Elimination Diet:
Relief From Delayed Food Allergies

An elimination diet is a technique to diagnose delayed food allergies.

Symptoms caused by this type of allergy can take two or more days to appear after eating the food. The allergy can take the form of almost any symptom, although gut problems and headaches are common.

These allergies can be diagnosed by a carefully chosen diet of whole foods while considering the food families of those foods. There are standard techniques for creating an elimination diet, as outlined in the types below.


This page is for information only and does not constitute medical advice.

An elimination diet should be done only under medical supervision.

  • Abruptly abandoning an elimination diet occasionally leads to a violent or even life-threatening reaction to a food.
  • These diets may "unmask" or reveal to you other allergies that you have and cause additional symptoms.
  • These diets change the immune system, usually in a beneficial way, but because of the possibility of extreme reactions there is no substitute for medical supervision.

What Can An Elimination Diet Do?

  • Diagnose delayed food allergies
  • Eliminate cravings for sugar and foods
  • Eliminate chronic pain
  • Resolve physical symptoms (for example, headaches or gut problems) caused by specific foods
  • Resolve emotional and cognitive symptoms caused by specific foods (that is, effects on the brain)
  • Help you create an individually suited diet
  • Reset your immune system

Elimination Diet Types

From the most difficult to the least difficult:


A patient is isolated and fasts for several days. The patient is then given one food per day, as a test to see how the body will react. The patient is under continuous medical observation because of the likelihood of extreme reactions. Don't try this at home!

Prescribed Foods

For a period of time, the patient eats a diet of several foods as prescribed by a doctor or specific diet. A typical menu might include turkey, rice, and pears—foods considered generally less allergenic. I have heard of prescribed diets that included nuts and other typically allergic foods, however.

Rare Foods

You begin with foods that you rarely eat that you choose for yourself.

How to do a Rare Food elimination diet

Avoiding Generally Allergic Foods

For a defined period of time, you avoid certain of the most allergic foods. The foods to avoid generally include wheat, milk, eggs, soy, and corn.

The No Nightshades diet is one example of a limited intervention in which you avoid only one type of food.

There aren't any hazards to simply removing a few specific foods from your diet. Dr. Neal Bernard's book below has excellent instructions for this.

How-To Books

Foods That Fight Pain: Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief (Three Rivers, 1998) by Dr. Neal Barnard, MD.

This is a positive, encouraging book that emphasizes short-term diagnostic diets (7 to 14 days) and teaches easy general principles about foods, nutrition, and pain, based on medical research. Dr. Barnard discusses all kinds of pain: separate chapters are about back pain, chest pain, migraine, other headaches, joint pain, stomach aches, fibromyalgia, menstrual and breast pain, cancer pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, herpes and shingles, sickle-cell anemia, and kidney stones.

He presents the "pain-safe" foods (foods never associated with pain in any research study) and short lists of foods that are "common triggers" for the various types of pain, inflammation, and deranged metabolism.

His elimination diet suggests choosing from a list of pain-safe foods for about a week before gradually adding back other foods. Included are seven days of menus. The related recipe section contains the best recipes I have ever seen in an allergy book; they are simple and appealing.

He also suggests an anti-migraine diet and an anti-arthritis diet that involve avoiding common triggers for a two-week trial.

This book discusses foods that are anti-inflammatory and foods that assist circulation. It additionally contains information about nutrition for various ailments.

An Alternative Approach to Allergies: The New Field of Clinical Ecology Unravels the Environmental Causes of Mental and Physical Ills, 2nd ed. (Harper & Row, 1989) by Dr. Theron G. Randolph, MD and Ralph W. Moss.

General principles and very complete information for an understanding of food and chemical allergies, by one of the founders of the field. Dr. Randolph describes the process of food allergy in terms of food addiction. For example, you find an allergic food initially stimulating (energizing) and subsequently exhausting.

His is a very well thought out and original theory; after some study, I had to acknowledge it as accurate. It is a different, but very useful, way of thinking (hence, the "alternative approach").

Dr. Randolph describes hospitalization for an elimination diet utilizing fasting. There is a good explanation of food families and the rotation diet intended for minimizing sensitization to foods.

Pain Free in 6 Weeks (2001) by Dr. Sherry Rogers, MD.

The subtitle is: The most complete and authoritative book on healing pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, colitis, lupus, migraine, tendonitis, prostatitis, angina, neuritis, Gulf War Syndrome, chronic back pain, cystitis, and end-stage cancer.

"Because unsuspected food allergy is such a common cause of chronic inflammation and pain," Dr. Rogers writes, "you owe it to yourself to rule out a cause over which you have 100% control." Chronic pain, she says, is "chronic inflammation that perpetuates the chemical messages of pain."

This is a sourcebook of treatments to subdue the inflammation of any kind of pain. Diets, supplements, sauna, lifestyle changes, and more are included.

Dr. Rogers' diet advice for people in chronic pain is to first try the nightshade-free diet; next, the rare food diet; then, the macrobiotic diet; and if there is still no relief, a live food (raw food) diet.

You Are What You Ate: An Rx For the Resistant Diseases of the 21st Century, 3rd ed. (1997) by Dr. Sherry Rogers, MD.

After reading this book, I finally understood the value of whole foods, something that had eluded me during many years of attempted healthy and anti-allergy diets. This book was invaluable to me simply for that. It also gave me ideas for many unusual foods that I could incorporate into my diet.

Dr. Rogers includes the experiences of herself and others with the macrobiotic diet. These stories are highly motivating for addressing serious and even bizarre illnesses through whole foods diets, not just macrobiotics. Dr. Rogers describes macrobiotics and includes ideas for intermediate, partially macrobiotic eating. She emphasizes medical supervision and macrobiotic counseling.

There is also information about hidden nutritional deficiencies and their effects.

The EI Syndrome: An Rx for Environmental Illness, 2nd ed. (1996) by Dr. Sherry Rogers, MD.

Dr. Rogers devotes one hundred pages of this book to addressing food allergy and describing in detail two forms of a rare food diet: the Lazy-Bone Diet and the Rare Food 4-Day Rotation Diet.