I have been on a long road to discover, reset, and rebuild my health. I have spent the better part of the last two years completely relearning everything I thought I knew about healthy living. Just when I thought I had my bearings, things would shift and I would have to start over.
Preparing to write this post I began to think back to my timeline and major milestones. Even to me, and after all this time, it really is staggering how much your life can change in what seems like an instant.
All these trials and tribulations have taught me essential life lessons. And these lessons are no where near done with me. Day by day, month by month, I discover something new. Something new about myself, about healthcare, faith, mindset, movement, and so much more.
And let’s not forget food either. Because food is what started it all, and yet it almost became my undoing.
Over the course of a two part series I will share my experience with elimination diets. What began as obsessive eating has turned into intuitive eating. I am still working through how to best manage my long-term plan, because it does change often. However, I finally feel I am coming from a place of understanding and touching on that elusive concept of balance.
INTUITIVE EATING PART 1: ELIMINATION DIET LESSONS
Before I dive into my story, it is important to review what an elimination diet even is. This will give us a better understanding of why I, and so many others, turn to this form of support.
WHAT IS AN ELIMINATION DIET?
Elimination diets are an immense help to those struggling with food issues. It is truly the only way to determine exactly which foods are contributing to your symptoms. Food testing is helpful to identify allergies, but results are very mixed for sensitivities and intolerances.
The concept of an elimination diet is meant to specifically identify offending foods by removing them from your diet for a set amount of time, then reintroducing them one by one. As you slowly reintroduce a food, you monitor your physical and mental responses, and note any changes. A food journal is required to document each reintroduction and rate symptoms.
The reason this is so effective is because food reactions vary widely from person to person. While tomatoes may cause me inflammation and joint pain, they may give another constipation and rashes.
However, there is one very big catch. In order to get the best results, one must be strict with the diet and especially the reintroduction procedures. To make matters worse, often times the diets are very restrictive and reintroductions can be lengthy.
Which is why it is so important to weigh the pros and cons of an elimination diet before you proceed. This is the first point where I went wrong.
- Considered the gold standard of identifying food intolerances and sensitivities.
- If followed correctly, you will know with certainty which foods to avoid.
- An effective way to treat general digestive issues and calm inflammation.
- Encourages food as medicine and avoidance of processed foods.
- May create a more mindful eating practice.
- If not followed correctly, can be ineffective and lead to frustrations.
- May be dangerous to those with obsessive or addictive personalties.
- Can create complications with unknown or untreated infections and disorders.
- Limits nutrient and gut diversity, and can even perpetuate food intolerances.
ELIMINATION DIET ESSENTIALS
Based on my experiences, which will be outlined in the forthcoming part 2 of this story, there are a few key takeaways I want to share. To anyone considering an elimination protocol, I highly recommend these considerations before committing to a plan.
- Work with a professional. I cannot emphasize this one enough. Hopefully you are working with a team that you trust, as you will need to lean on them. I highly recommend a functional medicine doctor and/or a nutritionist/health coach that is well versed in elimination diet protocols.
- Do your research. Elimination diets are not a decision to make lightly. Really understand your specific issues and understand if this is the right path for you. Also be sure the diet is well matched for you, again to address your specific concerns.
- Be prepared. Alongside your research, make sure you have a solid plan in place before beginning. It is best to avoid travel or numerous commitments outside the home as you will need to prepare your meals at home. Plan your meals and get comfortable with meal prep.
- Keep things simple, and flexible. Keep meals really basic, especially at first. Find substitutions for your favorite foods, but focus on balance. Nutrient density and variety will be key to helping you heal, understanding this may not look exactly like the template suggested to you. Always make adjustments based on your personal needs.
- Focus on mental health. This may seem like an odd one, but it is a big piece to the puzzle. An elimination diet may be stressful for you, so you need to account for the shock your body and mind are experiencing. Focus on positivity, support from your loved ones, gratitude, stress management, and mindfulness.
Want more detail about elimination diet tips and resources? i love this post about the top 10 Elimination Diet Mistakes.
IS AN ELIMINATION DIET RIGHT FOR YOU?
I believe elimination diets are a fantastic place to start. If you struggle with multiple food sensitivities, have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, or are feeling totally overwhelmed with all your options, definitely see if they may be right for you.
Just plan to do all your research first, and use the tips outlined above before you make a final decision. And most importantly, do not turn an elimination diet into a long term commitment. They are meant to be temporary, and help you identify offending foods so you can create a customized balanced eating plan. Basically, use your intuition.