Chef Giada De Laurentiis is dishing on what may be her best ‘recipe’ ever—one that promises to flatten bellies and help restore radiant health for us all. Her inspiration? A sinus infection. “I couldn’t shake it for months. My doctors didn’t have answers,” recalls the Food Network star, 50. So she got new doctors. That’s when Giada learned she’s among millions of women with a type of gut trouble that can cause belly pain, fatigue, weight gain, poor immunity, and more.
“I’ve had digestive issues my whole life, so it’s crazy no one ever suggested changing my diet,” she marvels. With simple tweaks, “suddenly my stomach didn’t hurt, my pants weren’t tight, my sleep improved — everything got better.” Giada is not alone: Folks using approaches like hers report dramatic improvements in everything from anxiety to autoimmune diseases…all while losing up to 10 pounds in three days!
Giada was prescribed what experts call an “elimination diet.” The gist: You experiment with cutting out foods that can wreak havoc inside you — things like sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol — and replace them with foods rich in healing nutrients. “I customized my doctor’s guidelines using ingredients I love,” says Giada, a fan of fresh basil, almonds, and white beans.
“It’s three days and totally doable,” she says. “You’ll get a quick sense of how some ingredients impact you.” According to Giada’s nutritionist, Deborah Kim, LAc, ACN, about 75 percent of us will notice a difference. Here’s a big reason: “The stomach naturally produces less acid and fewer enzymes as we age,” she explains. That means we may lose the ability to fully digest certain compounds, causing digestive distress. She adds that other compounds are simply hard on the delicate gut lining, making irritation worse.
How does an elimination diet work?
Inflammation in the gut typically spreads through the entire body and “is one of the biggest drivers of weight gain and disease in America,” insists Cleveland Clinic integrative health expert Mark Hyman, MD. Why? For starters, he says inflammation can over-stress the immune system, raising the risk of everything from minor infections to thyroid disease.
Chronic inflammation also impairs brain function. And Dr. Hyman adds that inflammation not only causes us to retain pounds of water weight, it also leads to problems with blood sugar and the hormone insulin; this in turn accelerates fat storage and worsens inflammation.
The good news: Among those using elimination diets, “I’ve seen dramatic effects in matory conditions like autoimmune disease, even mood and behavioral disorders,” says Dr. Hyman, who has not treated Giada. Yale research confirms that skipping reactive foods works wonders on GI issues — and a Baylor University team found it helps 98 percent of us lose significant body fat!
Do you have to stop eating favorite foods forever? Nope! After giving your body a break of anywhere from three days to three weeks, pick one eliminated food “and reintroduce it in a heavy-handed fashion,” suggests Kim. For example, you might have milk or cheese at every meal one day. “It’s a great way to see if a particular food is triggering symptoms.” Signs that you’ve eaten something inflammatory: an itchy throat or skin, stuffed nose, headache, gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloat, weight gain or fatigue.
“Anything that I know will make me feel lousy, like sugary treats and rich cream sauces, goes into the category of ‘proceed with caution,’” says Giada. “It’s not that I never eat these foods, but now I understand how they affect me, and most of the time I choose feeling good.”
What results can you expect?
A GI specialist recommended Shauna Sanheim, 49, try an elimination diet to help pinpoint the cause of her painfully inflamed esophagus. “I didn’t know if I could give up dairy and wheat cold turkey, but I really wanted my health back,” says the property manager from Alberta, Canada.
But switching to gluten-free pasta and coconut yogurt, “was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be.” Within a week, Shauna’s belly bloat and leg swelling went down, her sleep was better and she shed nine pounds. Cutting out troublesome foods also seemed to calm her cravings. “The hunger I had always felt really diminished.”
In six months, Shauna is down over 30 pounds and her pain has eased. “This was so worth it to be leaner, healthier and feeling younger,” she says.
“Each day is a new day to listen to your body and become your best self!”
What can you eat on an elimination diet?
Want to try an elimination diet for yourself? Add moderate amounts of healthy fat plus a daily serving of any of the following: Berries, nuts, sweet potato, brown rice, beans, eggs, fish, and/or poultry. Sip water and herbal tea. After three days or so, experiment with eliminated foods to find triggers. Always get your doctor’s okay to try a new plan.
Want to try out one of Giada’s recipes? To make her go-to smoothie: Blend two cups of baby spinach, one cup of peeled, chopped cucumber, half of an avocado, one Fuji apple that’s been cored and diced, a quarter-cup of raw almonds, a quarter-cup of fresh basil, one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and one cub of ice cubes. Delicious!
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.