At Root Functional Medicine, we often guide our clients through an elimination diet as part of the first “R” of the 5R gut healing protocol, which we blogged about last week. We offer both functional medicine elimination diets as well as highly customized elimination diets using the LEAP protocol based on results from the mediator release test (MRT) for food sensitivities. You can see a sample MRT report here. We understand that it can be challenging and emotional to make major dietary changes, even in the name of better health, so here are 5 tips to help you survive the first weeks of an elimination diet:
#1: Get in the right mindset before you start
- Remember that the elimination diet doesn’t last forever, but might improve the way you feel forever!
- Choose the right time to start. If you have a lot of events involving food coming up and you think if might be difficult to be fully adherent to your elimination diet, perhaps wait a few weeks until you can commit to eating all or most of your meals at home.
- Find a support person who knows what you are doing and why that you can call or text if you feel like giving up.
#2: Stress Reduction
Stress reduction is always important, but can be especially helpful when undergoing an elimination diet if you have a tendency to eat emotionally. Practicing meditation or yoga can be helpful and keep you in the right mindset. You also can keep a “stress basket” full of activities you can do when you feel like eating emotionally. Some things you might keep in there would be stress balls, adult coloring books, knitting, etc.
#3: Plan your meals and set your environment up for success
If you are eliminating gluten and dairy but have a tendency to crave bread and ice cream, get those out of the house for the period of the elimination diet. Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps shop for a gluten free and dairy free treat to keep in the house for if you really feel like you need something during the plan so that it doesn’t de-rail you.
By planning your meals and snacks ahead of time you will know exactly what you are going to eat each day and it will reduce the chance of you going out to eat on a whim and potentially becoming non-adherent.
#4: Eat enough calories
Many people tend to under-eat when on an elimination diet. This under-eating can lead to drops in blood sugar and subsequent sugar and food cravings. Just because you are eating different foods doesn’t mean you have to eat less than you usually do. Especially make sure you are eating enough fat, protein, and fiber for satiety.
#5: Stay hydrated
If you eliminate foods that have been causing system-wide inflammation, your body is going to start to shed water along with the reduction in inflammation. Many people lose anywhere between 5-10 pounds of just fluid during the first couple weeks of an elimination diet. This loss of fluid can have you feeling headachy or just generally unwell so be sure to drink an absolute minimum of 64 oz per day. Some people feel better if they include some electrolytes in their water such as a little bit of salt, honey, and a generous squeeze of lemon or orange juice. Avoid store bought electrolyte beverages such as Gatorade because they tend to be full of food dyes and high fructose corn syrup.
If you want to learn more about how an elimination diet might help you optimize your health and reduce inflammatory symptoms, schedule a free 15-minute call with Dr. Armstrong or Kelsey by contacting us.