Tag Archives: diet

Elimination Diet: A plan to discover food sensitivities

Do you ever have digestive issues or skin irritations?  Do you get headaches or sometimes just feel “under the weather” and not know why?  Or experience on-going problems that you can’t seem to figure out?  There is a possibility you may have a food sensitivity or intolerance.

Food intolerances or sensitivities are becoming more and more common.  Allergy tests do not show if you have a food intolerance since it’s not an actual allergy.  So it’s important to take note of any signs or symptoms you are having and try to get some answers!

My previous blog post was about Food Allergies and Sensitivities  what the signs and symptoms are and which foods are most likely to cause issues.  If you experience adverse effects after eating a food or you just don’t feel good sometimes, you may want to consider trying an Elimination Diet.

An elimination diet is a short term plan that avoids certain foods that you think may be causing problems.  Then you individually reintroduce those foods to find the culprit.  The 8 foods that account for about 90% of all food allergies are the ones to be eliminated from the diet.  These include:  dairy, gluten/wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish.

There are several different versions of the elimination diet.  Some are very restrictive and also eliminate pork, beef, beans, coffee, citrus fruits, all nuts, and more.  I guess the more you restrict, the more you’ll find out, but I find this to be too difficult.  If you suspect a food is causing issues that’s not one of the 8 common allergens, then by all means add that to the list of foods to avoid.

The duration for an elimination diet is 21-23 days (some plans go as long as 6 weeks).  The reason for this is that it takes about 21 days for your body to remove the foods’ antibodies.  In order to get the most benefits from an elimination diet, you must avoid the offending foods for at least 21 days.

How to do a basic elimination diet

It’s important to take note of any symptoms you are having.  Bloating, energy levels, digestive issues, skin problems.  Write it all down before you begin.  Avoid the eight foods (or any food that you suspect) for 21 days.  Make sure you completely avoid the food, which means you’ll become an expert at reading food labels.  If you consume even a small amount of these foods, it’s best to start over to get an accurate response.  It is helpful to keep a food diary during this time so you can keep track of what you’re eating.

Now it’s time to “test” each food individually.  On day 22, choose one food that was eliminated and eat it several times that day (and that day only).  Record any symptoms you have for the next 48 hours.  If you have no symptoms, repeat and note any symptoms again for two days.  If you don’t notice any adverse symptoms, then you can assume you don’t have a sensitivity or intolerance.  Follow the same steps with each food (only one at a time).

By following this basic elimination diet, you can find out if any of these foods are causing you to feel bad or have symptoms that you never realized.  After testing each food, it’s your choice to continue eating that food or avoid it.  It’s very important to listen to your body during the “testing” of each food.  You may notice that you feel great without gluten or you no longer have break outs when avoiding dairy.

Elimination Diet. A plan to find food sensitivities. Click To Tweet

When doing an elimination diet, be sure you are eating enough whole, nutritious foods to fuel your body.  This isn’t a weight loss plan.  It’s a plan to help figure out how to feel your best each day!  It may be meticulous and take some planning, but over the grand scheme of things a few weeks isn’t long at all.  And don’t we all want to feel our best.

Have you ever done an elimination diet?

If not, do you feel the need to try it?

Omega-3’s: Why do we need them?

Omega-3, also known as linolenic acid, is an essential fatty acid that we must get through our diet.  It’s a type of polyunsaturated fat that our body cannot produce so we have to get it from food we eat.  Omega-6, linoleic acid, is also an essential fatty acid, but most people get a lot of this type of fatty acid through the “standard diet”.  The goal for overall health is to obtain a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

There are three forms of omega-3 fatty acids:  ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexanoic acid).  ALA is found in plants and can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body.  DHA and EPA are naturally found egg yolks, some plant and nut oils, and in cold water fish and shellfish.

Some overall health benefits of omega-3’s are:

  1. reduces inflammation
  2. reduces blood clotting
  3. dilates blood vessels
  4. important for eye and brain development (especially important for a growing fetus in the late stages of pregnancy)
  5. acts to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  6. may help preserve brain function
  7. helps decrease risk factors for disease
  8. may help reduce the risk of mental illness and ADHD, although more research is needed to confirm mental health benefits

Getting the proper amount of omega-3’s in the diet can help athletic performance and recovery.  Reducing inflammation and helping with blood flow are important benefits for athletes and active people.

Omega-6 fatty acids tend to be pro-inflammatory.  These are mostly found in vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oil).  We do need omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, but we need to maintain the right balance.  Most Americans get too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.  Balancing these two fatty acids is necessary for supporting normal circulation and other biological processes.

