Food is a big deal. Our inner “hunter-gatherer” is wired to think about it a lot, and to seek it out, and of course to eat as much as possible, even when we aren’t hungry. If we are what we eat it makes perfect sense that taking a look at what we are ingesting is one of the first steps towards better health, including healthy brain function.
Eating the same foods, even nutritious ones, day after day can lead to a leaky gut as well as immune intolerance to these foods. This intolerance creates a pro-inflammatory internal environment. In your brain this might simply feel like brain fatigue, or cloudy thinking. Elsewhere in your body you might feel joint pain, muscle aches, migrating pains and a disturbed digestion. Such inflammation can exacerbate other inflammatory conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or other autoimmune diseases.
If you’re like me, the thought of restricting foods that you eat on a regular basis is overwhelming. It’s easy to put up blocks to making changes in your diet, and for me, the mental back and forth game justifying why chocolate and dairy have no ill effects on my health is almost amusing.
When symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, or health issues arise, it’s time to get serious.
Changing what you eat can be one of the least expensive and yet most effective ways to improve both brain and overall health. The good news is that an elimination diet is simple, effective and best of all short-term.
A side-effect to this protocol? A reboot to your metabolism. So if you have been stuck trying to lose weight, this might be the key to helping you shed unwanted pounds. The ultimate goal is to identify foods that trigger your immune system while healing your leaky gut so that the cycle does not persist.
How to get started?
The first step is to make a game plan. Identify the yes and no foods and stock your larder with foods for success. You may also need to completely clean out the “don’t” foods from the kitchen so that you aren’t tempted during the challenge. Eliminating foods that you currently rely on for satisfying meals can lead to blood sugar crashes if you aren’t ready with replacements that you enjoy.
Remember, food is a wonderful adventure. We are created to enjoy it. Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived, miserable and depressed is going to make a new set of problems to deal with. Open-mindedness and creativity are two super helpful tools as you venture forward.
Sugar, including artificial sweeteners, honey, maple syrup
Dairy, except organic grass-fed ghee
Grains, including corn, rice, oats, rye, barley, wheat, millet
Black tea, coffee, chocolate, caffeine (use green tea if you are desperate)
Trans fatty acids and fried foods
Processed meats and meat substitutes
Dried beans and lentils, except red lentils
Foods that you already know aggravate your system
Foods that you eat daily (eliminate or reduce). If you feel you cannot survive without a particular food, it’s probably an issue for you.
Vegetables of all colors, except corn. You may need to avoid nightshades. Eat plenty of kale, salad, Swiss chard, sprouts, leeks, artichoke, asparagus, sweet potatoes, winter squash - as much variety as possible. Eat mostly vegetables. Feel free to put plenty of ghee on them.
Soups: clear broths
Meat: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, cold water fish (salmon/sardines). Look for organic/grassfed meat if possible. Avoid processed meats including bacon.
Nuts (no peanuts), coconut
Olive oil, grass-fed ghee, coconut oil
Soaked seeds: chia, flax
Flours to try: Cassava, plantain, coconut, almond, sweet potato
Red lentils if they do not bother you
Some fruit: blueberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, pears, green banana, plantain
Spices without additives, celtic sea salt
Water, green tea, raw apple cider vinegar
Craft your own personal list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts.” Then choose your start and end date. 4-6 weeks is ideal, but progress can be made with even two weeks. Aim for success. You can always start slow and work your way up to hard core. After your final week of elimination you have the fun of re-introducing your favorite foods, watching for symptoms. Only try one food group at a time, so you do not get confused about which foods are giving you trouble. If your symptoms worsen with the reintroduction of a food, then that’s your sign to keep it out of your diet until your gut and body have healed.
Do you want community support on this topic? Join Clear the Mental Clutter on Facebook where we are doing an elimination challenge together.