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Elimination Diet Results-Part II

July 20, 2011

Dark-Chocolate
Photo by EverJean

I’ve had some time to reflect on my very first elimination diet, which ended last week. I’d like to share some thoughts/tips with you, based on my experience. If you missed my previous 3 posts, you may want to check out the following:

1. Elimination Diet, Paleo-Style

2. Elimination Diet Update

3. Elimination Diet Results–Part I

Overall, I think the elimination diet is a very useful tool, and I highly recommend trying it out. As I mentioned in my last post, my results were somewhat inconclusive, due mostly to circumstance (life got busy/hectic). But I still learned a lot from it, and it was a good exercise in listening to my body and paying attention to how I react to various foods.

Let’s dive right in…

Thoughts…

The Reset Button: During the elimination diet, I stopped snacking (almost). I’m fine with snacking when I’m hungry. Like when I get home from work and am feeling a little hungry but not quite hungry enough to have dinner. It’s more the mindless snacking that I was trying to stop, and the elimination diet put an end to that. Surprisingly, I actually grew tired of coconut manna (which had become my primary after-work snack). I think this alone is a good enough reason to do the elimination diet – it’s a very nice reset button that helps deal with cravings, snacking, unhealthy eating habits, etc. Thirty days is considered long enough to break bad habits and create new ones.

Costs: Dairy is expensive. After not buying cheese for a month, I was shocked at how much it costs. Same with eggs ($6+/dozen for regular organic grocery store variety). Both seem grossly overpriced. Not that I will stop buying them… just an observation.

Eating Out: Food on the go was even more of a challenge than usual. I tried to not eat out, but when I had to, I relied on unseasoned burger patties, plain meat and veggies (or as plain as I could find them), and salad bars.

Deprivation: Dropping grains was relatively easy for me when I first started eating paleo/primal. After reading the research, it seemed crazy to continue eating them. Same with vegetable oils. But although I realize dairy consumption is not necessarily optimal, the research isn’t all negative, and definitely nowhere near as bad as for grains and oils. And when it’s not as clear cut, it’s definitely harder to let go of it. I felt much more deprived dropping dairy and eggs than I did when I eliminated grains. Not being able to eat any sugar or honey, chocolate, or drink alcohol didn’t help matters. I felt limited and by the end, was seeking freedom more than I was craving any of the individual foods.

Full disclosure: Right after the elimination diet finished, I ended up binging on some primal-ish foods – mainly 85% dark chocolate, cheese, and yogurt. I also indulged in some sugar (in the form of flavored yogurt, whereas I now usually go for plain – have you seen how much sugar they put into flavored yogurt?!). Luckily this was just a phase, and seemed to be rebellion more than anything. The flavored yogurt now tastes way too sweet, I’m able to eat only a little bit of chocolate, and am no longer inhaling cheese. So I would say the reset button did still work, although it backfired temporarily immediately after – it seemed like I needed to get the deprivation out of my system.

Conclusions

I already greatly decreased my consumption of dairy when I started eating paleo/primal. Based on the unclear results of the elimination diet, combined with some negative research about dairy consumption, I plan to continue along that path, possibly decreasing consumption a little more. Having said that, the elimination diet, at least this time around, did not show any major problems for me in terms of digesting dairy. Yes, gassiness and bloating are problems, but that was only when over-indulging in very high fat dairy, so I remain skeptical. So my choice of reducing intake is based more on research than my n=1 experimentation. I don’t feel eggs did me any harm, nor do they for the majority of the population, so I will continue eating those liberally. I know alcohol, chocolate, and sugar are far from optimal, so I will continue to enjoy those as treats in restricted moderation.

Tolerated is not optimal. But life quality matters too.

I fully agree that just because your body appears to tolerate something, does not mean it’s optimal for you. However, I feel that by eliminating grains and vegetable oils, as well as greatly restricting sugar consumption, and eating quality meat and fats as much as possible goes pretty far. The other foods, insofar as I continue to tolerate them, boost my quality of life, and decrease the stress involved with being deprived of them. And really, other than dairy, paleo doesn’t restrict any of the other foods like eggs or nightshades, unless you’re having serious autoimmune issues (in which case an elimination diet is recommended). And if you’re eating primally, or as per WAPF, dairy is not restricted, especially the high-fat kind. So at this point, these foods shall remain part of my diet. Although as I mentioned before, at some point I do plan on conducting another elimination diet to re-check my tolerance for them. At that point I would also like to test for nightshades, mostly because it’d be nice to eat curry completely guilt-free, and their general inclusion would make cooking and especially eating out much easier.

Tips

In addition to the process I followed, based on my experience with this round of the elimination diet, there are a few tips I’d recommend:

Stay away from new foods: Try not to confuse matters. I started the elimination diet right at the beginning of fruit season. I ate much more berries and cherries than I do throughout the year. In hindsight, it’d be nice for this to not be a confounding factor. It’s best to keep the status quo as much as possible – the more boring your diet the better.

