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Food elimination diet

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Why do a skin detox?

Symptoms and conditions on the skin are usually a result of an internal issue or imbalance usually related to diet or hormones.

By removing foods that are known to cause issues within the skin and reintroducing them individually will allow you to find out if there is a food type that you are intolerant to.

Removing foods that are causing issues within your body will decrease the pressure on your immune system and allow your body to focus more on the process of healing.

Skin detox

The elimination diet works by avoiding foods that are known to cause inflammation within the body for 3 weeks.

After the 3 week period foods are reintroduced back into the diet one at a time, and how the body reacts to the food is observed. If no symptom is noticed the food can continue to be eaten, however if symptoms are noticed the food type should continue to be avoided for another 3 months.

Avoiding foods that cause issues for 3 months gives the gut time to heal so foods that were once causing symptoms may be tolerated by the body again.

Benefits of doing a detox

Identify your food triggers

This elimination diet will help you identify which foods you have an intolerance to. It can be difficult to tell during a ‘normal’ diet as it can take several days for a reaction to show.

Symptoms can also occur when a person lacks an enzyme necessary to digest the food, such as lactase which is needed to digest milk products.

These adverse food reactions are common when the same foods are eaten day after day, resulting in greater sensitization to these foods.

Because wheat, corn, and soy are commonly added to many processed food products, we are often not aware of the extent of these foods in our diets.

Reduce inflammation

Foods that a body is intolerant to causes a inflammatory reaction in the gut which makes the lining of the intestinal wall more porous allowing more undigested food particles, bacteria and chemicals to pass into the blood. This stimulates the immune system and further increases the inflammation within the body.

The elimination diet includes many anti-inflammatory foods which will help reduce the inflammation within the body helping it to heal.

Supports healthy Microbiome

70% of our immune system lies in ort gut so a healthy body is reliant on a healthy gut. When there is an imbalance of good and bad microbes the gut is inflamed and can cause further symptoms within the body.

Phytonutrients to heal the gut

The elimination diet contains a variety of vegetables and fruits which contain phytonutrients and antioxidants which help detoxify and heal the gut, liver and kidney.

Antioxidants help reduce free radicals within the body and phytonutrients play an important role in reducing the stress response and inflammation.

These foods also help alkalize the body and help excrete toxins.

Reduces the toxic burden

The foods we commonly eat are filled with flavourings, preservatives, additives, pesticides, and herbicides, these are just naming a few. Eating a ‘cleaner’ diet will help the body remove toxins from the body helping it to heal.

Promotes body awareness to food

The elimination diet will make you aware of how eating certain foods makes you feel. Even if you are not intolerant to a food type it may still affect you in other ways like making feel lethargic or tired. Having this awareness will help you make better choices when it comes to choosing your meals.

The process

Phase 1: Avoid the foods to eliminate for 3 weeks

The first phase of the elimination diet is to avoid all the elimination foods for three weeks. Do not do less than three weeks as the body needs this time to clear the reactive foods you have previously eaton from the system.

At the beginning of the process symptoms may worsen or you may get withdrawal symptoms especially from sugar if you are used to eating this regularly. Symptoms you might experience include fatigue, lightheadedness and headaches. These should only last a couple of days before your body gets used to it’s new diet.

Throughout the elimination diet there is no calorie restriction on the foods to eat. Weight loss is not a goal of this plan, although it may happen as a result of cutting out foods you have an intolerance to.

Things to notice

By the end of the three week elimination period you may already start to see symptoms improve. On Top of this you may also feel better with increased energy and mental alertness.

Phase 2: reintroduce foods

Once the 3 week elimination period has been completed the body should have had a chance to remove most of the substances that are causing symptoms. Now food types can start to be introduced again to see how the body responds to them.

Introduce one food type at a time and eat a generous amount (two or three average size portions) of the food on the first day of reintroducing it. Try to eat a pure form of the food that doesn’t contain additives or ingredients from the other food types that have been eliminated. See the guide below that shows examples of pure foods.

Monitor how you feel and whether you notice any symptoms appear. It can take up to 4 days for the body to react to a food it is intolerant to so it is important to keep a food diary which can be referred to if required.

Symptoms you may experience include constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, sinus conjestion, runny nose, headache, muscle/joint pain, skin irritations, itching, flushing, fatigue, depression, anxiety. Remember to make not of any symptoms you experience in the food tracker.

The order in which foods are reintroduced isn’t important so start with the foods you miss the most. If after 3 days you don’t notice a reaction you can continue eating that food and start to introduce another food type and repeat the process as above.

