July 11, 2014

Elimination Diets, Food Allergies and Giveaway!


Do you or a loved one ever suffer from unpleasant reactions to the foods you eat?

For some people, the culprits are clear. If you break out into hives and lose the ability to breathe every time you eat peanuts or shellfish, you probably are pretty freakin' well aware of this and do everything you can to avoid these triggers.

However, for many of us, symptoms are vaguer. (Let's just say massive and almost comical postprandial bloating, purely hypothetically). And perhaps the episodes are more variable or sporadic. And also, not so clearly attributable to one specific food.

Anyone want some helpful information on that?

As it happens, we have a giveaway of two copies of Maggie Moon's Elimination Diet Workbook. And Canadians are eligible too!

So what's the deal with elimination diets, and why might you want to win or buy a copy of this book for yourself or an intolerant loved one?


Why You May Want to Consider an Elimination Diet


You'd think it would be a simple matter of noticing which foods give you symptoms, but for some of us--not so simple!  There may more than one category of suspects, and the reactions may also be tied to stress or dependent on how much is consumed. And sometimes you seem to be able to get away with eating anything you want, and other times you can't eat a damn thing without consequences.

Plus what if some of the suspects are insanely healthy foods you actually kind of like and are supposed to be eating more of?

Hello there, tasty roasted cruciferous veggie!
photo: wally gobetz


Or foods you really enjoy the taste of?

Slice of banoffee pie with vanilla ice cream and strawberries
And hi there, wheat and dairy!
banaffe pie photo: wikipedia

It can take an overwhelming amount of evidence to convince yourself that you have to eliminate some of these. Evidence that can be hard to come by if there are multiple possible culprits and inconsistent reactions.

You could keep on guessing and experimenting on your own in a random sort of way--and this is the approach I've been taking (for years!) But sometimes that just doesn't seem to lead to helpful answers, especially if you are as half-assed and inconsistent as I am.

An elimination diet attempts to remove ALL the likely culprits temporarily until symptoms clear up. Then, the possible offenders are added back one at a time in a "challenge" phase.  The goal is eventually to eat as many different foods as are tolerable, both for optimum nutrition, and also so you don't feel like shooting yourself because you are eating the same damn boring safe foods over and over and over.

Wouldn't it Be Better to Go See a Doctor or Dietitian for Help Rather Than Try To Do This Yourself?


Yes it would!  And one of the great things about this book is that it urges you to do so!

But the author knows that some folks might want to try the DIY route first, whether for financial reasons, pragmatic considerations, or general orneriness.

Why Not Just Get Food Allergy and Intolerance Testing?


Skin or sometimes blood tests may sometimes yield clues about food allergies, but there is very little you can test for in terms of food intolerances aside from a breath test for lactose intolerance.

And yeah, there are a lot of  tests out there being pushed by alternative practitioners and online labs, but I've read other places as well that food intolerance tests are have no scientific basis.  An elimination diet, while more of a pain in the ass, is probably a more economical and accurate way to find out what you might need to avoid.

It's a bummer, right? It would be really nice to just offer up some spit or blood and know exactly what the deal is. But the science ain't there yet.

How is The Elimination Diet Workbook Helpful?


There is a great deal of general info on how your digestive system works, which is good for background info. But the most helpful aspects of the book are:

  • What the most common allergies and intolerances are;
  • How to track your symptoms and diet to discover problematic foods;
  • How to do elimination diets generally;
  • How to do a targeted elimination diet, in which you eliminate a smallish group of suspects;
  • How to do a catchall elimination diet, in which you eliminate almost everything anyone would ever want to eat;
  • How to plan, prepare, and actually suck it up and go without your favorite foods for a while;
  • How to keep your family from wanting to kill you as you do this;
  • How to add back foods safely;
  • How to avoid trigger foods and maintain symptom-free eating for the long haul.
The great thing about this book is that it seems to sensible, conservative, totally supported by research, and as medically sound as going to a doctor or dietitian--which again, the book recommends, because a customized interactive approach is going to be more useful than a DIY book.

What Was Less Helpful?


This being CRANKY Fitness, I pretty much never love anything 100%.  The book was not as dense and detailed as I anticipated, and while there are some recipes and meal ideas, I thought there could have been a lot more.

