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Why Long Term Elimination Diets Don’t Work

July 15, 2020

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Elimination dieting is the golden standard when it comes to addressing gut health symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.

Question: Having GI issues?

Answer: Discover the culprit(s) and eliminate those foods to eliminate the symptoms.

Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, the results and the aftermath of long term elimination diets aren’t so straightforward, nor are they ideal to say the least.

The problem is this: the health of your microbiome relies on the diversity of bacteria species you have in your colon.


Because each strain of bacteria that lives in the gut has a specialized function in the body. Some process hormones and some work with our immune cells, and some communicate with the central nervous system. But a large number of them work on alongside of you to help you process and break down the food you eat, and in the process, they create beneficial, health promoting compounds for you called short chain fatty acids (SCFA).

That’s the catch though—your ability to break down and process a wide variety of plant foods depends on the diversity and number of species/strains of bacteria you have in your microbiome.

How do you increase this diversity?

Eat a wide variety of fibre rich, whole plant foods.

But this is where we run into an issue, and you might already be thinking: but how am I suppose to increase the diversity of plant foods in my diet when I can’t digest so many of them?

And right here, in this space of thinking, is where an elimination diet seems easy and straight forward, and re-introducing a large amount of plants seems both daunting and uncomfortable.

And while the latter may not be the easy route, it’s important to know that:

A) This is truly the only way to improve the health and resilience of your microbiome.

B) There is a systematic way to do this that allows you to train your gut slowly and work your way up to a whole food plant based diet that is supportive of your microbiome forever onward.

But unfortunately, we can’t talk about the solution without addressing the problem first, and that problem is the fact that most women suffering from IBS related symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation have cut out or are trying avoid one plant food or another.

Then another.

And another.

And before you know it, you’re limiting yourself to 20 some-odd foods, eating the same thing, over and over again. Scared of trying anything new, and concerned over the painful symptoms you might experience if you do.

What you feed will flourish.

This just means that because certain bacteria species are proficient and specialized in breaking down certain foods and particular types of fibre, when you eliminate those foods from your diet, those bacteria begin to die off.

And for the exact same reason, this is why when we eat large amounts of processed or animals foods and then try to go on a cleanse of some sort, we get cravings. Those bacteria that live inside of you that break down salty, fatty foods, are able to send signals to your brain for “nourishment”.

Otherwise, they die off. And remember, no one wants to die. It’s woven into the biological nature of the earth for all “beings” to want to survive and pass on their genes.

And so, when we find ourselves in this long-term elimination diet situation, we’re only feeding and giving life to the bacteria that break down those limited foods. Other species that are being neglected start to die off.

The longer you follow a restrictive diet (I’m referring to restricting plant foods here), the harder it becomes to re-introduce those foods later on, and the more likely you are to develop severe dysboisis and bacterial infections. Pathogenic bacteria are far more likely to take over the large intestine of a person with a uniform microbiome.

Here are the top 5 reasons why long-term elimination diets don’t work:

1. They’re highly restrictive.

Elimination diets are incredibly restrictive. There’s nothing wrong with eliminating foods and re-introducing them after a short amount of time to discover allergies, but when we embark on an elimination diet with the goal of permanently eliminating foods we’re sensitive to, that’s when we run into problems. The restrictive nature of elimination diets not only decrease diversity and health of the microbiome, but they can be really difficult to follow long term. The same goes for the low FODMAP diet, which is a style of elimination diet that most people don’t realize they shouldn’t follow long term due to its likelihood of negatively changing the composition of the microbiome.

2. They discourage microbial and food diversity.

Again, as mentioned above, a limited number of plant foods = limited diversity of bacteria species in the microbiome = greater susceptibility to pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and candidiasis.

3. They don’t address the root cause.

The problem with elimination diets is that they don’t address the root cause of what’s going on in the microbiome. We need to address dysbiosis, support digestion and elimination, consider the role that stress is playing in the body and look at diet if we truly want to conquer any kind of gut imbalance.

4. They’re wildly unrealistic. 

Are you really going to go the rest of your life avoiding grains, legumes, garlic and onions? Sure, it’s doable, but wouldn’t it be nice to sit down to a colourful, vibrant, plant based meal and not have to worry about its components? That’s the vision I have for you, and for all of my clients.

5. They don’t provide an exit strategy

Without an exit strategy for addressing dysbiosis at the root, an elimination diet will simply send you on a wild goose chase for the rest of your life, as you try to navigate more and more sensitivities that will inevitably pop up over the years. The problem is, as you eliminate foods in an attempt to eliminate symptoms, you’re never really getting to the WHY of why you’re experiencing those symptoms in the first place. The why will always be the missing, most important piece of the puzzle.

6. They don’t address diet quality.

You can venture on all the elimination diets in the world, but if you fail to address the quality and components of your diet, then you’ll continue to feed that dysbiosis fire—the same fire that led you to where you are today.

If you truly, deeply want to repair your microbiome from the inside out, then it’s time to get serious about what you’re eating, and most importantly, WHY.

That’s the main goal of the Plant Powered Gut Academy, and it always will be. To learn more about how you can FINALLY get to the bottom of your stubborn symptoms through evidence based nutrition strategies, set up a free 15-minute discovery call by clicking here.

With love and microbiome health,

– Ros

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