Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

The Elimination Diet

The Elimination Diet is by far the hardest, and most effective, diet I’ve ever been on.

The point of the diet is to isolate food sensitivities and allergies (not the same thing). And it is brilliant for doing that. It also, as a side effect, is brilliant for weight loss.

I went on the Elimination Diet in November of 2008 as a result of a visit to the Crazy Docs. And when I say crazy here, I don’t mean they were psychiatrists. They were nutritionists and they were very eccentric. Hence, the Crazy Docs.

A friend had recommended them to me, saying they’d helped her with problems similar to the ones I was having at the time: fatigue, brain fog, and sudden weight gain. Add in, in my case, constant allergic rhinitus, hormonal irregularities, and frequent bronchitis. Sounds like a party, no?

Their answer was the  modified Elimination Diet. Their suspicions was gluten sensitivity, or full blown Celiac Disease. I did not realize, at the time, that this was actually their answer to everything. In my case, it turned out they were right. (I will talk more about Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity in a future post).

Gluten, however, was not the only thing we were taking off the menu. No dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no vinegar, no citrus, no soy…  Here’s The List of Noes:

Everything that's not allowed on the diet.

That’s a pretty big list of things you can’t eat. Add in the complication of eating out, and you’re totally (pardon my language) screwed. Citrus, for example, is problematic. A surprising number of people don’t realize that lemons are citrus. Vinegar is in most condiments: mustard, ketchup, mayo, salad dressing. And try finding a satisfying dessert that fits that list. It’s not impossible, just hard.

The Elimination Diet doesn’t stay that limited forever. The idea is to do it strictly for two weeks and then slowly start reintroducing foods. Each reintroduction takes three days. The day you eat the food and then two days following for it to get fully out of your system. If you have any problems, and I mean any, while testing a food, that food needs to be retested. Dairy shouldn’t be reintroduced until you’ve been on it for several months (I waited six months, and man was I happy to have it back). Gluten is last of all.

It took me months to reintroduce all of those foods. And, honestly, I fudged on the last few. During that time, I lost nearly 20 pounds. In part because my food choices were significantly healthier, in part because there were so few foods I could eat. I did find some decent substitutes. Pure Decadence has a great coconut milk, agave sweetened, mango flavored ice cream.

Pile o' death.

I also learned even the Modified Elimination Diet wasn’t actually limited enough. Mind you, thanks to the limited types of foods I could eat, it was a lot easier to isolate the real problems. Like tomatoes and potatoes. Turns out they give me eczema. Brussel sprouts = migraines. And anything with capsaicin is inimical to my existence. I am allergic to capsaicin. I just always avoided it instinctively, and never had much. I thought I was breaking out for quite possibly years. Turned out it was hives from spicy peppers and their kin. (For some reason, almost every guy I’ve dated seriously over the last seven years has really, really liked capsaicin).

Ironically, aside from the gluten, everything I reacted to was actually on the list of allowed foods. If you’re interested, here’s a detailed list of the foods on the diet, including an annotated version on the second page: The Elimination Diet.

The Elimination Diet  improved my health. A lot.

(Addendum: There are food sensitivity tests out there that are certainly easier. However, the jury is still out as to the effectiveness of most of them.)

5 Thoughts on “The Elimination Diet

  1. Molly on May 23, 2010 at 1:34 am said:

    Diana,

    >I also learned even the Modified Elimination Diet wasn’t >actually limited enough.

    How did you discover that you were allergic to items that were on the “okay” list?

    I’m about to start the elimination diet again, not having done it in 3 years. The greatly improved health I’ve enjoyed as the result of eliminating wheat and having been treated for H. Pylori has declined and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.

    Do you have any recommendations on doing a stricter allergy elimination diet. And a bunch of suggested recipes? =)

    Thanks for reposting the A.E.D and for your awesome insights.

    ~Molly

  2. With the diet so limited, it was easier to figure out common food triggers. I could generally isolate it down to two or three possible triggers, particularly if I had a notable reaction several different days. I tried taking some of those foods out and then adding them back in.

    Also, since I had some new (or worse) problems, I looked at the food I was using in place of the eliminated items (like cashew butter in place of peanut butter).

    Once I realized I was reacting to a particular food, like peppers, I tried taking out the related foods, like potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes. It also turned out that particular group of foods was known to cause problems (nightshades).

    Some stuff I’m still not certain of because they were foods I didn’t eat frequently, and I didn’t want to trigger a particular symptom (brussel sprouts –> migraine). Knowing wasn’t worth the pain.

    Good luck! please keep me updated on how it goes.

    And I’ll post some recipes soon!

  3. Pingback: How Long Did it Take to Get Diagnosed with Celiac? « Healthy Obsessions

  4. Another great benefit of following an elimination diet is for those whose goal is to “eat healthier”. Eating a simpler, healthier diet is going to make you feel so good that the thought of returning to “Garbage in, garbage out” will be enough to make you gag.

  5. I was just diagnosed with Celiacs. I’ve had horrible GI. problems (including diarrhea) for many years but the worst started about 2012. I gained 30 pounds in 2 months, my stomach hurts all the time and I can barely tolerate any food. Severe bloating and gas and the lust goes on. I go to a pain doctor for back pain and he actually tested me for Celiacs after I told him I was soooooo nauseous and I thought my medicine was doing it. There are no narcotics. I take melds for neuropathy and they tear me up. Or so I thought. I actually laughed when he mentioned it citing the recent craze on gluten free foods. He wasn’t amused….. And when it came back positive, you coulda knocked me over with a feather…..
    I have an appt with a GI doctor early April and in the mean time, I’m attempting a gluten free life, which is not going well. Even gluten free stuff kills me. My new favorite food is Greek Yogurt with fruit on the bottom and I see the list of foods to avoid includes yogurt ……….. IM DEVASTATED ……. And I’m sooooo sick of being sick ………..

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