LEAP Elimination Diet

Hey, hey!

I’ve wanted to write this post for a little while now and my hope is to share some insight into what I’ve been working on as well as inspire you guys to put your health and wellness first! Please let me know if you have any questions 🙂

You’re probably thinking that this (new-to-me) elimination diet probably came out of the blue… and, you know what, it did. Well, sorta. Kelli joined the Designed to Fit Nutrition team a few months ago and she mentioned her food sensitivities test— of course, I was immediately interested!

Back in the day, I worked with a holistic doctor and completed a different kind of food sensitivities test. At the time, I was so sick, the results said I had sensitivities to everything. I’m not even kidding you, the doctor said “sorry” when sharing the results with me. So, for 4 months, I ate the same 20 or so foods over and over again. It was summer (hello, barbecues, beach, and fun!) and it was the most miserable experience. I found myself obsessing, stressing, and missing out on so much. Anyway, the reason I am sharing this background with you is because I wanted to do a food sensitivities test now that I’m *knock on wood* doing better, especially since so many weird health issues have popped up lately. I know they could be side effects of UC and/or Entyvio, but if there’s anything that I can do to keep the overall inflammation down in my body, I’m all about it.

For even more health background… you guys probably remember the whole eczema thing. Things were good for awhile, but those patches keep popping up again and again. Ughhhh. Not nearly as bad as the first flare, but still… annoying. I also have some joint pain, especially in my hips (separate from my running injury). I just feel like my hips are sore and tired, and my workouts take so much effort some days. I get the nights sweats every.single.night. My OB/GYN says they’re not likely related to my oral contraceptive/hormones (is that strange?), and I had my thyroid checked a couple of weeks ago and it’s normal. But what’s really driving me crazy is how TIRED I am lately. OMG, it’s the worst… and you guys know how I feel about naps. I HATE THEM. I feel like I should be doing something else more productive! I literally fall asleep on the couch a couple of times a week. I know my body is trying to tell me something, so I don’t get too bent out of shape about it, but, man, it’s frustrating to have zero energy. (FYI: I’m 100% not pregnant.)

So, that’s what’s going on, health-wise. Let me tell you about the test and diet now.

After purchasing the LEAP test from Kelli, she ordered a blood test kit from Oxford Biomedical Technologies, the company who does the test. Once I received it, I went to CareWell in Norwell to get my blood taken by a nurse, which was then sent off to the Oxford lab.

About a week later, both Kelli and I received the results, and I have to say I was pretty surprised by the results. A number of foods that I thought were seemly benign in my diet (i.e. lettuce, celery) were actually ones that I had sensitivities to. And, on the flip side, foods that I sometimes avoided (i.e. dairy, corn) got the green light! What was also surprising was just how many chemicals showed up in my results! Yikes. I guess I’ve had a little too much “fun” with my diet recently. After 5+ years of worrying about everything I put into my mouth, it was great being able to eat whatever I wanted, but I guess I went a tad overboard with the crap/processed stuff. My results were, for sure, a wake up call!

The next week, Kelli and I had a call to go over my results and get prepared for phase one of the diet. (She helped me brainstorm meal and snack ideas.) Phase one was definitely the hardest since my food choices were fairly limited, but, in theory, they were ones that I shouldn’t have any sort of reaction to. I was able to fly through the first phase (about a week) without any issues. (Each phase systematically introduces new foods to see how your body responses.)

Phase one eats below (top left clockwise): Ground chicken with green beans and corn, rice cake with peanut butter, a plum, zoodles with ground chicken and peas. FYI: Pretty much all of my food choices so far have been organic as recommended by LEAP/Kelli.

LEAP Diet Phase 1

I’m writing this post about 2.5 weeks into the diet, and I’m feeling great overall. A few “interesting” things have happened recently, so I wanted to share some of my results and symptoms so far. (I’ll be sure to give you an update when I’ve completed all five phases!)

