two unsuccessful challenges…

After sticking to my elimination diet for 2 weeks and being symptom-free for at least 5 days in a row, I did my first challenge. I finally decided to go with something I thought was relatively safe: creme fraiche! High in fat, low in protein and lactose, I thought it would be a yummy treat and indeed, it was! I wanted to check if dairy products were a problem for me. I was still eating butter but not quite sure whether it was a good idea or not, so I did this creme fraiche challenge.

I ate the whole tub at once (200 g or something like that). It was like delicious fatty yogurt. It didn’t take long before I had bloating, abdominal pain, insomnia, increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, bad mood, brain fog, lack of concentration and fatigue… It lasted 2 days and I even had withdrawal symptoms (pretty much the same symptoms) three days after.

Although my challenge was unsuccessful, at least I now know for sure that dairy don’t agree with me. The full tub of creme fraiche I ate contained 4 g of protein (mainly casein I suspect) and 6 g of sugars (which are lactose in this case). Because I didn’t have diarrhea, I suspect that the casein was probably the culprit. So I decided it was probably better to let go of my beloved butter and fully transition to ghee instead to be on the safe side and avoid eating any casein that could prevent me from fully recovering.

my homemade ghee made from organic butter from Australian grass-fed cows

It took me almost a week to recover and then I waited until I had 4-5 days in a row without symptoms before doing my second challengedark chocolate! If you read my blog in the last month, you know how much I love my dark chocolate and I haven’t had any for…. quite a long time! I actually never thought I could live without chocolate… but wait a minute, I also thought I couldn’t live without my oatmeal, cheese and peanut butter either! lol Nothing is impossible!

To make sure I would be able to detect symptoms without making me too sick, I decided to have 20 g of 85% dark chocolate (without dairy, but with a bit of soy lecithin) to check my tolerance to amines… It was good, but not as good as I expected actually after wishing to eat chocolate for so long, my expectations were a bit too high I guess!

I had some symptoms within a few hours: loud and fast heartbeat, abdominal pain and a restless night. The next day was not so bad, but the day after, I had cramps, nausea, bloating, brain fog, fatigue and insomnia…

So no more chocolate for me… It is actually sad for me to admit that I am completely turned off by chocolate for now…


Just as I started to feel better, I had a delicious Australian grass-fed rump steak last Sunday and started feeling sick within a few hours and the next day… Because I didn’t eat anything different, I suspect it is the meat, which has either 1) been aged to long or 2) be browned too much.

Fresh beef is relatively low in amines, but aging it over 14 days increases its amines content. Cooking it until it browns also increases its amine content and as you can see on the pic below, I wanted nice grill lines on my steak… Next time I go to the butcher, I’ll ask about the aging of the meat to figure out if it was their fault or mine! 😉

Australian grass-fed beef + green beans (I can't have that many at one time though!)


After my few unsuccessful attempts, I will not be challenging any new foods for a few weeks. Up to now, I have been working for home and I am happy I did because I don’t know how I would have managed to keep a “real” job in the last months. It is only a 6-wk contract and I don’t want to be sick while working and being away from home.

I will take advantage of the next 6 weeks to stick to my safe foods to make sure I feel good. I believe it is probably a very good timing because I am actually pretty happy to have figured out a list of foods that I tolerate well and that help me be symptom-free. In the last months, my ratio of bad days to good days is pretty high and I think my body probably needs more good days to heal and recover fully.

Each time I get a bad reaction, I gain 2-3 lbs, probably because of the inflammation and cortisol I suspect and it takes me almost a week to recover. Once I get better and become symptom-free, I can lose the weight relatively easily.

Here are my safe foods combining Paleo + low food chemicals (FAILSAFE) + low-FODMAPs (fermentable carbohydrates): beef, chicken, ghee, peeled zucchini, peeled cucumber, green beans, carrot and bean sprouts (except for the bean sprouts, which I can have 2 cups a day of, I limit the other vegetables to less than 1 cup a day)

My goal is to be symptom-free until the end of September and I hope my body will then be ready to try new foods…. Wish me luck!

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finally piecing it together…

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post! I have been keeping myself busy and my partner and I took a couple of weeks to explore this beautiful country we have the opportunity to live in this year. We visited Tasmania, the Great Ocean Road, the Grampians National Park and went to the penguin parade on Phillip Island.

I was a bit scared of leaving home, but we always had access to a kitchen and was able to cook my own meals following my very limited and restrictive diet.

Although I had a great time and saw wonderful things, I was not improving. I had a couple of good days when I wrote my last post, but soon after the bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and other symptoms reappeared. It is only when we got home, after a 24 hr-fast, that I finally started getting better.

