4. Jun, 2018

Low-chemical Elimination Diet withdrawal symptoms

When you begin a low-chemical food elimination diet, you can get withdrawal symptoms which make you feel worse before you start to feel better. This can lead some people to eliminate even more foods from their diet, which their  nutritionist has carefully personalised for fast and effective healing, but why is this?

Your body adapts by up or down-regulating pathways to minimise the inflammation caused by reactive foods. It can take as little as one or two days, or as much as two weeks for those pathways to return to normal, during which time you may incorrectly attribute your symptoms to the foods included in your elimination diet. It can take longer if you make a mistake, but more on that later. 

Withdrawals can include physical symptoms that existed before the diet like migraines or headaches, mouth ulcers and flu-like symptoms, but are also likely to include behavioural issues such as irritability and aggression, lack of focus/concentration, forgetfulness, being tearful or feeling overwhelmed.

It isn't unusual for strong food cravings to occur during this time. If that happens, you can use a distraction like going for a walk or reading a book or magazine until it passes, or try an elimination diet-friendly alternative. 

To be able to tackle these cravings and overcome withdrawal symptoms as quickly and smoothly as possible, it is best to plan your meals and snacks in advance. What if you only get to plan one week before you're smashed by withdrawal symptoms? If you're not up to planning some variety for your second week, you can just repeat it. There is some merit to this approach because it makes mistakes easier to identify. Exactly what is it that can sabotage your good work though? 

The biggest mistake I see in my practice is not considering other environmental triggers such as fragrances. Both synthetic and natural fragrances are high in salicylates, one of the three chemicals we are trying to minimise on a low-chemical elimination diet. 

Thanks to millions of people with sensitive skin, we are blessed with a  number of no or low-fragrance health & beauty brands, the best known of which are QV and Redwin.  If you use moisturiser, shampoo, conditioner or deodorant, they have a suitable low fragrance product. You will need to eliminate nice-smelling body washes (yes, even those lovely lavender ones) and go back to plain old unscented soap.  Stop spraying air fresheners in your home or hanging one in your car. Even your toothpaste needs to be plain (Soul Pattinson or Pharmacy Health brand) because even the seemingly benign mint flavours are high in salicylates. 

Sometimes this adjustment period can seem like it's going to last forever but don't give up! Much like tobacco, drug or alcohol withdrawal, you have to stay strong, trust your nutritionist and ride it out to get to the other side.  You won't be sorry that you did. This diet changes lives.