I actually felt a detox of sorts. I know there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about whether or not your body can actually detox, but I think I may have experienced it. Days 1-3, I felt totally fine. On Days 4-6, I had a slight headache. It wasn’t bad enough to take something for it, but it was definitely there– dull and annoying. I thought maybe it was a symptom of caffeine withdrawal, but typically when I’ve stopped drinking coffee, I’d get headaches almost immediately and they were NOT dull and annoying. They were awful, and I would 100% need to take some sort of medication to get me through a few days of not having caffeine. Hormonely in my cycle, the headaches did not make sense either, so I kind of think my body was getting rid of some not-so-awesome stuff in my system. Possibly? Has anyone ever experienced anything like this?

Speaking of coffee, I’ve lost my craving for it. Crazy, right? I stopped drinking it for 10 days and didn’t have a strong desire to have it, but when I finally tested it for a reaction last week, I didn’t even want to drink it. I KNOWWW. I’m as surprised as you are. It’s so bizarre, but I truly believe our bodies are smart and know what they need, so I’m going with it. (Related: I’m sure once summer hits, I’ll want ALLTHEICEDCOFFEE again!)

On the craving front, my sugar cravings are so much better. And I’m surprised how quickly things changed. I used to want something sweet to eat after just about every meal, but now the urge isn’t there as much.

On the skin front, I haven’t gotten a single pimple in 2.5 weeks! Guys, I can’t even remember the last time my skin was so clear! It’s an awesome “symptom” for sure! 🙂 The eczema stuff, however, is a different story. On the first week of the diet, there was no eczema to be found. Yayyy! But, I introduced a couple of new foods at the start of phase two and the patch on my neck broke out. Whomp whomp. We’re getting back to basics this week and trying again with other foods, so I’m still trucking along and trying to figure things out.

Overall, I’ve felt really great on this diet. It’s actually not as difficult as I thought it would be, and now that I’m seeing some great results (I’m not nearly as tired!!), I’m motivated to stick with it. I’ll be sure to keep you guys in the loop with how things progress!

Question of the Day

Have any of you tried the LEAP diet or another elimination diet? Any favorite recipes?  

48 Comments

  1. I have tried an elimination diet and it sucked!! I couldn’t seem to stick with it, I ended up bingeing on rice crackers! It sounds like you are doing amazing on yours. I feel like I may have had a lot of trouble with it because I had an unhealthy relationship with food. Thank you for the post!

  2. Not to make things more complicated (I know it seems like everyone has an opinion on diets these days and there are plenty of fads out there) but that sounds an awful lot like a potential issue with histamine! It’s not something that’s widely known in the U.S. – it’s much more accepted in Europe – but my sister and I both have ‘histamine intolerance’. Technically, it’s an excess of histamine in the body due to either a reduction in the enzyme that breaks it down (DAO) or a mast cell disorder where your mast cells are releasing too much histamine or you have too many mast cells. In the U.S., they treat it all as a mast cell disorder since the same treatment can solve both problems. Long story short your symptoms overlap quite a bit – eczema, night sweats, GI issues (it has ties to both IBS and UC), breakouts, etc. – basically any form of allergic reaction or inflammation. For me, it started off with mostly getting stuffy/congested when I would eat food, but I could never quite figure out what was causing it. And then as histamine built up in my body over time my allergic reactions to high histamine foods got more and more frequent and intense. The long-story short of it is I would give a low histamine diet a try or at least look into it. Everything you mentioned eating on your elimination diet happens to below in histamine (and the list of high histamine foods is super long!). Again, not to make things more complicated – but it just makes a lot of sense given what you’ve been going through and your reaction to the diet. I can share more information if you’re interested – I’ve spent a long time researching and studying it since being diagnosed earlier this year! But it’s really crazy the difference it makes.

    1. Stacy. This is super interesting. I was wondering if you know if this would show up in the type of blood test Tina had? My email is toryvey@gmail.com if you can provide any additional info.

  3. The way you described this diet — “Each phase systematically introduces new foods to see how your body responses” makes me think of the way you’re supposed to introduce food groups to babies when they first start eating real food! I mean, it’s essentially the same concept– but in someone who’s not a baby 😉

  4. I had the same atopic dermatitis (eczema) on my eyelids for 5 years. YES, FIVE!!! It was horrible- nothing worked! I finally tried Whole30 in January and it went away!!! It’s crazy!!! I can’t believe it, it’s really and truly amazing. The weirdest thing is I have introduced everything back into my diet slowly (alcohol, grains, legumes, soy and dairy) and it still hasn’t come back! I did the a Whole60, and maybe my body just needed a break to heal itself! Who knows?! But yeah, totally a miracle- my eczema really affected my life for the first half of my 30s and even tho they were wonderful years (met my husband, got married and had a baby), I always felt sad that I didn’t feel as young or pretty because of the rash on my face. Hooray for diets helping! My dermatologist in Cambridge MA was truly amazed too.

  5. I have Hashimoto’s and I am in week 9 of my elimination diet. There are many supplements associated with this protocol from my functional medicine doctor, but I am feeling so good!. I have learned so much. I have a horrible candida overgrowth and heavy metal toxicity. I introduced coffee recently, which I totally missed! There could be some issues with certain introductions I have had – like breakouts. So I scaled those foods back to no more than 3 times per week and things are slowly coming back to normal. Next week I will get blood work done to see where I am at. I’m so hoping that I will be close to normal since I have been feeling good. My worst symptom prior to starting was brain fog and fatigue. So happy you are feeling better and working through it!

  6. Yes I’ve been through a detox! I’ve done a few “shreds” which was 10 days of strict clean eating, getting plenty of rest, no eating after dinner, no alcohol, no dairy, exercise daily. I’ve learned a lot about my body in doing them. I’ve had the headaches and the oddest one was a conjunctivitis like symptom. The junk was coming out anyway it could! It sounds like you’re learning a lot about yourself. I can’t wait to hear more. Good luck!

  7. Sounds like the diet is really working for you so far, may it continue!
    I don’t really have too many sensitivities but over the past few months I’ve massively cut down on sweet treats and now when I have them I find it too much!
    Funny how the body adapts!

  8. Oh come on. 5 seconds of google would have let you know these food ‘sensitivity’ tests are completely bogus and have no scientific backing. Do the elimination diet, sure, but there’s no reason to throw money away on useless tests.

    1. @Anna: So you believe everything you see on Google? I had those ‘bogus’ food ‘sensitivity’ tests (part of my allergy testing) and I had a reaction to corn. Tell my body that the test was bogus… And just to clarify, it’s processed corn that I have a sensitivity to. It’s in everything in some form or another, so it would have been difficult to pinpoint without the testing. I can eat regular corn & have no reaction.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing as I’ve been curious from your Instagram posts! Can you go into a little more detail about what you could/could not eat in phase 1? Like did you have to cut out gluten, soy, dairy, sugar, etc? Is it as strict as Whole30? I have done a 2 week detox before and it was a great experience. I kept up for a while with not eating any processed foods but I find snacks to be the most difficult to keep clean. Favorite recipes that I still make are buddha bowls, chia seed puddings, chickpea burgers, and chocolate truffles (cacao powder, coconut oil, honey). I’ve been very interested in doing another but need my husband to be on board because it is SO difficult to do it alone! Also, I’ve been breaking out badly for a few months (I’m almost certain it’s hormone related) and would really like to get my hormones balanced and I know you can do that through the food you put into your body.

    1. The phases and foods are different for everyone because they’re based on your own test/blood work, so what I ate during my experience is likely different from what you would eat. You should do the test and see what it says! 🙂

  10. Can you give more detail either in a post, as sure not only one, about how to go about finding a place that does testing/follows you while doing. I am sure intrigued .
    thank you.

  11. Good luck to you! I hope it really helps. I can relate to being super fatigued and having everything come up on testing as sensitive to. I haven’t done LEAP testing but have done others and elimination diets. Did your GI doctor think any of your symptoms are related to UC or your medication? I know you’ve said you are in remission. IBD is such a nasty disease wasn’t sure if anything was related. Hope you get relief of your symptoms! Keep us posted. This was great to read.

