I’m not sure if foray is the right word. It has been more of a plunge with the occasional setback. But either way, it has been an enlightening and extraordinarily informative experience. For the first time since I can remember I don’t have random shooting gut pains throughout the day, my digestion appears to be entirely boring (see: normal and healthy). My skin appears to be clearing up for the first time since age 12, and my overall well being is improved. Some things aren’t particularly tangible, more of a feeling of lightness and lack of concern.
Everything I have learned about the autoimmune protocol comes from Sarah Ballantyne’s website www.thepaleomom.com and her book, The Paleo Approach. Her recommendations and explanations for included and excluded foods are incredibly in-depth and unbelievably well-researched. I would recommend that anyone even remotely interested in the AIP head over to her site and check out her book. The information is indispensable, fascinating, and fun.
The autoimmune protocol is a paleo-type diet and involves avoiding these foods (directly from www.thepaleomom.com):
- Seeds – including coffee, chocolate, and seed-based spices
- Non-nutritive sweeteners
Probably my favorite thing about the autoimmune protocol is the focus on nutrient density. It is something that I didn’t pay much attention to when I was concerned with macronutrients and calorie content in high school and college. Now I work to maximize the nutrient content of my diet every day. This means introducing foods like sardines, liver, and bone broth, all of which I used to think were disgusting. It’s taken some work, but when I think of these nutrient-dense foods as vital supplements I find them much more tolerable. Much to my surprise, I am actually beginning to enjoy eating sardines a couple of times a week. That is something I definitely never thought I would say!
Another very cool aspect of the autoimmune protocol is the fact that it is really a type of elimination diet. There are some people who may have to stay on the protocol forever, but it is likely that as your gut heals you will be able to tolerate some of these foods quite well. After several months on this protocol, I think I would actually be fine if I have to stick with it indefinitely. The food is amazing and I feel better than I have in a very long time. If maintaining this level of health requires that I stick to a yummy, nutrient-rich diet, I’m perfectly ok with that. The only real issue for me is eating out or at other people’s houses. I’m optimistic though that if I properly heal I won’t respond as poorly to accidental exposures.
Because a major goal of the protocol is gut healing, our bodies are able to recover and hopefully will eventually not respond negatively to a lot of the foods on the list. I’m still in the beginning phases of the autoimmune protocol so I have been completely avoiding all foods on the above list, aside from black pepper (technically a seed). I did have a couple of accidental exposures and one attempted reintroduction, which served to show me that I need to continue to be really strict about this for a little while.
There is more to the autoimmune protocol than just diet. It truly is a lifestyle. Sleep and stress management are essential components to healing. The Paleo Approach details these components as well, with great scientific explanations and suggestions for implementation. I haven’t totally mastered either of these aspects, but I’m working on it and definitely making progress. I just started up yoga classes and am already completely hooked.
The last few months have been incredibly healing for my body. No more alopecia, my digestion is regulated, the eczema on my hands is almost completely gone, and other minor skin issues I struggle with have improved greatly. After so much diet experimentation over that last 10 years, I am so excited to have found a lifestyle and way of eating that really seems to be helping me. I am looking forward to seeing how things continue to progress.