Elimination diet: in and out of the fog
My personal journey with eliminating grains and adding them back in
It is snowing here. Again. It’s hard to get motivated to even think about health when you just want to sit under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and eat chicken pot pie. Where does that New Years resolve go? I think there is a link between comfort foods and hibernation. Think about it. Sugar and carbs stimulate that part of the brain that make us feel comfortable, tired and foggy causing us to want to settle in to hibernate. We are not all that different from bears really. We eat sweet and comforting foods, we put on pounds and we feel unmotivated. So in January I challenged myself to an elimination diet/detox thanks to Prescribe Nutrition. I cut our all gluten/carbs/grains for 21 days. That meant no pasta, bread, pie crust, crackers, biscuits, pizza crust, etc. No potpie. No Mac and Cheese. No warm flaky croissants. I also cut out Dairy, beef, pork and sugar.
I wanted to know if I would have more energy. Would my allergies be better? Would I sleep better? Would I still feel tired at 4pm? Would I wake up still feeling exhausted? How would my digestive track respond? I made my husband do the same challenge as well and I attempted to serve meals to the kids that fell in the guidelines. Here is what we learned in that month.
I felt freaking fantastic! I had a glimpse of this when I have done the sugar challenges in the past where I have greatly reduced carbs. I had never completely cut all grains though. Much like when I cut the sugar and carbs the first time, I fell so energetic. I use to be “done” with my day a 4pm. I always felt like something was wrong with me that other nurses seemed to have more energy than I am last through a shift better than I could. Not anymore! When I cut the gluten I really quickly had energy until 10pm. I did not feel as cranky and edgy.
I was focused. I was able to get stuff that needed to get done before bed done and feel like things got done.
How did I sleep? Better than I have ever remembered sleeping. I did wake up remembering the strangest dreams but I felt rested and ready to jump out of bed at 5am!
The month of January is always tough for me. Mentally you come of the glory of the holidays; the fun, the parties, the family and the fast pace. January is a dead stop. Its cold and dark and depressing. I have seasonal affective disorder tendencies. I have one of those lights. This year I felt great all January. I forgot to even get out the light. I took my Vitamin D and I ate my grain free diet. I felt alive and energized. It still can’t believe I did not notice any depressed feelings.
I also have many indoor and outdoor allergies with a tendency toward asthma when they get bad. In the 21-day period I had no allergies issues.
I overall felt really good!
While I did not feel deprived and I did not have any cravings, my husband did not have the same result. He was dragging. He lost weight for sure. However for him the lack of grains did not give him the energy boost that I did. His body reacts differently. He needs the proteins in grains to sustain him. Eating more nuts and plants alone was not enough for him.
How did the kids do? All out protest. Trying to serve a breakfast to them in a hurry before school that did not involve a bready product was more of a challenged than I thought. My teen who doesn’t eat eggs, nuts or seeds did not have much variety. The baked Oatmeal options were not cutting it after a few days. Fruit only went so far. I did add back in some fresh baked items that were made with whole grain flours, etc. for the kids. The great part was I was completely not tempting or craving any of the things I made for them that I could not eat.
We also learned that we all got really tired of chicken. While I could have eaten fish and seafood many times a week, the kids were not buying that tactic. I found that I like variety and I really only would want to eat chicken about once a week. I was eyeing anything that had a little beef or pork on it. I did get really into a fab Vegan Caesar Salad with Chickpea croutons from Oh She Glows. I never would have imagined 2 years ago that I would be eating Vegan recipes and loving them. So tasty! But I digress…
I was frustrated that the kids would not try more of the vegetarian options. It became clear that this program had a lot of flaws for my family. The transition for them would need to be slower. It has strengthened my resolve to create a plan that helps families with stubborn children. Why? Because my children DO have things I know foods are playing a part in: migraines, anxieties, stomach issues and excessive farting. You know it’s bad when the excessive farting becomes a constant joke and topic of conversation. Kudos that my kids can laugh at themselves but really!?!? I KNOW a decreased gluten diet would make a lot of difference. We are a healthy family compared to the average American but we still need to move along the healthy spectrum a little further.