  12. Have you been tested for Lyme? It’s insidious where we live, and I, unfortunately, suffer from chronic lyme, so need to have a healthy diet (sans sugar, corn, grains, dairy) for when the flares strike, which is now. I never knew I even got bit, but felt so tired all the time. And on the same note as the comment about histamine, this IS mega allergy season, and I know the inflammation in my body rears it’s ugly head as soon as the pollen count goes high. I don’t even have sneezing or watery eyes, but the sensitive areas in my body effected by inflammation (joints in hands, wrists, puffy face from water retention, and leaky gut, fatigue & brain fog) all go into high gear. So, as soon as I take out the inflammatory foods (yes sugar and anything that converts into sugar) I feel a little better. I would bet your headaches are from sugar detoxing because all of those protein bars, granola and treats we love and even a small square of chocolate has sugar, which my functional medicine doctor says is like pouring wounds into those vulnerable areas. So, TCM (chinese medicine) would say your liver is overburdened (i.e. night sweats) so it’s all about getting your system back into balance, which it seems like you are doing. and then your body shall heal itself again over time, especially when the pollen count is down again. It’s incredible how many of us share common ailments; should be a wake up call to the genetically modified, additives, chemically way our food is processed today. And it’s wonderful you have a forum so we don’t all feel so alienated; that we’re not the only ones who feel wonky a little too often.

  13. Oh, Tina, that sounds like such a rough journey 🙁 I’m so sorry you have been struggling with this for 5 years and that you have been so exhausted. You mentioned that your test showed a lot of chemicals and that you are trying to eat more organic. One area to also consider is the chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care products. The skin is our largest organ, and absorbs what we put on it. In the US, the beauty industry is largely unregulated – we ban only 30 chemicals from our skin care products, while Europe bans 1300!! Also, the US has not passed a law regulating what goes into skin care since 1938! Have you heard of Beautycounter? It’s a company that bans over 1500 harmful chemicals from their products and is working to bring change to the beauty industry. I would LOVE to share more information with you if you would be interested!

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post! I too suffer from multiple food sensitivities (gluten and fructose), and I also have Hashimoto’s. Although I’ve eliminated foods containing gluten and fructose, I still experience many of the same symptoms that you noted (inflammation in the form of acne going back to my teen years, joint pain, keratosis polaris on the backs of my arms, bloating, gas…. the list goes on and on) which I believe it tied to something in my diet. It is exhausting to try to pin point what it could be with simply eliminating one item after another, even down to certain spices! I suspect it could be other grains in my case like corn and also dairy, but I eliminate these things but still have symptoms.

    I have never heard of the LEAP Elimination program and testing, and am definitely going to read up! I’m anxious to finally feel good and stop making guesses for what is reaking havoc on my body.

    Glad to hear that you’ve made positive progress and look forward to following along on your journey!

  15. The only elimination diet I’ve done is Whole30 – I did it mostly because I had a fierce sugar dragon! It taught me alot about reading food labels, eating healthy fats, and eliminating sugar. But I missed my dairy and wine (which thankfully don’t seem to be an issue for my body). I still try to watch my intake of sugar (especially added sugars) and focus on whole, unprocessed foods – I’ve made alot of small changes over time. But I still enjoy my weekend donut and occasional dessert!

  16. This is so interesting, and I am totally curious as to what my sensitivities are. After 25 years of feeling sick every. single. day, there has to be something. I’ve recently cut out dairy and meat from my diet. I also know what my no-no foods are and what I can have. Let’s just say my “safe foods” list is a lot smaller than my “this won’t make me want to die in a corner” list. Such is life! One thing, and I am just as shocked as you… no COFFEE?

    Out of curiosity, your eczema skin reaction… has it only popped up on your eyelid and neck? Asking for a friend. That friend is me.

  17. Hi Tina,

    I have read your blog for years and have never commented before (big time introvert over here!) 😉 but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate how open you’ve been with all of your health struggles lately.

    You may have heard about these books by Dr. John Sarno already, but all of your symptoms really sound like they could at least be helped (if not totally cured) by the concepts in these books. I have not suffered from UC and don’t pretend to know how absolutely horrible that must be, but have had some similar issues to you such as chronic pain (back, not hip), eczema,
    ulcers/heartburn/other GI issues, and migraines. I was a total skeptic when I first heard about these books and I brushed them off, thinking “mindbody syndrome”= imagined. I didn’t realize it actually means that you have TRUE physical symptoms that are very real and NOT at all imagined (and definitely not created on purpose), but that those symptoms are either caused by or can be made worse by the mind (totally unconsciously) rather than caused by the body itself.

