April 18, 2014 at 3:14 PM ET
"Elimination diets" are aimed not at helping people lose weight but at helping them feel better.
Here's how it works: Cut out certain foods or food groups for a few weeks, then add them back in one by one to test the body's response. The most commonly eliminated foods include dairy, soy, nuts, eggs, gluten, sugar and alcohol. Those who believe it works say that identifying food intolerances — and cutting offending foods out of the diet — can help cure headaches, skin irritations, digestive problems and fatigue.
"I've seen elimination diets transform how people feel," said Clifford Bassett, medical director for Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and faculty member at New York University School of Medicine.
After years of unsuccessfully treating her skin condition psoriasis with prescription creams, Emily Pinto, 24, decided to completely cut gluten out of her diet. "It's been about 6 or 7 months and my skin looks exponentially better," she said.
Elimination diets give you a very quick way to understand how foods are affecting you, Dr. Mark Hyman, author of "The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body's Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast," told TODAY.
"Many people suffer from chronic symptoms that are really unnecessary and are connected to what they eat," he said.
Cutting out certain foods for a few weeks can help people get to the bottom of lifelong ailments — by determining if they feel better when they don't eat them.
"Most of us are eating hyper-processed, hyper-palatable addictive foods that are full of inflammatory triggers," he said.
Those who believe they are "gluten sensitive," for example, often complain of gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and change in bowel habits. However, some also state they are "foggy," have ADHD-like behavior, headaches or joint pain.
Bottom line: If you are thinking about an elimination diet, seek the advice of an experienced practitioner before making any big changes to your dietary regimen, Basset recommends to help reduce the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies and to rule out a potentially more serious food allergy.