So, After Reading This Book, Did Crabby Do an Elimination Diet?


No, not yet!

The book was really useful for helping me realize that because of the large number of suspect foods I continue to eat, and my total inability to track consistently and figure out which ones are causing my bloating, I would probably be a good candidate for the "Catchall" Diet. My possible suspects include wheat and dairy (goat seems more tolerable than cow) and legumes a lot of vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones, onions, peppers, eggplant, but possibly others too.  And yet casual non-systematic elimination has not yielded the exact offenders, so I continue to eat many of these things, at least occasionally. And there are a lot of other things I eat that could be potential troublemakers but I've never played around with trying to isolate them--nuts and eggs and the oligosaccharides in my Quest bars and almond milk and coconut ice cream, etc, etc, etc.  It just seems too overwhelming.

Since my main issue is bloating and mild irritation and I don't have extreme intestinal distress, I haven't quite been motivated enough to tackle it, and the Catchall approach would probably yield a lot of information in a few miserable weeks.

But the problem with the "catchall" diet is that it's really, really, really restrictive. And did I mention it was restrictive? Seriously, there are only a handful of things you can eat.

Turkey, lamb, rice, millet, pears, cranberries, a couple kinds of squashes, yams, lettuce, canola oil... and that's pretty much it.

Get Used To Me.
photo: pixabay

No coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, dairy, eggs, beef, fish, nuts, wine;  nearly all fruits and vegetables are off limits, all my favorite meals and snacks and beverages, totally verboten for a few weeks... yikes!

A diet like this, even for a very limited time, wouldn't work for me as a hypothetical self-help project. I'd rationalize my way right back out of it after about five minutes. I'd need an actual physician or dietitian telling me I had to do it if I seriously want to stop bloating up like a beached whale for there to be any hope of compliance.  And it might be that with more assistance on figuring out MY likely triggers, it wouldn't have to be that bad.

So I decided to go the Medical Professional route, which is dragging on forever. It took me months to get to my primary care physician who referred me to a GI doc for evaluation first and I still haven't seen him yet...  I think it's gonna be a while before I'm choking down meal after meal of turkey and squash and pears. But if this ever ends up happening, I'll be sure to let you guys know how it goes.

About the Book Giveaway


We have two copies to give away, and let's keep it simple this time, shall we?  If you or anyone you care for might benefit from one, just let me know in a comment below, and we'll have a random drawing Thursday night the17th, and I'll announce winners on Friday the 18th.

Can you guys eat anything you want or do certain foods cause problems? If so, have you had any problems figuring out what they are?

46 comments:

  1. Death Ride GrandmaJuly 11, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    I had quite a few nights of waking up feeling really sick before I realized the culprit was garlic. Of all the things out there, it has to be one of the hardest to avoid. It practically has a cult following thanks to its supposed health benefits. But the way it makes me feel, well frankly, I would prefer to die young. (Younger, anyway - I guess I've already gotten past young.) According to my doctor, it is actually fairly common to have trouble with garlic. I avoid onions that are not very thoroughly cooked, too.

    The only consolation I can offer anyone who might have a similar problem with something that tastes so good: once I knew what was making me feel that lousy, I actually stopped liking the taste. Even the smell is no longer appealing. Something in my brain has learned about the connection.

    Good luck, Crabby, in discovering your food issue. Not fun, but for me it was really worth it. (Oh - I don't need the book, but it sounds like a good one. )

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    1. DRG, that's really interesting about the way you actually learned to "unlike" the taste of garlic! That's definitely encouraging, should I ever figure out which foods my system is not handling all that well. Currently I love so many of the things I am suspicious of, I just haven't had the will to get serious about eliminating them.

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  2. Luckily I don't seem to have any adverse reactions to any foods, at least not any unexplained ones. I would also have a major problem with that diet because right off the bat I saw two foods in the "allowed" list that I couldn't eat for blood sugar reasons. And on that topic, a nano-rant--it's amazing how many nutritional advice books, recipe sections of popular magazines (Real Simple and Southern Living come to mind), and other media make no allowance for diabetics or those who must carefully monitor their blood sugar levels to avoid sliding into diabetes, despite the prevalence of diabetes in this country. You will find rice, pasta, or potatoes in every one, not to mention sugar, syrup, honey or other additions. And those are in main dishes, not desserts. Ok, end of rant.

