This article is, in part, from The UltraMind Solution.
In Week 9 of The Daniel Plan, I explained that many people are sensitive to certain foods and that these sensitivities or allergies can drive weight gain and a wide array of health symptoms. For some, food sensitivities are the very root of their health problems. Two allergens specifically—gluten and dairy—form the foundation of the standard American diet and are major culprits in the weight gain and chronic illness epidemic we are no facing. By going through a food detoxification, getting rid of these foods, it may help you lose weight and overcome many of the symptoms you have been suffering with for so long. I explained how to do this in my article Food Allergies: Effects, Symptoms and Solutions.
After the six-week elimination period like the one I recommend in that article, you have two choices.
Option 1: Stay off Gluten and Dairy Long Term
You may choose to stay off gluten and dairy for as long as you wish. In fact, you can keep these foods out of your diet for a lifetime if you like.
If this way of eating and living feels right for your body and mind then, perhaps, it is the way you will choose to continue living. If so, The Daniel Plan has done you some good and you are well on your way to a lifetime of health and happiness.
Within the parameters of the program there is almost infinite flexibility—Asian, Mediterranean, traditional Mexican, and Middle Eastern cooking are all options you can explore if you choose to.
Learning how to eat real food is a discovery process. Because these foods have more fiber and nutrients, they are more filling and satisfying. Over time, you will learn to adjust portion sizes to your needs, and you will find foods that truly make your brain and body thrive.
Once you have reset your metabolism and you have established a pattern of eating and self-care that nourishes you, flexibility is important. Eating any food with great relish and delight—whether it is a decadent chocolate cake or the richest ice cream—is good for the soul and the senses.
While some people may have trigger foods, like the first drink for an alcoholic, most of us can enjoy treats once in a while. Your body will tell you what feels good and what doesn't.
Once you have reestablished a relationship with your body and brain, you will be drawn to those foods that make you feel good, and from time to time that may include almost anything. Staying in balance, and finding a rhythm is the key to life long health and a healthy metabolism.
Moderation in all things is still great advice, and that includes moderation in moderation. Enjoy yourself. I wish you all endless health and happiness.
Option 2: Reintegrate Dairy and/or Gluten
If you choose, you may begin integrating dairy and gluten into your diet after the 6-week elimination period. Assuming you eliminated these foods on Week 9, it would now be time to start reintegrating them into your diet.
Actually, it can be good to reintegrate dairy and gluten into your diet. This allows you to test it and find out whether or not it was contributing to your mood, behavior, health problems, or weight gain. Remember, sensitivities to these foods can contribute to a wide variety of symptoms including headaches, joint pain, sinus problems, irritable bowel, fatigue and much more.
To reintegrate dairy and gluten into your diet, follow these guidelines.
Reintroducing Gluten and/or Dairy
As you reintroduce gluten and dairy, you will want to do it slowly and systematically and you will want to track any symptoms you may experience.
When you reintroduce foods you are sensitive to (like gluten and dairy) eat them at least 2–3 times a day for 3 days to see if you notice a reaction (unless, of course, you notice a problem right away, then stop immediately). But be sure to leave 3 days in between the time you introduce each food. For example if you introduce gluten on Monday, don't add dairy until Thursday.
Symptoms can occur from a few minutes to 72 hours later. If you have a reaction, note the food and eliminate it for 90 days. This will give your immune system a chance to cool off and your gut a chance to heal. In turn, this makes it more likely you will be able to tolerate more foods in the long run. However, you may find it best to eat them only occasionally (not more than once every 3–4 days) to keep the immune system cooled off.
If you still react after eliminating the food from your diet for 12 weeks, you should stay off it for the long term, or see a physician, dietitian, or nutritionist skilled in managing food allergies.
I strongly encourage you to keep a log of any symptoms that you experience when you reintroduce different food groups. Tracking your symptoms should guide you to which foods trigger allergic reactions in your system. Using a food log to track your symptoms and monitor your progress is an excellent way to identify what foods you can tolerate and what foods you are allergic to. Keeping a food log also helps create the connection between your daily food choices, activities, stress management, and how you feel. Having a written record of this nature is a more practical and accessible way to keep track of what is going on for you than simply trying to remember it.
You can print a sample food log here.
Here are some symptoms you may experience as you go through this process, make sure to track these and any others in your food log.
- nasal congestion
- chest congestion
- brain fog
- difficulty remembering things
- mood problems (depression, anxiety, or anger)
- sleep problems
- joint aches
- muscle aches
- changes in your skin (acne)
- changes in digestion or bowel function
You can use this same system to reintegrate other foods not allowed on the program as well. However, always keep in mind the foods you should permanently avoid, and be wary of falling back into addictive patterns like eating sugar, flour products, or consuming too much caffeine or alcohol.
If you eliminated gluten and dairy and you did not see the results you expected, I strongly encourage you to go on a more comprehensive elimination diet like the one outlined in my book The UltraSimple Diet. Some people are sensitive to foods besides gluten and dairy. Others are sensitive to multiple foods. The program outlined in that book will provide you all the steps you need to get all of the major allergens out of your diet so you can see if any of them are disturbing you system and leading to your illness and weight gain.
Connecting the dots between what you eat and how you feel this way is one of the most powerful steps my patients take. They often look at me in wonder as they go through this process and say …
"I didn't realize how bad I felt until I felt better."
I hope everyone on The Daniel Plan has this same experience.
To your good health!