Elimination Diet: Reintroduction Phase!

Well, folks, I am nearing the end of the most stringent part of my elimination diet! I am both very excited and very nervous. That is because what comes next is the reintroduction phase. Basically, my food-world will be revolving around three day cycles. On Day 1, I will introduce my new food item at breakfast. I will monitor over the next few hours to see what, if any, symptoms appear. If all seems well, I will have the item again at lunch and dinner. On days 2 and 3, I will return to my elimination diet and monitor any adverse symptoms.

Interestingly enough, overly positive symptoms-sudden increase in energy for example- can actually be a sign for an intolerance! There is one test called the pulse test. You take your pulse before and after the offending food item. If your pulse rate increases soon over ingesting the food (and it cannot be attributed to exercise or outside stimulus) it may be an indicator of any issue! I wouldn’t have expected that, but I found it pretty interesting!

I am still not quite sure the exact order in which I will be introducing foods, but we will be starting with the items less likely to cause migraines and less likely for people to general intolerances to.

Major offenders for migraines include all of the following: deli meats, anything with MSG, caffeine, nuts, hard/preserved cheeses, citrus, bananas, beans, avocados, yeast, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate. From past food diaries I have kept, I know nitrates (often found in hot dogs) and artificial sweeteners are major triggers for me! According to the European Food Information Council, the foods most likely to cause an intolerance are lactose (found in milk) and gluten. This will help form the trajectory of the reintroduction phase. I am hoping that by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I will have been able to test twelve different items! I purposefully chose to start this Elimination Diet when I did because so much of the Thanksgiving meal is already elimination-diet friendly! I can eat turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin to my heart’s delight! My goal is that by Christmas, I will be able to go back to a more normal diet, as I will have tested over twenty items and hopefully identified a few triggers along the way.

As I said, I am very excited about this next phase. It will bring some old favorites back into my diet, even if only for a short time. On the other hand, I am nervous. I quite honestly feel great on this eating plan. I am not sure if it is just all the healthier choices I  have been making since I cannot grab for a quick snack or always eating homemade meals or if I have a true intolerance. I do know that I feel awesome. And the reintroduction phase is all about finding the foods that make you feel not-awesome. I am purposeful setting myself up every three days to play Russian Roulette with my system. Am I ready for that?

I guess I better be, because I start tomorrow! Wish me luck!

Two Weeks Down!

Oh my goodness, how time flies! I cannot believe I have been at this elimination diet for two weeks. Fourteen days may not seem like a lot, but it can be a long time to avoid so many foods. Although I have had a slip-up (hi communion wafer) or two, overall I have been spot on!

When I originally started, I was so nervous. What was I going to eat? How was I going to feed my daughter and husband the very foods I was avoiding and not be tempted to cheat a little? The first week was, admittedly, rough. This second week has been like night and day! I had to keep reminding myself what day it was because the food changes I made were so good! I am loving all these new recipes I’ve been making, so I do not feel deprived at all!

I do have to admit, I already added back in a food. Coffee (yes, it is a FOOD in my momming world). I knew that if I could just have a tiny bit of coffee, I would eliminate my one craving. So after speaking to the professionals, this was the plan we came up with: I have one of those reusable Keurig cups. I could fill it half way with coffee. Then, I would use the same amount of water that i usually do. I would further dilute the coffee with rice milk (homemade) to reduce the caffeine content per ounce. Finally, I could take half of that cup in the morning and half in the afternoon. This is the level of caffeine I am allowed for the time being until I complete all food challenges. Then, if I still am experiencing symptoms, we will taper off the coffee altogether.

People- hearing this was like the heavens opened! Once I actually did the math to figure out how much caffeine I would be getting on this regimen, it is essentially like they put me just a step above a decaf coffee, but it is enough. I do not find the coffee makes me alert, but it certainly helps alleviate some of the morning fog. It is probably more psychological than physiological, but I don’t care! Totally worth it.

In terms of how I am feeling overall- I cannot believe how great I feel. Friends have commented that I look “different” and that I am losing weight. Although I have dropped a few pounds, it is mostly all water weight since my bloating is almost nonexistent. I have had no migraines at all. My skin is completely clear. My dandruff is gone. I’ve always had these weird bumps on my upper arms (almost like whiteheads, but they never go away). They seem to be significantly reducing! I am sleeping better. This will seem odd, but for the first time in a long time I can remember my dreams! I have since learned that dream recall has long been tied into vitamin and mineral levels! My moods feel much more stable this week than they have in a long time.

