Elimination diet? etc.
January 25, 2008 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Help me find someone in the SF Bay Area (esp Berkeley) who can coach me through an elimination diet. Also, know anything about the Clearvite detox program or www.foodintol.com?

Background: I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for two years. It seems to help with some symptoms (trichotillomania aka hairpulling, skin-picking, digestion issues, apthous ulcers, extreme dreariness after meals) but it doesn’t work 100% so I’d like to do an elimination diet to really confirm that gluten is, indeed, the thing to avoid. My questions:

1) Can anyone recommend a nutritionist (or anyone else) in Berkeley, CA who is reasonably priced and has experience coaching people through elimination diets?

2) Has anyone done an elimination diet (where you take out practically everything, then slowly add foods back in) you were happy with – via a book or online resource, and if so, what source did you use? Any experience or knowledge of www.foodintol.com? Their website and money-back guarantee look promising.

3) Is anyone familiar with the Clearvite-SF detox program? I have the opportunity to do this with a group, supported by my chiropractor, without paying for the support. Would cost around $80 total for the Clearvite product. In theory, doing a detox would make my gut healthy before I start an elimination diet. I do trust my chiropractor in general, so don’t think she’s trying to steal my money, but I haven’t found much info on Clearvite beyond their marketing stuff.

If anyone has any first-hand experience, esp positive experiences, with similar situations, I’d love to hear about it.

(In my particular situation, one of my primary motivators is to learn if specific foods trigger trich/BFRB urges. The trich-related John Kender Diet was helpful when I tried it for 6 weeks. But it’s pretty extreme. Interestingly, John can track his own urges after eating a problematic food, as urges peak around day 4 and taper off by day 7. So I will pay particular attention to those foods listed on the JK diet, and I’ll add foods back in really slowly, waiting nearly a week before moving on to the next food I’m testing.)

I’m mostly looking for specific answers to the three questions above, but if you have other relevant information or think I’m not asking the right questions, feel free to chime in!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
If you think gluten is the problem, why not just have the tests for celiac disease? Seems to me that would be faster and more accurate than an elimination diet.
posted by Biblio at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

In theory, doing a detox would make my gut healthy before I start an elimination diet.

In theory, the tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow in exchange for teeth that have fallen out. The reality is somewhat disappointing. There is precious little evidence that these sorts of "detox" programs have any health benefits whatsoever. A disclaimer at the bottom of all of the Clearvite page points this out: "These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease."

The real question you should be asking, is what qualifies your chiropractor to advise you on dietary or immunological issues. See an allergist.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

First of all, you should be talking to a health professional about these problems, not to an internet message board. A good psychiatrist or trichotillomania specialist will be able to give you much better answers. I think going to a nutritionist and asking for a specific treatment is taking the wrong approach. You should find a good MD/psychiatrist/nutritionist, and ask them what you should be doing to treat your problem.

That said, I am not a doctor or your doctor, but here is my half-ass internet answer.

1) Detox programs like Clearvite are generally unsupported by any kind of scientific data. The programs range from harmless wastes of money to downright dangerous regimens. Orac, who is an MD, writes about this kind of thing fairly regularly (here's one example).

That Clearvite page you linked raises all kinds of warning flags. If you need specific reasons why that page is crap, I'll happily write a follow-up, but for now I'll just ask you this: Please, don't give any money to these people who are peddling bullshit.

2) Elimination diets, on the other hand, are quite useful for certain diseases, usually food allergies. If I recall correctly, there are simple tests that can be done by your doctor to determine whether you have Celiac's disease. By doing a quick scan of the research, I also see that adverse reactions to gluten have been linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders. If you (and your doctor) suspect that this may be the case, what you would do is eliminate all gluten from your diet, see if the symptoms stop, and them possibly reintroduce small amounts of gluten to see if the problems reoccur. I can't understand why a full elimination diet would be called for, though, unless there is evidence linking other foods to your disorder.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

You should find a good MD/psychiatrist/nutritionist, and ask them what you should be doing to treat your problem.

I almost entirely agree with chrisamiller's answer, except that I don't think nutritionists are qualified to diagnose disease. Medical doctors are.
posted by grouse at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Thanks folks for trying to be helpful. Lots of skepticism!