This got me believe that there must be something that I was eating that was contributing to my symptoms… between chicken, beef, light olive oil and eggs, I decided eggs were most likely to be the culprit, so I eliminated them at the beginning of July.

breakfast [hard-boiled eggs] at the Bay of Fires, Tasmania [I probably had about 6 eggs a day at that time and I feel so much better now without them]

Then I started feeling so good that I thought I had become invisible and cured(or part of me was wondering if my symptoms were all my head and I wanted to more proofs) and started eating a bit of chocolate, some vegetables, butternut squash, butter, creme fraiche and even a bit of cheese.  It didn’t take long before I became really sick again… bloating, cramps, migraines, lethargy, depression, brain fog and other GI issues… I spent a few days lying in bed or on the couch thinking that life was so worthless and feeling very miserable… 😦 I also ended up gaining 8-10 lbs. in 2 weeks… yeah! 😦

I didn’t want to go back to my rigid way of eating, but wanted to feel good again. I started re-reading all the resources I had accumulated to try to come up with a slightly broader list of very safe foods. I chose foods that were low in natural food chemicals (salicylates, amines, glutamates) and FODMAP (fructose, fructans, polyols, lactose, galactans). Because I couldn’t imagine life without butter, I decided to keep it in my diet, but to cut my intake in 1/2 by making my own ghee to reduce my exposure to the potentially problematic casein.


Here’s the list I came up with:


  • bean sprouts (up to 2 cups a day)
  • green beans (up to 1 cup a day)
  • peeled carrot, zucchini and cucumber (no more than 1 serve a day of either one of these)
  • Ghee
  • Butter
Light olive oil is ok with regards to food chemicals (it is low in salicylate, but still slightly higher compared to butter and ghee) but it doesn’t taste anything… so I’d rather have ghee and butter!
  • free-range chicken, grass-fed beef or lamb
  • salt
  • chives
  • maple syrup
not that I have sugar every day, but since my carb intake was very low, I sometimes had a tiny teaspoon of the delicious can of maple syrup we brought directly from Canada here down under. Maple syrup does not contain food chemicals and is low in fructose. Honey, raw sugar and other sweeteners would NOT be good alternative because they contain salicylate and/or a high fructose to glucose ratio.
  • water
  • decaf coffee (coffee and tea are high in salicylate but the decaffeination process remove them from the coffee, but not from tea)
what I eat now

yeah! something else than water to drink!

I also attended a one-day conference given by the Dietitians Associations of Australia on the topic of food intolerances, which is an area that Australians seem to understand a lot better compared to North Americans (Canada & US). It was great and it gave me a lot of insight and ideas on how to do my elimination diet without being paranoid (for example, because symptoms do not necessarily appear right after eating, it is important to know that it could be due to something you ate 3 days before). Although all dietitians were fueling on cakes, sugary muffins and sandwiches, I fasted that day and my head was clear as I saw other RDs have blood sugar crash in the pm…!
I understood that my problem was most likely post-infectious IBS associated with multiple food intolerances. Post-infectious IBS is a new topic du jour in gastroenterology and studies show that it is associated with low-grade inflammation and intestinal permeability, which confirmed that I should stay away from casein (although I still have a bit of butter on most days), eggs, and nightshades (in addition to soy, legumes and grains of course).
I also decided that after removing all supplements (because I wanted to take as little as possible to establish what caused problems), it was time to add omega-3 supplements back as well as L-glutamine to heal the inflammation in my intestines. I also try to eat only once or twice a day (doing a 21 to 24-hr fast a few times a week) to minimize inflammation and promote gut healing. Of course, I couldn’t find any literature supporting what I am doing, but I feel like it makes sense to me.
I also understand better how this nasty low-grade inflammation was probably contributing not only to my many unpleasant symptoms, but also to my weight issues.
The goal is to follow my newly improved diet (which feel so varied to me now!!!) for at least 2 weeks until I am symptom-free for at least 5 days before making any challenges. Before, I tried to re-introduce foods to soon, with bad results probably because of delayed reactions or buildup of these substances in my system, which lead me to false results and a fear of eating… especially that it takes at least 4-5 days of strict eating to eliminate my symptoms and go back to my normal baseline level.
This time, I want to do it right.
For the first time since March, I am at my 6th day in a row symptom-free. I have never felt so good. I have also lost 3 lbs. already! Not only is my body feeling normal like it used, but my head is clear and my mood is great! My partner is also thrilled to see my so alive again. 🙂 I still have to wait until this Thursday, so it makes a total of 2 weeks of following my elimination diet before doing any trial/challenge. Hopefully I remain symptom-free until then.
I still can’t decide what I want to challenge first, but I am thinking a small amount of dark chocolate would be great!…  I know it caused me to be very sick last time I ate it, but I clearly went overboard and probably had a buildup of many things in my system, so I want to see if I could include a few squares once in a while now that my system is clearing these irritants out of my body… I am so excited and I’ll keep you posted!

