If you have digestive troubles you know it can affect every aspect of life. This post outlines the reintroduction phase of an elimination diet so that you can find what foods, if any, are causing your intestinal issues.
So you’ve embarked upon an elimination diet adventure and have been eating only hypo-allergenic foods (here are some elimination diet recipes) to cleanse your system of possibly offending foods. Some of you may have even tried a safe, enlightening 3 day fast to speed up the process like Live Lighter Reader, Jamie.
Now you’re ready to discover the culprits (a.k.a. food sensitivities or intolerances) behind your digestive woes.
Here are steps & a few tips for food reintroduction:
Note: it is highly recommended that you do an elimination diet with a Naturopathic Doctor. They will work with you (based on your individual circumstances) to determine what foods you’ll avoid and how long you’ll need to avoid them. More importantly, they are there for emotional support, guidance and medical supervision.
The big idea behind the reintroduction phase
Pretend you’re a scientist. No, really, we should have as much fun with this as possible! It’s a simple process of elimination. You reintroduce each possible offending food, one-by-one, noting any symptoms so you can determine which foods your body dislikes.
STEP 1: Plan
Get out your calendar, a piece of paper and plan your food reintroduction. The next few steps help you do this.
STEP 2: List & Prioritize
List the foods you’re testing and prioritize them. The first day should be something fairly easy to digest (in general) and that you’re pretty sure is ok with you, like plain organic yogurt. The next food will be the next ‘least likely’ to be causing you problems. Leave the `most likey’ foods until the last.
Tip: Since wheat, corn, red meat and eggs are fairly hard to digest (in general) schedule these for last.
STEP 3: Timing
Determine how long you’ll test the food for. Some docs, like Dr. Natasha Turner from The Hormone Diet, suggest to introduce 1 new food each day. Others, like my ND from the CCNM, suggest introducing 1 new food for 3 consecutive days.
Tip: I suggest doing a couple of different elimination diets. You may avoid my elimination diet woes by starting with Dr. Turner’s anti-inflammatory detox. It was very simple and I discovered 3 food insensitivites on it! This is compared to the lack of results on my 1st (more strict) elimination diet.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post, “The Hormone Diet Review“!
STEP 4: Mark it down
On your calendar, write down the individual food or food group that you’ll reintroduce and on what days.
Tip: Use a pencil! Why? You’ll find out in Step 7.
STEP 5: Introduce foods
Start reintroducing foods! Continue eating hypo-allergenic foods but on your first day, introduce the food you’ve scheduled for that day. Eat it 2 to 3 times throughout the day with allergy-friendly foods.
Tip: Try choosing elimination diet recipes around the food that you’ll be introducing. For instance, when reintroducing dairy, try adding grated low-fat cheese or feta to this Fresh Basil & Black Bean Quinoa Salad.
STEP 6: Keep a record
Note your reactions to each food. If you don’t have a reaction, skip to step 8.
Tip: There are a list of symptoms to be on the watch for: gas, bloating, headaches, water retention (puffy fingers or face), constipation, diarrhea, postnasal drip, fatigue immediately after eating the food or the next day, acne, dark circles under the eyes the next morning, constant need to clear the throat, joint pain or stiffness, indigestion, upset stomach.
STEP 7: Stop!
If you react to a food, stop eating it. Wait until the reaction passes before proceeding to step 8. As you can tell by the list above, some of these symptoms may not show up until the next day. This is why some docs suggest to try each possibly offending food for three days before moving to the next one.
Tip: Make any adjustments necessary to your calendar to account for your reactions.
STEP 8: Next food
Reintroduce the next food on the next scheduled day. Repeat steps 6 – 8 until you’ve reintroduced all of your potential food gremlins.
STEP 9: Review
Check out your record and list the foods you reacted to.
STEP 10: Retest potentials
Using this new, reduced list of suspects from step 9, repeat steps 2 – 8.
Tip: This step may seem redundant but other factors can have an effect on digestion and interfere with your test results. Stress, which is hard to control, is one of those factors. Here are some tips to improve digestion.
Congrats! You are done the reintroduction phase! You should definitely celebrate.
Now that you know what foods your body reacts negatively to, you can decide whether you need to avoid that food or food group altogether or eat it sparingly. Sometimes, it’s just worth it, you know?