Reverse Elimination Diet

Some people just can’t face the full elimination diet, and where there are particular foods that you suspect, a reverse elimination can also work well. With this method, you would eliminate suspected foods for a week at a time till you see an improvement. The benefit is that if there is a particular food or group that is causing most of your problem, you could find it without having to eliminate everything. The trade off is that it can take a lot longer, and you may go through withdrawal symptoms more than once. Although you would get more dramatic results with the full elimination diet, as long as you manage to identify all major intolerances, you can still have a good result.

The most common intolerances are wheat/gluten/corn, dairy products and sugars. This is because these are foods which humans have only started eating in the last 8-10,000 years, when we started farming. So we haven’t had time to adequately adapt to them, and many people have problems eating them. Next most common are foods which are eaten regularly. Once our digestive systems start to become weakened, any foods eaten too often can become new intolerances.

Before launching into even a reverse elimination, you should read the chapters from Robert McFerran’s book, and read up about how to do the full e-diet, so that you understand the principles involved and what you are likely to experience.

Phase One – Identify Intolerances

Step 1 – Eliminate all grains (wheat, rye, corn, rice, etc) from the diet for one week. If grains are causing you problems, you will get some withdrawal symptoms at this stage. If you get a major improvement, (about 4 days), stay off the grains for another week, then start testing. If you have some improvement, but not enough, go on to Step 2.

Step 2 – Stay off the grains, and also eliminate all sugars from the diet for one week. This includes eliminating alcohol. See Beth Loiselle’s list of allowed foods for a whole food diet to help you here. You will almost definitely have withdrawal symptoms in this stage. If you get a major improvement after clearing the withdrawal, start testing. If you have some improvement, but not enough, go on to Step 3.

Step 3 – Stay off the grains & sugars, and also eliminate all dairy products from the diet for one week. If you get a major improvement, start testing. If you have some improvement, but not enough, go on to Step 4.

Step 4 – Stay off the other stuff, and also eliminate all foods that you eat regularly, especially common allergens like peanuts, soy, eggs, nighthade veges & oranges. Either eliminate them one at a time, or come up with a list of likely suspects, and eliminate them all together. At this point you should also eliminate caffeine (coffee, chocolate and tea). Legumes can be hard for some people to digest, so stay off those too.

If you don’t have a major improvement by this time, it would be very unusual. In that case, you may need to consider a full elimination diet, or some other kind of chemical or heavy metal toxicity.

Otherwise, move onto the testing phase.

Phase Two – Reintroducing & Testing

Generally the guidelines for testing foods are to reintroduce a new food every 4 hours, with the exception of grains and dairy, which need 2-3 days. Sometimes you will get an immediate reaction, so know straight away, but you need 2-3 days to be sure you’re OK on a food. If you get a reaction, don’t test anything else for a day.

There are two ways you can select your order of reintroducing foods. Either start with foods you’re pretty sure you’re OK on, so that you build up your list of OK foods faster. Or start with foods you desperately want and see how you react. The foods you crave most are the ones most likely to give you a reaction, sadly. That’s because we are addicted to the foods that make us sick.

This stage is the same as with the full elimination diet, so see that page for more details on this stage.

Phase Three – Repairing the digestive system

Once you’ve identified your lists of OK foods and foods to avoid, you’ll probably need to avoid those foods for 6 months to a year. That’s how long it will take for your body to repair. After that you may be able to reintroduce some foods, but it would be wise to keep them for occasional treats, rather than every day.

Once again, this stage is the same as with the full elimination diet, so see that page for more details on this stage.

What you can eat

It is helpful to get a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fats at each meal.

Protein :

  • Eat all through – lamb, turkey, fresh fish, sausages made from only meat (no fillers), egg yolks
  • Eat at step 1, but not at step 2 – Ham, bacon and other processed meats, tinned sardines or salmon in water
  • Eat at step 1 & 2, but not at step 3 – Dairy products
  • Eat at Steps 1-3, but not at step 4 – Egg whites, beef, chicken, and any protein foods that you eat frequently

Carbs :

  • Eat all through – Fresh or frozen fruit & veges
  • Eat at step 1 if you can’t live without them, but not at step 2 – Tinned veges or fruit (most have sugar added), small amounts of fruit juice, small amounts of dried fruit, chocolate, sugar, honey, maple syrup, anything ending in –ose (eg. glucose, fructose)
  • Eat at steps 1-3, but not stage 4 – Legumes. At this stage, reduce your fruit intake to one piece a day. Eliminate tropical fruits like pineapple and banana, and citrus fruits. Eliminate any fruit or veges you eat frequently. Other possibilities to eliminate include potatoes, tomatoes and capsicums.

Fats :

  • Eat all through – small amounts of nuts, but not peanuts or cashews (well chewed), avocado, lard, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, cold pressed flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed (also good for keeping you regular), fish oil in capsules
  • Eat at steps 1 & 2, but not at step 3 – small amounts of butter
  • Eat at steps 1-3, but not at step 4 – peanuts, cashews and any nuts you eat frequently. Any other fats you eat frequently.

NB : You can cook with the bolded ones, but never heat the flaxseed oil

Foods to avoid at all steps :

  • Anything processed – most packeted or tinned foods have wheat or sugar in some form.
  • Damaged or trans fats – margarine, vegetable oils other than olive oil, anything deep fried, anything with hydrogenated oils

Breakfast ideas

  • Eggs with mushrooms and/or fried/grilled tomatoes
  • Tinned salmon or sardines, mixed with a little hummus, plus carrot & celery sticks
  • Lambs fry & bacon & tomatoes

Lunch ideas

  • A big salad with cold meat in
  • A nice thick filling soup eg. kumera, leek & potato, pumpkin, meat & vegetable
    • Will have to be homemade as they nearly all have sugar, and some have wheat. But if you make a big batch, you can freeze it in serving sizes.

Mid afternoon snacks

  • Hummus & carrot or celery sticks
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Handful of macadamias or other nuts


  • Your usual meat & vege, but without rice, pasta or bread