Food Reintroduction: How To Do It After an Elimination Diet

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

A Variety Of Food, Avocado, Egg, Tomatoes, Vegetables, Food Reintroduction

So, you cut out some “gut irritating” foods to help heal your gut or boost your metabolism…and now you may be wondering:

  • Will I always have to eat this way?
  • When is it OK to try an old food again?
  • Is it bad to want to occasionally eat some dairy or sugar?

AnswerFood reintroduction is king for total health and a balanced lifestyle!

Food Reintroduction is Essential for Health

Woman Eating Apple As Food ReintroductionLong term restrictive diets don’t do your body any favors. Variety and “80/20 balance” is essential for a happy, healthy gut microbiome.

And although real food is your body’s preferred fuel the majority of the time (80 percent of the time), 20 percent of the time, it’s OK to let life happen!

As you prepare to reintroduce foods into your diet, consider it an experiment and try reintroducing foods with this 3-step approach. Your body will tell you what it does (and does not) like.

Step 1: Limit Your Elimination Diet to 30-90 Days

An elimination protocol that removes inflammatory or trigger foods is recommended for at least 30 days to allow your body and gut time to adjust to being free from the trigger foods. Consider an elimination protocol like a dirty windshield: The dirtier a windshield is; the less dirt you can see on it. But consider a clean windshield where even a small amount of dirt stands out. It takes about 30 days to wipe the slate clean in your gut, then you can do some experimenting.

Some of the top inflammatory foods on an elimination protocol may include:

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  • Grains
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Beans, peas and peanuts
  • Soy
  • Nightshades (vegetables/spices)
  • Pork

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  • FODMAP foods like cruciferous veggies, some fruits; especially raw
  • Sweeteners and added sugar of any kind
  • Large amounts of starches
  • Eggs

 

During the initial stages of the food reintroduction, it can be helpful to keep a mindful food and feelings log, recording what you eat and how you feel physically and mentally. Jot down hunger cues, energy levels and poo patterns. It is also often necessary to support your gut microbiome with specific probiotics, enzymes, herbs and/or nutrients necessary to help address underlying gut issues present, as guided by your practitioner or healing protocol. Sometimes 60 to 90 days may be needed for full gut healing.

Step 2: Experiment Time

Your 30 to 90 days are up and now you’re ready to see what your body can and cannot handle. Follow the 3-day experiment for each food you choose to reintroduce into your diet.

Choose ONE Food to Start

Instead of eating several different reintroduction foods in the same setting or day, it’s best to reintroduce foods one at a time. That way you know how one food affects you, if at all differently, from another.

Day 1: Eat it Alone

Food Reintroduction With Various Kinds Of Healthy FoodFor the food you choose, eat a small portion of it away from other food or meals before consuming the rest of your meal or as a small snack. Do not eat a full serving at once. Try a few bites on day one. Log how you feel and don’t be alarmed if you experience minor digestive distress. This can occur if you haven’t had a certain food in a while. Some people adjust just fine. 

Day 2: Eat it with a Meal

If all went well on day one, you’re ready to try incorporating a small serving of the food with a meal. Keep the serving small. For example, a few bites of a sweet potato or one egg. Log how you feel.

Day 3: A Full Serving

If you’re ready for the final experiment, eat a full serving of the food as part of your meal. For example, half of a medium/ sweet potato, two to three eggs in an omelet or 1/3 cup rice. Log how you feel.

Step 3: Listen to Your Body

The focus throughout the entire Reintroduction Experiment is to assess how you feel. Pay attention to any signs or symptoms like skin breakouts, allergies, upset tummy, etc. Not all foods will be a home run. You may discover that you can’t believe you used to eat a certain food all the time because you breakout or get bloated. For other foods, you’ll find that your body tolerates them well.

You don’t have to be AIP, low FODMAP, Keto, Whole 30 or any other label. You just need to be you and build out the custom nutrition blueprint that best fits your needs. Aim to eat with the least restrictive mindset, while in the process of food reintroduction, recognize those that are truly good for you mentally and digestively. Go with your gut and experiment with other foods if you like once your mission with one food at a time is accomplished.

Bonus: Don’t Forget Digestive Support!!!

Digestive support can go along way for those meals you accidentally cross your digestive threshold. Below are some recommendations (See Signs & Symptoms Protocols for more specific recommendations).

Bloating

Constipation

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  • Prokinetic Supplement (such as MotilPro by Pure Encapsulations)
  • Ground flaxseed (in a smoothie, squash, or salad)
  • Prune juice
  • Liposomal Vitamin C

 

Gluten exposure/intolerance

  • Carbohydrate-specific digestive enzymes (such as Carbo G by Transformation Enzymes)

Fatty or greasy foods that make you feel nauseas

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