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Defending Reintroduction


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I recently finished my first Whole 30, the program went well and I'm currently in the reintroduction phase. I've been eating predominantly paleo for over a year now, and have no doubt that I feel better when I when I follow a paleo diet, nor do I have any trouble justifying my food choices. However, I was recently asked the following question and didn't know how to answer it directly, without making a larger point about healthy eating/living.


If you exclude any food group for a long enough period of time, then reintroduce it, doesn't it have the capacity to make you feel sick?


I know vegetarians who have been sick when first deciding to reintroduce meat into their diet, people who suddenly increase their vegetable intake often report being loose bowel movements, so how can I use these same symptoms as proof that legume day, or dairy day provided conclusive results that I should avoid those food groups?



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The Paleo Mom recently posted this on Facebook:


Have you experienced a more intense reaction to gluten-containing foods since going Paleo (or dairy? or soy? or corn?)

I often get asked why people react so violently to a food after giving it up for a while. There are cells that are responsible for reacting to a foreign invader (different cells for different specific invaders) and mounting a response (and these are the cells that are erroneously seeing proteins from your food as an invader) and other cells that are responsible for restraining that reaction (so it doesn't grow out of control). The reason why a food sensitivity reaction magnifies after eliminating that food for a few weeks or months is because the cells that are responsible for restraining the reaction die off more rapidly than the cells that are responsible for mounting the response. So, when you eat the food, the response is not restrained and can spiral out of control. (This is explained in more detail on pages 336 and 337 in The Paleo Approach.)

I know it's frustrating and it can feel like that elimination diet (or the Paleo diet or even just your trial of gluten-free diet) caused you to become sensitive to that food. But if you are having a reaction after giving that food up for a while, it's really just showing you that you were sensitive/intolerant all along.

And, there's a great bright side: eventually those cells that are responsible for mounting a response will die off too. Depending on how nutrient-dense your diet is, how well regulated your immune system is, and the health of your gut, you can eventually heal to the point where your body is no longer sensitive to that food and you don't have that crazy magnified reaction when you eat it (this is less likely with food allergies because the memory for food allergies is much longer than food intolerances). How long this takes will vary, but it is definitely something to look forward to!

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