My guest this week is Tom Malterre, a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner whose fascination with nutrition started with his family doctor, Dr. John McDougall of the Forks Over Knives acclaim. Since then, he has attained two nutritional science degrees from Bastyr University, certification from the Institute for Functional Medicine, has co-authored three books, worked as a medical affairs member at Thorne Research and is now an educator for the Institute for Functional Medicine.
In this episode, Tom and I discuss how an elimination diet is an effective tool for a variety of children’s neurological and behavioral disorders. Tom provides the audience with years of professional experience, success, and insight on the best practices for the elimination diet and tips on where and how to begin. Parents looking to try the elimination diet themselves or in their family will greatly benefit from the guidance Tom and his wife Alissa have prepared in multiple free resources online and through their various published books. To learn more click here.
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What Is The Elimination Diet?
- A simple and powerful process of removing potentially problematic foods from your diet until your symptoms subside
- This process is most effectively done by the use of healthy whole foods
- Learn more about Tom and Alissa’s elimination diet approach here
But My Kid Doesn’t Have Allergies
- It is important to know that there are different types of immunologic reactions for every individual
- Your child may not have allergies but they can still have reactions and intolerances
- Example: Your child has loose stools or becomes moodier after having apple juice or apple sauce. They might have a reaction that does not stimulate their immune system. They could be reacting to a fructose intolerance that is in the apples
- Example: Gluten sensitivities – 6% of the population has a non-celiac wheat sensitivity and there are no actual tests that can be run for this
- An IGG panel would not be able to show this result
- An elimination diet can allow these types of reactions to be discovered
- There are nuances to each test that can vary by lab, by company or brand
- Example: one companies labs may pick up soy and corn better than another
- Even when running an IGG panel it is possible to receive incomplete results
Time Between Ingestion & Symptoms
- Delayed sensitivity reactions – your body may take time to have an immune or intolerance response
- Once an antibody is released or an imbalance has occurred it can take days, weeks and sometimes even months for things to calm or return to normal in order to have a clean slate to reintroduce foods
- Cutting out any one particular food or potential aggressor must be done with dedication and time
- Trying to remove the item for a week most likely will not be enough time
Top Offenders to Remove
- The top 6 to remove: gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn, and soy
- Ideal to remove them for about a month
- Truly eliminating them is tough when eating out and shopping
- Do your due diligence in researching items and whole foods that fit the criteria
- If you are able to remove all the top aggressors you will spend your time and efforts more effectively, most especially in the reintroduction phase in discovering what your body is reacting to
- After removing for about a months time, your symptoms have cleared and calmed then you can reintroduce one food at a time every 3 days and wait to see if symptoms begin to reappear
- You then leave that offending food for a longer period, 3-6 months before addressing and adding it back in your diet
Where to learn more about Tom Malterre…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
What Is The Elimination Diet? … 00:02:22
But My Kid Doesn’t Have Allergies … 00:10:11
Sensitivity Testing … 00:14:37
Time Between Ingestion & Symptoms … 00:17:04
Top Offenders to Remove …00:20:23
Elimination Diet Recipe Plan 00:27:30
Reintroduction Process … 00:33:46
Episode Wrap Up … 00:39:35
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show. I am Dr. Nicole and today, we’re going to learn about elimination diets and how they may be helpful for your child with developmental or mental health challenges. Now the idea of eliminating foods from your child’s diet might feel confusing or overwhelming at first, but the information that you can gain from doing this can make a huge positive difference for your kids and we’re going to talk all about that today to help us understand what elimination diets are, how they can be helpful and how to safely do them with your child — is my friend and colleague Tom Malterre.
Tom holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition from Bastyr University, has advanced training from the Institute for Functional Medicine and is a certified functional medicine practitioner with well over a decade of clinical experience. Tom also lectures regularly for the institute of functional medicine. He’s a past faculty member of the Autism Research Institute and was a medical affairs member of Thorne Research. Tom has lectured on nutrition and supplementation across the United States and Canada. He currently coaches doctors and other healthcare practitioners on functional medicine protocols and his Progressive Practitioner coaching program, which I have had the opportunity to do and it’s amazing. He also does interviews and blogs on a vast array of health topics, and Tom and his amazing wife Alissa are the authors of ‘The Elimination Diet: Discover the foods that are making you sick and tired and feel better fast.’, and they also wrote one of my all-time favorite cookbooks that I use and recommend all the time in practice: ‘The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook.’ So it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the show, Tom. Thanks so much for being here.
