Many of us wonder which foods are best for our bodies or could be contributing to symptoms that we’re having. The best way to go is directly to your body – it has all the answers you’re looking for.
An elimination diet is absolutely the best way to discover food allergies or sensitivities. It will also help detoxify your liver, help to heal your gut lining, balance your blood sugar and improve your sleep. The purpose of taking on a challenge like this is to uncover which foods are responsible for some or all of your health concerns. You can then take this information and decide how you want to adjust your diet based on your direct experience, rather than someone else’s opinion.
Common reasons people choose to limit their diet for a month include:
Frequent, unexplained headaches, backaches, aches in the neck and joints, or arthritis.Chronic respiratory problems, allergies or asthma.Food allergies, poor digestion, constipation, intestinal bloating or gas.Brittle nails and hair, psoriasis, acne and other skin eruptions .Unexplained weight gain.Poor memory, chronic insomnia, depressed mood, irritability, chronic fatigue.Environmental sensitivities, especially to odors like perfumes.The key to success in any endeavor is preparation. Taking a few days (or weeks) to plan out your meals, get rid of tempting foods in the pantry, and find recipes or substitute foods you enjoy. Then, take a realistic look at your calendar and pick 30 days where you can primarily cook at home or access foods that are on your diet plan.
Before the day to begin arrives, you will decide which foods you are eliminating. As a general rule, the most common allergens are dairy products, soy, peanuts, gluten and corn. For folks with arthritis or joint issues, eliminating the nightshade family can be helpful as well. To optimize your body’s ability to cleanse, eliminating caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and refined sugar is highly beneficial.
During your 30 days, it is imperative that you don’t “cheat,” not even once, because then the inflammation process starts over again and you won’t have a clear picture. Once you decide to go down this path, remind yourself there is an end date. The first three to five days are always the hardest – take heart knowing that it does get easier.
It can be helpful to keep a symptom tracker – whatever you want to measure (like sleep quality, pain, bowel habits, etc.) on a scale from one to 10. Be sure to start tracking before you start and annotate where you are daily because seeing changes over time can really help keep us on track.
At the end of the 30 days, choose one eliminated food and have two or three servings of it daily for three days. If your symptoms return, stop that food immediately, wait until you feel normal then reintroduce the next food. Continue in this way until all foods have been reintroduced and you know how you feel with each. It’s so important to take things slowly during this phase of the diet because if you add in more than one thing at a time and have a reaction, you won’t know what caused it.
Most people don’t notice feeling significantly different during the 30 days – it’s when they add foods back in and symptoms return that can create the “a-ha!” moment.
In the beginning, the process may be challenging as you will be giving up many of your staple foods. Remember why you’ve decided to do this and use that intrinsic motivation to guide you on.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.