Two to three days after finishing the Clean Program, or whenever you have transitioned to three solid meals a day,
introduce one type of food from the Elimination Diet's "exclude" list into your daily meals. Perhaps it is wheat or one of
the other gluten grains. Have a sandwich at lunch or a bagel for breakfast. If you want to start with milk, have a latte,
some yoghurt or cheese. You don't need to consume a whole loaf of bread or a quart of milk; a moderate serving of the
food in question will do.
Observe and feel what happens over the next twenty-four hours.
It is helpful to record comments in your Cleanse Journal for each food you introduce.
The following questions will guide you:
Notice the Following
- How do you feel immediately after eating it? Are there any sensations in your belly?
- Does anything happen shortly after eating it, such as a runny nose or mucus in the throat (typical of milk), or fatigue, bloating, or headache (typical of wheat)?
- How are your energy levels? A bowl of wheat pasta at night, for example, may make you feel very tired either immediately after eating it or on waking up the next morning.
- How are your bowel movements the next day? As frequent and as easy to eliminate as they were during Clean, or are they now altered?
- How did you sleep that night? Was it heavier sleep, or were you disturbed?
- How does your skin look, and how are your emotions in the day that follows?
The Most Common Toxic Triggers
Any noticeable change in your physical or mental experience is an indication that you might be sensitive or fully allergic to that food. To make this process even more accurate, repeat that same food the next day and see if it provokes a reaction. (The second day may be slightly milder as the contrast is less pronounced.) Again, notice what happens for a full day after eating it. Likely, some of the foods from the list will reveal themselves to you as toxic triggers; things that are either mildly disturbing to your natural balance or actually allergenic. Then you will repeat the same process with every item of the "no" foods list that you are curious about your sensitivity to.
The most common foods my patients find to be toxic triggers include these ones, now familiar to you:
Dairy (predominantly cow's milk and products made from it); eggs; wheat and gluten- containing grains like rye and barley; fatty red meat; soy products; corn (in this instance, corn tortillas or corn chips could be your testing food); and processed sugar.
Identify Your Toxic Triggers
If you find a severe allergy to one of these foods, it will be quite obvious. Gluten sensitivity is a prime example. Some people have such a negative reaction to gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, and rye, that it causes a cluster of extreme symptoms known as celiac disease, which severely limits nutrient absorption in the small intestine creating potentially devastating consequences. But many others have a more subtle reaction to the gluten that goes undiagnosed, because they assume that their less-than-urgent condition must be related to other things, like being tired and run down from life or just being a bit sensitive. People tend to get used to these feelings of fatigue, feeling run down, cold or flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, constipation or diarrhea, etc. for years. Doing this investigation into irritants can be a revelation: their breakfast muffin or lunch-time pasta can be identified as a trigger causing these symptoms, and they realize they are best off avoiding gluten grains or whatever else is causing a reaction, entirely.
Realistically Approaching Your Triggers
Alcohol, caffeine (especially coffee), and sugar will also now be "louder" in their effects. With your clean canvas, you'll get a sense of their true impact on your particular constitution. Introduce them back in this same way if you still desire them, consuming them in reasonable amounts, one item at a time, and notice the effects on your body, your mental outlook, and your energy levels throughout the day. Write down some notes to serve as your evidence later about how these things affect you when in your cleanest state. There is no need to be a purist for the rest of your life if you enjoy wine, beer, cheesecake, or chocolate. Have them, and enjoy them — there's nothing worse for digestion than guilt — and bring your awareness fully to the present moment with each bite or sip. By eating in this conscious way, you may find that smaller portions are now satisfying, while the larger portions you previously consumed have a more noticeable effect. Buying smaller amounts of higher-quality products always helps.
The Rotation Approach
If your reaction to any of the foods you test is mild but still noticeable (slight fatigue, constipation, blue mood, and so on), it may not be necessary to eliminate it forever. However, you will benefit greatly from reducing your frequency of exposure to it. Following the principles of what is known as a "rotation diet" is a simple way to avoid the negative consequences of mild to moderate food allergies and sensitivities. Rotate your choice of foods in such a way that you don't eat the irritating ones more often than once every four days.
This process of investigating your toxic triggers may sound complicated at first. It is not. In fact, compared to what you just accomplished with Clean, it is a breeze, and the potential for discovering how to maintain the benefits you got during the program and avoid returning to old symptoms is unlimited. There are thousands of theories about diet, lifestyle, and stress management out there, and everyone has their own opinion on how you should live. Take in as much or as little of that as you like; but first and foremost, keep your foundation solid by maintaining what you've just achieved through the Clean Program.