Katie’s LEAP Journey – Phase 1

I’ve been a Certified LEAP Therapist for over 2 years … helping clients through food sensitivity testing and lab-directed elimination diets. I feel blessed to have been able to help so many people identify their food triggers of inflammation and find {incredible} improvements and relief in symptoms. It has been a truly amazing and always a rewarding experience.

Now it’s time to be my own client … and I want to share my LEAP experience with you! But before I share my journey, let me answer a few questions you may have!

“What are food sensitivities?” A food sensitivity is a diet-induced inflammatory reaction that causes mediator release (chemical mediators including cytokines, keukotrienes, prostoglandins, etc.) from various white blood cells (neutrophils, monocytes, eosinophils, lymphocytes). This chemical mediator release can cause tissue inflammation and damage in the body that leads to symptoms. Food sensitivities are distinct from food allergies and food intolerances.

“Why do people have food sensitivities?” Researchers are still learning how they develop. The most widely accepted factors that can cause food sensitivities include poor digestion, unbalanced gut flora, chronic stress/severe trauma, immune system overload, toxic-induced loss of oral tolerance (in other words, overexposure to chemicals), or genetics that cause the immune system to identify normally harmless foods as foreign invaders.

“What health conditions and symptoms are associated with food sensitivities?” Some of the conditions associated with food sensitivities are: migraines and headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, heartburn/GERD, fibromyalgia, arthritis, autism, and ADD/ADHD. The following symptoms may be associated with food sensitivities: diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, gas, distension, general malaise (feeling lousy), fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, depression, anxiety, brain fog, irritability, eczema, psoriasis, flushing skin, itchy skin, rosy cheeks, acne, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, post nasal drip, sinus pain, food cravings, water retention, fluctuating weight, muscle or joint aching/stiffness/pain.

“What is food sensitivity testing?” Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult. The reactions may be delayed or dose dependent, meaning we may not feel the effects of a reaction until many hours or days after we’ve eaten the reactive foods, or unless we eat enough of the reactive food. Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that quantifies how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring intracellular mediator release indirectly. Remember, when released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!

“What is the lab-directed elimination diet you mentioned?” LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) is the individualized eating plan based on your MRT results. The LEAP ImmunoCalm Dietary Program includes six phases including a lab-directed elimination diet and a food reintroduction schedule.

Phase One

Before beginning phase one of the diet, I filled out a symptom survey to get a baseline of my current symptoms. The symptom survey asks about constitutional symptoms (like fatigue, restlessness, and insomnia), emotional/mental symptoms (like depression, anxiety, mood swings, and forgetfulness), headaches/migraines, skin, sinus symptoms, musculoskeletal symptoms, digestive symptoms (like reflux, stomach and intestinal pain/cramping, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas), and food cravings among others. I will use this survey to track my progress and determine when I will move on to the next phase. My beginning symptom survey score was 57 (maximum score on the survey is 232). The most significant symptoms I’m experiencing are facial acne, fatigue, brain fog, forgetfulness/memory issues, and a little anxiety.

Here are my results:

The size of the bar represents how strongly my immune cells reacted to the foods or chemicals and may represent foods that are potentially causing my symptoms of concern. Green items are considered non-reactive, yellow items are considered to be moderately-reactive, and red items are considered to be highly-reactive. O. M. G. I cannot believe how sensitive I am to cocoa (i.e. chocolate)! Confession: I eat a lot of dark chocolate and use lots of cocoa powder in my cooking … looks like it’s time to take a break!

Some people see improvements in symptoms by simply eliminating high- and moderate-reactive foods (yellows and reds) only. Sometimes the full elimination diet (LEAP) just isn’t possible – particularly for my clients who travel a lot, have extremely busy or hectic schedules, or are in a working or living situation that prevents them from controlling their own food preparation.

