I’m entering the final week of my elimination diet and I could not be more grateful for the end.
I’ll soon write a summary of how the diet went and how my strange flare-up of symptoms evolved, but for now, I thought it would be helpful to share my tips for surviving one of these because, frankly, they can be brutal.
As someone who has followed an anti-inflammatory diet for several years, and who has lived through the growing pains of giving up dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine, I was surprised by how much I struggled with this diet. Upon reflection, I can see some of the potholes I could have avoided if I had planned my route a little better.
Following are my recommendations:
Have a 2-week prep period
For various reasons, I had to jump straight into this elimination diet as quickly as possible, but that was a mistake. Elimination diets are very restrictive, particularly when they involve so many food groups such as oxalates and histamines. It takes time to get used to cooking without your go-to spices and ingredients.
I think a solution to this would be to have a two-week prep period that starts after you receive the list of foods that you can and can’t eat. This would be a time to order cookbooks, find blogs, create a go-to shopping list, get everything you could possibly need, and begin experimenting with recipes. I really got stuck with snacks and breakfasts, so just creating a few go-to meals can make all the difference. No one wants to be caught out hungry!
I think creativity is a key factor in actually enjoying an elimination diet, or at least in making it more bearable. Trying to come up with recipes with restricted ingredients can be tough, but blogs, cookbooks, and podcasts can help.
Autoimmune Wellness is a great resource for anyone who’s doing an elimination diet that leans toward the autoimmune paleo diet. They also have a few good books available.
Another useful resource is Sweet Laurel Bakery. This is a wonderful blog (and cookbook) for anyone who’s on a simpler elimination diet, such as gluten, dairy, and sugar. Sadly, I couldn’t make anything from there because I can’t use delicious ingredients like cacao, but many who are on a less restrictive diet can.
I also listened to a bunch of podcasts about histamines and oxalates, which gave me a deeper understanding of the foods I could use and the ones to lean away from.
The weekends are the hardest, in my opinion. I find myself stuck multiple times, not knowing where or what to eat.
Three weeks into this thing, I finally learned the ropes and made a heck of a lot of snacks to carry with me when I’m on the go over the weekend. It meant that last weekend I lived off snacks and had no full meals, but I couldn’t find much of an alternative. I didn’t go to any restaurants where I could try to get something, as I was just running about London. However, I made sure to pack nutrient-dense foods that kept me satiated and well-fed, so I wasn’t too worried.
Just remember to be practical. It can be a pain carrying around lots of food, so pack lightly with your other things if you can.
Plan some joy — really
One of the hardest things I’ve experienced is the lack of joy in my life since cutting out some of my favorite foods. I have a busy work week running my business, and during the weekend, some of my favorite things to do are cooking and baking. Now those options have been largely taken away from me.
Food is emotional — we take pleasure in eating with friends and loved ones, making things with care, and experiencing new foods we haven’t tried before.
If I had to start again, I would plan to make a few dinners for friends with new recipes that I could also eat, rather than sitting around watching them all eat pizza. I also would plan cinema nights (and make my own snacks) and do other things I normally wouldn’t do, whatever that may be. Perhaps I could go to workshops, see live music, or attend something scary but fun, like joining a social choir or a book club.
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