The Food Elimination Diet

It is time to make some changes.  (I also changed my blog theme – I felt the old one was hard to read and I think this one is better!)  Changes that, in all reality, will be terribly hard and even potentially socially ostracizing, but that hopefully will provide a great deal of help to my skin.

As soon as the holidays pass, I am going to try the Food Elimination Diet to help manage my eczema.  I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I may well start this on January 1st just because it’s an easily memorable starting point and you have the whole psychologically motivating aura of a fresh new year.  I’d start it tomorrow, but I would be setting myself up for failure by doing it right before the holiday!

The Food Elimination Diet removes the BIG SEVEN of allergens:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Fish

And yes, I mean removing them all at once.  In addition to this, there are a few other foods/drinks that I plan to avoid, because of experiences with them in the past that leads me to believe my system does not take kindly to them.  These are:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Honey
  • Citrus
  • Tomatoes
  • Coffee
  • Caffeine

And then, just because they’re really not good for anyone, I am going to try and avoid refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.  It’ll be no good if I follow this elimination diet but stuff myself with Gummy Worms out of sheer desperation!

If I wanted to, I could get REALLY crazy and eliminate all nightshade vegetables (besides tomatoes, that’s potatoes and eggplant) and foods that have a moderate cross-reaction with latex (apples, carrots, celery, melons, and oh yeah, also potato and tomato).  The verdict is still out on if I will actually do this too.

This begs the question.  What the hell am I going to eat??  Although it sounds very spartan, there are many foods available.  I plan on  eating a lot of rice, quinoa, oats/oatmeal, vegetables (esp. green leafy ones like spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower), beans, squash, some fruits, pure maple syrup as sweetener, and oh yes…. MEATS.

As someone who has been a quasi-vegetarian and has never liked most meats, even from early childhood, the thought of actually having to buy and cook raw meat for myself frankly disgusts and intimidates me.  I like fish, and I like bacon, but other than that I’m pretty ambivalent.  The thought of red meat is revolting (I haven’t had it in years on principle), and the thought of turkey or chicken is also gross.  I will eat it ONCE IN A WHILE (like at someone’s house, out of politeness) but cook it for myself and then choke it down?  Ugh.

At the same time, I don’t believe that I can get a perfectly well-rounded diet using just beans for protein.  As chicken and turkey are foods that are very low on the list of allergens, I think that this is an adequate trade-off to try for healthier skin.

MY PLAN:

From what I have been reading online about the Elimination Diet, people with eczema and other conditions have had excellent results with it, helping target exactly which foods bother them.  But, you need to follow it exactly.  No cheating and saying, “oh, well I didn’t have any gluten today, but maybe I can have just one cookie”.  Or, “Well, I’m not sure if there is soy in these egg rolls, but I’m only eating a few of them”.  This mentality is why my previous stints of ‘food elimination’ were not very helpful – because ultimately I ended up cheating.

So, I will avoid all of these foods for at LEAST 4 days – it may take up to three weeks – until I see improvement in my skin.

Then, I can start adding back foods one at a time, eating a new food 1 to 3 times a day and monitoring for any symptoms.  During this time, keeping a food diary is very important, as any ‘reactions’ may not come on immediately.  Basically I plan to add a new food about every week, as I think this will be enough of a time span to see what effects it may have.

FORESEEING OBSTACLES:

Basically I will not be able to go out to eat at all during this time, and will have to prepare all my own food.  I will also have to be prepared with PLENTY of food on hand at work, because if I get hungry, I will be subject to temptation.

I will also likely have to explain this diet to my family and in-laws.  My in-laws have a standing tradition that we go out for breakfast every other week, and they’ll need to understand why I’m not eating ‘normal’ foods.  (Really, I have no idea at all what I would eat in a normal restaurant on this temporary diet.  Bowl of lettuce and cucumbers??)

I will need to get over my abhorrence of meat and learn how to cook it.  I’m okay with this if it helps me, and I have some time over the Christmas break to plan shopping lists and recipes and meals for this Elimination Diet.  I will also not be able to have many packaged foods.  All I can think of right now for packaged snacks is rice cakes and Rice Chex.

I also anticipate feeling very deprived and depressed.  Yeah, this is a very restrictive thing, and I’m going to be eating foods that I don’t actually like.  Therefore, I will head this off by having some sort of non-dietary ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ system for myself – like if I make it through the challenge, I get to buy myself new running shoes or something.

And, before I set forth on this elimination diet, I might just have to have one final splurge.  I almost never eat dairy because I feel that it bothers me, but I’ve been craving pizza for days…. 🙂

Have you ever tried some form of eliminating foods for your health conditions?   Has it helped you?  Any advice for me?

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8 thoughts on “The Food Elimination Diet

  1. Amanda says:

    Well, obviously you know about me. Haha. Good luck with this! For snacks, I usually have fruit, Cinnamon Rice Chex (has sugar, but so does regular rice chex, believe it or not). If I were you — and I’m not — I wouldn’t avoid sugar at the same time because it could just make it even MORE difficult. I’m not saying go out and eat candy all day, but it will to stay away from all of it. Also, Enjoy Life is a brand that makes allergen-free snacks (again, there’s sugar, though!)

