One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

November 1, 2012

Elimination Diet

After unenthusiastically pondering for a couple of years about how I should do it, I have finally started on an elimination diet.

An elimination diet is a short-term thing, a method of determining which foods a person should avoid in their long-term diet. You begin by eliminating all possible sources of allergy, sensitivity or inflammation, and then systematically re-introduce foods and observe your body’s reaction to the re-introduced food to determine which foods are adversely affecting your health.

I have a number of family coincidences that probably amount to solid reasons why I should be proactively investigating my possible food sensitivities. My cousin is sensitive to gluten in an “instant pain” kind of way. My aunt is sensitive to gluten and to dairy in an “all over body aches the next day” kind of way. And we have our share of auto-immune disorders and also, sometimes, the world’s touchiest digestion.

I could go into all my bizarre, unexplainable, “idiopathic” pains and health issues starting from the age of ten, but none of those things were what made me think I should start an elimination diet. It was just an itchy nose. An itchy nose that I started getting, on occasion, after eating certain foods. I’d scratch until my face was raw. I’d try to lotion it. Eventually it would stop and I wouldn’t worry about it until next time.

After it happened more dramatically a few times and right after eating, I figured out that it was food related, so I tried taking antihistamines, but that didn’t help.

I started making note of the ingredients in whatever I had just eaten whenever it happened and then I would Google those things to see if other people had reported sensitivities to them. And because it mostly seemed to happen when I was eating very processed foods, that gave me a lot of chances to read up on various gums, thickeners, stabilizers, preservatives, emulsifiers, whiteners, and anti-caking agents and all their effects on human health. And the more I read, the more gross I felt about food additives in general.

I eventually identified potassium benzoate as my primary trigger and started cutting it out. Which mostly just meant carefully reading the labels on things like sauces and salad dressings. And then I realized it was potassium benzoate as well. And then I realized it was sulfites as well, except that I didn’t really pay attention to that one because it was a milder reaction. For example, even though I know wine has sulfites, I wouldn’t feel it in my nose until after a couple of glasses.

And besides, it’s just an itchy nose.

On the other hand, I had been reading about all these additives and I’d read about how a number of them can trigger asthma attacks. Which is interesting, I thought, because I do have asthma. But it’s so mild. Like, I’ve only ever had exercise-induced or storm-induced asthma attacks and, at that, probably only once every couple of years. But I have always been stuffy, always had some degree of post-nasal drip and had a hoarse voice. I did wonder whether cutting food additives out of my diet would fix all that.

But honestly. Think about what that would entail? No packaged foods, no canned foods, no dried foods.

No potato chips. That’s my dietary staple.

For sure I was never miserable enough to go to that much trouble for my diet. Not for some post-nasal drip and an itchy nose.

Well anyhow, time passed, and, as you know, my health hasn’t got any better. But it actually took a friend starting an elimination diet for me to say, “Okay, I can do it too.”

And I think having an elimination diet buddy really does make all the difference. I didn’t even know where to start in cutting things out, but once we started a google doc (to keep track of what was in and what was out) and a pinterest board (for meal ideas) we nailed down our list of allowable foods, a two week diet plan and a preparatory tasks list together in about a week. We’ve been splitting up tasks and then making double batches of things and exchanging to either reduce the work of the diet or to increase the variety of foods we get to eat.

For example, our first weekend, I made vegetable broth, squash-pear soup, zucchini muffins, pumpkin muffins, peach-mango chutney, almond butter and apple butter. My friend made almond macaroons, date truffle balls, some granola-y bites snacks, hummus, ginger carrot soup and I don’t even remember what else.

We’re cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers), citrus and strawberries. Additionally we’re both vegetarians.

Additionally for me, I am cutting out sulfites and all other preservatives. That includes the mustard family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), foods in the lily family (asparagus, chives, leeks, onions, garlic), grapes. As well as being very, very leary of anything canned, preserved or dried.

About to make fresh spinach basil pesto.

So now it’s day nine and I have to say, we’ve had some amazing food. I think my favourite so far was the sweet potato gnocci with spinach basil pesto. And the date truffles and pantry cleanout bites that my partner in crime made me. I also have a bunch of servings of shepherd’s pie in the freezer that I love. I added almond butter and a bit of agave and a teaspoon of apple cider to the veggie “gravy” for the richness and acidiness that I couldn’t use butter or wine for and I think it turned out awesome.

So a few more thoughts:

Firstly, how’s it working out for me? I feel like it’s too early to say, for sure. But there has unquestionably been an observation made in my household that my muscles are more malleable and less stiff than they have been in a long, long time. I still wake up with joint pain and hip flexor pain – but that’s actually the only time my hip and lower back hurt throughout the day these days. And my shoulders seem to have given up on all but their very favourite knots – so I’m down to only 3 or so knotted up spots in my neck and shoulders. I have a massage appointment this Friday – and I think my massage therapist even was getting a little bit frustrated with my muscles. I’ve been going in every two weeks for a couple of months now plus yoga, daily stretching, heat packs, cold packs, etc and we haven’t been able to move my shoulders down from crisis. At the end of an hour long massage, she’ll say hopefully, “maybe next time we’ll be able to finally pay some attention to that lower back”. And then the next time I’m in I’m all, “nope, seized up my neck again.” So we’ll see what she has to say about the state of my back – if she notices a difference or feels able to work through my shoulder knots with less resistance.

I’m still congested and still have a hoarse voice. But this morning I woke up with clear enough sinuses that it was worth remarking on.

Sadly my brain is still foggy. Also, I am very, very fatigued, quite a lot. But I think that might just be that this diet takes a lot more work to digest than what I’m used to eating. I’m expecting my body to adjust to that and the fatigue to level out soon. Or possibly I’m not getting enough protein and I should be making sure to eat pulses every second day. Hm.

So the second big question is, how will this affect Christmas? Oh man. Being surrounded by Hallowe’en candy today was hard. Christmas might be worse. But by late November, we’ll be on the re-introducing foods stage, and so hopefully I’ll be back on important things for Christmas, like eggs and goat cheese. But mostly, I feel like all this allergen-free cooking is making me way better prepared for Christmas because now I have recipes that will accommodate all my family’s restrictions.

See, like Meredith I’m a vegetarian and I’m off gluten. Like Judith I’m off gluten and dairy. Like Alison I’m off sugar. Hey Mum, I’m even off grapefruit and alcohol. So if I’ve been able to eat it this week, then everyone should be able to eat it.

Sweet Potato Latkes with Apple Butter and Coconut Milk

Like the sweet potato gnocchi and fresh pesto I mentioned (oh my god I could eat that gnocchi every day). The date truffle balls would replace some of the Christmas morning chocolate binge nicely. So would the raspberry truffles I made up tonight. The shepherd’s pie would be a great casual supper. Sweet potato latkes would be nice on Christmas morning. So would the apple-pecan muffins with pumpkin butter. And I’m experimenting with a chia-chocolate coconut milk pudding that would top fruit salad nicely.

So actually, in all, this diet is making me more excited for Christmas eating and baking. Because, oh my god family, you have to try this gnocchi.

If I put the tiniest bit of beet in the sweet potato gnocci, it would be almost garishly Christmassy

2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. meredith

     /  2012-11-01


  2. I’m planning to, for sure! Next couple posts.


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