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The Body Healer Elimination Diet

If you feel you are having health symptoms (especially related to your digestive system), they may be associated with a food sensitivity.  The most effective way to find which food is the culprit is to go on an elimination diet.  This is the single best method of determining any food sensitivity, including a reaction to gluten.  A gluten intolerance can be tested for, however a gluten sensitivity cannot and therefore requires eliminating it completely and then reintroducing it to determine if symptoms appear problem. 

Quinoa & black beansAn elimination diet involves a 2-step process:

Eliminating all potential food items that you may be sensitive or allergic too.  

Paying close attention to how your body respond to each food once is has been eliminated, and then reintroduced. 

Determining A Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten is a very large protein and it can take time to clear from your system.  This is why it must be eliminated for at least 30 days before then being reintroduced.  For those with a gluten sensitivity, some people notice an immediate relief in symptoms, while for others it may take longer as the GI tract slowly repairs itself from inflammatory damage.

If you goal is to determine whether or not you have a gluten sensitivity, there are several important reasons to follow an elimination diet, rather than to simply cut out gluten and see what happens:

  1. It may not be gluten you are reacting to, but rather other offending ingredients that are very commonly found in glutenous products.

  2. Many of the ingredients used in thousands of processed food items contain gluten.  Simply cutting out "bread" and "wraps" and "pasta" but eating packaged foods could still mean that you are eating gluten.  The elimination diet requires reading ingredient lists very carefully to ensure you are omitting any item containing gluten, including hidden ingredients buried in labels such as hydrolyzed protein, malts, or starches.

  3. You may experience a reaction to genetically modified products, but not with the non-GMO gluten, showing that it is the genetically modification that is causes the problem.

  4. Up to 50% of patients with celiac disease show signs of intolerance to the protein in milk (casein), which may be why up to 30% of patients have little reduction in symptoms on a gluten free diet without also cutting out dairy.   

  5. There are pesticides on the market today that cause negative and sometimes serious reactions in some people. By comparing symptoms while on an organic diet vs. products with pesticide residue, you may notice a subtle or noticeable difference in how you feel.  Because pesticide residue is eaten in small quantities over time, their negative impact is not immediately felt unless you have a reaction or allergy to a specific pesticide, but the toxic overload is definitely experienced internally by the organs and tissues of the body, and the build-up over time is detrimental to health.

STEP 1: Eliminate Foods

Shopping listFor a period of 14 days, eat any of the foods on the "foods to include" list below, and exclude all other foods.  Feel free to purchase any of the items on the elimination diet shopping list.  

Before you begin an elimination diet, it is helpful to do a blood count to to get a health baseline.  This is especially handy if you want to compare before/after numbers (e.g. cholesterol).

If you already know that you have an allergy or intolerance to any food, then simply omit it.  Also, make adjustments necessary based on your personal health condition.

Let's take a look at the summary of foods to include and the foods to exclude.  When shopping, it is extremely important to read ALL ingredient lists VERY CAREFULLY for hidden ingredients.  If you see an ingredient you are unsure of, or if it is a synthetic chemical, put it back on the shelf.

Before you get started, head on over to the shopping for the elimination diet section to read some important shopping tips, and for a more detailed list of the different foods to purchase.

Pay Attention & Keep A Journal

During the elimination diet, listen to your body and keep a diary to make daily notes of how you feel, and to monitor changes you notice as you progress through the diet.  Your diary can be a note pad, a smartphone app, or a word doc on the computer - whatever you can keep handy.  

Often, we do not realize we are feeling any physical and psychological benefits until we consciously stop to evaluate our progress.

Ask yourself:

  • How good/bad is your energy level?
  • How good/bad is your appetite?
  • How regular are your bowel movements - get the scoop on poop!
  • How good/bad is your sleep quality?
  • What food(s) are you craving for (and no longer craving)?
  • Do you have any mood swings?  If you had them earlier, are they better or worse?
  • If you have skin issues, are they clearing up?
  • Do you see any improvements with digestion?  If you had acid reflux, is it getting any better?  If bloating was a frequent occurrence earlier, is that getting any better?  What about gas?  Diarrhea?  Constipation?  Post nasal drip?
  • How good/bad is your libido?
  • Have any of your PMS symptoms changed, such as the severity or frequency of cramps?
  • If you work out or play a sport, is your performance improving?
  • Are you more/less productive at work?  
  • Do you tend to handle stress better/worse?
  • Do you find it easier to focus and concentrate?

