Caring for our Bodies, My Health Journey

My Experience with the Auto-Immune Protocol Diet

A brief description

I want to share about my experience with the Auto-Immune (paleo) Protocol Diet (AIP for short) and how it has affected my overall health. Since I’m about a year and a half into this specific diet, I feel I can offer some insights to those that: A) Have no idea what I’m talking about, B) Have heard about it, but are not sure if it’s right for them, or C) Are just starting your AIP journey.

The Auto-Immune Protocol is a specific low-inflammation diet. It removes almost all possible inflammatory foods. I say almost all, because sometimes we’re sensitive to foods that are included in the AIP-for instance, bananas. I can’t really do bananas (I figured this out thanks to a blood tests that measures IGG levels for specific foods), that also includes plantains (a big deal for AIPer’s) and arrowroot powder – although I can do a tiny bit of this. In the Paleo diet you are removing grains, legumes, dairy, soy, refined sugar, and processed foods of any kind. In the Auto-immune Protocol you are removing all of the things in the paleo diet in addition to: eggs, nuts and seeds (including coffee and chocolate), nightshades (like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), and alcohol.  This diet also emphasizes:

  • a nutrient dense diet including bone broth, offal (organ meats), and lots of veggies
  • gentle detox like epsom salt baths, dry skin brushing, and oil pulling
  • getting proper sleep and rest
  • safe sun exposure (vitamin D)
  • gentle exercise
  • managing stress

Some of you may be thinking, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard”, but you can. Desperation is highly motivating. When your body is in a state of crisis, like mine was, and it has gotten incrementally worse over a long period of time, you will be willing and able to do things you thought you couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Like, drastically change your diet.

I did have an advantage in that I was gluten free for several years before starting the paleo diet.  Both diets helped, quite a bit in fact, but it wasn’t enough. I actually knew about 6 months before I started following the AIP, that I needed to do it, but I had to first work up the courage. It was not, and still at times is not, easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.


 

photo-1444724334165-e7050f2229a1

If you can at all, imagine living in fog. I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest. It gets very foggy there. The clouds are often low and hovering and other times they feel like a blanket that envelops you. Sometimes this can be comforting, but especially if the fog has lasted a while, you just wait for the clouds to lift and the fog to clear. You’re waiting for the clear open skies and to feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face.  This is the closest comparison I can think of when recalling the last 10 years of my life.

What had started out as random symptoms and anxiety, soon consumed every part of my life. I had no idea what was going on with me, and tried everything I knew to do, from therapy, and going to various doctors, to self-help gurus (think-prosperity gospel). I was reading everything I could, pushing myself relentlessly, and white-knuckling it most of the time. I was exhausted, dizzy, fatigued, anxious, often achy, routinely sick and couldn’t think clearly (brain fog). I’ve come across a few things I wrote during that time and I cringe, because I was SO hard on myself. I was doing my best and it wasn’t good enough to help me feel better. So to me, that meant I needed to try harder, push more, do better…

…and then I couldn’t. I had nothing left. I thought many times during all this, that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The struggles of feeling crazy, having panic attacks, and feeling out of control, were horrifying. My kids were pretty young at the time and still needed me to be present. So, all of my energy had to be spent on taking basic care of myself and my family. Dealing with regular life stressors felt overwhelming and little by little I had to scale back, retreat and withdraw.

I had started the gluten free diet when my son did 6 years ago, which did help with some surface symptoms. I continued with this until, my very smart and funny cousin, Sheri, told me about the Whole 30. She sent me some information and I thought about it for a couple months before starting, along with my Mom, my first Whole 30 in January 2012. I lost about 15 pounds, which was wonderful, and I felt the best I had in years.  I had started going to a chiropractor earlier in 2011 and these two things really helped my health improve, and the Whole 30 and paleo diet changed the way I looked at and approached food. ( “It Starts with Food” is a great place to start- affiliate link)

If any of you have experienced pain, achy joints, tiredness or fatigue, then maybe you can understand how it seems to come in waves.  It ebbs and flows, sometimes better, sometimes worse and sometimes not at all. The manner in which this happens seems inexplicable. You don’t know why one day you feel wretched and the next you feel perfectly fine. And so it seems to go with auto-immune symptoms. Over the next couple of years I remained paleo-ish (not 100 percent, but I stuck pretty close) and then I started with a few old symptoms and some new symptoms like rashes and digestive distress. During a period that was extremely stressful and busy, when all my symptoms came to a head, I knew I had to start the AIP. And I did.

There was some immediate digestive relief, but overall it took about 6 months of rest and following the AIP very closely to start and feel better.  Early on I tried reintroducing eggs, and that was a big NO, I woke up in the middle of the night with my hip on fire. I had so much pain that it woke me up. I never experienced that before. Other things like potatoes, and peppers will just give me a rash, on. my. face., and canker sores. I’ve been semi-successful in reintroducing chocolate, and some seed based spices, but I have to be careful not to overdo that too.

After about 6 months I was able to return to work.  I started having more sustained energy and mental clarity.  After a year, I had my biggest break through when I realized that my overall anxiety level, which had been at about a 6-7 for years, was down to a 2-3 and sometimes non-existent. If you have ever struggled with anxiety you know how huge this is. I thought anxiety was a life sentence, but realized that it was most likely from prolonged inflammation and lack of proper nutrients.  Not having to deal with anxiety and a bunch of anxious feelings allowed me to see and define my symptoms more clearly. They were no longer hidden in scattered thoughts, and it wasn’t just me being anxious. This was SO helpful and freeing to me.

For the first time, in a really long time, I started to feel a degree of normalcy. The fog that had been shrouding me began to lift and I felt like I could see clearly. I felt rational and like myself, only a better version of myself, with a lot more empathy.

So much of this time is a vague memory, but as I look back on it now, all I can see is God’s mercy. Isn’t that strange?!  I see how He was with me every step of the way, even though at the time I didn’t feel like he heard me or saw me.  I felt alone, but I wasn’t.

Now, I still don’t feel 100%. I’m still searching for answers. But overall I feel so much better. I know the impact that food has on our bodies and how we need to properly take care of them, because that’s the way God designed us. I know when I’ve been slacking (I don’t do it perfectly) and need to tweak my diet, my rest, and my stress management.  When I do have a bad day (which are fewer and farther between) I recover more quickly and know how to do this more effectively.

Through all this though, whether a good day or a bad day, I press into Jesus. He is my ultimate source of healing, of strength, of rest.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

4 thoughts on “My Experience with the Auto-Immune Protocol Diet

  1. Really great (and helpful) article. I will complete the Whole30 today and since the first of October I have lost 25 lbs. And, even more importantly, I am able to sleep at night without the burning pain in my stomach and joints that have plagued me for many years. I appreciate your words of wisdom and plan to carry on with the Paleo plan. An interesting article I read just recently listed which food plans were best based on your blood type. Mine is O+ and the best food plan for me according to my blood type is Paleo…so I’m on the right track! Thank you for your blog and I look forward to reading more!

  2. So proud of you! I have heard of eating based on your blood type, but haven’t looked much into it. I’m O-, so they are similar. Paleo seems to work well for me too. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. Well done. Were you ever diagnosed with a particular autoimmune disease. I too get panic attacks whe I am having an autoimmune flat. Many people don’t realize that if your body is inflamed your brain is too. Great article,

Leave a Reply