Phase 2: Food Reintroduction

Food reintroduction is the second phase of our program. It is an exciting and potentially frustrating phase.  When you’ve been restricting your diet for so long, it’s natural to want to rush into it. Please wait until we have talked about your food reintroduction plan at an upcoming appointment.

Clients have often gone through a vicious cycle of food restriction, leading to additional food sensitivities and further restrictions. With food reintroduction, we are reversing this cycle!

Speak with your doctor before starting food reintroduction. If severe symptoms are suspected, reintroduce foods in a hospital or medically supervised office with equipment to treat anaphylaxis - especially if you have asthma or have experienced a rapid drop in blood pressure. Additionally, if your doctor has told you that you have IgE antibodies to food, medical supervision should be considered.

If you decide that it is not a good time, we can focus on Living Well with a Restricted Diet.

It might not be a good time if you are:

  • Expanding your diet because you feel that you should.
  • Experiencing increased stress. Your mind/body will be less likely to tolerate new food if you are unhappy or anxious.
  • Changing medications, supplements or other treatments. When other potential triggers are changing, it is hard to know if symptoms are related to these other triggers or food.
  • Experiencing unstable symptoms.
  • Stuck in the food fear & symptom cycle. It’s important to make progress with the first five steps before reintroducing food. You will be more successful in the long-run if you take enough time to reduce your reactivity. Be patient!

If you are still experiencing food-fear after working through the first five steps, reintroducing food can be the sixth step. We can make a food reintroduction plan that helps you feel comfortable.  Some clients have started by holding the food or rubbing a little on their cheek, etc.

If you are experiencing significant fear, you may be tempted to abandon the reintroduction phase. However, continued avoidance increases your food-related anxiety and reinforces the limbic system’s interpretation of the food as “danger.” When you are imprisoned by food avoidance, the only way out is through.

Fear can be a protective, intuitive voice that you should respect (see article Fear Can Be a Protective, Intuitive Voice or a Worrisome Thought in Break the Food Fear & Symptoms Cycle).

The first step is to complete your food tolerance inventory, which helps you think about why you are restricting certain foods. The link to your personalized inventory is at the top of your appointment summaries.  Let me know if you have any questions.

I can help you make an individualized reintroduction plan at an upcoming appointment. There isn’t a “right way” to reintroduce foods. We will start with an initial plan and revise it as needed.

Have you tried reintroducing food? Has it been successful? What were the difficulties?

Before your appointment, think about the different approaches and what would work the best for you. I’ve listed some examples based on clients’ experiences during the first phase of the program. You may have a different approach for different foods. For example, you may go back to your usual diet for most foods but gradually reintroduce potentially problematic foods.

Experience with Break the Food Fear & Symptom Cycle. The client:Approach
…realized their symptoms are more related to other triggers (internal or external) than food. back to their usual diet.
…is less reactive and feels they will tolerate most but not all foods. Food Challenges
….is more reactive with frequently eaten foods.Food challenges or gradual reintroduction on a rotation
… feels that they are still reacting to many foods.Gradual reintroduction with positive visualizations.
…. is still experiencing fear and is hesitant to start reintroductions.Very gradual introduction with positive visualizations.
…. does not like formal plans.Add foods back gradually, but not in a structured plan.

If you would like to create a structured plan, the next step is to decide what foods you want to reintroduce and where to start. Consider:

  • Any nutritional gaps in your diet. I can help you with that.
  • Foods that you miss, but not so much that it will be difficult to go slow.
  • Foods that will make your meal or snack preparation easier and more convenient. Consider reviewing the simple, flexible recipes for ideas.
  • What you are most likely to tolerate. You may want to reintroduce pizza, but it is a multi-ingredient food and is riskier. You can reintroduce pizza (if you want), but it is not a good place to start.