An Introduction and Tips for Starting
You’ve arrived at this page because you have questions about “elimination diets” in general or about my recipe series. This short article explains some aspects of elimination diets and gives 5 tips for starting one.
Please note that I am not a medical professional and you should not interpret this article as medical advice. If you plan to make significant changes to your diet, you should consult your doctor. I am aiming to share my experience with food and some resources I have found interesting and helpful.
There are many potential variations on elimination diets, that’s for sure. Currently, I’m making recipes for a diet that was suggested to my daughter-in-law by a lactation consultant. It’s to find out if something in her diet is causing her baby boy to spit up milk after nursing. It’s so frustrating for both of them!
Luckily, she already omits wheat and milk products (except ghee) from her diet for other reasons. She and I are used to modifying recipes that contain those. The lactation consultant suggested this elimination profile: no wheat, dairy (except ghee), corn, soy, eggs, tree nuts, onions, garlic, citrus, sugar, broccoli, cauliflower or brussels sprouts. Interestingly, she now suspects oats are a problem too — something she has been eating almost daily!
It’s quite the culinary adventure for me!!
If you’re like me, your questions are like this:
Why would I do a diet like that?
If you think you might be sensitive to some foods, but don’t know which ones, this is a way to find out. Sometimes it’s a food you like and eat often, even crave. It’s not usually as strong as an allergy, which could give you hives or make it hard to breathe. It might not give you indigestion, like lactose intolerance.
Or, you might be struggling with some health issue that you can’t resolve.
I went on my first elimination diet 13 years ago when I had a bout of bronchitis that wouldn’t go away. Nothing my MD gave me helped. The elimination diet did – and I lost weight, had dream blood-sugar numbers and great sleep.
I remember telling a naturopath what foods I wasn’t eating. He immediately said, ah, all the inflammatories. There is a diet called AIP, or auto-immune protocol, that is based on eliminating foods that cause inflammation, and many fantastic blogs about it.
What do I eliminate?
Foods that cause allergies in some people. Although people with known allergies have shown a strong reaction, others, like us, may have a lower-level sensitivity that we are not aware of.
Citrus (lemons, oranges); dairy; eggs; grains; processed meats like salami; soy and soy products; shellfish; peanuts and pistachios; mushrooms; corn; nightshades including tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, dried pepper and chiles; potatoes; butter, margarine, salad dressings; alcohol, coffee, sodas; sugars ; tree nuts and nut milks. Some lists exclude beef.
What CAN I eat? The Good Ones
Fruits; fruit purees for baking; rice milk, coconut milk; non-gluten grains such as rice, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, teff; fresh ocean fish, lamb, duck, chicken, turkey; sunflower and pumpkin seeds, tahini; all vegetables except as above; olive, flax, avocado, coconut oils; herbal teas; brown rice syrup; limited amounts of molasses.
If you take a good look at the “good” foods notice that many show up in many healthy diets being publicized these days: Paleo; Whole 30; Low Carb. It’s no coincidence there are few refined or industrial foods. Notice you can eat almost any vegetable in almost any form (nightshades being a notable exception).
How long do I have to eat that way?
Two weeks at a minimum according to the lactation consultant in our current situation. Three weeks would be better, I have read, before you add in one of the eliminated foods to find out how it affects you.
Where can I find good recipes?
Of course, I hope you will enjoy what I’ve developed and it will give you a good start. As of this writing, my blog is small! However, I add more all the time. It would be great if readers could share other helpful sites!
If you are like me, you will browse the Web and any cookbooks you can find. Allergy websites are good sources. Here is a website that I used during my long-ago elimination diet and still refer to often:
5 Tips for getting started:
- Unless you are facing a medical emergency, like a cancer diagnosis, don’t eliminate everything at once. It’s very likely to be too great a change and difficult to stick with.
- Relating to #1, diet plans and detox protocols often tell you to throw out anything on the “bad” list. However, maybe you (like me) can’t stand to throw food away. So, use it up, don’t buy any more, and include as many foods on the “good” list as you can in your meal planning. One item to toss, though, might be sugar — it’s usually not very expensive and it’s an item everyone can do without (I know, try telling that to your sweet tooth).
- Relating to #1 and 2, I can’t suggest strongly enough starting by reducing your alcohol intake, then your sugar. I had been reducing the amount of sugar in my diet, for example, for years before undertaking the elimination diet. If you are really organized and strong-willed you might be able to go cold turkey into full “elimination”, but I couldn’t. Start small, like the amount of sweetener you use in your morning beverage.
- Take a look at the Carbohydrate Continuum that Kathleen DesMaisons describes in her wonderful book, Potatoes Not Prozac and that I have reproduced here. In this she groups foods based on how they affect the blood sugar. They happen to sort out by color, too. She recommends starting by eliminating the most refined “things” such as alcohol; then the “white things” like sugars, flour and white rice. If you can do just those two, you will be a long way toward health no matter what else you eat!!
- Focus on all the wonderful foods you CAN have. There are so many!