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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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An Easier Detox: The Elimination Diet

There have been a lot of comments and emails here lately about not quite being ready for a full-on cleanse.  I understand completely, as it does take some time, preparation, and diligence to do it well.  So I thought I’d share the Elimination Diet with you all.

Before embarking on the Clean cleanse, Matt and I began with a week of the Elimination Diet.  During that week, we gradually weaned ourselves off caffeine, and eliminated the foods most likely to create body inflammation and/or allergic responses.

The Results After One Week

The caffeine withdrawal headaches weren’t great, but also not nearly as bad as I thought.  I think it makes a big difference to eliminate refined sugar and starches at the same time, so you don’t have sugar highs and lows.  Plus at the end I was no longer dependent on caffeine, which is liberating!

I felt cleaner, my skin was softer, any blemishes I had disappeared, I lost a couple pounds, and I was lighter on my feet.  Sort of a detox-lite.  Not a full-on cleanse (which is life-changing) but really, really good.

I encourage you to try it for a week and see how you feel.  Everyone I know who has done this with diligence has said they felt better afterward.

Foods That Create Inflammation & Toxic Responses

Now that I’ve observed the results of de-inflaming my body, I can see the puffiness in other people.  Inflammation makes you look a little bloated, and not quite healthy – it’s particularly easy to see in the face.  And while I found that the puffiness didn’t correlate to weight, it most definitely correlated to clothes sizes and the difference I saw in the mirror.

The seven foods that create the majority of our body inflammation and other toxic responses:

  1. Dairy
  2. Wheat, barley and rye (the gluten grains – even if you’re not allergic, you may find you have symptoms)
  3. Refined sugar
  4. Eggs
  5. Soy
  6. Corn
  7. Red meat

Some sources put the nightshade family in this category as well (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tomatillos).  That might be just one too many to eliminate for some of us.

Four-Day Rotation

According to my Naturopath and Clean, even after the Elimination Diet you should try to eat these foods only once every four days.  This allows your body to recover (ie detox) from the foods so that inflammation doesn’t build up.  For all you gardeners out there, I think of this as crop rotation.

I know that is a hard list for most of us to avoid, but I encourage you to see how the food affects your body for just one week.  Then continue for another couple weeks if you like it.  And if not, at least it was an interesting study!

Foods To Eat

I’m not a nutritionist, as you know.  No claims to be so!  The following list was compiled using several resources, but is taken mostly from Clean.  I have a copy of this list in my wallet that I pull out when I’m grocery shopping (I’m sorry the following list is so long – I can’t create a table here).


  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Figs (these are high in sugar so not too many)
  • Huckleberries
  • Kiwi
  • Kumquat
  • Loganberries
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Mulberries
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries


  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beet & beet greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery root (celeriac)
  • Chives
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Jicama
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms: all
  • Onions
  • Pak choi
  • Okra
  • Red leaf chicory
  • Sea vegetables/seaweed (kelp, dulse, hijiki, arame, wakame)
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (winter & summer)
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini


  • Lentils: brown, red, green, yellow, French
  • Split peas
  • Chickpeas
  • All beans, except soy (edamame)

Grains, Pasta & Cereals

  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Teff
  • Buckwheat
  • Rice: brown, red, black (forbidden rice), wild
  • Puffed brown rice
  • Puffed millet
  • Brown rice pasta
  • 100% Buckwheat noodles
  • Kelp noodles
  • Flours: brown rice, teff, millet, tapioca, amaranth, garbanzo bean, coconut, chestnut, sorghum

Nuts & Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Flax seeds
  • Hazelnuts (filberts)
  • Pecans
  • Poppy seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp seeds


Use unrefined, extra virgin, non-gmo, organic, & cold-pressed oils.

