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Elimination Diet Update

June 15, 2011

Cheeses
Photo by cwbuecheler

Today is Day 18 of my elimination diet – more than halfway through. The way I see it, there are 3 phases, 3 opportunities to glean information.

The first is the elimination phase. The question being, do you feel better, having eliminated certain potential offenders? I’m not quite done yet, so my answer may still change. But thus far, I haven’t noticed any appreciable differences, for better or for worse, other than weight loss. However, as I pay close attention to how I’m feeling over the past couple of weeks, I think I have more questions than answers…

Maintaining the status quo

It’s difficult to keep everything else constant, other than the eliminated foods. Fact is, those foods get replaced by something else. On one hand, this is fine, because that’s what would happen in the long run if those foods were found to be troublemakers. But on the other hand, it’s just the early stages of a revised diet that I haven’t really tinkered with.

For example, I question whether I’m eating enough fats. This potential shift in macronutrient ratios can have a big effect. I used to slather butter on everything. And heavy cream would more often than not find its way into my diet as well. Plus the occasional high fat dairy snack. To maintain a higher level of fat, I’ve mostly turned to coconut. I use beef tallow for cooking, but for re-heating and general consumption, it’s coconut oil. Although tasty in its own right, it can’t even begin to compare to butter, IMHO. This might affect how much of it I eat, even though I’ve been trying to be mindful of this bias.

But this brings up another confounding factor – I’ve been eating WAY more coconut lately. In addition to coconut oil, I’ve also had some coconut milk smoothies to up the fat, which is unusual for me. And my go-to snack has become coconut manna. How is this increase in coconut consumption affecting me? I guess since I’m not noticing anything out of the ordinary, it might not be. But still, it’s hardly the status quo that I started out with.

How’s it going?

I’m saving money :P In social situations, I either refrain from eating, and only drink water, or when appropriate I suggest meeting over “coffee” instead (rooibos tea for me). One of the foods I’m avoiding is bound to be sneak its way into a meal out, and since it’s just for a month, it hasn’t been worth the risk for me to potentially affect the outcome of the diet. And that also means I’m even more anal than usual about reading ingredient labels. For example, some sausages I was about to purchase had paprika, as did the plain mustard (?!) my friend used in a recipe we were making (oops!). I’m doing my best, without getting too crazy about all this.

Also, I dropped those 5 lbs that I gained by overeating. They just kind of fell off within the first 10 days. Could be because of less/healthier snacking, eating less in general, or because of an eliminated food group making weight loss easier. Either way, yay!

The interesting thing is that because this is a temporary diet (I hope), I haven’t fully committed to it. Instead of finding great new recipes, I’m coasting along, keeping things as simple as possible. I’ve been eating a lot of salads + protein (usually chicken), veggies + meat (usually beef), burgers (turkey or lamb), and breakfast sausages (all natural, turkey or lamb). Sounds pretty paleo, right? Obviously tons of people eat this stricter version of paleo, although most do include nightshades and eggs.

I miss eggs! I usually have either sausages or eggs for breakfast, and now I’m just left with sausages. Oh, and I miss cheese… especially on burgers.

Next Phases…

The re-introduction phase is coming up. Ideally, if there’s a reaction, it’ll be blatantly obvious rather than subtle. Because as I’ve been paying more attention to how I feel, there’s fluctuations from day to day and week to week – energy levels, post-workout muscle soreness, etc. I sometimes think – wow, if I had re-introduced a food today, then it’d probably be shouldering the blame.

The third phase will involve seeing how I feel after I’m eating “normally” again, with the re-introduced foods that “passed” the test.

So hopefully between the 3 phases, I’ll gather some helpful information. At the very least, I won’t have to wonder – what if I hadn’t been too lazy to do an elimination diet? And as far as health is concerned, no news is good news, right? So perhaps I should stop sounding bored, and be grateful thus far :P

Also, I want to emphasize that this is all n=1. People’s mileage will vary. Some people may experience very dramatic results, even in the first phase, which will radically impact their health (I’ve read countless such stories). So regardless of what my results will be, I strongly encourage tinkering with one’s diet. And I think that the  elimination diet is one of the most valuable tools for doing just that.

Have you done an elimination diet? What were your observations?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessie June 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Encouraged by your plan, I started my own elimination diet last Wednesday. I’ve already been eating paleo for 8 months (no dairy, grains, legumes) and thought it was smart to test for allergens since I already have a dairy allergy. Well, on day 1 of the elimination diet I got hives! For the first time in years. Day 2, itchy skin on my face and neck. Day 3, hives. Day 7, hives. At first I thought it might be an oral allergy syndrome response to raw carrots or bananas (connected to my tree allergies) – I had never heard of this possibility and was fascinated by the wikipedia article on OAS. But the Day 7 event lead me to see a turkey connection! And I thought turkey was supposed to be safe! LOL! Oh well. I’ve taken all of the possible candidates out of the rotation for 3 weeks. Will test later to see. I’m keeping a detailed food log and re-introduction calendar. Thanks for the inspiration! I think it’s going to help me a lot!

