If you want to be the very best (as the Pokémon theme song encourages), it’s important to get back to basics. The first step in bio-optimization is to find out which foods help you—and more importantly, which foods hurt you.
The best way to narrow down your food intolerances is to try an elimination diet. By eating a very basic diet, and slowly adding more foods in, you’ll pinpoint which foods are not working with your body’s makeup. This is a common practice when trying to pinpoint food allergies. You can also try it to find out which foods make you feel less healthy and powerful.
Here’s how to get back to basics so you can be the very best version of yourself.
What, exactly, should you eliminate?
When an allergist or dietitian recommends an elimination diet, they typically recommend eliminating all foods that are known to cause intolerances. Once you’ve noticed that you no longer suffer any allergic or intolerance symptoms, you can add foods back in, one at a time. Maybe one week you’ll try dairy. If that goes well, you can try adding gluten the next.
By slowly adding foods back, you can figure out which ones are causing the unpleasant, uncomfortable symptoms. This process usually takes about five to six weeks, depending on how many foods that you’re planning to target.
Naturally, you should start with eliminating all the foods that you already suspect give you issues. If you feel sick every time you eat pork, that’s a natural choice to eliminate. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your plans, so they can give you advice as to how to handle the diet. Some people with food allergies may need additional medical counseling. If you plan to eliminate a lot of foods at once, you may also need advice on how to get enough nutrients to support your body’s functions.
Common food allergies and intolerances include gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nuts, vegetables in the nightshade family, citrus, wheat, eggs, seafood and pork. Unless you have other allergies, your doctor will probably recommend these foods as a good place to start.
The elimination round
If you love to eat, this will probably be the hardest part. Remove everything that could possibly give you issues, whether it’s bananas or tofu. Your regular diet is probably going to be impossible to eat at this point, which can make it difficult to stick with. The bad news is that you’ll need to keep it up for two or three weeks. The good news is that once your body has a chance to adjust to life without triggering foods, you’ll probably feel a lot better.
If you still have symptoms even after eliminating your potential triggers, be sure to see a doctor. Otherwise, it’s time to move on to the next phase: reintroduction.
Reunited, and it feels so good (or not)
Now you can start slowly adding foods back into your diet. This needs to be done one at a time, slowly enough that you can identify which exact food is causing the problem. Give each food about two to three days before you start reintroducing another one.
When you’re watching for symptoms, they’re not always going to be of the gastrointestinal variety. You might notice joint pain, rashes, bloating, headaches, stomach pain and cramps, trouble with sleeping, fatigue and even changes in your breathing. Should you notice any of these issues, discontinue that food consumption immediately, and give yourself a couple of days to recover. Then you can add the next potential trigger.
By the end of the five-to-six-week period, you should have a much better idea of which foods work with your body, and which should be avoided. In fact, the results may surprise you—but people can develop new allergies and intolerances as they age.
The first step toward becoming a better you
If you’re interested in bio optimization, elimination diets are a great entry point. The idea behind bio-optimization is to use all the resources we have available—whether that’s technology, an abundance of food, supplements or otherwise—to enhance and perhaps even transcend our humanity. Understanding your basic body chemistry is a great way to get started.
If bio-optimization isn’t your thing, however, you should still consider an elimination diet. It might not be fun—but you stand to feel a lot better afterwards.