Nicole, thanks so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So this is a topic that some people in the audience may be familiar with, some may not be. Elimination diets, it’s something that’s out there, people may have heard the term. I want to start with the basics of this, to explain what actually is an elimination diet? Why would we want to remove some foods from our kids’ diets, and then we’ll delve into why it might be something that people want to try with their kids.
Well Nicole, I think it’s a gem. I think what we’re looking at is something that’s going to improve somebody’s health better than anything else. It’s weird, we understand what disease is, right? Dr. Sidney Baker, he has taught us, he said, “Look, disease is getting too much of something you don’t need and not enough of something you do.” You have too many things that are coming in, let’s say for the person, it might be chemicals that they’re getting exposed to in their environment, or it might be stress or it might be, in a lot of people’s cases, certain foods that their bodies perceive as harmful, and this idea of food being wonderful for one person and poison for another has been around for a very long period of time, even Hippocrates was quoted in saying that some people will ingest dairy and find strength, while others find weakness.
So it was recognized a very, very long time ago that we’re very individualistic. I mean you know this, when you go to vets offices and you say, “Look, my dog ingested this and now his fur is this way or that — ” or, “My cat can not tolerate this particular food.”, but for some reason, as humans, we’re not examining whether or not foods we’re consuming give us strength or give us weakness. So my practice for, now 14 and a half years, has been focused entirely on looking at which particular foods serve people and which foods do not serve people. And in the process, I’ve been a very lucky man, I have been able to help thousands and thousands of people go from a state of either being in a complete mess with arthritis or chronic fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome or eczema and watch these things not only reverse, but now a whole new set of health takes place. Along with the eczema gone, we see an increase of cognitive function and energy, there are all these beneficial side effects that take place when you find out what’s irritating a person and what is not.
So how do you do that? How do you figure out what foods work for you and what foods don’t work for you? I tried to figure that out in my clinical practice and I found that there are certain foods that seem to trigger more people than other foods, and when you take out those particular foods for a period of time, and that needs to be at least 28 days for a lot of the big offenders, then all of a sudden, you watch as people improve in health. Their energy increases, the bowels calm down, the mental acuity sharpens. I had some autistic children that became verbal, I’ve had people that now have eye contact just after these 28 days of taking these particular foods out. So I found that gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn and soy are big offenders for a lot of people, and if that’s all you want to do, you don’t want to run out and get the book or anything — or even better, I find that the vast majority of people, gluten and dairy are the biggest offenders and I was talking to a German practitioner and they were saying, “You know, are you seeing the same thing in the United States? We take out gluten and dairy, 85% of my client base feels better!” I’m like, “Wow, you know, I’m seeing something similar!” And there is literature to support this and there is also contraindications of literature where some people say, “Well, the study design wasn’t done well and therefore we didn’t find the findings we wanted to notice.”
So I would say controversial in some people’s minds, but in my mind there is no controversy. After you see thousands upon thousands of people get better, you just kind of go — there is something here, this is real, I wish everybody would try it. Hence, the book ‘The Elimination Diet’, right? We just say, let’s take out these offending foods for a period of time, let’s make sure they’re out entirely and let’s see what happens to the system when those foods are missing. So you’re saying, in essence, if irritation or things you don’t need are causing your disease, along with things you do need not being present, then all we have to do is change how we’re dealing with our bank account. We stop making withdrawals from our health bank account and we start making some deposits.
So we take out the gluten and the dairy and the eggs and the yeast and the corn and the soy for a while so they’re no longer irritating our intestinal tract. So we’re no longer increasing the inflammation that gets up to the brain, and then all of a sudden you’ll see the mood calm and you’ll see the weight normalize and you’ll see the bowels calm and all of a sudden, energy ensues. At the same time, what we’re recommending in the elimination diet is healthy whole foods. And those healthy whole foods are chock-full of nutrients. So now, the B Vitamin levels are increasing. Now all of a sudden, somebody is getting the energy they need without the stress they don’t and you can see miracles happen.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more and I see it so often in practice, that same thing that you are talking about where you can actually… we see pretty complicated kids and young adults and they may have a ton of symptoms, lots of different physical and mental health diagnoses and something like an elimination diet taking out foods that are triggering problems for them — that one intervention can lead to improvement in so many of their symptoms across the board, as opposed to just looking at, “Well, here’s the treatment for this and here is the treatment for that.” Something like an elimination diet and looking at removing foods that may be triggering problems for them, you can see health improvements across the board.
Oh, it’s so true. You know, it’s interesting, right? In that class that we were in together and I was teaching, we talk about irritants vs. nutrients and we talk about the primary things that trigger our immune cells, the primary things are foreign things that come into the body. And what are the primary foreign things that come into the body? Well, we have microbes there all the time, of course, but diet — food. We ingest 25-28 tons of foreign matter throughout our lifetimes, we put it in through our mouths and we expect our body to tolerate it, expect our body to digest it and absorb it and just say, “Oh this is great stuff!”, and we forget that the vast majority of our immune cells are lining the intestinal tract, waiting to determine if something is friend or foe.
We forget that all you need is one little piece of something that the immune system doesn’t like to send off your entire body, so all we are doing is saying, “Alright, what is sending off our body and what is not?” If there are symptoms of cognitive issues, most assuredly, there is brain inflammation. Where does the inflammation start? Well, the inflammation comes from the immune systems saying, “Alert and alarm, something is attacking me. Something is wrong in my system.”, and we forget that one of the biggest exposures our immune cells have — the easiest ways you can excite the immune system is to irritate the immune cells in the gut with food. So this is just basic science. It’s amazing, you turn off the inflammation and sure the brain gets better, but then the joints get better and the gut gets better, and the skin gets better — so you’re turning off this fire that’s degrading a lot of tissues, not just the brain.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
One of the things that came to mind as you were talking about that sort of objection or a question that some parents have about elimination diets. You know, I’ll talk with them and say, “I think this will be helpful.” They’ll say, “Well, but my child doesn’t have any allergies, my child’s been to the allergist.”, or the doctor said “he doesn’t have any allergies to things”, some of them have even had the massive skin prick testing and all these kinds of things, and they go, “Well, my kid doesn’t have allergies, so these foods are all fine.” I’d like you to speak to that for a minute.
There are different types of immunologic reactions. So the immune system uses little antibodies to attack certain things at certain times and depending on when you get exposed to something and depending on how developed or tolerate your immune system is to adjust itself to pet dander and pollen and whatever it’s going to be — peanuts or shellfish. Depending on that, it depends on what you’re going to then respond with. And some people will respond with these — it’s called IGE, or immunoglobulin class E antibodies that will then bind to the substance and then when partnering will elicit what’s called a mass cell response. And that mass cell response is where you get the histamine released and that histamine is what causes the watery eyes, the redness, the itchiness, the hives and what not. That’s what’s called an allergy.
A lot of food responses are not true IGE allergies, in fact, a very small percentage of them are. And what we choose to focus on is something other — immunoglobulin class G, or IGG responses, which are quite common. But now we’re seeing that there are a lot of other immunologic-type responses we can have. There are different classifications, IGD, IGM, we’re seeing theses intolerances that are coming out that don’t actually stimulate the immune system at all. They are just an inability to process something like fructose, for example.
So if you give your child apple juice and apple sauce and all of a sudden, they have loose stools and they’re getting more moody or whatnot, that might not be anything to do with your immune system per se. It might be that they can not ingest, digest and absorb the fructose in those apples very well, and that fructose is now feeding microbes in the intestinal tract, those microbes are now secreting gasses and compounds that are harmful for your intestinal lining, and now they are getting upset. So there are lots of different reactions. The IGE responses are a very small fraction of what may be happening. The elimination diet, by removing foods and seeing how you respond, covers a larger group of potential reactions.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, so it’s possible to have a sensitivity or an intolerance to something that wouldn’t show up on typical allergy testing at a physician’s office, but that doesn’t mean that we’re tolerating everything, that we’re eating well. So this is still a helpful intervention to figure out how our body is responding to all these different kinds of foods.
