The Whole 30 is just one version of an elimination diet. The reason for doing any elimination diet is to figure out how food affects you, maybe in ways you hadn’t even thought of, and I think that is just really super cool! (Yes, I’m a nutrition geek!) You remove all possibly irritating foods (dairy, all grains, legumes, added sugar, alcohol, additives and processed oils) and eat only super nutrient dense and healing foods for a period of time. Obviously during a Whole 30, it would be for 30 days, but I have seen plans that only go for 2 weeks. In my experience, 30 days is the minimum amount of time it might take to figure out just how really amazing you can feel after you get rid of foods that are irritating you. When we took Natalie to the naturopath last week, she told me to remove gluten and dairy for 30 days, so a month is a very commonly recommended time period for any elimination diet.
You’ve done that. Ok, so now what?
I’ll tell you what you DON’T do. You don’t stick to it, and get to the point where you are feeling super great, and then dive face first off the wagon. For example, you don’t go straight from a Whole 30 to gorging on ballpark food and beer at the stadium while you watch your hometown Kansas City Royals win in the MLB playoffs. Craig could tell you all about why THAT is not a good idea! HA! Being sick for a couple of days afterward wasn’t exactly the outcome Craig intended, but after cleaning all the junk out of your system, your body is bound to react badly if you pile it on all at once. Also, you don’t learn anything about yourself if you do this! If you go straight from a Whole 30 to noshing on Little Debbies and ice cream, how would you ever know if it’s the sugar causing your energy to spike and crash, or if the dairy is affecting you, or the gluten, or even some preservative used in one of those things? You can’t!
So, really you have two good choices.
You can continue on your plan and turn it into a Whole 45 or a Whole 60 or even a Whole 90. Why would you do this? Well, some fixes are not quick fixes. I went to a “Paleo for Athletes” training presented by Dallas Hartwig (co-author of It Starts With Food and co-creator of the Whole 30) and Stephanie Gaudreau from Stupid Easy Paleo here in Kansas City last January, intending to get some good info to support Craig in Crossfit. I’m the one that does 99% of the cooking around here, and we had only been Paleo for a few months at that point. I went with one of my good friends who happens to have Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune thyroid condition. While talking to Dallas about her situation, he told her she needed to try strict Paleo for at least 60 days, maybe 90. He also told her to do the autoimmune protocol for the Whole 30 (60 or 90), which is even more restrictive. The reason for this is that if you have a chronic health condition, it just simply can take longer to see a change, and there are additional foods that can cause health issues for people-eggs, nuts, and nightshades, to name a few. Another reason for continuing is that you might just simply feel so awesome you don’t want to stop!
If you feel pretty darn amazing, and you are ready to see how certain food make you react, you reintroduce them SLOWLY. Think of it as a big science experiment with you body. You on a Whole 30 is the “control.” And in any experiment, you only want to introduce one independent variable at a time. So, you need to come up with a schedule and pick which order you want to reintroduce the foods you weren’t eating for the last month. So, day one, you might choose to introduce dairy. In the morning you have a glass of milk, in the afternoon, cheese with lunch and after dinner a scoop of ice cream, but everything else you eat should still be Whole 30 compliant. The next day, you go back to eating like you are on a Whole 30. Eat like you are back on a Whole 30 for a couple of days to see how you feel after having the dairy. Do you feel bloated? Is your energy lagging? Do you notice any emotional differences? Did you break out?
Then, on day 4, reintroduce something else. It is highly suggested that you don’t introduce gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley) with other grains, because gluten is kind of a monster on it’s own for a lot of people. So, on day 4, eat some white rice (yes, I said WHITE), a few corn chips and some popcorn while everything else you eat is still Whole 30 compliant. The next day, go back to eating the same way you would on your Whole 30, and see how you feel. Continue this pattern until you have reintroduced legumes, and then gluten containing grains. You will also want to pay attention to how you feel with large amounts of sugar and additives in food. Know anyone who gets headaches when they consume MSG? If you don’t, you are reading about one-ME.
This is exactly what we will be doing with Natalie when her initial 30 days of being gluten and dairy free are over. Her naturopath referred to it as a gluten challenge and a dairy challenge, but the method will be exactly the same. These reintroduction challenges, along with her test results that we get in a week, will help us move forward with our plan to get her healthy and feeling even better.