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admin@primalist June 16, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Hi Jessie,

I’m happy to hear the elimination diet is proving useful for you! :)

So when you say your hives started on Day 1 of the elimination diet, is Day 1 the first day you re-introduced some foods? Or did the hives start when you eliminated certain foods?

Also, curious if your procedure/approach to the elimination diet is similar to mine.

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Jessie (Alexandria, VA) June 17, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Hives started on day one of elimination! Which was really weird.

I used your approach, but also eliminated chicken and beef because, as you mentioned, they can be common allergens. I also cut out pork because I’ve recently noticed muscle twitching/creeping issues after eating pork (not quite sure what that’s out, but hopefully I’ll figure it out on reintroduction).

Only eating: lamb, turkey, fish and buffalo for meat. Veggies = squash (summer/spaghetti), carrots, spinach, broccoli, mixed greens, cauliflower, cabbage, yams, asparagus. Fruit = berries, grapes, banana. No seasonings other than salt, coconut oil, and olive oil. No liquids except water.

After the hives situation, I cut out turkey and all raw fruits. I’ve added in some raisins, dried papaya and dried mango – no reactions with those. Normally I avoid the dried fruits because of the high sugar content, etc. But I feel like I need *something* to get me through the full elimination period!

I’m using a Google calendar to track food intake and reactions as well as re-introduction days. Each food gets a 3-day re-introduction window. When I decided to eliminate turkey too, I just marked its “last day” on the calendar and counted out at least 4 weeks to set the re-introduction date. I keep playing with the order of the reintroductions – trying to get the key foods back sooner (like chicken and eggs) but trying not to re-introduces meats back to back. This order will probably keep changing as I go along and think about what foods I miss.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to re-introduce/test and then *not* just keep eating the foods that don’t cause a reaction. The re-introduction phase is 3 months long already! I need my meats and eggs back! I miss the variety. And I’m only 1.5 weeks in. Sigh.

Also, I’ve decided that as I reintroduce, say, chicken, I’ll eliminate lamb for 3-4 weeks. So that each food gets a full month off and its own re-introduction window.

I feel no better or healthier at this point. But, like I said, I’m only 1.5 weeks in. I’m hopeful this will really be worth it in the long run!

Katie June 19, 2011 at 7:22 PM

A nutritionist diagnosed me with a gluten intolerance at the age of 42, which made me hope that a lifetime of health issues and difficulty with weight loss might change; it didn’t. Recently, at the age of 44, the trainer at the gym helped me identify that I also have a dairy intolerance. I decided to try an elimination diet to see if I have any other problems, and am on day 5. Much easier to follow than I thought it would be (except for the fact that it’s extraordinarily time consuming; and I’m used to cooking for myself and doing a lot of whole food prep!) One of the big surprises that I have is that my after dinner desire for chocolate has completely disappeared. I do not eat much (if any) refined white things (sugar, flour, potatoes, etc) or processed foods, but still had terrible evening chocolate cravings. Now they are gone and I’m wondering what exactly was removed from my diet that may have been contributing to the chocolate cravings? Found this blog by googling “elimination diet experiences” and would be curious to hear your thoughts on this.

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admin@primalist June 23, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Hi Katie,

I’m not finding the elimination diet overly hard, but there are foods that I miss, so I wouldn’t say it’s been easy either. What part of the diet do you find most time consuming? For me it’d just be finding recipes that are compliant. But if I keep meals pretty simple, even that’s not so bad.

As for the chocolate cravings, I used to get them, too. For me I think it was partly the ritual/habit of coming home from work and having my “treat” of a couple squares of dark chocolate. Also, I’m wondering if it’s just like with carbs or sugar – if it’s in your diet, you crave it when you’re not having it; once you eliminate it, the cravings disappear.

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admin@primalist June 17, 2011 at 10:39 PM

Jessie, thanks for sharing your approach!

It’s really interesting that your hives started upon eliminating some foods – probably meaning that some of those were problematic, which I guess you’ll get to figure out during re-introduction.

I know what you mean about needing *something*. For me it’s been coconut. I also keep playing around in my head with the order of re-introduction. I don’t yet know if I’m allergic to dairy, and I’d like to bring at least some of it back (not milk or low-fat stuff). You’re supposed to leave it until the end because it’s likely to wreak havoc. But I’m also trying to go in order of what’s important for me to re-incorporate into my diet. And eggs and dairy (esp. butter and cream) are at the top of the list. Which means I might not be making it to some other foods like nightshades this time around, depending on the results.

The re-introduction phase really can drag on, depending on how many foods you want to test for. I’m impressed by your thoroughness! Misery loves company ;) Good luck with it – I’d be curious to hear about your progress! :)

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