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Jan. 18, 2024

Episode 008 | Eliminating gluten and dairy didn’t work, now what?

Episode 008 | Eliminating gluten and dairy didn’t work, now what?

Have you struggled with the challenges of eliminating foods from your diet to help manage a chronic condition such as autoimmune disease?

Many people find that simply removing trigger foods like gluten, dairy or corn doesn't lead to health improvements and can even cause symptoms like fatigue, hair loss and digestive issues to get worse.

The problem lies in not addressing the full picture. Restrictive diets limit nutrient intake which causes more stress on the body. Indeed, removing these foods is just the FIRST step and you need to focus on addressing the root causes starting with gut health

Following a particular type of diet is NOT the solution, finding out what your unique body’s nutrient requirements are and then supporting it is.

As Dr Amy Myers has said, 

“Removing gluten from your diet is the first step in treating any autoimmune disease.” 


  • Why eliminating foods may not be enough to see health improvements with autoimmune issues
  • How restrictive diets can actually worsen symptoms by limiting nutrients
  •  The 4 things you need to focus on instead for managing autoimmune conditions

While removing problematic foods can help with autoimmunity, a truly supportive approach means going beyond elimination to nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods tailored to your unique needs.

 I've created an Autoimmune Symptom Relief Guide to help you weather storms with more ease and self-compassion.

It is a non medical guide that contains top tips for managing autoimmune flares and finding daily relief without the help of medications!

Learn how to manage episodes on YOUR terms - through self-care rituals, adaptogenic herbs, lifestyle tweaks and more.

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@aninditarungta | nourish heal connect | Embrace Your Healing Journey

Your body knows how to heal, are you ready to support it?


01:03 - When excessive dietary restrictions cause more harm than good

04:02 - The importance of customising your diet for your unique body's requirements

05:46 - What the real problem is

06:14 - What I have found over years of coaching clients

08:01 - Why you need to become aware of your reasons for changing your diet

09:31 - It's not about what foods you are taking out

10:21 - 4 things that you can start doing today instead

15:08 - Some ground rules that are non negotiable for healing from autoimmune conditions

17:35 - Focus on progress, not perfection and celebrate your success


 In today's episode, I'm going to share why simply removing foods like gluten and dairy may not help improve your health and what you need to do instead. That's all coming up next right here on Embrace Your Healing Journey podcast. 

Welcome to Embrace Your Healing Journey, a podcast for women with autoimmune and other chronic conditions to help them navigate their illness without fear of isolation and uncertainty and find relief from their symptoms. Your body is your guide and ally in healing. If you're ready to embrace this journey with compassion and awareness, then the show is for you. Tune in weekly as I, a Functional medicine certified health coach, deliver tips and insights that demystify the healing process, guiding you towards the relief you deserve so that you can feel healthy and happy once more. 

If you are not mindful of each person's requirements, their dietary restrictions can become quite excessive and can cause more harm than good. This is exactly what happened to a client of mine. She had tried going off gluten, dairy, grains without getting any proper guidance as to what to actually eat instead. So she was, of course trying her best because she was dealing with certain autoimmune conditions and a couple of other, you know, help with health issues. So she was doing her best, actually. But what happened as a result of that is that she started losing her hair. Her energy levels plummeted, and she was feeling worse than before. So she had tried the paleo diet. And when she came to me, I actually, uh, told her to, you know, do something else altogether. And because she, I realized that she needed a much higher level of nutrients and others in the first place because of her diagnosis, because of a history and because of what she was going through. So when we started working together, I added back some grains. Plenty of plant based foods and healthy animal proteins and fats for every meal. 

So, the food, of course, was the main part, the medicine, as we call it. And there were other forms of support, like digestive enzymes and other supplements, which would help to improve her digestion, eating hygiene, managing her stress around mealtimes. So all of that helped her body to improve our energy levels and feel better. Of course, there were other things that we needed to do as well. So this is not to say that we should not be removing anti-inflammatory out of inflammatory or trigger foods like gluten, dairy and corn. So these all cause inflammation, like in my daughter's case. Also, I had removed all the foods, all these foods actually, and many more for almost two years in order to help heal her gut. And in that time, I actually had no clue as to what I should be doing. Specifically. And I've shared all of this. I've shared our story in episode one and you can go back and listen to it. 

But eventually, with this client of mine, also, I had to figure out and in my own daughter's case, I was actually able to get her back on to most of the foods apart from gluten. But I remember that what worried me the most at the time, and it was the same thing with this client, is that I wanted to avoid malnourishment at any cost because she was a growing child. My daughter was eight when I had removed all these foods and, uh, in the same thing with my client, I knew that she needed to have a whole lot of foods and varieties to get the phytonutrients, to get the, uh, amino acids, the fatty acids, all of the things that she needed to have a healthy immune function to have enough energy, uh, even if she was not being exposed to gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and some other foods. But this is difficult because, uh, you know, unless, you know what, uh, and how to go about it, it can become quite, confusing and overwhelming. 