My improvement in so many symptoms can be tied to a multitude of factors. 1) I could have an intolerance. 2) My water intake has sky-rocketed since I am not allowed many beverage options 3) I have having an insane amount of fruits and vegetables 4) I am not eating out at all 5) I have to cook everything from scratch, so that often eliminates me snacking. I am sure it is a combination of all of the above!

Be on the lookout for more recipes to come soon!

Elimination Diet Results: Week 1

I am a week into this Total Elimination Diet (TED) and, well, I don’t love it. I mean, I don’t hate it. But I could really go for a cookie. Actually, that’s not even true. I’m not missing cookies or really any other sweets. I miss beef. Like a good medium-rare burger. I did suffer from anemia in the past, so totally legit reason to introduce beef sooner rather than later because of how delicious it is iron. Right? I digress.

Day 1:

Woke up feeling ready to go! So excited! Loving life! I had prepped and prepared and felt good to go. For the most part the day went well. I definitely crashed into bed that night, so happy that one day was down!

Day 2:

I slept really well last night. I woke up feeling pretty chipper. It might be my imagination, but my bloating doesn’t seem as bad as usual. My acne looks a bit better, too, but that must be unrelated because seriously 24 hours of this TED could not have made a difference, right? We’ll see.

I also am unusually cold and tired by 8am. Then I see my beautiful Keurig. Did you ever notice  how pretty they area? No? Oh, okay. Well, I miss my coffee. I think at this point it’s more the warmth factor than the caffeine factor. I do some jumping jacks instead. This helps for about five seconds. It is also freezing outside, so that probably is not helping things. I decide to start cooking dinner at about 10 am, just so the house warms up. I make butternut squash soup and roast the seeds (yes, just like with pumpkin!). So delicious and makes for a wonderful early lunch.

When Cupcake goes down for her nap, I try to lay down, too. I’m just so tired. I walk over to the Keurig and think that maybe just a half cup of coffee couldn’t be that bad. I debate asking a babysitter to come so I can go out and get decaf coffee. I Google “Can decaf coffee really cause migraines?” The answer is yes. I feel sad. I make an allowed tea (green and black tea is out) and barely drink any of it because I cannot add anything to it and I want to have a pity party. At this time, I develop a headache and become pretty darn cranky.

I struggle through the rest of the day snacking on chicken breast and grapes. After dinner, Cupcake desperately wants to go outside. I take her on a walk. I end up even more cold, so we come home and have warm bath/showers. I feel much better. I go to bed without my late night treat and that feels weird, but also ok, because I’m pretty full from my dinner- spaghetti squash with chicken, zucchini and onions. So yummy. I crash into bed and fall asleep very quickly.

Day 3:

Cupcake woke up at 3am for.the.day. I amazingly feel not too miserable, but know this day would be a lot easier if I had some coffee. I make myself hot water. I seem to have lost 3 pounds- probably from an insane amount of fiber I am now consuming. A lot of water weight, too, as I definitely am noticing less bloat. My muscles hurt a little and I am very cold. I eat ground turkey for breakfast with quinoa and feel quite full. Acne seems to still be improving. My headache is going away, but my legs kill. It feels like I did 100 squats. I have no energy to do even one, so not sure what that is about.

I am really liking most of the food I am eating, but I am running out of my butternut squash soup, so I know I will need to get that. Soups have been my best friend in keeping me warm! I manage to take a nap midday, which usually is really hard for me to do. I go to bed at 7:30pm and fall asleep very quickly.

Day 4:

Today was NOT good. I wake up feeling well rested, despite having crazy dreams all night long. I have lost another two pounds, bringing my total to five. I am back to my “normal” zone after having been insanely bloated for the last few months. I don’t actually want to lose anything below this, so am hoping to regulate out here. My skin feels very smooth. My headache is definitely gone. My leg pain is better and I’m hoping I’m through the worst of it. Then, I get to church.

I kind of did not think through the whole “communion” aspect of church. We only have communion once a month, so it was not even on my mind as I planned this out. I get in the line for the gluten-free communion. I seriously debate getting up in the middle of church to find someone to give me the ingredient list, but don’t. I should have, but I didn’t. If I had a real allergy, that’s one thing, but this is just to identify migraine triggers and potential intolerances-so I feel silly. I say an extra prayer and eat my communion. I also took my old multivitamin out of habit, which includes trace amounts of soy. WHOOPS. This all happens within a 2 hour time frame. I get a small tummy ache, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m worried that I just messed it all up.

