Foods That Don't Love You Back

October, 2017 update:

I devoted an entire chapter to the Elimination/Provocation experiment in my Essential Thyroid Cookbook (page 116). I understand that some elimination diets also exclude grains and legumes. I also want people to know that there’s a significant difference between an Elimination Diet and an Elimination/Provocation Diet.

I give a full explanation of why I don’t think that a Paleo/AIP diet is a one-size-fits-all approach in these chapters of the cookbook:

- Why This is Not Another Paleo/AIP Cookbook (page 32)
- In Defense of Grains (page 40)
- In Defense of Legumes  (page 41)

So far, the response to my approach from readers, my peers and colleagues, and other experts in the functional medicine community has been overwhelmingly supportive.

You can use the code thyroid20 to get our #1 bestselling cookbook for 20% off. Purchase here, includes shipping. U.S. only. 

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I get a lot of questions about food sensitivities. My clients want to know the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy.

Here’s the difference. Food allergies cause an immediate response. Hives? Shortness of breath? Anaphylactic Shock? Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat? Nausea or vomiting? Abdominal pain? Dizziness? These are all signs of a food allergy vis a vis the IgE immune response.

Food sensitivities are shiftier and can exact an even greater toll on our health because they can be more challenging to identify, often causing the ensuing cellular inflammation to rage on for years. Many people have food sensitivities and have no idea. This is the much more subtle yet still serious IgG immune response.

Because a food sensitivity often rears its ugly head a few days after the offender is eaten, it can make it difficult to trace the irritation to a particular food. Identifying these offenders can have a profound effect on your health, as silent inflammation is a major player in the onset of all degenerative diseases, according to the functional medicine community.

Symptoms of food sensitivities include, but are not limited to: fatigue, drowsiness after eating, brain fog, poor memory and concentration, agitation, mood swings, intense cravings (especially sugar, refined carbs, and starch), abdominal cramping, difficulty losing weight, depression, restlessness, irritability, headaches (including migraines), swollen and painful joints, muscle pain and stiffness, gas, bloating, flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, blurry vision, broken sleep, skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, acne), recurring sinusitis, and asthma.

Dang, right?

Here’s another kicker. Eating foods that we are sensitive to can also up the ante on autoimmunity, including autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s). Just as the body launches a seek-and-destroy mission on the thyroid in the case of Hashimoto’s, the body will also see offending or inflammatory foods as the enemy and will antagonize the whole autoimmune response, making it difficult to get a handle on Hashimoto’s, or any autoimmune condition.

And…eating foods that our bodies see as “enemies” also increases our stress response, causing our adrenals to pump out even more stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). So while having a food sensitivity itself can cause people to hold on to weight or gain weight, wayward cortisol (“the belly fat hormone”) sets up camp around our midsection.

How To Snuff out the Fire

This Elimination/Provocation Diet (eliminate, then see if there is a reaction/provocation) is very telling and can have a life-changing impact on your long-term health. It can be one of the most important things you ever do for your wellbeing and is considered “the gold standard” for identifying foods that don’t love you back. (Forget blood (ALCAT, for example) or skin testing for food sensitivities—these tests are mostly a waste of time and money, as they’re been repeatedly shown to be inconclusive.) 

Eliminate these foods 100% for three weeks:

  • eggs
  • dairy
  • gluten (including wheat, barley, and rye) *
  • soy
  • nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, and peppers, including cayenne powder)
  • corn
  • nuts
  • peanuts (which are legumes, not nuts)
  • shellfish
  • citrus fruits

* If you have Hashimoto’s, gluten should be categorically, 100% avoided, always. Do not reintroduce.

At the same time, take:

1. A quality probiotic
2. L-glutamine
3. Drink bone broth or take a collagen/gelatin supplement

[For the above, my favorite glutamine is Glutagenics by Metagenics and my favorite collagen is Vital Proteins collagen peptides. There are so many good probiotic brands/formulations out there, but my favorites include MegaFood’s MegaFlora Plus, Ortho Biotic by Ortho Molecular, and Ther-Biotic Factor 1 by Klaire Labs. Scroll to the bottom of this post to get any of these from Fullscript at a discount. Fullscript is the best place on the web to obtain the highest quality supplements.]

The diet itself is very healing and the three supplements above help to fast-track the cellular turnover of the digestive lining for maximum healing. (Many of my clients, prior to our work together, had done some iteration of an E/P experiment without this specific supplementation. I guide them through the experiment again with the supplementation, and the results are remarkably different.)

Okay, so after three weeks of this clean slate, reintroduce each food one at a time, eating 4-5 servings of that specific food on your reintroduction day. (Nightshades and nuts don’t need to be separated out, meaning on the day of your nightshade reintroduction, you can eat any and all nightshades and on the day of nut reintroduction, you can eat any and all nuts.)