Yeah, and a wonderful example would be gluten. So we look at gluten and we know that 0.4% of the general population, this is conservative scientific journals, will show us that 0.4% of the population has an actual wheat allergy. About 1% of the population has this autoimmune response that we know of called celiac disease, and that’s rising, actually, as time goes on. And then we now know that 6% or higher of the general population — so 0.4% has an allergy, 6% has something called non-celiac wheat sensitivity. So now we have this gluten reaction that is not an allergy, that is not celiac disease and it is 6 times the celiac disease and 12+ times the amount of the actual allergies and there are no tests for this. You can not go out and get an IGG panel and pick up all these — there is not test for this. So we know that there are reactions that you probably don’t know exist until you do an elimination diet.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And I think to that point too, some people say, well what are the gold standard tests, tell me what test to go out and get? And I see a lot of families who have had their kids get sensitivity tests and things and there are some caveats to be aware of with that, right?
Yeah, for sure. And what I see is with those IGG testing, is that the brands vary. I’m going on almost 15 years of experience in this and what I would say is that I see that there are false negatives, there are false positives, they depend on the company in which you’re running the test. So certain companies will be more likely to pick up soy and corn, others will not pick up soy and corn. Most of them will not pick up gluten very well. Many of them pick up dairy and eggs extremely well. So you have to know the nuances of these tests and the problem is that we are all so likely, I know I am, likely to jump on the bandwagon and trust, you know, “Oh, this is a lab — they do their due diligence and if they tell me it’s positive, it’s positive, they tell me it’s negative, it’s negative.”
But my goodness, and fortunately, I’m not that type of clinician where I will ignore my clients. I can’t ignore my clients. So if they come in and say “Look, my test shows me I am negative to corn, but watch this,”, and this has happened in my office. They will eat corn in front of me, and during our visit now, 15 minutes later, I can watch a rash break out across their face. And they’ll say, “Well, what is that? Is that an allergic reaction?” But it was an IGE/IGG panel that showed them they were negative to corn. And so it’s like — well, if they’re negative to corn, what in the world is going on? So that has happened enough times where I’d hear about the soy reactions or the gluten reactions — you hear about it over and over and over again, and pretty soon you just go, alright — I can’t ignore this anymore. There are variabilities in these labs. Now mind you, if you’ve already done the elimination diet process and you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve really worked hard to find out what’s reacting and not reaction and you’re not finding everything, you can run an IGG panel to see if you’re missing some stuff, but I don’t use it as the first-line therapy.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, I don’t either and I’ve learned that from you and it confirmed what I had seen in clinical experience, which was really that the only way that I could get a truly accurate read on how kids were responding to food was to do the elimination diet — to remove the foods for long enough to see. I want to get into the length of this and how to do this, because you mentioned the 28 days but this is an important component of another question that people bring up, when they say, “Oh yeah, I took dairy out of my child’s diet.” “Or we did gluten and dairy-free for a while and we didn’t see anything.” When I delve into that, it’s like, “Well we did it for a week.” Or “Well, we kind of did it for 3 weeks.”
And some people will say, well I didn’t give him milk for a day and I didn’t notice anything different! Can you talk about the duration? Because it isn’t like — people are used to hearing about oh, these kids at school who eat peanuts and they break out in hives and can’t breathe. These intolerance and sensitivity issues, there can be a longer duration of time between ingestion and noticing the symptoms, right? Which is why it’s so tricky.
Yeah, that’s why they call them delayed sensitivity reactions, literally — in the literature. So you can have 3 days later, something pop up after you consume and it will be something innocuous like all of a sudden there is this brain fog or fatigue or mild joint pain and you’re thinking to yourself, “Gosh, am I coming down with a cold or did I work out too hard? What do I need to calm down about?” — and it’s the food, but you wouldn’t think it was the food, right? So that’s why I ask when people are taking out foods, and they are trying to determine if that food is associated with a reaction — I say, “When in doubt, leave it out.”
So the problem is that the immune response, if you are having one or even an intolerance response that changes your microbiome flora doesn’t happen in an instant, it happens over time and once an antibody is released or an imbalance has occurred, it can sometimes take days, weeks, and sometimes in severe cases, months for things to calm down in order for you to actually see a clean slate to then start adding something back in. So I’m going to take dairy out, for example, right? And if I take dairy out and someone is having an immune response to dairy, which is common — many people have it, I’m having an immune response to dairy, my antibody levels are going to stay elevated in my feeling of not being great, so my joint pain or my gut upset or my constipation or whatever is going to last for a very long time after one exposure.
