|Photo by Pink Sherbet|
I’ve decided it’s time to tinker with what I eat via an elimination diet. I start today, almost exactly one year after starting paleo/primal. Why now? Eliminating grains, legumes, and vegetable oils from my diet, although a big change, was pretty easy – I couldn’t care less about vegetable oils, and I don’t really miss grains or legumes. I’ve been eating delicious, whole foods, and that’s tough to beat. I think that if I had tried to cut out anything else when I first started, it would’ve made paleo/primal a lot harder. I also figured that at first I’d just coast by getting rid of the worst offenders. A year in, I’m ready for some more experimentation.
The Elimination Diet Protocol
For starters, the original paleo diet does not include dairy, although many paleo adherents allow for butter and heavy cream. Although I don’t avoid dairy, I’ve already greatly reduced my consumption of it, other than butter and cream – which I hope to re-incorporate since they’re such great fat sources. Then there’s eggs. After grains and dairy, they appear to be one of the most allergenic foods. I also really hope to bring those back, as they’re a great source of protein, and really, variety.
However, It’s not recommended to just eliminate the one or two things you’re testing for from your diet and leave a bunch of other allergens in. The idea is to take out all potentially aggravating foods to let your gut heal, and then re-introduce those foods one by one. I read somewhere that before the elimination diet, this woman could eat peppers everyday with no problems. After her gut healed, she found that she couldn’t handle even a little bit. So you never really know what foods could be irritating your gut until you eliminate them for a period of time.
The elimination diet I’m doing is more restrictive than something like the Whole 30, which is basically a strict paleo diet. Robb Wolf’s autoimmune protocol is like Whole 30 minus nightshades and eggs. A step beyond that is a standard elimination diet which gets rid of a foods like chicken and beef – I won’t be going that far.
Also, I will not be “testing” for all the foods that I eliminate. Ideally, I would, but realistically, that would take a really long time. There’s a few key ones that I’m focusing on, the remainder I’m just refraining from eating during the elimination phase to ensure the gut heals appropriately – but I’ll see how it goes. Plus, out of the other eliminated foods, some I don’t plan to re-introduce at all, and others I don’t eat that much of anyway and I’m not all that keen on cutting out completely.
Food paleo/primal already eliminates: grains, legumes, soy, corn, peanuts, vegetable oils, and sugar.
Food I personally typically eliminate: most nightshades, pork, shellfish, and additives (food colorings, artificial flavors, emulsifiers, preservatives).
Food eliminated via Robb Wolf and Whole 30: all nightshades, dairy, and alcohol
Food I’m eliminating based on typical elimination diet: chocolate, sweeteners (honey, maple syrup), citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime), apples, seeds, nuts, and caffeine (coffee, black/green tea).
Food I’m not eliminating even though not allowed on stricter elimination diet: beef and chicken. It’s interesting that with most of these elimination diets, the only proteins allowed are fish, turkey, lamb, and wild game. I have heard of people being allergic to beef. Maybe those meats also typically have the least amount of contaminants (except for the fish)?
Another good suggestion I came across was to eliminate any foods that you eat very frequently, or feel cravings for.
Although not a requirement, it may be helpful to keep track of what you’re eating every day, as well as any symptoms that may be improving for you. Keeping a food journal can also give you an indication of which foods you’re eating too much or not enough of. It’s especially helpful to keep a food diary during the re-introduction phase of the elimination diet.
Duration and Reintroduction
Most protocols are 30 days, although it’s possible to just do 3 weeks. I’d say do 30 days if you can, to increase the odds of the gut healing enough for the elimination diet to be useful. Having said that, if you’re unable to do 30 days, then just do 3 weeks. I say unable because I can imagine the elimination diet being quite difficult to do if you are travelling at all, since you then have limited control of your food, and things that should be eliminated might sneak their way in without you even knowing it. Also, depending on how many foods you want to re-introduce individually, the process can easily last 5-6 weeks, which is a rather long time.
On Day 1, after the 30 days, you re-introduce one of the foods you’ve eliminated. You eat that food at least twice that day. You then do not have any of that food for the following 2 days, paying attention to how you feel. Symptoms to watch out for include, but are not limited to:
sleep disturbances/insomnia, nasal or lung congestion, increased mucous, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, constipation/diarrhea, bloating, gas, fluid retention, pain, mood swings, joint aches, inflammation, urinary problems, drowsiness after meals, skin breakouts or rashes
If the food does not cause any symptoms, you then introduce the next food on day 4.
If a food you tested “fails”, your gut has been irritated, and so your reaction to any other new foods you re-introduce may not be as reliable (you could either react too sensitively, or have been de-sensitized). It’s safer to re-start the elimination diet, although 30 days is probably not necessary.
Foods that have passed the re-introduction phase, and are now considered “safe” can technically be eaten during the remainder of the testing. However, to be on the safe side, I plan to leave them out until I’m done the testing. Somehow it makes sense to me for new foods to be introduced to a gut that is as close to the state it was during the original elimination diet as possible. I guess I’d rather not introduce any new variables, and keep the status quo as much as possible.
Dairy should be re-introduced last since, other than grains, it tends to cause the most problems for people.
Here we go…
I’m actually kind of excited to be doing this elimination diet. Lately I feel like I’ve kind of spun out on chocolate, and have been craving snacks more than I’d like. I’m hoping this period of super clean eating will break those habits.
Something I’ll have to keep in mind is to make sure I’m eating enough fat, to replace the butter and cream. And I hear it’s good to remember to drink enough water – your body will be detoxifying somewhat and water helps flush out those toxins.
It’ll be interesting to see if I react negatively to any foods. I really hope not (please don’t take away my cheese!). I’m especially interested in testing eggs and dairy. I’m also curious if I’ll generally feel any different when eating such a clean/strict version of the paleo diet.
If such a diet seems too restrictive, keep in mind that it’s only temporary. Chances are you’ll be re-introducing most of the foods without a problem. And even if some of the foods fail, although it’s possible for you to forever be allergic to them, there’s also a good chance that if you try again in 6 months, your gut may have healed enough to tolerate them (especially if you don’t over-indulge).
Did you find an elimination diet worthwhile? If you’ve never done one, how about joining me this month?
**Update: Interested in how my elimination diet turned out? Here are the other posts in my elimination diet series: