Monday, March 5, 2012

My Elimination Diet Adventure

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If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you are likely aware that I have been doing an elimination diet to check for reactions to foods.  I am more than willing to share that I have dealt with a lot of medical issues and they all seemed to point to 2 things.  #1 Stress and #2 Allergies or Intolerances

It was often suggested to me by friends or readings that I should do an elimination diet but I was never ready for it.  This takes a lot of discipline and restraint and time.  In December, when I had my wisdom teeth out, I wanted to avoid dairy since I am lactose intolerant so I wouldn't have any digestive upsets while recovering since I knew I would be dealing with a lot in recovery from the surgery.  Without dairy for days, I appeared to keep having digestive attacks.  I was able to narrow the suspects down somewhat but wasn't sure which ingredient(s) were the cause.  This is when it finally hit me that I needed to figure this out.  From what I read in books about Ayurveda, it strongly discourages you from eating foods you can't digest.  It makes sense really, so why did I keep on eating like this wasn't an issue?  I suppose I didn't want to deal with it.  I wanted to eat what I wanted.  I didn't want to have limits on myself.  I wanted freedom.  Unfortunately, these things were not making me feel good.  Instead, I felt lethargic, moody, tired, sick to my stomach, bloated and congested. I also had gotten up to the highest weight I have ever been in my life.  When I injured my low back and hip last summer, I started to really pack on the pounds.  I could barely go for walks or be active so it was easy to do and of course, the pain and emotions from not being able to do what I want made me turn towards food for comfort.  I just kept spiraling downward.  My weight kept going on, my pain kept getting more consistent and I kept feeling worse.  It was finally time.

The most important thing to know when doing an elimination diet is that it only has 1 purpose - to figure out if you react to certain foods.  This is not a cleanse or a way to lose weight.  

When I started the elimination diet, I did lots of prep work first.  I did research, asked friends who had done a similar diet for info, did reading and finally did lots of shopping.  This is not a cheap diet to do, especially if your significant other wants to join you.  I went to the local co-op market, the local gluten free market, a natural food store near my office and a big huge awesome co-op market in Albany.  I was stocked up pretty well on basics like gluten free flours, allergen free bread, raw almond butter, rice, organic potatoes, organic apples, etc.  Then I needed to make sure we had eaten, tossed or gifted any foods we weren't allowed to eat on the diet that might spoil.  Once that was all done, the diet started.

The general diet I followed is the Comprehensive Elimination Diet.  A friend had given me the info from when she did this diet and I found a updated PDF file online with the same diet with a few minor changes.  The new diet didn't allow you to eat lemons or potatoes.  I am not sure I could live without potatoes and was pretty sure I have always been ok eating them so I ate them but remained aware to look for possible reactions.  I had seen many diets say it was ok to use lemon for flavor so I did and did ok.  I cooked most all of my food.  Processed foods are discouraged on this since many of these foods are in them as well as bad ingredients like artificial flavor and coloring. 

Here is the PDF file about the diet:

After a week of strictly following this diet, I felt better than ever.  My energy was better, my mood was better, my digestion was better and I wasn't bloated.  I did have withdrawal symptoms the first few days, I assume it was especially from giving up sugar for the first time in my entire life.  I had headaches and hot flashes.  After those days, I felt great.    I decided to let myself have a treat for Superbowl Sunday and BOOM, I was sick, depressed, tired, did I mention sick?  I learned my lesson and went back on the diet before testing more foods.  I would test a food and wait a day or two to see how I felt.  I seem to react to foods within 12-24 hours from the way things played out.

I am doing to discuss my results and or reactions below.  Since Dr. Oz discusses poop on national TV, I feel it is ok to discuss it here but I will call it something a little nicer, just in case you might feel uncomfortable reading about it.  

A link with info on symptoms of food allergies or intolerances:

My results:

Corn - my tummy hurt so bad it woke me up, extreme bloating, cramps, headache, stuffy sinuses, an urgent need to go to the bathroom, very down and depressed feeling

Red Wine - no obvious reaction, felt fine

Chocolate - headache, tummy ache, urgent need to go to the bathroom

Wheat/Gluten - no obvious reaction , felt fine

Organic Cane Sugar, Natural local Maple Syrup - no obvious reaction, felt fine

Tomatoes - I ate a couple different natural organic tomato sauces that I knew were free or ingredients that could cause reactions and ever time I had a very upset tummy followed by an urgent need to go to the bathroom

Peanuts & Peanut Butter - a little bloating but no obvious reaction

Organic Natural Beef - no obvious reaction, felt good

Organic Natural Pork - a little bloating, no obvious reaction besides that, felt fine

Soy - (I had been told by an allergist a few years ago that I am allergic to soy) no obvious reaction, mild bloating

Milk - (I took lactaid when I had milk since I know I am lactose intolerant)  no reaction that surprised me, some bloating and an urgent need to go to the bathroom

Mushrooms - no obvious reaction

Eggs - mild upset tummy moving towards very upset tummy the next morning, urgent need to go to the bathroom

Processed meat like bacon & pepperoni - I picked up natural varieties of these that were minimally processed and really didn't feel well.  Major tummy upset, nausea, urgent need to go to the bathroom.

I plan to retest corn, chocolate, eggs and tomatoes while slowly reintroducing other foods into my diet.  If I notice any reactions without these 4 foods, I plan to investigate further. 

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  1. Hi Heather. Congrats on pulling this off, very few people can discipline themselves to go on such a diet.

    It is always good to know if you have any allergies to certain foods. Probably depends on how you define allergies, cause for example I do not consider bloating or a bit discomfort to the stomach as an allergy.

    I am on a diet myself, but for another reason completely. And it is a pain in the ##$@ to not be able to eat what you want.

    But with time I got used to not eating certain products. I crave for them, but I manage to refrain myself from eating them.

    I think you should definitely do another test on chocolate and the other ones. Go for dark chocolate, they say it is better for our health (who knows for sure), and introduce it in your diet very gently. It should be ok.

    Have a great Day!

    1. Hi Romy,

      Thanks for the comment. I was testing for reactions, which may be intolerances, not necessarily allergies. I was told by an allergist that I was allergic to foods but avoiding the ones he told me from a back scratch test results didn't help so I did this. In order to properly test chocolate, it has to be pure dark or pure cocoa, otherwise I am likely consuming milk, soy and other possible trigger foods with it so that is what I did. I definitely plan to rest since it could be just 1 type of that particular food that I react to and maybe not the whole food group, for example chocolate liqueur vs cocoa. Most of what I have read says dark chocolate is good for you but only in very small amounts.


  2. Hi Heather, great post! I know this has been a lot of work but knowledge is power. Nothing wrong with knowing your body from the inside out!

    ~ Peggy

  3. This is very interesting...thanks for sharing! ~ melody in oregon ~


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