You’ll see it’s heightened for about two weeks and then after two weeks, it starts dropping and by the time you make it to four weeks, you’re down to a point of the antibodies being low enough that if you added it back in, you would notice a difference. But if your constantly responding to something, you take it out for one day or take it out for 5 days or even 10 days, you may not lead to a point where your antibodies are low enough that your immune system is calming down. What you want to do is let those foods go for a long time, let the immune system calm down, watch the skin clear up, watch the brain function improve, watch the joint pain go down, watch the gut pain disappear — and then reintroduce, but gosh, you’ve got to stick with it for a while. Think of getting the flu, you don’t get over the flu in one day, right? Your immune system ramps up, attacks whatever is going on, it stays inflamed for a while, you feel that joint pain and that fatigue and then you recuperate, it doesn’t happen overnight, so yeah, you’ve got to be patient with these things.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, and I think that’s a common thing that I see is people trying to remove foods for too short a period of time, or the other thing that came to mind as you were talking, because you listed off — I think it was the 7 most common things that you have people remove for the 28 days. I see people doing — “I removed this one thing.”, or “We tried dairy-free and we didn’t notice anything.”, or “We tried gluten-free.”, or “We tried taking out soy’ or whatever and what I have found in practice is that one of the complicated things, while I think it’s great that people are trying to individually remove foods, what can be problematic with that is if you’re having a reaction to more than one and you just pull the one out, you may not notice a significant symptom difference just from removing the one, and so you say removing dairy didn’t make a difference, but it may be the case that had you removed dairy and gluten, for example, you would have noticed a big difference. So people go, “Oh my kid is fine on dairy.” So can you speak to the importance, if you really want to get a good read on this, of removing all of these offenders for a period of time all at once?
Yeah, I love that, thank you. So Sid Baker also taught us the two tacks rule — if you sit down on two tacks — so you have two tacks stuck in your bottom, and you take one tack out — do you feel 50% better? So the reality is, you still have the pain of a tack in your bum, so it’s really great if you take out all the tacks and then you’re not going to feel that sharp pain. It’s the same kind of thing, in fact the literature is very clear on this, Nicole. If you look at gluten-associated reactions, many people, they’ll say upwards of 50%+ of people who are currently having a response to gluten — if you challenge them with dairy proteins in their intestines, they’ll have an identical immunological response to the dairy that they’re having to the gluten. That’s why you’ll notice when I said gluten and dairy together, I didn’t say just take out the gluten, I didn’t say just take out the dairy because I have seen so many times that people react to both and if they are reacting to one, they are far more likely to react to the other. You take both out and they can feel better. So yes, super, super important for us to consider all the things that might be irritating.
Now, we can’t get to a point, like you’ll see in my Elimination Diet book, it gets kind of restrictive, I start getting into nightshades and some nuts and whatever, but if you don’t want to go that far down the rabbit hole, just the top 6 is fine — gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn and soy — some people would add in sugar and some people would add in caffeine. So it depends on where you want to go, what you want to focus on but yes, taking out the big offenders, not just one thing at a time and saying, oh I tried one thing and it didn’t work, I still had reactions — is a waste, I think, of time and energy. You may as well really go for it. This is the problem though, right here, I’ll let you know. Food is awesome, right? And we all love the freedom to prepare what we want, when we want and we’re busy moms and dads and we have — you know, you 4 kids, me 5 kids and we have these massive responsibilities to feed these growing bodies and they’re just hungry all the time.
It’s like, whoa — what am I going to cook! And when you start restricting things and saying, “I need cheese to cook stuff, I need bread to cook stuff.” It’s like, well — yeah, initially watch what happens, you’re going to come up with so many mental barriers. “This is too hard, I could never do that.” That’s exactly what pops up. And then we say, well that’s Nicole’s for and that’s what I’m for. That’s why we have resources for you. We know what the best gluten-free breads are. We know that there is no alternative to cheese, you need to come up with some new ideas. We know all these things. We know that cheese is one of the most addictive food substances on the planet. Your kids are going to scream and cry and they’re going to crave the cheese, again — this is natural! Cheese is addictive. A lot of people forget that breast milk has in it opioid compounds, so when a young baby or a young colt or a young lion or whatever is crying and making a fuss, mom will run over, breastfeed it and then all of a sudden, its eyes roll back and it will become sedative and addicted and want to come back for more and stay calm and now all of a sudden there is no crying, there is no attracting predators that can harm that animal.
