The Elimination Diet

Discover the Foods That Are Making You Sick and Tired--and Feel Better Fast


By Tom Malterre

By Alissa Segersten

Foreword by Jeffrey Bland

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The Diet Designed Just for You
Could the toast you ate for breakfast bring on your afternoon headache? Could the milk in your coffee cause joint pain and brain fog? Could your healthy tofu stir-fry slow your metabolism?
Yes-there is an age-old, powerful connection between what you eat and how you feel. Just as no two bodies are the same, no two diets work for everyone. The only way to discover your ideal diet is to follow an elimination diet that will help you link foods to symptoms and customize a diet that works for you.
Known for their ability to radically improve overall health, elimination diets are growing in popularity. But there’s no definitive book that explains how to follow one safely and effectively-until now. Written by two authors who are revered in the alternative health market and functional medicine community, The Elimination Diet guides you through a proven three-phase program that detoxifies the body and promotes fast healing:
  • Phase 1: Detoxification–A 2-day liquid fast that includes broths, smoothies, and juices to calm the immune system and removes toxins from the body.
  • Phase 2: Elimination–For 2 weeks, you will eliminate potentially inflammatory foods from your diet, which will ease symptoms quickly.
  • Phase 3: Customization–For 2 months, you will test different foods to see what works for you and what doesn’t, resulting in a tailored diet you can enjoy for life.
Complete with over 100 delicious recipes, shopping lists, and meal plans, The Elimination Diet is a complete resource for you to improve your health and feel better, naturally.


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Table of Contents


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I'm so excited you've picked up The Elimination Diet. The program you will find here has been used to change the lives of thousands of people. It is designed to help you feel better, look better, and live better.

The Elimination Diet is not your average diet. It's not about calories, fats, carbs, or portion control. It's not about depriving yourself of your favorite foods or punishing yourself. It's about creating a new awareness of how the foods you eat make you feel.

Whether you're aware of it or not, what you eat every day directly determines how you feel. Some foods can drag you down, make you sick, and create nagging pain, digestive discomfort… and more. You may not even realize all of the different ways food has been affecting you—you may think your fatigue, or brain fog, or joint pain, or heartburn, or even weight gain are normal for you. But that's far from the truth. These symptoms can all be helped and even eliminated by changing your diet. Just as some foods cause issues, others can provide incredible health and energy, boost your metabolism, give you great skin, improve your mood, and increase longevity.

In this book, you will discover the plan you need for identifying which foods make you feel good and which foods make you feel bad. This direct and simple approach will give you powerful control over your health.

I've been using the Elimination Diet in my clinical practice for more than ten years. The program has evolved over time as research and results have helped make the plan even more effective. The program in this book has been fine-tuned over the years to help my clients, my family, and even myself. In fact, my first discovery of it was by way of an experiment on my own health.


I know what it's like to feel uncomfortable in your own body. In high school and throughout college, I would experience episodes of nagging joint pain, severe digestive discomfort, and dulling mental fog. In other words, I would go from being happy and sharp as a tack to grumpy, tired, and dealing with a miserably aching gut. What was most frustrating was the unpredictability—I never really knew when these flu-like symptoms were going to hit me or what was causing them.

While in school for my master's degree, I went on a raw food detox diet for a few weeks, and the muddy thoughts in my head cleared up, the nagging joint pain disappeared, I had boundless energy, and my digestive troubles normalized.

I was amazed at how much better I felt. But it didn't last. As soon as I went back to eating my favorite staples like sourdough rye bread and whole wheat tortillas, the agony returned immediately. I knew I had found the source of my symptoms: gluten. When I took the gluten out for good, my entire life got lifted to a new level I never even dreamed was possible.

Even though I didn't realize it at the time, this self-experiment was my first experience with an elimination diet. By removing foods and then adding them back in, I was able to determine which foods were causing my symptoms. It was a profound and life-changing discovery—it put me in control of my health.

I started to explore elimination diets further. I had learned about their history and use from Dr. Alan Gaby, former president of the American Holistic Medicine Association, and Dr. Joe Pizzorno, coauthor of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. After reviewing my notes from their lectures and literature, and evaluating numerous research articles, it became clear that this was a potent and proven tool that should be used by all nutritionists. Pretty soon I was convincing all my friends, family, and acquaintances to try the Elimination Diet. Some of the results were close to miraculous, as joint pain, fatigue, and headaches all but disappeared.

