Eliminating Elimination Diets?: Observations on Food Deprivation and Food Intolerance–Part II

Mediterranean diet (close up)
Image by grobery via Flickr

Some of my food issues were confirmed. Fat, especially hot fat (a touch of melted butter on a piece of toast, the dollop of olive oil used for sautéing veggies) doesn’t agree with my system. It could be lard or canola oil. Lean red meat or dash of olive oil on mixed greens. Lamb (one of the 2 “safe” foods from my total elimination diet) or non nonfat sour cream. As far as my digestive system is concerned, fat is fat, and that’s that. Kinda cans the Mediterranean diet for me.

Acidic foods like tart apples, tomatoes, vinegars, and oranges, even eaten in small quantities (a bit of salsa as a condiment, a small relatively sweet clementine orange) make my already unbalanced tummy much more acidic. Even with prescription and non-prescription acid blockers, my insides can feel bathed in battery-acid.

I get the “hungry hollows” even when I’m not hungry. These extremely sharp pains are a probably a result of stomach acid “sloshing” around without food to cut it. Certainly, when a scope was done several years ago, there were scars on my esophagus and stomach lining from “acid burns.”

Three of the stranger symptoms of my over-acidic digestive system and the resulting acid reflux issues are wheeziness, tightness in my chest, and a lump at the back of my throat. I thought these were being caused by various things such as my allergies, or the return of childhood asthma-like symptoms. I was on meds for my acid reflux, so my doctor and I never made the connection. Until I switched acid reflux meds, and these symptoms “miraculously” disappeared! I now judge the acidity of my tummy by these markers as much as by acid reflux itself.

My system may have an issue with carbs or starch beyond the simple eat too much of these = gain weight.  For example, the weight gain when switching out yeast-based bread for potatoes or the lack of improvement in my overall health when removing gluten, or yeast and sugar.

Anecdotally, gluten and starch have been cited as contributing to pain. I’ve read many accounts of a lessening of pain by reducing/eliminating consumption of gluten, carbs, and starch.

Eliminating Elimination Diets?: Observations on Food Deprivation and Food Intolerance–Part III

Sugar cubes.
Image via Wikipedia

And, now for the big “reveal,” as if you hadn’t already figured it out ;)

And, the biggest culprit is probably, gasp, sugar, in ALL it’s forms. The biggest worsening of symptoms was when I went off the “little or no sucrose sugar and very little milk sugar diet”. Issues such as bloating/distention were much more “obvious” for the days following than before (although abdominal bloating/distention remained an issue no matter what food was eliminated). I need to note that I’m not lactose intolerant. In the past, using lactose-free products or lactose-intolerance diet aids made no difference.

Probably some of the reasons other eliminations didn’t “work” was because sugar was still present in some form or another. For example, when I’ve gone totally gluten-free, my consumption of sugar probably went up as a lot of gluten-free products rely on sugar for taste. And, I did embrace gluten-free brownies!

I crave sugar like an addict. Food addiction can be a sign of intolerance. While I can crave other foods such as bread, salty snacks or red meat, it’s not with the same intensity or need. I can easily descend into a sugar binge. Although I only like dark chocolate, I think it’s the still the sugar effect as I don’t like it too bittersweet.

Next, I need to wean myself off the fruit I’ve been substituting for sucrose. When I’ve eaten very little fruit in the past, along with a reduction in carbs and sugar, there was a more noticeable improvement in certain digestive issues.

Starch rather than carbs per se might be an issue – hence gaining weight when eliminated bread, but increased potato consumption.

I will be trying elimination diets again; I’ve found some new ones to follow. The biggie that I have yet to give up entirely is my morning cuppa joe with cream. Caffeine is one of the “must be eliminated food groups.” Right now, dealing with the massive headache and other withdrawal symptoms (have tried to give it up before!) seems too much to deal with.

If reducing all the “oses” in terms of sugar, and removing other common offenders still doesn’t help with how I feel, then I might be FORCED to give it up. I will warn everyone who will come in contact with me in the virtual and real world when I do that. I know I will be cranky!


my morning cuppa joe sans the 1/2 and 1/2 (blend; coffee cream) I usually add
Note: I’ve pretty much been eating at will the last 2 weeks, and paying the consequences. Now, everything I eat causes extreme bloating/distention and cramps. My “hungery hollows” make me nauseous with abdominal distention if I ignore them for too long; but eating makes other aspects hurt worse, and does nothing to lessen the weight I’ve gained from meds and elimination diets!

