The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

Andrew's Litmus Test

A raw food elimination diet can help you find out exactly what foods you should be eating to escape your allergies and diseases while achieving optimal health.

Yet it's too simple to say, "eat everything raw for awhile," because many raw foods are unhealthy.

Will you have watermelon or kombucha tea? How about plain lettuce and tomatoes or a salad covered in oil and salt?

How can you really know what foods are good for you and what's going to do you harm?

I've been grappling with this question since I started eating a raw food diet in 2005, and I'm often left wondering where "raw ideology" gets in the way of the truth, and where caution is truly justified.

I'm a health geek, I admit. I frequently spend happy evenings poring over nutritional text books and the newest studies on diet and disease. But a lot of key questions remain unaddressed by researchers because we're working with different models of health, and at the end of the day, the concerns of joe scientist are different than my own.

So while I use science as a means of examining foods and explaining their effects, I largely consider such information a way of understanding what I've previously discovered through trial and error.

Elimination Diet GrapesThe best way I know to verify if a food is good for me is a little something I call Andrew's Litmus Test, a type of raw food elimination diet which I'll introduce you to in this article.

I'm often confronted with people who question my diet advice. They want to know why I damn some foods while greenlighting others. I usually justify my positions with studies, but I'm often thinking, 'can't you just feel it?'

The answer is no, they probably can't, but Andrew's Litmus Test can help them get there.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet

Why Healthy People React Strongly


Most peoples' bodies are pretty polluted and worn down from their food and lifestyle choices, and dumping more sludge into the creek won't give rise to a particularly noticeable response in the average person. A SAD eater won't feel much worse after a trip to Burger King than he or she did before, for instance.

Yet when a healthy person eating a good diet consumes a significant quantity of an unhealthy food or drink, the response is pretty unpleasant.

If you've been eating just low fat raw fruits and vegetables and following a healthy lifestyle for half a year and then decide to stuff yourself with a meal at McDonald's, your body will go into overdrive to clean itself up. It usually expresses this via various symptoms over the course of a few days. Below I list several of the more common ones.


How Vital Bodies Respond to Harmful Foods

  • Mucous and phlegm in the nostrils and throat, particularly in the morning
  • A change in stool consistency
  • A mild to strong ache or soreness in the back of the throat
  • Mental sluggishness or sleepiness
  • Physical lethargy or feelings of heaviness.
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Jitteriness/frantically high energy, particularly in the case of stimulants that contain many toxins like coffee or chocolate. Sometimes people call this, "getting energy."
  • Loss of appetite or upset stomach
  • Headaches, particularly following the ingestion of dependency-building drugs like caffeine which must be detoxed.
  • Unusually elevated thirst or dry mouth
  • An increase in body odor.
  • Increased body temperature (from avg of 96 °F to 98 °F or higher).


The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

How A Healthy Body Does Maintenance


The symptoms most people associate with colds and the flu manifest themselves in healthy people when harmful substances are introduced to their bodies or environments. A slab of steak, cooked greens, cigarettes, onions, a bag of chips, or alcohol would probably trigger some of the above reactions in a healthy person.

I believe these symptoms are our bodies' attempts to sequester and eliminate the introduced harmful elements. I find it highly relevant that when I started eating a raw diet in 2005, I ceased to be sick and haven't had so much as a head cold since, but the symptoms I once associated with illnesses will appear in an abbreviated form if I eat something that's less than ideal.

In effect, a healthy person can recognize if a food is unhealthy because when they consume it they don't feel well.

Does that sound dubious? This is actually very similar to a model of diagnosis used by thousands of doctors, particularly allergists, all over the world: allergy elimination diets (aka exclusion diets).


Elimination Diet Armstand Scorpion

Most people aren't interested in the possibility of defeating their food allergies and other atopic diseases in one fell swoop by removing their underlying dietary weaknesses.

Instead, doctors advise them to tinker with their food choices and adopt drugs to lessen the body's reaction to allergenic foods and environmental elements.

To do this, they need to know exactly what unhealthy food is causing the particular bodily reaction they want to avoid. They switch to eating only foods considered "safe" during a trial period.

Adopting a diet free of grains and gluten is one common option for those suspected of having celiac disease and gluten intolerances. Dairy elimination is also pretty common for a number of complaints.

Between a week and two months later, depending on the complaint, most people will be feeling considerably better if they indeed were having a reaction to one of the foods they eliminated. At this point they reintroduce the suspected foods one at a time, eating a significant quantity of each so that any reaction is noticeable.

And here's the important part: the allergic reaction to the reintroduced food is often much stronger than the one generated when the food was still being consumed regularly.

In other words, once the harmful element is out of the system, the body seems to regain some of its original vitality and ability to defend against and eliminate the reintroduced toxin, and thereafter reacts with more violence to a reintroduction. This renewed vitality will, of course, fade if the body is drained again by repeated exposure to the allergen.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

Andrew's Litmus Test


Andrew's Litmus Test builds off the idea of the allergy elimination diet to detect a "lesser category" of harmful foods. We may all agree that twinkies probably aren't a smart food choice while pears are fantastic, but there's a significant grey area in between that raw foodists tend to fight over.

I'm going to ask you to take a leap with me here. Let's assume that most raw fruits and easy-to-digest raw vegetables are inherently healthy and will lead to a state of bodily health. If we can agree on this premise, we can use them as our safe foods for our expanded elimination trial.

