Food Sensitivities Explained: Part II
Resting the Digestive System
We’re going to focus this time on resting the digestive system. And focus next time on optimizing digestive function. We have to do both at the same time in order to heal the compromised system. But in order to digest the information let’s approach them one at a time.
So, how do we take the stressors off the digestive system and rest it? The gold standard for resting the digestive is the elimination diet. The elimination diet is also the current evidence-based best practice for determining food sensitivities, not a laboratory test. Now, there are some tests available that have shown in the literature to be on the more reliable spectrum of reliability but still there is no one standard, reliable test. You may decide to take one of these tests under the direction of your physician to personalize your specific elimination diet. But you don’t have to have labs.
Research has found that it’s just as good as anything else to eliminate these 7: gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, sugar/sweeteners, peanuts, and shellfish. We’ll also avoid nightshades, alcohol and caffeine just to give the system a break from these as well. If you have a daily caffeine habit, wean off slowly and then start the elimination diet to avoid headaches and body aches. #beenthere
Hold On! Don’t quit on me just yet, that was the bad news and I know what a drag it is to know what you CAN’T have. So during the time of the elimination diet, you 100% focus on what you CAN have. Because just eliminating the main “culprits” without replacing them with nourishing foods will not be a time of rest for your digestive system. So I find what’s most helpful is to have a comprehensive list of what I CAN have. And that’s how I meal plan during my elimination diet.
Let’s talk about the food plan and then we’ll move onto the timeline. There are several therapeutic diets you could follow so feel free to go look them up and then pick one, adjusting it for your individual needs. Or, you can follow the pelvic pain elimination diet resource that I’ll provide for you, based on “Anti-inflammatory Nutrition for Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis” from the Integrative Women’s Health Institute. But please keep in mind that there is no protocol! It’s not like oh if you have IC you use this elimination diet or oh if you have vulvodynia you use this elimination diet or oh if you have IBS you use this elimination diet. Nope. Why? Because we are all individuals and we are all unique and because a protocol, with official diet “rules” and “procedures” according to a diagnosis, is not evidence based. K?
Paleo: Grain-free and dairy-free but would allow for eggs, nightshades, and some natural sweeteners so eliminate those as well.
Whole 30: Additionally this diet cuts out legumes and any sweeteners, even natural, but still allows for eggs and nightshades.
Ketogenic: Allows for dairy so be careful there, you’ll want to cut that out. It’s based on high consumption of healthy fats along with proteins and non-starchy vegetables.
Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP): Probably the most restrictive so, as with any others, make you sure you 100% focus on what you CAN have and nourish your body!
(Others exist, including the Wahls, low-FODMAPS, GAPS, and Low Oxalate. If you are vegan or vegetarian it’s hard, but not impossible, to ensure you get enough protein in your diet. Consider working with a functional medicine minded nutritionist, dietician, MD, or ND)
WATCH THE VIDEO:
Do some research and get a game plan. And it may help you to take a look at the elimination diet resource I provide.
Also record daily in the journal: when did you poop and what number was it on the Bristol Stool Chart.
If you feel uncomfortable talking about poop, don’t worry I’m going to do a whole blog dedicated to poop and it will totally desensitize all your fears about the topic.
And record any symptoms you have that day and when: headache, stomachache or bloating, skin issues you notice, other areas of pain or inflammation, sinus problems, feeling in a fog, feeling sluggish. Also note any positive effects you notice in a day: clarity, energy, decreased pain, cleared up sinuses.
I know this sounds like a lot of work. It is. But this way you have a record of everything and you can go back over it and recognize patterns and draw some conclusions because let’s just admit it: aint none of us just going to ‘remember’. So we’ve got to record it.
If you notice somewhere near the end of week 3 and mid-week 4 that you’re still having symptoms of food sensitivities then it’s possible that you have sensitivity to something not among the “avoid list”. So for instance, you’ve substituted in lots of coconut in place of dairy but turns out you’re actually sensitive to coconut. At this point, if you’re frustrated and aren’t already seeing a practitioner, it’s time to find one that can help you navigate the waters, potentially with the help of some labs.
Let’s say, it’s been 30 days. And you’re feeling pretty good because you’ve RESTED the digestive system and you’ve OPTIMIZED the digestive function. Don’t forget that one… more on it next time! Now, you’re ready to “challenge” foods by putting them back into your diet to see if they trigger symptoms. We’ll call this the “Re-Intro Phase”. One at a time, that’s very important, one at a time you introduce a food back in. So just pick one, maybe something you really miss or something you’re just super curious about. Although, let’s make sugar wait last in line because you’ll want to in general only sparingly eat sugar moving forward anyway.
For example, eggs. While you continue to follow the rest of the diet, eat eggs for 3 or 4 days, about 2-3 servings a day. Then remove the eggs again and give any reaction to eggs 3 days to show up. Remember, food sensitivities are different than true allergies so reactions to them are usually delayed. It’s crucial to keep up on your journal: record what you eat and their servings plus your pooping and any symptoms you notice. If you get symptoms within those 3 days, you probably can’t tolerate the challenge food (eggs in this example) at least not right now. If no symptoms appear within 3 days then cool, you can tolerate eggs, incorporate it into your diet and then challenge the next food; maybe nightshades. Repeat until you’ve challenged everything on the “avoid list”. The Re-Intro Phase could take about 3 months. Worst-case scenario, there’s maybe 2-3 categories or foods you have to long-term avoid. And you may find that some things you can have in moderation without experiencing symptoms. (See my * below).
Don’t start this yet! First, join me next time to dive into OPTIMIZING digestive function during your elimination diet. See you there!
*I’ve found I can tolerate small amounts of dairy like a few tablespoons of cream a day or equivalent. Too much dairy and I’m sneezing and wheezing like I’ve been snorting hay. I have to avoid gluten 100%, though trace amounts don’t seem to cause issues. Gluten free & non-GMO grains and nightshades/legumes in moderation seem to be fine, I just can’t go crazy. If you’re reading this far into the post, then it’s likely your body will do best without gluten long-term because of its highly inflammatory properties. Best of luck!!