A rotation diet is a systematic way to lower inflammation by eating from a given food family only every four days. In a nutshell you are setting the stage for your body to heal by reducing repeated exposure to reactive foods. A rotation diet is one of the toughest things I have done in terms of food restriction, but the results have been incredible. I can’t help but think it is a miracle that dietary changes can have such a profound effect on our health.
What are the benefits?
A rotation diet helps prevent new or more severe food sensitivities by lowering the level of immune reaction and inflammation. As your immune system recovers and you heal your gut, you can reintroduce most foods.
Food sensitivities aside, variety in food selection helps us consume a variety of nutrients. Having a blueberry and kale smoothie every morning sounds admirable. Consider instead the different vitamins and antioxidants you will get by switching it up with strawberries, raspberries, mango and beet greens, spinach and chard.
Who might consider it?
- Rotation diets are critical for people who have leaky gut (dysbiosis) or already know that they have multiple food sensitivities (IgG).
- If you don’t have access to IgG or MRT food allergy testing, rotating foods can help uncover hidden food allergies.
- People under chronic stress are at risk of developing leaky gut and may prevent the development of food sensitivities by generally rotating their foods.
- Everyone can benefit from a variety of fresh foods to ensure well-rounded nutrition. Even though healthy people may not need to follow a strict rotation like someone recovering from leaky gut, it is valuable to plan for a variety of different proteins and produce in your weekly meals.
How does a rotation diet relieve symptoms?
Rotating foods gives your immune system a chance to recover from foods that irritate it. It takes about three days for the pro-inflammatory and proalgesic mediators ( such as histamine, cytokines, and prostoaglandins) from a given trigger to clear from your system. While these mediators are a normal part of your immune system, constant exposure produces damaging effects on body tissues and eventually the development of symptoms (IBS, headache, fatigue, joint pain, and many more). Exposing yourself to a trigger only every 4 days prevents the accumulation of antigens to existing food sensitivities.
How can I be reactive to broccoli (or chicken, apples or spinach…)? I eat it all the time and it is a healthy food!
Food sensitivities often develop gradually and to the foods you eat regularly. Because they develop so slowly, you can become accustomed to a symptom (for example, brain fog) and not relate it to a given food. If you avoid your reactive foods for a few weeks and then try one again you may find the effect to be much more noticeable. While broccoli, chicken, or apples provide important nutrients under normal conditions, if a “healthy” food is a trigger for you, it is not healthy for you right now.
Ok, give it to me straight. What do I need to do?
In a 4 day rotation diet, the objective is to consume foods from a given food family for only a 24 hour period and then not consume it again for 3 full days (guidelines vary from 3-5 day rotations). A food family is a set of biologically related foods. For example, the nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, chilies, and eggplant.
The few existing resources and books on rotation diets tend to prescribe eating the exact same menu every 3-5 days. This is done because it is a challenge to constantly come up with new menus with a restricted set of foods and this is an easy place to start. As someone who really enjoys a variety of flavors, cooking seasonal ingredients and appreciates good meal, I found this idea horrifying. Apparently I am not alone. Compliance for diets like this are approximated at 20- 40%, which is really unfortunate given the profound benefits of a rotation diet.
I ended up developing a routine of sitting down each week and planning out meals. I also employ a spreadsheet to track foods, which helps me determine which foods are “available” when I need an extra snack or want to go out to eat. I am lucky to have a supportive sister who also loves to cook and is willing to brainstorm ideas with me. Though it takes more effort, I have never seen a rotation diet plan that allows for this much freedom. If you are already struggling to stick to a rotation diet and find it boring or restrictive, I would love to work with you and help you find a system that really works with your lifestyle. A rotation diet is a major lifestyle change and you deserve support.
Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how food sensitivities may be impacting your symptoms, what testing you can do and how I can create a completely customized rotation diet based on your sensitivities and preferences. I look forward to hearing from you!
Sources and further reading on rotation diets
Easy to read overviews:
- Brostoff J, Challacombe S, Food Allergy and Intolerance, Saunders Ltd.; 2 edition (August 9, 2002), ISBN-13: 978-0702020384
- The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide: How to Cook with Ease for Food Allergies and Recover Good Health by Nicole Dumke
- The Complete Guide to Food Allergy and Intolerance: Prevention, Identification, and Treatment of Common Illnesses and Allergies. Jonathan Brostoff, M.D., Linda Gamlin ISBN-10: 0517577569
- Kniker WT., The spectrum of adverse reactions to foods in subjects having respiratory allergic disease. Ann Allergy. 1994 Oct;73(4):282-4. PMID: 7943994
- Pasula, Mark J.; The Patented Mediator Release Test (MRT); A Comprehensive Blood Test for Inflammation Caused by Food and Food-Chemical Sensitivities. Townsend Letter, January 2014
- Williams F., Use of the LEAP Mediator Release Test to Identify Non-IgE Mediated Immunologic Food Reactions that Trigger Diarrhea Predominant IBS Symptoms Results in Marked Improvement of Symptoms Through Use of an Elimination Diet, American College of Gastroenterology, Annual Scientific & Educational Meeting; Orlando, FL; November, 2004
- Pope RM, Kniker WT, Talal N, Dauphinee M., Delayed type hypersensitivity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis., J Rheumatol. 1993 Jan;20(1):17-20. PMID: 8441153
- Pardell H, Pasula M, Clinical Report of the LEAP Program in Treating Digestive Complaints. Journal of Advancement In Medicine July 1999