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    1. Peggy, I'm not even diabetic (just seem to do better low carb) and I totally find this to be true as well. Even the health magazines never seem to have low glycemic recipes! And yeah, good thing you don't have a bunch of sensitivities, because the "elimination" diet would pretty much have you eating nothing but turkey and lamb and canola oil 24/7. Gah!

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  3. I would love a copy of the book! I have been curious about this type of diet for a while now. One method I was considering trying is Whole30 (http://whole30.com/). I don't know what specific foods, if any, cause me trouble, but I suspect there are some. I'm trying to gather the will to do such a restrictive diet in the name of science... I will eventually! :)

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    1. Wow, the Whole 30 sounds like an excellent idea! It would be TOUGH though, and I suspect some of the allowed veggies might still be triggers (for me) but it sounds like a great opportunity to address some bad eating habits I have! Someday perhaps... :)

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  4. Now that I've started to pay attention I'm afraid I can't eat anything. Nothing makes me sick, but it seems like there are gut/bowel reactions to everything. Probably should try the elimination diet. But NO COFFEE! I can barely stand the one day a year when I do a fasting blood test.

    LynM

    Had to google postprandial in case I ever have to take the SATs again.

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  5. Lyn, sounds like we're in a similar situation! And I too shudder about the no coffee thing. You can bet what one of my first "challenges" would be if I end up going on this thing!

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  6. I have had the doctor say "you are never to eat this and that again" and I still do. I don't think I am going to be told what to do by a book. Please send the book to somebody else who is less of a brat!
    I always have to test and see if I can get away with eating a No No food and really how bad will the suffering be.

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    1. Ah, the Brat eating plan, I've been on that one myself Cindy!

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  7. I am in a similar situation, Crabby. TMI ahoy - I suffer from a large amount of gas, occasional bloating, etc. and the thought of trying to figure out what foods are causing it is daunting. Because yes, virtually everything that is a possible culprit is something I eat a lot of. And looking at what's left without it is harrowing. I wonder what life would be like without my annoying digestive issues, but is it compelling enough to do a drastic elimination diet? I don't know. But I think having a guide for it would certainly be helpful. I mean, I don't even really know where to start!

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    1. OtF, so it isn't just me who feels totally daunted by figuring out all the possible culprits? And yeah, I go back and forth on the question of how miserable I'd need to feel to get really serious about it... we'll see! Hope you find some answers too!

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  8. Cows milk really kills my tummy, even just a small amount on cereal. I do miss ice cream but its not worth how horrible it wrecks my stomach. I have found some luck with almond milk.

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    1. Glad the almond milk is working for you Jenny! I use that sometimes too. But now I'm told the caraggeenan in some brands can be irritating for some, so I gotta read the labels...

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  9. I just recently found out I'm sensitive (hives and difficulty breathing) to peanuts/tree nuts at 26 years old! The only thing to show up on a blood food allergy test was shrimp (which I didn't know I was allergic to!!). I now have an inhaler on hand, but am still having difficulty, so I imagine there must be other foods I am sensitive to. I have a feeling that the only way to find out is via an elimination diet (fun, fun), so it'd be great to have someone/thing to hold my hand and lead the way! Thanks for offering this as a giveaway - *fingers crossed*!!

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    1. Oh no, Lauren, that sounds really scary!! Glad you have the inhaler, but yeah, I'd sure want to figure out what was going on when breathing is at stake!

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  10. I'm starting to notice the cruciferous veg are bloating me, but I tend to take a gas pill and ignore it because I'm with you - I don't want to give them up!!!! Soy REALLY causes cramps and bloat, which is a bummer 'cause I LOVE LOVE LOVE edamame, both cooked and on salads, etc. The older I get (almost 47) the more "sensitivities" I develop, including all NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.). But really, these are first world problems as I still have such a wide variety of dietary choices, thank goodness! Deb

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    1. Deb, I'm with you on the soy thing, acck! Soy is one of the few things I'm absolutely positive I need to avoid, it never agrees with me. But yeah, for me, it's totally a 1st world thing as none of my symptoms are dire and I doubt I'll be in any danger of starving no matter how many items I can't digest well.

