Sunday, April 04, 2010

Elimination Diet

Jumping right back in to blogging with a new adventure! This week I'll be starting an elimination diet. Several people expressed interest in reading about how the process goes for me and I thought that writing it all down would serve as a great record for me, as well.

You may be reading this and are already scratching your head and asking "what is an elimination diet?" It's a diet you can go on to identify if food sensitivities are causing your body to have adverse symptoms. You begin the diet by eliminating a pretty major list of foods for several days and then slowly starting adding the eliminated foods back in. When you add each food back in you pay close attention to your body to see if it is adversely reacting to that food. If it does, then you know to stay away from it. If it doesn't, then you're in the clear.

There are a number of reasons that a person might want to try a diet like this, for example, anyone suffering from the following issues might want to give it a go:

-weight gain / weight loss
-chronic migraines / headaches
-diarrhea / constipation
-gas / bloating / nausea
-hair loss
-autoimmune diseases
-rheumatoid arthritis
-irritable bowel syndrome / disease
-chronic pain
-skin rashes

So why am *I* doing this diet? For all kinds of reasons, on a number of different levels. I'll start with the physical reasons. On and off for the greater portion of my adult life I've dealt with digestive issues. It comes and goes and presents itself in different ways, from nausea, pain, constipation, diarrhea, lack of appetite, never feeling full-- you get the idea. The symptoms have become more prevalent lately and are starting to interfere with my life on a regular basis. In addition I've developed regular headaches. I used to NEVER get headaches and now I probably get 3-5 a week. I often wake up with them in the morning. Another issue is very low energy levels. I do know that I am dealing with extremely low iron levels, and am addressing that, but I don't think it's all about my iron. The last major issue is my weight gain. I believe I am at the highest non-pregnant weight I have ever been. A full 2 sizes bigger than I was two years ago at this time. I've definitely fallen in to a trap of eating everything under the sun, and then not exercising it off-- often the lack of exercise stems from the lack of energy.

I've been to the doctor numerous times and she's amazing and supportive and wants to help me figure out what's going on. The symptoms are so vague that it could be so many different things. She has suggested I can do everything from acupuncture and supplements to referring me to a GI specialist for a colonoscopy or doing a CT scan to see what's up with my headaches. Whatever choices I want to make she supports. We've done lots of blood tests, and are still doing them, to rule out other random things like thyroid issues. While speaking with her she has suggested that food sensitivities could be causing some of my issues and mentioned elimination diets if I wanted to travel down that road. The last time I left her office I felt terrified by the idea of running all over town like a hypochondriac to get a ton of crazy tests done and decided I needed to first explore what I could do myself first. My thoughts kept drifting back to the elimination diet. No doctors or cameras up my rear end required.

At the risk of turning this post in to a novel, I'll continue on by saying (if you didn't already know) that I have a degree from Bastyr University in Nutrition. It's sort of laughable, really. I know many people without nutrition degrees that have a great deal more knowledge than I do at this point about anything food related. I haven't accessed any of this information pretty much at all since the day of my graduation almost seven years ago. (SEVEN!?!?) And as they say, if you don't use it, you lose it. And I've lost it. I know the fundamentals of good eating, as most of us do, but I've completely lost touch with my whole foods training. With the connection of food and how it makes our bodies feel and how it affects how they function. The idea of diving in to this elimination diet and being that intimately connected to food was exhilarating to me after having been away from it for so long. As I began researching elimination diets I came across a website called Whole Life Nutrition. It interested me and I ordered the cookbook off of the site. A friend of mine pointed out that the couple who runs the site, and wrote the book, were Bastyr grads. Sure enough, when I looked more closely at the bio page, two smiling faces of past classmates peered back. I was blown away. They are doing with their lives what I only dreamed about when I graduated. I was, and am, completely in awe of what they are doing with nutrition and how they are raising their four children with a love of whole foods and healthy eating.

I hope to use the elimination diet as a spring board for hurtling myself back in to one of my (many) passions after so much time away. To use this as a way to re-connect my body with the food I put in to it. To achieve, or at least begin to achieve, the optimal level of health that has mostly eluded me for the better portion of my life. If the diet reveals absolutely nothing about food sensitivities then--GREAT! I mean, that would be great news because I wouldn't have to start cutting out things like wheat or dairy, but it would still have put me back on the path of better health. I would just need to start exploring those other paths to find more specific answers to what is going on inside my body.

On another note, you may notice that I'm speaking strictly about myself here. My family will not be joining me on the elimination diet, as desperate as I would be for them to do it. For Matt, well, he's a grown-up and makes his own decisions and if he asked about it I would be excited to share, but wouldn't ever want to tell him to do anything like this. Of course, as the main meal preparer in the house, he's probably going to be eating the results of my efforts, but that's about as far as it will go. My girls are so deeply entrenched in mostly terrible eating habits that I wouldn't even know where to begin to dig them out of it. I should clarify, it's terrible by MY standards. Every day Iris has a new food she won't eat. I think maybe I can her to eat broccoli now, sometimes, with a fight. That would be it for vegetables. She's a wee bit better with fruit. We do a lot of smoothies. Anyways, I will keep the elimination diet in the back of my head for them when they are a bit older maybe.

So here in this blog I will chronicle my journey through the elimination diet. I hope to post every day about what I've eaten, how I'm feeling, etc etc. We'll see! It should be fun. The diet will officially commence probably by this coming weekend (I'm waiting for my fancy new blender to arrive in the mail so I can use it to make the green smoothies from the first part of the diet).

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