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Adrienne Dellwo

One Week In: My Elimination Diet

By September 18, 2013

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My Elimination Diet: Part 3

I'm really not loving this diet. I've been cranky, I've had headaches, and I've caught myself grinding my teeth multiple times. I have cravings that rapid-cycle from one thing to the next. The food I'm eating rarely makes me feel full and satisfied.

But there is a silver lining - my inflammation is way down. I've lost several pounds. I can wear my wedding ring without my finger going numb, and my hair isn't falling out in clumps. My pain is down, especially in my hands, where I've had nerve compression. My hip, which still aches, isn't locking up on me, and I can go down stairs without that painful catch in my knee. I've even ridden my bike a little.

What that tells me is: something I've been eating is doing bad things to my body.

This is what the whole diet is about - figuring out the problem foods. The next step is to start re-introducing them so I can figure out which foods are the culprit.

As unpleasant as it is to cut ... well, most food ... out of your diet, this is something a lot of us with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome should probably try. And not just once.

We're sensitive to so many things (medications, smells, various elements of our environment) that it only stands to reason certain foods would bug us. A quirk of our illnesses is that they change quite a lot over time, making our sensitivities shift to different things. For instance, gluten used to make me narcoleptic (but didn't impact my pain and inflammation in any way that I could tell.) I went gluten free for a couple of years. Then, during a really stressful time, I cheated frequently, always telling myself I was going to pay for it. But the thing was, I didn't pay for it at all. I felt fine. The gluten sensitivity was gone - or, at the very least, it had changed. (We'll see whether gluten is the bad boy in my diet soon enough.)

Well before my gluten sensitivity reared it's head, I'd tried an elimination diet to see if it helped with my fibromyalgia. It didn't. I saw absolutely no change in symptoms during the elimination phase, or during re-introduction.

My, how things seem to have changed! And why shouldn't my reaction to food change? I'm eight years older. I've progressed farther into perimenopause. I've gained multiple new diagnoses, including two autoimmune - and therefore inflammatory - diseases.

At one quarter of the way through phase 1 of the diet, I can declare it a success. Now I just have to drag myself through the next three weeks of eating this way.

Planning for Phase 2

After the 30 days of very little food options, I'll start reintroducing a type of food every three days. Originally, I'd planned to start back on gluten first, because it's in so many things. However, that was before I realized that every salad dressing and every sauce that could help make this diet palatable has a base of either dairy or vinegar, and I can't have either. Also, I'm really missing the nightshade vegetables - including tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. And it doesn't do much good to add gluten when I can't have anything containing yeast or eggs!

I haven't decided for sure, but I'm thinking I'll reintroduce vinegar, eggs, yeast, gluten, dairy over the first 12 days of phase 2. Then I'll just have to see what I'm really dying for next. Probably nightshades.

Have you been on an elimination diet before? How long ago was it, and how much has your body changed since then? What foods bother you? Leave your comments below!


Photo © Alex Cao/Getty Images

September 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm
(1) Jill Guilford says:

Sounds about the way I did it. a few years ago. I began “comfort foods” and dealt with some emotions with the sugar and wheat etc. (Its the least lethal for me), but my fibro symptoms have become much worse – especially after a hysterectomy for uterine cancer and a bowel resection. I’m finally getting to do more than shower in the am.
Good luck to you in this.
Knowing that the body changes over time, so the symptoms and sensitivities change too is good learning.

September 19, 2013 at 11:49 am
(2) Julie says:

The negative side effects usually get a lot better after the first week. The first week is always awful as your body is detoxing from so many negative things at once (sugar, caffeine, gluten, etc). Once it gets past that you’ll actually feel better and be able to enjoy what you eat. If you still aren’t feeling full and satisfied try eating more protein.

I found once I got myself off the negative foods that I felt great and as long as I eat a good combination of foods and get enough protein in my diet I have no issue with feeling full and not feeling hungry throughout the day.

good luck!

September 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm
(3) sherry farrow says:

I have a strong belief my cfs is associated with my gut health. I tested positive for H. Pylori and the past year have gone through several concoctions of antibiotics and do feel better; however I do think the HP has done some damage to my gut lining and will need time to heal. I think all CFS/FM sufferers should be tested for HP.

September 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm
(4) misslanny says:

What is a typical day’s menu on the elimination diet? What CAN you eat? A short list and some meal ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

September 21, 2013 at 12:31 am
(5) Lyn says:

Good luck & sympathy with the elimination diet!

