My Trigger Food Elimination Process

Last updated: December 2022

My trigger foods tend to change over time. Sometimes, these changes are for the better. Then, I go from not being able to eat food at all to enjoy small quantities of it without symptoms. Most of the time, a previously safe food suddenly turns on me. This mostly happens when I haven’t consumed it in a while or when I’m undergoing major hormonal changes like pregnancy, childbirth, etc.

It’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause of the flares. Figuring out if a certain food has become a trigger takes time and dedication. I now refuse to eliminate foods I’m simply unsure about because I would be eating air at this point if I did that. So, I thought I would share my usual process to find out if a food triggers my IBS.

Phase 1: Suspicion of trigger foods

Lately, I’ve been feeling like oats might be triggering symptoms for me. Oats were always a safe option in my diet, but I haven’t eaten them in a while. In addition to that, I have gotten pregnant again. I’m aware that my IBS changes significantly when my hormones do.

The suspicion first began when I decided to add oats to my usual gluten-free granola that I eat for breakfast every day. I had a pretty bad flare that night. However, I had also eaten other possible triggers that same day, so I had no idea if it was the oats or not.

Phase 2: A smaller quantity for IBS

When a situation like this arises, I need to determine whether a specific food caused my symptoms or if it was a mere coincidence. With oats, I didn’t believe in them being a trigger at first. I have oat milk with my granola daily and digest it perfectly. So, if oat milk is not a problem, how could oats be?

The answer for me usually lies in quantity I consume. For example, I can have small amounts of cheese, cream, or chocolate but quickly end up with a flare if I eat too much. The second phase of my trigger food elimination process thus consists of testing a smaller quantity.

Unfortunately, when doing this with oats, the results came back inconclusive. I was under a lot of stress during the week I started testing them out. The fact that I ended up with a flare might not have been linked to food at all.

Phase 3: Small quantities in safe environments

To be sure about the oats, I had to try small quantities while eliminating all other potential triggers. For me, this means consuming them early in the day (I have much more trouble digesting dinners). I also had to choose a stress-free day where I had nowhere to be. And be sure to only eat perfectly safe foods for the rest of my meals! No veggies, no dairy, no chocolate. Oh, and of course, this would only work on good days when I feel fine otherwise.

Following this strategy with oats, I ate a very safe diet for a couple of (mostly stress-free) days, only adding oats to assess my reaction. Lo and behold, I had no bad symptoms at all! Turns out, oats are not a trigger for me. At least not in reasonable quantities.

Phase 4: Elimination

Usually, phases 1-3 give me a pretty clear indication of whether or not a certain food has become a trigger. If I consistently get symptoms after consuming it, even in small quantities and under safe circumstances, I then go on to eliminate it from my diet.

If I notice that it only causes issues when I eat too much or mix it with other triggers, I can add it to my list of foods to only eat occasionally and on good days.

Do you have a specific process for eliminating potential trigger foods? I’d love to know!

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