes (and not gluten) for one to two days, and see how my body responded. Then, after I had finished that test, I would stop eating legumes and then reintroduce gluten for one or two days to see how my body responded. That way it’s clear which food groups my body is having sensitivities to.
Are there reasons I should NOT do a detox or elimination diet?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not do any kind of restrictive diet unless specifically indicated by your healthcare provider. This could affect your unborn baby or milk supply.
If you have a history of eating disorders, it’s not recommended to follow this kind of restrictive diet.
If you are on a lot of medications, are being treated for a disease, or are having acute (or long-term) challenges with your health, you should talk with your healthcare provider before starting this type of restrictive diet.
I can’t do a detox diet. How can I support my body’s natural detoxification processes?
Your body has its own natural detoxification processes, which it does around the clock! You can help boost your body’s detox process by:
- drinking more water
- eating more whole foods
- reducing toxins (whether through the food you eat, your skincare, home environmental toxins, etc.)
- adding or increasing probiotics and prebiotics to aid in digestive health
- discussing what supplements you can add to your regimen with your healthcare provider
One thing that I do almost every day in order to aid my body’s digestive system and detoxification pathways is drink warm lemon water in the morning. I also take a pharmaceutical-grade probiotic every morning. These two things alone (which take about 1.5 minutes out of my day!) help support my gut health to boost digestion and reinforce my body’s natural detoxification systems.
My Detox Elimination Diet
During my own detox elimination diet (which I did under the care and instruction of Dr. Lena Edwards), I learned A LOT. My incredible husband, Tyler, joined me and we
suffered got through together! I definitely recommend doing this alongside someone else if you have that option because it’s nice to have camaraderie and accountability. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing it with your spouse if they’re going to complain and make your life harder! Ha.
The diet I followed was a 10-day elimination diet where I started off by eliminating alcohol, dairy, caffeine, all meats and processed foods and sugars. Each day I eliminated another food group (one day we eliminated gluten, the next day all grains, then nuts and seeds, and so on). For several days of the diet we only ate fruits and vegetables. Then, we slowly added everything back in (nuts and seeds one day, gluten-free grains another day, gluten another day, etc.).
This process allowed me to figure out what food sensitivities I had. Food sensitivities are different than food allergies in that they don’t typically involve an immune response. A food sensitivity might cause:
- Diarrhea OR constipation
- Source: Food Allergy vs. Sensitivity
Here are some other things I learned as I completed my detox elimination diet:
#1: I don’t need that much sugar.
Prior to doing this elimination and detoxification diet, I always felt like I needed something sweet after I ate. While I was doing the detox elimination diet, that wasn’t really an option. If I wanted something sweet, I usually would fill that need by having fresh fruit, like a clementine or strawberries. The crazy thing was, I really stopped craving sweets after a couple days!
We know that sugar stimulates the reward center of our brains so that we crave even more sugar. This is why it’s super hard to eliminate sugar! Our bodies literally crave it. But when I eliminated sugar, I stopped craving it.
To read more about this, click here.
#2: Eating is not supposed to feel bad!
Just prior to my elimination diet, I did this food allergy panel to make sure that I removed all allergies before starting the detox. I was so surprised to find foods on my allergy list that I ate EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. When I removed those foods, it made me realize that almost every meal I ate made me feel kind of crummy.
I actually cried on the first day of the detox diet because I didn’t realize how bad I had been feeling until I removed all my allergens. I had gotten so used to being bloated, gassy, and uncomfortable after every meal – it hadn’t occurred to me that I should feel differently!
#3: Food = energy
During my detox diet, I realized that food SHOULD energize me – it shouldn’t make me feel tired, lethargic, gassy or overall crummy. At the end of my elimination diet, when I tried to reincorporate wheat into my diet, I realized that simple homemade bread (made with only whole wheat flour, oil, and baking soda) made me feel tired. It took me a day or two to realize its effect on me.
Bottom line: The elimination diet required me to eat mindfully.
And that’s how I was able to recognize the subtle signs of my food sensitivities. When we’re going through our day and quickly slamming down a meal in order to get to the next thing, it’s easy to miss the signs of a food sensitivity. But the detox diet made me slow down and pay attention to my body.
#4: I can do hard things.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my detox elimination diet is that I can do hard things when it comes to my eating habits. And not only that, I can do hard things and still be happy. No one wants to be miserable – we all want to enjoy our food!
But let me tell you that it is possible to remove “big ticket items” from your diet (like dairy or gluten) and still enjoy your life and your food. Yes, it takes trying new things and some adjustment, but it is possible and if I can do it, you can do it, too!
Here are some things that helped me to successfully complete my detox elimination diet:
- Support from family and friends
- Having a meal plan in advance
- Food journal & symptom tracker
If you’re going to do your own elimination or detox diet, I highly recommend planning it in advance and letting your close friends and family members know. It makes it much more difficult if you don’t have support from them – and if they keep bringing you foods you can’t eat!
I sat down and wrote out each day what I was going to eliminate that day and what I would eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I made a large grocery list and checked off each item.
Keeping track of meals is absolutely necessary for this process as well as writing down any symptoms or reactions to what you ate. Write down everything. Ad nauseum. You may think something is a normal reaction until you start noticing a pattern and realize that it’s not normal at all!
This is not the detox elimination diet that I followed, but I found this website to have a lot of useful information: Blum MD Complete Detox Elimination Diet. They list all of the foods that should be removed during an elimination diet as well as what foods you should include and detailed instructions for how to reintroduce food. When you’re reintroducing food, it’s important to do it slowly and one at a time. For example, you shouldn’t eat a slice of pizza (which contains dairy, gluten, yeast, and other potential allergens) because if you have a reaction, you won’t know exactly what caused it!
Again, I definitely advise you to consult with a medical professional, nutritionist or dietitian before starting this process. A simple consult could make your life a lot easier! If you’re looking for a doctor who will champion your cause, I recommend Dr. Lena Edwards. You can learn about her on her website or on this Facebook page.
If you’re interested in finding out what meals I ate during my 10-day detox & elimination diet, subscribe to download the list!
I hope this is helpful for you and inspires you to do what you need to do to become your best self.