Write stuff down: You’d think that as a blogger, this would be second nature. But it’s so easy to assume that you’ll just remember stuff. If you want to do a thorough job, keep a food diary, writing down what you ate, your symptoms, when you re-introduced foods, etc. As one of my commenters mentioned, Google Calendar is great for keeping track of your elimination/re-introduction schedule.

Be flexible: I shouldn’t have re-introduced foods when my stomach wasn’t settled. You kind of have to anticipate that this process will take some time, and don’t force things. The resulting information will be more reliable. Have patience, and be flexible enough to accommodate changes in your schedule.

Plan elimination diet for a uneventful period of time: Sometimes life simply gets in the way. But there are other events that you can hopefully plan around. The less stuff is going on in your life during your elimination diet, the higher the odds of reliable results.

Put some thought into which foods to eliminate: Don’t assume that just because you’ve always eaten a certain food, that you won’t react to it. Nor that if it’s paleo, it’s safe. What you react to may surprise you. Non-paleo foods should be the first to be eliminated, but don’t forget about others such as eggs, nightshades, FODMAPS, etc. Some people even react to beef. Do a little digging to find out which foods you should eliminate, but don’t let the long list overwhelm you – you have to start somewhere. I’d recommend picking those that the most people have problems with and going from there – you can always repeat the process.

Don’t take yourself too seriously: Remember, this is something you’re choosing to do to get more insight into what works and doesn’t diet-wise. Any information that you collect will be valuable. Things won’t always go as planned though, so just roll with the punches, and remember, you can always repeat the diet at any time. Have fun with it, and don’t be too hard on yourself!

Have you tried an elimination diet? How did it go?

Leave a Comment

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda October 13, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Thanks for this series of articles! They were very helpful for me. I’m 13 days in to a pseudo-elimination diet (just alcohol and dairy) with intent to go full on (nightshades, eggs, nuts, chocolate) as soon as I get over this nasty case of bronchitis I’ve had for 6 days now (homemade egg drop soup is my friend right now). Interestingly, I’ve lost 10 pounds since starting (152 to 142, and I’m 5’5″, down from 210 since going paleo Sept 2010), but that is confounded by my illness (I’ve barely been eating, no appetite). I’ve got a minor autoimmune issue I’m hoping will clear up (hidradenitis suppurativa) if I can identify and permanently eliminate an unknown food intolerance. Anyway, thanks again for the articles!

Reply

[email protected] January 5, 2012 at 8:17 PM

Amanda, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found the series helpful, and hope you’ve had success with your own elimination diet. And congrats on the weight loss! :)

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Betsy March 4, 2012 at 2:54 PM

I’m on Day 14 of a 3-month pale-type elimination diet. I can eat meat, fish, eggs, coconut, avocado, and most veggies. I’m trying to clear up my acne and it’s working really well so far. Thanks for sharing your story.

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[email protected] March 4, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with the rest of your elimination diet. I’m glad to hear it’s working well thus far :)

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Gigi June 20, 2012 at 5:58 PM

I was diagnosed with RA at the age of 13. At the time I was not aware of how diet affected my illness. I was hospitalized as I could not walk and was given doses of aspirin so high that my blood had to be drawn twice daily to ensure I did not OD (but my doctor never told me I should take it with food). Fortunately, I responded well to that treatment. After about three years, the illness went into remission. About six years later, it resurfaced again (probably caused by the stress of having a baby). I tried taking aspiring again, but guess what? I found that I had developed ulcers and could no longer take it. I did not want to take the commonly prescribed NSAIDs because I was not willing to risk the side effects (i.e. more ulcers, kidney failure, liver failure, even death). I read about elimination diets and decided to try one suitable for my condition. I followed a raw vegan diet for a while, followed by a strict low-calorie mostly vegetarian diet (eggs and fish sometimes but no dairy, processed foods, or sugar). After about three years, my illness went into remission again. About ten years later, it resurfaced again (probably due to stress caused by serious family issues). By this time, I had begun eating some “healthier” versions of processed foods, sugar and dairy on occasion, so I went back to my strict low calorie mostly vegetarian diet. However, this time I found that it was not working for me. I tried another elimination diet. This time, I discovered that certain foods seemed to trigger an autoimmune response (legumes, grains, sweet potatoes). I did some research to find what it was about these foods that could be triggering the response and found that these foods were all inflammatory. After some trial and error, I came up with the following diet:
Breakfast:
4 oz of wild salmon baked in generous amounts of raw extra-virgin organic olive oil, lemon, red onions, garlic, ginger, and Serrano peppers.
Home-made juice from a half bunch of Kale, two apples, lemon, and ginger
Lunch:
Romaine lettuce, endive, and avocado salad with raw organic extra-virgin olive oil and lemon
Snack:
Dried Organic tart Montmorency cherries (sweetened with apple juice) with organic dried blueberries, almonds, and macadamia nuts
Dinner:
Same as breakfast

Yes, I ate about a half a pound of salmon a day, one bunch of kale a day, and a bottle of olive oil a week. At the time, it was difficult for me to maintain my weight on this diet because I felt like I could not get enough carbs. I found that all foods that were high in carbs were also inflammatory and caused me to be in pain. The diet above is highly anti-inflammatory and kept me free from pain. I was a dance fitness instructor and had to cut my classes from five to one per week in order to stabilize my weight on this diet. I recently started reading about the paleo diet and found it interesting that the foods that are not part of the diet are all inflammatory. I do recognize that my diet is more restrictive (no animal products except fish) than paleo, but I have special needs. I have found that most animal proteins (except fish and eggs) seem to cause an autoimmune response in my body. After I started feeling better, I added whole brown rice to my diet because I felt that I needed it for energy, as I am a dancer who trains about 2-3 hours a day. I feel best when I am on the above diet and am able to eat a little bit of whole brown rice with my salmon every day.

