Doing an elimination diet can be a great way to determine if food sensitivities are making you sick. For this article I’m going to use the term in its broadest sense: as any diet where you consciously eliminate specific foods for health reasons. For this reason I am including the Paleo Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Allergy Elimination Diet, Gluten Free diet and even certain forms of being Vegan or Vegetarian. Don’t get me wrong, many of these diets can be really great ways to be proactive about your health. I have benefited immensely from a modified Paleo/SCD diet. But in very specific cases this diet may be the wrong approach for you. Read on to see if the scenario fits:
Many of us choose to go on a restrictive diet because our health is bad in some way or another. “If I can only figure out what I”m eating that is making me sick I’ll feel better.” Sometimes we just pick and choose, is it gluten? Dairy? Eggs? Soy? We try cutting back on something, only to find it helps for a little while, then stops working. We are frustrated, we are still sick, and we are now scared to eat anything because it may be making us worse. Underneath all this searching is often a very important voice crying out to be heard. “I feel out of control, my body is betraying me and I’m scared that I”m to blame.” Quite simply: you are worried that you are not taking care of your self.
For many of us food is the most common form of self care we have. We consume it 3 times a day, each time it is an opportunity to fulfill a need. Often i see that the number one reason folks self-diagnose on an elimination diet is because they don’t feel like they are taking care of themselves.
One reason I would strongly recommend not doing these diets.
If you have a history of eating disorders, I strongly encourage you to not take on any of these diets on your own. At least not without doing some serious work to heal your issues with food. Many of these diets force you to really be aware of, and sometimes obsessive about what you are putting in your mouth, for folks with a propensity for eating disorders, this can really trigger food control issues. Its hard enough for someone with no history of eating disorders to go through the feelings of deprivation, hyper vigilance and emotional aspects of a restrictive diet, sometimes it’s just counterproductive for folks who’ve suffered from food dysfunction.
Some times these diets are an eating disorder. There is a term called Orthorexia which describes an unhealthy obsession with eating only healthy food. Sound like a bit of a paradox? Your diet should always support and enhance your lifestyle, and nourish you so you can do the things you love. If you spend all your time thinking about food and worrying about what you eat you may need to seek some help.
But what if you are really sick?
Remember that working through any health issue is a process, it took your body a long time to get out of balance, give it just a little time to find it again. It is nearly essential to have support while you are going through any kind of health issue. Often being sick can be a time of confusion, anxiety and fear, it’s so great to have someone to work with who will hold perspective for you. Also remember to take it one step at a time. If it’s not the right time for big dietary changes, honor that, you will one day feel ready.
There are blood, saliva and stool test that can better help you determine what is going on with your digestion. Also the gut is such a place of emotional intensity for many people it may be a good idea to get some support with this too. Find a practitioner who will work with you through some of your issues. Where is the need for control coming from? How else do you practice self-care? What is it you are needing on an emotional or spirit level? In Five Element Acupuncture we address these issues by treating the Earth element. I find in my own practice that once these issues are clarified for a patient, they often can very naturally and easily cut out any foods that might be making them sick.
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