Part of me thinks, screw this plan. I already messed up, might as well have something I really want. I go to the grocery store as planned and see so many things that are on the “banned” list. Nothing actually seems appealing, except maybe the coffee. Mostly, I just want to get home and start making more butternut squash soup. So I buy my squash and go on my way.

The rest of the day is fine, but my leg pain comes back with a vengeance and makes it hard for me to fall asleep. Boo.

Day 5:

Today was not a good day at all.

I woke up with a ton of leg pain. My congestion, which had seemed to be improving, is back. Probably due to all my mistakes yesterday. I feel tired. I also am so cranky. I owe my family apologies for this day! Literally everything is annoying me right now. Work- annoying. Cats- annoying. How cold I am-annoying. I get so fed up with the diet that I spend a good amount of time googling if I am insane for attempting this. I weigh myself and am up 2 pounds and definitely feeling bloated. I will definitely need to check the ingredients for that communion matzo we have at church! I probably should hide my old multivitamin. I finish out the day with my sweet husband making salmon and baked sweet potatoes for dinner. Cupcake inhales the salmon!

On the upside- my skin looks great! It is so smooth. I usually get a lot of pimples under the surface-so they just look like skin-colored bumps. In the last month, they have been all over my face in a level I never even saw as a teen. However, it definitely seems better.

Day 6:

I wake up an hour earlier than normal and actually feel pretty alert. I have some leftover quinoa and ground turkey for breakfast. I try to give Cupcake her typical egg breakfast, but she spies the salmon in the fridge and begs for it! I am so excited she is starting to like fish, because I still don’t really love it. I only give her a small amount (to limit her mercury intake) and mix it in with her eggs. She is in heaven and nearly licks the plate clean! I am jealous of her delicious egg and hope that when I challenge eggs, I do okay, because I love them. Also, they’re in everything- so there’s that.

We head off to our playgroup and it is at this amazing local tire park. Cupcake has a blast playing with her friends. I am completely worn out chasing after her! I need coffee. I miss coffee. ALL I WANT IS COFFEE. I am cranky. I know this. I try to not show it, but mostly I want to crawl under a blanket and cry a little. I am wicked emotional on the way home and end up crying to half of the songs on the radio. Cupcake eats a quick lunch and goes off to nap.

I turn to the pantry and thrust open the side of the “banned” substances. I think and plot and plan. Then, I remember I have a phone date with a friend and call her instead. While on the phone, I grind up some rice to make homemade cream of rice. It isn’t the most delicious snack in the world, but it fills me up to the point where I don’t want anything else even after we get off the phone. I decide to lay down and get a quick nap before Cupcake is awake.

The rest of the day is pretty busy. Hubby has to work late, so thankfully Cupcake is well-behaved, since I do not have my normal patience. I go to bed around 9 and manage to fall asleep pretty easily.

Day 7:

I cannot believe I’ve made it a whole week. I mean, I did have my whole communion-snafu, but oh well. I hate to say it. I don’t want to say it. I think I’m unfortunately feeling better. I say unfortunately because that means that there probably is something really bothering me. Aside from the initial no-more-coffee headache, I have been headache- and migraine-free! I also am definitely less bloated and my skin looks great. I am sleeping better and seem to be *ehem* digesting things better, too. The biggest negative symptoms I am still experiencing are fatigue and being emotional. I hear these can be food intolerance symptoms, too, so I will just wait it out a few more days and hope those disappear soon.

I wake up feeling relatively alert. I have noticed the past few days that my mouth still feels very clean first thing in the morning. That’s a random bonus. I am down a pound from yesterday, making it an overall total of four pounds lost this week. I really thought I’d miss sugar more, but really what I crave is salt. I am allowed that on this diet, but I want to be careful I am not adding too much. I will want to watch that in the upcoming days.

My mood seems more stable than yesterday and I have a good deal of energy. I have not yet attempted a formal workout during this first week, but decide that today is the day. I go for a run in the afternoon with Cupcake and then we play hard at the playground before dinner. It feels good and my mile time is steady, so I feel like I have been doing a good job of making sure I get enough of the nutrients I need.

Looking forward to next week:

I am starting to get a bit bored of my current rotation of meals. My in-laws are also coming into town, so I will have to carefully plan my meals so that I can be an accommodating host and not drive everyone (including myself) crazy making multiple meals. I have been told that if I go a second week headache free, there is a slight chance I will be cleared to trial a small list of foods that are unlikely to cause a reaction, but will provide me with a more well-rounded diet. Fingers crossed!

Elimination Diet Day 1

And so it begins…

I woke up this morning, ready to go.

