by: Elysia Arseneau
[This is Part Nine of the series called My BCB Journey. Click here to see all posts in this series.]
Whether you’re suffering from low energy, mood issues, skin disorders, allergies and sensitivities, or stomach conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s or colitis, they all have one thing in common: digestion!
When I started my journey to better health, I took NutriChem’s Body Chemistry Balancing Test, also known as the BCB. This comprehensive assessment uses blood and urine tests to study more than 60 biochemical markers, considering everything from standard blood count, neurotransmitter function and gastrointestinal health to mineral and vitamin levels and general metabolism.
Even though my BCB results showed healthy levels of “good bacteria” in my gut, I still opted to have a Nutritional Consultation to see if I could make any further changes to my lifestyle to be healthier, especially since I have environmental allergies and some known food sensitivities. Laura Mierzwa, one of NutriChem’s Registered Holistic Nutritionists, gave me fantastic recommendations that I outlined in Part 4 of this blog series, called Are We Really What We Eat?.
The main recommendation from Laura was to eat according to the Elimination Diet for a while. As Laura explained, some of my physical and emotional symptoms could be related to food sensitivities, inflammation in my body, and damage done to my stomach and intestines from decades of eating foods and using antibiotics that I should’ve been avoiding.
For the Elimination Diet to be most effective, you need to remove all “toxic” substances, such as certain food ingredients (refined sugar, refined wheat, alcohol, caffeine) and chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, food colorings, MSG) for a period of time. After this “clean” eating and “reset” of your digestive system, you then then re-introduce the substances one-by-one and observe how your body reacts. In doing so, you might discover that you have food allergies or sensitivities to some of the foods you’ve been eating all along.
I strictly followed the Elimination Diet for 3 weeks and saw and felt incredible results, including losing a total of 12 lbs. This is the part of the diet that I loved!!! Despite my early difficulties before I had properly grocery shopped, I loved every moment of the elimination phase when I was able to do it well. I was trying new recipes, eating different foods, and seeing and feeling the fruits of my labour. Those steady improvements kept me motivated to keep going. That’s the “love” portion.
As for my “hate” part of this diet, I have to be honest: it is REALLY difficult to stay strong for so long! I had 2 excellent weeks where I had lots of time to prepare food ahead of time. For those weeks, it was easy to stay strong and eat properly. However, I am usually overbooked with work and activities throughout the week, which means that sometimes going to a restaurant or picking something “quick” up is required. During those days (weeks), it was very difficult to stay on track. It was also difficult to go to friends’ houses for dinner or to regular restaurants: most places don’t have gluten-free AND dairy-free AND non-processed options, especially ones that are vegetarian or vegan. Even if these options are present, there’s usually not enough protein in the meals, or the protein comes in the form of a soy product (which is not allowed on the Elimination Diet).
Another part of the Elimination Diet that has been really difficult has been re-introducing the eliminated foods into my diet.
I started re-introducing foods about a week and a half ago, and it’s been a bit confusing to accurately determine whether my body is reacting to them or not. The first food that I chose to re-introduce was eggs, mainly because they’re my favourite breakfast food and also because I missed them. Re-introducing them in my diet had no noticeable effect on my body after 2 days, so I assumed that I could safely consume foods that contain eggs. I confidently checked them off my list of foods to re-introduce, and moved onto the next food.
That was the easy one: everything else I’ve re-introduced has been much less straightforward, and way more confusing. What’s more, my yucky symptoms have returned: I’ve plateaued in my weight loss, I haven’t been sleeping as well, I get bloated after meals, and I have a few pimples for the first time since starting the Elimination Diet. Here’s what I’ve noticed while re-introducing specific foods.
