As a functional medicine practitioner, my job is to uncover the root issues of chronic health problems and coach my patients into well-being.
But as many other health professionals will tell you, it's easy to put yourself on the back burner and forget about taking care of your own health.
Practicing what I teach, I've always eaten healthy, but that wasn't enough. With 60-plus-hour workweeks and a family to take care of at home, I felt increasingly drained of energy and just not like myself.
I have MTHFR genetic mutations, which contributed to years of autoimmune spectrum digestive and skin problems. With my stress level shooting up and adrenal fatigue creeping into my life, I had to do something more.
So I decided to reset my health with an autoimmune elimination diet. I've seen autoimmune protocols do wonders in thousands of my patients' lives over the years, and I wanted to see what it could do for me.
After 60 days, I found I had increased energy, fewer digestive issues, and also uncovered hidden food intolerances that I'll be mindful of in the future.
I recommend everyone try this elimination diet — whether you have inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, food intolerances, digestive or skin issues, or just want to feel your very best.
Here's what I did:
What I Ate on the Diet
Vegetables: At least 6 cups of veggies per day.
I focused on a variety of different colors, especially green leafy vegetables, which contain folate, necessary for supporting methylation pathways. I also ate starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and yams.
Fruit: Just a few small handfuls per day.
I wanted to limit my fructose intake, so I focused on berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
Organic meat: 1 to 2 palm-size pieces per meal.
I focused mainly on the wild-caught fish that are on my superfood list, such as wild-caught salmon. I also enjoyed grass-fed beef and organic chicken.
Healthy fats: 1 to 3 tablespoons per meal.
I cooked with natural fats from grass-fed organic meats, like tallow and also clarified butter or ghee. I also cooked with — and ate off of a spoon — extra-virgin coconut oil every day. I used avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil for dressings and other room-temperature uses.
Other foods I enjoyed occasionally:
- Coconut: There are so many uses for coconut. I enjoyed full-fat coconut milk, butter, and aminos (a great soy sauce alternative!).
- Grain-free flours: I used (in moderation) flours from cassava, coconut, and plantains as alternatives for baking. I also used tapioca starch and arrowroot powder.
- Natural sweeteners: I used small amounts of raw honey, grade B maple syrup, and molasses.
Here's what a typical day of meals looked like:
- Breakfast: Smoothie with avocado, spinach, berries, coconut milk, and oil
- Lunch: Salad of field greens with wild-caught salmon and olive oil, vinegar dressing
- Snack: Organic bacon-wrapped dates and kale chips
- Dinner: Sautéed vegetables in coconut oil, sweet potatoes with coconut butter and albacore tuna
(I'll be sharing some of my favorite recipes for this autoimmune protocol on my Facebook page.)
What I Avoided Eating
If you're going to try this diet for yourself, do it fully. Eating mostly elimination foods is like being mostly pregnant: You either are or you aren't. I encourage you to do this health experiment with determination. Here are the foods I eliminated for 60 days:
Refined and artificial sugars:
Most of us in the health world don't eat these already, but I also avoided the healthier-sounding euphemisms that make us feel better about consuming them. Sugar is still sugar, no matter how exotic the name.
That included all grains — even the gluten-free ones such as rice, quinoa, oats, and corn.
Dairy and eggs:
I took out eggs to rule out an albumin (egg-white protein) intolerance, which is common with leaky gut syndrome.
Nuts and seeds:
Although most people consider these to be generally healthy, I took nuts and seeds out because I find they can be rough on the gastrointestinal system and cause inflammation in some people.
This includes white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and some spices. These can cause inflammation in some people with autoimmune spectrum problems.
FODMAPS refers to foods like legumes, onions, and garlic. They can aggravate the gut in some people, and since I have digestive issues I wanted to limit them (although I didn't avoid them entirely). For a full list of foods in this group, read my article on FODMAPS.
Alcohol and caffeine:
I avoided all alcohol during this time and restricted my caffeine intake to just a few cups of green or white tea per day.
What I Discovered After 60 Days
After 60 days, I slowly brought foods back in over a few weeks, looking out for any flare-ups of my symptoms or a decrease in my energy level. Here is the order I used to reintroduce the foods:
- FODMAP fruits and vegetables
- Eggs (Note: I brought yolks in first, then the whole egg, because the albumin protein in the white is typically the part that causes problems.)
- Nuts (Note: I brought cashews and pistachios in last because they are members of the poison ivy family, and more people have issues with these.)
- Dairy (Note: I reintroduced in this order: grass-fed butter; raw goat yogurt or kefir; raw goat milk; raw goat cheese; raw cow cream; raw cow yogurt or kefir; raw cow milk; raw cow cheese.
During my 60-day food experiment, I went outside of my comfort zone and discovered that I enjoyed foods I thought I wouldn't like (such as sea vegetables and shellfish).
I also found out that sugar makes my life worse — no surprise there. Milk, legumes, and most gluten-free grains also don't agree with me. And I discovered I don't feel as good when I have lots of nuts or fruit. While this is what I found for myself, what works for you will probably be different.
Besides pinpointing these smaller food intolerances, I also enjoyed renewed energy, clearer skin, and fewer digestive issues overall.
What's Right for You?
Everyone is different, so the foods you eat and avoid, as well as the speed of reintroduction, should be too. Food immune reactivity labs can help customize what’s right for you. We offer a free webcam or phone evaluation to talk about your unique case.
Also, remember that just because you have a food intolerance now doesn't mean you always will. Many of my patients find that as they heal their gut, they can tolerate more foods.
- The Little-Known Food Intolerance That Could Be Harming Your Health (Hint: It's Not Gluten)
- 7 Habits Of People Who Have Great Poops
- The Candida Diet: 8 Foods To Eat + 8 To Avoid While Healing Your Gut
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