But it's so, so important that you understand this, that it is actually all about customizing the diet for your unique body's requirements and making sure that you actually make these changes in a way that your body can handle. Because your body has Been exposed to a different environment than another person with the same diagnosis. So that's what you need to be very, very careful about. That's what you need to be aware of, because that's one of the reasons why restrictive diets like these can actually worsen certain symptoms, including autoimmune symptoms, because they limit the nutrient intake and they cause stress on the body. And you may be stuck here, too, wondering where the food is going to make any difference, because you've tried many things and maybe they didn't work.

 So maybe you've gotten off, uh, gone off gluten and dairy, and now you're dealing with dry skin, fatigue, hair loss, or maybe you're dealing with constant bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and digestive issues regardless of what or how much you eat and maybe you even face pressure, this is actually quite common. You face pressure from your friends and family who don't really understand your restricted diet and limited food options, and this last one is actually so common. I mean, all my clients and I have faced these questions as to why don't you just have one spoon, right? How what possible harm can one spoon of this do because they don't understand how the immune system functions. So so we may be dealing with some of these. And you might be experiencing symptoms related to some of the foods that you eat. And the symptoms may be changing all the time. So it makes it difficult for you to find safe foods. 

But you see, the problem is that you still have not addressed all the other underlying factors that are contributing to your disease activation, right? Food is one part of it. So things like enhanced intestinal permeability and gut dysbiosis. And I have discussed this in episode five in details where I talk about gut health, because gut health is the key to bringing chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases under control. So over the years of coaching clients, I have found that when it comes to changing their diet, there are a few beliefs that hold people back from seeing the results that they want. So this is what I want to talk about first. Like what are these beliefs?  

So they might believe that they need to make all the changes at one go, like take out all the foods at one go right without knowing what to do next, or they don't prep their kitchen or their pantry or plan ahead by stocking on food substitutes and alternatives. Right? So if you're taking out certain foods, you need to have some other foods to eat, right? Especially when you are hungry. So if you haven't planned ahead, if you haven't prepped or, you know, uh, stocked your kitchen with substitutes and alternatives, it's so hard to stay on this kind of a, you know, diet and sustain it at someone. Wise had said failing to plan is planning to fail, or they may not be even clear on why they're changing their diet. 

What is the connection between gluten and intestinal permeability and immune function? Or that there is a connection? They are not very clear on that. Nobody has really made them aware why it is important to, you know, stick to a 100% elimination, especially by gluten is concerned in the case of autoimmunity or even dairy or any of the foods that you're consuming. It's not you can't really have one spoon of that particular food. Then it's not elimination or they are not connected to their own internal motivation for change. They don't really know why they are doing it. Why do they want to feel better? Whether they want to travel without pain again, whether they want to play with their children once again, whether they want to feel alive once again. So these are some of the things that maybe they don't, you know, they're not aware of. They don't have clarity around. Because once you become aware of the underlying reasons for making these changes, you are most likely to be able to stay on track and continue on this path right at the same time, you need to also ensure that you're following a step by step approach to making these changes in your diet. And that's why just taking out gluten and dairy is not enough. 

There is a step by step process, and there is usually some level of confusion around which kind of diet will help, right? And that's why people try paleo. Then they switch to a keto or a vegan diet, maybe not even 100%. They try a little bit here and there, then they they dab a little bit on this and that, and they don't see the improvements because they've not really figured out what is it that their body needs and what is it, and how is it that they're going to customize. And of course, the most common term that is used in the case of diets is elimination. 

 So you eliminate these things. So foods like gluten, dairy, soy, corn. And they of course they are a problem for many people with chronic illnesses. And these foods are typically eliminated for a while to help the body restore balance. But these are just. One piece of the puzzle. In fact, gluten is just one piece of the puzzle. So when you go up gluten and dairy, for example, or some other food without addressing your nutrient requirements, you can actually make your symptoms worse because you're not really focusing also on the foods that you need to eat. It's not about taking out foods. It's also it's actually more important what you are eating in the first place ? 

So following a particular type of diet is not the solution. Finding out what you are in unique bodies nutrient requirements are that is important. That's the solution. And then finding ways to support it. As Doctor Amy Myers has said, removing gluten from your diet is the first step in treating any autoimmune disease. And to that, I might add that it's not enough. It helps, but it is not enough. There are certain things that you need to do. 

So I'm going to share with you, these four things that you need to also look at instead of only focusing on eliminating, say for example, gluten and dairy. So I'm going to share with you these four things that you can start doing from today. This is something that has worked for my clients. And I, uh, you know help them practice it on a daily basis. 

So number one, focus on adding nutrient dense foods. So rather than focusing solely on elimination, what foods you should not be consuming, focus on adding nutrient dense foods. It can be actually quite helpful to focus on what foods you should be consuming in the first place. So just fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, right? There are multiple positive impacts of nutrient dense foods on your overall health and well-being. So even if you want to prevent health issues in the long run, uh, this is very important. So improvements in energy level, mood, cognitive function, all these are dependent on the nutrient that you're consuming. 

