[Editor’s note: Julie Cerrone is a Certified Holistic Health Coach based in Pittsburgh who is living with psoriatic disease. The following is the second half of a two-part series about her experiences with elimination diets. As the author writes on her blog, “You should never substitute information from this blog for information obtained from your presiding licensed medical professional.” Cerrone's viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of the National Psoriasis Foundation.]
In my previous post about elimination diets, I mentioned how in my opinion cutting out gluten and dairy might have a positive affect on your immune system. Because each of us are so different, there are many different reactions that people can have in response to the food. Like I said before, it can be beneficial to complete an elimination diet so that you know exactly how specific foods respond in your body.
But if you don’t want to do such a strict elimination period, cutting out (or minimizing) top trigger foods can be a great place to start. Gluten and dairy are top offenders with sugar, soy and corn right on their heels. You may not be surprised about sugar, but you may be confused about soy and corn being included on this list.
Sugar is a toxin to our body for a number of reasons. It can increase the risk of insulin resistance, suppress our immune systems, create inflammation and make us gain weight. It also perpetuates addictive food behaviors. The great news is that by simply reducing your current intake of sugar, you could make a dramatic change.
If you remember from my first post, I mentioned that, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 75 to 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut. When you eat sugary foods, your immune system gets up close and personal with this toxin.
Back in the 1950s, fat was declared to be the enemy of heart disease, and companies everywhere started cutting back fat and making “low fat” products. The problem with this was that in place of fat, the companies started pumping up food with sugar to make them taste good. Because of this, I think society eats way more sugar than our bodies were ever equipped to handle.
Try these tips and tricks:
- Swap out refined white sugar for more natural forms. Try coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup. Remember though, they’re still forms of sugar. Everything in moderation!
- Instead of reaching for a candy bar, cookies or cake, try a piece of fruit! It’s naturally sweet and will still satisfy your brain’s pleasure center.
- By avoiding sugar for two weeks to one month, your body may begin to decrease its tolerance for sugar. So try a detox and cut it out for a month!
- Be patient with yourself when trying to cut back on sugar. Sugar fires the reward region of your brain and makes your body crave more.
Soy, corn and canola are the top genetically modified crops in the U.S. As of right now, there are no long-term studies on genetically modified crops and the human body. GMOs vs. non-GMOs is a big debate today, and while I’m not here to argue for or against them, you may want to consider avoiding them in your diet.
Try these tips and tricks:
- Instead of opting for soy milk, try almond or coconut milk instead.
- Start paying attention to ingredient lists on your favorite processed foods. Companies sneak soy in the majority of the products out there on grocery-store shelves. Soy will go by a variety of different names. The common ones are soybean oil, tofu, edamame, tempeh and miso, but there are many other names you should be on the lookout for, too.
Like I mentioned before, the majority of corn in the U.S. is genetically modified. Like soy, you may want to consider avoiding corn.
Try these tips and tricks:
- If you’re going to enjoy corn, try to use organic and non-GMO.
- Swap out corn oils (and know that vegetable oil is usually a mix of corn and canola oil) for extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
- Make sure to read ingredient labels. There are many derivatives of corn that companies add to their processed foods.
Track what you eat
Back before studying nutrition, I tracked my calorie intake like it was my job. Calories in and calories out – that was what I thought was the best way to maintain a healthy weight and to be healthy. Sure, scientifically it works. But, all calories are not the same. The calories in a stem of broccoli are much more nutrient-dense than a handful of gummy bears in equal caloric weight. Eating broccoli is going to help fuel your cells a lot more than the empty calories the gummy bears contain.
One of the first exercises I have my clients go through is a Breakfast Experiment. Every day for a week, eat something different for breakfast. Track what you ate and how you feel right after, two hours later and later that evening. Food can take up to 72 hours to manifest as a symptom in your body, but this exercise can be truly eye-opening.
By collecting data like this, you can start to hone in on what foods are making you lethargic, which may be giving you headaches or joint pain, and other symptoms that you might never have attributed to food. Pay special attention to the foods I’ve mentioned here – gluten, dairy, sugar, corn and soy. The best way to test these trigger foods is to complete an elimination diet, but this exercise can be very beneficial because it will start teaching you to pay attention to the symptoms your body is giving you.
Be patient with yourself
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Remember, the goal of a diet should be to pick foods that will help support your body’s processes so that they can work optimally. If your body is supported to work as it should, you’ll start to experience some awesome side effects - more energy, balanced hormones, less inflammation, decreased pain and weight loss. Food truly can be a medicine to your body. By choosing high-quality, anti-inflammatory foods you can help your body achieve that goal.
So take a holistic approach to your health and let your food be your medicine.
Worse-case scenario? The nutrient dense foods you consume will support your body to allow your medications to work even better.
Best-case scenario? Your immune system calms down, your hormones balance out, you lose a ton of weight and fit into your high school skinny jeans!
Wishing you a pain free day!
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