Reintroducing food after 14 days on the elemental diet
Reintroducing food after 14 days of not eating a thing on the Elemental Diet is like combining Christmas Day, all the chocolate at Easter and the best birthday party at once for a child. And yes, at 40 years old, I was just as excited as a child.
Prior to commencing the Elemental Diet, I had decided to do the GAPS Introduction Diet as a way to carefully reintroduce food, while also watching for any reactions.
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and has been commonly used for children and adults alike who are experiencing brain and psychological symptoms like autism and anxiety. The Introduction Diet has a methodical approach to bringing back foods, testing each one before moving onto the next. Keen to learn more about this diet? Check out my interview with Amy Milhany who is a GAPS Practitioner.
So, what did I eat?
I broke my fast with chicken broth. It was heavenly. Simply having a savoury flavour was such a welcome relief after the overly sweet Elemental Diet.
I spent the first-week eating soups. Given my gut had been on a vacation for 2 weeks, I wanted to ease it back into digesting food. By cooking then puréeing my food, I was doing a lot of the digestion work for it.
Over the coming days I added in 1 new vegetable at a time. I started with puréed carrots, then added overcooked zucchini to my chicken soup. I listened to my body and chose vegetables I felt drawn to. Next was a fish broth, then pumpkin soup, then broccoli soup, then a red capsicum (pepper) soup, which I added cooked and shredded chicken to.
By the end of the week I was eating a beef soup, which was like a combination of a soup and a stew. I was testing out my gut with more solid pieces of food, and it did well with them.
Digestive and Motility Aids
It is recommended that people take digestive and supportive aids to help fire up the digestive tract after the Elemental Diet. It is very easy to end up badly constipated as the food gets stuck, as the motility has slowed right down.
My protocol included digestive bitters, which were made up for me by my Naturopath in liquid herbs (and as they name suggests, they are BITTER!). Bitter tasting substances actually help to turn on the digestive system, so these are taken before a meal.
I took 1 Motility Activator capsule by Integrative Therapeutics at the end of each meal. I was previously using this to help me open my bowels every day, and it worked like a dream once again.
At bedtime, I took powdered magnesium, which helps to stimulate the large bowel and get you going to the toilet.
I also focussed on eating really slowly, chewing every single mouthful until it was complete mush in my mouth, and being present when I ate. I would sit down, focus on my food, have an internal mantra going about how healthy and nutritious it was and how it would be healing my body, and I avoided distractions like my phone or computer while eating.
Side Effects and Symptoms
I was really pleased with the way my body responded to my food reintroduction. The only digestive symptoms I had from the food was a bit of bloating after eating a second bowl of broccoli soup. I had a bit of bloating and gas.
I did feel exhausted on the first two days. I could literally feel the cogs starting to turn again, and I hadn't appreciated just how much energy goes into digesting food. I took the time to rest when I needed to and was in bed early every night.
The main digestive symptoms I did experience were from the digestive bitters and magnesium. I think both were too powerful for me in Week 1. I have to be very careful with liquid herbs. They have the tendency to put me into a histamine flare. I realised I was getting a dull headache and heartburn after eating. I wasn't sure if it was the food or the bitters, so I stopped the bitters and those symptoms vanished. I haven't yet reintroduced them as I wanted to give my gut some more time to recover.
The other thing I experienced was diarrhoea for the first 5 days. As someone who is chronically constipated, this was a very unusual symptom for me. I suspected it was the nightly magnesium, so stopped it. Within a day, I was having perfectly formed poos! I haven't felt the need to reintroduce magnesium yet, as I have been able to go to the toilet every day since then.
"Take the time to reintroduce food after the Elemental Diet. Your gut has been on vacation. Let it slowly warm up to having to work again by supporting it with well cooked, puréed foods.
How Do I Feel Today?
In one word: AMAZING. My gut feels calm, I have so much energy, my brain feels clear (goodbye brain fog!), I have lost weight and kept it off, I'm sleeping well and feel like the inflammation in my body has calmed. I am glad I did the Elemental Diet. It was hard work but for such a short period of time, I have had fantastic results in my symptom reduction.
I will continue adding new foods into my diet and testing my reactions to foods that I'm not sure if I have a problem with, such as eggs and dairy (in the form of 24-hour yoghurt, homemade sour cream, butter and ghee).
I am happy to be strictly gluten-free for the moment and am uncertain if I will bring rice back into my diet anytime soon.
I will be re-testing for SIBO next week and will be undergoing blood tests to check the impact the Elemental Diet had on my inflammation and haemochromatosis. I look forward to sharing the results with you.
Key Tips For Food Reintroduction
Eat low fibre, easy to digest foods
Cook foods well and purée, mash or blitz to help your digestive system cope with food
Go slowly. Add 1 new food in at a time so you can test and measure your body's responses to these foods
If you have a reaction, come back to that food as your gut may not be ready for it
Use this time as an amazing opportunity to connect with your body
Write down your daily experiences so you can refer back to them and see how far you have come
Need festive recipe inspiration for Thanksgiving?
The SIBO Christmas Cookbook is jam-packed with delicious SIBO friendly recipes that are perfect for your Thanksgiving celebrations. Enjoy delicious appetizers and entrées, perfect vegetable sides and accompaniments, mouth-watering desserts and gorgeous gifts and baked goods. All recipes contain AU and US ingredient names, temperatures and measurements. Available immediately via email download.