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[email protected] June 24, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Hi thank you for sharing your story! The two things that come to mind after reading your comment are 1) I wonder if there’s some way you can work meat into your diet – you’ve probably tried it all, but wild game comes to mind and also of course it’d have to be organic and if it’s beef then grass-fed and finished and 2) I’m a little concerned about the brown rice as it’s definitely harder to digest and has more inflammatory properties — have you tried white rice? It’s stripped of most of the stuff that’s bad for us. Also, have you tried other non-grain carb sources as well like potatoes (careful, nightshade), sweet potatoes, taro, cassava/yuca, plantains? Those might be less irritating to your gut and less inflammatory. Just some thoughts.

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Gigi June 30, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Yes, I have tried white rice and seem to do ok on it in small amounts as well as potatoes when I am not at my most sensitive. When I start having pain again, I eliminate these from my diet, and the pain goes away. I tried eating sweet potatoes again the other day, and was in pain for two days. I have tried to eat organic meat/chicken several times but my body does not seem to like it based on the inflammatory response I get (my knee joint starts collecting fluid and my joints feel stiff). I have not tried cassava, yucca, or plantains recently but I do love fried plantains (maybe I can bake them in coconut oil? any other ideas?)

Marcus June 27, 2012 at 7:59 AM

Did you try to reintroduce peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and nuts? Any side effects from those at all?

I ask as we are just starting out on an elimination diet, basically the Robb Wolf Paleo Autoimmune Protocol due to my wife’s Multiple Sclerosis. As it happens, normal Paleo ‘seems’ to do a pretty good job for us but with the recent research from Fasano I want to make sure we do all we can to heal the gut and to identify if any of the additional foods to avoid (nuts, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes or eggs) are a problem for us.

Nuts, eggs, toms and peppers were all a regular part of our diet so cutting them out is proving a little tricky even with things like curry powder and other spices that have paprika or various chilli powder in them.

I have started to try and put out a couple of recipes on my blog to help with the autoimmune protocol as it is a bit of a head scratcher sometimes and as much as I love steak for breakfast, my wife is not always so keen! http://www.primod.co.uk/food/autoimmune-recipes/

We are on about day 15 so ill keep you posted on how we do with the reintroduction stage.

Cheers
Marcus

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[email protected] June 29, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Thanks for the comment and I’d definitely be interested in hearing how the re-introduction goes.

I never ended up testing nightshades. They were a lower priority for me than dairy and I heard its best to re-introduce dairy last. I didn’t want to try nightshades before dairy, react to nightshades, and then have to do it all over again. Obviously I’m taking a slightly more relaxed approach because don’t have issues like MS, otherwise I’d be much more thorough.

So I basically just threw eggs back into the mix. I also eat nuts (but these have never been a major part of my diet, although I do have to watch it with those tasty nut butters. And I don’t frugally consume nightshades although they sneak into my diet occasionally, especially when dining out. And i turn a blind eye to curry – again, a bit of a lazy approach to avoidance. I’ve been meaning to repeat the elimination diet solely to figure out if I can bring nightshades back into my diet, since that would make life a lot easier.

I feel your pain about breakfast – eggs were one of the foods I missed most while on the elimination diet. I mostly ate sausages for breakfast (had to be careful with the ingredients).

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Marcus July 27, 2012 at 3:20 AM

Hey, yeah, going okay, had to kind of reboot our approach a bit as was still using spices and have found that chilli powders seem to be problematic upon reintroduction when having some kimchi.

There is an interesting section in the new Loren Cordain book covering just what it is about chilli peppers, tomatoes etc that causes the problems and some forms (chill spices + small green tomatoes) are a lot worse than others with bell peppers and big red tomatoes being pretty much okay and having none of the active ingredient.

I know that chilli causes issues so next is to do a staged reintroduction of bell peppers and big, ripe tomatoes to see if they can be tolerated.

Will keep you posted.
Marcus

[email protected] July 5, 2012 at 1:35 PM

I’m curious about the inflammatory reaction to meat.. There’s been a news article recently making the rounds about meat allergies being caused by tick bites – kind of a long shot, but thought I’d mention it (http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/20/health/meat-tick-bite-allergy/index.html)

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[email protected] July 28, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Thanks for sharing that info about the nightshades section of Loren Cordain’s book – I’ll have to look that up. I plan to do another elimination diet in the fall solely to try to re-introduce tomatoes, which would help make my food options a little less limited.

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