Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going AIP - The Beginning

Often abbreviated AIP, the autoimmune paleo lifestyle, is focused on healing intestinal damage known as leaky gut. When a person has a leaky gut they have food particles that escape the small intestine and make their way into the body cavity which then sets off an autoimmune response. Every person who has an autoimmune disease has a leaky gut. A few Facebook groups exist for those of us who follow the autoimmune paleo lifestyle. Here and there you will see comments from people asking questions about weight loss but autoimmune paleo is not about weight loss. Losing weight ends up being a perk but it isn't the focus. I've never owned a scale and I think all women should throw theirs out. We are so much more than what we weigh or don't weigh. Here is a scene on the weight subject from one of my favorite movies and books Eat Pray Love.

While you won't see Pizza Margarita on AIP I am thankful for the wonderful recipes I have come across. Last night I made turkey and dumplings that reminded me of the pot of chicken and dumplings I used to make with my grandmother. However, there are a number of us who struggle in the beginning. When I first began I did not have any withdrawal side effects because I couldn't really fall off of the Whole 30 wagon without a reaction prior to starting AIP. I also thought that because this was the third time I gave up foods that could potentially cause problems I thought it would be a piece of cake. Like anything else, it's tough at first and then you get the hang of it but after a month I hit a wall. My symptoms were gone and I was bored of eating meat and vegetables. Sure I'd make lemon coconut fat bombs or Russ's Flatbread from The Paleo Approach Cookbook but I began to miss foods that were paleo. I didn't want to cheat and throw in the towel but I was missing variety and my seed spices.

So one morning we went out to breakfast. Following AIP there is no dairy, eggs, or grains which pretty much eliminates 99.9% of any SAD breakfast menu. (SAD is the acronym Standard American Diet) I had become stressed and exhausted from watching every little bite that went into my mouth and so I just ordered. I ordered huckleberry gluten free pancakes, eggs, coffee, and bacon. None of it was AIP and I felt the effects of it for the next two days with a headache, achy muscles, and swollen and achy hands. A few days later I made a pot of chili. I knew that I over did it at breakfast so I thought I'd just add 1 non AIP thing to the chili, cumin, and a speck of tomato paste. That day I thought tomatoes and I were still friends. You're supposed to reintroduce one thing at a time but I was so tired of feeling deprived that I threw caution to the wind. From the people I've talked to online this seems to be common. Many of us have started, hit the wall, threw caution to the wind, and then we end up back at AIP with a much better resolve. I've missed cumin terribly, probably more than any other spice, and so I ate the chili with cumin and found myself in the bathroom within 30 minutes.

It's been a little over 6 weeks since I started following the autoimmune protocol and I've finally made peace with it. I think a huge portion of that is simply learning new ways to cook. Once you have some quick and easy ideas it doesn't seem so daunting. I've also added back a few foods which has helped. Black pepper doesn't seem to bother me. Yeah! I'm also fairly certain that almonds are still OK too. Cashews on the other hand made my mouth and throat burn within minutes of eating them. Having a nut reaction for the first time in my life was scary but thankfully nothing serious came of it and now I know not to throw back handfuls of nuts until I'm sure of where I stand.

Damage to my gut has occurred over numerous years so to expect it to heal in 30 days isn't likely. I have met people who have followed AIP and they've been able to add back foods that they were previously sensitive to. So far I don't think I've met anyone who has accomplished this in less than a year. I know that I can't go back, nor would I want to. I feel so much better, but I finally had the realization that this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.

What is allowed on AIP?
That is a pretty good list of food but it comes with a number of challenges which I will discuss shortly.

Here is the list of foods to avoid from:
Now if you were to walk into most restaurants and try to order something without grains, dairy, nightshades, or canola oil you'd have a tough time. Never mind the fact that the meat they are offering most likely came from a corporate farm and it's packed with antibiotics and high levels of Omega-6's because it was grain fed. All of my closest girlfriends have autoimmune diseases and when I look at the food that is being offered to all of us, everywhere, I get it. It's a challenge to easily find anti-inflammatory/paleo foods let alone AIP foods unless you cook it yourself. Whereas the foods that have the potential to work against us are the staples of the inflammatory Standard American Diet. (SAD is such an appropriate acronym.) In the December/January 2014 Issue of Paleo Magazine Jason Kremer DC, CCSP, CSCS states:
Besides excessive weight gain and difficulty losing weight, chronic inflammation has been linked to at least seven of the 10 most common causes of mortality in the United States, which include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimers disease, diabetes, and nephritis.
So what is a girl to do? When it comes to eating breakfast in a restaurant I try to aim for a late breakfast at 11 or later because most restaurants are serving lunch by then. If that isn't possible I order a steak with vegetables and fruit as sides, no nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers). I'll also ask if they'll cook up some of their omelette veggies without the eggs as a side dish. At home I often have leftover roasted vegetables for breakfast either on their own or with a meat of some sort. I ask for the meat to be plain, no seasonings, no oils. Most restaurants don't have many vegetables on their breakfast menu which is why I try to aim for the lunch menu.

Since I've been at this for awhile I can now walk into most restaurants and finagle my way through a menu to find something to eat. It's often not exciting but at least I don't go home hungry and I can still keep a bit of a social life. My usual orders are a burger, if the meat is high quality, without a bun and AIP approved toppings with a side salad. I then mix the burger with the salad for a big hamburger salad. My other option is a piece of meat plainly cooked, no oils or seasonings, and vegetables. I'm thankful for the restaurants that offer baked sweet potatoes not only does it make me feel like I get to have dessert but otherwise it's usually a double order of steamed vegetables.

Will I ever cure my autoimmune disease? No. Once your body learns to attack itself it can't be unlearned. What I can do is avoid the foods that trigger my symptoms when they cross the wall of my small intestine. By doing that I can help my gut heal and reverse my symptoms. One of my favorite AIP bloggers Phoenix Helix has written a wonderful article on The Difference Between Reversing Autoimmune Disease and a Cure.

I began AIP over 2 months ago and I will tell you that it has come with challenges for sure. There are some people who begin AIP as a last resort. Many of those people don't have much difficulty sticking with the strict diet from the get go because so many find a sense of normal living that they have been searching for over a number of years. Let's face it, western medicine focuses on putting band-aids on problems by writing prescriptions to mask symptoms. If you have a doctor that focuses on your lifestyle and encourages prevention then you should hold onto them tightly. In The Paleo Approach Community on Facebook there are so many people looking for physicians who have read or at least understand The Paleo Approach. When I joined the group in January there were 33,000+ members and now it's nearly 35,779. There are so many people looking for help in this group but this group is also a wealth of support. The Paleo Approach Comminity is made up of people from all walks of life, with all sorts of autoimmune diseases, in various stages of recovery. Odds are that whatever you are facing there is someone in this group who will lend an ear and offer advice.