Food Intolerance Journey: Part Four

 

Welcome to the final instalment of my four-part series on food intolerance. Over my previous three articles I’ve been discussing my experience of food intolerance testing and the subsequent strict elimination diet I followed. Read about why I went for food-intolerance testing and what results I got in part one, discover the changes I had to make to my diet in part two and learn about my first month on the elimination diet in part three.

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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…

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Lemon and blueberry cake – a treat which didn’t include any eggs. dairy, yeast or gluten.
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Vanilla and Chocolate Proats (protein oats) made using vegan protein powder and topped with bee pollen, almond flour and a homemade dark chocolate star.
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Pancakes filled with homemade ‘Nutella’
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Avocado and Chili Toast – I came up with this bread recipe myself – of course avoiding all dairy, eggs, gluten and yeast when creating the recipe!
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Steak and Veg.
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Turkey Burger with Salad and Courghetti
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Green Smoothie
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Spicy prawn and Quinoa Salad
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Chia Pudding made with coconut milk
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Coconut Yogurt (Coyo) with Protein and Berries and Dairy-Free Chocolate (Ombar)
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Coconut Ice-Cream (Coyo) with Hazelnuts and Maple Syrup
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Green Smoothie
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Homemade Cashew ‘Cheese’ Cakes
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Grilled Chicken on an Aubergine Slider, with salad, sweet potato fries and guacamole.
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Kale Crisps
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Smoothie
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Homemade Raw Bee-Pollen Chocolates

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;

food intolerance, transformation, before and after

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!)

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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.

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Chocolate Cake – Gluten, Dairy, Egg and Yeast Free. Being on such a strict diet forced me to get very creative in the kitchen!

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. 

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Symprove – the gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free probiotic recommended to me by my dietician

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 🙂

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Elimination Diet: Food Intolerance Journey Part 3

Welcome to part three of my four-part series on food intolerance. I’ve already written about my reasons for undergoing food intolerance testing and the process itself (Part 1), as well as my food intolerance results and what they meant for me (Part 2).

I began my elimination diet in March 2015. No dairy, eggs, yeast or gluten to be consumed at all. So what did I eat?

This mainly visual post will show you many of the items I did include in my diet for the first month on the elimination diet…

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Breakfast smoothie – with vegan protein rather than whey based protein powder.
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Breakfast: Protein Smoothie
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Chocolate Proats (Protein Oats) with ground almond and a homemade dark chocolate heart. I used unsweetened almond milk or rice milk in place of dairy milk, I also used gluten-free oats. The protein powder I added to this recipe was vegan rather than whey-based.
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Breakfast Smoothie – for thicker and creamier smoothies I used the likes of chia seeds, avocado or coconut milk as opposed to dairy based ingredients like greek yogurt.
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Snack: Papaya and Coconut Yogurt (Coyo)  with Pumpkin Seed and Ground Almond

 

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Lunch: Tuna Salad with red onion, avocado, spinach and sesame seed.
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Dinner: Salmon and Stir Fried Veg
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Dinner: Courghetti (spirallised courgette) with turkey breast an avocado sauce.
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Lunch: Vegetable soup with lentils
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Gluten, Yeast, Egg and Dairy Free homemade Loaf (Not exactly the same as real bread of course but was nice to have a substitute with a bowl of soup!)
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Dinner: Indian Curry
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Dinner: Another Chicken Curry with Brown Basmati and Homemade Garlic and Onion Flat Bread
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Tomato and Herb Bread – yeast, dairy, egg and gluten free

 

Elimination Diet: Results One Month In:

Of course all of the above meals were entirely gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free. As you can see, my diet was super ‘clean’ and very much non-processed. In combination with eating this way and cutting out all dairy, eggs, gluten and yeast (including alcohol of course), I also took on a new weight training programme which involved full-body weight-training three times a week (about an hour or so per session). After four weeks on the elimination diet the before and after photos looked like this; 
elimination diet, before and after

I was delighted with the results. However, I still wasn’t convinced that the elimination diet (i.e. removing dairy/eggs/yeast and gluten from my diet) was the major reason for the physical change. I knew that eating a healthy diet and training consistently would get me back in shape regardless of elimination; I was extra bloated in the before photo because I had not eaten well leading up to the intolerance test. I had wanted to make sure that all possible allergens were present for the blood test, this meant eating too much processed food, and it shows. I also had not been training regularly before the testing – fitting gym sessions in sporadically rather than consistently. It was my healthy, unprocessed diet and my training that got me these results in such a short space of time, but thus far, four weeks in, the elimination diet it wasn’t the miracle cure I expected.

