I started an elimination diet on Monday. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a diet though. It’s more of an experiment you do on your body.
The point of an elimination diet is to determine if a specific food is causing allergic reactions or to see if you have an intolerance or sensitivity to a certain food.
So why am I doing this?
I’ve mentioned here on the blog many times that I get headaches and migraines pretty regularly. The pain level is sometimes so high that I’m sensitive to light, sounds and movement. I’ve even become nauseous from the pain.
I’ve determined that most of my headaches are hormonal. I’ve worked with my gynecologist to find a low estrogen birth control method. I was feeling great for a few months, then my headaches returned in October. My doctor wonders if the headaches are caused by something else since I felt fine for months before my headaches returned. I suggested doing an elimination diet, and she gave me the go ahead.
Some of my headaches are also stress-related. I clench my teeth while I sleep, and I wake up with a tension headache. (I wear a night guard to protect my teeth). I’m currently trying to create a more relaxing bedtime routine – hot shower, hot tea, a warm neck pillow, staying off my computer/phone after 9 p.m. Who knows, maybe the elimination diet will shed some light on this issue as well.
Here’s how an elimination diet works…
You remove the food or foods for a period of time – usually 2-3 weeks. During this time, your body turns over antibodies, the proteins that your immune system makes when it reacts to food. (Source)
After the elimination phase, you reintroduce foods one at a time and see if your symptoms return. You can choose the food you missed the most, eat that food, and wait three days to see how your body reacts (Source and Source).
Then reintroduce another food and wait three days. Keep repeating.
Throughout the entire process, keep a food journal detailing what you’re eating and how you feel.
Common allergens are soy, corn, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, refined sugar, gluten and nuts. I also eliminated caffeine (ahhh!) and alcohol (boo!).
How has my elimination diet has been so far?
The first two and a half days were not good. I had terrible caffeine withdrawal symptoms – headache, moodiness, crankiness, feeling tired. I pretty much wanted to quit after the first day. I really didn’t notice anything with the food because I felt so crappy from eliminating coffee. I was surprised by how severe my withdrawal symptoms were since I only drink a cup or two in the morning.
I’ve replaced my coffee with caffeine-free tea because I do miss the ritual of drinking coffee in the morning.
Now that I’m over the hump of the caffeine withdrawal, I actually feel pretty great. I haven’t been tired and I don’t feel deprived. I’ve noticed that my face and belly are a little slimmer, which means I lost a little bloat.
What am I eating?
I’m eating tons of fruits and vegetables, gluten-free grains (amaranth, quinoa, rice, etc.), seeds, chicken and turkey, beans and olive oil.
Here are some of my recent meals…
Gluten-free oatmeal with apple slices, goji berries, chia seeds and pomegranate arils
Lentil stew (without my usual spoonful of plain Greek yogurt)
Spaghetti squash with canned diced tomatoes
Turkey burgers (two small ones) over greens topped with hemp seeds, roasted carrots and golden beets and quinoa
HyVee salad bar (I didn’t eat the melon because it was totally flavorless)
Chicken stir fry with broccoli, garlic, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sesame oil and ginger (no soy sauce)
The only struggle I’ve had is snacks. I like to eat an afternoon snack before I teach my evening fitness classes. I’ve been eating a banana or an apple, but that doesn’t seem substantial enough. So I picked up some rice crackers that I’ll dip in hummus. I’m also going to make some fresh green juice, chia pudding and roast a sweet potato for snacks.
Who should do an elimination diet?
If you are suffering from digestive issues, headaches, heartburn, major mood swings, skin issues, terrible allergies or lack of energy or fatigue, then a food intolerance may be to blame. An elimination diet helps you find out if food is the culprit.
True food allergies will cause symptoms like hives, rashes, puffy eyes and anaphylaxis. (Source). With those symptoms, you want to visit your doctor.
The good thing about an elimination diet is that it forces you to become more mindful of how your body reacts to food. I’ve been keeping a food diary and taking note of how I feel each day.
The downside is that it takes some discipline (getting through those caffeine withdrawals was brutal!). It may also be difficult to determine if food is causing my headaches when they are reintroduced because so many other things can cause headaches – tension, dehydration, stress, hormones, tiredness, etc.
My only goal is that I learn something about my body through this process.
Would you ever do an elimination diet?