When I started the autoimmune protocol I jumped in feet first … maybe it was head first!! It sure felt like I had LANDED on my head. I was overwhelmed and flailing around trying to make food that I liked. I also found that I needed many more prepared meals than I had anticipated since breakfast is just another meal … 21 meals a week versus 14 if you were used to toast or cereal for breakfast.
When starting the AIP – seven mistakes to avoid is a guide only. There is additional advice that many seasoned to the autoimmune protocol could provide.
Please note that we are talking about the diet and the support component of the AIP. I can’t stress enough that sleep, moderate exercise like walking and stress reduction also play key roles in regaining our health.
Avoid going “cold turkey”:
One day I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet with mega amounts of legumes, dairy and the occasional bit of fish or chicken. The next day I was “full bore”, “full steam ahead”, “up to my neck” AIP. Also, drowning, overwhelmed, stressed out and “going under” AIP.
For some people starting one hundred percent AIP from day one is a successful way to begin and it might have been for me as well if I had had some advice about batch cooking, kitchen staples and recipes that didn’t adapt well.
When I began the paleo autoimmune protocol I didn’t know anything about what a paleo diet involved or even that there was such a diet. When I visited blogs with both paleo and AIP recipes I was very confused. I hadn’t yet found the Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable which showcases AIP recipes on a weekly basis.
One way to begin a gradual incorporation of the AIP is to begin a Paleo diet first. There are two reasons for doing this:
- paleo is a less restrictive diet so it can be a good way to ease into the AIP. Paleo eliminates all grains, beans and legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, refined vegetable oils and processed foods. Over and above that the AIP eliminates eggs, nightshades (including spices derived from them) and nuts and seeds and seed based spices.
- occasionally someone coping with an autoimmune disease benefits enormously from a strict paleo diet and then there isn’t a need to take it one step further and follow the autoimmune protocol.
Avoid kitchen burnout:
The secret to success, especially in the beginning, is to have MANY cooked meals in the freezer in serving size portions. This usually means batch cooking. The work of batch cooking, in the moment, seems insurmountable but to me this is THE KEY to success. If you have prepared meals on hand you are less likely to cheat. If you have prepared meals on hand which you LOVE you are even less likely to cheat.
It took trial and error on my part to create recipes that I really liked and that could be frozen for use in the future. I am a bit picky. I don’t love thyme or sage and, in the beginning, pork products caused me grief in terms of gut pain. I am also allergic to shellfish.
This is a list of my recipes that make larger quantities:
- burger patties
- liver in my meatloaf
- best fried chicken
- creamy cauliflower casserole
- Maggie’s chicken soup
- bacon liver mini-meatloaves
- turmeric broccoli chicken roll ups
- breakfast sweet potato beef hash
Treats are discouraged on the AIP and we are advised to keep our fructose intake to between 10-20g per day. For me, knowing that I have an AIP compliant treat in the fridge or freezer can make all the difference. It can prevent a trip to a nearby store in search of something sweet which invariably means processed junk food.
Avoid old Mother Hubbard’s bare cupboard:
It wasn’t until I had a few tried and true sauces and condiments on hand that I found the autoimmune protocol much easier to stick with. I found the following indispensable:
- decadent coconut butter
- cassava flour
- Worcestershire sauce
- nomato sauce
- mellow sauerkraut
- creamy coconut yogurt
- poultry seasoning (this does contain thyme and sage)
Avoid adapting old favorites:
I’ve been a scratch cook all my life and yet when I tried to adapt my favorite recipes I failed dismally. The spices that I normally cooked with were “off limits” and then tomatoes … no tomatoes in soups and stews made for less than appealing meals.
Someone on Facebook recently commented that the easiest way to start the AIP was to adapt your existing recipes. This wasn’t true for me. I didn’t start to enjoy the AIP meals that I made until I created my own AIP recipes and also tried other blogger’s recipes that were specifically AIP.
Avoid stripping your pantry bare:
What? Don’t chuck out non-AIP foods that are sitting in your pantry? This is obviously a controversial statement. There are some households where you are the only person following the autoimmune protocol and it would not be feasible to get rid of everything in your pantry or fridge that isn’t AIP. On the other hand, if you have SAD cookies in your pantry and others in the household want to eat them, I would appeal to their good nature and seek a compromise. Maybe throw out the SAD cookies but make an AIP treat that is yummy that can take its place?
I’ve kept all my nightshade and seed spices in the pantry since I think that I may get to the point that I can add some or all of them back into my diet. On the other hand I had bags of various bulk flours like romano bean and corn that I did get rid of. My husband isn’t going to make anything with these items and I will never incorporate them back into my diet.
I think that the happy medium is:
- remove all non-AIP foods from your fridge and pantry that you CANNOT resist.
- leave products that could be classified as reintroductions (basically all paleo foods)
- reach a compromise with members of your family regarding what has to stay and what must go
When I jumped into the autoimmune protocol I was not on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat. I know, I know … I was a dinosaur. I can hear myself now … “I am NEVER going to be on Facebook … it is such a time waster”.
When I started my blog I had to become active on Facebook (and Pinterest) and now regret not being there from the beginning. There are amazing AIP support groups on Facebook that offer guidance, recipes, links to blogs, and hugs.
These are some of the groups that I have found (there must be many more out there so leave a comment if I’ve missed a favorite):
- AIP Support
- Autoimmune paleo recipes
- AIP for you and me
- AIP elimination diet support group
- the Paleo Approach community
Avoid the “30 day reset”:
There is information on the internet promoting the autoimmune protocol elimination diet as a “30 day reset”. If after 30 days your symptoms are mostly gone and you are feeling really well then by all means start reintroductions. If, however, you have followed the AIP for six months and you still have some symptoms you may need to check in with your healthcare team to see if something else may be going on. If you are not feeling really well and most of your symptoms are still bothering you it is going to be very difficult to determine what is a flare from say stress or poor sleep and what is a reaction to a food that you have introduced. Some of us have been pretty strict AIP for 9-10 months, some for over a year. This is a very INDIVIDUAL journey and you will need to listen to your body before reintroducing foods.
Perhaps if you are going to start the autoimmune protocol you will stumble upon this post and other information on blogs like Phoenix Helix, Autoimmune wellness and the Paleo Mom . When starting the AIP – seven mistakes to avoid can assist you in those first few weeks of preparation.