I am slowly working my way towards an elimination diet, but I am taking my time! Lol
I have given up sugar (but not chocolate…yet), tea, coffee, pain medication (except when I can’t sleep at night), milk, (though I am having a bit of butter & occasional cheese) & especially wheat – not totally gluten free, but cutting right down on other grains.
The worst thing is trying to plan interesting meals, especially with the family – though they are all adults & capable of cooking for themselves.

I had some wheat recently for a couple of days & I really suffered. The arthritis in my right wrist was so painful I couldn’t pick up a pen. Not to mention the knees & lower back. So I have learnt that lesson!

It is amazing how much food intolerance can effect health & pain.
I am learning & trying slowly – I had to go to the doctor recently & had dangerously high blood pressure – & I was doing everything on the list to reduce blood pressure! So I have stopped being quite so strict on my diet (except the wheat!) and my blood pressure has settled.

September 21, 2013 at 9:51 am
(6) Donna says:

When I came down with the Epstein Barr virus, which triggered my fibro/CFS, my chiropractor put me on the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet. I am type o & it lists goods that are beneficial & foods to avoid. It took out the guess work and has worked for me. There is a facebook page & websites with tons of information & support.
I will continually sing its praises. It is basically a “clean” diet. I am satisfied & am eating nutritiously. I have limited my sugar & carbs which helped EXTREMELY. My mood swings are leveled out. My body has lost a few of its precious pounds.

It is worth checking out!:-)

September 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm
(7) Sherry Farrow says:

I also had the Epstein-Barr Virus. If i remember right, if you have a strong immune system (healthy gut), it will keep the virus at bay. But if your system is worn down, as in most CFS/FM, it can become active. I think the elimination diet is important, as you’ve said, to do again in the future, because the health of your gut also changes and it seems to happen gradually when you don’t even notice it!

September 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm
(8) Megan Kane says:

PART 1 of my comment:

The elimination diet was my lifeline out of hell. Over the past 3 years Iíve had to eliminate all but about 12 foods. Somehow thru the course of developing CFS I have become Allergic, Intolerant, or Sensitive to almost all foods. Itís easier to name the foods I can eat rather than go thru the list of hundreds or thousands of foods, ingredients, spices, herbs, & supplements I canít eat. So Iíll name the ones I can eat: 1) eggs (half, not cooked all the way or severe indigestion) 2) chicken, 3) Olive oil (cooked or it gives me pounding in my chest & insomnia), 4) salt, 5) broccoli, 6) artichoke, 7) brussel sprouts, 8) cabbage, 9) asparagus, 10) spinach, 11) quinoa flour (so far I can tolerate the flour, not the whole quinoa), 12) black pepper (in small amounts). THATíS IT! Iíve had to eat the same thing day after after day for the past 3 or more years. Is it easy? No, I canít go out to eat at restaurantsÖ I canít eat over peopleís houses… I canít eat at weddings (thatís if I even make it to the wedding). Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to sit at a table full of people who are eating and everyone looking at you like why isnít this prissy bitch eating? Itís because I simply canít, not unless I want to pay a heavy price of horrible symptoms that will follow that meal. The symptoms I experience from certain foods are outrageous. For example, Iíll name a symptom and then list the foods that cause that symptom.

to be continued….

September 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm
(9) Megan Kane says:

The symptoms I experience from certain foods are outrageous. For example, Iíll name a symptom and then list the foods that cause that symptom.
SEVERE MUSCLE & FLESH PAIN/BRUISNG VERY EASILY/SEVERE SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT/SMELL/SOUND/& TOUCH (thatís candida knocking on my back door) for that I had to eliminate all:
DIFFICULTY BREATHING/SNEEZY/RUNNY NOSE: whole wheat products, All nuts& seeds, coconut products, berries.
SEVERE CRAMPING, DIARRHEA & INTESTINAL BLEEDING: dairy, wheat, barley or malted barley, vanilla extract, tomato products, peppers.
INSOMNIA: corn products, canola oil, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sunflower/safflower oil.
SEVERE DRY MOUTH(Iím talking no saliva to swallow food kinda dry mouth): baking soda, mustard, ginger.
RUNNY NOSE/CLOGGED EARS: brown rice products.
SEVERE BOWEL PAIN AFTER EATING W/ CONSTIPATION(Iím talking no pooping & severe pain when finally do): brown rice products.
GIANT PAINFUL TONGUE SORES(so big & swollen I canít close my mouth without biting my own tongue): chocolate.