Monitor symptoms for 3 days. If you have a reaction, BAM. There’s your answer. Reactions include an acute occurance of any of the symptoms listed above.

If you have a reaction, eliminate that food or food group for approximately 2-3 more months (depending on the severity of your reaction) while continuing the supplementation.

If you feel that three months is a long time, ask yourself if you’re willing to live with your symptoms—and your autoimmunity. What if, after three or so months, your gut was healed (for some, it takes a bit longer) and you could reintroduce that prior troublemaker without problems? When you think about the span of your lifetime, three months just doesn’t seem like that long, does it?

An easy way to eliminate these potentially offending foods is to use Sarah Schatz’s amazing meal plans. See her “Seven Common Allergen-Free” category; it most closely matches this diet. You can tweak as necessary. For example, she excludes all grains (including corn) and does NOT exclude nightshades or citrus, but many of her recipes don’t include these ingredients to begin with. 

I love how her recipes and meal plans offer one of the easiest (and most enjoyable) ways I know to eat well and keep blood sugar balanced during this diet. This is a cleansing and detoxifying diet, and many people feel amazing—lighter and brighter, more energetic, more positive, and most people report losing a few pounds within a mere week.

Please know that elimination of foods we’re sensitive to can cause withdrawal symptoms for some people, such as fatigue, headache, or mild skin reactions. These usually subside in 2-3 days, so don’t despair. Taking a heaping teaspoon of powdered fiber (not Metamucil—something like psyllium, triphala, or acacia fiber) in 8 oz. of water and/or taking activated charcoal capsules can alleviate symptoms quickly.

Recommendations and tips:

  • Read all food labels—the food industry can be tricky with naming ingredients.
  • Many prepared foods have hidden additives and fillers that contain wheat and egg byproducts.
  • Avoid packaged, canned, and convenience foods during this diet.

Trust me, this experiment will change your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined!

You can go here to set up a Fullscript account, where you’ll receive premium pricing on the highest quality supplements. U.S. only.


Unfortunately, all comments on this post written prior to Feb. 28, 2013 were inadvertently wiped out. Ouch.

Thanks for all the information you provide on this blog.  It's an excellent resource.  I've noticed that on other elimination diets, it is reccomneded that a person cut out sugar.  What do you think about removing sugar?  And also, should I avoid stevia and xylitol?  Thanks!

Hi Haven, yes, cutting out sugar is kind of assumed and the reason it’s not on the list of foods to avoid is that you don’t want to reintroduce it in large quantities during your provocation phase. It’s best to eat sugar in moderation regardless of health condition. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy sweets. I don’t have a big issue with stevia (as long as it’s not Truvia) or xylitol – again, in moderation. Even moderate amounts of xylitol can cause diarrhea for some. My go-to sweeteners are coconut palm sugar and date sugar. 

Thanks for your generosity in sharing your knowlege.  I am only one day into this diet, but I am wondering if brown rice and white rice are ok onthe elimination diet?  

Hi Casey, we believe that these foods are allowed, in moderation. I know this goes against what many others will tell you, especially if you have autoimmunity.

What evidence is there that people with Hashimoto's should eliminate gluten? I did it for a year and it didn't seem to make a difference at all, so I went back to gluten (life is easy and delicious again!)

I tried to find studies definitively showing that thyroid inflammation/antibodies/TSH improved off gluten, but I couldn't find anything convinicing. (I'm a PhD cancer biologist, fwiw.)

Hi Caitlin, I’m sorry your searches didn’t reveal anything. This is widely reported in the functional medicine community. I would look at the work of Dr. Datis Kharrazian, Chris Kresser, and Dr. Amy Myers, to name just a few.

It likely didn’t make a difference for you because going gluten-free isn’t a silver bullet and there are so many other factors to look at. If going gluten-free was a cure-all, no one would have Hashimoto’s.

What about eggs in shampoo? Is that an issue with AIP?

I would say yes, eggs can be an issue, just like gluten in body care products.

I am on day 3 of my elimination diet for alopecia universalis, currently lying in bed with headache, feeling sick, no energy whatsoever. I have eliminated all grains, dairy, nuts and seeds, nightshades, eggs, white potatoes, beans, legumes, chickpeas etc, green tea, all sugar apart from two servings of fruit in my morning smoothie, I am also taking supplements such as probiotics, collagen, biotin and cod liver oil. Is there anything else you think I should add or remove from my diet? As I am currently not feeling great on it! Thanks, Rachael 

Hi Rachael, I’m really sorry to hear that you’re feeling badly, but my blog isn’t a forum for individualized coaching and support. Know that what you’re feeling isn’t uncommon. Take some activated charcoal to get through it.

I've read that some people react to glutamine. Would you know why this would happen? Is there any alternative if one reacts to L-glutamine?

I have a question on bones used for bone broth. Would bones from organic chickens bought from Whole Foods be good enough? Some say organic chickens can still harbor lead and other metals in their bones.

