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:
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.
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.)