Completely blown away by the power of this simple intervention, I opened my own clinical practice and started telling clients that they would feel fantastic if they could just cut out foods like gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, soy, and corn for 28 days. I was met with the same simple question over and over again. "Ummm… so what do I eat?"

Thankfully, I had a secret weapon: Ali Segersten. Ali, a fellow graduate of the Bastyr University nutrition program and the coauthor of this book, is a recipe-making genius! I have literally never met another human who can invent more delicious, wholesome, and gorgeous recipes than her. (I'm lucky: She's my wife, too.)

Ali would take any request—no matter how challenging—and come up with an elimination diet–friendly recipe. My clients were ecstatic with the results and I would print off stacks of recipes at the end of my appointments. They were huge hits! Everyone was amazed at how delicious eating this way could be.

It wasn't long before we had hundreds of requests to put together a cookbook with Elimination Diet–friendly recipes. In 2006, we self-published the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, which contained a condensed and simplified version of the Elimination Diet. After ordering a thousand copies, we were sure that our pallet of books would gather dust in our garage for years. But we sold more than 400 copies in just a few weeks, and within a few months we were completely sold out. Both clients and practitioners were scrambling for copies to share with their friends and families. Within a few years, the gluten-free trend took off and our cookbook became a cult classic in the Northwest and among Functional Medicine practitioners across the United States and Canada. More than 60,000 copies and ten years later, Ali's recipes are still winning over the hearts and taste buds of people around the globe.

We've also used our websites, and, to share how-to and informative videos, new recipes, and overviews of many of the concepts that are introduced in our books and within my practice. If you want additional resources, like helpful videos or cooking demos, visit the Elimination Diet page on our site, which provides extra resources to help you succeed while participating in this life-changing process.

The Elimination Diet is without a doubt the clear cornerstone of the work I do in my practice. Through my practice and our websites, we've used it to help thousands of people eliminate migraines, digestive issues, skin problems, joint pain, unwanted weight gain, fatigue, and more.

And now we're bringing it to you in this book. Are you ready to improve your life and finally create freedom from unnecessary symptoms? It's all within your reach.


In Part 1, you'll read about the core concepts of the Elimination Diet, and discover why it's so important to use food first to let go of your symptoms. You'll also learn about the glorious gut and why normal digestive functions are so important to your complete health. Plus, you will learn about the most common foods linked to food reactions, and how environmental triggers might be hurting your health.

Part 2 will get you excited and prepared to start the Elimination Diet. You'll find great ideas and strategies for reducing stress, improving metabolism, managing detox systems, and preparing yourself mentally for the program. Don't miss this section! Plenty of the action items can be implemented immediately and will help move you toward feeling better right away. Included here are essential kitchen items you'll need during the diet and a complete shopping list for when you're ready to hit the store.

In Part 3, you will find the three phases of the Elimination Diet laid out for you in detail. We've included sample meal plans for each phase, complete "yes" and "no" food lists so you know exactly what to include and exclude, and information on how to pick the best foods for feeling great. In chapter 11, you'll hear directly from Ali as she shares with you an incredible number of recipes for all three phases of the program. Get ready to explore the delicious and rejuvenating world of fresh, whole, healing foods. You'll also find here a chapter on special dietary considerations and commonly asked questions.

Be sure to also check out the Resources section for info on where to find many of our recommended products and a selection of research studies that support the content of this book.


On the pages that follow, you will discover all the steps you need to take to feel great: which foods to remove, which to keep, and which foods and supplements to add; hundreds of delicious, easy to make recipes; and support and inspiration to ensure your success.

This book was written to help you feel better. There is too much unnecessary suffering in the world today. After seeing thousands of people wake up to new lives full of passion, joy, and vibrant health, I have made it my mission to share this process with as many people as possible. Life is short. Live it to the fullest!


Why the Elimination Diet Works



Whether you have experienced the power of food yourself or know one of the millions of people who have changed their diet and healed themselves, from stomach upset, migraines, eczema, unexplained weight gain, or chronic fatigue, you have a feeling this diet will help you. Chances are, you are right.

After lecturing across the United States and Canada, seeing thousands of clients in clinical practice over the last decade, and earning two degrees in nutritional sciences, I have seen no other thing help people more than the Elimination Diet. They can be at the end of all hope, seeing numerous specialists and taking countless medications, and come back from the brink. All by changing their food.