Elimination Diet: Dietician’s One Month Review:

Having initially consulted a dietician upon beginning my elimination diet, I now arranged a follow-up call and explained to her that despite four weeks of total and careful elimination of dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten, I was still experiencing some digestive discomfort and bloating. She agreed that by now this should have resolved, and whilst she encouraged me to keep going on the plan she suggested I also explore other avenues. At this point I had finished my four week supply of Symprove (the probiotic she had recommended). It would cost another hundred euro to get the next two month supply and I was apprehensive about splurging on it as I wasn’t experiencing the results I had hoped for. The dietician encouraged me to complete the course of Symprove even if I wasn’t going to continue the elimination diet, so I went ahead and got another month’s supply (the third month would be free once I had already paid for two months in a row, so it cost a total of 200 euro for a three month supply).

I also continued the elimination diet for another month, with a few exceptions on the yeast part – I had some alcohol (gin) on two occasions during the following month (clear spirits and champagne contain the least amount of yeast). I suppose as I wasn’t experiencing any major change in terms of digestion, I was feeling less motivated than the initial four weeks, when I had really put my all into carefully following the process. I will say however that my skin was absolutely crystal clear following this first month on the elimination diet. I had tonnes of energy too. I was back in shape and happy to be eating well and training consistently. Ultimately however, eliminating dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten from my diet had thus far not resolved the issues I had hoped it would.

Week five of my elimination diet marked the turning point for me.. I’ll write about it in my next update

The Clean Coconut x

 

Click here to find out my verdict on food intolerance in the final instalment of this four-part series.

 

Food Intolerance Journey: Part Two

Welcome to part two of My Food Intolerance Journey. I’ve already discussed why I went for testing and what results I obtained, now I had to begin to learn more about the changes that would be necessary in order to correctly implement my elimination diet.

Food Intolerance: Talking to a Dietician

Having consulted with a dietician after receiving my results, I discovered in further detail what items I needed to restrict from my diet. Eggs and dairy were pretty straight forward. Lactose-free also doesn’t cut it – it wasn’t the lactose (the milk sugar) that I was intolerant to, it was the milk protein (namely whey and casein). I had already been off gluten, and whilst I had reintroduced it to my diet in the lead up to my testing, and it hadn’t shown up as a food I was intolerant to, I decided to keep it out too. It was almost out by default, because if you can’t have dairy, eggs or yeast, you kind of don’t have the option to include gluten. In fact the majority of processed foods were out really, because dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten are found in a myriad of packaged foods.

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No more whey based protein supplements! I had to substitute my whey with vegan protein powders because of my food intolerance to dairy.

Yeast Intolerance?

Yeast was the item I was most confused about. It had never occurred to me to cut yeast out whenever I had previously trialled elimination diets or cleanses. It seemed to be present in so many foods, both naturally and as an additive for the purpose of flavour enhancement (yeast extract). The obvious foods I had to give up were alcohol (especially beer/cider/wine – clear spirits and champagne are relatively low in yeast and would be better options for me according to the dietician) pizza and bread (I didn’t really eat bread anyway) are also mainly made with yeast. Dried fruits, mushrooms and fermented foods were also out. Ripe fruits and fruit skins also have natural forms of yeast on them. In fact, yeast will grow naturally on most food after a while. The dietician advised that when it came to yeast, I should just cut out the main culprits.