Here’s some skepticism of my own: If an MD could help, I’d have gotten help by now. The mainstream medical establishment doesn't have answers for me about my GI health. I’ve been trying to get answers for 20+ years. Ditto for trich. (I know more about trich than most MDs/psychiatrists out there, am friends with the experts on TLC’s Scientific Advisory Board, stay updated on trich research, etc.)

Really, I’m not asking the internet for medical advice. I’m asking “Know a nutritionist?” “Know a good book for guiding an elimination diet?” “Have you used Clearvite”?

Maybe these are questions that won’t get answered by MeFi. But in case someone does have an answer to one of those questions I’ll keep checking back for answers.
posted by jessamyn at 11:27 PM on January 25, 2008

Well, you asked for it to be pointed out if you we thought you were asking the wrong questions. And no one has said that an elimination diet won't be helpful. But that Clearvite stuff? Unlikely. Hey, it might even make things worse.
posted by grouse at 1:46 AM on January 26, 2008

A coworker did a detox program (I believe a fast preceded by step-by-step elimination) in the Bay Area and loved it. It was a support-group format over a few weeks (with a week you do yourself in the beginning and end). Maybe this woman will do something independently if you want the one-on-one. Not sure how much western science nutrition education she has, but I heard the whole thing was quite educational.

I'll ask when I see her -- if I forget to post back with some info, email to remind me!
posted by salvia at 1:49 AM on January 26, 2008

Jessamyn, last year at this time I was on an elimination diet, which I did for about 3 months as recommended by a holistic doctor to figure out what was upsetting my GI tract so much (among other things). It basically consisted of a whole foods diet ( think hunter-gatherer), as these types of foods are rarely allergens (lean meats, fruits, veggies...that's pretty much it.) If it comes in a box or has any other ingredients in it then it was off limits for me.
Dairy was eliminated with the exception of unsweetened yogurt. I steamed and sauteed lots of vegetables and lean meats with either olive or coconut oil, and ate lots of big, raw salads. I now have my health back, although I have to be very careful what I eat...probably for the rest of my life. But once your symptoms clear up (and it takes a while) then you can start reintroducing different foods back in, one at a time. When you do eat a "new" food you should wait three days before eating any other new food, as it takes that long for your body to fully digest and assimilate what you ate. If you combine more than one new food in less than three days, and you have adverse symptoms, you won't be sure of which food it actually was. I hope this helps.
posted by anniepants at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2008

Okay, you're not going to like this, but at least you're going to get a personal experience.

As a child, my parents could not figure out what the hell was wrong with me (and, to a lesser extent, my brother). They tried some form of elimination diet. I don't remember the exact details (I think I was 4 or 5 at the time), but I do remember once eating some kind of awful gloop made of raisons and apple concentrate (you know, the stuff that comes in cans that you add water to). A few years later I get some kind of allergy tests done. The verdict? I'm allergic to practicaly everything: wheat, corn, any kind of refined sweetener. My mom, bless her, makes things like buckwheat muffins sweetened with bananas (horrible) and lemongrass tea sweetened with pear juice (actually really delicious). There are some positive results, just as there would be with any sudden change (google the light bulb experiments if you want to know why) but long term no dice. Fast forward a few more years and the reason for the madness is finally isolated: I have pretty severe ADD. A few more years later: the transformation when I first take conventional medication is, basically, astounding. I can interact with people! I can stay focused! I no longer get annoyed! Most amazing of all, I can observe my own behavior and I actually improve.

What's my point? Well, um. It's not the strongest one, I admit. But the thing is, I am a strong believer in alternative medicine but I also realize there is a place for conventional medicine. Gluten intolerance is becoming increasingly mainstream, so the natural step I would take if I were you would be to get yourself tested for celiac disease. A doctor can do this.

However, my personal experiences have left me very skeptical that diet is the sole or primary cause of ailments. While it is true that some conditions are totally based on diet, other causes may be equally culpable. Worst of all, if the problems you are experiencing are indicators of a larger problem, but you repurpose it as a diet issue, you may be ignoring larger problems that will lead to a worse condition further down the road. I would at least hope that you explore other non-diet related options because you might find, as I did, the the answer is both simpy and wonderfully curable.

Also, a couple of things. I took a look at the JK diet and it seems like it's very different than a Gluten-free diet. The focus appears to be eliminating addititves, carbs, and beans(?). But, ff your goal is to be gluten free, you need to be careful because gluten is hidden in nearly every processed food. This might explain why you haven't had total luck with a gluten-free diet yet.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:33 AM on March 1, 2008

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