 It’s time “pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again”




Eliminating Elimination Diets?: Observations on Food Deprivation and Food Intolerance–Part I

diagram of a human digestive system
Image via Wikipedia

This started as a one part mulling over of the results of my various elimination diets. However, it was getting rather long, and not feeling much like judicious self-editing right now, I decided to break the post in three chunks. Part I is how my body just doesn’t respond as expected to elimination diets. Part II will deal with findings in general, and since Part III will be the big “reveal” of the main culprit in my diet, why it probably affected the results of other eliminations, and what I need to do next. Feel no need to read Part I, II, or III! Part III will probably involve a good deal of whining.


I’ve tried, with varying success, to eliminate different foods from my diet to test theories on the correlation of food intolerances and digestive problems such as IBS symptoms. These elimination diets, themselves, had varying degrees of impact on my digestive issues. Guess I’m to the point where I feel I can “pontificate” (read: fancy word for ramble and rant) on the subject.

Before eliminating specific foods from my diet, I did both “scientific” (i.e. read articles from reliable sources) and anecdotal research (i.e. folks comments after the articles, blogs, discussion threads and product websites). Based on my symptoms/reactions and the lists of suspect foods, I picked those most likely to be the culprits.

Both my “scientific” and anecdotal research suggested certain things should happen when these foods (individually or in combos) are removed from your diet: weight loss, increase in energy/stamina, reduction in the severity of pain (digestive and elsewhere), fewer headaches/migraines, less nasal congestion/sinus issues, and an improvement in IBS-related symptoms.

While I have a better understanding of why some of this didn’t happen (based on the order I eliminated foods), I still find it mind-boggling that, even taking food shifting/switching into consideration, eliminating yeast AND sugar from my diet resulted in weight gain. I gained more from eating a baked potato with a tiny bit of butter than from eating a toasted bagel smeared with pesto! Put on more pounds from from eating sweet potatoes than from bakery muffins! (This is the one of the rant segments in case you hadn’t guessed.)

Also boggling was how some of my digestive symptoms WORSENED during the process. If food X is considered to be a common cause of food intolerances and IBS-related symptoms, removing it shouldn’t make things worse! Food switching/shifting explains some of this. But, who knew that bananas would turn out to be a “trouble” food? Or that corn-based products such as baked tortilla chips would produce symptoms similar to those attributed to gluten?

And, to make the picture stranger, eliminating a food didn’t necessarily make a difference in my symptoms (i.e a noticeable improvement), but ADDING it back in gave me an increase in symptoms. I won’t add any “gory details:” let’s just say certain digestive issues didn’t seem to improve when the food was eliminated, but sure were worse when the food was first added back in.




counter culture: don’t pass me the mashed potatoes


Meat and potatoes: the 1950s suburban ideal food groups (with butter running a close third). Did ya know that potatoes are members of the “deadly” nightshade family whose genealogy includes peppers, and eggplant?

Wikipedia traces the family tree:

The family includes Datura (Jimson weed), Mandragora (mandrake), belladonna (deadly nightshade), Capsicum (paprika, chili pepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, aubergine or eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia (petunia). With the exception of tobacco (Nicotianoideae) and petunia (Petunioideae) most of the economically-important genera are contained in the sub-family Solanoideae.

Quite the eclectic family! From poison to french fries; from Nightshade plants include peppers, tomato, potato - hotblack on morguefile.comflowers to eggplant rollatini; from medicine to salsa! And a source of/contributing factor to pain (and I’m not just talking about hot pepper mouth burn!).  Although not definitive, antidotal evidence points to a co-relation between consuming nightshade vegetables and chronic pain – especially arthritis. A branch of the food family you might NOT want to invite to the next family reunion!

 Then there is the chronic pain of IBS: here the links are more well accepted and established. While the cause of IBS remains murky, the effects of eating certain foods can be strobe-light bright. Here the villains are who you’d suspect: fat; fried foods; highly-processed foods; red meat, dairy products, caffeine; and coffee. Through a careful diet, some of the painful aspects of IBS such as cramps and bloating can be controlled. While it is good to increase your fiber intake, pay close attention to what kind of fiber you eat: soluble fiber is more beneficial than insoluble fiber.  imageAfter some research, I’ve been adding acacia powder to my food to increase the amount of soluble fiber in my diet. Too early to tell if this will have the kind of effect I’m looking for.

(acacia tree in Israel: wikipedia)

The trigger foods for migraines are well documented, although they can vary from person to person, situation to situation. Some 250pxA_small_cup_of_coffee_thumb1common migraine trigger foods include chocolate, processed meats such as hot dogs, red wine, alcohol in general, and aged cheeses. What links this smorgasbord of trigger foods are chemical compounds such as tyramine, artificial sweeteners, and msg. An elimination diet, and headache diary can help you decide which dishes on the buffet to avoid, and which you can have seconds of.