Continue doing this until all the food types have been introduced back into the diet. If you notice a symptom stop eating the last food you introduced into your diet and make a note of the symptoms in your planner. Wait for the symptoms to clear and then continue reintroducing the other foods.

Phase 3: Remove foods associated with symptoms

Stop eating any foods that you react to for 3- 6 months. Once you have tested all of the foods you eliminated from the diet you can test individual foods within a food group that you reacted to. For example, if you reacted to dairy, you can test cheese made from cow's milk, sheep's milk and goats milk.

At the end of the 3-6 month period follow the same process, introducing each food type one at a time. If no symptoms show continue to add another food type, and if you experience symptoms stop eating the food, wait for the symptoms to clear and continue to introduce another food type.

If you see a healthcare practitioner they may recommend medical foods or dietary supplements to help support the body in healing.

What to expect

When you start the elimination diet you may have withdrawal symptoms from certain foods, especially ones that you are used to eating often and even more so if it’s sugar. Once these foods clear out of your body the cravings will reduce and it will be worth the effort!

At the beginning following the plan may take more time than you are used to spending preparing your food. Once you get used to your new meal plan things will quickly become faster and easier.

Symptoms you are already experiencing may get worse in the first few days due to the withdrawing from the foods you usually eat. These usually don’t last for more than a couple of days. Other symptoms you may experience include fatique, light headedness, gastrointestinal complains and headaches. These should also not last more than a couple of days so stick with it and you will see the results.

The food plan

Factors and time can change your skin throughout your life. Therefore, it’s important to know your skin before committing to any product.

Foods to eliminate

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Processed meats
  • Shellfish
  • Gluten containing grains (barley, rye, spelt, wheat)
  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Corn
  • Soy and soy products
  • Sugar (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, sucrose, etc)
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soft Drinks
  • Alcohol

Foods to eat

  • Poultry
  • Game meats
  • Fish
  • Gluten free whole grains (amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice, teff, etc)
  • Dairy alternatives
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits that are specifically listed
  • Nuts (except peanuts)
  • Seads
  • Healthy oils
  • Legumes (except soy)


Drinking enough water has multiple health benefits, it helps flush toxins, increases metabolism and is required in order for our cells to function effectively.

You should drink about two litres of water a day, this will vary for each individual depending on things like size and amount of exercise taken. If you are not going to the loo several times a day you are probably not drinking enough.

Drinks that are not allowed during the elimination diet are:

  • Coffee: Even though coffee isn’t a big allergen it has a big effect on the blood sugar and stress hormones.
  • Alcohol should be avoided because of the effect it has on the liver function. When the liver breaks down alcohol it produces toxins that promote inflammation and weaken the immune system.
  • Soft drinks contain a lot of sugar so they should be avoided.


If you need to, certain sweeteners can be used during the elimination diet, these include:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Raw honey
  • Coconut sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Lo han
  • Erythritol
  • Steviaas

Do not eat more than three teaspoons daily of all sweeteners combined.


Although cocoa does have healthy properties it should be avoided during the elimination diet. Related products like hot cocoa contain caffeine which needs to be avoided.

Food substitutes

Although cocoa does have healthy properties it should be avoided during the elimination diet. Related products like hot cocoa contain caffeine which needs to be avoided.


If you think you may have combination skin - but want an easy way to check - take a look at our quick guide below.

Plan before you start

Before starting the diet make sure you know what you need and have it all ready. It can also be helpful to do this at the beginning of each week to make sure you don’t run into any obstacles that will break the plan.

Check the labels for ingredients

Read all the ingredients labels and check for hidden foods and ingredients that should be avoided.

Don't go hungry

No one likes to be hungry so make sure you eat enough food. Eating consistently throughout the day will help keep the blood sugar levels stable helping you avoid cravings.

Go organic

When possible eat organic foods as this will reduce your intake of pesticides and other chemicals.

Start eliminating caffeine

If you drink a lot of caffeine start eliminating this before you start to process to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Try drinking decaf or half regular coffee for a few days and further reduce until you stop drinking it altogether.

Use cold pressed oils

Use cold pressed oils, these have not been heated during processing which breaks the oil down.

Drink enough water

This will help flush toxins from your body. If you need a flavour to it squeeze lemon or lime into it. Alternatively put slices of cucumber into the water.

Sleep 8 hours a night

Getting enough sleep is very important for our health, it is during this time that most of the body’s repair and healing work takes place.

Exercise 3 times a week

Exercising has multiple health benefits and will help you get the most out of this program.

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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