On Physiological Introspection and a “Clean Slate” Six-Week Diet

Happy 2016, beloved readers! With support from my phenomenal therapist, friends, and family, 2015 was a year of intense emotional and mental introspection. It’s been a mess, but the awesome kind – the sort where you throw all the junk from your drawers onto the floor and see all the ridiculous and wonderful things you’ve been holding onto for years. To supplement this ongoing work, I thought it would be great to pair this work with a more physiological self-analysis. For years I’ve been rather unkind to myself, and I’m curious about how I can be more thoughtful about my body’s needs.

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My husband recently read a book called Mangia che ti passa: Uno sguardo rivoluzionario sul cibo per vivere piu sani e piu a lungo by Filippo Ongaro, who is an Italian physician and expert in functional medicine. Basically, the book discusses nutrigenomics, a multidisciplinary science which studies how food affects our genes, and how individual genetic differences can impact the way we respond to nutrients (and other naturally occurring compounds) in the foods we eat. Essentially, what we eat gives our bodies messages, and these messages contribute to making us feel good or feel bad. Ongaro suggests that it’s important for people to understand how different foods affect our bodies, and recommends we do this by: (1) creating a clean slate for our bodies through a 6-week elimination diet; (2) slowly reintroducing principal food allergens; and (3)  following 10 simple rules. I’m not sure how interesting this is to folks, but I thought it might be helpful to share these three strategies.

Elimination Phase (6 week diet)

This elimination phase helps one to create a baseline in order to determine food allergies and intolerances.

  • What to eat
    • Fresh fruit (except citrus)
    • Vegetables
      • Especially good: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, artichokes, spinach, cabbage
      • To eliminate: tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants
    • Legumes
    • Spices in natural form (e.g. curry, ginger, wasabi, cinnamon, peperoncino, rosemary)
    • “Milk” – coconut, rice, almond
    • Whole grain rice
    • Olive oil
    • Fish (especially salmon, sardines, mackerel)
    • Meat: chicken, turkey, or lamb (avoid red meats)
    • Nuts and seeds, unsalted
    • Green tea, herbal teas, no caffeine
  • Principal allergens to eliminate:
    • gluten, milk (and derivatives), eggs, products with yeast (wine, vinegar, bread), corn, peanuts, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit
  • Additional foods to avoid:
    • grains rich in gluten (oats, rye, semolina, malt)
    • processed foods, bread, crackers, toasties, potatoes, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, hydrogenated fat, marjoram, caffeine, beef, peanuts, booze, cold cuts, sausage, meat with skin, fruit juice, liver and organs, olives

Reintroduction Phase (after 6 weeks)

  • Foods to reintroduce slowly after 6 weeks
    • Eggs
    • Whole wheat bread and pasta
    • Oats
    • Red meat
    • Peanuts and peanut butter
    • Olives
    • Milk and milk derivatives
    • Coffee (2-3 / day)
    • Wine (3-4 times a week)
    • Etc.
  • For reintroduction, start with gluten. The day you reintroduce bread, eat a lot of it. Wait 48 hours, but without introducing anything else. Observe possible symptoms (headache, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, slouchiness). If symptoms occur, eliminate this food forever. On the contrary, if no symptoms occur, you can eat it regularly. After 72 hours, introduce another element.
  • Reintroduce things one at a time.

10 Rules

  1. Reduce glycemic load (sugars, jam, honey, soda, pasta, alcohol)
  2. Eat breakfast
  3. Distribute calories throughout the day (eat every 2-3 hours)
  4. Reduce stress
  5. Use breathing to reduce hunger and eat more slowly (take five breaths before eating to activate parasympathetic nervous system)
  6. Do not eat 2-3 hours before bed
  7. Aim at reducing abdominal circumference (belly fat produces tnf alpha and other inflammatory things that slow metabolism)
  8. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  9. Speed up your metabolism through exercise
  10. Conduct a liver detox (green tea, artichokes)

So, basically, for the next six weeks we will not be eating gluten, dairy products, red meat, and sugar.

It sounds terrible, right? The point of course is not to lose weight or to permanently eliminate delicious things from my diet. That would make me so very sad. The purpose is to better understand how my body works, and how it reacts to things that I love. I will diary my experiences, and will pay particular attention to how I respond to the reintroduction of principal allergens. If, for example, I find that bread makes me lethargic, I will avoid it during times of great stress. As you may know by now, I LOVE having parameters when planning my meals. The secondary goal for me is to learn how to make my food delicious in spite of the sad face limitations of this diet.

For now, I plan to share my weekly menus with you, but if that becomes too annoying, feel free to let me know!

Menu of Meals for Week 1 (January 3rd-9th):

Sunday, January 3rd

  • D: Mooshu chicken with brown rice & garlic bok choy and miyuk guk (Korean seaweed soup) with mussels
  • Make:
    • Chicken broth for week
    • Roasted broccoli
    • Roasted cauliflower
    • Big batch of brown rice
    • Make miyuk guk
    • Make juk

Monday, January 4th

  • B: Miyuk guk with brown rice
  • L: Juk (Korean rice porridge) with shredded boiled chicken and roasted vegetables
  • D: Rice noodle and vegetable stir fry with broiled salmon and sauteed spinach

Tuesday, January 5th

  • B: Spiced quinoa porridge w/ cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, dried fruits, and nuts
  • L: Leftover rice noodle stir fry with broiled salmon and sauteed spinach
  • D: Steamed Spanish mackerel  w/ soy, ginger, and scallion sauce & jasmine rice & roasted cauliflower and broccoli

Wednesday, January 6th

  • B: Leftover jasmine rice, steamed fish, roasted broccoli
  • L: Leftovers
  • D: Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs, kale, and escarole and steamed brussel sprouts

Thursday, January 7th

  • B: Sliced apples with almond butter
  • L: Leftover Italian wedding soup
  • D: White bean, shallot, and cabbage saute w/ quinoa and steamed brussel sprouts

Friday, January 8th

  • B: Pumpkin quinoa porridge
  • L: Leftover white bean, shallot, and cabbage saute
  • D: Lentils & brussel sprouts with brown rice

Saturday January 9th

  • B: Sliced apples with almond butter
  • L: Leftover lentils & brussel sprouts with brown rice
  • D: Roasted butternut squash, chickpea, and coconut curry w/ brown rice

Sunday, January 10th

  • B: Fruit
  • L: Leftover roasted butternut squash, chickpea, and coconut curry w/ brown rice

Coming Up…Meal Planning 101: A week of meals for those moments when cooking seems like the worst thing ever, plus Week Two of the elimination diet

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