Adventures on an Elimination Diet

eat-food-mainly-plantsAfter years of seeing doctors and specialists for my ongoing medical condition, I finally decided to see a naturopath and take a more holistic approach to my health. I’ve always felt like I eat pretty healthy – lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains. But I still have been feeling so lack-luster over the past few years. My naturopath feels as though I have certain food sensitivities and/or allergies that once pin-pointed could be eliminated, so that I could feel better. In order to determine which foods are causing me issues, I would have to eliminate the most commons allergens from my diet and then slowly reintroduce them back into my diet to see how they affect me.

The naturopath informed me that I would have to eliminate diary, eggs, gluten, sugar, soy, corn, peanuts, caffeine and oranges for 30 days. Oh…and chocolate!!! *gulp* I felt like there was no way I’d be able to eliminate all of these foods for 30 days – especially all at once! I would have to make every thing from scratch. Have you ever noticed that sugar is added to everything!? Yikes! I agreed to try the elimination diet, but was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and very apprehensive. What was I going to eat!?

I’m happy (and proud) to report I made it through the entire 30 days by focusing on eating wholesome meals filled with veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and gluten-free grains. I’ve actually never felt better. My digestion has improved immensely for one thing. I suffered from chronic stomach aches most of my life and I’ve only have one since I started the program – the first week!  I feel less anxious, am sleeping better and more energized. The lack of refined sugar in my diet has even helped me stabilize my blood sugar levels. And most of all – I feel GREAT knowing that I’m eating clean, wholesome, foods with no additives. I’m proud to be truly taking care of myself for once. This whole experience has taught me a lot about nutrition, about cooking in new ways and how to choose foods that are good for me and my family. I’ve been much more adventurous in the kitchen and have tried a lot of new foods. This elimination diet has really inspired me and I plan on continuing many of the habits I developed during the 30 day adventure. For example, I plan on continuing to pre-plan my meals, prep meals and snacks in advance, make everything from scratch and staying away from refined sugars.

I have to admit, when the naturopath suggested the elimination diet, I was quite worried. What was I going to eat for 30 days!? Reading through the literature provided by the naturopath, I felt the elimination diet was very limited!  However, after some poking around on the web on my favourite blogs, I realized – there is a TON of great recipes out there that fall into what I can eat on the elimination diet. And for those that almost fit the guidelines, I was able to easily substitute things like gluten free grains, almond milk etc.

Today, I would like to share some websites/blogs that really helped me during my 30-day journey. Perhaps this list will help others trying to cut out gluten, dairy, sugar and/or soy from their diets. I also hope that my experience on an elimination diet may help inspire others to try it out if they too are suffering from digestion problems, skin issues, lethargy etc (or any other symptoms related to a food intolerance).

A Couple Cooks – Sonja and Alex’s Healthy + Whole project has been a huge inspiration to me! My favourite recipe I tried – Burrito Bowl. I skipped the sour cream and the corn and added some roasted sweet potatoes. Delicious!

Oh She GlowsAngela’s cookbook came out at a perfect time for me! So many great recipes to try! My favourite recipe that I tried this past month was – Italian Bean Balls and Spaghetti Squash. Holy, the bean balls were fantastic!

The Vegan Chickpea – Caitlin is the main reason I went to see a naturopath. About a year ago, the very wise Caitlin suggested I give up gluten and diary to see if eliminating the two common allergens could help me feel better.  I wish I would have listened to her sooner! She’s one smart lady! I plan on making her version of a Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Pesto this weekend. Thanks Caitlin! xo

Cookie + Kate – This fantastic vegetarian blog had some great ideas that were either vegan or easily adapted to vegan. My favourite recipe I tried – Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Linguine. Yum!

Joyous Health – a fantastic healthy living blog by a Canadian naturopath Joy McCarthy. I bought her book as well and it is full of excellent information about eating clean, wholesome foods. I love how she also incorporates ideas on how to living joyously.

Love + Lemons – This has been one of my very favourite blogs for a long time. I love how all of the recipes are mainly vegan and always seem to have a gluten free option. My husband and I really enjoyed this Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe the other evening. I also made these Banana Blueberry Pancakes a number of times over the past 30 days.

Edible Perspective – A relatively new-to-me blog that was really helpful to me over the past 30 days. I felt really unprepared to go gluten-free for 30 days, as I’ve never tried gluten-free baking and did not know a lot about gluten-free products. Edible Perspective was very information in regard to gluten-free baking and cooking. Additionally, Cara’s Guide to Gluten Free Flours was also incredibly helpful.

Other great blogs that helped me throughout my elimination diet includes – Naturally Ella, Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes,  Gluten Free Goddess, Oh My Veggies and Canadian Living Magazine. Some cook books that really inspired me over the past 30 days: Straight from the Earth by Myra and Marea Goodman, Everything Vegan by Vegetarian Times, Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon, Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli.

