How to: Self Experiment

We have talked about self experimentation in several posts like this one, but have never really explained it. Self experimentation is probably the only way you will truly be able to have your perfect diet. The truth is, a lot of people are able to digest different things better than others. Some people are very bad at digesting dairy (lactose intolerant), others have a very difficult time digesting gluten (celiac’s disease) then there are those of us who have less severe reactions that we are not completely aware of, and that is what self experimentation is really for. Here is how to do it:


Self experimentation can be done on pretty much any type of food. It turns out, it is a little bit harder to do self experimentation in your college dining hall than at home, but it is definitely still doable. The gist of self experimentation is that for a period of time, you completely stop eating a certain type of food, then after the duration, you reintroduce that food. It seems simple, but to truly have a successful experiment, you must be a good documenter.

Phase 1: Pre-Experiment

What should I track?

Tracking your progress through a self experiment can be difficult. It starts with just writing or typing down how you feel on a regular basis. These things could include:

  • Emotions: How is your mood?
  • Physical: Do you have good energy?
  • Body: Do you have stomach pain or a headache? Runny nose, etc?
  • Stool shape and consistency
  • How do you look? Taking before and after pictures is a good idea
  • Hunger Levels

Try and keep these notes consistent by using a multiple choice rating system such as: Great, Good, Indifferent, Poor, Very Bad. This way, you keep your experiment consistent and are able to plot your data if need be.

The next thing you will want to track is a few numbers. If you really want this self experiment to be accurate, you are going to want some exact numbers as proof. Here are some good number markers to track:

  • Weight
  • Blood Pressure
  • Waist Size, etc
  • Blood Work (can cost money. It is recommended, but definitely not necessary)

What should I experiment on?

Once you have taken down your initial notes, you are ready to start experimenting! Whatever food it is that you think you might have a problem with, completely take it out of your diet. Some of these foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Coffee/Caffeine
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Certain Vegetables and Fruits
  • Eating raw foods (Only eat cooked, or slightly cooked foods)
  • Vegetable oils
  • Gluten
  • Chocolate

Phase 2: During Experiment

How long should I experiment?

Depending on what food you have chosen and how quickly your body adapts to new foods, your self experimentation should be somewhere from 3 to 30 days. During this time, It would be a good idea to not have that certain food at all. The reason for this is because you don’t want to take down any false notes, hampered by the consumption of that food.

During the experiment, try to measure your weight, take pictures and take notes on how you feel at least 4 separate times (the more you write down, the more accurate it will be). Make sure that if you eat out, you ask your waiter, or your dining hall cook if your dish has the certain food you are experimenting on in it.

Phase 3: Post- Experiment

After your allotted time for your experimentation is up, it is time to reintroduce. It is probably best not to overload yourself during this phase. For example, if you are experimenting with gluten, don’t go out and eat a whole pizza. Instead, have a piece of toast with breakfast, etc. It is critical that during this time you are making note of everything you eat, and how you feel, look and perform. At this time, it would be a good idea to retake any blood work that you may have taken before the experiment.

How do I know if it worked?

The last piece of the self experiment is to reassess. Look back at your notes, pictures, and numbers from before the experiment, during the experiment and then immediately after the experiment. If your notes have a fairly clear difference in one area, then it is time to make a change in your diet! For example, if during my experiment with gluten, I was feeling and looking good while I was not eating it, but as soon as I started eating it again, I got acne and was having stomach pain then I know its time to stop eating gluten!

Another option to assess the experiment is to graph your data. Obviously this takes a bit more time and work, but if your notes do not give away a big hint, then you might need to look deeper. Plotting a time (days) vs variable (weight, waist size, etc.) graph using online calculators like this one or even just using an excel spreadsheet can help you accomplish this.

For some more really great information on self experimentation, here is Steve Nikoley’s presentation from last years Ancestral Health Symposium on the very subject at hand.

Anyone have any experience with self experimenting? Leave a Comment!


About The Author


Max is a passionate pursuer of integrative health. He has been drafted by a professional baseball team, worked in publishing scientific laboratories and spoken to groups of students on health and well-being. He is currently a biology major and philosophy minor at Denison University. Max spends his time reading, weightlifting, traveling and learning. Email Max at

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