Stuff to Stop Eating {AKA: Healing Your Body}

{If you missed part 1- check it out here.}

We are on part 2 of "Gluten University" *deep breath out*. Today we will be exploring an elimination diet and something called the "autoimmune protocol". This will continue to be a bit information intensive. HOWEVER, my goal with this series to to really make things extremely straightforward and simplified. Most of us just have time to get food in our mouths each day and have no interest in becoming nutritionists and food advocates in the process. There is currently a PLETHORA of books, websites and programs available to help you learn everything anyone could ever want to know about autoimmunity, food allergies, and elimination diets (all by different names). My goal is to take that information, digest it a bit for you, and deliver some simplified guidelines. However, I will be directing you to a few resources that I am not qualified (or talented enough) to break down for you.

So, why all this education? Why not just hand over a shopping list and some meal planning lists and be done? Conviction. You see, I knew I had celiac disease for TWO YEARS before I truly committed to a gluten free diet. It took knowledge to help me understand what I was slowly and silently (and sometimes not so silently hahaha) doing to my body. It took the knowledge and CONVICTION that if I continued to eat gluten, I would most certainly give myself cancer and die a premature death... not to mention have a very low quality of life. I knew I wanted better, but was also thoroughly convinced that my family DESERVED better from me. After all- it's food. Food is intended to give our bodies the nutrients in order to LIVE so that we can go about our business that consumes the other 95% of our day.

Why eat food that wasn't life-giving and was slowly taking my life? 

Ok, so now that you're all fired up to get your learn on- let's dive in! An elimination diet, and thusly the autoimmune protocol, whole 30, 30 day reset- all those names, is a period of time that you commit to not eating a list of potentially allergenic, inflammatory or otherwise problematic foods. After a period of time (typically 30 days), you begin to systematically reintroduce these foods, one at a time, and monitor your body's reaction to them. Easy peasy. Or not- depends on how *hooked* your body is on them :)

What's the point? Essentially, when our bodies have begun to attack one food as an enemy, we have to accept that it is likely doing that to other foods. The dreaded leaky gut is a large component in autoimmunity, food allergies and intolerances. When our gut has become permeable enough to allow one food through, it's most likely letting other foods through. Once these tiny bits of food make it through our overly-permeable intestines into our blood stream, our bodies launch a full scale attack because the food proteins are NOT where they should be. Only nutrients should be absorbed through our intestines into our bloodstreams- not intact proteins of foods (like gluten and casein). Our bodies are just doing their jobs by attacking these foreigners, but these attacks lead to inflammation, sensitivies, allergies and ultimately autoimmunity (when things get so out of whack that our bodies begin attacking themselves as foreigners!). 

When we remove all potentially and commonly offensive foods (because some foods are notoriously hard to digest- looking at you gluten and casein), we can give our bodies a rest. If you just remove one food (like gluten), there's still a high likelihood that your body is reacting to other foods. When your symptoms continue despite being gluten free, you believe that clearly gluten wasn't *really* a problem for you, and you go back to eating it. By removing all offensive food at once, you can give your body time to begin to heal. Then, by systematically reintroducing foods (one at a time!), you can see how you body reacts. More on how to do this in a bit.

So, who needs to do an elimination diet? Simply anyone who has any type of allergy or autoimmune disorders. Furthermore, anyone who even *suspects* that they might. Here's a great article from webmd explaining the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance and how their symptoms compare and contrast. Essentially there is a large overlap- intestinal discomfort, gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloating. However, intolerances can be more difficult to diagnose since they come on more gradually (and generally relief comes on more gradually as well), and they have some symptoms that can be atypical. Chronic sinusitis, random body rashes, ADHD, learning disabilities, and other seemingly unrelated symptoms can be caused by food intolerances or low-level allergies. 

If any of this applies to you and you're interested, then it's time to do an elimination diet.

PAUSE: You may want to take some time to speak with your spouse and children about this big commitment. Furthermore, you'll want to decide if this is just for YOU or if the whole family will be involved. You'll likely be shopping, cooking and eating out differently so it's definitely a big shift and a big commitment for everyone. If you choose to proceed, you might want to wait until I've supplied all of the resources I'm working to create over the next few weeks. These resources will hopefully make the process a ton easier for you. If you don't want to wait, I recommend the books by Sarah Balantyne called The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook (she also has meal plans, shopping lists, and the whole shebang). 

