If you’re a dedicated dieter, you will have no problem tackling this at-home, low-tech approach to weeding out allergens and gastrointestinal issues. An elimination diet is a reverse-engineered food experiment that can give you similar results to testing your blood without having to pay big bucks for it. All you have to do is eliminate foods over a period of time and re-introduce them to see their effects on your system.

The science

To oversimplify, two things happen when you take a bite out of something. 1) Your body converts the food into fuel, and 2) as the food gets broken down, chemical messages are sent throughout your system via the intelligent, yes intelligent, gastrointestinal tract. The GI is home to nearly 70% of your body’s entire immune system replete with neurotransmitters, enzymes, and bacteria. If your GI tract is not in good health, it can throw off a number of things in your body, including not being able to adequately break down what you’re eating, which then leads to food sensitivities and a slew of other unwanted symptoms.

Gas problems

The reasons

If you’re experiencing any digestive discomfort like bloating, gas, indigestion, or even post-meal fatigue, your body may be telling you it’s time for a tune-up. Some people, like Joe Manganiello, have had seemingly unrelated symptoms clear up on an elimination diet, such as skin conditions, migraines, arthritis, asthma, and allergies. Manganiello even reported improvements in his focus, mood, and motivation when allergens were removed from his diet.

The mechanics

The elimination diet consists of two phases: removing foods and re-introducing them. The more restrictive you are the better your results. Yes, you could go spend the money and get tested for allergies, but some experts argue that the at-home experiment is the way to go as it’s more thorough and practice based. You will monitor firsthand how every single food item interacts with your system. Also, there are degrees of sensitivities that some blood tests don’t accurately convey, which means that you could end up doing away with more unwanted symptoms doing the elimination diet than you would otherwise.

The specifics

Here is the list of foods to exclude on your elimination diet experiment. Remember, the more restrictive you can be the better your results. Also, it’s crucial to understand that it takes your system about 3-4 weeks to adequately remove allergens from your system, so any cheat-days will set you back to square one with that food. There are many elimination diets out there but the best ones guaranteed will always remove gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, chicken, beans/lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade vegetables. Yes, it will be challenging, but the results may prove close to miraculous when your body begins to experience renewed energy, clarity, and problem-free digestion.

The last step

Re-introducing food at the end of the 3-4 week elimination phase is just as important as removing foods and should be monitored closely. Introduce one food from the “remove” list every three days and monitor your body’s reaction to it. For example, if you reintroduce gluten on Tuesday, monitor it for two days and then re-introduce the next food on Friday. Taking your time with this last phase will help make it clear as to which foods agree with your body and which do not. Negative reactions to food may include symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, joint pain, skin breakouts, headaches, abdominal pain or GI pain, bloating, mental fogginess, or sinus and respiratory issues. If you really want to get specific, measure your resting pulse before you eat and five minutes after you re-introduce a food item. If there is a difference of even 10 pulses per minute, you may have sensitivity.

The results

By the end of this 5- to 6-week experiment, you will know your body a lot more in-depth and may understand the underworking of your mind-body connection. Food is more than just fuel—it can affect nearly every system in your body for better or for worse, so it’s always safer to be on the side of knowing.