Every day the Elimination Diet helps people like Sally feel good again. Some of the remarkable success I've seen in my own practice by changing food alone:

  • Jim, 81, let go of arthritis pain
  • Christy, 48, got rid of her migraines and back pain
  • Penelope, 2, healed her intestines
  • Marian, 58, let go of carpal tunnel syndrome and felt 20 years younger
  • Joan, 42, had her eczema disappear
  • Siblings Charles and Katie, 7 and 9 respectively, improved their autistic symptoms
  • Daniel, 44, lost 30 pounds and lowered his blood pressure
  • Julie, 17, stopped vomiting after meals
  • Linda, 53, experienced clear thinking for the first time in years
  • Alex, 25, let go of his embarrassing gas

… and the list goes on.

It doesn't matter if someone comes in with constipation, obesity, MS, or high blood pressure, doing the Elimination Diet drastically alters how their body functions. The results never cease to amaze me.

Logically, it makes sense. Certain foods are chock-full of potentially harmful particles that are not digested well and can easily confuse and excite your immune cells. When we remove these foods that are the most likely to irritate us, many diseases will calm down.

I am not the only one witnessing these profound results. For decades, researchers have been documenting the power of using food to improve a long list of conditions. Here are just a few examples:

  • A study published in the journal Clinical Allergy revealed that 91 percent of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers benefited from eliminating foods such as grains, milk, nuts, beef, and eggs.
  • Research published in The Lancet determined that 85 percent of migraine sufferers could become headache-free by following an elimination diet. Wheat, oranges, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, and corn were some of the foods linked to migraines.
  • J. C. Breneman, a pioneer in the area of food allergy research, found that symptoms of gallbladder disease could be eliminated in 100 percent of the people who followed an Elimination Diet. This research, published in the Annals of Allergy, showed that eggs, pork, onions, fowl, milk, coffee, oranges, corn, nuts, and tomatoes could cause the vast majority of gallbladder irritation.

The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the educational organization that has trained some of the most cutting-edge physicians practicing medicine today, teaches the importance of elimination diets in all of their training programs. (I was fortunate enough to study there as well.)

During one of their courses, I heard many statements from esteemed faculty about how eliminating problem foods can help patients heal. Dr. Catherine Willner, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic, mentioned that her MS clients might benefit from the removal of gluten from their diet. Dr. Mark Hyman, author, clinician, and the current chairman of the IFM board of directors, shared that he had instructed his nutrition staff to put patients on an elimination diet before he would see them in his office. He claimed that 80 percent of them got so much better that he only had to do some fine-tuning from there.

And at another educational seminar, world-renowned thyroid expert and Phoenix-based naturopathic doctor Alan Christianson said that he had seen elimination diets completely change the course of his patients with certain types of thyroid disease.

All of these practitioners (and countless others) were seeing the same things as I was seeing in clinical practice. And why wouldn't they? Most of the common unnecessary symptoms plaguing people today are happening because something is irritating the body. And for more and more people, foods are the primary irritants.


When your body is irritated, there is only one way it knows how to respond: It gets inflamed, and sends chemical messengers and immune cells to attack whatever is causing the irritation.

When this attack is going on within the body, symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and joint pain can be experienced. You might feel kind of like you're getting the flu, but the lousy feelings never really go away or they seem to come and go mysteriously.

What's likely going on is your body is fighting a battle every time you eat. It's possible that the foods you're eating are being mistaken for dangerous compounds like bacteria and viruses. Could that be why you are walking around with gut pain, brain fog, anxiety, headaches, back pain, and a few extra pounds? Yes. In fact, every common disease that people are suffering from has this inflamed state—better known as inflammation—at its core (you'll learn more about inflammation later in this chapter).

To create healing, we must look to food first. This is not a new concept, but rather a time- and research-tested approach to unnecessary and frustrating symptoms.


Before the introduction of pharmaceuticals, doctors/teachers/medicine men/wise women from all corners of the earth knew that foods created a response in the body. They knew that certain foods promoted mucus, while others cleared it. They knew there were particular foods to avoid when you were feeling anxious, and others to eat to feel calm. And more important, they knew that each person reacted differently to all foods.