These thumbnail sketches do have a theme: food and pain (not talking about heartburn/indigestion). Food is known both for it’s heroic measures (medicinal purposes, and healing properties) and it’s villainous nature (trigger foods for inflammation and chronic pain) Food intolerances and allergies are the evil twins on the dark side of food.

Another theme, more submerged (dunked as a donut perhaps?) is the idea of eliminating certain foods in order to judge whether they are the culprits or no. Elimination diets can be as strict as water, lHoney Pears by borealnzamb and pears; can include fasting and flushing (not necessarily recommended) and/or removing particular foods/food groups from your diet. Foods that cross the pain borders include gluten (wheat, rye, and other grains though not necessarily corn); eggs; dairy products; processed foods; alcohol; fructose/sucrose and red meat. (This is not a complete list, but highlights foods identified as triggers in more than one pain area).

By now, you might be feeling overwhelmed, awash in a sea of toxic vegetables; killer proteins lurking just beneath the surface; noxious Mini Dairy Products by karenisme08dairy products creating water spouts while visions of sugar plums don’t dance in your head! I tried unsuccessfully to follow the lamb and pears diet. I say unsuccessfully for 2 reasons: 1) there was not an appreciable improvement in my health after several days of staying pretty close to that regime and 2) I don’t generally eat meat at every supper, and my system wasn’t handling the richness and fattiness all that well. (I was buying my lamb at a local discount grocery store so it wasn’t trimmed and presented the way a proper butcher would.)

For the last few days, I’ve been pretty faithful to a diet that eliminates gluten (with the occasional touch of oatmeal), soya and other legumes (due to allergies), very limited dairy, and alcohol (which I really shouldn’t have due to meds) and a reduced sugar intake (haven’t been able to cut my ties even though I suspect I have a food intolerance/malabsorption issue with fructose). I got distracted from my purpose by a lunch-time all-made-from-scratch pizza brought over by the landperson, after a really rough day, I turned to one of my comfort foods: a blanket of raw, creamed Honey by Vermont Lenseshoney over a toasted multigrain bagel (lightly buttered) and topped off with slices of extra, extra, extra sharp cheddar (hard to find in New Jersey!) for supper. There has been the occasional foray into the health(y) foods section for a snack bar without gluten, etc. (I had an incredibly good chocolate brownie – of course, the trouble is chocolate can be a trigger for my cranium crusher headaches and chocolate and sugar (and soya lecithin) seem to walk hand in hand.) I haven’t keep a food diary which might help allay some of my suspicions about the length of time from ingestion to non/digestion.

So, by now, you are no doubt wondering what the point is of this particular ramble. What have I actually achieved? Well, the silly dance we call “diet adjustment” has to be adhered to more strenuously. I have to record what I eat, when I eat and what symptoms appear and when. From what I’ve been reading (do a search on the internet for elimination diet or similar search string, and see all the hits you get!), symptoms of food intolerance, for example, may not appear for several DAYS after the food is consumed! At least with many of my food allergies, I know right away that I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t!

And then there is the issue of caffeine: I’ve been headache prone lately (weather, food triggers, tension and stress), and although coffee should be eliminated, I haven’t quite got up the nerve to go with caffeine withdrawal! When I was on the barlett and baa diet, I restricted my coffee intake to 1 (sometimes 2) small cups of strong, dark coffee – gasp – without cream! But then I figured the coffee was more of a culprit than cream!

As I have blogged earlier, there are only a few foods which appear on the allowed list if you were going to integrate elimination diets for chronic pain, IBS, acid reflux, fibromyalgia and food intolerances, especially taking my food allergies into consideration. While lamb is okay on some versions, the University of Wisconsin’s  Integrative Medicine handout for patients requires you to drop lamb from the menu. Also confusing is the length of time to eliminate foods/food groups (from 3 to 14 days); how to re-introduce foods; judging the impact; and how to interpret your findings.

So wish me luck! I don’t know which list to include: foods I AM EATING or foods I’m ELIMINATING!

I pledge (that makes it sound more formal and accountable) to eliminate for 2 weeks (beginning Monday, September 20):

  • gluten (this means wheat, barley, rye, etc)
  • food allergy triggers (most spices, legumes – including all soya products such as lecithin, vegetable protein, and tofu)
  • migraine triggers (chocolate, alcohol, msg,
  • IBS issue foods (all the above plus:  almost all dairy products {still might need cream in my coffee (lol) and I can’t substitute soy milk for regular milk in recipes/directions, and I’m not sure I want to invest in the various other non-milk milks based on price and potential taste}) :) eggs and red meat
  • processed or highly refined foods (all the fun stuff :))
  • almost all fats (including the good fats such as olive oil as I know that fats contributes to my digestion issues)
  • nightshade family (potatoes (unless contained within basic ingredients of a gluten-free product) green peppers, egg plant.
  • trigger foods for acid reflux (in my case, acidic foods such as tomatoes and yogurt)

I also pledge to create a food diary and write down EVERYTHING (foods eaten, symptoms, etc.)