Breakfast before…

Oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter and cinnamon. Half a cup of coffee with soy milk and sugar. Water with lemon.

Breakfast now…

Homemade Cream of Rice (recipe to come!). Grapes. Water.

Breakfast was easy. I’m used to oatmeal, so cream of rice was not a huge departure. In the days leading up to the diet, I knew I had to learn to make some yummy cream of rice, so that’s what I did! I find it much harder to get in my water without the lemon in it. I suppose I could try putting berries in it? Or apple slices overnight to infuse it with flavor? Hmm.. Without my peanut butter and coffee, I definitely felt hungrier earlier than I usually do, which lead to SNACK TIME!

Morning snack before…

Share whatever Cupcake is having- graham crackers, animal crackers, veggie straws. More water with lemon.

Morning snack now…

Apple. Water.

I  know that I snack whenever I am bored, so thankfully we had a fun morning outing. Cupcake and I met up with friends and went to a local library with a giant playroom. That helped distract me enough until the ride home. I was so hungry! I got a little grumpy when Cupcake wanted to nurse before lunch because this mama wanted to eat. I also made the foolish mistake of not prepping any protein last night, so thankfully we had stocked up on some smoked salmon. Yum!

Lunch before…

Typically leftovers from the night before or a sandwich. Other half a cup of coffee with soy milk and sugar.

Lunch now…

Smoked salmon over a big salad (no tomatoes or peppers). Water.

I put Cupcake down for a nap and sat down at my computer. Nap time is usually the time I do laundry, clean the house, blog, work my online job and…snack. I love a good afternoon snack. I started getting really cranky as I opened the fridge and started the mental list of no’s.

That delicious looking cheese stick that is for Cupcake? No. The empty space where my beloved peanut butter used to sit? No.  The leftover deli meat that my husband is using for sandwiches for a few more days until he joins me on this torture plan? No.

But then I gave myself a mental pat on the back because most of the other temptations were gone. What I had to begrudgingly admit was that I mostly saw yes’s. Grapes? Yes. Apples? Yes. Leftover Cream of Rice? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

So I reached for an apple and some baby carrots and settled back down. I also drank a ton of water, hoping to fill me up. I certainly took care of my physical hunger. My emotional hunger was not satisfied. I moved my laptop from its normal place within eyesight of the kitchen to the basement and did the rest of my work there. Cupcake woke up ready and raring to go! We ran around the house and colored and read. She even helped me while I prepped the butternut squash for an amazing new soup recipe!  

PM Snack before…

Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies (delicious!), Teddy Grahams, Cheese Sticks, Yogurt- not all of these at once!

PM Snack now…

Apple. Water.

My husband is working nights this week, so he joined us for an early dinner before he had to head off to work.

Dinner before…

Typically protein (beef, pork, tofu, or chicken), grain (typically pasta or rice) and a side vegetable

Dinner tonight…

Rosemary chicken and butternut squash soup (recipes soon!). Water.

This was the easiest meal of the day! It was pretty typical for us. We usually include tomatoes and peppers in most recipes, so that was a little odd, but nothing that couldn’t be worked around!

I was feeling great! Hubby went off to work. I gave Cupcake her bath and put her to bed. I was on a roll!

But then I was alone. No one would know if I snuck some of Cupcake’s snacks. I could open up the peanut butter jar that I know is hidden somewhere in that pantry and just have the tiniest little bite. But then I realized that if I did that, I was just making it harder on myself. I would have to start over. It would take longer to get all of the crap out of my body. It was not worth it. I mean, maybe it’d be a little worth it in the moment, but it wouldn’t be worth it in the big scheme of things. Instead I settled for an approved dessert.

Nighttime Snack before…

PEANUT BUTTER, chocolate, ice cream, popcorn

Nighttime Snack now…

Leftover Cream of Rice with vanilla, cinnamon and chopped apples. Roobios tea.

I am not even kidding. I think I liked my dessert better than usual! It was so good! I also think I should probably take out stock in rice because I will be going through it like a crazy person! I am so full and that dessert was definitely satisfying. 

So, Day 1 is done. Food wise it wasn’t toodifficult, in retrospect. It definitely is more of an emotional challenge than I expected. I love my food! I had been warned that it could get worse before it gets better, so my current problems include acne, minor headache (probably due to lack of caffeine and weather changes), bloating, fatigue,  and hair falling out (could just be postpartum hormones since Cupcake has cut back on nursing lately). Hopefully these will start to lessen soon!

I won’t be posting every day with what I eat, but will check in soon with updates on how it’s going!

Talk to you soon!

Lindsay