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What Is an Elimination Diet?

POPSUGAR / advertiser content from / Meta Daily Immune Support

Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim

Ever felt like it was finally time to take care of your gut health? We partnered with Meta Daily Immune Support to share the story of how one woman took her health into her own hands.

"I just can't live like this anymore," I said aloud into the empty backseat of an Uber. It was my friend's birthday, and while everyone was dancing, drinking, and enjoying delicious food, I was leaving early, bloated, exhausted, breaking out in hives, feeling defeated, and sharing my longtime secret pain with my driver, who wasn't interested. When I got home, I face-planted onto my bed and vowed that I would make a change. For real this time. The next day I made an appointment with an integrated health specialist and signed on for a 12-month elimination diet to conquer whatever it was that was ailing me. It has now been nearly two years since I first embarked on the elimination diet, and my life has changed completely. After a decade of fighting off an invisible enemy with every and any antibiotic under the sun, I learned that I was one of the lucky ones — my health was in my hands. All I needed to do was eat with intention. Here are the four things I learned from this experience.

1. Create a custom elimination diet that's right for you

Because I was experiencing inflammation all over my body, the best decision was to go on a low-inflammatory diet. For three weeks I could only eat chicken, turkey, asparagus, and sautéed apples. Talk about restriction. Each week I would introduce a new food, wait three days, see how my body responded, and either put it on the "approved foods" list or "try again later" list. As the months progressed, I moved on to categories of foods, like cruciferous vegetables (think: broccoli and cauliflower). I found it to be very helpful to have the supervision of a doctor throughout this process. I dropped 11 pounds within the first four months and was relieved to know my doctor and I were giving my body what it needed to remain fueled and healthy.

2. Meal prep your way to success

At the end of a long work day, all I wanted to do was go home and chow down. I definitely didn't want to deal with picking up groceries, and I wanted to avoid cooking at all costs. With a restricted diet, I found it was beneficial to select two days out of the week for meal prep (I recommend Sundays and Wednesdays) to create as many healthy "approved" foods as possible. For me this meant never worrying about slipping off of the program due to hunger — I was always able to grab and fill up whenever I needed.

3. Stay positive and stay accountable

I never felt at home in the kitchen, so cooking wasn't something natural for me and felt more like a punishment. In an effort to channel positive energy to this experience, I made a blog and an Instagram account where I documented my latest recipes and adventures in the kitchen. Through this Instagram account, I connected with hundreds of women who were experiencing intestinal health woes, had life-threatening diseases, or just really loved living a holistic, clean-eating lifestyle. This community inspired me to share my stories, recipes, and pictures. And to keep going.

4. Reap the benefits

One month into the process, I had more energy than I'd had in 10 years. My joint pain and swelling had decreased, my abdominal pain had subsided, and the color came back to my face. Six months into the process, I realized that not only had my immediate allergic reactions subsided, but I was also catching fewer colds and was calling in sick less than ever before. Thanks to a strengthened immune system, I genuinely felt better overall. After a year, I was symptom-free and had learned the importance of intestinal health, revamped my lifestyle, and ultimately set the groundwork for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim