14 February, 2014
Experiments In … Health: Why I Am Choosing To Do An Elimination Diet.
As you probably already know, I am experimenting with an elimination diet during the month of February. (If you didn’t know, and would like a little more info, click here to read more about it.)
Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to share a little bit about why I am doing this, and why certain foods made the cut list.
There are a couple of reasons I am choosing to do an elimination diet right now.
The first is that I have a history with gut dysfunction. I have made small steps in addressing the various dysfunctions, including a half-assed attempt at an elimination diet about 10 years ago, but have not really put my full attention to healing my gut. It feels like the time to finally do that. Gut dysfunction can cause/be caused by food allergies, food sensitivities, poor lifestyle choices, unhealthy environments, and more. I know that I have several food allergies/sensitivities, and a propensity toward candida (yeast) overgrowth in my body. An elimination diet is one of the most effective and least invasive ways of pinpointing these allergies/sensitivities and balancing the candida populations in my body. Game on!
Reason two is more mental/emotional in nature – on the surface, anyway. I have a looooong history of emotional eating, craving foods (and I mean hard-core craving), and using food as rewards and/or punishments rather than fuel. This diet, in addition to being an opportunity to reset my physical relationship with food is also an opportunity to reset my mental/emotional relationship with food. One really interesting thing is that food cravings are often a direct sign of food allergies: We often crave the very foods to which we are allergic. Bummer. So, our mental/emotional relationships get skewed when the physical relationship goes sour (sometimes literally).
Now that you have a better idea about the whys of this decision, let’s move on to how some of these foods made it to the elimination list. Here’s the list of foods I’m eliminating:
Sugars (exception: fruit)
Dairy (exception: butter)
Here’s a bit about why these foods are getting the ax this month:
SUGARS: Many of us have heard arguments about the dangers of refined sugars in the diet. Refined sugar is addictive (chemically, it’s very similar to cocaine). It is devoid of any nutritional benefit, and, in fact, “leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification, and elimination makes upon one’s entire system.” (Source.) Regular consumption of refined sugar leads to a hyperacidic condition in the body, further depleting our bodies of the mineral-rich foods we do manage to eat by putting those minerals to use in balancing the alkalinity of the body. If taken regularly in the diet, sugar can eventually, and negatively, affect every single organ of the body. (Source.) If that wasn’t enough, there’s the association with dental decay and weight gain. All good enough reasons to eliminate sugar from my diet, but if even that wasn’t enough, check this out …
Sugar is used in the body to replenish glycogen stores in the liver. Glycogen is used to provide fuel for things like exercise. After a particularly grueling session on the treadmill or an especially rigorous cardio dance routine, your glycogen stores are depleted. Eating some type of sugar after these kinds of workouts will help to restore those glycogen levels. However, most of us aren’t eating sugars post-strenuous-workout. Most of us are eating sugars while sitting on the couch, or at our desks, or in the car, or at the bar. Most of us eat sugar when our liver is already full of glycogen. In these instances, the liver turns the sugars into fat. “Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.” (Source.)
Yuck! Who wants a fatty liver? Not I! Besides, if I’m going to refuel after exercise, I’d much rather have a delicious piece of fruit. It’ll replenish those glycogen stores just as well as refined sugars, and will taste just as good without the negative side effects.
So, there you have it. Any questions? This is a particularly informative article for those who’d like to read more.
I could piece together a treaty on the reasons why grains are inhospitable guests in the human body, citing a number of different resources from all the research I’ve done over the years. But … this article states it all so beautifully and so accessibly, that I am going to simply suggest you read it. If you would like more information or more sources to do conduct your own research, message me and I’ll send them to you.
Corn is … wait for it … A GRAIN! It’s not a vegetable like many of us have been lead to believe. So, once again, I refer you to this article on why grains are unhealthy food sources for humans.
I could go on and on about the reasons I try to avoid dairy from large commercial dairy farms: the inhumane treatment of the animals, the debilitating effect on the environment from such husbandry/farming practices, the high amounts of antibiotics and hormones in the end products, the way pasteurization kills off any remaining healthy aspects of dairy products. However, the reason I am eliminating dairy from my diet during this experiment is primarily because it is a common potential allergen (usually resulting from the aforementioned tampering with dairy products by large commercial products) and is mucilaginous, meaning that it causes mucus. Excess mucus is already a problem for most folks with gut dysbiosis, and I certainly don’t want to exacerbate it. I am hoping to give my body a chance to heal before reintroducing local, unpasteurized dairy from happy animals.
This is an excellent article on the important factors to consider when determining whether or not you should consume dairy in your own diet.
Soy is a food I don’t really consume in my regular diet anymore, and I’ll list some of those reasons below. However, the main reasons it made my elimination list this month are because it is a common allergen and it is almost always genetically modified. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to find any soy products that have not been genetically modified, and even if you think you have found some clean soy, it is probably still genetically modified as there are still no labeling regulations for GMO foods here in the good old USA.
These are the other reasons I generally avoid soy (Source):
1. Most soy in the west in used in the form of soy protein isolate. Soy protein isolate is made by putting soybeans into large aluminum tanks with an acid wash. The acid causes the soybeans to absorb aluminum. They are then treated with nitrated and other chemicals. Aluminum has been linked to many mental disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Nitrates have been implicated in cancer development.
2. Soy, a natural goitrogen, has the ability to impair iodine absorption and reduce thyroid function.
3. Like grains, soybeans have high phytate concentrations, which leads to an inability of the body to absorb vital minerals.
4. Soybeans are legumes. (See below.)
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, legumes are well-armed with anti-nutrients such as phytates and trypsin inhibitors, and some have specialized complex sugars that can wreak painful revenge upon the mammalian gut that consumes them without proper disarming.
It has also been noted that while legumes are relatively high in protein, they are comparatively even higher in carbohydrates. This means that eating legumes in large quantities can lead to large insulin spikes that can tax the body unnecessarily.
And, well, let’s not forget the old adage about being good for the heart … the more you eat them … well, you know what happens. Whole 9 Life’s Legume Manifesto tells us that because some of the short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) found in legumes aren’t properly digested and absorbed in the digestive tract, they can act as food for bacteria living in the intestines. These bacteria then “ferment” these carbohydrates, which can create unpleasant symptoms like gas and bloating, and potentially contribute to gut dysbiosis – an inherently inflammatory condition.
I am eliminating yeast because it is a common allergen, but also because, as previously mentioned, I have a history of yeast imbalance in the body. I want to give my body a chance to restore balance, and adding yeast foods can only exacerbate any imbalance that is already present.
As you likely already know, caffeine can cause a host of side effects in the body such as insomnia, irritability, increased heart rate, anxiety, restlessness, and other such unpleasantness. Plus, to release caffeine from the system causes some pretty gnarly withdrawal symptoms. (Ever have a caffeine withdrawal headache? Horrible!)
I figure anything that can be realistically referred to as a drug and causes such a mess when removed from the diet, should generally not be ingested during an elimination diet. Know what I mean?
Let me just refer you to the explanation for CAFFIENE/COFFEE.
An additional reason to eliminate booze this month? I have a bit of rosacea which causes facial redness and inflammation. Alcohol exacerbates rosacea. Boom! Who says booze makes one prettier? I say not having booze makes me prettier.
Nightshades are common food allergens.
So, there you have it. My main reasons for eliminating the things I’m eliminating this month. I’ll try to post in soon about my progress. It’s proving to be a pretty interesting experiment so far. Hope you’re all having a beautiful February, and that your hearts are overflowing with love, love, love!!