Why Am I Doing an Elimination Diet?
As some of you may know, 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and Adrenal Dysfunction (not fatigue, dysfunction). Over the last 3 years, my Doctor and I have taken an integrative approach to getting healthy. I have changed my diet, started getting more sleep, started listening to my body more, started getting moderate and consistent sun exposure, and learned how to better cope with stress in all areas of my life. If you’ve ever tried to take an integrative approach to better health and wellness, you know it’s not an overnight process by any means. Your body is constantly changing and responding to it’s environment and honestly, most Doctors are using a very sophisticated version of the “guess-and-check” method, so you are constantly having to try something new for “x” number of weeks, re-test, check the results, and make adjustments…over and over and over and over again.
Recently we discovered through some tests that I was not absorbing nutrients well. That, combined with the fact that I have auto-immune disease led my Doctor to believe I have some serious gut issues going on, despite not having any other symptoms (no IBS, no pain, etc). To be honest, if my current client base is any indication of the rest of the country, it’s safe to say that most of the American population has major gut issues, so this wasn’t a huge surprise. I constantly talk to people who battle IBS, bloating, pain, gas, and other intestinal issues on a daily basis. So, after those tests came back, we knew we had to take some action to help heal my gut.
How Do You Heal Your Gut?
Shortly after we discovered I wasn’t absorbing nutrients, I had an allergy test done. While these tests aren’t the most accurate (I had a blood test and a skin test done), the results made sense as I was allergic to many of my favorite foods, and you are often allergic to the foods you consume most often. I would have started my personalized “elimination diet” immediately but I was going to be traveling a lot and the holidays would be here shortly after that and I was under a lot of stress in general, so I didn’t want to add more stress by starting a super strict regimen.
The purpose of this elimination diet is to remove highly allergenic foods like peanuts, dairy and shellfish from my diet, as well as removing foods to which it has been shown that I have allergies. During this period of time I am supposed to consume lots of highly nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods as well as taking a supplement that contains many gut-healing ingredients like glutamine, etc etc. Keep in mind there are many methods you can use to help heal your gut (such as a GAPS protocol), but I am discussing the one that my Doctor prescribed for me. Below I will discuss exactly what I had to do.
My Elimination Diet Protocol
For 25 days I have to remove all highly allergenic foods from my diet that were listed in the instructional booklet I was given. In regards to the foods that showed up on my allergy test, the foods I had reactions to were ranked between 1 and 3, with 1 being a small reaction and 3 being a big reaction. Anything that showed up as a 1, I have to eliminate for 4 weeks. Anything that showed up as a 2, I have to eliminate for 6 weeks. Anything that showed up as a 3, I have to eliminate for 8 weeks. So this is what my schedule looks like:
Days 1-25: Remove all allergenic foods listed in the booklet as well as everything that showed up on my allergy test. Take gut healing supplements (GI Revive and Inflamma-Core) twice a day, every day during this time.
Days 26 – 41: Begin adding foods back in one at a time that were in the booklet but did not show up on my allergy test and foods that did show up on my allergy test as a 1 and monitor reactions. Keep taking GI Revive.
Days 42-55: Begin adding foods back in one at a time that showed up on my allergy test as a 2 and monitor reactions. I can also continue adding in foods that were in the booklet that did not show up on my allergy test and foods that showed up as a 1 on my allergy test. Keep taking GI Revive.
Days 56+: Begin consuming all foods again, including those foods that showed up as a 3 on my allergy test. Monitor reactions and adjust accordingly. Keep taking GI Revive.
So What Can I Eat?
So I am sure you’re curious about what I had to give up. It’s a long list, so I won’t name them all, but I will name the main things below:
Chicken, beef, pork, eggs, shellfish, broccoli, onions, gluten, oats, strawberries, oranges, soy, tea, vanilla, cacao, basil, honey, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and dairy of any kind.
So what am I eating? That’s the first question everyone asks! I will list what I have been eating below:
Bison, turkey, apples, tomatoes, white rice, sweet potatoes, cashews, avocado, raisins, spinach, carrots, celery, squash, zucchini, asparagus, blueberries, and blackberries.
Sure, all that food is delicious but it’s a pretty small selection to choose from for almost an entire month!
What about Restaurants/Dining Out?
One of the hardest parts of this Elimination Diet is that I can’t go out to eat at any restaurants for a couple of reason. One, because very few places have turkey or bison on the menu, and two, because many of them cook with soybean or sunflower oil and I can’t trust them to keep my food allergy free. Going out to eat is one of my favorite activities even when I am eating clean so this has been challenging. Plus, I don’t always feel like cooking! My one savior has been my local Good Foods Co-op. They have a salad bar and a hot foods bar that sometimes has things I can eat. It’s nice because they have all the ingredients listed next to each food so you know exactly what you’re getting. I have eaten there once or twice in a pinch, but it’s not exactly the whole “restaurant experience” that I enjoy so much. A couple of times in the last week or two I have gone to restaurants with my friends or family and brought my own food. I got a couple of strange looks, but it wasn’t a big deal. Hanging out with my friends and family is more important than the weird looks I was getting from strangers (my friends and family already know I am weird, so they typically refrain from giving me looks ;-D).
So How Do I Feel?
The first 4-5 days I suffered caffeine withdrawals and had headaches and body aches, as well as increased irritability and even some nausea on the first day (I threw up 5 times…yuck). I am now 17 days in and feeling pretty good. I definitely sleep much better than I did before (from lack of caffeine I am sure) and I have lost some body fat which is always a nice side effect! =) Other than that, the only major thing I have noticed is that it’s getting much easier to stick to. It’s funny, the longer I adhere to a very strict nutrition plan, the easier it gets for me. I honestly believe willpower is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. 8 years ago I couldn’t imagine going 3 days without fast food. Now, 25 days without sugar, caffeine, gluten, dairy, and a whole bundle of other foods is a relative breeze.
Obviously, I haven’t done the program long enough to see what will happen, but I am very interested to see my results. I am hoping that I will be able to absorb more nutrients than I was before and maybe even see some improvement with my auto-immune issues. I will keep you posted on my results!
So what did you think of this article? Crazy? Weird? Cool? Have you ever done an Elimination Diet? What protocol did you use? What was your experience? Good? Bad? Awesome? Let me know below! I look forward to reading your comments!