STEP 2: Reintroduce Foods & Monitor Results

After 14 days, begin to slowly reintroduce foods using the following guidelines:

  • Introduce each food type one at a time every 7 days.  Introduce gluten last.
  • As you introduce each food, eat it 2-3 times a day for at least 3 days.
  • Carefully monitor how you feel on a daily basis as you reintroduce each food.  
  • If you notice no reaction, proceed to the next food type.  If you notice a reaction, immediately stop the offending food and wait until your symptoms clear (at least 2-3 days) before reintroducing a new food item.

The great thing about an elimination diet is that, similar to medications or alcohol, when you have eliminated foods for a period of time, the sensitivity of your body is reset.  Your body is no longer "used to it" and you will very quickly notice a reaction when you introduce a food your body does not like or want.  Usually, the reaction is very quick (within minutes or hours).  Sometimes, it may progress over 3-5 days (typical with gluten).  

Here's a great example of my personal experience on the elimination diet, and the unexpected discovery I made:

Cheesy Nightmare!
Cheesy nightmare!

My most favorite food in the world is cheese, and it's one of the staple foods in our home.  Especially Greek goat's and sheep's milk cheeses - better than any chocolate or dessert for me!!!  When our family went on an elimination diet to see if they would experience any reaction to eliminating a food type, I was curious to see if I would experience anything myself.  

Now, secretly I was absolutely convinced that I wouldn't, and that I was simply keeping everyone else company on the diet for "moral support."  All dairy, gluten, and other common items were completely eliminated and slowly reintroduced.  

When it came time to reintroducing dairy (thank God! cheese!!!), I wolfed down several slices of Greek halloumi cheese in a state of cheesy bliss.  Within 30 mins, the back of my throat was filled with mucous (similar to how a post nasal drip, or congestion from a cold feels).  I did not put 2+2 together immediately until my husband experienced the exact same symptoms.  Because we had "reset" our body's sensitivity by not having had dairy for 2 weeks, the moment we ate it, we reacted to it.  I was completely horrified!!  This happened several times over a 2-day period.

But luckily, through experimenting with elimination, I discovered that raw goats cheese (found in many health food stores) did not produce this reaction at all.  I discovered that my body rejected pasteurized cheese, and yet can tolerate raw goat's milk cheese very nicely, and raw cow's milk to some degree.  Pasteurization had affected the digestibility of the cheese and caused my body to reject it.

Symptoms of Detoxification

Because of the typical American processed food diet, our bodies are always in a state of reaction.  Our organs are overworked and unable to remove the build-up of toxic residue because we take them in at a faster rate than our body can eliminate.  On an elimination diet, the body no longer has to deal with an inflow of new toxins, and begins to detoxify the body tissues of all the accumulated waste.  

Every person's response to this detoxification is individual, and while some experience more uncomfortable symptoms than others, (such as headaches, fatigue, mental fog, light headedness, and acne), these symptoms are temporary and clear up quickly.  It is only your body getting rid of the harmful stuff.  After these symptoms disappear, you will typically experience the opposite - more energy, alertness, better sleep patterns, less joint pain, and a general sense of well-being.  

When your body is "withdrawing" from the foods you have eaten on a daily basis, you may also experience temporary cravings - bear with it and ride it out.  It is important to push past this short time period and continue forward.  The symptoms and cravings will not last long, and you will be home free much sooner than you think.

Helpful Tips

Helpful tips!Before starting the elimination diet, here are some helpful tips to make the experience as smooth as possible:

  • Prepare enough food for several meals, which can help save time with food preparation.

  • This is not a "calorie restrictive" diet, therefore make sure you are eating enough food.  Feel free to eat fruits and veggies for snacks.

  • If you are a coffee drinker, slowly reduce your caffeine intake over a period of several days BEFORE you begin the elimination diet.  A slow approach reduces the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.  Feeling brave?  Consider quitting your caffeine addiction cold turkey!  Some do better that way, including myself.

Are you ready?

Shopping for the elimination diet...