#AtoZChallenge | X is for Xylitol and other sugars that are off the table.

I would make the long walk to the barn, located on the outskirts of campus, from my college dorm every day. I had no choice. I had to feed my chickens. There were four assigned to me that I embarrassingly had named after various school girl crushes. Probably not the best choice, as I also had to document their symptoms as they got progressively more ill. I had to determine which nutrient was missing in their diet. Welcome to my undergraduate world where, at the time, I was studying Human Nutrition.

I’ve always had an interest in food. While I enjoyed much of my undergraduate program, I realized after graduating and working in a hospital that the career paths aligned with my newly bestowed degree weren’t the right fit for me. I moved on career wise, but have always maintained a strong interest in food and diet.

Lately, I’ve been focused on getting to know how my body reacts to certain foods. My primary goal is to reduce overall inflammation. I feel great, but know that inflammation has long term negative effects on your body and that the symptoms can be subtle but pervasive. I’d like to understand better how it might be impacting me and how I can eliminate or reduce inflammation.

I’ll be honest. I’m a little lost in trying to figure this out even with an outdated nutrition degree hanging on my wall. There’s a lot of conflicting data.

Recently I attempted yet another elimination diet. The basic concept is that you eliminate potential inflammatory foods for between 30-60 days depending on the severity of your inflammation. This resets your body and eliminates any lingering impact of the foods after which you begin reintroducing the restricted foods gradually and noticing your body’s reaction to determine which foods are causing inflammation for you.

For this elimination diet, I followed a modified version of the plan laid out by Dr. Will Cole in his book The Inflammation Spectrum. It’s extremely restrictive. For example, sugar is not allowed. That sounds like a simple switch but sugar is far more invasive in our diet than we realize. Removing it from my diet means eliminating the below as outlined in Dr. Cole’s book1:

White or brown sugar, in all forms and for all purposes, from your morning tea to baked goods like cookies and cake.

Any Syrup, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey and date syrup.

Any Natural Sweetener, including coconut sugar, date sugar, maple sugar, corn sugar, evaporated cane juice, cane juice crystals, beet sugar, stevia, monk fruit, sugar alcohols like xylitol and concentrated fruit juices.

Anything containing artificial sweeteners, including aspartame (brand names like Equal and NutraSweet), saccharin (in Sweet’N Low), sucralose (in Splenda), acesulfame K (in Sunett and Sweet One).

Any packaged foods with added sweeteners… anything ending in -ose.

Candy. All Candy

Soda, diet soda, energy drinks, and bottled fruit drinks.

Most Desserts – cake, cookies, cheesecake, brownies, pie, pudding, etc., purchased or homemade. Sugar is also often added to dried fruit, and sugar and/or artificial sweetner is almost always present in flavored yogurt, granola bars, and breakfast cereal. You can have unsweetened dried fruit and unsweetened nondairy yogurt (such as plain coconut yogurt).

Hidden Sweetener in non-sweet foods, like ketchup, barbecue sauce, past sauce, soup, crackers, salad dressing, canned fruit, deli salads (like colesalw and broccoli salad), bottled tea, and much more.”1

It means carefully reading every single label before eating something. It’s taken the experience of grocery shopping to a new level. How disappointed I am as a peruse a label and after seeing all compliant ingredients listed only to stumble upon sugar in one of it’s many forms listed at the bottom. Although on a happy note, I did find a sugar free compliant bacon. All is not lost!

While this attempt yielded a few potential results, since I changed plans mid-way through they weren’t conclusive but I at least I have a few ideas on what to try next. My previous attempt at a similar diet did not yield anything helpful. With each new try, I am moving towards better overall choices and health.

It’s challenging. When I read Fast Food Nation, a book that really should discourage anyone from ever eating fast food again, my brother in law pointed out that I was using a McDonald’s napkin as a bookmark. I do love my junk food. Next up on my never ending reading list of books about food is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen. I’ll try to use a more appropriate bookmark.

Making the right food choices can be complicated.

