“Hey guys, I’m really sick of not eating many foods. I think I’m improving but confused if I should add in more foods. I don’t want to go back to 8 diarrhea movements a day. But the diarrhea isn’t totally gone yet either. What do I do?”
The above email is probably the most common type of email we’ve received over the last four years.
The issue with introducing new foods into your diet is that everyone has an opinion on how to do it and when you listen to all of them your brain gets confused.
Which is interesting, because I think it’s a black and white problem.
In today’s information age, there’s a million experts you can read, email, listen to, and watch. And the normal human behavior is to try to understand all the angles and create the best advice for your situation…
Which typically ends up with your thoughts in a tangled mess since you’re reinventing the wheel… again.
My suggestion is that you leave the wheel alone and follow along. Because I’m going to show you how to cut out the frustration of knowing when, or if, or how to try new foods. That way you don’t get stuck eating the same 3 meals each day afraid to move on.
Let’s start with some reasons to introduce some new foods.
How to Tell When It’s Time to Introduce More Foods
Over the last four years one of the most common questions we are asked is “When can I introduce new foods?”
And the funny thing is, if you’re at a place where you’re pondering this question… the answer is likely “Right Now.”
After talking with well over 5,000 people via email, comments, Facebook and private 1-on-1 consults, we’re evolving our point of view about introducing new food to make sure you get the best results as fast as possible.
Here’s some common signs it’s time to introduce new foods:
- You’ve been on the intro diet for 4 days or longer
- You’ve been on the intro diet for 4 days or longer and diarrhea isn’t completely stopped
- You’ve been eating the same 7 foods for over a month
- You’ve started SCD but your symptoms aren’t completely gone yet
- You’ve started SCD and your symptoms are getting better
- You’re wondering, “Should I introduce another food…”
As you can see, it’s usually a good idea to introduce another food regardless of what your symptoms are doing. I’ll explain more in a bit, but eating more diverse foods provides better nutrition and is good for the mind, gut flora and social life.
But Sometimes Introducing New Foods Is a Bad Idea
Now I’m contradicting myself… well not really. With everything in health, there is always a caveat.
See, there are a few times in which it’s a bad idea to push yourself and expanding your diet would be the wrong choice.
If you’re having a flare up, or your diarrhea, constipation, or other GI symptoms are still very bad, we need to step back and first make sure you’re not eating some common trigger foods that easily could be making things worse.
There are 4 very specific food groups that we’ve identified not only in the scientific research but through the 1000’s of people we’ve talked to and we’ve called them the 4 Horsemen of SCD. Eliminating these 4 trigger food groups is where you should start and see if your symptoms improve:
- No more than 3 servings of fruit + honey a day
In other words, if your symptoms are not improving and you’re still eating the 4 Horsemen, remove those first before introducing new foods into your diet. If after removal, your symptoms are not improving then proceed to adding new foods.
The reason for this is our 1st goal for you is to get you symptom-free, and some can do this through a custom diet alone. And many will have to remove the foods above to achieve the symptom remission. But not all will see results by just doing that, so if your symptoms are not great yet and you’re not eating the above foods it’s time to move on.
The reason being is there are many other reasons why you might still be reacting to the foods you’re eating even when following the strictest diets. The three most common are GI infections, a supplementation issue, or a hormone imbalance. And until you get more testing or help in these areas it’s best that you add foods to your diet.
3 Reasons We React to Foods
Reacting to foods not only sucks but it’s confusing. It should be simpler and many have tried to make it so by using new food sensitivity testing methods. While these may help in your discovery the reality is that they are only addressing 1 of 3 reasons you may be reacting to foods.
Please know for this discussion we’re ignoring the IgE reactions, which are the anaphylactic food allergies that put people in the hospital and sometimes kill them. With this article, we’re focused on the more prevalent low-grade food reactions.
We can break them down into 3 classes of reactions.
1. The first is IgG delayed onset food reactions. The research at this time suggests that the vast majority will notice problems by the 72-hour mark after introducing a new food. (1) So, what this suggests is that if you see no regression or bad changes in symptoms by 72-hours it’s highly likely this new food will only benefit your diet. Unless of course you react to the food and it’s not an IgG problem, which is one of the reasons why we aren’t fans of IgG food sensitivity testing…
2. The second type of reaction is an absorption issue in the intestines. The FODMAP diet research clearly shows there is a sliding scale of absorption ability among humans for carbohydrates. Basically you might be able to tolerate 15g of but not 16g of a certain type of carbohydrate. And different types of carbohydrates can interact with each other causing better or worse absorption. So, if you have a lower tolerance of absorption or eat too many similar foods that stack up and cause worse absorption you can suffer GI issues and other food reaction symptoms. (2,3)
3. The third factor is a gut microbiota issue. We are learning that the bacteria in our GI tract feed on our food selectivity multiply to the supply of the food source. (4,5,6) This means that as you eat more of a certain type of food your gut microbiota change almost instantly. And if you overload them before they can change you could cause symptoms. Also, there may be a gut flora type issue where the species in your gut are off balance making you more sensitive to certain types of foods such as in histamine intolerance. (7) In both cases, you could get a food reaction when the gut bugs that help us digest things are overwhelmed or off balance.
To recap, you could react to foods in 3 ways:
- A true IgG triggered delayed onset immune reaction or inflammation reaction
- An absorption issue due to the types of combinations of foods you’re eating
- Eating too much of a food before your gut flora are ready to support you in digesting it
And the tough part about it is that the symptoms of each reaction can feel the same. It makes it tough to pinpoint the exact problem you’re having. And simply getting an IgG test will tell you nothing about if you’re suffering from a tolerance issue both in ability to digest or microbiota problem. I talked more about IgG testing in this video on Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance.
3-Day Rule for Introducing New Foods
Now it’s time to cover the most fool-proof way to introduce new foods. This is backed both by science and real world testing with 5,000+ people who’ve communicated with us.
Previously, you might have heard us call this the 4-day rule. This is the same idea, but we’re improving it based on the science covered above and the actual results of people of all conditions who use our material.
The old way was to begin a new food every 4 days, which isn’t a bad thing it’s just more conservative than it needed to be.
The elephant in the room in healthcare is that almost everything is a test. For the most part every therapy is still trial and error, which is why I think this is a black and white problem. The only choice of certainty we have is to test it.
Then, see what happens and test again.
And with this mindset you can remove judgment and separate yourself from any negative reactions to foods you might have. Remember having a more diverse diet helps with better nutrition, better gut flora, easier social life, and generally higher sense of well-being. Here’s how to test the 3 reactions I explained above and mitigate major setbacks.
Day 1 – Introduce the new food at 1/2 cup serving for one meal
Day 2 – Eat the new food for at least 2 meals 1/2 cup each time
Day 3 – Eat the new food at least 1 1/2 cups, but no more than 2 cups this day
If by the end of Day 3 you’ve noticed no reactions it’s time on Day 4 to introduce another food.
By doing it this way, you will test all three potential reactions described above. Remember, the 4 day rule isn’t broken… it’s just more conservative.
Tell me about your experience trying new foods in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you’re frustrated with or still don’t understand about this common problem.