The Elimination Diet: Why, How, and What
We’re about to get personal, guys.
I like to stick to the recipe, for the most part, when I’m writing up a blog post. Rarely have I discussed any kind of health issue. However, I’m about to embark on a journey of what is known as an “elimination diet”.
When I’m on this diet, which could take months, I suspect I’ll be posting more basic recipes that align with what I can eat. No more Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies or Pasta Salad. Having a food blog and altering my diet is a tricky thing to navigate. I want to put awesome content out there, but I need to work on my health. So along with those simple recipes, I will also be chronicling my elimination diet. If you’re not interested in this journey, just go ahead and skip these updates. No hard feelings!
NOTE: You’ll still see some recipes going up that don’t align with my elimination diet protocol – I have already tested and photographed some recipes prior to this.
Why I’m Doing an Elimination Diet
When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with acid reflux. So, basically, for over 10 years, I have had an unhealthy gut. An unhealthy gut can lead to a whole slew of issues. I was put on PPIs, but the reflux did not go away – it got worse. PPIs, or protein pump inhibitors, block and reduce the production of stomach acid.
I stopped taking the medication and did find some relief for a while. But 5 years ago, I started experiencing incredible stomach pain along with reflux and bloating. PPIs did not help much. Pepto didn’t help. Nothing helped. It got worse. My primary care doctor just told me to avoid acidic foods and would occasionally change my medicine.
I had quite a few of these “episodes”, as I call them. Severe stomach pain, regurgitation/reflux, gas, etc. The pain was so intense one night that I went to urgent care. That doctor told me I needed to see a GI doctor (gastroenterologist) and gave me a referral.
I saw a GI in 2014 and had a scope done, along with other tests. The doctor told me I had a lot of inflammation but no ulcers or anything else. The other tests gave me no answers. He told me I had GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). But again, reflux medication did not work the way it should have been.
Keep in mind, at this time, my diet was very different than it is now. I was eating a lot of fast food, processed food, meat, and dairy – the typical Standard American Diet.
I cleaned up my diet a bit (less processed foods) and avoided tomato products and spicy foods. I also stopped eating dairy because my son was breastfed and had an allergy to it. I felt a lot of relief. But occasionally, I’d have a week or two where I would have my stomach “episodes” off and on. I’d eat a bland diet, cut back on coffee, and eventually I would feel better.
I did notice a few things over the years: bananas, avocados, and raw tomatoes seemed to trigger these stomach episodes – sometimes accompanied by a headache. Avocados make my mouth itchy, as well, so I’m definitely classifying that as an allergy. I am intolerant to bananas and tomatoes – but I need to find out what other foods I am intolerant to that are causing these episodes.
Another issue I am having is weight gain. I started gaining weight about 2-3 years ago with really no idea why. Despite going to the gym regularly, doing yoga at home, following a meal plan, and trying various ways of eating throughout the past couple of years (whole foods plant-based, no oil, low-carb, low-fat, calorie counting, intermittent fasting, intuitive eating, etc.) my weight isn’t budging. Thankfully, I am no longer gaining weight. But I’m still overweight and staying steady despite doing everything “right”. There is a ton of literature, articles, and studies out there showing that food intolerance is often an underlying cause of weight gain.
I also have moments after eating where it just feels like there is a rock sitting in my stomach. This is certainly less painful than my “stomach episodes” but still notable.
What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is basically cutting out foods that can be problematic for many people like gluten, soy, nightshades, processed sugar, dairy, and eggs for 3-4 weeks. You can adjust the list of foods to be more or less restrictive based on your needs.
After 3-4 weeks, you begin slowly reintroducing one food at a time. Wait a couple days and see if you have a reaction. Then, you can re-test that food. Wait another 2 days. Re-assess. Move on to the next new food.
Foods I’m Avoiding:
The “avoid” list is pretty extensive, but here are the basics:
- Nightshades (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes.)
- Dairy and eggs (I’m vegan, so these are already eliminated)
- Citrus fruits
- Coffee (SAD FACE)
- Processed sugar
Foods I Can Eat:
This is the list I am focusing on – what I can eat:
- Lentils and beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Coconut aminos (in place of soy sauce)
- Cooked veggies: broccoli, peas, zucchini, squash, spinach, kale, green beans
- Green tea
- Some fruits like apples
- Nuts and seeds
- LOTS of water
Obviously, my meals will be very limited, but here is what I have come up with:
- Roasted sweet potato bowls similar to this one but more restrictive.
- Rice or quinoa with veggies
- Rice noodle “ramen” with veggies
- Sweet potato hash with zucchini and squash
- White bean hummus with quinoa crackers (compliant store bought? or going to try to find modify this recipe.)
- Shepherds pie made with lentils, veggies, and sweet potatoes
- Perhaps some gluten-free pancakes or waffles?!
- Nuts and seeds for snacks
I’ll be looking forward to the day I can reincorporate some more foods. I am going to start with foods I think I’m fine with, like white potatoes, and work my way toward the trickier foods.
Wish me luck! Have you ever done an elimination diet? Any advice for me?