Why does this bring me bliss? Being healthy and taking care of myself means I can continue to do the things that bring me bliss. The choices I make now around food and exercise will impact how long I can be active and do the things I enjoy like hiking.

Have you ever tried an elimination diet? Any tips?


1Cole, Dr Will. The Inflammation Spectrum: Find Your Food Triggers and Reset Your System. Yellow Kite, 2019. Pages 95-96.

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I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2020. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Bliss. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.

25 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge | X is for Xylitol and other sugars that are off the table.

    • Weekends in Maine says:

      It’s amazing how much stuff actually has sugar. I’m not sure why it’s so prevalent in bacon. The sugar free one I buy is delicious.

      My first elimination diet I didn’t give up eggs but I did on the second and was not a fan. I enjoy eggs for breakfast too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SteampunkCowCorn (Absenta, la Fée Verte) 🍸🎩 says:

        Relatable. it was quite difficult that diet for me without eggs and bread, as the doctor kept telling me the importance of having more protein on my diet, the husband telling me to eat less meat, and him and the kids asking for sandwiches almost every dinner. A sandwich without bread is just a boring slice of ham on top of a more boring leaf of lettuce. :/ Taking too many foods at a time, and trying to cook 2 different menus was terribly stressing for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Tamara says:

    Eliminitating sugar and its relatives is hard. I actually experienced withdrawal symptoms.
    How can you tell you suffer from inflammation?
    I love how you named your chickens after your wannabe boyfriends ♥
    Good thing food and nutritian is important and relevant way beyond college. I agree though, there’s a lot of (conflicting) information out there, so we really have to find out for ourselves.

    My X is for xenophobia in Switzerland
    https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.com/2020/04/a-z-2020-switzerland-xenophobic.html

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lael-Heart says:

    I have an ED so diets and I are not friends but I have noticed that I feel better when I eat mostly whole foods. It’s pretty easy for me to single out any bad influencers that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weekends in Maine says:

      That does make dieting and food choices much more challenging. I hope that you are managing it okay.

      I think in general as a society we spend too much time focused on “dieting” my goal is around understanding how foods positively and negatively impact my body and not the number on the scale.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lael-Heart says:

        ❤ I sure am. It's a life long thing though, I must be ever mindful.
        Yeah…our society definitely has an anorexic lens towards food, exercise and our bodies.
        I'm always happy to come across a person with a healthy mindset in relation to all that! Its rare these days.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mollyscanopy says:

    Great post! I am also on a seemingly endless anti-inflammatory mission. The key, I have found, is to eat as close to nature as possible — whole fruit and veg as picked from the plant, whole grains, etc. Then there are no labels to read and shopping is a breeze — especially important now when we need to spend less time in the store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weekends in Maine says:

      I agree that staying plant based and unprocessed as much as possible is a good place to start to help reduce inflammation.

      I am fascinated by the new DNA tests that look to identify personal food triggers in people. I’m not sure I want to do one yet, but I do find it intriguing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. slfinnell says:

    2 of our fam of 4 are celiac. There of course is so much sugar in their products and to eliminate that would probably cause war in our household lol But we do avoid high fructose corn syrup, steer towards more natural sugar and haven’t had fast food in a LOng time. It helps but I am quite sure sugar is the Devil. lol Being aware is helpful and I figure as long as we’re all trying, it’s progress. I hope you find the answers for your own health. Feeling better is so important.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Arti says:

    Your undergraduate degree course sounds so much more interesting than mine–I was reading economics and commerce with income tax thrown in for good measure! Like you, my career took a different route to my degree.
    I’ve got a sweet tooth and it’s very very bossy! I struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trudy says:

    Hahaha… I liked how you used a McDonald’s napkin for a book mark. My husband and I watched “Supersize Me” which should also turn a person away from junk food, but by the end of the documentary, we both were craving (and gave in to) Big Macs.

    As for artificial sweeteners… they do bad things to me. Some make my heart race, some give me headaches, some give me extreme pain in the stomach, and others give me gas. So I avoid them. I don’t even chew sugarless gum.

    Liked by 1 person

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