By Ashley Wall
Two years ago, I found myself falling asleep after every meal.
Regardless of what I ate, my mind would become so clouded that I couldn’t focus on my academics or frankly, anything.
My muscles would ache and I would constantly feel exhausted, even if I had just woken up. If I wasn’t sleeping, I would experience excruciating migraines.
I was miserable.
I knew something was wrong and yet, no one would take my concerns seriously.
“It’s all in your head.”
“Nothing’s wrong with you.”
Those are the words I would hear repeated after every meal by well-meaning family and friends.
And I started to believe them, too.
It wasn’t until my mother tossed around the idea that I might have food allergies – just as she does – that I realized I wasn’t crazy and those feelings weren’t just in my head.
At the discretion of my doctor, I went on an elimination diet.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), elimination diets involve a temporary elimination of specific foods in order to help diagnose food allergies and disorders that affect the gut.
My personalized diet was severely restricted, which meant no gluten, dairy, eggs, caffeine, fats, soy, or high-sugar foods.
Miraculously, after three long months of detoxing, all of my symptoms were gone.
Through allergy testing and a gradual reintroduction phase that resulted in my symptoms returning, I learned I was allergic to eggs, dairy, and gluten.
Although I was relieved to finally have an answer to why I felt so sick all the time, those around me, aside from my immediate family, still did not understand.
Once I cut these foods out, I began to lose weight. My skin was glowing. I had energy. My migraines were gone and my body became less inflamed.
I felt good.
Those who knew of the benefits I experienced wanted to try the diet as well to achieve the same results.
But, what people don’t understand is that an elimination diet is not a miracle cure for those who don’t have food allergies or food intolerances. Cutting out foods such as gluten or dairy for an extended period of time without consulting a doctor comes with health risks.
Elimination diets are intended to be short-term.
While there are proven benefits to eliminating certain food groups, an elimination diet should be used for diagnostic purposes only, and those wanting to permanently cut foods from their diets should consult a doctor or nutritionist first.
According to FARE, elimination diets should only be conducted under the supervision of a medical professional.
The core of the diet – elimination – is the exact reason why it is so dangerous.
The Institute for Functional Medicine says eating the same foods repeatedly without reintroducing foods that had been eliminated denies the body of necessary nutrients. Those with allergies and intolerances should have a large diversity of foods in their diet to support digestive health.
In order to support those with allergies and intolerances, one should have a wide diversity of foods in their diet to support digestive health.
Those who only see the glamour of a diet don’t see my struggles.
No one knows that I take seven supplements twice a day just to maintain the nutrient and vitamin levels I need to keep my body functioning properly.
They don’t know that I am afraid to eat because when I experience cross contamination, all of my previous symptoms come back with a vengeance and I have to experience an agonizing detox for two weeks.
They don’t know that in the beginning of my elimination period, I had cravings so bad that I’d binge on the very foods I was allergic to, thus making my symptoms worse.
It’s been two years since my initial diagnosis and I still have my moments of envy when I see a stranger walk by with a slice of pizza or watch as my family enjoys their gluten- and dairy-filled meals.
It’s been two years and I still struggle every single day with my new diet.
It’s been two long, rewarding years that have resulted in more self-love, more positivity, and a healthier, stronger me.
The benefits of permanently eliminating the offending foods and thus feeling symptom-free and healthy far outweigh that slice of pizza.