Dealing with Food Intolerance + Elimination Diets: What Noone Tells You
I’ve recently spent a lot of time researching the negative impact of food intolerance and decided to take some tests myself. My first set of food intolerance test results from YorkTest revealed a whopping 25 reactions and borderline reactions and I was advised by YorkTest advisors to immediately deploy an elimination diet protocol.
I was really keen to give the elimination diet a good go. I know that I suffer from symptoms that are caused by inflammation and that chronic low-grade inflammation is a killer. As food intolerance is an inflammatory response, I wanted to use my test results to improve my overall health.
I carried out a strict elimination diet for two weeks before making adjustments. I wouldn’t call those two weeks successful by any means. However, I did learn a few things.
What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is the process of removing foods that are common ‘triggers’ from your diet for a certain period of time. These foods are then reintroduced one at a time. If any symptoms reappear alongside the reintroduction of a certain food, this is indicative of an intolerance.
The best elimination diets are the most restrictive. Cutting out more foods means that you’re likely to get a more comprehensive profile of results by the end of the process.
However, the more foods you cut out, the harder the process is to execute. And of course, as it is impossible to cut out everything, there is always a chance that one of your intolerances could be overlooked.
Unlike with allergies, symptoms of food intolerance don’t manifest immediately. So, eliminating and reintroducing foods is a slow process and the results can be hard to identify.
Food intolerance testing simplifies this process initially by providing you with a list of reactive ingredients that should be your primary focus.
I tried to start the elimination diet as soon as possible after receiving my YorkTest results.
However, I would have been better off writing a date in my diary that allowed myself a couple of weeks to prepare.
The preparation phase should include:
* Researching ingredients that are good alternatives to the ones that you will be cutting out
* Stocking up on those ingredients
* Finding and creating recipes and meals that allow you to use the alternative ingredients in the most fulfilling way
My reaction to the proteins in cow’s milk meant that I was advised to cut out whey and casein protein shakes from my diet. This made a huge impact given that I drank them up to three times a day. Yet, I cut them out before I had chance to research, buy, receive and taste-test an alternative. This made a big impact on my protein intake, but it also affected my mindset as I felt unable to train as well without fuelling my body in the way that it needed.
Because I was in the process of finishing my degree, finding a full-time job, and relocating to a new city at the same time that I received my results, being well prepared was near impossible.
In relation to this, I would recommend selecting a date to start the elimination diet that is going to avoid clashing with other stressful occasions. There is never a perfect time to start, so don’t keep putting it off. But if you’re dealing with an obviously exceptional situation like I was, it’s okay to push back your start date a little.
I realise that when I started to cut out foods, it was like I was wearing food intolerance blinkers.
When assessing whether food was good for me to eat, or not, the only criteria that I was applying to it was whether it was on my intolerance chart or not. This meant that I was probably eating more processed ‘junk’ food than usual.
For example, despite avoiding wheat-based foods for years (my intolerance was pretty obvious without the need for a test), I suddenly found myself seeking out biscuits and cakes under the guise of wheat-free and gluten-free labels. I hardly ever ate biscuits and cakes to begin with! Yet, I’d find myself munching away with complete disregard for the sugar content.
This is especially ironic given that sugar is also inflammation causing and my motivation behind this whole process was to reduce inflammation!
Perhaps it is because I had a high number of reactions that I just didn’t have the brain-power for any other items on my checklist, but this is something to bear in mind.
Guilt + Anxiety
I’ve always had a really healthy relationship with food. I’ve always wanted to nourish my body by eating foods that are genuinely nutritious, but I’ve never denied my sweet tooth either.
For the first time ever, during my elimination diet, I really started to sense feelings of anxiety and guilt over what foods I was consuming.
To take the protein shake situation as an example again, I was feeling incredibly anxious having cut out a supplement that was critical in helping me to achieve the best body composition and overall fitness level of my life. I felt like my hard work was going to be lost and that my progress was going to slow.
On the other hand, whenever I thought about allowing myself a protein shake, I felt really guilty that I would be knowingly causing my body damage.
Overall, I decided that the mental anguish wasn’t worth it, especially at a time when I had other important things to think of. So, I ate a Quest bar. And another. And the tension was gone.
I continued to stick with everything else, but without relaxing the rules a little, I don’t think that would have been possible.
My Thoughts Overall - Why I Still Recommend Food Intolerance Testing
I still think that food intolerance tests are brilliant, fascinating things that allow you to invest in your health. You just have to approach them in the right way.
Food intolerance test reports should not be treated as gospel. Instead, the results simply provide a great starting point to carry out a planned and realistic elimination diet.
I’m lucky that because of my curiosity and previous experiences, I have a pretty strong sense of self-awareness and could take a step back to reassess how this diet process was affecting me.
However, if you have ever struggled with an emotional relationship with food, disordered eating, or don’t have a great knowledge of nutrition yourself, I would advise finding a nutritionist or nutrition coach who can guide and reassure you a little through the process.
I still recommend food intolerance testing and I’m still pursuing food intolerance testing. I think that actively deciding to invest in a food intolerance test heightens your awareness to the impact that foods are having on your body every single day.
I’m keen to take a more in depth look at my food intolerances and to find a way to apply my results in a more manageable way. I’m determined to find ways to improve my health and food plays a massive role.