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Adrienne Dellwo

Pain, Inflammation & an Elimination Diet

By September 9, 2013

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My Elimination Diet: Part 1

I've resigned myself to something I really don't want to do, for multiple reasons: I'm going on a strict elimination diet to see if I can identify what, if any, foods are adding to my inflammation and pain. This will be my second one. My first was a few months after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, so about 6.5 years ago.

Why do I need to do it again? Because a lot has changed since then.

  • I've developed autoimmune arthritis, which has really upped my inflammation.
  • My liver has made it clear that it will no longer tolerate anti-inflammatory drugs or a higher dose of arthritis meds than I'm currently taking.
  • I'm already on a slew of anti-inflammatory supplements that help, but not nearly enough.
  • If I don't find something that helps, I'm afraid the continuing damage to my hips will have me unable to walk, and the damage to my hands will make me unable to write. (As a journalist and fiction writer, this idea is scarier to me than not walking!)

The funny thing is, my first elimination diet didn't make me feel any better at all. My fibromyalgia symptoms didn't even flinch, nor did they change when I went back to eating normally. However, I know that my body (like those of many people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome) tends to change its mind about what it does and doesn't like on a fairly regular basis.

For example, several years ago I was having new abdominal and digestive symptoms as well as what appeared to be narcolepsy. I noticed a pattern that made me suspect gluten was the culprit. I eliminated it, and voila, the new symptoms vanished. A couple of years later, I went through a really stressful time and wound up cheating on my diet a lot. Every time I ate something gluteny, I'd tell myself I was going to pay for it. After a few weeks, I noticed that I hadn't paid for it at all. I went back to the gluten-free diet and then went off of it, and nothing changed. I was fine either way.

So now I'm wondering - did the gluten issue just shrink, only to re-emerge with a different presentation? Or is this something entirely new? I'm hoping to have an answer in the near future.

I know a lot of us struggle with inflammation, as does just about anyone with chronic health issues, and digestive problems are also really common in us. A food sensitivity can also increase myriad symptoms of our illnesses. For these reasons, I'll be updating you on how this diet is going for me on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about how an elimination diet works:

Also see:

In my next post, I'll go over some of the particulars of the diet my rheumatologist has recommended, the results she's seen from it, and how I'm planning to handle some aspects of it.

Have you been on an elimination diet? What did you learn? What were the hardest parts for you? Leave your comments below!


Photo Ted Morrison/Getty Images

September 9, 2013 at 7:10 am
(1) David Wimble says:

Hi Adrienne

I’ve had to go on a strict anti-inflammatory diet for the last few years to get rid of my Restless Legs Syndrome. I believe RLS to be a symptom of chronic inflammation. It’s now gone I’m happy to say.

I took a look at the Elimination Diet and disagree on a few things (due to what I discovered during my research and by experimentation).

First off, red meat is very inflammatory. You can find all sorts of articles and studies to support this.

Also there are several articles that state that quinoa is inflammatory. Here’s an example: http://samfgrant.com/2013/01/25/think-quinoa-is-good-for-you-think-again

Lastly, I would recommend almond milk over rice milk. Some people have an inflammatory reaction when drinking rice milk.

Good luck!


September 9, 2013 at 9:20 am
(2) Rachael says:

I know this goes against everything we are being taught about food now-a-days, but I have found that the foods that are likely to boost my immune system are the ones that cause me the most problems. I don’t need any help in that department; my immune system is always on high alert. Raw vegetables; fruits, such as grapefruit; or just too much fruit; all those healthy grainy breads cause an immune reaction (flare) in my autoimmune illness ME/CFS.

I found when I went back to eating blander, heartier foods like those I was brought up on (eg homemade soups, stews, mashed potatoes, chicken/w skin, cooked vegetables, white bread, butter, not margarine etc) that I began to feel much better. I also don’t find a bit of sugar to be a problem. Sugar actually has the ability to suppress/calm the immune system, which for me works out just fine.

