Functional Nutrition Blog

Focusing on gut health and Functional nutrition

Elimination Diets 101

May 21, 2021 | Autoimmune Disease, Gut Health, Nutrition

When it comes to Elimination Diets it’s a messy world.  Let’s be honest.  So, I’ve broken down a BRIEF explanation about some of the top contenders.

  1. Determine the foods that are eliminated from each diet that best align those that you perceive to be problematic for you
  2. Try that elimination *100%* for 2-4 weeks
  3. Evaluate if you notice any changes

THIS IS NOT A FOOLPROOF METHOD. It is a starting point. 

If one of these elimination diets does not cure you of your symptoms, it doesn’t mean the “diet failed”.  IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU FAILED.  It just means it either wasn’t the right puzzle piece OR that there are many other pieces that have to fall into place at the same time to make the elimination effective.

So, here we go…Elimination Diets 101:


This is designed to mimic what we can best estimate was the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors.

Foods Removed:

  • all grains:  corn, oats, gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye)
  • dairy
  • added sugars

Foods Focused On:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • High quality protein sources


Keto, or the Ketogenic diet is named as such because of the following (prepare for a short biochem lesson here):

It focuses on VERY low carbohydrates daily and comparatively very high levels of fat.  When the body receives less carbohydrates to turn into fuel, it will start to mobilize fats instead.  When a lot of fat (either from fat stores OR fat in the diet) is utilized for this purpose, the body creates KETONES.  Hence, the name of this diet.

The ketogenic diet is actually a very therapeutic diet used for children with epilepsy!  In my internship, I did a rotation at CHOP, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and was able to work with families and their children who were using this diet on BABIES with tremendous success is stabilizing their epileptic seizures.

There are several ratios that can be followed of carbs:fat – 1:2, 1:3, 1:4.  Most people will gradually increase these ratios based on their goals and medical needs.

Foods Avoided:

  • Rather than particular foods, it is particular CARBOHYDRATE levels

Foods Focused On:

  • higher fat content so often will include more of things like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts/nut butters, butter/ghee

Gluten Free

See this previous post

Dairy Free

This one is super common BUT often times it’s a decision made on the inaccurate assumption that someone is LACTOSE intolerant.  When in reality, what I see more of is that people are intolerant to the PROTEINS in dairy products instead.  Which is why lactose free products sometimes don’t cut it!

Foods Avoided:

  • milk from all animals:  cows, sheep, goat
  • products made from milk:  butter, yogurt, whey protein, cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream

Foods Focused On:

Often, there are SOME dairy products that can slowly be added back in.  They tend to be things like:

  • A2 Milk – this has A2 beta-casein instead of the more commonly seen A1 which is poorly tolerated and occurs in our milk as a result of the interbreeding of dairy cows.
  • Goat and sheep milk products – these products are naturally A2 containing and tend to be less disruptive to the human GI system
  • Organic dairy products are often times better tolerated

Truly dairy free will focus more dairy alternatives such as coconut, cashew, soy based yogurts and cheeses. Milk alternatives such as almond, cashew, coconut, flax, rice, hemp, soy, etc…

JOI is a FABULOUS brand that I highly recommend you try out.  They have shelf stable products that come as a paste or powder in a recyclable jar/bag and you simply mix the amount of milk that you want/need for a period of time with water and you’re set to go!  SO great for those of us who don’t use these products a ton and end up wasting what’s left in the container after we use what we need.  Check them out!


This should really be more appropriately called “Low FODMAP” diet because that’s exactly what it’s after.  Foods that are low in the types of sugars that FODMAP stands for:  Fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and Polyols.

The idea here is that when these sugars get fermented in the gut, they can cause a lot of painful discomfort for someone who has particular types of dysbiosis. Removing foods that are high in these types of sugars provides space and relief for a person to be able to do other work on the root issue that is causing their pain.

Check out this list that I always use when it comes to FODMAP foods.  This is not intended to be taken entirely black and white. It’s an excellent starting point and things should be adjusted as treatment of the underlying issue progresses. The goal of course, is to be able to add all of these delicious and nutritious foods back into the rotation of the diet.

Who should consider this?  People diagnosed with, or suspicious of, SIBO often find this really relieving.  That is because with an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, the fermentation of these sugars adds too much fuel to that fire and the symptoms can be unbearable (bloating, gas – sometimes that smells of methane or sulfur, abdominal cramping, gas, burping, etc…)


AIP = Autoimmune protocol

This is often used for people who have an autoimmune disease of any kind when they realize that their food STRONGLY correlates with how they feel. Which, arguably, is everyone – it’s simply a matter of noticing it or not.

Foods Removed:

  • grains
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • eggs
  • nuts/seeds
  • nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant)
  • soy
  • legumes
  • alcohol and coffee
  • processed sugars
  • additives

Foods Focused On:

  • veggies, not in the nightshade family
  • fruits
  • good quality protein sources
  • starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc…

This is a very restrictive starting point for people. BUT – there is a lot of success to be found. When space is created to be able to focus on deep healing, that’s when progress can start to take place. This is not a diet that is meant to follow forever. It’s a tool to help determine where some of the food-related issues are.  It’s VERY important to work on adding foods back into the diet as they are tolerated!

Remember: elimination diets are ONLY as good as the reintroduction plan that MUST FOLLOW IT! Otherwise, you’ll be on 2 ends of an extreme:  where you started that wasn’t working, and the “solution” that is too extreme to be a life long plan.  You know nothing of what exists in between so you continue to yoyo between these extremes with no stability or longevity. So, make sure you have a plan in place to reintroduce…you’ll thank me later.

Let me know if any of these elimination diets have worked well for you!

Always cheering for you,


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