Have you been experiencing more than your fair share of headaches or bloating? Maybe you’ve been struggling to get through your day because your energy is so low. If you’ve had these symptoms, or others like skin conditions, joint problems or anxiety, you most likely have also tried cleansing or maybe even a Candida diet in an attempt to get rid of your symptoms. You were probably feeling better for awhile but eventually some, or all, of your symptoms returned with the return of foods you eliminated on your cleanse. You’re left feeling like crap again and without any answers. This is not to say that cleanses or diet protocols do not have their place or that you would feel well if only you had the willpower to remove these foods forever. If this resonates with you, I feel your frustrations! I have dealt with unrelenting headaches, bloating and adult acne myself. I have felt (what I have coined) “vaguely unwell” for years. This is especially frustrating because I eat a mainly healthy diet, free from processed foods.
But luckily, I have discovered a solution and I want to lovingly share it with you. It is the Elimination Diet. Don’t be afraid of the word diet in this case. I don’t believe in dieting, it’s only used here because it is something to be followed short term and is not a permanent lifestyle change. If you follow the Elimination Diet properly, it will take you a minimum of two months. This may seem long but it is worth it in exchange for ridding yourself of a lifetime of symptoms that will only worsen if nothing is done.
Maybe you have read that you should cut out sugar and next you hear dairy and grains should be out too. Where should you start? What is the truth? This nutrition stuff can be confusing! Here is something important I want you to remember: there are 7 billion beautiful people in this world and so there should be 7 billion different diets. We are all different from each other and even from ourselves 3 years ago. The Elimination Diet helps you to discover an eating plan that is tailored specifically to you so that you can live life free from pain. Many experts state that it is more reliable than food allergy and sensitivity testing.1, 2, 3
I have your attention, now how do you follow the Elimination Diet? It is broken into three phases: detox, elimination, and reintroduction. Ideally, you begin with a 3 day detox that includes specific vegetables and fruits only. Download a food list for phase 1. This gives your digestive system a much-needed rest from aggravating and irritating foods. Did you know that digestion is the most energy intensive process in the body, requiring a third of our daily energy? This motivates me to support my hardworking digestive system by relieving it of these aggravating foods and focus towards the complete digestion of non-aggravating foods.
PHASE ONE: DETOX
For me, phase 1, along with the beginning of any diet change, was a difficult first hurdle. I came from an extended season of holiday eating that was rich in carbs and sugar as well as over eating in general. I’ll be the first to admit that it was weeks past Christmas and I was still eating chocolate every day. With that came an increase in headaches that had me experiencing them daily. This is not a fun place to be. It prevents you from living your life and leaves you very irritable (read: bitchy).
But as my belly got used to eating a more appropriate amount of food and I acclimated to the increase in green, leafy vegetables and fresh fruit, my headaches disappeared completely. In fact, it happened almost immediately, which is not always the case for me. If you experience headaches, you will fully understand the glee in my heart and the bounce in my step. Yes, my cravings were still there (we’re only on day 3 here people) but I could handle this in exchange for the absence of headaches.
PHASE TWO: ELIMINATION
With the 3-day detox phase completed, it’s time to head into the elimination phase. You will expand on your foods from phase 1; yet still eat foods free from the most common allergens. This means no dairy, gluten, corn, soy, yeast, nuts, caffeine, eggs and more. Click here for a more extensive list for phase 2. This phase is followed for 11 days or until all of your symptoms have disappeared. For me this actually took nearly 4 weeks.
Symptoms can include headaches, foggy head, cramping, anxiety, constipation, insomnia, acne, dandruff, depression, bloating, and joint pain. This is just a short list. I believe that all disease starts with an inflamed gut and because the Elimination Diet works to restore your digestive system, you can find relief from any symptom. This diet does not mean you will never be able to eat the foods on the “no” list again, but you must give your digestive system time to restore so that it can properly digest these foods in the future. Everyone’s “no” list will be different at the end but it will be much shorter and unique to you.
The Elimination Diet is especially satisfying if you have been trying to get to the bottom of your symptoms for years, as I have. I completely understand the pain as well as the frustration that comes with feeling at a loss for what seems safe to eat. The most reliable way to discover which foods trigger your symptoms is to follow the Elimination Diet.
I attribute my success of staying on this tough diet to one thing: preparation. I cannot stress this enough. It keeps you from going hangry (I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry) and grabbing whatever is in reach. With the Elimination Diet, you really need to follow it 100% to find answers. Hence, why preparation is key. I have found that I like to try out some recipes and build about three options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that I enjoy. This way I can keep these ingredients in the house, keep life simple and not have to expend too much energy thinking about what to make.
Simplicity goes hand in hand with preparation. When you come from a place of not eating very many vegetables and carb-focused meals, you can feel limited with your food options. When you think outside of this box, you realize how many different vegetables and fruits you can enjoy and focus on those rather than fancy meals or substitution recipes like cookies and pizza that are safe.
If I have painted a picture of the Elimination Diet that seems rich in rainbows and wildflowers, I apologize. While my experience was mostly great, thanks to the absence of my symptoms, it was not without some struggle. I experienced strong cravings for cheese and bread. I was surprised that my sugar cravings were low but I attribute this to my regular consumption of fruit. Noting that cheese is salty, I made sure to start including pink salt in my meals (including smoothies!) and my cheese craving disappeared. Bread cravings took longer to disappear and still flare up from time to time.
