This is a guest post by Megan McGrane – physician’s assistant, health coach and autoimmune warrior. Find more about Megan on her site here. You can follow her on instagram and twitter.
After using a strict elimination diet such as the autoimmune protocol, reintroducing foods can be intimidating. Perhaps you experienced a reduction in symptoms on the diet but you do not want to stay on AIP indefinitely. Trying to identify trigger foods is an important part of getting the most out of the AIP. Going through a focused reintroduction phase is critical in discovering food triggers and sensitivities.
Here are a few simple steps to make your reintroduction phase easier.
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Tracking your symptoms during the reintroduction phase is key to your success. Try keeping a food diary as well as a symptom diary in which you make quick notes about how you feel after eating each meal as well as how you feel at the end of each day. This will help you to reflect and identify symptoms that may not have stood out to you initially.
Symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, rashes, itchy skin, nausea, and headaches are common signs that a food you have eaten is negatively affecting you. More subtle effects like fatigue, joint aches, and mood swings can also be signs of a problem. Make a daily note about each of the following in your symptoms journal: digestion, elimination, aches, pains, energy, skin, and overall wellbeing. Being attentive to how you are feeling and keeping good notes each day will help you get the most from the process.
Reintroduce Foods Methodically (One Food At A Time)
Be methodical about reintroduction. Choose a food that you have eliminated and reintroduce it into your diet on two consecutive days while keeping the rest of your diet exactly the same. If you introduce too many things at once and you have a reaction, you will not be able to pinpoint the trigger.
To successfully reintroduce foods you have eliminated, you’ll want to pick a day to start your reintroduction and try the food in one meal on two consecutive days. The rest of your meals should follow your regular AIP diet for two more days.
Try staring with foods that are least likely to cause adverse reactions like egg yolk, grass-fed butter, seeds, nuts, and limited quantities of coffee or alcohol (one serving at a time at most). Next would be the individual nightshade vegetables, but be sure to try each vegetable separately.
For example, if you want to try eggs, start by having eggs for breakfast on two consecutive days (let’s say on Monday and Tuesday). The rest of your meals for Monday through Thursday should stay the same. You should make notes about your symptoms after each meal on Monday and Tuesday and then one to two times per day, for example in the morning and at night on Wednesday and Thursday. At the end of the four day period, look back over your notes and see if you noted any negative symptoms or discomforts.
Perhaps you’ll react right away and realize that eggs are not for you. Perhaps you’ll feel well and not see any negative symptoms in your notes. If you don’t react, you can try eggs one more time in a similar cycle, or you can move onto a new food, such as nightshade vegetables.
Rushing the reintroduction process can negate your hard work, if you add too many foods back in at once and cause inflammation. It is tempting to try new foods on consecutive days when you are feeling well, but sticking to a plan and giving yourself space to test possible trigger foods will help you maximize your results.
Don’t Be Afraid To Start Over
Reintroduction can be tricky. If you have a bad reaction to a food, you may have to go back to a strict AIP diet for a week or two until your symptoms clear up again, so that you can reintroduce another food. Having setbacks during this period is very common, and understanding this is an important part of following the AIP. It is important to stay motivated and to know that reintroduction is a trial and error process.
Photo credit: Giuseppe Milo
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