Over two thousand years ago Hippocrates, the father of medicine said “All disease begins in the gut”. While claiming that all disease begins in the gut is a bit of a stretch, we can certainly appreciate the gut-heath connection. After all, 70% of our immune system is located in our gastrointestinal tract.
Though often used for weight loss, food diaries can be an extremely beneficial and often overlooked tool for eczema (as well as IBS, and leaky gut syndrome -just to name a few). A food diary is often accompianed by an elimination diet, however it’s up to you whether you decide to cut out the main culprits for a basic elimination diet or whether you push through and start avoiding food based on your reactions.
That being said, most food sensitivities are a result of an unhealthy gut. Giving your tummy a break (for 23-30 days) from refined sugary foods and major triggers can go a long way to helping repair your gut!
Keeping a food diary will:
- Keep you accountable – Especially when on an elimination diet. Bye bye sneaking delicous off limit foods and devouring chocolate. See: I’ve Made A Terrible Mistake.
- Give you a hard copy of your symptoms – So you can do some detective work and figure out your food culprit(s).
- Moniter heath – Stress, mood, and good ol’ #2.
How to start a food diary
Pick up any old notebook and a pen. Ideally, the notebook will be on the small side and will fit comfortably in a coat pocket or purse – You want to bring this thing everywhere. As with anything in life, the more thorough you are -the better.
Start by taking note of everything going on with your body: Rashes, nausea, bloating, itchy-ness, energy level, fogginess -you name it. Write it down. This will give you something to refer back to.
Write down everything you eat and drink: Every bite, every sip, ingredients, even condiments. Don’t disregard a food or drink just because you thought it was a small amount, even a little bit could cause a reaction.
Write down what time you ate and what time symptoms appear: Food intolerances and sensitivities can be tricky; in most cases symptoms don’t appear until several hours later. When they do show up, rate the severity of your symptoms from 1-10. One being slight irritation and ten being unbearable.
Your food diary will remember everything, so you don’t have to. This will make it far easier to make connections between symptoms and culprit foods versus depending on memory alone.
Write down #2: Yup, good ol number two. Although an awkward subject to talk about, there’s no better way to track how your body is handling food on the inside than by noticing what comes out on …the outside. Rate the bowel movement from 1 to 10. One being normal and ten being severe constipation or diarrhea. Check out Wellness Mama’s Guide to Poop and Digestive Health.
To keep snoops from reading about my bodily functions (since I carry it everywhere), I simply write 2 __ and whatever the rating was. Sneaky, sneaky.
For an extra measure: Make a note whenever you are particularly stressed and how you felt throughout the day.
Overtime, you’ll start to notice patterns emerging. You’ll learn what foods make you feel good, and what food makes you feel bad.
Dipping our toes in Elimination Diets
While you can continue on your merry way with the food diary, I strongly believe that this entire process is incomplete without an elimination diet.
Here is a very basic elimination diet process:
Ideally, you would begin by eliminating the top triggers, as well as refined sugar and alcohol. These are:
- Tree nuts & Peanuts
- Wheat & Gluten
- Fast Food & Refined Sugars
Scary, I know.
It’s important to note that while these are the top triggers, everyone is different. There are reports of people reacting to anything from nightshades to herbal tea, thus it is important to keep up a food diary even when doing an elimination diet.
If that list terrifies you: Keep a detailed food diary for a couple weeks, then use your mad detective skills to figure out what foods make you feel good and which ones worsen your symptoms. Avoid all the feel bad foods. Note: Efforts should still be made to avoid alcohol and refined sugars even if you don’t react to them as sugar helps yeast and bad bacteria in your gut thrive.
Avoid trigger foods for 23 days
Why 23 days? Hold on, it’s about to get sciency in here:
Antibodies are protein molecules made by the immune system. They are produced to counteract antigens which are toxins, foreign or harmless substances that induce an immune response. The lifespan for these antibodies is roughly 23 days, hence the 23 day guideline.
Once at least 23 days are over (I go for 30), you can gradually re-introduce the troublesome foods one at a time and see if you react.
For example: If you were avoiding dairy, gluten, and nuts then on the 24th day you would introduce one food group.
We’ll start with dairy.
Maybe on the 24th day we’ll drink a glass of milk and eat some slices of cheese throughout the day. This is not the time to dig into pizza or anything else that has multiple triggers, or that could get confusing! Eat a serving or two of dairy throughout the day (along with your healthy, safe foods -of course) but keep avoiding the other triggers.
Moniter your reactions -if any, for 2 days.
During those two days, you’ll go back to avoiding all trigger foods. If you had no adverse reaction over those two days, you could safely add dairy back into your diet. Then you would move onto the next food group, repeating the same process, testing one trigger group for one day and gauging the reaction over the next two.
If you do react, then you’ve likely located a food intolerance or allergy and measures should be taken to seek out alterantive options or sources for that food group to ensure you continue getting all your essential vitamins and nutrients. A nutritionist will be able to help.
Keeping a food diary may seem like a lot of work, but it quickly becomes a powerful tool for proactively managing your eczema (IBS, leaky gut, or whatever else it may be), and preventing nasty flare ups or symptoms. When combined with an elimination diet, many people go back to eating the foods they once loved without any adverse reactions after healing their gut (ice cream, I’m coming for you!).
Whether you choose to create a food diary or not, I hope you find health at the end of the road.
Health & Happiness,
P.S I just want to let you know that I am not a medical doctor, nurse, and so on. I have based my writings upon my own experiences, opionions, and extensive research regarding the topics in my blog. Therefore, read my disclaimer and use the information within my blog appropriately and at your own risk.