by Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT, CHWC, C-IAYT
When it comes to choosing a nutrition plan, the options are vast. Wading through details of Paleo, vegan, gluten-free, pescatarian, ketogenic, Mediterranean, vegetarian, macrobiotic, Whole 30 and grain-free options can be exhausting and overwhelming. How are you supposed to know what will work best for you? Of course, the headlines would suggest that the latest trendy diet is a perfect fit, but is it really? You have a unique body with specific genetics and health issues that will respond to various foods differently.
Eating the right foods for your body should decrease any digestive symptoms like burping or constipation, relieve brain fog, improve sleep quality, stabilize energy levels, clear up any skin issues, relieve chronic pain and boost weight loss. You’ve heard the famous quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” His belief was that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health. I’d add that finding and following the right nutrition plan for you will leave you feeling more than just good; you will feel amazing.
Fortunately, science has come to the rescue to free you from the “one-size-fits-all” approach and diet focused media frenzy. There is a new era of medical practice called Functional Medicine that seeks to understand the root-cause of health conditions. The most valid way to determine your best-fit nutrition plan is to follow what Functional Medicine calls the Elimination Diet; it’s the best way to figure out your body’s specific sensitivities and to map out the most nourishing diet for you in this season of your life. It reduces inflammation and supports your body systems to rest and heal. Best of all is that the Elimination Diet is the gold standard practice; it’s evidence-based and backed by tons of solid research.
Here are some simple tips for getting started. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn!
Know Your Starting Point
It’s hard to know where you are going unless you know where you are. Do you have any physical complaints, such as allergies or joint pain? How is your energy level? What’s your mood like? Do you suffer from brain fog? Are there any digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea?
These are just a few common signs of food sensitivities and low-level inflammation that could be provoked by your diet.
The simplest Elimination Diet recommendation is to remove all gluten (wheat), dairy, eggs, soy, fast food, packaged foods, sugar and alcohol for 3-4 weeks; that is how long your antibodies, the proteins your immune system makes when it reacts to foods, take to turn over. Following the diet will give you significant information about your body, but only if you do it long enough to get those messages.
You may be wondering, “So, what can I eat?” There is an abundance of delicious, nutritious foods to enjoy during the elimination period.
- Lean proteins (wild fish, beef, chicken
- Colorful vegetables and low-sugar fruits (berries, citrus and apples)
- Gluten-free whole grains (brown rice
- Healthy fats (olive oil, ghee, coconut oil,
flax oil, walnut oil and avocados)
- Naturally flavored water using mint, fruit or
herbal teas ensure you get adequate hydration!
- It may take a little extra time to prepare your meals or go grocery shopping, but it’s just for a few
weeks, and what you stand to gain is invaluable.
Reintroduce foods one at a time for four days each. Next, remove them again for three days to assess for delayed reaction. Then, add in the next food. Reintroduce only one food at a time!
Keep a simple log of the foods as you add them back in and note how they made you feel. Notice obvious and subtle reactions like pain, headache, nasal congestion, digestive issues, skin changes, fatigue, weight gain, mood swings and any anxiety or
Transform Your Lifestyle
If avoiding certain foods made you feel more healthy and vibrant, consider a long-term nutrition plan that takes that into consideration. For example, if you learned that dairy makes your joints ache, you might go dairy free or use the information to choose wisely when and what dairy you do consume. If you noticed grains make you feel puffy, then a Paleo-style plan may work out well for you.
The nutrition plan that will lead you to feel your absolute best is unique to you, and the only way to know is to try an elimination style diet. You will learn so much about your body and can feel confident your nutrition strategy is right for you. There’s no reason to guess anymore!
I do advise you to work with a skilled integrative practitioner either privately or in a group to help you navigate the elimination plan. It’s also a good idea to get more rest and amp self-care while doing an experiment like this.
Your body is amazing and resilient under the right conditions! Choose the best-fit nutrition plan to experience your body at its best.