So you’ve progressed through the Detoxification and Elimination phases of the Elimination Diet. Once all of your symptoms are gone, you begin the final phase: Reintroduction (sometimes known as provocation). This is arguably the most important part of the Elimination Diet. It is where your answers are found! By testing foods one at a time, you discover which foods are not tolerated well by your own body. If you jump to this final phase before your symptoms disappear, you will not accurately know if an introduced food is causing your symptom or if it was left over from before.
One food, one category
To reintroduce or test a food properly, you must choose only one food from only one food category. For instance, choose only yogurt from the dairy category – not a number of different dairy foods. Actually, I suggest reintroduce dairy and gluten foods last because they are most common to trigger a reaction and symptoms can last for weeks, potentially making the reintroduction of new foods a long wait.
Once you choose a food, eat that food two to three times per day in a row. If you experience any symptoms, immediately stop eating that food and wait until your symptoms completely disappear before reintroducing the next food. You must now wait three months before reintroducing that particular food that caused a reaction. If you don’t experience any symptoms, you can now include this food in your regular diet.
Citrus and symptoms
I started with citrus. First I chose lemons, as I regularly eat them (hello lemon water!) and was missing them in my diet. I juiced half of an organic lemon in my morning water and then added a quarter of a lemon, including the peel, to my breakfast smoothie. Within minutes of finishing my smoothie my stomach bloated out an inch before my eyes! I did not think it could be so. Initially, I wrote it off to other things: not getting the best sleep the night before, stress the previous day, or did I drink my smoothie too fast?
Then I read that this kind of “writing off” of the connections between foods and symptoms is very common. Especially when it is a food you really want to bring back into your diet! But I had not had a lemon in four weeks, and now that I had, I immediately experienced symptoms. Pretty obvious when you take out the emotions and are left with the facts. So sayonara lemons for three months. But it is worth it to be pain-free.
Next I tested oranges. I don’t regularly eat oranges so I was curious what would happen. The lemon had affected my bowels and things did not regulate for an entire week. I mistakenly tried an orange a little too early and was left unclear about what caused my symptoms. I waited three more days until that orange was out of my system and I was symptom-free. Then I tested an orange again, and two days in a row I was symptom-free. Wahoo! I found my first “yes” food!
Power – not punishment!
This is the magic, the power and the difference of the Elimination Diet. Yes, it can be tough because friends and family can seemingly eat what they want or go out for dinner while you are making all of your food from scratch. And it can feel slow, as cravings for bread and sugar rear their ugly heads. But for the majority of the diet, and especially at the end, you will finally be free from your symptoms, living a fuller and more vibrant life. It may be a life you have been wishing for, or it could be one that you did not know could exist because you have become so used to your symptoms.
You are investing in your health because you have reached a level of pain and frustration that you no longer want to experience. When I am feeling irritated and want to give up (and give in to bread) I use the motivating mantra, “power not punishment.” This is a reminder of my why. Even though cutting out these foods can sometimes feel like a punishment, it is only temporary. I’m doing it for myself to find answers so that I know what foods trigger my symptoms once and for all. And then I never have to go on a restrictive diet again, if I don’t want to. And that is power.
Thanks for following along with me on my Elimination Diet. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me when you see me in the store – I’m happy to help! And FYI, next up on my reintroduction list is bell peppers from the nightshade category.