Words of Warning: am I setting myself up for a fall:

I made gluten-free tea biscuits (contained dairy, almond meal, potato starch) this morning and ate one plain – no thick, creamed honey, butter or jam/jelly. I have a package of gluten-free rolls in the fridge (tsk , tsk, did I mention yeast can be a cause of symptoms for IBS issues?) In case the going gets REALLY ROUGH, I bought a box of gluten-free brownie mix (I know, you are shaking your head and muttering: chocolate, dairy AND sugar!) and I have my eye on frozen cinnamon sugared donuts (triple whammy for me) at one of the grocery stores where I shop.


For those of you who are definitely negatively impacted by gluten, I plan on “reviewing” some of the gluten-free products I’ve been experimenting with.

Update: September 24, 2010

Eating gluice cap and oatmeal brown bread: yummy!ten free would be easier if I was rich enough to afford all the non-gluten goodies you can get. Did I mention the donuts? :)

Froze the rolls, and bought some gluten-free bread that has lots of seeds (okay, so one of the recommendations for IBS is to avoid non-soluble fiber like nuts and seeds.) A bit sweet for a sandwich bread, it works great toasted (with butter, of course!) and sshhh . . . . jelly! (in case the watermark is too faint – that is NOT a loaf of gluten-free bread!)

Haven’t made the brownies yet. Not because I ‘ve been observing strict guidelines, but because I don’t actually own a square or  rectangular baking pan of the correct proportions.

Four days in all I can really report is that food gets me 2 or 3 times making sure judgments not yet possible.

UpUpdate: 25 September 20101

Luckily, thought it didn’t see like it yesterday afternoon, the cinnacinnamon vanilla sugar honey brioche doughnut by chotdamon sugar gluten-free donuts were gone from the grocery store’s freezer, as was the brown rice flour bread I had been planning on buying. I’ve had trouble with getting enough energy to make it through the late afternoon the last couple of weeks, so I trudged back to the train station rather than visit one of the other two grocery stores in town both of which had a fairly good selection of gluten-free products. I did pick up some aluminum 8 x 8 pans for the brownies!

Tummy remains distended so still haven’t eliminated at least one of the culprits. I’m still having small amounts of dairy products, sugar, and fat. I know from experience that any kind of fat (from the “bad” fried chicken variety through butter and on the “good” olive oil) will cause IBS issues: my digestive system is an equal opportunity fat disliker! Which makes foods like Hagen Daas five ingredient ice cream a real paradox of an IBS/elimination diet a puzzle: is my digestive system reacting to the lactose, the sucrose, or the fat content of the cream/milk?

Didn’t succumb to the fresh baked Italian cookies our neighbor(u)r dropped off. I have managed to remain gluten free (except for some rolled oats which some people with gluten issues can tolerate.) But the continued bloating, distention and cramps means that I’ll need to assess gluten-free for a longer period of time while contemplating what to remove next: all added fat, all sugar including fructose/fruit sugar, all dairy. I’ve had more fat sugar cubes on pink by klevo!and sugar than dairy (and a lactose intolerance test I had done many years ago didn’t generate a positive response – I actually had no response: I didn’t produce any measurable stomach gas during the testing phase which makes me think that lactose isn’t the issue). And, it may very well not be gluten, either. I tested negative for celiac disease, but that doesn’t preclude having a food intolerance to wheat, or other grains.

Bathroom Scale Cakelet by cupcakeenvyMany folks on elimination diets lose weight – I’m gaining weight as a result of the higher calorie nature of the gluten-free products I’ve been eating. My “regular” bread had at least 60 calories less a slice that my present seeded rice and sorghum flour bread. As the bread has a sweeter and different flavor(u)r, I’m eating it toasted with butter and jelly for breakfast making that a higher calorie meal than I would normally have. Where I would normally have something like a sandwich for supper, I am making rice pasta with pesto. I’ve been sampling different energy-type non-gluten bars – most of which had some chocolate! Being completely wiped out, and with two toes now hurting when I walk, I haven’t been getting as much exercise as I normally would. For example, while I was gone for almost as long a time as usual, my shopping excursions have covered less ground.

Still not keeping a great food diary. Oh well, better work on that next.Diary by Barnaby