Even the designated father of western medicine, Hippocrates, famously stated: "Let thy food be thy medicine." And yet you'd be hard-pressed to find a practitioner of modern medicine who asks you the most basic question: What do you eat every day?

It baffles me that the most influential action we can take to improve our health is often ignored by modern medicine. We can change that with the Elimination Diet.

It is time we look to diet as being at the root of health and wellness in our society. And there is no better tool to examine the effect of our diet on our health than the Elimination Diet. Allergists have been using elimination diets for centuries to determine which harmful foods were causing severe breathing and skin conditions. More recently, Functional Medicine doctors have recognized that they play a much broader role in health care. The success they're reporting in treating autoimmune disorders, intestinal issues, and other chronic health conditions is helping the diet to finally get noticed by mainstream medicine.

I've been implementing this dietary program in my own practice for ten years to help people with laundry lists of symptoms. I have never seen anything produce greater and more profound changes in people's lives. More important, the changes happen fast: if not within the first few days, then within the first few weeks. Research articles reflect that others have seen these same speedy results.

The migraine study referenced earlier from The Lancet reported that headaches disappeared within the first five days in the majority of cases. The previously mentioned research of Dr. J. C. Breneman revealed that discomfort related to gallbladder disease improved within three to five days of starting an elimination diet. In "The effect of diet in rheumatoid arthritis," published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis were shown to improve after 10 days of eliminating trigger foods.

In my clinical nutrition practice, more than 80 percent of people who go on the Elimination Diet feel better. Within three to five days, many experience relief from symptoms they've dealt with for decades. Within twelve to fourteen days, they feel like they have a new lease on life. For a small investment of time, you can get a return of living life on a completely new level. Is it your turn to feel better?


Because I have been trained in Functional Medicine, the diet shared in this book is closely related to the diet recommended by the Institute for Functional Medicine. After reviewing hundreds of articles and getting feedback from thousands of participants, this updated diet has been designed to help the highest number of people suffering from a large range of disorders.

Both historical and modern texts were referenced, industry experts were interviewed, and countless scientific articles were read to determine which foods would be taken out and which foods would be added on the program found in this book.

Perhaps most important of all are the life-changing results of all the people who have gone before you. These individuals have paved the way to getting better fast, and they've experienced incredible benefits by following the Elimination Diet. Let's explore these real-life benefits a bit more and see what people have had to say about their experiences.

The Eight Benefits of the Elimination Diet

Benefit #1: A Clear Mind

Symptoms/conditions eliminated or reduced:

Foggy thinking

Short-term memory issues

Anxiety and hyperactivity

Symptoms of depression

In their own words:

"I feel like the fog has lifted!"

"My keys are not getting lost anymore."

"Our son has gone from bouncing off the walls to playing quietly."

"I actually want to get out of bed now."

Benefit #2: A Calm Gut

Symptoms/conditions eliminated or reduced:

Gas and bloating

Reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD)

Diarrhea and constipation

Cramping and pain

In their own words:

"So these pants fit me after all! I was loosening my belt so much after eating that I was beginning to wonder."

"My wife thanks you profusely for putting me on this diet."

"I had no idea six or more bowel movements a day was not normal."

"I had no idea two bowel movements a week was not normal."

"Sitting at my desk for more than an hour before rushing to the bathroom probably saved my job."

"There are no more knives in my gut after I eat."

Benefit #3: No Pain

Symptoms/conditions eliminated or reduced:

Back pain


Leg cramps

Carpal tunnel

In their own words:

"I can't believe it. The doctors said I would suffer for the rest of my life."

"Not only is the pain in my back gone, but I can move more freely now."

"How is it that food changed my carpal tunnel? I thought that was a repetitive motion disorder?"


On Sale
Mar 31, 2015
Page Count
256 pages

Tom Malterre

About the Author

Alissa Segersten is a cooking instructor and author of the food blog,, empowering people with cooking skills and knowledge of whole foods so that they may reconnect with pleasure in eating delicious, nourishing food.

Tom Malterre, MS, CN, is a certified nutritionist who holds two degrees in nutritional sciences, and is a faculty member of the Autism Research Institute. He coaches physicians and other health care practitioners on using Functional Medicine principals in their clinical practices, and travels the U.S. and Canada lecturing on the biochemical interactions within the body and their relationship to diet.

Learn more about this author