Connecting Foods with Conditions/Symptoms
Participating in an elimination diet cleanse provides a wonderful opportunity to check-in with those nagging, uncomfortable symptoms. Food can be the gateway to relief. It’s time to be mindful of how you feel and whether or not you are ready to feel better. When you make the decision to eliminate troublesome food triggers, you become aware of how food should be making you feel: energized, nourished, and balanced. During the reintroduction phase of the cleanse, you will learn what foods or food groups aggravate certain symptoms. This new eating experience will help you directly influence your health using the power of food.
Food reactions vary between individuals, but most commonly occur with the following foods/food groups:
More common food sensitivities:
- All gluten-containing grains
- Soy and soy-containing foods like tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, etc.
- Food additives and preservatives
Less common food sensitivities:
- Nightshades – tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, white potatoes (not sweet potatoes/yams)
- All grains, including non-gluten grains and corn
- Legumes, including peanuts
- Some meats
If you read our previous post about cleanse options, you know you can choose a cleanse based on foods that may be a problem. Not all cleanses eliminate the same foods. Yes, there is overlap, but they each have their own guidelines specific to certain needs. You can always ask your Heart Spring Health nutritionist for guidance based on your current symptoms.
When you choose to eliminate certain foods, you are giving your system a chance to rest. Continually consuming reactive foods puts your body in a state of defense. This slow, chronic defense mechanism builds over time to the point of not even noticing how bad you feel.
There is a lot to say about Leaky Gut Syndrome, but let’s keep it simple. Whether you have heard of it or not, the name speaks for itself. This occurs when the lining of your gut, which is normally a tight barrier against bacteria and undigested food in your intestines, loosens up to allow these particles into the bloodstream. Since these particles are not meant to be in the bloodstream, your body recognizes them as foreign invaders and sends antibodies to attack. This leads to an increase in inflammation that may become chronic over a long period of time.
This syndrome has been associated with a wide variety of symptoms. In order to resolve symptoms, we have to heal your gut. The first step is to remove all of the foods, chemicals, and stress that causes leaky gut, and support the gut with nutrient-dense foods, herbs, and beneficial bacteria from fermented probiotic-rich foods or supplements. The protocol behind this can take some time depending on the extent of your gut health, but symptoms tend to improve quickly with small changes to the diet. Improving leaky gut can also improve the other conditions we discuss in this article.
This condition is typically related to common allergens. If you have been experiencing gassiness, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or other discomforts, there is most likely a food in the body needs to remove for a period of time. This food could be setting off an IgG antibody reaction that keeps the body inflamed, symptomatic, and with a permeable (leaky) gut. Typically the protocol to determine what foods causing these symptoms starts with elimination of the triggers (known, suspected, or common foods). Then there is replacement with nutrient-dense foods for at least 4 weeks. Finally, each eliminated food is reintroduced one at a time while keeping a detailed symptom journal. If you notice a reaction, you most likely are sensitive to this food and either need to eliminate it entirely or avoid it as much as possible.
Managing your blood sugar is crucial, whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have a family history. Participating in an elimination diet cleanse can retrain the body to rely on fat and protein for fuel rather than sugar and carbohydrates. This is called being “fat adapted”, meaning you will rely on fat sources and fat stores for your main source of energy rather than ingested carbs, specifically refined carbs. A high intake of carbohydrates triggers the body to produce excess insulin. This can result in a host of issues: inflammation, excess body fat, overactive hunger, etc.
If blood sugar dysregulation is a concern based on family medical history or your primary care physician’s recommendations, a cleanse can help reset you to a supportive way of eating aimed at prevention.
Here is a list of autoimmune diseases that can be positively influenced by diet:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Grave’s Disease (hyperthyroidism)
- Hoshimoto’s Thyroiditis (hypothyroidism)
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Lyme Disease
Autoimmune disorders can be either low activity, in which the body cannot fight off invaders, or over-activity, in which the body attacks and damages its own tissues. Studies have shown that by eliminating certain foods, especially common allergens, and increasing the consumption of nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory foods, autoimmune disorders can be managed.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complicated condition and difficult to diagnose. It is characterized by extreme fatigue that may worsen with physical or mental activity and does not improve with rest. There is a common link between leaky gut and chronic fatigue syndrome, so it’s no wonder that diet may improve symptoms. By improving the health of the gut, your immune system will improve, inflammation will reduce, and detoxification of heavy metals and environmental pollutants (which play a part in fatigue) will become more efficient.
In general, fatigue and brain fog are very common symptoms of food sensitivities/intolerances. Keeping a detailed food journal and tracking moments of fatigue are the best way to figure out the culprit foods. Food is meant to be nourishing, so participating in a cleanse is a great way to reset and discover these healing qualities.
A migraine headache can be absolutely debilitating. Links have been made to certain foods that may trigger migraines.
- Alcohol (especially red wine and beer)
- Aged cheeses
- Cured meats
- Smoked fish
- Yeast extract
- Food preservatives that contain nitrates and nitrites
- Artificial sweeteners
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Because everyone’s symptoms are different, not everyone’s migraines will be triggered by the same foods. However, If you are prone to migraines and have noticed these, or other foods, as potential triggers, eliminating them during the cleanse will surely give you relief.
The health of the gut is highly correlated with one’s mental/emotional health. When one is off, it can affect the other based on how we are physiologically connected. Studies have shown that by improving the health of the gut, behaviors associated with ADD/ADHD are better managed (1). The following food additives have been associated with increased ADHD Symptoms in children:
- All artificial colors
- All artificial flavors
- All artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, acesulfame K, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose
- Sodium benzoate
- Butylated hydroxyanisole and Butylated hydroxytoluene
- Monosodium or monopotassium glutamate (MSG)
- Any hydrolyzed, textured, or modified protein
Asthma and Allergies
Because your immune system is closed associated with regulating symptoms of asthma and allergies, immune-supportive foods play a key role in keeping your lungs and sinuses happy and healthy. By removing all of the common food sensitivities, maybe even including the less common sensitivities depending on the severity of your symptoms, you are letting your over-burdened immune system a chance to rest, while also giving your gut a chance to heal.
Food Relationship – Disordered Eating
If you have been feeling overwhelmed by incessant sugar cravings, continuously over eating, eating out of boredom rather than hunger, or have been eating out and consuming more pre-packaged foods more often than you would like, doing a cleanse is a great opportunity to improve your food relationship.
When life gets hectic, food can often feel like the most comforting part of your day. It physiologically calms us and is meant to provide us with energy for our brains and bodies. However, if the wrong foods are being chosen, the body’s normal hunger and satiation cues become mixed up. This can lead to a less mindful eating experience and one that might leave you feeling overwhelmed and undernourished. By taking a hold your eating experience through a cleanse, you can reestablish a healthy eating habits and become more in-tune with your body’s needs. Some common side effects of diet changes include:
- A change in taste buds to recognize overly sweet/salty foods and enjoy more fresh foods.
- Diminished sugar cravings.
- An increased ability to recognize hunger and satiety.
Mary Bailey is the Registered Dietitian at Heart Spring Health in Southeast Portland, Oregon. She completed her 1,200 Dietetic Internship hours with a variety of experienced RD’s throughout the Portland area, covering a wide variety of conditions and populations. She received her Masters of Science in Holistic Nutrition through the National University of Natural Medicine where many of the ND’s at the clinic also completed their education. Along with continually learning, Mary spends her time exploring the outdoors, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and traveling. Learn more about Mary
- J. T. Nigg et al.: Restriction and Elimination Diets in ADHD Treatment. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 23, 937 (2014)
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