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My favourite goji berries were out – dried fruit is a common home for naturally occurring yeast

Supplements

I had actually been taking a yeast based probiotic supplement which I obviously had to stop – the Saccromyces Boullarri from my Clean Cleanse. When I mentioned this to the dietician she recommended I try a different probiotic called Symprove, as this was gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free. Generally it is to be taken for three months, so I could include it alongside my elimination diet. She also said I should include lots of papaya and avocado as they are very healing for the digestive system.

food intolerance, Symprove - the gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free probiotic recommended to me by my nutritionist
Symprove – the gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free probiotic recommended to me by my dietician

I was told that most people begin to see results within two weeks of cutting out the offending foods. I was so motivated to find out if this diet held the answer for me. I knew three months of eating in this entirely new way would be tough, but I was determined.

Whilst so many foods that we all depend on on a daily basis were cut out of my diet due to food intolerance, there were also a lot of foods that I could eat. In my next post I will share a lot of my ‘food diary’ which I kept throughout my food intolerance journey.

The Clean Coconut x

P. S. Read more about the food intolerance test I took on the Lorisian website here.

Find part three of my Food Intolerance series here.

My Food Intolerance Journey: Part 1

Having completed my Clean Cleanse in November 2014 (which you can read about here) I began 2015 with the intention of learning a little more about food intolerance and discovering whether the food I was eating on a daily basis was contributing to my dull, dry skin, break outs, and bloating. To be clear, I had developed some mild (but very annoying!) acne having never had any skin issues before – even through my teens, and the bloating I was experiencing was not your typical after dinner food-baby bloat. I really wanted to fix these issues and felt like I could maybe do it through correcting my diet, once I knew what I needed to avoid. I was already eating what I thought to be a fairly ‘clean’ diet so it made me all the more curious about what could have been causing the consistent digestive discomfort I was experiencing. I wasn’t putting myself through all this detox and cleansing for the craic. 

I knew I could endure another strict detox regime like the week I had previously completed, and be more careful about slowly adding foods back into my diet,  hopefully getting some clear answers, but I also knew this would be a long and laborious way of finding out my exact food intolerances (if any)…

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Food Intolerance: The Testing

I had heard of a variety of food intolerance tests conducted at various health food shops, but none of them seemed to have any hard science behind them, so I was unconvinced. My Doctor recommended I contact Allergy Counts in Dublin for testing. I learned about the York Test which tests your IgG antibody reaction to over 100 different foods including typical culprits like gluten, milk, eggs, nuts etc. I was excited to have the test done and see if it would give me some answers.

Whilst waiting on my test kit, I spent two weeks eating an all-inclusive diet of many of the things that I had been avoiding; wheat, gluten, milk, peanuts etc. I have to say that my symptoms were worse than ever in those two weeks! However, if one does not eat certain foods prior to the York Test then the test will not be able to determine if you have an intolerance to the food as it has not been in your system to cause a reaction. While York Test do not recommend you eat foods that you know cause a bad reaction for you, I personally wanted a comprehensive picture of my own food intolerances so I decided to include everything in my diet!

I received a testing kit in the post which I had to return with a finger-prick blood sample that would then be sent to a lab in England for analysis. (Sending an actual blood sample to a laboratory made this particular test seem far more legit than the other health-food-shop food intolerance tests I had read about!) I was told I should have my results back in ten days and would then speak with a dietician who would go over my results and advise what foods I needed to eliminate from my diet.

So… What were my results?

I was told that there were three foods I needed to avoid; dairy, eggs and yeast. These were to be cut out immediately and kept out for at least three months from the point at which I became symptom free.

In Part Two I will write about how I got on with the elimination diet. I can say that I learned something very surprising, and discovered what had been the missing piece of the puzzle for me.

The Clean Coconut x

P.S. As far as I am aware, food intolerance testing using levels of blood IgG is not scientifically proven to be a reliable marker for food intolerance. Opinion is divided on the efficacy of this testing. I’ll give you my opinion over the course of the posts which follow. You can read more about food intolerance and the York Test on their website here.

Check out part two of my Food Intolerance series here. 

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