Today I want to share with you how to reintroduce foods after an elimination diet.
This is definitely one of the top questions I get because it’s difficult (and stressful) to navigate.
While you will find many different methods for how to reintroduce foods after an elimination diet, I don’t think there is a method.
In other words, similar to how the elimination diet itself was customized for you so is the way you reintroduce foods after the elimination period is over.
What is an Elimination Diet?
First, in case you are new ’round here, let’s briefly chat the elimination diet.
The ultimate goal of the elimination diet is to figure out which foods your body is reacting to and/or not responding well to.
Reactions could be eczema, general rashes and acne, bloating, diarrhea, etc. Really, anytime your body is presenting signals that something is not right, the chances that it’s food related are fairly high.
An elimination diet involves removing those foods, and then later reintroducing them, one at a time. Simultanesouly, you’ll watch for symptoms that show a reaction.
The process takes a slow-and-go approach.
There is a huge post I’ve written all about what an elimination diet is, how to do it, recipes, and more HERE. Check it out.
If an elimination diet takes a slow-and-go approach, then the way to reintroduce foods afterwards is in the same fashion.
At least this is what worked for me.
Let me share with you my tips and tricks for reintroducing foods.
How to Reintroduce Foods After an Elimination Diet
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First, I never did this without the use of a gut healing journal. If you have a true allergy, you might be able to get by without the journal, but not if it’s an intolerance.
The reason is that a food intolerance can take up to 72 hours for your body to react. Without writing, recording, and paying attention, you’ll likely never fully understand your culprits.
In fact, I believe so much in this part (the reintroduction) that my gut healing journaling system includes two symbols for recording.
When you get your Healing Blooms from Within gut healing journaling system, you’ll notice these two symbols in the Journal Key under category “General”: R + N.
Reintroduction vs. New Thing Added
- R: reintroduction
- N: new thing added
So what’s the difference and how do you use them?
This has everything to do with your elimination diet.
You would use the R to indicate reintroduction of a food. For example, let’s say that part of your elimination diet was avoiding high-FODMAP foods. (Well, the first thing you should do is understand what actually constitutes high-FODMAP. For that, grab Reasonable SIBO to get started.)
At just 1 spear, asparagus is moderate-FODMAP; at 5 spears, it’s high-FODMAP.
But you’re now ready to try a high-FODMAP food. For the test, you’ve chosen asparagus because obviously it’s your favorite!
This might sound lame, but the way I would do it is by eating just one spear. The reason is because if you react to that one spear, it’s very telling. You are not ready for the asparagus yet, of course. But more than that, you can now think about why.
- Was it the stress you were under while eating the asparagus?
- What else did you eat with it?
- Asparagus is moderate-FODMAP at 1 spear due to fructose; maybe it’s just fructose?
- Do you still have a lot of work to do on sealing up the gut lining so 1 spear doesn’t cause you so much distress?
Oh, and by the way, all of those things will be easy to see because they will be in that same journal!
Anyways, in your journal on the “My Day” section, you’d write on the far left, “R,” then next to it, “1 spear of asparagus.”
This signifies that you have not had asparagus for a long time, but you’re now adding it back in because you desire for it to eventually be part of your everyday diet.
Quick side note on cooking asparagus. Want to know the easiest and most timely way for making asparagus? Boil a pot of water. Once it’s boiling, remove from heat, add the asparagus, and cover for 5 minutes. That’s it. The asparagus will be soft and ready to go. You’re welcome.
Okay, now on to the “N.”
N: New Thing Added
N is different than R, though at first glance they seem the exact same.
Let’s say you’ve never tried digestive enzymes. But then, your medical practitioner suggests you try enzymes to help break down food for easier digestion.
You’re ready to try a digestive enzyme with that meal from above. Adding in the enzyme is not reintroduction of it; it’s brand new. See the difference?
The entry for that meal, then, would look something like this:
- N + S (supplement): digestive enzyme
- R: 1 spear asparagus
- F: chicken breast + white rice + orange
So there you have the difference.
And by the way, don’t worry about all the symbols. Your journal has full explanation with a comprehensive journal key. The journal key is perforated, too, so you can easily tear it out to keep right next to you as you write and record.
Now that we’re clear on that aspect, let’s continue on.
7 Tips for Successfully Reintroducing Foods After an Elimination Diet
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You will find many different ways and even specific steps and programs for how to reintroduce foods back into your diet. And while I want to give you that same, exact information, in good faith I simply can’t.
The reason is the same reason that laying out a specific gut healing plan that works across the board doesn’t work.
There is no one else on the entire planet who is like you, darling.
For better or worse, own that.
Therefore, I’m not okay with telling you, “reintroduce this, this, and this.” Only you can do that.
But you can do it far easier with the following 7 tips.
Least offensive/inflammatory first
Let’s say you have avoided citrus and nightshades. You have an autoimmune condition. The choice is to add back an orange or red peppers. Choose the orange. For those with an autoimmune condition, nightshades can be very inflammatory. In almost all cases, you’ll want to add the highest-inflammatory foods last. Depending on your unique circumstances, though, “highest” inflammatory is subjective.
Standard elimination diets say to add foods back in every 3 days, wait for the reaction, and adjust accordingly. I agree with this, though it’s not easy. The reason goes back to that 72 hours I shared earlier. Back to the orange. You have the orange on day 1, then wait 3 more days without consuming an orange. Shift and move forward. Yes, it’s slow.
To go along with the slow-and-go, rotate how you’re adding those foods in every 72 hours. So let’s say you successfully added in the orange. You then add in a new citrus next time. On day 3, then, you have a grapefruit. This is so that you can test a variety of foods within the same category. Remember, our end goal is always variety because it creates the optimal microbiome environment.
Consider your condition
Work with your unique condition(s) vs with a standard elimination and/or reintroduction protocol. For example, if you have GERD + SIBO, adding mint back into your diet is not a good idea. adding mint back in if you don’t have GERD (but have SIBO) could be an excellent idea. You need to work with your condition(s) and only your condition(s).
Note any and all reactions
You cannot move forward until you understand the present. This is reason 1,237 for why you must keep some sort of gut healing journal. I’m not saying you have to have the Healing Blooms from Within journal in order to find success. But what I am saying is:
- You need something.
- My system is already done-for-you and will save you time, energy, and exhaustion.
Listen, I know exactly what you’ll lean towards doing; never adding in anything new because you’re afraid of what might happen. But do not wait forever because you’re scared. An elimination diet was never intended to be lifelong. In fact, the longer you live on that short-list of foods, the longer it might take to heal forever. If your condition has you so afraid of food that you become frozen, please get some help from a professional. Food fear is real, but I do not want you to ever be afraid of food……when it’s unwarranted. Be brave. Start somewhere.
Get your mindset around reintroducing foods right. For context, read: How Mindset Changes Gut Healing. This is very real. I had a much easier time when I told myself, “You are healed. Your SIBO is gone. You can enjoy all types of food again.” The struggle was very real, though, when I would say, “What if this makes me feel awful? I shouldn’t add this food in because it’s bad for me.” No, no, and no again. Please tell yourself the right things.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments below.
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You will heal. I will help.