Elimination Diet Round Up!
That’s it! Done! An awesome journey but what did I learn? What is next?
After 60 days I have completed the two phases, an elimination phase to start (removing any potentially inflammatory food groups from my diet) and then a reintroduction phase (reintroducing the food groups back into my diet one at a time). The elimination diet is more of a diagnostic tool to support an individual to understand what works best for them. All too often people follow a prescribed diet because they have seen it in a magazine, on TV or a friend has lost 10 stone in 2 weeks - so it must be good! However, just because that ‘diet’ works for a friend, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Plus, there is a big difference between losing weight and finding optimal health!
True, calorie counting works, if you eat less than you burn and you put your body into a calorie deficit you will lose weight, however this is not always successful long term. It also means the calories can be from nutrient deficient foods, processed foods for example which contain more chemicals and preservatives than vitamins and minerals! Providing you nothing more than some inflammation in the gut, hormonal imbalances, skin issues and headaches! True health is finding out what works for your body, feeding it the fuel it needs to thrive, not relying on a caffeine or sugar hit to get going in the morning and sleeping well because your body is not wired with chemicals.
The elimination diet provides the start point for an individual to achieve optimal health. It starts to teach you how to listen to your body and eat intuitively. You realise you can feel so much better! Moving away from that haze, that joint ache, that chronic pain or those digestive issues that have become ‘normal’. You don’t have to feel that way, you do not have to put up with these aches and pains. Using this diet as a tool, you can find the energy, clarity and drive to achieve more and be the best you can be each day.
My journey on this diet has been incredible. I have opened my eyes to another way of feeding my body and providing it the fuel it needs to thrive. All too often we go through each day unaware of the habits we have built. Always having a coffee at 10am, grabbing lunch on the go as we have so much to do, snacking whilst watching TV even when we are full! This journey has made me more mindful about the food I eat and when I eat. I have learnt to listen to my body, understand what works and what doesn’t.
A key part to this diet is keeping a diary, a diary that helps you to understand how you feel and recognise patterns. When you reintroduce food you need to give it a couple of days before you can say it had no reaction. Sometimes the food we eat can take a couple of days to show symptoms. The process of being aware and recording how you feel helps to highlight the food groups that may not be right for your body at this time. I found a few food groups that don’t work for me right now, some I was aware of, some surprised me!
The two I was aware of were dairy and gluten. I could have guessed that these may be a problem for me, but I didn’t know for sure and I didn’t know to what extent. Cows milk is the main culprit! For me this is something I will avoid, I have started to cut it out my diet for the last couple of years but during the reintroduction phase, I had the worst reaction to cows milk. Soft cheese is also a no go for me, but hard cheeses didn’t seem too bad. Luckily butter is ok and I tend to drink nut milks and have coconut yoghurt so removing dairy (in particular cows milk) is not too much of a problem.
Gluten is a food group I was aware could cause inflammation. In my first blog post discussing why I was starting the elimination diet, I explained how I believe I could also have a gluten intolerance as I know that when I avoid gluten I don’t feel as bloated or as lethargic and my digestion improves. Looking into this further, I educated myself on the molecular structure of dairy and gluten. Which, appears very similar to our bodies! The processing of dairy alters the casein protein and creates a molecule that our body responds to in the same way as gluten, thus creating a similar inflammatory response. After completing the diet I can confirm that this is most definitely the case for me. Whilst I didn’t have a reaction which was as strong as cows milk, I was instantly bloated and had digestive issues, in the following days I was also extremely lethargic and my sleep was nowhere near as restful! Sourdough bread was the best option instead of wholegrain or white bread and with the added benefits (probiotic properties) it is a great addition to the diet. I did steer clear and will continue to steer clear of gluten free products as I do not want to replace processed foods with gluten free processed foods! I would rather stick to eating whole foods that don’t come in a package and come from the ground not a factory!
The surprising foods for me were chickpeas and beans. Having been on a plant based diet prior to starting the elimination diet, the staple in most my meals were beans and chickpeas! However after removing them from my diet for a month and then adding them back in, I became bloated and had digestive issues. These are foods that I would not really consider as inflammatory as some, but for me they do not work at all. This is a great example of the fact you need to find the diet that works for you. Now I believe I need to work a little more on this food group to isolate different types of legumes and pulses, but I will continue to do this and record how I feel.
So, aside from those foods, I did not appear to react to anything else. Evidently, I know that refined sugar and processed foods are no good so this was not even in my reintroduction plan! Caffeine was introduced but will not be back in my diet daily and alcohol is a nice treat but not something I have ever been a big fan of (excluding my Uni days!) especially when training for an challenge or race. I like a glass or two every so often but I hate feeling hungover and losing the next day so that is enough to prevent me from drinking too much!
My journey continues, this is just the start but it is a journey I am so excited to be on. Taking control of your health is the one thing you can do to impact every other area in your life! It is the one thing you can control and it can have a profound impact! Trust me when I say you will never know how good you can feel until you try this!
Thanks for coming with me on my journey, its been ace to share it with you guys! If anybody wants some support to start an elimination diet or even chat about nutrition then give me a shout!