Mother Nature knows this. It puts in an addictive, sedative substance called opioid-like peptides, casomorphin, to calm down that animal and make it come back for more so it will grow quickly. Now, how do you concentrate these casomorphins and turn it into a drug? Easy, you just suck out a lot of the moisture, a lot of the fat, you put some rennet with and you turn it into a block of cheese. It’s literally one of the most physically addicting foods on the planet. People think oh yeah, sugar and alcohol and caffeine — yeah, those have these little withdrawal-type relationships and yes, it can be quite addictive but my goodness — in my clinical practice, I would say it’s cheese.
I have the moms calling me up, I would say I have some people who have past addiction problems in the middle of the night calling me with sweats, dreaming about cheese — they say, “What am I going to do! I’ve got to have cheese! I need my nachos!” No, no, no, it’s okay — you’re physically addicted, your biochemically addicted, there is science to prove this, breathe, drink some water, recognize — this is a drug. You’ll get past it. Give it those 10 days, 14 days, you’ll see those levels of opioid peptides drop and all of a sudden you won’t crave it as much. By the time you’re done with two months, you’ll not even remember what it’s about. Well, if you have genes that make you really addicted, you’ll probably still crave some, but most people can tolerate it by that time.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
But I think that’s so important for parents to be aware off, because you’re right that one of the big barriers is parents feeling like, “I can’t do this, this is going to be too complicated to cook. Even if I do figure out how to give my kid different foods, they’re not going to want to eat it.” And to know that there is a process to this, cheese — absolutely there is a reason that so many kids come into the practice and their diets are cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, yogurt, cheese on chips, those kinds of things — and yes, it’s not going to be fun or easy initially, but you get over that hump after a few days where then kids’ pallets start to open up, where they start to want other things. People are amazed at what is on the other side of getting through that sort of dairy crisis with their kids, and to know, going in — okay, this might be rough for a little bit, but it’s not going to last forever and it is going to get easier. I think it’s important from a mindset standpoint for people to be able to get through that.
Oh, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there where we look at the situation and we say to ourselves — forget about it, this is not going to happen. There’s no way of doing this, my kid loves it too much. So I had this girl, she comes in and child has these terrible mood disorder flare-ups, aggressiveness, she gets these allergic shiners under her eyes, hits mom like crazy, right? And then the next day gets these awful asthma attacks. And so she comes in to see me and I’m like, gosh — you know, it sounds like a dairy response, you might want to look at this. “Oh, no — the allergist says it’s dust mites and it’s pollen.”, and whatever else, so they do air filtration, they reupholstered the furniture, they repaint the walls, they do all this stuff around the house to limit what’s going on with the allergies, right? Same thing keeps happening.
So she goes to children’s hospital, twice in the same month with these terrible aggression and asthma attacks, right? And so I finally say “Come on, let’s try it!” She says, “What in the world are we going to eat! She wants cheese sticks all the time, grilled cheese sandwiches all the time, what in the world are we going to eat!” I said, “Mom, pack it up right now. We’re driving over to the co-op together.” We go shopping at the co-op together, I’m like okay — we see these particular tortillas here, these are the beans that go on here, here’s some chicken you can cook and let me show you how to do this — crock-pot chicken for this, then she was, you know — You don’t need the cheese, put on the guacamole, oh they don’t like guacamole? Okay, then try these beans, here — these are really good. Then maybe this sauce will work for you, and whatever — we got through all these little options and then finally mom can try it.
She tries it for 2 weeks. That’s all it took. 2 weeks. Kid’s sinuses start draining like crazy, like all this mucus comes out of the sinuses and no more flare ups, nothing as long as she stays off the dairy. Turns out she starts getting more diligent with all the gluten stuff — kid had both a gluten and a dairy response. There is no asthma anymore, there is no aggressive responses anymore, it was completely food associated! How many specialists was she seeing? How many people has she been told over and over again — “We don’t know what this is, she should probably be on this med or this —” and I’m like, it was a food response! I see that all the time. So it’s finding options, that’s all it is. It’s restructuring your mindset. Right now you think this has to be this way, your child — this has to be this way. So if this is not something you want to do cold turkey and follow a whole elimination diet, fine — go on our website, wholelifenutrition.net, find the recipes there — look at those recipes that are gluten-free and dairy-free and start introducing one recipe a week. Just experiment, find recipes that you like, that you think kids will like and introduce those one at a time. It might be the third recipe that’s a hit! Then you have one recipe under your belt!
