As 2015 comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what a great year it has been and how much I have learned. I began 2015 with a desire to improve my health and fitness. I underwent food intolerance testing in January 2015 and started a strict elimination diet which I continued throughout February and March. It was at this time that I started my Instagram page @cleancoconut_insta and began to track my experience on social media.
I took on new strength training programmes in the gym and achieved new ‘personal bests’ on the weights through consistent training.
By April, having completely eliminated dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten from my diet, I had come to realise that probiotics and good bacteria are an essential part of healthy digestion and held the true answer for me. I devoured books and research articles on the topic of probiotics. In May 2015 I attended a course on fermentation. I have since discovered a whole new world of ancient and powerful foods which I cannot wait to share with you in 2016!
I moved to Belfast in the Summer of 2015 and began working on my website www.thecleancoconut.com which I eventually launched in August 2015. I started out by writing about My Vegan Challenge, a seven-day vegan trial based on Marco Borge’s vegan plan, made famous by Beyoncé. I wrote a guide to going gluten-free too.
I then decided to share my experience of a detox diet because that was what had originally led me to learn about food intolerance.
I am so excited for 2016 and am feeling really motivated about continuing this amazing journey of discovery and sharing it with you all. I cannot thank you enough for your support in 2015. I hope I’ve been able to inspire and encourage you on your own journey. Thank you to everyone who has liked my Instagram and Facebook posts, read my articles and shared them with their own friends. Every time you click like or share you help to spread my little baby blog a bit more and I really appreciate it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading in 2015. Looking forward to 2016!
I began the second month of my elimination diet, excluding all dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten, with some uncertainty. I wasn’t sure that it was really doing anything exceptional for me that my standard healthy eating didn’t already do. I was really enjoying training consistently and I began another new gym programme alongside the second month of the diet.
Some of the dairy, egg, gluten and yeast free meals I included in the second month are laid out below…
Food Intolerance – Two Month Review:
During this second month my diet wasn’t as ‘clean’ as the initial month had been in that I had two nights out – meaning I had alcohol – which contains yeast – one of my supposed ‘triggers’. I also ate fruit again, without worrying about the naturally occuring yeast on the skin. Apart from that however I stayed on track and I still trained three days per week. After eight weeks, my progress now looked like this;
Perhaps my progress could have been better if I hadn’t had the couple of nights out, but I was still pleased with my results. I had gained some more muscle definition and had gotten stronger in the gym, achieving a few new ‘personal bests’ on the weights. By now all the digestive discomfort I had been experiencing was totally gone. My skin was in great condition too. I had finally got the results I wanted.
I even had a dairy, egg and gluten-free Easter! (Unlike wine, champange is yeast free!)
Food Intolerance: The Game Changer:
For me, the real change actually came in week five but it wasn’t because of all the elimination – I believe it was largely due to the probiotic! After five weeks of taking my daily shot of Symprove, suddenly the bloating totally cleared up. I feel the probiotic had a lot to do with it because I experienced the exact same bloating symptoms all of a sudden in week eight – when I was between bottles of probiotics and waiting for the new delivery to arrive! As soon as I had the probiotic again, it went away.
I also took a strict regimen of B12 injections to bring my blood levels right up to the upper limits of the recommended amount. B12 deficiency is something I have had to treat with injections ever since I discovered as a teenager that I had a problem absorbing it through my diet. I have definitely noticed over the years that I feel much better when my levels of b12 are at the upper rather than lower limit of what is considered ‘normal’. I tend to feel symptomatic when I’m anywhere close to the cusp of the lower limit and b12 deficiency can be responsible for a whole host of symptoms so I would say it is definitely worth looking into if you have unexplained digestive problems.
Once I realised that it was the probiotic that worked so well for me, rather than eliminating specific food-groups, I began to relax my diet. I still ate dairy, egg and gluten-free a lot of the time (it had kind of become a habit after eight weeks!), but when out for dinner the odd time, if I wanted a pizza I’d get it – life’s too short!! In fact, yeast, one of the food types which I was told I had to cut out, can in itself can be a probiotic in the right form! So I stopped worrying about foods like mushrooms or fermented foods that might contain yeast and ate them whenever I wanted.
Personally, I had never really been able to attribute my bloating to any particular food and cutting out the foods I did hadn’t made any difference to my symptoms until I introduced the probiotic. Once I reintroduced those foods I wasn’t supposed to eat (according to the test I took) I didn’t have any problem with them. I wonder if I ever really had any kind of sensitivity to these foods in the first place. Maybe I had just needed a boost of good bacteria alongside my clean eating!
Of course I ended up finishing out the three months of the Symprove probiotic programme, and I would 100% recommend it to anyone experiencing digestive discomfort. I coupled it with a very ‘clean’ and unprocessed diet and the combination worked absolute wonders for me.
Discovering that probiotics are so powerful and important for us has led me on a new journey of learning about fermented foods. I include probiotic foods in my diet all the time now. I completed a course on fermentation. Its something I really believe in because it worked for me when nothing else – even the strictest of diets – seemed to. More and more scientific research is coming out now about the benefits of probiotics too. They have without doubt been the missing piece of the healthy-eating puzzle for me.
So, are food intolerance tests all they’re cracked up to be? I’m not convinced. Realistically, when you are forced to cut out certain food groups like gluten or dairy, you become forced to eat a less processed and more wholesome diet – of course this is bound to boost your energy and make you feel good! It is also much harder to indulge in your favourite ‘cheats’ like chocolate, take-aways, alcohol, dining out etc. as you cannot break the elimination diet so you end up sticking to quite a ‘clean’ diet. Even when having treats they tend to be cleaner, homemade versions of your favourite foods because, believe me, there are very few processed/convenience foods available which are dairy, egg, yeast and gluten free!
Certainly there are people who have genuine allergies to particular foods and may need to avoid them completely. There are people who will quickly feel better when they cut out certain foods and will likewise notice negative side-effects immediately when they reintroduce those foods. However, it is also worth noting that when cutting out so many food groups entirely from one’s diet for a long period of time, one runs the risk of causing a deficiency in particular essential nutrients. For me, my levels of folic acid had dropped after the elimination diet, and of course two of the main sources of this nutrient are eggs and dairy – two foods which I had to eliminate. Perhaps eliminating whole food groups may not always be as healthy as it is marketed to be.
From my experience and from what I have learned over the past year since I started this journey, we could have the opportunity to heal many digestive issues through the use of probiotics and cultured foods. That is what has made the difference for me. While eliminating certain foods didn’t seem to help my symptoms, adding daily probiotics to my diet truly worked wonders for me.
I am glad I did the food intolerance testing and elimination diet because my own journey through it just happened to lead me to the answers I was looking for.
The Clean Coconut x
P.S. More on fermenting and culturing foods coming very soon 🙂