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getting better

After a few weeks now following my ~quite strict~ elimination diet to find out what foods I am intolerant to, I have finally managed to get most of my symptoms in control. Until I decided to take a daily cup of homemade chicken broth (made with no vegetables, but only chicken carcass, water and salt). I thought it would be a good idea since it is an important component of the gut-healing GAPS diet… However, I started feeling sick again and realized that chicken broth is rich in amines and other natural food chemicals…

homemade chicken broth contains amines                                                               as well as salicylates and glutamates

I had been using salt only for seasoning my foods and decided to do a salicylates challenge. It consists in taking foods that contain salicylates, but not other problematic sugars or food chemicals. I thought, or rather hoped, that only amines and glutamates were problematic for me. So this morning, I added pepper, thyme and basil to my eggs… It was delicious! …but felt sick after a few hours… so salicylates are out of question of me too… at least I know, but it leaves me very few options now…

pepper, thyme and basil contain salicylates

I am going on vacations to Tasmania and around the state of Victoria to explore this wonderful country I have the opportunity to live in this year, so I will stick to my strict diet. I don’t want to be feeling unwell while traveling! However, when I return, I want to do some more challenges to see whether I can reintroduce some foods to my diet. For example, I want to re-test fructans, sorbitol, amines and glutamates individually to make sure I really react to each of these elements. I’ll let you know how it goes….

I have stopped a lot of supplements to make sure none of them were contributing to my symptoms but am currently taking about 1 tsp. of magnesium (Natural Calm) a day and 3 super enzymes per meal. It seems to be helping with my digestion and they seem safe for me.

At least, the good thing is that grocery shopping is super easy for me with only 5 ingredients to think of: eggs, chicken, beef, light olive oil and salt!I wish I could do organ meats, pork, fish or wild games, but they are also high in amines… so not for now.

my ~only~ safe foods

I must say that it is not always easy to stick to these foods. Especially when I don’t feel good, I feel like eating a bit of chocolate, coconut or vegetables couldn’t make me feel any worse… but I remember giving in in the last weeks and ending up feeling even worse, so no excuse unfortunately.

My boyfriend doesn’t have any of these intolerances and although he eats Paleo, it is very hard sometimes to see him it so many foods…. I just hope things will get better soon…

At least, going on holidays will take my mind off food for a while! =)

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Paleo + FODMAP + FAILSAFE diet – day 1 without butter

After almost 2 more weeks doing this elimination diet to try to eat safe foods only and get rid of all my symptoms, I still haven’t managed to have more than 1.5 good day in a row…

I have learned a few things though. In addition to foods containing short-chain fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) like fructose, fructans, lactose and polyols, I believe I am also sensitive to some natural food chemicals present in foods (salicylates, amines and glutamates), which is also called FAILSAFE diet.

I don’t tolerate:

  • coconut oil (eliminated a week ago;  rich in salicylates and amines)
  • butter (eliminated yesterday; contains traces of lactose and casein)
  • any nuts (eliminated 1.5 week ago; rich in salicylates and amines)
  • macadamia oil (eliminated a week ago; rich in salicylates and amines)
  • pork (eliminated a week ago; rich in amines)
  • bacon (tried once 1.5 week ago; rich in amines)
  • maple syrup (even 1 tsp. made me feel bad, or maybe it was the butter I had with it? will have to test in the future)
  • fruit tea, green tea (eliminated over a week ago; high in salicylates)
  • balsamic vinegar or any vinegar (eliminated over a week ago; high in salicylates and amines)
The last 7 days I ate only chicken, beef, eggs and butter. But since I eliminated butter yesterday, I am eating 4 foods: chicken, beef, eggs and light (tasteless) olive oil. Up to yesterday, butter was my main fat, but I think it prevented me from getting better… I was so sad and although I suspected butter was causing problems, I still continued eating it for one more week before finally ditching it yesterday… That was part of the grieving process I guess!
Because I cannot only eat protein, I had to find another fat and the best option I found is light olive oil. Extra virgin and regular olive oils are high in salicylates, and light olive oil, additive-free, is lower, so it will be my choice for now. THe other low-chemical oils are canola, sunflower, rice bran oil and soybean oils, which I really DON”T WANT to have in my diet AT ALL because of their high polyunsaturated fat content.
My only seasoning is salt, because pepper, herbs and spices are high in salicylates, amines and glutamates. With the exception of parsley, which can be used in small amounts. I need to get some.
My only beverage is water. I used to enjoy green tea, but it is also rich in salicylates.
Still had some pain today… probably because I just eliminated butter last night… might take a few days to eliminate it completely out of my system.
Here’s what my food looked today:
My plan is to continue this plan, without the butter, for a week and see if I improve. If I can have 3-5 days in a row without symptoms, I’ll try a low-FODMAP, low-chemical vegetable… If things doesn’t improve before the end of June, I’ll make another appointment with my gastroenterologist… 😦

Learn more about the Personal Paleo Code