September 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm
(3) jackie says:

I want to thank you for the honesty in your writing about your reactions to changing diet. I did gluten free for months and noticed no difference. i would like to try again with an elimination diet as my inflammation levels are annoying. The Fibro along with the CFS wears on my mental state daily.
I always appreciate what you write, and hopefully keep writing.

September 13, 2013 at 5:40 pm
(4) Donna says:

When I was first diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus, my chiropractor recommended the Blood Type Diet so my body could work on healing, not on the inflammation it triggered. Low & behold, a month in, I didn’t have the aches that were a constant friend. Well, the mono, Epstein Barr virus triggered CFS & Fibro. My mono symptoms never left. I was 57 years old. Not a teenager. So either chronic mono, CFS or FM.

All blood type beneficial food & foods to avoid has rung true for me. When I’m in a good cycle, total lifestyle change, exercising – moving- everyday I’m about 85% back. Not 100 percent, but 85. That works for me. But yes, before this illness, I would have looked at you cross eyed for being on gluten free. It makes a difference when you have a chronic illness. Foods affect you more. Your digestion is compromised.

The right 4 your bloodtype has a facebook page. Dr D’Damo is a genius.

At times, I think I am healthier now, than before I got sick. This illness forced me to eat healthy & exercise daily.

September 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm
(5) Shakota says:

I’ve never understood comments people make about how certain foods make them feel unwell. I’m not talking about the lactose-intolerant or those who have food allergies.

Since there are so many variables from day to day that influence how we feel, including emotions, I find it unscientific to place overwhelming emphasis on foods. After all, we are all so priviledged to have enough calories to survive.

That said, the nightshade family has historically been said to be bad for arthritis (tomatos, eggplant, etc) but I find all of this hard to believe.

Eat what you like and get enough vegetables.Don’t eat too much of the same food. Eat slowly. Get some complete protein. Enjoy eating!

My gut reaction is that people blame food for indigestion rather than their being nervous (their parasympathetic nervous system isn’t functioning because they are too stressed out and therefore they experience indigestion, gas, pain, etc).

Where’s the science???

September 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm
(6) Judy says:

A, Your statement “shrink to only reemerge. The Ala Tuscaloosa Treatment based on Herpes 1. H1 is a retro virus. My local doc said don’t bother taking the L-Lysine. I got better to only get bad a again. Doc in Ala said you may be over this FMS any day now nice doc to call me from out of state.. I stopped the L-Lysine and it was either that, or me a big placebo type, if indeed this cure really works. I remember When I bought the LL a friend at the natural food store said, oh you must feel a fever blister coming on! I have as many others have never had a Fever Blister . Will get back on it tonight. Judy

September 13, 2013 at 8:15 pm
(7) Judy says:

A, Also inflammation is the cause of pain. I have done the micro dose of hydrocortisone and it made me feel like a teenager again. My hard head continues to discover the seed of this nightmare we know all to well. Feel Good A,Judy

September 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm
(8) jip says:

I agree with Shakota.

September 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm
(9) Dianne says:

What about the Compliment Antigen blood test which tests for hidden food allergies that can affect people like us. I’ve read a lot about it and know a friend that had it done and found out she was allergic to a ton of foods. It was good way to find out what to eliminate from her diet and she feels much better for it. I’m going to have it done. These are food allergies that you don’t have an immediate reaction to but affect your health in different ways such as exacerbating symptoms of Fibro, CFS, arthritis, sjogern’s and others. I have the first 4. I believe that changing one’s diet can make a huge difference in health. “You are what you eat.” I’m willing to give it a try if might help as did for my friend. The side effect was that she lost a great deal of weight which I also need to do.

