The Elimination Diet: How It Works

As I mentioned in my first post, my Elimination Diet was developed by Aglaee Jacob, RD and is explained in her book Digestive Health with REAL Food.  I came across the book in a comment on another blog, and looked at the reviews on Amazon, nearly all of which were glowing.  I had been on the FODMAP diet for a couple of months and was searching for another approach.  I started reading about GAPS and SCD diets, and had decided to try one when Aglaee’s book arrived from Amazon.  I started reading it that evening, and when I saw the diet was even more restrictive than GAPS / SCD, I decided I should try it.  I figured if this didn’t work, GAPS or SCD probably wouldn’t either.  Plus I felt good about the comprehensive information she presented and her own success healing her Post-Infectious IBS.

I will tell you I find the book itself to be very useful.  It explains in plain English how the intestinal processes work, and how it gets to the point where it goes so wrong.  Then goes through the options for trying to heal and improve your GI tract.  It’s multidimensional and discusses mind-body issues, chronic stress, nutrition, enzymes… really everything.  I know I sound like an ad for the book, but it is extremely helpful to have all of this information in one place, versus scattered across the blogosphere.  Especially when you’re already sick and feeling out of options.

Here are the Elimination Diet rules of the road:

  • FAT: You can eat good fats and the more the better.  Good fats are ghee (super-clarified butter), coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil.  There may be others mentioned in the book but these are the ones I use.  Coconut oil is especially good for people who have IBS and digestive problems because it’s easier to digest than the other fats.
  • PROTEIN:  You can eat any protein that is not processed.  Avoid bacon, ham, etc.  Get high quality protein if you can (grass fed / organic).  I started out eating everything from chicken to beef to crab to lamb.  Now, to determine whether I was having adverse reactions to some harder to digest meats, I have limited my protein to chicken and fish only starting in Week 3.  If I continue to do well on just these proteins, I will try re-introducing beef during Week 5 and then pork.
  • CARBS:  You can only eat four vegetables and no fruits.  The veggies must be cooked well to enhance digestibility.  The four veggies are spinach, zucchini, green beans, and carrots.  I have eliminated green beans from my diet starting in Week 3 due to a possible reaction I noticed.  It’s not confirmed so at some point I will re-introduce and see if I can tolerate them.
  • BROTH:  Aglaee is a strong proponent of homemade bone broth as part of the solution.  Making your own involves a chicken carcass and some filtered water, along with carrots if you like.  (Store bought broth doesn’t have the nutrients that properly prepared bone broth does, so don’t bother to substitute.)  Boil then simmer very low for 12 hours or so.  No onions or garlic.  The book contains detailed instructions on how to do this. The process will infuse the broth with gelatin that helps to heal the gut because of certain amino acids it contains.  I don’t think I have mastered the Art of Bone Broth yet, so I am taking collagen as a supplement as well.  More on that later.
  • DAIRY – None.  Ghee is derived from butter but has all the proteins removed, so it’s really a fat.  If you buy ghee, be sure to buy grass fed. You can also make it yourself from grass fed butter using the recipe in the book.
  • BEVERAGES:  Water and lots of it.  Also, herbal tea such as Green, Rooibos or Mint tea.  No coffee.  No juice.  No soda.
  • FLAVORS/SPICES:  Garlic and onions are off limits, but you can buy or make your own garlic infused olive oil.  This is a great option.  You may use herbs, cinnamon, and salt (lots and lots of salt).  In fact her book recommends a significant amount of salt intake to help keep your electrolytes balanced.  There are other “safe” spices listed in the book that I am not using.

This is pretty much it.  I know it sounds difficult; it’s no walk in the park.  Most of us are used to eating conveniently and quickly, and supporting this diet requires you make EVERYTHING you eat.  This would be fine if you were snowbound, but most of us have to go out in the world and have a meal away from home.  For me, that means lunches at work.  So I take my lunch, every day, no exceptions.

On the bright side my food actually tastes wonderful.  I am not eating the wide variety of foods I would like to eat, but the food I am eating is delicious.  So that is a huge help.

Next I will discuss my tips for getting started and staying on the diet.

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