The second thing that you can do is follow a crowding approach. That is not something that is usually spoken about.  And it's very, very effective. So rather than removing foods, uh, only you can actually crowd in. So you keep adding in nutrient dense foods so that it actually starts reducing the intakes of foods you want to avoid. unless, you know, the less nutritious, nutritious options that you might be having. So maybe the sugary foods, maybe the baked, uh, the desserts, the baked foods you need you need to keep on crowding in the foods that are healthy for you, making you maybe it's a low sugar dessert that you make at home. Maybe it's the vegetables in the soups, the salads.  So they keep you know, taking bigger and bigger space on your plate so that automatically the, uh, less nutritious foods and the foods that you want to avoid, the processed foods, they become smaller and smaller. This is actually a very sustainable and less restrictive way to approach food as medicine. 

Number three make. Mealtime sacred and enjoyable. Again, not something that people tend to focus on. They focus on what are the food that should be eating, what are the foods I need to remove and that's it.  But how you are eating those foods are equally important, and you can derive much pleasure and enjoyment that can come from eating delicious, nutrient dense meals. And it also has an impact on your absorption capacity. It has an impact on the digestive juice secretion by your body, right? So you need to be intentional about it and you need to pay attention. And you can experiment with new recipes. I am always encouraging my clients, you know, to keep experimenting. I share recipes with them. I, uh, you know, I encourage them to try out new recipes, try new ways of doing the same thing, take out their finest cutlery and crockery, and enjoy a meal in peace, specially with their families over the weekends. It makes a huge difference to being able to follow and stay on a particular diet. And then there's so many resources that are available for you, right? So I have shared, um, three things so far that you can be doing. So one is focus on adding nutrient dense foods. Number two is following a crowd in approach. And number three is make mealtime sacred and enjoyable. 

And the last thing that I want to share with you is focus on what's good for you. Because many of us actually are focused more on what we are depriving ourselves of. So shifting your mindset from a place of deprivation to a place of abundance is actually important. So rather than feeling constantly, constantly restricted and limited by your diet, focus on all the delicious and nutritious, nutritious foods you can eat and find joy in discovering new recipes and ingredients that support your health. It's going to feel good. You'll be able to sustain all this, right? So that it just and it will change your relationship with food. 

when you shift from deprivation to abundance, and letting go of perfection is actually the key that holds it all together, right? When you're trying to figure out what works and what doesn't, you need to be able to let go of perfection, of getting it all right. You know, at the first instant, right? If you're just trying out new recipes, new foods, if you've never tried this before, if you've just started experimenting with millets, you can't possibly expect to get it right the first time. And in my own practice, I actually give my clients permission to be messy. And today I give you permission to do the same. 

I encourage you to experiment with foods, uh, you know, in whatever diet that you're following and find recipes that are more to your taste and liking that your taste and preference will be preferences will be different from another person. Of course, there are some ground rules that you need to keep in mind. So gluten is non-negotiable. Dairy is non-negotiable. Uh, for. Um, anyone with diseases like autoimmune conditions., junk foods, processed foods, sugary beverages and some other foods. And they have to be customized for that person. But use your creativity and allow yourself to play with different recipes and cuisines. 

Make mealtimes fun. Focus on what you have rather than what you are not having, right? I remember I was so happy the day I finally made gluten free Christmas plum cake and gingerbread cookies at home. Because many years ago now, because at that time, hardly any gluten free desserts were available. And we have always celebrated Christmas at home. And I've always, of course, been buying certain Christmas plum cakes and all. And I used to take all of that for granted. But when I took my daughter out off gluten, it was hard and I had to figure out different combinations of flowers. Uh, you know, with the help of recipes that I found on the internet. And, um, you know, I remember starting, I think, in November, I started a month before, and I used to, you know, uh, bake cookies and not everything came out great. Of course. Um, and brownies and cookies and but by the time I hit Christmas, I finally made an amazing gluten free Christmas plum cake. And even gingerbread cookies are actually look by gingerbread man, right? It was it was amazing. It was a whole lot of trial and error. And I took the help of my children. And it was amazing when we could enjoy these small pleasures again. 

 So it was only by taking these baby steps and allowing this whole process to be enjoyable and fun that I was able to do this. So the way to make all these changes is to start taking baby steps. These are necessary, but you can start taking small steps and let go of, you know, expectations that you have of what exactly this process should look like. So, try out different recipes, whether you are following a particular diet, etc. there's so many resources that are available, but at the end of the day, remember the dietary interventions are just one part of a holistic approach to healing. That means it's just one piece of the puzzle, right?

 I tell my clients all the time, food is one piece of the puzzle. Your test reports, another piece of the puzzle. You know, all the things, the data that we are gathering, everything at different pieces of the puzzle we just fits in.  You are the whole person. So you need to be gentle with yourself and focus on progress, not perfection, and celebrate your success. When you are able to make certain dietary changes, when you're able to see results, you will. When you start celebrating your success, it will help you to stay motivated and continue to make changes in your diet and lifestyle over long periods of time. 

If you have any questions, you can connect with me on Instagram at. Anita Ruta, thank you so much for joining me today for this episode of Embrace Your Healing Journey. If you love this episode, do take a minute to write a five star review. It would help me keep bringing more such content to you. In the next episode, I will dive deeper into autoimmune disease activation and the most common myths around this disease. Don't miss it! Your body knows how to heal. Are you ready to support it?