Many of us wonder which foods are best for our bodies or which could be contributing to symptoms that we’re having. Food allergy testing isn’t always a reliable source of information. 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, back, neck and joint pain, arthritis
- Chronic respiratory problems, allergies, or asthma
- Abnormal body odor, bad breath, or coated tongue
- Food allergies, poor digestion, chronic constipation, intestinal bloating or gas
- Brittle nails and hair, psoriasis, acne and other skin issues
- 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, getting rid of tempting foods in the pantry, and finding recipes or substitute foods that 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. Holidays or vacation days aren’t the best times to be selective about what you’re eating! Make sure you build in extra time to plan and prep food at home, especially if that’s not the norm for you.
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. Eggs and shellfish are other foods to eliminate during this time. To optimize your body’s ability to cleanse, eliminating caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and refined sugar gives you serious bonus points.
During your 30 days, it is imperative that you don’t “cheat”, not even once because then the inflammation process starts all over again and you won’t have a clear picture. Once you decide to go down this path, make sure you are all in, and remind yourself there is an end date. The first 3-5 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 1-10. Be sure to start tracking before you start and annotate where you’re at daily because it’s really hard to remember what it was like 2 weeks ago – seeing changes over time can really help to keep us on track.
At the end of the 30 days, you will choose ONE food that you eliminated and have 2-3 servings of it daily for 3 days. If your symptoms return, stop that food, wait until you feel back to normal, then re-introduce the next food. Adding in the foods you’re least suspicious of first can help move the process along. Continue in this way until all foods have been re-introduced 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. You don’t want to put in all this effort and not get optimal information! Most people don’t notice feeling significantly different during the 30 days – it’s when they add foods back in and symptoms return that the “A-HA!” moment occurs.
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. (I like to put up sticky notes reminding me why I’m choosing this.)
If this sounds like something that could benefit you, and you want guidance through the process, work with me! We can meet (in person or via Zoom) 1:1 or you can use the Durango Detox as a springboard. www.doctornicola.com
Nicola Dehlinger, ND, graduated from SCNM. Dr. Nicola sees clients from around the world in her naturopathic medical practice, Pura Vida Natural Healthcare, in Durango, CO. She is an expert in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She is able to minimize supplements and medications as her patients become empowered to heal themselves. In addition to seeing clients, Dr. Nicola leads group and private retreats. She teaches a variety of online and in-person classes. In her free time, you can find Dr. Nicola in the mountains or the kitchen, enjoying time with her husband, son, and dogs. Website: www.puravidahealthcare.com