In a bid to work out why I'm still having tummy ouchies, I recently made an appointment with dietitian Joanna Baker from Everyday Nutrition. We talked about how some of the foods that irritate my stomach don't seem to fit with the food groups that I'm already avoiding (gluten-free, dairy-free and low fodmaps). Joanna introduced me to the low food chemical diet (also known as the failsafe diet which reduces the amount of naturally occurring food chemicals: salicylates, amines and glutamates being consumed). It sounded like a really un-fun diet, but Joanna assured me it was worth doing an elimination diet to try and figure out what my food triggers are, because I may be able to then reintroduce foods that I'm currently avoiding (OMG please someone tell me I can start eating cheese)! As an added "bonus", the failsafe diet also means I've had to avoid perfumed products, mint toothpaste, and try and stay away from perfumed areas e.g. my yoga studio where they burn incense on the regular.
An elimination diet, is a short-term diet where certain foods are removed from your diet and then slowly reintroduced to see if you have a reaction. Let me tell you, an elimination diet is NOT fun. In my case, the elimination diet was gluten-free, dairy-free, low fodmaps and failsafe.
Here's what I've been allowed to eat over the past month:
- Peeled zucchini
- Peeled white potatoes/brown rice/white rice
- Unprocessed fresh meat (excluding pork and processed meat) - must be cooked and eaten within 24 hours; or cooked, frozen and then eaten within 24 hours.
- Potato crisps (only certain brands)
- Decaf coffee with rice milk or soy milk (gluten-free soy milk only)
As you can imagine, the past month feels like it's been about 3 years long, I'm desperate to eat something different, and I'm sick of the sight of zucchinis. However, the good news is that my stomach has been feeling wayyyy better.
And now for the exciting and scary stage. Next week I'm starting to re-introduce foods, starting with lactose-free milk. I've already decided that I'll be having my first sample at home when we have a good stock of toilet paper. Wish me luck!
If you suspect you have food intolerances or food allergies, please do not attempt an elimination diet on your own. An elimination diet needs to be closely supervised, to make sure you continue to get enough nutrition in your diet. Dietitians are also better at ensuring you're eliminating the right foods e.g. some foods are both high in fodmaps as well as high food chemical, so you could easily remove a food group unnecessarily. Find a good dietitian before giving up any food group. If you're hunting for a dietitian, make sure you ask them about their approach to make sure it matches with your goals. I chose Joanna because she is pro-whole foods, and is a coeliac on a low fodmap diet herself, so understands what it's like to live on a restricted diet. She lives in Melbourne, but does Skype appointments - so bonus for me.
P.s. dietitians are not nutritionists. A nutritionist is not necessarily qualified, whereas a dietitian is qualified to post-graduate level.