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  11. I'm glad that others have weighed in so that I'm not so afraid to venture into the land of TMI here! 'Cause really - that's the territory for most of the unpleasant symptoms of various food intolerances, yes?
    I agree with whomever (to lazy to scroll back up and re-read) said they have trouble forgoing coffee even long enough for fasting blood test! I'm right there with you!
    I found out - AGAIN - (how many times will it take?!?!?) over the 4th of July that hot dogs and I don't get along. Yet, I LOVE LOVE them!! Two nice (normal sized) Hebrew Nationals cooked to perfection with all the best 'accoutrements' just did a number to me. Damn.
    And, yes - the older I get, AND the healthier I eat, the more problematic substances I discover (and have had the same garlic thing that someone mentioned - despite loving garlic, but now not as much).
    And, as if food stuff wasn't enough, found out that over exertion can cause some issues for me, too. If I speed walk/run at a certain pace or faster, bad things happen which result in adding time to my ultimate finish time, so why bother trying to go faster??
    I DO think this book sounds good and I totally think that the route you're taking Crabby in terms of getting an authority figure to dispense official instructions is a great way to go! Even if it takes a while. Good luck and PLEASE consider a daily post when/if you go with the restrictive diet thing!

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    1. Isn't that ironic ultrakaz, that the more healthily (if that's a word!) we eat the more things we can't digest? Unfair!

      And I can just imagine what a daily elimination diet blog post would look like: "FUCKKKKKKKKK! I HAAAAAAATE THIS YET AGAIN TODAY!!!!! SHOOT ME NOW!!!!

      :)

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  12. I used to be able to eat anything I wanted (or at least I thought I could) until I realized that I probably shouldn't be eating all the crap. Then, I started running and eating well and taking care of myself. Fast forward a few years and I had to have my gall bladder removed (hmmm...guess I really couldn't eat anything I wanted after all!). So now, I have that PLUS I have the whole runner's tummy issue added in there. I was talking to the ladies at the almond table at FitBloggin a little about my tummy issues and how I tend to stick to eating the same sorts of foods. They called it the toddler syndrome. Ha! Anyway, I never know what the heck my stomach is going to do. I DO know that if I eat too much fat, like from avocados and nut butters, in a day, my upper abdomen bloats and distends and I'm a wreck. And, then, conversely, I could eat a totally bland and boring diet one day, head out for a run the next morning and suffer like I partied the night before. Who knows? I just try to stick to whole, real foods and keep my fingers crossed. :)

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    1. Toddler syndrome, what a great name for it hungry runner! And hmm, I'll have to investigate the fat connection, not something I'd thought to look for, but as I've cut back on carbs I'm definitely eating more nuts, avocado's etc.

      I've been on the "whole foods and fingers crossed" diet for a while now, but am thinking I may be about to give up on some of 'em, temporarily anyway. We'll see!

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  13. I can't imagine how crabby, Crabby, would get if she did an elimination diet! Although, the entertainment factor could be interesting. :)
    I don't have too many issues and most of mine are related to the gastric bypass I had 32 years ago. SOME sugars will really make me sick. Sadly, not all sugars! I have also found out that I don't handle watermelon very well. Mostly though, I can eat pretty much everything. Dangnabit! :)

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    1. VERY CRABBY Sherri! :)

      And watermelon, seriously? It doesn't seem like there's much of anything but water in there to be handle-- How unfair!

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    2. Well, if you eat too much of it you get bloated and it IS sweet, so perhaps all that 'affected' my bathroom visits. Not sure. I also forgot to say, I don't need the book, so if my number comes up, draw another one, ok? :)

      One other thing, that Dr Ion or Eon on the TV show "The Doctors" was on today, talking about his "Smash Diet" book. I looked it up and it seems to be a lot like an elimination type diet. Of course it is hyped on the show so he can sell his books. hahaha

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  14. I laugh about the list of things on the restricted diet. When my mother and I were first tested for allergies (when I was six) two of the things we were allowed before the testing were lamb and lettuce. (I hate lamb to this day.) Behold, we tested very allergic to both of those.
    I wouldn't benefit from this book: as well as the fact that I've been having periodic allergy tests for most of my life, adding foods back after a period of abstention isn't going to tell me a thing unless I can somehow also eliminate pollen, dust, and mold from the air. My symptoms have never been confined to the system where the allergen intake takes place.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Mary Anne, I can't believe what you have to put up with will all your allergies, the fact that you're an actual high-functioning human being despite all that is kind of amazing!

