Spring has finally sprung. During this time of year, many of us naturally get the urge to clean out the old and bring in the new. Homes are decluttered and deep-cleaned. Closets and wardrobes are overhauled. Cars are taken in for tune-ups and detailing. The beautiful weather may even motivate you to get outdoors a bit more or start a new exercise routine.
Spring is also an ideal time to take advantage of our cleaning impulse to take a close look at our diet, and more specifically, how the food choices we make affect the way we feel. If you frequently experience symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, headaches, irritability, joint pain, skin problems or sleep disturbances, then there is a possibility that a food intolerance or sensitivity is to blame. Food intolerances and sensitivities are very common. It is estimated that up to 20% of the general population suffer from one or more food intolerances.
An elimination diet is a tried and true method to determine which foods cause unwanted reactions in your body. This is done in two parts, elimination and reintroduction. The goal is to cut out potentially reactive foods long enough to detox and calm your immune system, so that when you enter the reintroduction period you will be able to positively observe a reaction.
During the elimination phase, you should cut out any foods you suspect have been causing you symptoms, as well as the most common culprits. Some of these foods include, refined sugars; artificial colorings, flavorings and sweeteners; caffeinated beverages and alcohol; gluten-containing grains (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut); shellfish, beef, pork and all processed meats and cold cuts; eggs and dairy products; citrus fruits, corn, soy, peanuts, and nightshade vegetables.
Reading that list of dont’s may make you feel like there is nothing left to eat – but there is! Foods to include are most fruits; most vegetables; rice, oat, millet, buckwheat, tapioca and quinoa; legumes; most nuts and seeds; fish, chicken, turkey, lamb; rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk; olive oil; herbs, spices and stevia.
Aim to do the elimination portion of the diet for 2 – 3 weeks. Initially, some people experience withdrawal symptoms likely due to the elimination of sugar and caffeine if you are used to consuming them. These typically only last for a few days and are immediately followed by an overall feeling of good health.
The reintroduction phase will last another 2-3 weeks. In order to assess any reactions, it is recommended to reintroduce only one food at a time over a period of 2 days. Do not introduce any other new foods during that time and closely monitor any reactions you experience.
Although an elimination diet can feel very restrictive, it is important to remember that it is only short-term, and you will come out on the other side of it with a much deeper understanding of your body and how to help it work optimally. If you have a known or suspected allergy, only try an elimination diet under the supervision of your doctor.