In the pursuit of resolving my 3+ year battle with indigestion, I found myself on a new leg of my nutrition and wellness journey. On May 19th, under advisement of a nutritionist, I began an elimination cleanse. What began as a 10-day cleanse has become so much more than I could have imagined.
What, you might be wondering, is an elimination cleanse, and why would someone do such a thing?
An elimination cleanse traditionally removes the top 6 food allergens from one’s menu. These foods include soy, gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, eggplant, and paprika). After a minimum of 10 days, you re-introduce foods, one at a time, to identify what you are sensitive to. This cleanse is a great tool to identify triggers to migraines, indigestion, allergies, IBS, and many other intestinal issues.
I knew I wanted to get to the bottom of my digestive issues, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to eat after reviewing the “no” list. My normal grocery list included Greek yogurt, string cheese, soy milk, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, couscous, and tomatoes (along with a variety of other veggies). Thankfully I was armed with a list of foods I could have:
- Fresh & frozen fruit
- Fresh vegetables (other than nightshade)
- Wild caught fish
- Non-gluten grains including: quinoa, brown and wild rice, buckwheat, teff, millet, amaranth, brown rice pasta, pure buckwheat noodles
- All beans, split peas, lentils, legumes
- Raw & unsalted nuts
- Almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, or coconut milk
- Green or herbal teas (non-caffeinated), spring and sparkling water, fresh vegetable juices
- Extra virgin olive oil, coconut, sesame, walnut, flaxseed
- Apple cider, white wine, red wine, balsamic, rice
- All herbs and spices, mustard
- Cocoa nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder
My biggest challenge (besides no chocolate or wine) was no packaged food. I was really good at using a frozen casserole, adding fresh veggies & legumes, and stretching it into several meals for the week. Unfortunately that also meant I was good at adding extra sodium, preservatives, soy, and chemicals to my meals. With the help of my nutritionist, I was armed with recipes for smoothies, salads, dressings, soups, and main courses. But, where would I find the extra time?
Lesson #1: There is always time to cook healthy, fresh, and amazing meals.
- When you bring all your amazing produce home take the time to wash, cut, and package your veggies to save time when cooking.
- Prep and bag your smoothie ingredients.
- When roasting veggies, cook 2-3 times more than needed to use to future meals.
- Casseroles and soups are perfect for enjoying leftovers at lunch.
The plan was 10 days of elimination, a 3-day juice cleanse, and then beginning the re-introduction process. I decided that 10 days would be easy. I would stick to the menu plan, avoid restaurants, and keep my goal in sight. That was a great plan… until the game changed.
Due to scheduling conflicts my 10 days of elimination became 16, and I learned my next lesson.
Lesson #2: I had to go from “I can’t” to “I can.”
I could choose to view this new challenge in a negative or positive light. I could continue telling myself “I can’t have (insert food I was craving) right now” or I could tell myself “I can enjoy this healthy, delicious, and creative meal that I made.” I started researching new recipes, experimenting with my smoothies, and bringing home new veggies. The more invested I became in creating my menu, the more I enjoyed, and not just ate, my meals. I don’t know what my body loved more, my positive outlook or the incredible food I was enjoying. My hair took on a new shine and my skin glowed simply from adding healthy fats to my diet.
As I moved into my juice cleanse, I was feeling strong, positive, and motivated. I quickly discovered that three days of juice was a whole new battle. In my experience, there 3 stages of a juice cleanse: excitement, boredom, and pissed off. By day three I was craving a kale salad. Who craves kale? Someone who has been consuming juice, non-stop, for 48+ hours and has gained perspective on the joys of chewing, that’s who.
As I continue to keep the top 6 food allergens out of my menu and enjoy only clean and whole foods, I am seeing amazing progress with my indigestion issues. But, even better:
- I lost 10lbs and the sodium induced bloat I didn’t know I had.
- My skin and hair look and feel great.
- I am more mindful about enjoying my food. I am chewing eat bite completely, putting my fork down between bites, and savoring the flavors of my meal.
- The foods I am enjoying are good for me but they also taste better. It’s like my taste buds got a boost.
- Visually, things are crisper, like a mental fog has been lifted.
- I feel vibrant and energetic.
- The self-care I am putting into my menu has expended to other parts of my life. I am looking for additional ways to care for myself. Daily meditation, setting positive intentions, and body brushing have been added to my life.
Lesson #3: Embrace the journey.
I keep learning this lesson over and over again. It’s also an incredibly important lesson if you want to master self-care. I started out with my eyes fixed on a destination. I was going through the motions and following the rules in an effort to achieve a goal, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. Along the way a speed bump encouraged me to pause and look around. I chose to enjoy the journey instead of only focusing on the destination. As a result, the journey has been much more enjoyable, and my goal is becoming more attainable every single day.
I am not sure where this path is leading, but I know I can handle any challenges that arise and I will enjoy every bite along the way. Day 41 and counting.
Written by Gretchen Schutte. Posted by Lauri Bosserman