One of my readers suggested that I write a post about my struggles with the autoimmune protocol (AIP) so here goes.
Back in October 2015 I decided to start the AIP after hearing Mickey Trescott speak about autoimmune disease. I jumped in with both feet. One day I wasn’t following this diet and the next I was (with the exception of black pepper). The challenges I faced in the beginning were:
- unfamiliar recipes
- websites that had both paleo and AIP recipes
- not on Facebook
- a spouse who wanted to eat everything as fast as I made it
- upper body exercise
Later on there were additional challenges:
- friends who didn’t understand
Components of the AIP that weren’t challenging for me:
- stress reduction
Initial struggles with the autoimmune protocol:
Growing up I ate a fairly traditional diet (for those times) of meat, veggies, potatoes and dairy. Later on I explored a vegan diet; a raw foods vegan diet and latterly a mostly vegetarian diet with dairy and the odd bit of fish. When I was planning to visit my daughter she would always ask me “what are you eating now Mom?”
One thing that helped me enormously was that I am a “scratch” cook and knew how to prepare good basic dishes, although heavy on the beans and nuts. So the problem in the beginning of AIP was not a lack of cooking skills but in finding recipes that I liked. I tried a number of things like liver pate that “everyone likes”. I have to tell you, not everyone likes it! I must have tried five different ways to cook liver and intensely disliked every one of them. I finally came up with a recipe for “liver meatloaf” which I can eat if slathered with my cauliflower sauce (best to make it with chicken livers).
Making soups and stews without tomatoes was difficult. Not being able to use store bought sauces and not having substitutes was a huge challenge. I seem to be one of the few who don’t like coconut aminos so most recipes that called for a “soy” sauce were out. Though I did create a Worcestershire sauce that I like.
Once I had a nucleus of tried and true AIP recipes and once I stopped trying desperately to make soups and stews and once I incorporated easier proteins like salmon fillets into my diet, I wasn’t as stressed.
I am retired and I can remember thinking how does someone who feels really unwell, who has a job, a spouse and children manage? I was COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED and I couldn’t begin to imagine how this AI sufferer did this? The answer is, not all that well until he/she begins to feel better.
With hindsight, I would now suggest to anyone starting the autoimmune protocol that they batch cook and freeze enough meals for a two week period and then start when this is on hand or else ease in gradually by starting paleo first. If paleo alone doesn’t provide enough healing then start the AIP.
Websites with both paleo and AIP recipes:
It took me quite a long time to find websites that had strictly AIP recipes and recipes that I really liked. In the beginning I didn’t have many of the ingredients that were called for and many recipes used herbs like thyme which I am not fond of.
I have to say that the sites that have both AIP and paleo recipes can be quite confusing and even misleading for a newbie.
One resource that I found much, much later on was the recipe roundtable on Phoenix Helix which is a lifesaver for those who are new to this elimination diet.
I started the AIP (with black pepper) in October of 2015 because I thought that I couldn’t give up black pepper AND all the lovely nightshade spices, (boy did I miss chipotle).
Shortly after I started the AIP I traveled by car to a course which lasted for three weeks and required crossing the Canada/US border. This meant that some of the things that I wanted to bring across the border might not be allowed and this curtailed the types of homemade foods that I prepared. Not knowing that there were paleo and AIP foods available in some stores I resorted to adding cheese back into my diet.
Then at Christmas time we flew across the country and I cheated again by having some wine and chocolate plus eating a homemade beef jerky that I had made which had wasabi in it (wasabi almost always has contaminants in it). This resulted in a major flare of pain and sores all down the sides of my tongue.
My strict adherence to the AIP didn’t start until I returned home from that Christmas trip and eliminated black pepper. I have been strictly AIP since the beginning of January 2016 with a few reintroductions.
Not on Facebook:
For years I said that I didn’t want to be on Facebook, that it was a time waster etc. However I started this blog at the end of April this year and realized that I no longer had a choice … I needed to be on Facebook. In retrospect it would have been a lifesaver, since there is sooo much information out there and sooo much support in Facebook closed groups like:
- AIP Support
- Autoimmune Paleo Recipes,
- AIP for you and me
- AIP and Paleo Canada
- AIP Elimination Diet Support Group
A Spouse who ate up everything as fast as I made it:
In the beginning I don’t think that my husband realized that this elimination protocol would help me very much. After all, hadn’t I tried many many diets already? So whenever I batch cooked he would want to eat it all up (he has a VORACIOUS appetite) which was very, very frustrating. However once he could see the improvements (see about me) he stopped asking to eat all my food.
Thankfully, and I have no explanation for this, I was able to hike up a steep trail behind our home even when I was at my worst with neuropathic pain. The pain was primarily in my arms … there was soreness behind my knees but this didn’t stop me from hiking. I’ve never indulged in extreme forms of exercise so I had already incorporated into my daily routine, less strenuous exercises such as walking and hiking which are ideal for those of us on the autoimmune protocol. As a consequence of severe pain I was unable to do any exercise involving my arms so there was significant muscle atrophy prior to starting the AIP. It has been a struggle to improve muscle tone in my upper body simply because of atrophy and significant reduction in flexibility.
Challenges later on:
Confession: I have to say I was feeling a bit smug because soon after I started the AIP I no longer needed to snack and sugar cravings had mostly disappeared. Fast forward about seven months and a camping trip that brought cravings to the fore. I wanted a glass of wine sooo badly. Candy even more. When we are in a situation where nostalgic feelings arise then we are pulled to the comfort foods that we associate with that experience. I was okay for the first five or six days but as I began to run out of some of the AIP foods that I find comforting (like my orange coconut date bars, my beef jerky and my sweet potato avocado pudding) the pull of prohibited foods became really strong.
Friends who didn’t understand:
About three months in on the AIP a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile wanted me to go out for a meal with her. I explained that I would love to have her come over for lunch but that I didn’t want to go to a restaurant yet. Her response was that we would wait until I could go out for a meal (Indian food) because just coming over to my place wouldn’t be very special. Also, in a couple of months when I was no longer doing this we could get back to normal. Arghhh!
I have to say that I have been to many restaurants but I bring my own food … this works in a larger party but not a party of two.
Aspects of the AIP that weren’t challenging for me:
This is an area of my life where I could still use some improvement though the fact that I am no longer in the work force in a very stressful management job has helped enormously to reduce my levels of stress.
Prior to implementing the AIP I was not sleeping more than an hour at a time and now I am often sleeping for three hours without waking. Pain was the culprit in interrupting my sleep. Now that this is no longer a problem I am seeing improvement although the habit of waking that began when I was in such pain is slow in resolving. I’ve always gone to bed at a decent time and been in bed for 8-9 hours so it hasn’t been challenging for me to adhere to a sleep schedule.
For me, the autoimmune protocol has truly been a miracle. Both my adult children thought that I was dying and they can’t get over the improvements in my health. The challenges are minor when compared to the results and as time goes on, this way of eating becomes easier as taste buds change and your repertoire of recipes increases.