So now we’ve spent 30 days omitting dairy, grains, legumes and sweeteners from our diet. We’ve finished with the Whole30 program, right? Well, not exactly. Yes, at the end of 30 days, it is time to REJOICE and reflect upon our achievement. We can pin buttons to our webpages and tell people that we completed the 30-day challenge. But this does not mean our work is done.
Whole30 / It Starts With Food Reintroduction Protocol
Melissa and Doug Hartwig’s nutritional philosopy holds that food makes you either more health or less healthy, period. The Whole30 is intended to help reset the body so that we can determine which foods are which. Science can tell us which items are hardest to digest or most challenging for the body; this is why 4 major food groups are omitted during the 30-day reset. Every body is different, however. Some of us are better at digesting milk proteins, for example. In another example, some of us are leptin resistant (okay, most of us start out leptin resistant, but by the end of the Whole 30 some of us are still working on resetting our systems), while others have completely reset their leptin sensitivity through the Whole30 regimen.
In It Starts With Food, the Hartwigs recommend a “reintroduction protocol” which introduces dairy for three days, followed by 3 days of gluten-based grains, then non-gluten grains, legumes, etc. Careful reintroduction allows each individual to observe his or her body’s responses, with an eye to future food choices. (Even if that food choice is, “I know that ice cream will make me feel crappy, so I am going to make sure I indulge at a time when it won’t harm my life if I am a bit under the weather.”) This is why I tell people that the Whole30 is an elimination diet. The diet itself will bring rewards and good health, but the reintroduction will help you make these gains permanent.
As much as I may be on board with the concept of 30 days of elimination followed by reintroduction of questionable foods, I have to admit that I was hesitant to try the reintroduction protocol. I never felt the amazing burst of energy described by so many Whole30 participants, and I continued to have gut issues. How would I be able to tell whether a reintroduced food was causing my body distress?
Because of these concerns, my initial plan was to stay on the Whole 30 indefinitely, but macronutrient issues won me over. During the Whole30, I struggled to get enough fat with each meal, and most of my simple carbs came from fruit, which I wanted to cut out in case my gut issues were fructose- or fructan-related. If I could tolerate dairy, it would be a good way to get my fat and simple carbs, and my meal options would expand significantly.
In the end, my husband and I introduced dairy as soon as we finished the Whole 30. This was a mild reintroduction: cheese on our eggs some days, cream in my coffee.
The first thing I noticed was phlegm: Dairy definitely thickens my mucous. But research on this is inconclusive (is it an increase in mucous due to inflammation, or thickening of mucous which is essentially harmless and simply a bit annoying?), so it was enough to limit my intake but not curtail it altogether.
Much more worrisome was the HUNGER. During the first week of the Whole 30 I felt hungry between meals maybe 2 or 3 times. By Week 2 this wasn’t even an issue, so long as I got enough fat at each meal. When adding dairy back into my diet, I found that I was so hungry within 2-3 hours of eating. (I will do a separate post on leptin resistance in the future, but my speculation is that something about dairy creates a major insulin spike, destroying any process I’d been making towards leptin sensitivity.) I found myself struggling to figure out whether I should eat in response to these hunger pangs (because the body would otherwise going to go into starvation mode), or if I should power through to the next scheduled meal in hopes that my large, protein-laden meals will forcibly reset the leptin….yes, I know, the answer is, “Get rid of the dairy.”
At this point, I am treating dairy much like garlic: I’m mostly omitting it, but I might use it in small amounts from time to time.
The first couple of days I introduced small amounts of dairy, but then I worried that I wasn’t exposing my body to enough dairy, so I “piled on” with cream in my coffee, cheddar on my eggs, and parmesan on my spaghetti sauce. I never did try yogurt or kefir. I expect to do another Whole30 in November, so I might use those for the reintroduction protocol next time.
I should note that I haven’t been following the reintroduction protocol exactly. In particular, I have been taking my time with dairy, and haven’t gotten around to grains, legumes, etc. It has actually been challenging to figure out how to work these back in because all the yummy recipes I’ve been finding are paleo. While it was easy enough to find recipes with dairy (Primal), legumes and grains require that I either learn new recipes that I may never use again, or create simple side dishes with the questionable items. I think I am ready to reintroduce grains on an experimental basis, so that’ll probably be my next area of focus.