Three weeks after meeting with Dr. Howard, I returned to his office to get the results of my Dietary Antigen Test. He walked me through the 12 pages of results, showing me how to read whether I have no adverse response, an allergic response, or a sensitivity (inflammatory) response to the 80+ foods tested. I was very curious. I expected to see a couple of things listed as an allergy or sensitivity, such as dairy (I’ve struggled with eating dairy since childhood), but I also wondered what surprises the test might reveal.
As I expected, cow’s milk was listed with an inflammatory response. The surprise was that scallops came back as an allergic response. I have never had a noticeable response after eating scallops; however, that reaction could be mild and not obvious to me. I like scallops but do not eat them often, so that won’t be hard for me to avoid.
The results handout included a summary of which foods to limit or eliminate from my diet based on my body’s reaction. Each food was put into one of three lists: No Limitation, Limit (rotate), or Eliminate. Though I have seen many lists of the most common inflammatory foods previously, I really appreciated finally having a list specific to me.
The following are the foods that I should eliminate from my diet:
- Aspergillus Mix (fungus/mold – hidden in ingredients like citric acid)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Candida (yeast – feeds on sugar)
- Cow’s Milk
- Egg Albumin (egg white)
- Whole Wheat
- White Potato
What does it mean that my body has an inflammatory response to these foods? Why and how does that happen? I have something called Leaky Gut. The lining of my gut is damaged and allows food particles to pass through before being completely broken down. My immune system recognizes these food particles as foreign bodies and attacks, causing an inflammatory response. Check out the post, “What is Leaky Gut?”, from The Paleo Mom for the science behind Leaky Gut.
Working with Dr. Howard, Michelle and I made a plan to eliminate the foods in the limit or eliminate lists for 12 weeks. By giving my body 12 weeks without foods that trigger an inflammatory response, I will allow my gut to start healing. After this period, I will reintroduce each food one at a time in 4 day intervals and note any reactions or symptoms I feel. These symptoms could include inflamed joints, aches, brain fog, and/or rashes.
Sometimes when you are living with constant symptoms, those symptoms feel normal and you don’t recognize them as a reaction. That is why the elimination phase is so important. You have to learn to feel good again. As my gut heals and I feel better overall, I will be able to notice if my body responds negatively when I reintroduce a food. Also, because my gut will have started healing, some of these foods may no longer create a negative reaction when reintroduced and can be added back into my everyday diet. Others may need to be either eliminated longer to allow for more healing or completely eliminated going forward. Ultimately it is my decision whether to eat a food that causes a reaction. I get to determine if the reaction or symptoms are worth it. This plan gives me the information to make that decision for myself.
Michelle and I started the elimination plan four weeks ago. For the first two weeks, we eliminated 100% of the foods that cause an inflammatory response. We made all our meals at home so that we could control exactly what went into our food and did not have to worry about unknown ingredients or cross contamination. This is a major change from our normal lifestyle of eating out several meals a week.
Those first two weeks were tough – much tougher than I expected. There was a lot of whining and even some tears. We were craving our favorite foods and restaurants. I had days that I would have done anything for pizza and wanted to completely quit the elimination. There is definitely an addictive element to food for me. I am so thankful to have an amazing support person in Michelle. Even still, I started feeling there was no way we could make it the whole 12 weeks.
During week three, we found a couple of options at restaurants that were mostly within our eating plan. We went out to eat a couple of times but still cooked most meals at home. Week four came and the eating plan went totally off the rails. We quickly went back to our pre-elimination eating habits.
During this week, I had an appointment to see Dr. Howard, and I was dreading it. As an overweight person, I have definitely felt shamed by some doctors regarding my weight. During the appointment, we discussed how the elimination was going, and I filled him in on the struggles we were having. He asked how I felt physically during the first two weeks when we stayed 100% on plan. I recognized that I had felt more energy, less aches, and less puffiness in my feet and fingers. Dr. Howard encouraged me to look at the positives from those two weeks and use that as motivation to eat back on plan. He never tried to shame me. Instead, he reinforced how hard food changes can be and encouraged me to give myself grace.
Where do we go from here?
Michelle and I recommitted to the elimination plan with some modifications. Since an “all or nothing” approach does not work well for us, we want to allow some of the less reactive foods in our diet. Some flexibility will help us stay on track more than rigid restriction will. Part of creating a sustainable lifestyle change will be finding balance. I also want to work to change my focus from thinking about what I can’t eat to the results that I am already seeing and feeling.