I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I’ve spent the last several months visiting with doctors (general, rheumatologist, dermatologist, allergist and immunologist) and researching new ways to naturally calm multiple autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, erythema multiforme/Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and eczema.
One doctor kindly offered to put me in a sterile room for two days with nothing but water to drink, then we could start testing foods one by one.
Another offered prescription injections that have some terrible side effects, including cancer.
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But I did hang on to the idea of trying an elimination diet. After testing for 72 food and environmental allergies, with none giving a positive allergic reaction, my immunologist explained that I’m having immune system reactions to foods in my diet and they are likely at the root of my newest diagnosis, eczema.
So, as you might imagine I’ve done hours upon hours of research. I’ve listened to personal testimonials on YouTube, read doctor’s blogs and joined health-related Facebook groups.
I’ve decided the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is the best route for me. It’s a 30-day food elimination diet created by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (also known as The Paleo Mom) that targets the most popular foods that cause immune system reactions in people with autoimmunity.
During the AIP, your digestive system gets a chance to heal and repair itself while you learn which foods illicit negative immune system responses, such as making my eczema flare or RA fatigue elevate.
Since the AIP is a derivative of the Paleo diet, the protocol requires followers to eat lots of meat, bone broth, gelatin and collagen. I plan to remain vegetarian, so I’m choosing to alter the protocol to fit my personal dietary choices and needs.
Unlike the traditional AIP, I will allow myself to have beans, pure hemp protein (I like Bob’s Red Mill) and some legumes (lentils, chickpeas and peas) to ensure I get proper nutrition while doing this 30-day program meat-free.
If I feel like at any point, my health is declining due to this protocol, I will make alterations or stop.
So, what happens after 30 days?
I get to start reintroducing foods back into my diet one at a time, every three or four days. It’s a slow process, but well worth the results and answers that are forthcoming. It would be nice to enjoy a meal without feeling like I ate a brick or have the flu. It’s also no fun battling an itchy eczema flare or spending extra time in the bathroom.
Here’s a quick overview of what I’m eliminating for 30-days, then re-introducing one-by-one:
- All pre-packaged processed foods with ingredient lists. (However, canned coconut milk and a few limited-ingredient items are allowed.)
- All refined, added sugars. (Small amounts of pure, raw honey or maple syrup are OK.)
- All grains (I’ve cut out gluten-containing grains since 2010, but now ALL grains will go.)
- All dairy (Yep, no cheese! I’ve had trouble digesting dairy for awhile, so this will be easy.)
- All eggs (Fun fact: Egg whites are known to be inflammatory. During the re-introduction phase, you start with only egg yolks!)
- All oils, excluding olive and coconut oils
- All alcohol (This includes vanilla extract, which is generally prepared with alcohol.)
- All seeds and nuts (Bye-bye peanut butter. Dang.)
- All nightshade vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, goji berries and peppers (spicy, mild and sweet)
Here’s a list of the approved and unapproved foods for the AIP, and how the process works from Dr. Ballantyne’s website, if you’re curious.
If you think this might be something you’d like to try, please consult with your physician before making such a radical dietary change. What’s good for one person, is not always the best idea for another. Multiple doctors have recommended a food elimination diet to me after several years of testing and diagnosing my autoimmune conditions.
My revised diet will focus on wholesome vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes prepared from scratch. I’ve already been testing out some new AIP-compliant foods and discovered that I like plantains!
Here they are pan sautéed in coconut oil and served with a sprinkle of sea salt and some raspberries. So yummy!
Since many autoimmune conditions are exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep, a focus on self-care is also part of the protocol. I’m working on incorporating more yoga, meditation, hobby time, reading and sleep into my schedule to help reduce daily stress levels.
If you’re intrigued to see how I’m doing on the AIP, visit me on Facebook for daily updates!
I’ve also started an AIP board on Pinterest with some helpful tips and recipes that I hope to try. As you might imagine, it’s mostly desserts, vegan ideas and recipes for baked goods!
Until next time,