Many people wonder if you can do an elimination diet while breastfeeding (and working, mommying, friending, and wifing… that’s wife-ing not wifi-ing)???
The answer is YES.
If you’re on our email list, you know that I decided to give myself the gift of health this year. The only thing I asked for as a gift was new sneakers (thanks hubby!). At this point in life, experiences with family and friends and my health matter much more than material objects.
I felt like my health needed to be more of a priority since the longer I nurse my 8 month old, the more some of my deficiencies and imbalances seem to becoming apparent.
I have news for all of the pregnant and nursing mamas out there, regardless of how perfect your diet, supplementation, and lifestyle are it’s super difficult not to become depleted in some way after you have a baby and are nursing. This is a very metabolically (and MENTALLY) demanding time in a woman’s life, so we need to support ourselves accordingly.
And like we always tell our clients, you can’t take care of your family or be present in your life if you’re not taking care of yourself. So…. What was I waiting for??
Questions and plain old procrastination!!!
Contrary to what people probably think- I often have the same initial questions as you all do even though I’m a trained practitioner. I was concerned about my milk supply and if any treatments impact the baby or my milk content.
Yes, it is true (I’m being 100% honest).
For the same reason we as practitioners don’t recommend treating ourselves. It’s really hard to view yourself objectively. It’s easy to second guess, dismiss, or blow things off when you’re the only one analyzing yourself.
That’s how I got to my elimination diet.
I planned on doing all of this after I weaned my sweet, little babe. But all of my practitioner friends said a resounding, “HECK, NO.”
Truthfully, my immune system has been challenged since the baby was about 4 months old. I’ve had several viruses in that time. I usually get that many viruses in a year… not 3 months.
I also had a little eczema patch develop on my eyelid a couple months ago that I haven’t been able to completely clear.
Time to look inside (hello root causes)!!
On the advice of my observant and smart friends (read: persistent!), I ran some basic serum labs and things looked a little off. According to my CBC (complete blood panel), my immune system seemed overwhelmed and my thyroid was less than optimal even though I take a compounded T3/T4. My immunoglobulin levels were also off.
What are immunoglobulins you ask??
When you hear people talk about IgG, IgE, IgM, and IgA, these are your immunoglobulins. These are antibodies produced by your white blood cells that help you fight foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites (or foods if you have a leaky gut!!). In Functional Medicine these are important because they give us an idea of what is going on regarding infections and autoimmunity.
My IgM was high which generally signifies acute infection. This wasn’t surprising since I’ve literally had viruses piggy-backing each other. Ugh.
IgG is the most abundant and typically higher when you’ve been sick, especially as time goes on, but mine was low. Not a good sign.
The low IgG is telling me a couple of things…
My body has been fighting a battle against respiratory pathogens (and possibly foods, my own tissues, and/or some gut stuff). IgG is the immunoglobulin that can enter tissues making it important to fighting battles in your body. It binds pathogens and toxins directly. Mine being so low means that my ability to fight off infections and handle toxins is impaired. No Bueno ☹.
The writing was on the wall.
This was all the motivation I needed to get myself into action.
I knew if I didn’t do anything I’d keep getting sick, have potential eczema flares, and not have enough energy to be a good mommy/wife/worker/friend.
The Action Plan
- AIP Elimination Diet. I knew I need to clean up my diet. For me, this means going the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) route since we tend to follow a Paleo-ish diet in our home. Normally my diet looks something like this:
– No gluten.
-Occasional dairy outside of regular use of butter and full fat cream in coffee.
– Rice, quinoa, or corn only 1-2x per month.
– Occasional legumes.
– Otherwise, we mostly eat meat, fish, fowl, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, and eggs.
AIP is a good place to start on an elimination diet, especially now that there are studies showing the benefit for autoimmunity. It also naturally takes out highly reactive foods.
I wanted to make it easy on myself (unlike my previous autoimmune rotation diet) because I’m spread pretty thin these days with an active little one.
I’m eliminating nightshades, nuts, seeds, coffee, all dairy, all grains, and eggs for 4 weeks. Simple enough. There are so many resources out there on the internet now, but I really like Whole 30 and Against All Grain since they have modifications for AIP. I’m adding them back in one at a time over a 3 day period and watching for any reactions.
- Ramping up anti-inflammatory and immune supporting supplements. I’m taking a super concentrated fish oil at 4x dosing (I take 2 caps at breakfast and dinner). I’m using a variety of probiotics specific to my past needs since I haven’t tested my gut yet****. Notice I said YET. I’m also using a mushroom blend that has reishi, maitake, coriolus, and shitake. Lastly, an immunoglobulin product.
Immunoglobulin products such IgG (usually dairy based) or IgY (usually egg based) help support the gut and immune system. Many people get nervous when they find this out, especially when they’re doing an elimination diet because of the dairy or egg source. The truth is that most people can tolerate these, except those with an IgE allergy or a severe sensitivity. I’m using this twice daily.
- Adding in LDN. LDN, or low dose naltrexone, was recommended to me a couple of times in the past when colleague friends analyzed my labs. I always put it on the back burner trying to fix other things first. This time I decided to listen since my immune system needs some real help. LDN works by increasing your body’s internal opioids (think endorphins) and supporting the immune system.
The diet has been easy to follow because I’m not over complicating it. I make batches of meat in the slow cooker (beef, chicken, pork, or buffalo) to have throughout the day or my husband will grill meat or fish. I always have big containers of greens for salads and use Primal Kitchen salad dressing so I don’t have to make it (good for marinade’s too). Last, there are always roasted veggies, plantains, yams, and sweet potatoes on hand. I’ll have berries or pears as a treat.
I’m 3 weeks in and feel good. I have more energy and my sleep seems to be more regulated outside of the baby waking me. I had been waking myself or unable to fall asleep. No new viruses.
My milk supply has remained consist too!!! YAY!!!!
My patch of eyelid eczema is almost gone too. I noticed the eczema fade after 1.5 weeks and I attribute that to both the LDN and diet because I had started the supplementation before and that was helping but didn’t have the same effect. (Note: NOTHING topical was helping it ☹). It’s mostly dry skin and a few tiny bumps which is encouraging.
I’m so encouraged that I’m going to do another experiment that I’ll let you all know about next month. This one will be exciting (and scary for me). But you know my philosophy- I’d never ask a patient do to anything I couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
Stay tuned!! And, reply in the comments about your experiences with elimination diets.