This post is one that’s been a long time in the making, as it’s all about MRT and LEAP – something I use regularly with my one-on-one private practice clients, and something that can make a dramatic difference in quality of life for individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions.
Whenever I tell someone that in addition to being a Registered Dietitian, I’m also a Certified LEAP Therapist, I often hear, “Wait – what is that? What is LEAP?”
What is LEAP?
LEAP stands for Lifestyle Eating And Performance Protocol. It’s an elimination diet protocol based off individual results from the Mediator Release Test (MRT) that is designed to help reduce inflammation in the body.
In the world of food sensitivities, elimination diets are often the gold standard for identifying food sensitivities, those “triggers” of undesirable symptoms in certain individuals. Based on an individual’s personal history, there are a variety of common elimination diets that may be considered: Whole30, low FODMAP, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Autoimmune Protocol, Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, etc.
In both my professional and personal experience, the problem with these elimination diets is that they still aren’t tailored to the individual. This is why it’s not uncommon for some to try these diets and still not feel better. For example: hop on to any large message board or group for individuals that have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and you’ll find some that swear by low-FODMAP and that it helped them, but you’ll find others that felt no improvement on the diet.
That’s because while some of these elimination diets may be designed for certain disease states, they still are not one-size-fits-all. The list of “safe” or “approved” foods that come with any of these elimination diets may still be a sensitivity or “trigger” for inflammation in your body, resulting in still not feeling better or having any decrease in symptoms. (Evenn foods like chicken, that are commonly thought of as “safe”, or even “benign” flavorings like vanilla bean and the popular anti-inflammatory spice turmeric can still be a sensitivity for some individuals, triggering undesirable symptoms.)
With LEAP you work with a Registered Dietitian who is also a Certified LEAP Therapist to create a customized elimination diet based off your individual blood test results.
Now, let’s chat a little about this blood test – the Mediator Release Test.
What is MRT (Mediator Release Test)?
There are significant clinical and immunological complexities associated with food sensitivities. Despite all this, the single common denominator of all diet-induced inflammatory reactions is proinflammatory and proalgesic mediator release from white blood cells. All the negative side effects a food sensitivity sufferer endures can be tied back to the release of mediators like cytokines, histamine, leukotrines, prostaglandins, and more from white blood cells, like neutrophils, monocytes, eosinophils, and lymphocytes.
The Mediator Release test works by using a patented combination of flow cytometry and proprietary impedance technology to measure subtle volumetric changes in lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils. Volumetric changes after food or food-chemical challenge are quantified and reproted as either ‘Non-Reactive,’, ‘Moderately Reactive,’ or ‘Reactive’ and form the basis for the LEAP Eating Plan. At this time, MRT currently tests for 170 different foods and food chemicals.
The LEAP Eating Plan
The LEAP Eating Plan basically consists of eating only MRT-tested, safe foods and ingredients for a determined period of time (typically 4-6 weeks). The protocol is designed to:
- Reduce the level of inflammation and related symptoms as quickly as possible.
- Through oral challenges, identify any additional contributors to symptoms not caused by delayed hypersensitivity reactions, in order to create a safe, customized diet.
- Identify clients or symptoms that need more rigorous follow-up or referral to another medical team member.
- Transition the client to a normalized, long-term healthy eating pattern that is easy to implement.
Also, as someone who is super passionate about individualized health and nutrition to fit individual needs, I feel it’s super important to note that the LEAP protocol does allow for flexibility. Whether you have different health conditions, lifestyles, taste preferences, religious backgrounds, cooking skills, etc., the program is able to be customized to your needs and preferences.
The LEAP Protocol has 3 Phases
Phase 1 is 10-14 days in duration, where only tested, safe items are consumed. The goal is to quickly reduce inflammation, achieve a noticeable reduction in symptoms and create a new baseline for later oral challenges.
Phase 2 is 20-35 days long and is where other tested foods are added to the diet through oral challenges, so other immune and non-immune reactions that might be impacting the client’s health may be unmasked (i.e. fat malabsorption, IgE allergies, fructose intolerance, etc.). The goal is to identify more safe foods.
Phase 3 is 30-60+ days long, or as needed. The goal is to continue to expand and “normalize” the diet by continuing to challenge with any remaining MRT-tested foods, untested foods, or both. As you move forward, the goal is more dietary variety to help provide a nutrient dense diet and a healthy microbiome.
Who Is LEAP For?
LEAP is for anyone that need helps managing a chronic inflammatory condition, which includes irritable bowel syndome (IBS), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ulcerative colitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic migraines (not related to menstrual cycles), etc.
Who is LEAP Not For?
If you have an eating disorder or a history of an eating disorder, LEAP is NOT for you. I am very protective of helping my clients maintain or achieve a more mindful relationship with food, and while LEAP may be a clinically appropriate elimination diet for qualifying individuals, it can be too triggering for anyone with or with a history of an eating disorder.
LEAP also isn’t for anyone who isn’t motivated. I can help facilitate changes in your health, but you’re the one that has to be willing to do the work.
LEAP also isn’t for you if you’re looking for an easy weight loss solution. Weight loss is not the goal with LEAP; health is the goal. Furthermore, I operate from a solely weight-neutral perspective in my practice; weight is an arbitrary number and I care more about your full picture of health.
How I Integrate LEAP in My Practice
If you’ve spent a few moments on my website, my Instagram, or other platforms, you know that I’m not a fan of unnecessary food restriction. That said, I’ve also voiced frustration with the “all foods fit” slogan that’s often parroted, because realistically – all foods don’t always fit for all individuals.
I work with individuals with food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. There have been times that clients have come to LEAP only eating a handful of foods because they are SO tired of feeling bad and not knowing what is making them feel worse. Using something like MRT/ LEAP under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian and Certified LEAP Therapist can be a very efficient process that results in MORE food options, flexibility, and freedom for these clients.
Want More Information?
If you want to chat more about MRT, LEAP and get some questions answered, please feel free to send me an email to lindsey @ nutritiontofit.com (remove the spaces when emailing).
Interested in a complimentary clarity call to discuss becoming one of my clients and working together? Schedule your complimentary call today.
LEAP logo and MRT description image both from the nowleap.com website.