By the time you get 11 recipes under your belt, then the magic starts happening, because then what you can do is just stop cooking every other thing except for those 11 recipes over and over again. Typical United States family eats the same recipes with adaptations over and over and over again, so then they don’t even know they’re on elimination diet, they just know they’re getting these recipes that they love to eat, they’re not even conscious of the fact there is no wheat, there is no dairy, there’s no barley, there’s no rye, the don’t even know! And you just cook those recipes and then 2 weeks down the line, watch as the mood improves, watch as the bowels improve, 4 weeks down the line — miracles, literally. You’ll see amazing things happen. This is not woo-woo. This is like the foundation of functional medicine stuff, this is something that you and I have found in clinical practices like the lynchpin — if somebody tries to do all the supplements and all the behavioral therapy and everything else and they never attack the diet and never addressed the things that you’re trying to build that child off of, every single day, the things that are exciting their immune system every time they put it in their mouth — if you never address that and it’s really hard to find health. It’s really hard to make progress.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So true. And I think that’s such a helpful way to think about it. For parents who are ready to dive in and do the whole thing and say, okay — for the next 28 days we’re removing all of these things — awesome. If you are feeling like you need to do that more slowly, and I love the example you just gave of just start with one recipe, build from there, the great thing is there is so much more available out there in stores, online now — those of us who were doing elimination diets with our kids back 10 years ago — we were cooking a whole lot, there was really nothing out there. Now there is so much great stuff that you can find that is easy to throw in lunchboxes, to bring to soccer practice, and again — we want whole foods to be the foundation of the diet, but the reality is that we sometimes need convenience things too, and there are great healthy options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free. So much more available, so that whole convenience factor is not nearly the barrier that it was even 5 years ago.
I’ll give you an example. What do I have cooking over here in the kitchen? I’ve got some tart cherry chicken, right? I just put chicken into a crock-pot, two breasts, covered it with tart cherry juice from Lakewood Organics — you can put in a little bit of cumin, salt, pepper, you don’t really need anything, but you can if you want to do tex-mex a little bit of chipotle chili, a little bit of onions, garlic, whatever you want — but really, just cherry juice, chicken. The end. Put it on low, 6 hours, go in there and shred it up for a little bit, let it sit in the cherry juice for another 30 minutes, and then I can put that over salads, I can put that under those Siete tortillas, the cassava wraps, and I put a little bit of guac in there, a little bit of salsa, a little bit of shredded lettuce, right? Away you run? There it is, there is the fastest tacos on the planet. It only takes minutes to throw that stuff from the crock-pot and the kids love it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And that’s where I think your recipes are so helpful. I mean both the recommendations and things you give in the elimination diet book, but also your Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook which I go back to again and again, some of my family’s favorite recipes are from there, at the clinic it’s such an easy starting point for parents because you specify — these are gluten and dairy-free, here are the things that you can do, and it keeps it really easy. I want to touch on one thing as I am realizing that we need to start to wrap up here, but I think it’s important. We’ve talked about these 6 primary things to remove that ideally, we take them out for 28 days, why don’t you just talk about that reintroduction process — so people say okay, I get it. I remove these things that are the most common offenders, I keep them out for a month to see what happens. Then what? Do I put them back in? Do I leave them out forever? What do I do?
Good call. Two things — #1, truly eliminating is tough, so make sure that you’re getting truly gluten-free, dairy-free stuff. There’s a lot of restaurants that don’t really know what gluten and dairy mean. It’s so easy to get cross-contaminated when you eat out. I really want you to find success, so investigate whatever it is you are consuming, whether it is outside the home — which is really hard to get gluten-free, dairy-free and or in processed packaged foods, just make sure. But yeah, you take it out and then you reintroduce it and basically, what you’re doing is you’re waiting that time period until all the symptoms are calm and then you want to see what caused the symptoms. So you introduce a food every 3 days and just add a little bit of that food and you wait to see if you have those symptoms, right? And if you have the fatigue, or if you have the brain fog or if you have whatever it is, lack of eye contact, whatever you’re dealing with — once that comes back, that food is gone. You leave it out for a good solid, 3-6 months, it’s just gone.