While there is not a dietary reference intake (DRI) for the ideal amount of EPA and DHA, the Institute of Medicine has established an adequate intake for ALA (the precursor to EPA + DHA).  The Institute of Medicine recommends 1.1 grams per day of ALA to be the minimum amount for normal growth and neural development.  It has been recommended that we get 1.25 grams of EPA+DHA per day, which is found in about 2-3 serving of fatty fish per week.

Can we get all the needed omega-3 fatty acids from only eating plant based sources?  ALA (found in plants), being the precursor, needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body.  According to this study, “the conversion appears to be unreliable and restricted” and “the conversion from ALA to DHA is severely restricted”.

Being plant based, I was always curious if I was getting the proper amount of omega-3’s in my diet.  Earlier in the year, my doctor advised that I take a fish oil supplement.  I was hesitant, but started taking it daily in hopes of decreasing my CRP level .  C-reactive protein (CRP) levels rise in response to inflammation.  After three months (along with some other changes) I was able to get my CRP down to a healthy level.

It’s always best to get your nutrients from food, but sometimes supplementation is needed.  When taking a fish oil supplement, quality is very important.  Some other tips on taking fish oil are:  keep it refrigerated as it could oxidize if left out in the heat;  take it with food to avoid “fish burps” or you can freeze it; most benefits happen over weeks not immediately;  fish oil can increase brain activity, so a stimulatory effect may be felt after supplementation; fish oil may reduce blood clotting, so take caution if you are on a blood-thinning medication. (Examine.com)

Also available is an algae supplement, which is a vegetarian alternative.

Some food sources of omega-3’s are:

  • salmon
  • anchovies
  • sardines
  • walnuts
  • chia seeds
  • flax seeds
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Getting omega-3’s in your diet, as well as lowering omega-6, has many important health benefits.  As you can see, there are several ways to get those essential fatty acids.  Whether from fatty fish or flax seeds or if you choose to take a supplement.  It’s essential to do research or talk to your doctor or dietician to find the best option for your overall health.

How do you get your omega-3’s?

Have you ever taken a fish oil or algae supplement?

What if I don’t like fruits and vegetables?

It cannot be ignored that fruits and vegetables are such a vital part of our diet.  They provide us with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.  And they are so colorful and delicious!

Phytonutrients (also known as phytochemicals) are compounds produced in plants.  They are found in all edible parts of a fruit or vegetable but are often concentrated in the skin.  Each phytonutrient has “different proposed effects on and benefits for the body.”  Research suggests that there are thousands of phytonutrients!

Fruits and vegetables give us energy, keep our bodies working properly, and help us feel healthy.  They also may reduce the risk of many diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Most people know the importance of including a variety of fruits and vegetables in our daily diets.  A rule of thumb is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal or snack.  Also, try to eat a variety of colors.  But, what do you do if you don’t like fruits or vegetables?  (a question asked by my husband!)

The nutritional value of plants is hard to replace.  Yes, there are multivitamins and daily greens pills, but our bodies prefer real, whole foods and supplements are not a replacement.  For optimal health, these foods are a necessity!

If you don’t like fruits or vegetables, here are some helpful tips:

Keep trying different types.  There is always something new to try as the variety of fruits and vegetables is endless.  You aren’t limited to apples, bananas, and carrots.  Go to your local farmer’s market or grocery store and pick out something new to you and give it a try.  Have a goal to try something new each week.

Hide them.  Remember the cookbooks “Sneaky Chef” or “Deceptively Delicious?”  You can puree fruits or vegetables and “hide” them in certain dishes.  You can blend them in soups, sauces, chili’s, or casseroles.  In the past, I’ve added shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce or shredded zucchini to lasagna.

Bake them.  Who doesn’t love a good banana or pumpkin bread?  You can bake shredded carrots, apples, or zucchini into muffins or bread.  I’ve made Green Monster Muffins that have spinach in them and are delicious!

Smoothies.  Add greens or just about any fruit to a smoothie.  In most cases, you can’t even taste the greens.

Find the right texture.  There are many ways to cook vegetables.  Grill, roast, sauté, bake, stir fry.  You can even make veggie “chips” or “fries.”  Using different cooking methods will bring out different flavors.  I love just about any vegetable roasted!

Add flavor.  There is no reason to eat bland veggies.  Add some spices, olive oil, garlic, lemon, fresh herbs, or balsamic vinegar.  Add some fruit to your cereal or yogurt.

There are endless ways to prepare fruits and vegetables and chances are you will find one that you like.  Don’t give up!  Knowing the health benefits of plants should be reason enough to find a way to get them into your daily diet.

I’ve slacked off lately, but it’s time for me to be a “sneaky chef” and include more phytonutrients in my husband’s (and kids) daily meals!

What’s your favorite fruit and vegetable?

Do you ever “sneak” plants into your family’s meals?