September 14, 2013 at 7:23 am
(10) Debbie says:

I just wanted to what was said by Rachel. About the raw foods. I have to eat no raw fruitts or veg, no spice, acidic, very bland diet. My gasto issues take over . I cant take nsaids due to mild liver damage so doing. Enbrel and a couple other things bit never ideal

September 14, 2013 at 8:42 am
(11) Rachael says:

What we eat is so important to how we feel. Did you know that brain neurotransmitters are made directly from food components? Foods that are high in carbs (comfort foods) increase the production of serotonin (calming, relaxing). Foods high in protein (fish, chicken, eggs) help boost the production of dopamine (cognition. drive) and fatty foods (eg butter) help create pain-killing feel-good endorphins. Never underestimate the power of food (fuel).

September 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm
(12) Rachael says:

Every day I give my body fuel from food (protein, fats, sugar, carbs). I supplement with a small dab of the amino acid tyrosine in the morning. I immediately feel a difference in the way I feel emotionally, and physically. I can better handle the day and what problems it might bring. Before, without my morning fuel, any disturbance would leave my nerves rattled and each stress would make them worse.

When it comes to food it’s all a balancing act. Some foods stimulate, some foods calm, some foods boost your immune system and some foods suppress your immune system. The gut-brain connection is a two-way street. So while your brain can influence how you feel, so can what you put into your stomach.

Learn to listen to “your” body! You should eat what you like, or what you are craving at a certain time of the day. There is a reason for this; your body is telling you what it needs. Unless you have a definite allergy; just about every food in moderation is OK.

September 16, 2013 at 9:49 am
(13) Jul says:

“You are what you eat” and eating chemicals is harming you! There are so many chemicals in our foods now days that it is making lots of people sick. I have ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and a connective tissue disease. Once I realized just how many chemiclas are allowed into our food supply (not to mention medications), I stopped eating anything that contains MSG (aka – processed free glutamic acids) along with fake sweeteners and any other ingredient I could not pronounce on food labels and I was amazed at how much better I felt. Try eliminating chemicals from your diet and see what happens. Once you realize what you can and can’t eat, you will feel better.

Also, MSG/processed free glutmatic acids can be listed on labels as: Natural flavors, spices, autolyzed yeast extract and about 40 other names. Educate yourself on what chemicals are in your food and on food labels. Check out the Truth in Labeling website for all the names the chemicals go by. Knowledge is power! Take back the power!

September 17, 2013 at 11:18 am
(14) Lorna says:

Try reading the book “Clean Gut” or Suzanne Somers books on weight loss after 40. A lot of information is pointing towards the “gut” and loss of good bacteria balance. I find wheat needs to be eliminated or limited, diary is guaranteed to give me a lot of joint pain the next day, alcohol has a bad affect and so do potatoes and other night-shad vegetables. I find it impossible to follow an absolutely diet but make it my policy to do my best and if I have a weekend of eating and drinking what every I want then I’m also prepared to suffer for a few days. I think first you need to strictly follow the diet for a few months and find out what bothers you and then be aware in future to try your best to avoid those foods. The blood type diet for “A” blood type is also a good general food intolerance diet to follow for CFS sufferers…whether you are A type or not.

September 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm
(15) Mary says:

I have been on a restricted diet for at least 10 years and I’m convinced that it has helped. The elimination of nightshades (tomatotes,potatoes, eggplant,peppers) has helped more than anything with pain management. I have been able to eliminate pain medication, except for ibuprofen every now and then. I take magnesium and Vitamin D daily, and have found some herbal teas to be helpful, namely, pau d’ arco and hibiscus teas. And while I do not suffer from celiac disease,I decided to try a gluten free diet which has helped to alleviate some of my digestive problems.

September 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm
(16) Dee says:

I have R/A and as I’m reading seems like Fibromaylgia in my legs. I’ve eliminated wheat and msg from my diet and also “the night shades” and I’m doing well. I don’t swell if I eat sugar either, but I only eat it on occasion. I notice a tremendous change.

September 24, 2013 at 10:22 am
(17) Sonia says:

Eliminate sugar and most carbs from your diet (GOOD veggie carbs can stay). THAT is what causes inflammation, pure and simple.

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