    My main advice is just to stick with it completely even though it’s hard. It’s better to do it once and do it right, than have to keep starting over and over again! 🙂 Good luck!!

  2. Ah! I didn’t realize they made cinnamon Chex. Good deal! Well, with the sugar thing…. I’m just going to stay away from the really apparent things like candies, since so many packaged foods have SOME sugar. Trader Joe’s has these awesome cookies that are touted as “Free of the Eight Common Allergens” (of course, yes, they are cookies and have sugar) that just might be my saving grace here when I start to go crazy from rice and plain chicken!

    Thank you! That’s what I think too. I can get through a couple tough months of this and just do it once and for all!

  3. […] a good day for me to practice self-control and adherence to restricting some foods, in light of my anticipated trial of the Elimination Diet for my […]

  4. […] plus a few other additional foods that I suspect could be a problem.  I discussed this a bit in my previous post about this diet, but ultimately settled on the […]

  5. Jennifer says:

    How is the meat cooking coming along? Ha! Enjoying flesh again 😉 ? You mentioned beans, but don’t forget about lentils- the red variety are so especially delicious, as are the others – and they are loaded with protein as well. We eat tons of beans and lentils and only fish or chicken once a week and do fine with energy, etc.

    You mentioned oats- I’m sure you’ve checked this, but make sure they are gluten-free – must say this clearly on the bag/box.

  6. Oh boy – I had to psych myself up to cook a plain turkey burger yesterday!! It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought, but I still tried to eat it quickly and not really taste it. Oh yes, lentils! I enjoy those too, I just haven’t eaten them in a couple weeks. Those would go nicely with a grain or salad, I’m putting those on the list for my next shopping trip.

    Uh-oh, I am not sure if my oats are gluten free. YIKES! If it IS gluten making me itch, what if those are the culprit…. I may have to start this over! :O

  7. Mel says:

    I spent the last two days reading up your blog from past until recent. You are my skin soul twin. Everything from reacting badly to aveeno, oil of olay to my love and trust for Tarte cosmetics. … i am just so relieved that someone out there actually knows what i go through. Really its unbelivable and thank you for sharing and being so knowledgable. I still have to finish reading up on your most recent entries. I would just like to share with you that I recently discovered the Paleo Diet. It caught my attention when i watched an HOUR long lecture on youtube called Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet: Health Implications for the 21st century by Loren Cordain. If you cant sit through the lecture you HAVE to watch from the 30 minute mark until the end. It explains many things. One of the many things that really caught my attention is that every health problem in the human body stems from inflammation. That is one of my least favourite words as i face inflammation everyday on my skin. Anyway… its only been a week since i have adapted to the Paleo way of life.

    This is the first time in my life that i am changing my eating habits. I am not a believer of diets but i agree with this lifestyle of eating. ALready i dont feel tired, i dont feel bloated, i dont itch (i only itch out of eczema HABIT… ahhh!!!), and my intestines feel much cleaner, i dont have hunger pains and i am more regular (sorry too much info). The thing that is bringing me down is that i also decided to stop using ELIDEL and now my skin is going through a night mare withdrawal. Weeping skin all through the night, bumpy red skin, thin skin, etc etc etc… you know the drill

    Anyways…im gonna finish reading your lastest entries to see how you went through your withdrawal and meanwhile i would love to know how you think about the lecture on the evolution of the western diet!

    Take care!

    • Hi Mel,
      Wow! I am so flattered that you have been reading through all my posts! It’s so nice to know we are not alone, isn’t it??

      Thanks for your info about the Paleo diet! I have a fitness and nutrition background from school so I am sure I will enjoy checking out that video. I actually did a full report and presentation on the Paleo diet in my studies at school about a year ago, so I am well familiar with it…I even own the book and everything…lol. I personally don’t think I could ever go full-on Paleo because I simply don’t like the texture of most meats and could not see eating meat that frequently. But, I do believe in the basic tenets that it upholds – lots of fruits and vegetables, no dairy, no processed foods, no added salt, etc. My own diet is mostly vegan or vegetarian with a little bit of meats or dairy or eggs here and there..(gotta have some chocolate or pizza once in a while just for a treat….haha)…lots of whole foods, lots of vegetables. Absolutely I believe a healthy diet should minimize inflammation and the foods that cause it, like excess caffeine, alcohol, refined carbs, etc. Even if it has no affect on my skin, I just FEEL better and therefore I probably don’t scratch as much.

      I’m glad that you are having success with the diet!! Sorry to hear about your skin acting up though. I”m not sure what your eczema history is, but as you read more of my posts, you will see my journey of topical steroid withdrawal….maybe the same is true for you (your skin may be ‘addicted’) and hence why you flared up when stopping the use of Elidel.

      Anyway good luck to you and stay in touch! would love to hear how your skin and diet is getting on, and I will be watching that video you kindly suggested 🙂

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