    Like you I have a little boy, and until this year I could hardly pick him up b/c of my pain. Physical therapy helped only temporarily (he explains why this is in the book). Being open minded and reading these books is the only thing that’s truly made my symptoms go away & not return (after 15 + yrs of pain). I realized I (like millions of other people) had been treating the symptom instead of the real cause (my unconscious mind & things like tension/stress, anxiety, etc). He says a certain personality type is prone to these “mindbody syndromes” – worriers, perfectionists, & “goodists.” People that are conscientious and hard-working. You may have read these books but I thought you might want to consider it if not. Was totally life changing for me, and I really hope it can help you too. Good luck and hope you feel much better soon!

    Here are links to the books:

    The Mind Body Prescription
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0446675156/ref=tmm_pap_title_sr?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    The Divided Mind
    https://www.amazon.com/Divided-Mind-Epidemic-Mindbody-Disorders/dp/0061174300

  18. Glad to hear you’re having a good results so far with this elimination diet! Our gut microbiome plays a big role in our overall health and our cravings–so cutting out processed foods can quickly change your gut flora and reduce cravings for it. I’ve had the same experience switching to a whole food plant-based diet. Cravings are few and far between! And it helped my eczema A LOT! Eczema and acne has been linked to dairy so perhaps that could be what’s causing yours? If you haven’t eliminated it I would try and see if that helps. Looking forward to your updates on this diet!

  19. Tina–I really want to do the testing, can you help provide info with how you signed up through Kelli and got connected with LEAP?

  20. Hi, Tina,
    I love your blog. I also have a blog that centers mostly around mold and mold-related illness–which has nothing to do with this. But, I wanted to point you in the direction of my last post, because I had to change my diet a ton after our mold exposure. I had to do a strict Candida Diet. One component was eliminating coffee (my love) because it promotes adrenal fatigue and yeast. Anyway, I found chicory as a replacement. I love it. It has also really helped me with some digestive issues. Anyway, if you are at all interested, here is a link to that post. http://www.howtocleanformold.com/2017/05/11/candida-diet-friendly-caffeine-free-antifungal-rosemary-coffee/. Maybe it will help? Take care. Ever thought about Candida and it being tied to your skin issues? I know that my husband presented with many of the issues you are going through when his gut was full of yeast. Anyway, just a thought.

  21. I’m super intrigued by this! I’ve had UC for 15 years now and am starting to notice severe joint pain and overall just feeling “blah”. I will definitely be looking into this!

  22. I recently experienced the same pure exhaustion, Tina! I have a crazy long commute, work full time, #dogmom, active with OTF and running, volunteer efforts, live was busy! I was feeling run down, tired all. the. time, no desire to workout, not sleeping great, night sweats, etc. I saw several doctors and after a gazillion blood tests, the doctors concluded I was too stressed. I’m really trying to be intention of how I spend my days now, and incorporate yoga and meditation into my week and sneaking in a massage every now and then. I hope you can find your balance and get back to feeling yourself. Hugs!

  23. I’ve done Whole30 a couple times and definitely get that detox headache. I’m convinced it’s from sugar withdrawal because I too need sweets after every meal (or for every meal if it’s a really good day!) Glad you’re feeling well!

  24. Hi there! Love your blog and have been debating the LEAP diet protocol for some time. I purchased a consult with Kelli via the link you shared but I have not heard back. Is there a better way to contact her?? Thanks!

  25. I’ve been a long time reader and somehow missed this post (I found it from your post today)! I have suffered from IBS for years and had the LEAP test done about 6 years ago, went through the elimination diet, and was the basis for starting my own blog! I love the results I had with LEAP— it completely changed my IBS symptoms for the better and helped my relationship with food. I’d love to get retested some day to see if my results are any different. So glad to see someone else writing about this awesome method!

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