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?
And hi there, wheat and dairy!
banaffe pie photo: wikipedia
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?
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?
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?
- 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?
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.
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
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?