Glutamine can convert to glutamate in the brain. That’s why it’s important to only do minimal dosing with glutamine. I think that organic bones are fine, but you can always take a supplemental collagen/gelatin.

Hi Jill, I was just wondering if butternut squash is OK to eat when on the elimination diet

Hi, thank you for this information. I have been a vegetarian for 21 years and my 5 year old daughter has never had any meat products (not while in my belly or from nursing and since.) I've accidently had a bite of meat over the years, and even though i spit it out and swallowed a minimal amount I became incredibly ill both times. The pain in my stomach was intense and violent and lasted for hours. I was told it was becauce I no lonnger has the enzymes to break down the meat? Even though I don't eat meat for ethical reasons I am open to using bone broth for my daughter for its healing properties, my  hesitation is that her body won't be able to break it down and she will become very ill from there anything I can do? 

I'm so glad I found this post! Thank you!

Gpt two questions:

1) If someone is tested for food sensitivities and X foods showed up, can we tell that those are the ones causing stress on my immune system? (Alopecia Areata)

2) If there's food on your "no" list that didn't show up on the test results - do they need to be eliminated also?

Thanks a lot!




Hi Daniela, I give very little credence to these food sensitivity tests. They’re notorious for both false positives and false negatives. The Elimination Diet is considered “the gold standard” for determining food sensitivites. Sorry, but I can’t give you good answers for either of your questions.

If you have alopecia, I wanted to make sure you saw this page:

Hi Jill,

First of all, I've read you and Lisa's Essential Thyroid Cookbook, and it was such an amazing resource. Thank you for putting that out there in the world! 

My question is about caffeine, specifically coffee. Other elimination diets (like the Whole 30) accept caffeine in moderation. What's your stance on coffee during the EP and then afterward? I wasn't able to find this information in the book or elsewhere. 

Thank you!

Hi Brienne, I think that moderate amounts of coffee are fine. Like many things, coffee has benefits if not abused. I recommend drinking it only in the morning, with fat, and never on an empty stomach.

Hi Jill. I have Hashimoto's and Alopecia and plan on trying the elimination diet. I have a few questions. 

1. Is honey allowed?

2. Is it okay to eat packaged bars with these ingredients: Organic Sprouted Watermelon Seeds, Organic Dates, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Vanilla Extract, Celtic Sea Salt, Organic Rosemary Extract. Or should ALL packaged foor be avoided?

3. How often can a new food be introduced once the 3 weeks are up?


Thank you so much!

Hi Marina,

1. Yes, in moderation, and as long as it doesn’t disrupt blood sugar.
2. I don’t see anything wrong with those bars. I don’t think that ALL packaged foods are bad. 
3. Like the post says, every 2-3 days, but I prefer people wait the full 3 days. If you have a more advanced reaction, you could wait 4, or until the symptoms subside.

Hi. I found this website early in my pregnancy and have been eager to start the diet and use your recommendations. I gave birth a few weeks ago and am now breastfeeding. Would you recommend the elimination/provocation diet white breastfeeding? Not only do I want to cure my thinking hair that ive been dealing with since 13 but also I have been feeling like I have Alzheimer's or something with my memory and focus issues and Im only 28! My main focus is my hair as it is devistating to me and I have been searching for answers for years. Doctors couldn't give me answers and all my tests were normal. im so happy I found this information, finally something that makes sense!

Hi Sky, this is definitely something I’d want you to speak with your doctor about. I’ve heard conflicting information about doing the E/P diet while breastfeeding.

Hi Jill,

Thank you so much for all this information!  I will be reintroducing food soon and I am trying to get a game plan together as to what I will eat each day.  The food I am having trouble figuring out, what and how much to eat, is soy.  I have never been one to eat soy very often, only the rare gluten free soy sauce and maybe a little edemane on a salad, and of course many packaged items will have some soy or are at the very least cross-contaminated.  My question is, on the days I reintroduce soy what do you suggest I eat and how much of it will be one serving?  Thank you for any advise you can offer.

I would suggest tempeh. You can make it the protein for all of your meals that day. Also include edamame. 

Hi, I am really confused because coconuts and almonds are in the nut category.   Please calrify as I am extremly confused and overwhelmed.  Ive already began a gluten free diet, dairy free diet.  


Hi Jennifer, yes, almonds are nuts. What is your question about almonds specifically? Also, coconuts are technically in the drupe family. Some consider them nuts, but I don’t in the context of this diet.

I just read some of the recepeits from your cook book and alot of the ingredietns include peppers and soy which I was told to stay away from.

Then please don’t choose those recipes. The cookbook isn’t tailored specifically to the Elimination Diet, although you’ll see that we wrote a lot of adaptations to make certain recipes in alignment with that diet. See the Recipes Guide at the beginning of the recipes section for a full explanation.

I see.  Thanks for your responses and for the information.  


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