The most interesting discovery I made was what happened when I ate onions and garlic. I have spent years not tolerating onions and garlic well. I get bloated, crampy and gassy ( ok..excessive farting). I taste it and smell it in my nose for a good 24 hours after I eat it. Gross I know! So many of the recipes I used during the detox had onions and garlic in them. I was afraid. But the reality is, Garlic and onions are amazing for you! We should be eating them for many reasons. So I pushed ahead and used my body as a self-study. What I discovered was amazing! In the absence of gluten/carbs I had NO issues with onions and garlic. Zero. The only day I had issues was when I added black beans to the mix. The 3 together are still too much of a challenge for my body. But I could not believe it. I tested this theory the whole month. Now, What would happen when I re-introduced stuff.
My husband and I completed the 21 days. I did feel great. He was dying to add back in the grains. So, now it was time to add back in foods we had cut out. He added everything back in at once so he is not a good report on individual tolerances.
I added back in dairy first; cheeses to be exact. People I knew snickered that I would have digestive issues. Nope! Dairy did not effect my stomach or digestive system! Yippee!
Yes the But. The day I added cheese back in I did feel more tightness in my chest. My breathing was bothering me a little bit. Was it the cheese? Was it taking the dog to be boarded with other dogs? This was suspect.
The rest of the week I had goat cheese a handful of times and a variety of Swiss cheese. I did not have any issues that week. The following week I added things that had cows milk in them or other cows milk proteins. I have been feeling a little allergy challenged ever since!
It was also time to see what would happen when I added the breads back in. This was not hard. I happened to be on vacation where daily Croissants were the staple every morning.
The funny thing about carbs/gluten is that they have more of a delayed reaction so their effects sneak back up on you slowly.
I made homemade Mac and cheese with great whole ingredients that 2nd week back in. I did not have any digestive effects that I could tell from that. It was tasty and comforting. Note the comforting part. Then I made a glorious chicken potpie with a lovely homemade whole-wheat crust. After the potpie my digestive tract was troubled. I felt bloated, gassy and uncomfortable. I knew it would. It confirmed what I already had discovered. Darn it! I can’t eat onions with the darn crust and cream base.
So 3 weeks back in I was back to feeling tired and unmotivated. I was in a Mac and cheese coma. Lets face it, its taken me 4 weeks to even get motivated to write this blog! The darn carbs paired with the never-ending snow days are a perfect storm of laziness.
Four weeks since I added back in dairy and all grains, I can barely stay awake past 8:30pm. If I as much as sit on the bed I fall asleep. I am dragging to get out of bed. In fact I am in such a state that I have rambled on in a stream of consciousness for 3 pages.
So what the hell is the point of this darn blog? It’s a lesson that everyone’s body uniquely responds to foods. We are all bio-individual. There are many people that have discovered the incredible energy and changes when they cut our sugar and carbs. Not everyone has the unique garlic/onion issues. My body responds to what is called food combining. I can’t eat foods with certain foods. It has taught me that I can have energy, more mental clarity, sleep better and feel amazing. Is it a bit of work? Well yes. However, now that I know the “high” of feeling great. Why do I want to be in that state of fog all the time? I don’t.
So I am now on to my next challenge. I am taking out just the gluten this time to see if during my peak allergy season if I see any difference. I want to tease out what exactly the gluten is exacerbating in me. Is it really the gluten? Its going to be hard to say if it’s the gluten itself. Bread is complicated. A whole grain, whole food wheat product has many proteins beyond the gluten alone. My body doesn’t react well to something in breads, pastas, crackers, etc. when eaten a lot. That much I do know. That knowledge helps me to make the best decisions for my body. Health is a journey. I am on a journey with my body.
What will your journey tell you about your body? Challenge yourself and find out. You might discover things that make you feel more amazing than you ever have.
Health and Happiness (and hopefully no excessive farting),
PS: For those who find it wildly funny to send me recipes for Sugar Brioche tart recipes from Northern France knowing I have a weakness for French recipes, I will be making mini voodoo dolls of you. Expect digestive troubles to come to you. Well, actually who needs the Voodoo doll…the tart itself will eventually do that anyway. Call me for my health coaching fees when you are done eating it.
Thank you to the ladies at Prescribe Nutrition for getting me through the elimination/detox. and Thank you Oh She Glows for having a salad that was a staple on my journey.