7 Tips to Help With Food Reintroductions
I’ve had dietary restrictions for over 5 years due to food intolerances and then, later, my diagnosis with ulcerative colitis in 2017, so cutting out and adding foods back in is something I know like the back of my hand.
I went from an already restricted diet (no gluten, dairy, soy, or hemp products because of intolerances and no refined sugar by choice) to an even more restricted diet after my diagnosis. In August 2017, the day after I was told I had ulcerative colitis – an autoimmune disease effecting my digestive tract – I began the Specific Carbohydrate.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a diet scientifically designed for individuals specifically with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis and although I do (and did even at the onset) rely partially on Western medication (you can read more about that here), I knew I wanted to help myself in every holistic and lifestyle way I could as well.
It wasn’t too difficult of a transition for me to starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet because I already didn’t eat many of the “illegal” foods, but that isn’t to say it was easy. Cutting out cacao was definitely the most difficult (even more difficult than grains), but I buckled up for the ride and committed to helping my body on my new health journey.
I did the Specific Carbohydrate Diet strictly for almost a year before trying to reintroduce any foods. And truthfully, reintroducing foods wasn’t even on my radar at first, but after my big flare in June last year (you can read about it here), I realized I was eating too much of certain “legal” foods that were actually doing more damage than good.
You see, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to healthy foods and ulcerative colitis. I was eating a huge excess of raw veggies, cruciferous veggies, raw greens and full nuts because without being able to snack on my old go-to’s like rice cakes or Simple Mills crackers, etc. they were my first choice when needing something crunchy.
I’ll be doing another full post on foods like this that are “healthy” but can actually disrupt your IBD because of how rough they are our digestive tract.
My flare woke me up and made me realize I personally needed at least a couple more options in my diet (also I knew mentally it would help after my flare if I had a little more freedom). I chose a couple simple items I would try reintroducing – brown rice cakes, sweet potatoes, cacao and kohlrabi.
I knew I wanted to still be 95% grain free and would continue avoiding gluten, dairy, soy, hemp and refined sugar as I had been before. I chose that small handful of foods to reintroduce mostly because they were things I had been craving. The things I hadn’t cared about cutting out? I left them out. I also knew avoiding things like gums, artificial sweeteners, natural/artificial flavors and preservatives not allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet was something I would continue to avoid because I know their harmful effects on my gut and I find it easy to avoid processed products with such ingredients.
But okay let’s get to why you’re REALLY here – how the heck do you know when, how and what to reintroduce!? I’ll be sharing information, tips and ideas for generalized reintroductions, but also specific to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Of course, I think it’s smartest to work with a nutritionist, health coach or your doctor while doing any sort of elimination diet and reintroduction, but this information can help guide you.
Also note that all diets may require different reintroduction processes. AIP, Candida diet, SCD, a standard elimination diet… they’re ALL unique and may require unique reintroductions. Plus, YOU are all unique and may require different things during reintroductions as well.
1. Make sure you’re TRULY focusing on gut healing before reintroducing:
The reason for doing a lot of elimination diets, like AIP or SCD, is because your gut needs healing (and probably a lot of it). Whether it’s leaky gut, candida, SIBO, IBD or something else, make sure you’ve put effort into other areas besides just diet to help this healing process. Ask yourself – have I changed anything else in my life? Have you… lowered stress? Seen a doctor or practitioner to get support? Gotten tests taken to truly test what’s going on in your gut? Start with these things and make sure you’re at a good spot before reintroducing foods.
2. Reintroduce one food at a time:
The biggest thing with reintroductions is to reintroduce one food at a time. This ensures that, if you do notice symptoms like brain fog or stomach pain, you’ll know exactly what caused it. For example, if you reintroduce kidney beans AND oats in the same week and start noticing extra bloat, you won’t know which food caused it, making you have to once again cut both out and then reintroduce one at a time.
3. Don’t go too crazy with the reintroduced food:
When reintroducing foods you don’t need to reintroduce very much to test if they’re going to work for you or not. Try having a reintroduced food on Monday at lunchtime and then wait until Thursday at dinner to have it again. There’s no need to have it every day or at every meal. I noticed when I would reintroduce foods in too large of an excess, no matter what my tummy would feel a little off simply because I hadn’t had that food in a while. Reintroducing in small quantities allows your body to acclimate to it. When I first tried to reintroduce cacao I went WILD. I had cacao every morning in my cauli oats or smoothie (and I didn’t skimp) and I got insane headaches and fatigue. Once I tried again a few months later I went much slower and am not able to tolerate it just fine.
4. If you react poorly to a food in a particular family, don’t try to reintroduce another food in that same family (just yet at least):
Peppers and tomatoes are both nightshades. If you react poorly to reintroducing peppers one week, don’t rush into tomatoes the next week. Many people are intolerant or unable to handle groups of foods, not just particular foods. For example, I can’t handle almost any legume (I’m starting to be able to tolerate peanuts again, but that’s the only one). Give your body a little time to calm down from that particular family before trying another food in the same fam.
5. Slow and steady is the name of the game:
There’s no need to rush your reintroductions. If you’re working with a health coach, nutritionist, doctor or dietician they may have you on a strict weekly plan for reintroductions, but if you’re doing it yourself, go at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you reintroduce a food one week and it goes well, don’t feel pressured to throw something else in the mix. Wait a week or two if that makes you feel the most confident.
6. Keep track of symptoms:
This one is HUGE. Keep a chart with all of the foods you intend to reintroduce and write down any/all symptoms you experience. You can download my free tracker here!
7. Breathe and let the anxiety go:
Lastly, try to stay calm during reintroductions. I know it can be nerve-wracking to experiment with food and your gut, but stress and anxiety can cause symptoms like pain and disrupted digestion on its own. Staying calm will help you truly know if it’s the food creating symptoms in your body.
My personal thoughts specifically on reintroducing foods on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? I think if you’re doing SCD for Crohn’s and/or ulcerative colitis, it’s best to keep some things off of your list. I personally believe sticking to something close to SCD is helpful because it’s a low inflammation diet and all that can do is help when you have IBD. The number one thing I definitely don’t think you should reintroduce? Refined sugar.
For real. If there is ONE thing you never reintroduce make it refined sugar. Sugar disrupts the healthy balance of good bacteria in our guts and can cause inflammatory responses in our body even in those without IBD.
If you need further help with a healing diet or elimination diet (and later, reintroductions), feel free to reach out to me! I would love to assist in any way I can. If you really want to dive into it, make sure to check out my 1:1 holistic health coaching offerings! I won’t be taking applications again until July, but you can get your name on the list for next round now.
As a side note – I don’t have much experience with the AIP diet, but this ebook is a great resource for those of you on that specific healing diet: https://www.phoenixhelix.com/2014/04/27/introducing-my-e-book/