What can I NOT eat on an elimination diet? I want you to be real with yourself and choose a level of "strictness" that you believe you can wholly commit to for 30 days. There are many programs out there designed just for this, but they are highly restrictive. Some people do better going "all out" right off the bat. But for others, this can feel suffocating and overwhelming and set you up for failure. I'm listing the foods to eliminate in order of importance. Please eliminate at least the first 5 for one month in order to get the best results. 

  • ALL GRAINS including: wheat, corn, oats, rice, kamut, spelt, barley, rye (IF you must have ONE grain during the 30 days, please let it ONLY be rice, and have it in very small amounts)
  • Dairy (all butters, cheeses, etc- anything that comes from a cow!)
  • Soy
  • Sugar (added sugars, but don't be concerned with fruit sugars- eat your fruit, don't drink it!)
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
  • Nuts and Nut oil
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Nightshades (peppers, tomatos, eggplant, goji, cayenne)
  • Processed oils (vegetable, soy, corn, palm kernel, cottonseed, sunflower oils) 

That seems like a LOT, and you maybe wondering, "What CAN I eat?". 

Simple. You CAN eat:

  • Vegetables and Fruits: ALL of them. As much as you want!!! Now it's technically possible to eat a bit too much fruit and those sugars cause some intestinal irritation, so watch for that. But shoot for making the basis for 1-2 meals a day vegetables. Just avoid the nightshades mentioned above if you choose to eliminate that far down the list. And no, potatoes are not the devil. You don't want to eat french fries unless you make them at home and oven bake them during this first 30 days, but potatoes have lots of good nutrition, typically aren't allergenic and can help you transition from a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates without losing your mind (but again, MODERATION!). 
  • Meats: (try to do as much organic and grassfed as possible, with little processing). Shoot for ground beef, chicken, pork, etc. However, don't stress as much about the "quality" of the meats. Some paleo folks would flip their lid, but I'm advocating for a gentle, achievable stretch to as much of a wholesome, nutritious diet as possible- based on what we have available and what we can afford. Don't ever get legalistic about it (and certainly don't try to be perfect)! Do your best and move along! However, one caveat to meat quality is processed meats. If you are going to purchase bacon, hot dogs and sandwich meats, please do so in limited quantities and spend your money here on organic or at least nitrate-free processed meats. And read labels! Even "smoked turkey" can have gluten, corn and sugars added to it!
  • FERMENTED FOODS! This is so incredibly important!!! Not only do we want to spend time eliminating foods that cause our bodies pain, but we want to nourish our bodies with foods that create and sustain life. Fermented foods are brimming with goodness. We will discuss this in it's own whole post but things to look for are: sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented pickles, kombucha and water kefir to name a few. 
  • Bone broth and gelatin. Again, as with the fermented foods, we want to give our bodies everything they need to begin the healing process. Bone broth is EXCEPTIONAL at coating and healing the intestines. You want to make this AT HOME (store bought stock/broth is not the same!). That thick layer of oils on top- that's the good stuff. Again, further in the series, I'll give easy how-to's on both of these items (too much for now!). 

It may seem like we have fewer foods to choose from to eat than not. BUT when you think of the bounty of fruits and veggies available to us at the store- when we really begin shifting our thoughts of what FOOD is- we realize that we have endless options. Your best mindset is to truly focus on what you CAN eat- not what you can't. THAT is the path to success.

This can be overwhelming, so my next post will be a list of meals to consider eating during these 30 days on the elimination diet (along with some resources from fantastic nutritionist/paleo chefs who know a million times more than I do!). 

One last link- here is a great pdf (courtesy of The Paleo Mom) to print out and keep on hand for when you begin to systematically reintroduce potentially offensive foods. This gives you great detailed information, and I didn't want to make one if it already existed in internet-land :)

Stay tuned for the next installment of Gluten University where we figure out what in the world we can eat while we do our elimination diet (and where to buy it and HOW to afford it!).