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What Is the Total Elimination Diet?

By Jessica Blue

The Total Elimination Diet, or TED, is a strict nutrition regimen designed to diagnose food allergies. It is often used by breastfeeding mothers whose infants have allergy symptoms -- when a baby is nursing, certain allergens can be passed to her via her mother's breast milk. Elimination diets can also be used by adults who are suffering from symptoms of food intolerance. By controlling your diet, you can determine exactly which foods are causing your symptoms. This is not a weight-loss regimen and is not intended to be followed for long periods of time. Always seek your doctor's advice before making radical changes to your diet.


The Elimination Diet was developed by William G. Crook, M.D. and published in 1987. Since then, it has been recommended by lactation counselors and other professionals. It has also become a fairly common practice in diagnosing food sensitivities. In 2005, the "Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health" published an extensive guide to elimination diets, describing them as a "test" used to discover allergies and intolerance.

TED is extremely strict, and therefore less frequently used. In 2007, AP reporter Rebecca Boone chronicled her experiences with this regimen, and her eventual choice to switch to prescription infant formula rather than continue her TED.


In an elimination diet, patients stop eating any foods suspected of causing their illness. If their symptoms improve, they then introduce each suspect food individually to see when the illness returns. For breastfeeding mothers, TED is the most likely method to give their babies instant relief. The TED consists of organic, free-range turkey and lamb; baked and boiled potatoes and yams; rice and millet; green and yellow squash; and pears. After you switch to this diet, claims it can take up to two weeks for your baby's illness to subside.

Expert Insight

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states that food allergies affect 6 to 8 percent of children under 4, but only 3.7 percent of adults. More infants than adults have food intolerance, but infants cannot generally undergo allergy tests. According to, babies respond to mothers' diet changes "dramatically and quickly, often within one or two days."


The "Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health" states that following a strict elimination diet is not easy. It says, "it is almost impossible for elimination-diet patients to eat in restaurants, at school or at the homes of friends." Not only that, but putting a very young child on an elimination diet "may endanger the child's nutrition and normal growth."

Boone tried a TED because nothing else was working. It was recommended by her pediatric gastroenterologist; however, "there's no clear consensus on TEDs among doctors." Some recommend hypoallergenic formulas instead.


"Many physicians and researchers question the role of allergies in migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other conditions," the "Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health" states. Elimination diets may help to better understand the role of food intolerance in our health. Boone quotes one mother who tried a TED briefly, eventually opting to put her baby on formula. Still, the elimination diet helped her to discover that she herself was intolerant to milk, wheat and gluten.

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