Basically, I'm talking about a low fat raw food diet that gets most of its calories from fruit while also containing plenty of greens and skips over processed foods of all kinds, spices, etc. For the purposes of the litmus test, no nuts and seeds (except those found in the whole foods you're already eating, like watermelon and cucumber seeds) are consumed.


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Some may question this choice, but I've yet to find anything so effective as a diet of fruits and vegetables for the elimination of disease and the establishment of health. Fruits and veggies simply lead to vitality. In any event, we need something to base our trial around, and fruits and vegetables are it for Andrew's Litmus Test.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

Our Long Climb To Health


While someone suffering from an acute disease may quickly feel better when they remove the harmful element in question, reaching a more general state of vitality after abusing our bodies for decades can take some time.

You'll probably feel significantly better in days or weeks on a healthy raw food elimination diet, but I don't think this is anywhere near where we peak. After a short amount of time it's also unlikely that you'd have a very strong reaction to the questionably unhealthy foods you want clarity on.

The Three Steps Of The Raw Food Elimination Diet
  1. Eat a low-fat diet of fruits and vegetables for six months, ignoring all questionable foods.
  2. Reintroduce one questionable food at a time in large quantities. For instance, if your reintroducing nightshade vegetables, you might want to eat four tomatoes in a day.
  3. Give yourself at least a week between food reintroductions. Don't continuously consume foods which cause you to have a reaction, as this will just lessen your vitality.


My estimate is that most people will take about 6 months to really hit their stride on a raw diet. Some extremely degraded people may take longer, and may want to consider a fast to speed their recovery or shake a symptom that isn't going away.

Although it's a pretty subjective assessment, I've felt better at the end of every single year since 2005. I don't know when this gradual but steady improvement will end, but consider myself to still be improving. It's unclear if I'm becoming more more sensitive to unhealthy foods than I was after the first six months, but I have no reasont to think I am.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

Exposing Yourself To Questionable Foods


After six months of building your health you'll likely be in a good position from which to judge how questionable foods affect you, and it's at this time that you can begin to really make some fascinating discoveries.

You'll want to reintroduce the food in a large quantity to be sure you notice any effects. After the reintroduction of one questionable food, take a week off and give yourself some time to recover.

Be prepared for some interesting findings.

Elimination Diet PearsI was surprised that raw onions and garlic, which are often touted as healthy and embraced by many raw foodists, now always unsettle my stomach, cause significant body odor, and generally leave me feeling pretty blah.

Others aren't much of a surprise. Yep, raw alcohol (beer and distilled liquors are heated), which many raw foodists love, will leave you feeling just as trashed as the heated stuff.

One surprise for me came about because so many readers asked me about drinking hot herbal teas during the winter. Despite living through harsh New England winters while raw, I'd never tried them until recently and largely viewed them as unnecessarily processed.

I decided I hadn't really given them a shot, though, and decided to try some. While most don't taste good and I don't think I'm going to become a tea drinker, several types of caffeine free, relatively simple herbal teas, particularly those primarily composed of dried fruit, don't seem to trigger any negative bodily reactions in me, which I found surprising.

I plan to continue to explore herbal teas and come up with some suggestions eventually.

Feel free to explore a variety of foods and come to your own conclusions.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet:

Facing The Objections


I've gotten quite a bit of objection over my proposal that the feeling of illness, i.e., symptoms, indicates the prior intake of unhealthy food in a healthy person. Many say it smacks of natural hygiene, a much maligned health philosophy, or vitalism.

People usually raise objections like, "but spicy food makes my nose run, and that's good because it cleans me out."

I've always found this objection strange. It's like arguing that a hangover - which is what you experience when you're body is trying to rid itself of the poison you introduced through drinking alcohol - is good because it cleans you out. Just because you can't breath well doesn't mean a runny nose is good.

When you eat spicy food your body releases mucous and phlegm in an attempt to protect itself from the irritating food. The fluids covering your delicate interior, and act in a manner similar to us and other bodily fluids are used to protect the compromised intestines of people with colitis and crohns. These fluids aren't a gift from the food, but a tax on your system. Even a person without a stuffed up nose will release mucous to deal with the problem.

Another common objection I hear from cooked food vegans is that I'm right in the broad sense, but that it's ok to eat some heated food. They say the runny nose and sore throat healthy raw foodists experience upon eating steamed greens isn't a problem because the body "adapts" to the cooked food when it's eaten over time and the symptoms go away. They make it sound like the gradual weakening of the body's reaction is a good thing, which I just don't buy.

I don't think reduced vitality makes much sense under any circumstances, even if it means - as many cooked food vegans contend - that the increased bioavailability of nutrients in heated food makes up for any unhealthy elements.

Finally, the paleo and primal diet crowd will object that my assumption that raw fruits and vegetables, but not animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy, will lead to a clean slate from which questionable foods can be reintroduced and analyzed. They may even call the fructose in fruit very unhealthy.

Given the weight of scientific evidence linking animal protein to disease and the fairly undeveloped science used to propose other factors are are the main cause of diseases like heart disease, and because I've known many paleo eaters who periodically get sick, I personally don't give much credence to this suggestion.


The Raw Food Elimination Diet: Following Up


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