The reintroduction phase of Whole30 is without doubt the most powerful part of the journey and ironically it comes after the 30-day challenge! As frustrating as it is the process is necessary. For 30 days I eliminated all the food groups which tend to cause some sort of reaction or intolerance. In that time my body has had time to heal from whatever damage they had been doing. Then, by reintroducing each of them one by one with some time in between I now understand my reaction to each. So here is my actual reintroduction diary:
Brace yourself, it gets a bit graphic…
Day 1 sulphite-free wine
I did not really miss alcohol because of all the after-effects but I reintroduced this first as it is suggested in the Whole30 books and because I had a social event come up. The main effects we not surprising: dehydration, fatigue, bowels and bladder slightly off-key. Just 2 glasses had me super tired though, all the more reason to limit it going forward.
Day 4 legumes
On legume day I had a shed load of lentils. As with every reintroduction I noticed fatigue. Here my cravings also went up, along with some more subtle bowel symptoms that were far from my IBS but annoying enough to not want to deal with.
Day 7 non-gluten grains
Here I had rice and some corn. I noticed a fair amount of bloating and flatulence as well as loose bowels. Again there was definite fatigue compared to when I was strictly on Whole30.
Day 10 dairy
Yoghurt for breakfast, cheese for lunch and ice-cream after dinner. I thought gluten would be my worst; but dairy was my biggest intolerance. I had headaches on and off for the next 3 days as well as all my IBS symptoms. It even affected my sleep, which all makes sense as cheese is often associated with migraines.
Day 13 gluten
Enter mum and grandma’s famous parathas. Such a feast! I expected the worst with this reintroduction; however, while it did trigger most of my IBS symptoms, it was nowhere near as bad as dairy. I also noticed my skin was itchy, which I did not feel with any of the other ingredients.
What is most interesting about this phase is that I still did not go back to eating all the junk food I might have had before. So many foods include a number of these food groups and so you need to plan how to bring each one in in isolation so as not to tarnish the experimental findings. Moreover I still avoided preservatives and sugars where possible. To top it all off I still prepared all of the food including the trigger foods from scratch, knowing exactly what went into them. I even made a no-churn ice cream: just whip half a can of condensed milk and a pot of double cream until it has a clotted cream texture; add your flavours (I added vanilla, cardamom and cacao); and freeze it.
This phase speaks volumes about how much my Whole30 journey has taught me about my body and redefined my relationship with food. I know when I eat all of these food groups exactly what the consequences will be for me and will weigh up those decisions accordingly: if I’m gonna get a dairy headache, it better be the best ice cream ever! Every time I get one of these reactions now, it reinforces my desire for truly nutritious and healthy foods. I actually look forward to cruciferous vegetables and fruits now.
Most importantly, I am truly empowered to control my IBS. I remember before every exam I sat being in the rest room up until we had to go in; now I can put that all behind me. From here on, I plan to stick to Whole30 and paleo eating on an 80-20 basis and do a full round of Whole30 twice a year.
Whatever lifestyle changes you are considering for your health, make sure you take full responsibility for it and measure your progress. If you want some help along the way, book a call with me via my website.
Dr Dilraj Kalsi uses Lifestyle Medicine and Digital Health to empower patients to reverse disease via his online clinic Hippocrates Lounge. He is a Lecturer in Digital Health at the University of Warwick and publishes regularly on patient empowerment with colleagues from Oxford University. For all his latest health tips straight to your inbox, sign up here!