An elimination diet is a valuable tool meant to help you discover what foods your body does and doesn’t tolerate, and to give you a sense of how the foods you consume affect you on a very individual basis. However, it is meant to be time-limited, and eventually you’re going to want to add some of the foods you avoided back into your diet. It’s important to do this very carefully, as some of your most valuable information will come during the re-introduction phase.
Reintroduce foods one at a time.
This is perhaps the most important principle to remember when coming off an elimination diet. If you start eating multiple new foods at once and experience some of your old symptoms, you won’t be able to tell which food was the offender. Stick to one at at ime.
After 30 days you are probably going to want to start adding in foods quickly, but resist the temptation! Your hard work is already over, and if you just keep patient a little longer, you’ll reap the rewards. Eat a small amount of the food you’re reintroducing, then wait a couple days. Sometimes it can take that long for symptoms to flare up. If you don’t experience any symptoms, you can try eating more of the food. Don’t binge on it, but gradually reincorporate it into your diet in increments. If you do experience symptoms, wait a few days or until they subside before you try a different food.
This may be one of the most important phases for keeping track of what you eat and how it makes you feel. You may think you won’t forget, but you’d be surprised how quickly you get confused about what you ate and when. Write it down. It’ll only take you a couple minutes, and will help you get the most benefits from all your efforts.
Try different cooking methods.
Some people tolerate foods if cooked a certain way but not others. This is especially true for grains. Grains are a bit troublesome for a lot of people because they have anti-nutrients in their outer husk. Traditional methods of soaking, sprouting, and long cooking times often inactivate these anti-nutrients and make them easier to digest. I found that unsprouted quinoa makes me look as though I’m 5 months pregant because I get horribly bloated. Once I started soaking and sprouting it, I had no symptoms whatsoever. In the future I’d love to do a post on these cooking methods, but for now, I’ll refer you to some excellent resources: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and Jenny’s amazing site, Nourished Kitchen.
If you try to reintroduce a food and find you don’t tolerate it, there are some options. If its one of the 8 major food allergens, (wheat, milk, eggs, tree nuts, soy, peanuts, fish and shellfish), you may not be able to eat that food in the future, at least not very often. It depends on your symptoms and your overall health. Obviously, if your tongue swells up and your throat starts to close, don’t eat that food EVER again…and call 911. If you get a little gas when you eat eggs but you’re at your cousin’s birthday party and someone made chocolate souffle, well, you’ll just have to use your own judgment. But at least you’ll go into it knowing the consequences, and be able to make an informed decision. Above all, remember that health is a journey, and no one is perfect. Don’t expect yourself to entirely eliminate a food you love for the rest of your life. If it isn’t causing you major health issues, you can make the decision for yourself whether a little bit here and there is worth it to you. Remember, you’re in charge of your own wellness, and it isn’t always about food.