You may have noticed that elimination diets are rising in popularity. From eliminating single ingredients like gluten or dairy to more restrictive elimination diets such as the GAPS, SCD, paleo, ketogenic diet or the 4 Phase Fat Elimination Protocol just to name a few.
As a consulting nutritionist, I often recommend certain types of elimination diets to my clients as a tool to help identify food triggers, which helps to enable them to manage and eliminate negative health symptoms of digestive distress, food sensitivities, brain fog and inflammation within the body.
Everyone is unique and different, so there isn’t one 100% safe food re-introduction that suits everyone. However the following 4 tips can support you when you start to re-introduce foods after an elimination diet.
- Re-introduce Foods in Parasympathetic State
To successfully re-introduce certain foods, your body must perceive it as nourishment, not a source of stress. So in order for that to happen, your body needs to fully digest the food. Digestion only happens in the parasympathetic state, ie; when you’re in a relaxed state both mentally and physically.
If you’re in a sympathetic state (stress/ fight or flight), your body turns off your digestive processes. The biochemical changes that occur in times of stress have a significant and immediate impact on the gut’s function and can also cause changes to the microbiota.
When we feel relaxed and stress free, it allows our bodies to produce stomach acid, enabling food to move through the intestines, enzymes are secreted by the pancreas to break down food and bile is released from the gall bladder to break down fats.
If these processes aren’t activated before eating, you won’t be able to digest or absorb your food properly. This can then lead to a myriad of health issues which you can read more about in Chris Kresser’s article called ‘How stress wreaks havoc on your gut – and what you can do about it’.
Studies have shown that a major component of a healthy and well balanced lifestyle includes stress management techniques. When you are re-introducing food into your diet, it is critical that you are managing your stress levels at the same time.
Here are some ideas on how you can reduce stress in your daily life that may be useful;
- 8 De-stressing techniques that aren’t meditation
- Adaptogen Herbs – Natures stress & fatigue fighters
- Regain control of your life – 11 tips to managing stress
- Re-introduce Foods When You’re in a Routine
Emotional and exciting periods in your life, can lead to reduced sleep, altered eating patterns and increased stress hormones within your body, so it’s not really a great time to get a clear reading on how a food affects your body.
As an example, after you’ve done an elimination diet, it may not be a great time to try and re-introduce new foods when you’re on an overseas holiday or you’ve just suffered a loss because your body will be dealing with many different types of emotions and stresses.
I recommend re-introducing foods when you are back in your ‘day to day’ routine.
- Pay Attention to Your Body
Throughout the re-introduction phases it’s really important to keep track of how you’re feeling. You can easily do this by daily recording the following in a journal:- your thoughts, sleep patterns, emotions, energy levels, skin complexion changes etc. Your body is intelligently designed, so it’s important you listen to its messages (positive or negative) and take note.
- Use Alternative Health Modalities for Emotional Support
I know many people who don’t have any trouble removing foods from their diet and following ‘food elimination rules’, however they can be very hesitant and fearful to add foods back into their diet when the time is right.
Many people, who experience healing after an elimination diet can often associate certain ‘eliminated foods’ with past symptoms, especially those people who have a history with eating disorders and/or disordered eating patterns, digestive issues or severe chronic illnesses.
It’s really important to point out that your body is different after healing. Your tissues and organs have regenerated; your body has significantly healed. Your past food reactions do not dictate your future food reactions, unless you believe your past = your future.
Instead, you can say this positive affirmation to yourself;
‘My body is welcoming this food, as it offers my body nourishment,both physically and mentally’.
If you want to heal your body, but your only focus is on food, it may lead to a sense of disappointment or failure if that food is not successfully re-introduced. As our health and well-being is multi-faceted, it’s important to address any emotional issues you might have around food that you might not be aware of. It’s important these emotional issues are addressed. There are many modalities that can help with this, however I personally love and recommend kinesiology.
Are you currently re-introducing foods after an elimination diet? What has been your experience so far?