When I was at an NHL game last weekend, I desperately wanted popcorn. I declared that that day would become “corn re-introduction day,” and my husband and I shared a small bag of popcorn. That night, I experienced unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, so I thought to myself “well, it’s looking like corn affects me!” But the following day, I ate one third of a bag of non-GMO, organic popcorn from Lesser Evil and experienced zero unpleasant GI symptoms. I ate that popcorn another two times over the next 2 days and again had no symptoms. I concluded that corn actually doesn’t me, but ate frozen corn from a regular grocery store to check. This time, my GI system felt worse than it had with the hockey game popcorn. This whole process has confused me: I have a feeling that I’m OK with corn, but only if it’s organic and non-GMO. The scientist in me knows that I’ll need to do more tests with different brands and no additives, but the realist in me knows that I really want to re-introduce other food items and don’t feel like spending weeks on just corn! (Although I definitely should get to the bottom of it because corn is in practically everything that North Americans eat. See the movie King Corn).
My family loves potatoes, but I have long suspected that I am sensitive (or intolerant) to them for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ve never “craved” them, and I only like them in certain forms. Secondly and most telling, I’ve never been able to peel them without sneezing about 30 times in a row: even being in the kitchen when they’re being peeled sets me into a sneezing fit! When I re-introduced potatoes in my diet this week, I experienced GI symptoms. I ate roasted potatoes at two meals and reacted both times, but since I didn’t prepare them myself either time, I cannot be completely sure that my symptoms were caused by the potatoes themselves and not by the oils or spices that were used to prepare them.
After reading this article by Dr. Harry Morrow Brown, called “Potatoes can make you miserable and destroy your quality of life,” I’m even more convinced that I am intolerant to this starchy vegetable. As an aside, I also suffer from Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), whereby eating many raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds makes my body react as if I’d eaten a mouthful of birch pollen (something I’m highly allergic to). If you have strange reactions to any of the following foods, I highly suggest that you look into OAS:
I say “other foods” because I have cheated quite extensively in the past few days of the re-introduction phase (sorry to my RHN, Laura!). This makes it impossible to tease out which foods are fine for my system, and which have been affecting me.
This is the first diet I’ve ever done, other than switching to vegetarianism in 2008. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from “cheating,” it’s that it’s a very slippery slope. I did so well for so long, but all of the above examples occurred between Friday night and Monday mid-morning!!!
Moving forward, I’m going to be easy on myself and give myself lots of grace for the past few days, and resume re-introducing foods the right way. I’m still super curious as to what other foods have been affecting my health. Some symptoms of food sensitivities include skin conditions (like eczema, psoriasis and acne), chronic cough and congestion, inflammation, body pain, autoimmune conditions, and being overweight.
I have my BCB follow-up appointment with Kent MacLeod this week, and will be writing about it in my final blog post for this series next Monday.
During my consultation, Kent and I will go over any changes I’ve experienced while taking my custom multivitamin and mineral formula, and he will make adjustments to my supplementation schedule if necessary. Because I started the Elimination Diet almost simultaneously with starting my custom formula, it will be difficult to tease out what results are from the supplements I’ve been supplementing with, and what results are from eliminating certain foods from my diet. But regardless of which one caused the results, Kent has been meeting with patients for long enough to know that a combination of supplementation, diet and lifestyle ALL play a role in our health.
As I demonstrated with my “cheats” this week, it’s easy to fall off an eating regime because we’re surrounded by temptations and we’re programmed to behave certain ways. In next week’s blog post I will go into that more in-depth, and give my final results.
If you like staying informed about health issues, tune in next week to read the conclusion of “My BCB Journey”!
In Part Ten (the last post in this series!), I will:
[Part One] Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired!
[Part Two] Don’t Just Survive… Thrive!
[Part Three] The Results Are In! Here’s What’s Really Going On
[Part Four] Are We Really What We Eat?
[Part Five] What The Elimination Diet REALLY Looks Like
[Part Seven] 7 Ways My Health Improved in 1 Month
[Part Eight] When it Comes To Supplements, YES Quality Matters!
[Part Nine] Is Your Food Making You Miserable?
[Part Ten] Be Healthy Again / For the First Time!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
The microbiome is rapidly emerging as a central pillar of health, and although the best way to improve gut health is through diet, there are lots of beneficial microbiome supplements out there.