Elimination Diet Fail!
So, some of you might have been wondering "What happened with Abigail's elimination diet?" Well...I quit and here's why:
Elimination diets are meant to help you uncover any underlying symptoms you're experiencing due to unknown food sensitivities or allergies. Symptoms like: digestive issues, IBS, eczema, acne, bloating, unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue, migraines, or chronic inflammation...etc... Check out my previous post: What the heck is an elimination diet?
I, however, was trying an elimination diet as an experiment. I was not experiencing any symptoms prior to starting the diet. I was simply hoping to experience an elimination diet and potentially see the benefits of a diverse amount of whole foods.
I followed the elimination diet laid out in the book The Elimination Diet - Discover The Foods That Are Making You Sick And Tired And Feel Better Fast by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre - an excellent resource to have on your bookshelves for life! They break the diet into three phases:
The detox phase
The elimination phase
The reintroduction phase
In the "detox phase" only juices, smoothies and pureed soups are consumed - no meat or animal byproducts. Just straight up allowed vegetables and fruits. It is elegantly designed to lighten up the load on your digestive system (blending, juicing and pureeing are all helpful predigesting methods) while not depriving your system of dietary fiber (the broom of your digestive system). I felt good during this phase, though I noticed my extremities were frequently cold (fingers and toes mostly) and I was hungry more frequently than prior to the diet, but all in all a smart detox now and then can be very cleansing mentally and physically. I developed a new found appreciation for vegetable soup! It is warm, soothing and delicious! Perfect winter food.
In the elimination phase, you are eating very specific vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts/seeds. The book I purchased came with PDF's of "yes" and "no" foods, which I printed out and hung on my fridge. I followed the diet to a tee. I used recipes from the book (it has so many creative and delicious recipes) for almost every meal. I did notice a lot of the recipes required coconut products as substitutions for traditional oil, dairy, nut products (like nut milks), sweeteners, and soy sauce. Now, I am an obsessive person who likes to do things the "right way", so I bought all the product and began to use them.
About 2 days into the elimination phase, I felt some serious fatigue. Having eliminated coffee at the beginning of this journey, I chalked my fatigue up to my lack of an upper. 2 days after that, I began to feel VERY bloated and had cramping after my meals - all new symptoms for me and the exact things this phase should be reducing in people.
During an elimination diet you are not to ignore any symptoms that arise, but this is typically during the "reintroduction phase". However, I was noticing all of this and had a sneaking suspicion these new symptoms were due to all of the coconut that had been added to my diet. Most of the other items on the elimination diet "yes/no" list (vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts/seeds) I regularly incorporated into my diet before the elimination diet and had an issue, but I had never had so much coconut in my diet. I had used coconut oil for cooking, shredded coconut in protein balls/bars and on occasion coconut milk or mana in a Paleo or Keto recipes, but never in such an amount. As ParaceIsus (the father of toxicology) says "the dose makes the poison".
But did I listen right away? ...Nope...I kept on keepin' on because I'm no quitter and I was telling myself this might just be my body adjusting. Our minds can rationalize almost anything. Then about 6 days into the "elimination phase" I began to feel a scratchy itch at the back of my throat anytime I ate something with a coconut byproduct it. I was also fatigued, moody, and still feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Truly suspicious, I choose to eat a breakfast without any coconut...and experienced a reduction of symptoms - particularly the scratchy throat and bloating. Interest peaked. I then repeated this with lunch and continued to feel better.
Deciding not to continue...
So, with this information, I looked at removing all the coconut substitutions...and I would not have been able to make most of the recipes in the cookbook without really doing my research, which for someone with a full time job is a big commitment. So I decided, instead of try an adjust it where I was and continue, I would stop, recover, research alternatives to coconuts products and try the whole thing again without coconut.
At first I felt like a failure. I had told people I was going to do it. I was excited to do it an discover my food sensitivities. I was excited to see how my body would feel and (being totally honest) how it might look after 3-4 months of excellent eating. But, it just wasn't the right time. Diet and overhauls are not not too are in reality, but they require time. You have to have the time, not just to learn a new way to prepare food or shop and plan, but you have to rewire your thinking. You have to know what you can and cannot eat so well that when your on the go you can know what to grab or pack something because you know there will be nothing you can eat. Changing thought patterns and habit takes conscious effort and if you're not in the space to do that it's a serious uphill climb.
So i removed all coconut from my diet - I guess the elimination diet did work, just not as it was planned to. I began to feel back to normal and went back to eating what I normally ate. I'll have to plan another time to tackle the elimination diet and this time I'll be better prepared!