Day 17 Of The Elimination Diet
Its day 17 of my Elimination diet and I am feeling great. The reason I started this journey was to work towards finding optimal health, so I can thrive in life and in my sport and fitness goals. I have always loved to push myself, push my body and achieve challenges in sport and fitness that seem so big and unrealistic that they scare me a little (or sometimes a lot). Through pushing my body and achieving the goals I have set myself, I have always looked to recover as best as possible and feed my body the fuel it needs to perform.
The Elimination diet is the tool I have chosen to use in order to diagnose the right diet for me. I want to know how my body reacts to different food groups, I want to decide for myself what I know works for my body, not follow the latest ketogenic, vegan or paleo diet because someone else tells me that is what is best. Everybody is different, we are all individuals, so finding the right food for your body is key.
I want to fuel my body so I can train hard, I want to recover and feed my body the nutrients it needs to repair and restore my muscles after training. I also want to take care of my gut health as there is so much research now that identifies the strong link between gut health and brain health. When we aim for a goal or a challenge, the first thing we look at is our fitness training, but what if our diet is impacting our fitness results? What if we could eat better so we can train harder and recover stronger?
This is where I find myself today, taking a deeper dive into nutrition than ever. Sure, I have always been interested and I have completed training courses in nutrition but this is taking it further, this is exploring a passion and learning everyday how I can improve my health and fitness as well as the health and fitness of those I coach and train.
The first 4 days of the Elimination diet were pretty rough, I had some withdrawal effects from most probably caffeine and refined sugar. Although I don’t drink too much caffeine and I always try where possible to avoid refined sugar, in today’s society I recognise how hard it is to eliminate these from your diet. According to the John Hopkins Study which reviewed over 170 years of caffeine withdrawal research, it only takes one cup of coffee a day to cause caffeine dependence.
The reaction I encountered was something called the ‘Herxheimer Reaction’. This is a die off reaction which occurs through detoxification when you begin the process of a cleanse. In my case I cut out food groups such as processed food, gluten, dairy, caffeine and refined sugar to name a few, allowing my body time to cleanse and detox. The ‘Herxheimer Reaction’ occurs when our cells release toxins into circulation but the elimination organs (kidneys, bladder GI tract, lungs) are not able to eliminate them quickly enough. The body basically poisons itself with toxins for a short time whilst the elimination organs catch up and get rid of the toxins in our blood. As the toxins remain in circulation whilst our elimination organs scramble to get rid of them, they effect the brain stem region and can cause brain fog, headaches, fatigue and fever symptoms.
Another cause of symptoms you may feel when you enter a detox/cleanse could be due to microbial die off. When the body begins a healing process certain pathogenic organisms can die off. These can be candida yeast infections and bacteria in the gut. The die off releases stored endotoxins that circulate and interfere with normal functions. The more pathogens you have in your body the more endotoxins that are released. Possible reactions are lethargy, sleepiness, headaches, diarrhoea, flatulence, muscle aching, increased pain in joints and disrupted sleep.
Your body and its healing process is different for each person, some may have a severe reaction and for some it may be mild. The key is to identify that it is exactly that, a reaction and your body just needs time to catch up and eliminate the toxins. Don’t start to improve your diet or detox and then stop because you feel you are getting worse. For me, during the first 4 days of the Elimination diet I knew what was happening. It helped me to continue and I knew each day I would get better, my reaction may not have been severe but I did have headaches and lethargy but after 4 days it was like somebody switched it all off and I was starting to thrive!
There are a few things you can do to reduce the 'Herxheimer Reaction’, this includes drinking lots of water, getting some good rest and reducing exercise intensity until you get over the first few days of a detox. If you have access to a sauna that would also help your body to eliminate the toxins.
If you are deciding to make a change, having the knowledge of what is happening in your body will help you to stay strong and keep going even when it gets tough. Trust me, it will be worth it!