  • Almond
  • Flax seed
  • Coconut (best for cooking at high temperatures)
  • Olive
  • Pumpkin
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower
  • Walnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Truffle

Milk Substitutes

  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Hemp milk (unsweetened)
  • Hazelnut milk (unsweetened)
  • Coconut milk or water
  • Rice (whole grain, brown rice) – least optimal due to its being more processed and higher in sugar


  • Teas: herbal, white, rooibos, green, yerba mate
  • Kombucha
  • Mineral water
  • Spring water
  • Fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juice – made with only fruits and vegetables listed above


  • Whole fruit sweeteners (dates, eg)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Agave – not the preferred choice, but okay in moderation


  • Free-range chicken, turkey, duck
  • Lamb
  • Buffalo
  • Wild game: venison, quail, pheasant, rabbit
  • Cold water ocean fish: wild pacific salmon, ocean char, cod, halibut, haddock, sole, pollack, tuna, stripped bass
  • Water-packed canned tuna (without added soy protein)
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies

Spices, Condiments

  • Most spices are ok if they don’t contain the 7 foods to avoid above
  • Mustard (made with apple cider vinegar)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Miso
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Tarragon vinegar
  • Ume plum vinegar

Make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables!

Reintroduce Foods Gradually

If you do this for at least three weeks (the minimum time required to completely remove foods from your system), you will also have some the reintroduction benefits of a cleanse.  That means you can slowly – one by one – reintroduce the 7 potentially toxic foods to see how your body reacts to them.

Briefly, you should eat each food in its purist form (not mixed with anything else if possible), preferably 3 distinct times in one day.  For example, corn tortillas or chips to test corn, a slice of whole wheat bread to test gluten.  Then wait 2 days and record in a journal anything different physically or emotionally.  After 2 days, move to the next one on the list.


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10 comments to An Easier Detox: The Elimination Diet

  • Katie

    I think I’m going to try this! Do you have recipe suggestions? I went shopping today, and it amazed me how few things I could eat to stick to this properly, even at a place like whole foods! I foresee a lot of beans, rice, and lentils in my future. :-D

  • Katie, I just posted about the cookbook Clean Start – it’s full of recipes. During our cleanse, we ate a lot of beans, rice, lentils, and fish. It actually gets easier as you go – as your body starts to feel good, that feeling good actually becomes a motivation to stick to the diet.

    All that is my way of saying… no, not really. ;)

    Matt is the cook in the family and he made a lot of sauteed greens with our beans and rice. Add 1 bunch of roughly sliced and de-stemmed kale, ample salt and pepper, the juice of 1/4 (or so) of lemon, and 1-2 T olive or canola oil. Saute in a pan for a few minutes. Add a bit of water as necessary to keep it moist but not wet. Cook until tender.

  • My husband and I are gearing up to do Clean! We’re both pretty excited! I want to check out the Clean Start book, too. It’s sounds great. Did you and/or your husband have a hard time after the cleanse? I’m wondering about weight gain, etc. once it’s over.

  • sara

    What about raw dairy? I’ve been trying to eat a reduced grain (almost grain-free diet), but I really enjoy my raw milk. It seems that some feel that raw dairy is a great health food, but the other side says that even raw milk is inflammatory. How can they both be right?

    Oh, and eggs- can you explain why those aren’t allowed? We only eat organic free range eggs, mostly raw. Thanks!

  • Katie

    Oh! And is it all dairy, or lactose?

  • Katie

    Oh! And is it all dairy, or lactose? For example, could I eat goat cheese?

  • Never mind about my previous comment! I just found the post you wrote earlier about your experience afterwards! Sorry… :-)

  • Is there a difference between nutritional yeast and brewers yeast?

  • [...] Do a Cleanse or Detox. Gets all those toxins out of your system, makes you feel GREAT, eliminates the foods you’re most likely to be sensitive to, and gives you a clean slate to test out foods you might be allergic to.  You can do it with your doctor’s guidance.I did it and LOVED it.  Alternatively, do the Elimination Diet. [...]

  • Renee

    Great list of foods to eat! I think if someone did all the shopping for me and then gave me the food to eat at the right intervals, I would gladly do a detox program. I’m just such a creature of habbit, especially when it comes to what I eat and what I have time to prepare. My biggest hurdles. I can handle a day or two maybe but beyond that gives me reason to procrastinate! This information makes it a little easier though.

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