However, the most common route we take (and where I see the best symptom improvement in my clients) is the full elimination diet – LEAP! I always tell my clients, “It’s not about what you’re reactive to, it’s what you’re not reactive to.” By eating only foods that were tested as non-reactive, we can eliminate also any foods that could be causing symptoms that weren’t tested. Let me give you an example so this makes more sense: Cilantro isn’t tested. What if you are highly-reactive to cilantro (and don’t know it because it’s not tested) and you eliminate only tested reactive foods (which means you might be eating cilantro)? You may continue to experience symptoms even though you eliminated all tested reactive foods! For this reason, the first phase of the diet includes only foods tested as non-reactive.

This is a diet in the truest sense of the word in that it’s restrictive and only temporary. What sets LEAP apart from many other elimination diets is that it’s personalized based on your immune system and the goal is to reintroduce foods to the point where all things can be enjoyed except a few foods or chemicals that trigger symptoms.

Phase one will include the lowest reactive of my non-reactive foods, which for me is only 51 foods total!

Proteins: tilapia, turkey, crab, beef, lamb, pinto beans, pork, mung beans, chicken, red kidney beans, egg yolks, garbanzo beans.

Starches: buckwheat, navy beans, quinoa, amaranth.

Veggies: iceberg lettuce, pumpkin, bok choy, butternut squash, green beans, beets, eggplant, green pea, tomato, and spinach.

Fruits: watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, dates, plum, honeydew, oranges, apples.

Nuts/Seeds/Oils: sesame, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts.

Flavor enhancers: cayenne pepper, sesame, cinnamon, turmeric, lime, garlic, oregano, lemon, coconut, dill, vanilla, maple, rosemary, and mint.

Phase one also includes some freebies: water, salt, and baking soda.

Once I got my list of foods, I started coming up with meal and snack ideas, then hit the grocery store where I did lots of reading ingredient lists! Below, I included some photos of food I ate on phase one. I didn’t get photos of everything (I’ll do better on phase two – promise!). However, once I found my favorites, I ended up repeating a lot of the same meals over and over.


For most of phase one, I had apples and sunflower butter (made with just sunflower seeds) for breakfast or another fruit like strawberries or raspberries!

Some mornings I had one or two homemade breakfast sausages: Ground beef, lots of dried oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and garlic powder.


Most days for lunch, I ate leftovers or leafy greens (spinach and iceberg lettuce) topped with leftover proteins (beans, meat)!

Salad with leftover breaded chicken, iceberg lettuce, spinach, lime juice, and sunflower oil!

Hummus made with chickpeas, sesame tahini, sunflower oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. I mainly used this on salads or in lettuce wraps.


I kept all of my allowed spices and herbs on the counter in close reach, so I don’t accidentally reach for something not on my plan …

Chicken breaded with quinoa flakes, coconut flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and oregano! Served with hummus in lettuce wraps – YUM!

Modified “goulash”: Ground beef, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, quinoa, tomato sauce, and red kidney beans! One of my favorite dinners to have with wilted spinach (not pictured)!

Roasted butternut squash and pork loin – both with a maple cinnamon glaze!

Roasted green beans were my FAVORITE veggie on phase one! Served with some pork loin!

Green pea pasta (made with just peas) with tomato sauce (Pomi brand – made with just tomatoes) and oregano! Not pictured: Roasted veggies on the side!

Roasted golden beets!

Turkey burger (with rosemary and salt) in a lettuce wrap.

Snacks and beverages:

My favorite snack on phase one – beet chips (just beets, sunflower oil, and salt)!

Mint “tea” made with just mint leaves!


Phase one was TOUGH, but totally worth it. I definitely felt some withdraw symptoms in the first few days of the diet (feeling worse before feeling better) – mainly headaches and fatigue. Even though I had to give up caffeine, coffee, chocolate, honey, and a few other things I love, I noticed a significant improvement in my skin (less breakouts, less pain/sensitivity on my face), energy levels, and mood in just ten days! My symptom survey score is now 35. That’s a 39% reduction in my symptoms!

Time to move on to phase two! YAY! I’ll be posing an update on my journey soon!

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