So what now? Well, now I have to add back everything one week at a time over the next 8 weeks to see how my body reacts. This will ideally help me determine which foods I have an intolerance for. And as I start to feel a lot better, I am more interested in cooking and getting back into posting on this little blog of mine. So, please stay tuned. More recipe posts coming soon! xo

PS. Thank you to my family and friends for being so supportive during the last month! :) I couldn’t have done it without you. xoxo

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  1. says

    Courtney this post is amazing! So happy for you!! I recently transitioned to a gluten-free, vegan diet (from vegetarian) and experienced the same wonderful things. I don’t know how else to describe it other than I feel so alive! :) It’s an amazing journey finding exactly what your body wants, and I’m so happy to hear others make so much progress. I wish you continued health and happiness!! :)

    • thefigtree says

      Thank you so much for your comment Kaitlin :) I’m thrilled to hear you’ve found a gluten-free, vegan diet is helping you feel better too. At first I thought I would be giving up so much, but really I feel like I’ve gained more than anything. I feel better, but I have learned a lot about myself and how to nourish myself. It’s nice to know I’m taking care of myself. I wish you continued health and happiness too! xo Do you have any fav gluten-free, vegan recipes you’d like to share with me? :)

  2. says

    Sweetie I am so happy to hear that you are feeling better! My friend has been experiencing much the same as you and actually had an Allergy Blood test done which showed her food sensitivities/allergies which ended up being All Dairy/Eggs, Gluten, Yeast and Soy- she, like you has to figure out a whole new routine- I am sending her this post in hopes this raises her spirits! xoxox

    • thefigtree says

      Awe, thank you so much Heather! xo You were a huge inspiration to me and I looked at your blog lots for ideas! My naturopath gave me the option to get the allergy blood test done, but it was $400.00. So I opted to try the elimination diet instead. She said I’d feel results quickly which would make it very beneficial. Although, I may still do the allergy test one day, as I think I may have trouble with some random fruit….and QUINOA :( I’ve developed a horrible intolerance to quinoa. So sad!!! I sure hope your friend finds some answers and starts to feel a lot better! I hope she enjoys this post. I wanted to share my story in case there are any others out there looking to find answers of what ails them too. :)

  3. Kimberley Mulla says

    This is so great to hear. When I read the list of foods I kind of gasped. I can’t imagine going a day without most of it! Happy to hear you are getting to the bottom of what was ailing you. May I also recommend Gluten Free Girl- and awesome blog that has really inspired me. Lots of beautiful ideas for food and interesting ways to substitute. Good luck and I look forward to reading more.

    • thefigtree says

      I know, hey!? The list of food is intimidating! I really did not think I could eliminate all of those items for 30 days. After the first week (feeling crappy and trying to figure things out), I felt much better and making food got a lot easier. It was a lot of planning, prepping and cooking – but it was fun. I tried lots of great new recipes and had more energy to enjoy cooking. Thank you for the recommendation! I’ll check it out :)

  4. Ilse says

    Good for You!!!!
    did the elimination and intolerance testing about 15 years ago, when it was considered “crazy”. I knew about Cows milk and suspected a few more. Found I cannot handle about 25 things, most things we enjoy….. But am much better off without and believe that if you can’t handle eliminating troublesome foods you just haven’t been sick enough.
    After not being able to eat potatoes for about 4 years my body had healed enough for me to be able to enjoy them again. So there is hope, just be careful.!

  5. says

    sweetyyyyyyyyy! i am so happy that you are finally getting to the root of your digestive issues, discomfort, and overall unhappiness about how you have been feeling. you are so inspiring and i can’t wait to hear about your journey as you continue on. and i think you’ll love the lasagna- i just made it again over the weekend, it’s dayv’s favorite ;)

  6. says

    I tried to cut out sugar and it lasted all of 12 hours so good on you! I think it really comes down to monitoring how you feel though because I feel a heck of a lot better with sugar in my life than without it. That being said, if you aren’t missing it, there’s not really any reason to eat it!

  7. says

    Elimination diets are hard work! Good for you to sticking with it. Hopefully you’ll figure out what foods you’ve been reacting to and be able to take some of those healthy habits (like pre-planning and pre-prepping meals and snacks) forward with you. Those habits are totally the key to healthy eating for me. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out!

  8. says

    Courtney, this is such great news for me! I too am suffering from nasal and skin allergies. I am tired of taking medicines. Even though I don’t eat excessively and exercise regularly, I still feel a bit weak and drowsy sometimes. I will be sure to try your elimination diet so I can be sure what not to eat. Hopefully, when I finish the diet, I will have good news to share as well. Thank you! ^^,

  9. says

    That sounds so tough, but I’m glad to hear that you took on the challenge and followed it through with such success! Hopefully you’ll end up with a more clear picture once you try adding in each of the types of foods again. And I love how all of the recipes you linked to sound delicious and creative without being intimidating or full of strange ingredients – it shows you can still eat a variety of meals on that kind of diet!

  10. says

    Good for you for sticking with that diet for a month and improving your health! I’m sure many people will find this post inspiring; I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with food-related health issues before but I should be making more of an effort to clean like that, I’m sure I would feel great all the time! Good luck with the rest of your journey!


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