I’ve mentioned a 30 day elimination diet a couple times in recent posts as a way to figure out what foods you may be intolerant of. It’s also a great way to figure out just what kind of nutritional plan works best for you and helps you find your own balance. Today I’d like to explain exactly what a 30 day elimination diet is, and what foods people commonly avoid while on one. In my upcoming posts we’ll talk about some practical tips for starting an elimination diet, what you can eat while on the diet, and symptoms to watch out for as you reintroduce more foods.
The point of an elimination diet is to eliminate all foods from the diet that may be problematic, observe how you feel, and then gradually reintroduce those foods one at a time to figure out if they’re responsible for any unpleasant symptoms. Really, you can do it for as much time as you like, but 30 days is considered a good place to start because it gives you an opportunity to clear any offending substances out of your system and really start to feel your best before reintroducing any questionable foods. Different people recommend different foods to eliminate based on the individual and their current state of health (or lack thereof.) This is what I think works well, although as always, its important to consult with your medical provider and your own common sense before taking anyone’s advice (including mine!)
Eliminate any known allergens.
If you know you don’t tolerate a certain food, it absolutely has to go while on the diet. You won’t feel your best if you keep eating it, and even if you only cheat a little, it’ll make it difficult for you to tell which foods are really making you feel badly. If you don’t know what your intolerances are, here’s a list of the 8 most common: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. I’d expand this list to include all dairy, and any gluten containing grains such as barley and rye. Avoid these foods, and see if it makes a difference in how you feel.
Consider eliminating grains, or at least cutting down on them.
Many people find they do better on fewer grains, though not everyone can eliminate them entirely. Substitute the rice or bread you normally have with dinner for some more veggies. Carrot fries are delicious with a little cinnamon and honey, as are sweet potatoes. Try different root vegetables such as taro or yucca in order to get your carbohydrates. If you do keep some grains in your diet, carefully observe how you feel after eating them. I tolerate soaked oats fine, but unsprouted quinoa makes me miserable. These are the types of things you only learn by experimenting.
A lot of people don’t tolerate nightshades, especially those with autoimmune diseases. This family of flowering plants includes potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, tomatilloes, pimentos, paprika and cayenne. This one can be hard for a lot of people because of the potatoes and tomatoes. However, if you’re having a lot of symptoms, whether they’re intestinal, autoimmune, skin related or neurological, you may want to consider it.
Cut back on sugar.
Decreasing your sugar intake will probably help you feel better in a lot of ways, although the first few days may be tough. I don’t know that I’d recommend completely eliminating all sugar from your diet (fruit, honey, etc.), as detoxing from sugar will probably make you feel pretty lousy. Since the point of a 30 day elimination diet is to get to feeling well before reintroducing foods, a complete sugar detox might confuse the issue. If you really want to eliminate sugar from your diet in order to help your intestinal flora, you might consider doing this before a 30 day elimination diet. In any event, cutting back on sugar will help normalize your blood glucose levels and reduce the highs and lows that come with too much sugar consumption. You will likely find your energy levels improving, your sleep may be deeper and more restful, and the nasty symptoms of hypoglycemia (irritableness, feeling jittery, the “I have to eat right now” feeling) will be less likely to happen when you aren’t binging on sugar.
If anyone has done a 30 day elimination diet before, I’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment and let us know how you felt on the diet and what you may have learned about yourself and your own dietary needs.