You might think being bloated is just part of life or dealing with intentional issues is just a part of getting older. It doesn't have to be this way. You are probably holding onto that twenty-something mindset where you can get whatever you want, drink whatever you want, get absolutely no sleep, and still be a fully functioning human the next day, and that isn't how the body works.
Absolutely everyone's body is different and reacts differently to diet changes, water intake, and sleeping habits. Forever I thought that having a migraine was part of the end of my cycle, every single month. I did a bit of reading into it, and my magnesium levels were dipping at the end of my cycle, so I began to eat magnesium. I would eat oatmeal and berries for breakfast, lunch always included black beans, I would snack on pumpkin seeds, and a kale salad was part of my dinner. Within two months of upping my magnesium through food, I ate my way out of having a monthly migraine.
This inspired me. Having a relationship with food that would make me feel better, not worse. We all have those habits, where we know we're not making the best decisions, but we would rather pop a Tums than skip out on Wing Night or that late-night "it doesn't count if I'm eating ice cream from the tub while standing with the freezer door open" kind of habit.
For me, I really wanted to know how different foods made me feel, so I did an elimination diet. Between 2 - 20% of people suffer from food intolerance. The sufferers might experience bloating, gas, constipation, nausea, and maybe we think it's a one time deal. But if your "one-time deal" is happening a couple of times a week, you might start thinking about changing your relationship with food.
Before I get into it, definitely consult with an allergist or registered dietitian before starting an elimination diet, especially if you suspect you have a food allergy. The reintroduction of the food allergy could have serious reactions.
When you're planning for your elimination diet, there isn't a perfect time. We just got done with the holidays and new years, but Valentine's is coming, then Easter. After that, you're planning your summer vacation, and then the kids are back at school; Halloween is here, and all of a sudden, it's the holidays again, so there isn't a perfect time.
It takes between 4 - 8 starting with eliminating food groups and then reintroducing them one at a time. It would be best if you didn't take long because you might start to have a nutrition deficit depending on how and which food groups you're adding back in. For me, when I added back sugar and gluten, my gut health went bonkers. So those are my no go. Sugar and gluten are often easy culprits and a bummer to eliminate from the diet, but I have had reduced inflammation since keeping them out of my diet, and that is a life-changer.
Foods that you eliminate from your diet could be:
Citrus fruits: Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits.
Nightshade vegetables: Avoid nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
Nuts and seeds: Eliminate all nuts and seeds.
Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas, and soy-based products.
Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats, and bread. Also, avoid any other gluten-containing foods.
Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and shellfish.
Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, and spreads.
Beverages: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda, and other sources of caffeine.
Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces, relish, and mustard.
Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts, and chocolate.
Now, if you suspect any other foods that might not be sitting well with you that aren't on this list. Eliminate them as well. A good elimination diet is very restricting, but you'll get the best insight as you add foods back in.
Your gastrointestinal tract does a lot more than just process food - it has its own independent working nervous system - the enteric nervous system. So symptoms from a food sensitivity might show up on the skin (rash), in the brain (headache), or the joints (pain). Problems in the gut can show up all over.
The prep phase lasts 7 - 9 days - don't skip this step! It's just a food journal. Write down everything you eat and write down how you feel and notice any patterns (even a couple of days later). People that do this step do far better than those that jump right in. This also gives you time to find recipes, go grocery shopping, reorganize your kitchen, etc.
The removal phase takes up to three weeks. You can go all at once or a food group or two every couple of days. You might feel better right away but don't jump back into the reintroduction phase. Wait and see how your skin looks, how your sleeping (hopefully) improves, and other improvements with your health. You also might feel worse before you feel better if your body is going through a sugar or caffeine detox. Just remember, this isn't permanent, and your health is counting on you. And maybe instead of focusing on what you can't have - write down a grocery list and find recipes for what you can eat. Maybe you use avocado oil to roast broccoli and salmon and serve it on brown rice. Yum!
The reintroduction phase takes some time, and please don't rush. It's important to find foods that are bothering you and happily find beloved foods that aren't. So when reintroducing foods, eat one category twice one day one and then do NOT eat said category on day two and three. How do you feel? Write everything down. If you feel okay, then continue to eat the food and reintroduce another food. Again, eating the food twice on day one (two different ways if you can) and then not for days two and three and see how you feel. If you experience a reaction when reintroducing a food - wait until the reaction has subsided before introducing a different food category.
An elimination diet isn't all that easy, but it's not all that hard either. It's a big process in attention to detail and writing everything down. And remember, elimination diets are not long term - this is a relatively short, very detailed process to get back to eating foods that help you feel your best and saying Ciao to foods that don't love you back.