What is an Elimination Diet and Why the Heck Did I Try One?

First things first, an elimination diet is not about losing weight. Y'all...the older I get, the more I realize that my body has a happy point, weight-wise. I also have a happy point, and that is a life WITH cookies, not without them. This is not about "bad foods" vs. "good foods." I hesitated to share this little experiment. It makes me feel vulnerable and a bit anxious, but well, talking about food is what we do here, so let's do it. 

The idea of the elimination is to pare down your diet to remove inflammatory foods for two weeks, then work different categories of food back in, one at a time, to see if your body reacts. For example, the first food group I added in was citrus, the second was nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, chile pepper, etc.). You can change the order of categories you're reintroducing. I added in sugar and chocolate before sesame. I guess that's what they call "being on brand?"  

The Elimination Diet book

I used the book The Elimination Diet as a guide through the process. It is super helpful and has some great recipes that'll keep you from two weeks of eating nothing but spinach and chicken breasts. Several recipes are now in our regular rotation. Now, the book does call for a 2-day juice/smoothie "detoxification" kickstart. I skipped that. I don't have a juicer...and mama needs some real food. Ha. 

I've always had "tummy issues." Nothing serious...nothing debilitating. For the most part, I feel good. My mom lived with ulcerative colitis her entire adult life. Thankfully, that is not an issue for me because when she had a flare-up, it was not fun for her, to put it mildly. But, over the years, I noticed that after eating certain foods, I'd want to change into my PJs, curl up on the couch, and do nothing but watch 7 hours of The Office. 

A few things happened during the pandemic. 

  1. I developed an eye/eyelid issue that took FOREVER to clear up.
  2. My skin started itching. (I thought maybe it was too much hand sanitizer.)
  3. One day, I ate a big bowl of cherries for lunch and ended up with one of the worst stomach aches in recent memory. 
bitteresweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Withdrawl is real. The first few days of the elimination diet were ROUGH. It reminded me of when I quit coffee in the mornings. Headache. Fatigue. Lethargy.  A big case of the ughs.  After a few days, I started to feel good again. In those two weeks, I washed and prepped and ate more vegetables than I ever have in my life. I made my own sunflower butter. I made rice milk

coconut butter

The book opened my eyes to foods I'd never eaten...sunflower seeds and coconut butter, to name two. I also found that some typically non-inflammatory foods are not good for my body. Hello and goodbye, pumpkin seeds. 

tomato cookies

I'm pretty much at the end of the process now. It seems my itching is caused by tomatoes and chile pepper!!! This was a shock. I never gave tomatoes a second thought, but I had been eating a lot of them (and other nightshades) in the form of salsa, tomato sauce, cayenne, etc. I'm not going to stop eating tomato products altogether, but I have an awareness and will not have tomato-based sauces and condiments at every meal. 

Happily, some foods I thought I couldn't eat, I actually can, just not in vast quantities. When you work in your kitchen, it's easy to go a little overboard. Those cherries that caused me pain? I can still eat them, but not a beach ball-sized bowl on an empty stomach.

The elimination diet was a real eye-opener for me. I was afraid that I was "looking for trouble" in a sense and would be lead to restrict my diet. The truth is, it made me expand my palate to new things with a greater awareness of how my body reacts to certain foods. 

Is there a food your body is sensitive to? Are you with me in the too-much-salsa-makes-me-itch club? 

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