Last night, I went to dinner with a friend who has had digestive problems for years. Several weeks ago she received the results of a food allergy test which indicated that she had extreme sensitivities to gluten, dairy, and eggs. I was excited for her because I saw the results as a window to her feeling better because she knew what was causing her digestive issues. She was devastated because she couldn’t imagine giving up the foods.

To help kick start her new food journey, I gave her a cookbook filled with recipes that were free of gluten, dairy, and eggs. I made her several dishes that were free of gluten, dairy, and eggs. She was amazed at how good the food tasted and how easy the recipes were to make. She’s a smart woman and she seemed to understand that she needed to make a change.

So, last night, after we ordered dinner, she called the waiter back to the table and asked him to bring some bread and butter to the table. I was shocked. Clearly, she knew that there was gluten and most likely eggs in the bread and obviously dairy in the butter. When I asked her why she wanted the bread she said, “I am trying to gain about five pounds and bread butter will help me gain the weight.” I asked her why she chose bread rather than a gluten/dairy/egg-free alternative such as avocado or potatoes to gain weight considering the results of her allergy test. She told me when she stopped eating bread and diary that she felt worse (detox symptoms), so she started eating them again and she felt better (stopped the detox). I asked how her digestive challenges were going and she told me they were the same – bad – but that she figured that’s just how her body is and that she needed to learn how to live with it.

Sadly, this is how many people see their bodies. They figure, “it’s just the way it is” and they have to live with it. Not true. But, to get there you do need to allow your body to get through the detox part of the process.

When you remove a toxin from your system, (gluten, sugar, cigarettes, meat, dairy, etc.) your body will go through a detoxing process to rid itself of the toxins. This can cause headaches, lethargy, joint pain, acne, skin rash, painful periods, muscle soreness, depression, anxiety, weight loss, hormonal swings, bloating, nausea, sore throat, and a bunch of other unpleasant symptoms.

Though these symptoms are certainly not fun, they are a great sign that your body is cleansing itself and you are on your way to feeling better.

The symptoms can be mild or severe and can last just a day or two or several weeks depending on the level of toxicity. It’s similar to what happens when someone is addicted to drugs and must detox from the drug. If you stop the process before it’s finished, you’ll have to start all over again.

Unfortunately, many people get confused by the negative symptoms. They think because they stopped consuming the toxin that they should get immediate positive results and should instantly feel euphoric. Which makes sense: take the bad thing away and you’ll feel better. But, it doesn’t work quite like that. You have to take away the toxin, then give your body time to completely get rid itself of the bad stuff the toxin left in your body. And only after the detox, when your body is clear of the toxin, will you see the positive results.

Many people, after removing the toxin, and feeling the detox symptoms, panic and reintroduce the toxin back into their symptom. This often stops the detox symptoms and the person thinks they should continue consuming the toxin. Sadly, this just means they won’t ever get the chance to truly feel better.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but welcome the detox symptoms and realize that they’re the sign of a good thing. Then push through them to the other side. It’s so much better on the other side. You just have to give it enough time to get there.