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.
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 🙂