Today marks the official end of my holiday season, and with it comes the end of bad eating. This holiday season was better than most for me, but there were still a lot more cookies than I’d care to admit to. As I often do at this time of year, I’m shoring up my eating habits. But this January I’m trying something I’ve never done before: an elimination diet.
For those not familiar, an elimination diet consists of two phases: In the Restriction Phase, I’ll cut out many categories of foods that could be causing adverse reactions in my body for a set period of time. Then, during the Challenge Phase, I’ll slowly bring them back one by one, monitoring how each one makes me feel. The idea is to identify those foods or classes of food that might be causing trouble. The purported conditions that may be affected by diet ranges from low energy, to digestive issues, to a compromised immune system, to neurological dysfunction and many more. While there isn’t much scientific evidence supporting a cause-and-effect relationship between certain foods and certain maladies, there many studies that show a correlation between foods or food compounds and various conditions. An elimination diet is a relatively easy and safe way for individuals to rule out food as the cause of a certain condition either before seeking medical screening or testing, or after medical testing has failed to produce any results.
I’ve decided to try it out because, although I eat a pretty healthy diet, I don’t always feel as energetic as I’d like. My doctor and I already ruled out any nutritional deficiency with blood work last year, so I’m hypothesizing that my low energy levels could be due to either poor sleep quality, or perhaps to something I’m eating that my body doesn’t like. Over the next month, I aim to find out.
I’m using the list found here (pages 4 and 5) as a general guideline, but of course, I won’t eat any animal protein, since I follow a vegan diet. I’m also cherry picking a bit from other elimination diet lists I’ve found that will allow me to eat all fruit except for oranges and orange juice.
The diet is quite restrictive, in terms of what it cuts out, but one thing I noticed when looking at the list is that if one is accustomed to eating a whole food, plant-based diet, this is actually pretty similar. I can load up on pseudo grains (quinoa, millet and amaranth), beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and have almost all the fruits and vegetables my heart desires. The toughest part for me will be abstaining from nightshade fruits and vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes. It makes me a little nervous: I love tomatoes and peppers, but what if they don’t love me?
I’ll check in every few days with a post update to let you know how it’s going. So far, I’ve made it through breakfast and lunch and I feel quite well. We’ll see how I’m holding up in four or five days, though.