Stress is an unavoidable element of our lives. It’s completely normal, and we all experience it in some shape or form. While our bodies are equipped to deal with some levels of stress, our internal mechanisms can malfunction from the pressure of continuous stress over time – also called “chronic stress” – and the fatigue that comes with it. An increase in this allostatic load can profoundly worsen our physical health.
What is allostatic load and how does it relate to fatigue and chronic stress?
Allostatic load refers to the “wear and tear” on the body that accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress.
The good news? Our body’s ability to detoxify and reduce allostatic load can be quickly activated through dietary changes, specifically an “elimination” diet.
Using the “elimination diet” to improve adaptation
I have used several diets in my practice to help people detoxify, and have found the “elimination” approach to be the easiest to adopt. Success with dietary detoxification requires a willingness to follow this program precisely. There is often a struggle over giving up desserts, alcohol, coffee, and other comfort foods – however, after the first three to four days, most people don’t even miss these foods. My patients have shown me that, if given a chance, the body will respond and recover from maladaptation.
So, what does this elimination diet entail?
The main concept of the elimination diet is removing any foods that can trigger negative symptoms in our bodies. Are you suffering from chronic fatigue? Constantly stressed out? Low energy? These symptoms can come from a variety of sources, but our diet is often the culprit. Dietary detoxification is the first phase of the Adaptation Diet (check out The Adaptation Diet to learn more). But it’s important to do this diet properly and take appropriate precautions.
One of my patients illustrated what can occur with sudden caffeine withdrawal. Alice was a patient with fibromyalgia (severe, widespread muscle pain), headaches, and fatigue. Within a week of starting the detoxification diet, she developed major headaches and eye pain. Unfortunately, she went to her ophthalmologist without first consulting me. He thought she had developed a problem with her visual system, so he ordered several tests and treated her with pain medications. Alice, a heavy coffee user, had abruptly stopped her coffee intake, resulting in migraine-type headaches from caffeine withdrawal. However, even in the face of the caffeine-withdrawal symptoms, her generalized muscle pain and fatigue had greatly improved from removing the toxins in her diet and avoiding her probable food-allergy triggers. If Alice had gradually withdrawn from caffeine, her symptoms would have been much less severe, and her detoxification would have gone smoothly.
Any person who has medical issues (including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or any chronic or acute medical condition) must be under the care of a physician before undertaking the detoxification phase of the Adaptation Diet. Eliminating certain foods for the first time can lead to significant symptoms from the detoxification effect and withdrawal from normal food patterns. Some of my patients felt quite badly during this phase of the program, and needed my guidance to adjust how they went through the dietary change. Therefore, any person with health concerns should not attempt the elimination diet unless supervised by their physician.
When done properly, the elimination diet is a powerful tool for fighting fatigue and improving your body’s natural ability to handle environmental stress.
How to do the elimination diet
You can find detailed instructions for proper detoxification in The Adaptation Diet, but here are some foods to include (and some to avoid) during Phase 1 of the diet:
Eat vegetables and fruits that are grown organically.
Eat fiber-rich foods, including flaxseed powder, oat and rice bran, and legumes.
Eat antibiotic- and hormone-free meat and chicken, and limit red meat to once a week.
Drink only filtered or bottled water.
Eat eggs only from free-range chickens fed on organic feed.
Avoid farm-raised fish.
Limit the amount of swordfish, tilefish, tuna, and other fish known to have high mercury levels.
Avoid all foods that are fried or contain trans-fatty acids and other unhealthy fats.
Do not drink soft drinks or excessive fruit juice.
Restrict caffeine, including coffee and black teas.
Eliminate refined sugar, including candy, pastries, sweetened canned fruits, ice cream, cookies, and cakes.
Eat live-culture, unsweetened yogurt, or kefir to increase beneficial bacteria.
If you’d like to learn more about dietary detoxification (or the Adaptation Diet, in general), please call us and set up an appointment. Whether you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle or you’re trying to overcome a chronic condition, we can help you get to your goals.