And the longer you leave out an offending food, the better that symptom gets. You’ll have less of that response and you’ll see amazing things happen. So some people just say, “I’m not going to add it back in.” Some people will say, — I wrote it down on a book, I love this food, I think it’s super nutritious and my mind tells me that I should try and reintroduce it again — then whatever you’re fighting with, I mean to address it. And come back to it 3 months, 6 months later. Add it back in, watch for those same symptoms, see if they come back — and they may take longer to come back that next time. Just so you know, they may not come back immediately. It may take 4 or 5 days or 7 days but when those symptoms do come back, recognize it could be the foods, right? And then just take them out.
But a lot of times what happens, Nicole, is there are certain foods like gluten and dairy and eggs that stay pretty solid. A person will have that reaction and once they have that reaction, you just kind of take it out and you leave it out for years and they seem to do better, and there are other things — sometimes, the corn, for example, can be migratory. Meaning when someone’s gut is calmed down to a certain point, it can tolerate a little bit of that, so nightshades for example — sometimes people tolerate some of those later on, sometimes not but I’m just saying it’s possible for things to be transitory. So it’s not necessarily a “life sentence” but I’ll say, even that to me is a misnomer because I think it’s life blessing for me.
I mean the fact that I’m celiac, the fact that I have dairy sensitivity — I have multiple food sensitivities and chemical sensitivities, just means that I get to be conscious, I get to be aware and I get to choose better food choice anyway and I’ve got to learn a lot about the food system and my body and other people’s bodies and I’ve been able to help thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people, and so it’s been a gift, so I really don’t look at at it like I’m suffering, ever, when I’m doing dairy-free or gluten-free or egg-free or whatever it is I’m doing. I just look at it as, oh — this is how I live and when I live this way, I feel fabulous. And when I live another way, I don’t feel so good.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah. I think that’s such a great mindset shift for parents and for kids and that’s how I talk about it with kids too. It’s less of a focus on what we’re taking away, what we’re losing and more of a focus on what we’re gaining. And for kids, they get that, right? I don’t want to have headaches every day, I don’t want to have it hurt to poop, I don’t want to not be able to sit down and focus in class, I don’t want to be fighting with my parents and my teachers all the time. They get it and we talk about what you can gain from eating in a way that your body can work better with and that this type of diet, the elimination diet helps us do some detective work to figure out what’s going to help them be able to live in a way that’s more in alignment with who they are and how they want to be, and for parents — that makes your life easier, right?
You know, instead of looking at is a chore of — oh, I have to cook this way and get rid of this stuff, think about what you gain. You gain more time, less stress. Like having a happier, healthier kid — oh my goodness, that just makes life so much better. So I love that idea of it’s not a life sentence, it’s not a problem that we need to eat this way. There are so many great benefits that come from it.
You may not even recognize your child after this experience. You may wake up and cry and just go like, who is this beautiful human being in front of me that was trapped in this state of brain inflammation for so long, I feel so sad that I didn’t look at this sooner and I feel so grateful that I’ve now found this. I hear that all the time. I hear people call me up, it’s so sweet, they say “You gave me my child back.” I’m like, “No! I just gave you some options! You are the one who gave your child back.” So it’s definitely worth the adventure, it’s definitely worth it. You know, I almost called the book the “Illumination” instead of the “elimination” because I wanted to illuminate what foods worked best, but the publisher didn’t think that would do!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it! And speaking of your book, I want to, as we’re wrapping up here, make sure — you mentioned your websites earlier, but where can people find you online? You’ve got great resources, your books — what are the best websites to go to?
Yeah, wholelifenutrition.net is where you can go to find the information about the elimination diet — just look for the little icons off to the side that say articles, and then you click on the articles and then it will say “Elimination Diet” and look for the little article that says “Elimination diet resources”. There is the yes and no lists and whatnot. And then it will click on a page too that shows Ali and I in the kitchen and if you click on it and subscribe to that thing, you’ll get this little series of videos on how to make these chicken tacos I’m talking about and you’ll get some information and resource guides for how to do the elimination — for free! So it’s great and if you purchase the book, you get more stuff too so that’s great.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, I can’t recommend your resources highly enough, and definitely for people to get the book to understand even in more depth, then to start to delve into this. Tom this has been just an incredible amount of information that you have provided and I know that it’s going to be helpful for so many people, so thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today.
Absolutely my honor and pleasure, Nicole. Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Alright, everybody, that’s it for this episode of The Better Behavior Show! We will see you back here next time.