September 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm
(10) Megan Kane says:

Part 4 of my comment:
DEPRESSED/IRRITABLE/AGGITATED/COMBATIVE/AGGRESSIVE MOOD: corn products, canola oil, cocoa mass, cocoa butter.
SMELLS w/ POTENTIAL VOMITING: wheat products, puffed rice products.
SEVERE KNEE PAIN: dairy products.
SEVERE INDIGESTION/BLOATED/DISTENDED STOMACH: wheat, barley, malted barley products, raw/aldente/or undercooked vegetables, fish oil, digestive enzymes, so many others canít rememberÖ.
SEVERE FLU-LIKE FEELING& VERY PAINFUL NECK GLANDS: probiotics, l-glutamine, lots of other supplement do this to me to, soy flour, garbanzo bean flour.
DIARRHEA W/ SEVERE RECTAL BURNING: tomato products, wheat products.
SEVERE NAUSEA: garlic, products containing yeast.

to be continued….

September 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm
(11) Megan Kane says:

Part 5 of my comment:
Now imagine having all of these symptoms all at once!!! These are just the ones I recently jotted down off the top of my head for a gastroenterologist visit. There are so many more that I eliminated years ago that Iíve sort-of forgotten about them and donít even think about anymore since I canít eat them anyway. So imagine all the symptoms you could improve or eliminate or get relief from just by trying the elimination diet. Hereís what I did, strip down to a bland diet of basically the 12 foods that I listed aboveÖthe ones that Iím able to eat. Do this for 1-2 weeks. You will suddenly start to notice wow, this is gone, that symptom isnít really bothering me anymore. YOU WILL BE AMAZED!!! I PROMISE YOU!! AND THE BEST PART IS THIS INFORMATION IS FREE AND YOU WONíT GET IT FROM ANY DOCTOR!! Then add 1 new food back in at a time and test it for 1-5 days. If you experience a symptom on the 1st day, eliminate that food out of your diet. If you think youíve tolerated the food just fine, give it up to 5 days before you add another food back in. I say this because symptoms can take anywhere from 1-5 days to build up enough for you to notice them. For example, all of sudden you canít sleep but you just added a new foodÖ.Take that food back out for 3-4 days and watch your sleep go back to normal again. Then add it back in for 1-3 days and watch youíll probably have the insomnia again. This is how you figure out which foods may be causing you unnecessary suffering. That which you have control over. YOU WILL BE AMAZED!! Just try it and watch what happensÖ.

October 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm
(12) Tony Mach says:

For me dairy was the worst offender.*

From my personal experience, I would think that dairy is quite overlooked, and has quite an potential to do bad things (especially pasteurized dairy). I would therefore recommend reintroducing dairy first, before any other things.

* For me, pasteurized dairy was worse than raw-milk dairy. Veal and lamb caused similar problems as dairy, but to an lesser extent. With beef the matter was less clear for me, but I had some problems that went away after I stopped beef. I had some problems with sausages were the meat was from one animal (declared in the ingredient list), but the casing was from another animal (undeclared) Ė so be be careful with sausages.

October 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm
(13) Tony Mach says:

And BTW, be prepared to reintroduce dairy, see if symptoms come back, remove dairy, see if symptoms go away again (and rinse and repeat once or twice). That is IMHO more informative as a first step than reintroducing a food every three days. Once you have determined whether dairy is safe or not for you, then you can go on with much more confidence to reintroduce other potential offenders (e.g. cereal grains).

And what I personally found very helpful is taking a step at a time, checking one thing (halfway) thoroughly, and only then proceeding to the next. It takes longer (I would think on average two weeks per step), but you have much more confidence in what is good for you and what isn’t. If it does not cause problems, it is in my experience a quick affair (e.g. nightshades for me).

If I had to do it again, I would probably do it in that order:
- Test reintroduction of dairy, then remove if problems
- Test reintroduction of nightshades, then remove if problems
- Test reintroduction of cereal grains, then remove if problems

Then you have three major groups checked, and if one of them caused problems, you can go through the subgroups. Did dairy cause problems? Try raw-milk dairy. Did cereal grains cause problems? Try gluten free. Did nightshades cause problems? Try only potatoes.

October 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm
(14) Christine says:

I am currently on Repairvite, an autoimmune elimination diet/protocol designed by Dr. Karrazian. I am seeing a chiropractor who has studied with Dr, K and even teaches for him, so I believe my health professional is knowledgeable and skilled. We ran all the blood tests you can imagine However, after 5 MONTHS, I have had minimal success healing my leaky gut, malabsorbtion, and malnutrition issues. Not to mention the chronic joint pain, insomnia (really bad) and 50lb weight gain over the past 2 years. I am very disappointed and don’t know what else to do. I thought this might explain and resolve why I feel so bad. I haven’t challenged foods yet, but I think that is coming soon. One improvement is that my thyroid numbers are much better, but I still have hypothyroid symptoms. I’m quite distraught over all of this, and wondered if there were others with similar results and what it might mean, or what remedy it may point to.

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