When symptoms reappeared, I felt like giving up and just eating what I wanted. Everyone else in the world is! Did I mention irritability could pop up? But I continue to revisit my why and I am motivated again to eliminate my headaches. And my bloating and adult acne. This makes for excellent motivation.
My typical day was (and still is) smoothies for breakfast and lunch. I ensure the vegetable intake is equal to or double the fruit in these smoothies. In my opinion, smoothies are the easiest way to get a generous serving of vegetables that is easy to digest at both meals. I use hemp hearts as my protein source. They flow like water in my kitchen. Have I mentioned that water is important yet? For fat, I generally use coconut oil, but you could also use avocado. I make my smoothie for lunch before my breakfast smoothie and pour it into a mason jar to bring to work with me. Fast food at its finest! For dinner, I have a large salad or roasted vegetables with free range chicken or wild fish. My new favourite combo is roasted parsnips and broccoli. So yummy.
PHASE THREE: REINTRODUCTION
Once all of your symptoms are gone, you begin the final phase: reintroduction, sometimes known as provocation. This is arguably the most important part of the Elimination Diet. It is where your answers are found! By testing foods, one at a time, you discover which foods are not tolerated well by your own body. If you jump to this final phase before your symptoms disappear, you will not accurately know if an introduced food is causing your symptom or if it was leftover from before.
To reintroduce or test a food, you must choose one food from one food category. For instance, choose yogurt from the dairy category and not just dairy foods in general. I suggest waiting until the end to reintroduce dairy and gluten foods because they are most common to trigger a reaction and symptoms can last for weeks, potentially prolonging the reintroduction of new foods.
Eat your chosen reintroduction food two to three times that day. If you experience any symptoms, immediately stop eating that food and wait until your symptom(s) completely disappear before reintroducing the next food. You must wait 3 months before reintroducing this particular food that caused a reaction. If you do not experience any symptoms, you must still wait 3 days before reintroducing another food as symptoms can take this long to show up. If you don’t experience any symptoms after 3 days, you can include this food in your regular diet.
Phew! I know that last paragraph can be confusing but it is the most important part of the Elimination Diet so make sure you read it until you completely understand it or reach out to me if you are still confused.
For my reintroduction phase, I started with citrus. First I chose lemons, as I regularly eat them (hello lemon water!) and was missing them in my diet. I juiced half of an organic lemon in my morning water and then added a quarter of a lemon, including the peel, to my breakfast smoothie. Within minutes of finishing my smoothie, my stomach bloated out an inch before my eyes. I did not think it could be so fast.
Initially, I wrote it off to other things: I didn’t get the best sleep last night, yesterday was stressful, maybe it’s the weather, did I drink my smoothie too fast? Then I read that writing off the connection between foods and symptoms is the most common thing to do. Especially when it is a food you really want to bring back into your diet. But I could not deny that I had not had a lemon in 4 weeks and now that I had, I immediately experienced symptoms. Pretty obvious when you take out the emotions and are left with the facts. I still have not been able to add lemons back without symptoms but it is worth it to be pain free.
Next I tested oranges. I do not regularly have oranges so I was curious what would happen. The lemon affected my bowels and things did not regulate for an entire week. I mistakenly tried an orange a little too early and was left unclear about what caused my symptoms. I waited three more days until that orange was out of my system and I was symptom free. Then I tested an orange again and two days in a row I was symptom free. Wahoo, I found my first “yes” food!
This is the magic, the power and the difference of the Elimination Diet. Yes, it can be tough because friends and family can seemingly eat what they want or go out for dinner while you are stuck making all of your food from scratch. And it can feel like a slow process as cravings for bread and sugar rear their ugly heads. But for the majority of the diet and especially at the end, you will finally be free from your symptoms, living a fuller and more vibrant life. It may be a life you have been wishing for or it could be one that you did not know could exist because you have become so used to your symptoms, it has become your new normal.
You are investing in your health because you have reached a level of pain and frustration that you no longer want to experience. When I am feeling irritated and want to give up (and give in to bread) I use the motivating mantra “power not punishment.” This is a reminder of my why. Even though cutting out these foods can sometimes feel like a punishment, it is only temporary. I’m doing it for myself to find answers so that I know what foods trigger my symptoms once and for all. And then I never have to go on a restrictive diet again, if I don’t want to. And that is power.
IS THE ELIMINATION DIET FOR YOU?
Do you also feel vaguely unwell? Have you felt like crap for years, but even after multiple doctor visits, you haven’t figured out why?
If you experience 3 or more of the following symptoms, then it’s time for you to try the Elimination Diet so that you can stop suffering from your relentless, frustrating, and uncomfortable symptoms.
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
Even if you have already had allergy testing, you’ll likely benefit from an Elimination Diet if you still suffer from some of these symptoms. Because you may not have a true allergy yet, it is very common for results to come up negative and you still experience symptoms.
If you’ve been suffering with bloating, low energy, acne, headaches and you generally feel like crap most of the time and would like to know what kind of elimination diet would work best for you I’d love to invite you to schedule a complimentary call. We’ll discuss your symptoms and potential strategies to start to repair your gut.
Originally published at www.thepeanutmill.com