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  15. OK, off to run errands, so may have to drop the indivdual replies for a bit... but thanks everyone who'se stopping in, and good luck on the giveaway!

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  16. Having been stuck between 2 scale numbers for SIX months and bumping up my bike rides to 140+ miles/ week and adding yoga and pilates, I'm wondering if this is something I should look at?

    I've often wondered about what we eat and how it affects us individually, but there is SO much information out there. And one study contradicts another. This stuff can be CONFUSING!!

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  17. WTH? That's twice now I've replied ( I swear) and it hasn't shown up. If this keeps up I am going to develop a simplex.
    Gluten and dairy intolerances showed up via some "non-scientific" muscle testing. Other things like the amaranth family of fine products have been ruled out after elimination trials. I eat them, my face tingles. I don't eat them, I don't tingle. I'm glad for my husband's training in that he can tell me if it's a related plant or not. Meanwhile, keep me out of the draw. Thanks.

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    1. Leah, this happens to me quite often here. Now I try to remember to copy my comment before hitting publish…then I just paste it and try again. Just happened to me tonight, so you are not alone.

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  18. I have had stomach issues all my life and probably misdiagnosed several years ago but eliminating the gluten was a life saver. Sometimes I just have to eat really light. Not much fun but better than being in pain. I could use this book. ~Deb

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  19. I think my stomach issues are all thanks to having my gall bladder removed about 10 years ago. But I'm not trying the elimination diet - once I saw the "no wine" part I nixed that thought!!!

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  20. I totally vote for you trying the elimination diet instead of me!! Your cranky posts are my favorites and there is no way I'm giving up coffee, chocolate, or beef., unless i cant breathe... I love to read your ranting though.

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  21. Allergies to foods are weird things. When i was a child i was allergic to a ton of things, and my parents had me take allergy shots. As to whether the shots worked or i just outgrew the allergies, i don't know, but i don't seem allergic to any of the stuff i eat now.

    #2 Son at one point seemed to be allergic to shellfish, but he's really just allergic to dust mites, and when he's reacting to them and then eats shellfish, it makes it worse. Seems they all have the same protein in their shells.

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  22. I could write a book about what my body likes and doesn't like. My issue is continuing to eat what my body doesn't like. I need a book about eliminating that! LOL!

    Seriously though, I think a lot of health problems can be eliminated by people trying an elimination diet.

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  23. As a child, I've had bad allergies from eating peanuts and strawberries. My doctors then taught my parents how to desensitize me with foods that I had allergies. Now it's been really great. I can eat tons of peanuts and strawberries whenever I want without worrying my airways getting swollen. Good thing, my kids don't have food allergies.

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  24. I can eat just about anything I want. My husband, on the other hand, has problems with onions, fried foods and a few other things. Sometimes it's hard to tell what brings on the tummy aches!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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  25. I´d love this book. I can´t eat tomatoes and oranges, or strawberries. Such a sad thing. This book would be interesting to read.

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  26. I toot to just about anything but I ain't giving certain foods up.. if they made me so sick I puked, I would! ;) I am dairy intolerant so I am careful there... :)

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  27. That book looks interesting. I'll certainly find time to read it, as I'm always learning new things regarding daily nutrition and try to adjust useful tips to my lifestyle. I'm trying to eat to live, not to live to eat.

    I think everyone should listen to his organism and give what it needs and wants.

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  28. I'm sensitive to dairy and sometimes bananas. I'd love to learn what my body needs and eliminate what makes it act up!

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  29. I have similar symptoms to yours, bloating, irritability and fatigue. So I'll follow your journey with great interest. And the book would be helpful.

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  30. I have similar symptoms to yours - bloating, irritability, fatigue. I'll follow your journey with great interest.

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  31. I'd love to receive this book...when I was 2 years old my mom was told that I was allergic tomatoes, strong cheese and CHOCOLATE!! 35 years later...I KNOW that list should be MUCH MUCH longer....

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  32. Does the book explain when you know that you are ready to re-introduce foods? Should you feel much better before you challenge the body or does it not matter. It seems so unclear just to say take it out for 30days, what if not much has changed by then, what if it just would take a little longer for the body to calm down?

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