I have decided to dive in head first with the Autoimmune Protocol. Never thought I would commit to it but at this point I feel I just don’t have anything to lose except my symptoms. So, what is this whole idea about? The autoimmune protocol or AIP is about promoting healing, removing inflammatory foods so your body can calm down and work on healing itself. Food as medicine. I have been gluten free and dairy free for 5 years. I have been on a paleo diet for probably 3 1/2 years. Truthfully, I didn’t really pay attention to when I made the switch to a paleo type diet. I really just call it eating real, whole, nutrient dense foods instead of paleo because that is really what it is. None of this, “Is this allowed on the Paleo Diet?” stuff happening over here. It is more like, “What sort of reaction might I have to this?”. I am just like my clients at this point: sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was really hoping the paleo diet would be enough for me to feel my best but as my luck would have it, that was not the case.
What got me “sick” in the first place was the good old Standard American Diet or SAD and some really poor eating habits that I have had since I was a kid. I grew up eating processed foods like nobody’s business. Remember Swanson TV Dinners? Boxed frozen donuts you could bake in your oven? Canned pie fruits? My mom cooked a lot too, don’t get me wrong but she also worked so we had a lot of “convenience” foods growing up and I didn’t complain. I loved it. We had dessert every night, a solid rotation of chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, or a variety of fruit crisps made with the pie filling (cherry crisp, apple crisp or blueberry crisp) served with cool whip. I remember those fondly. They helped me develop a serious craving for sugar. We ate a lot of bread too. I still love bread or at least the idea of it. I still kind of miss it probably because my family doesn’t eat the way I do so there is still bread in the house. So, a childhood of the Standard American Diet coupled with the Autoimmune Thyroid problems running rampant in my mom’s family lead to me having Hashimoto’s and trying desperately to feel good again.
The first couple of months on just a gluten free diet, I felt pretty good. I had tried to replace most of my old favorites with gluten free versions, either store bought or home made. That lasted a couple months like I said, then I had some food allergy testing done and found out I also should avoid dairy, eggs, oats, yeast (bye bye gluten free bread), shellfish (didn’t like it anyway) and goats milk. The biggest hits for me were dairy ( I was living off cheese to keep me full since I couldn’t have gluten any more), eggs and yeast. I gave all that up and was the best patient my naturopathic doctor ever had. She even told me she loved how compliant I was. Yay me!
This all helped but I still suffered from terrible PMS, fatigue, brain fog and my thyroid numbers have not been in any labs normal range for most of the last five years. Something wasn’t right. My ND told me to keep sugar to a minimum. That didn’t work for me. I was an all or nothing type of person and so I kept sugar in because I was severely addicted. I saw this ND for several years and asked her if I should be on the Autoimmune Protocol. She said that she had me on what was basically my own Autoimmune Protocol which made sense since we are all bio individuals, there would not be a once sized fits all protocol. I was happy with that because I didn’t want to give up nightshades (especially tomatoes, potatoes and peppers), nuts or my treat that became a regular thing- corn chips.
Cut to the beginning of 2015. My ND had moved her office about an hours drive from me and I had found an MD who was willing to treat my thyroid based on my symptoms and not just my labs. Plus she was willing to test me for more than just TSH and she was about a 40 minute drive for me (See this post for more explanation on what TSH is.). With my Nutritional Therapy Background, I knew what I needed to do to heal so I didn’t think I needed my ND anymore. I did however go to a chiropractor that had a “Thyroid Protocol” because I was so tired all the time and I didn’t know what to do about it. This protocol gave me a taste of the Autoimmune Protocol which I did well on and started to feel pretty good three weeks in so he took me off the protocol and I started to eat nuts and sugar and some other things and it completely wrecked my digestion and I was back to feeling tired again. I knew I should go back on it but without someone telling me that is what I should do, I was basically lying to myself that I was fine and that my gut was healed.
This fall I became a RESTART® instructor teaching a five week nutrition class with a sugar detox built in to it and I also decided to start the Autoimmune Protocol. Cutting out sugar has been life changing for me. I relied pretty heavily on fruit before the detox and having to be strict on the sugars with my class was the best thing I ever did. I really felt good. So about 8 weeks in to AIP and three weeks on a sugar detox, I made pumpkin pancakes from Practical Paleo which used 4 eggs and I ate the whole batch for dinner. Very shortly afterwards I became really irritable and I couldn’t figure out why. The next day, discussing food intolerances with my RESTART® class I was telling them how a food intolerance can show up as irritability. Duh. So, I realized that eggs were not ready to be reintroduced. I also did not reintroduce them properly so that didn’t help either.
Shortly after that class ended, it was Thanksgiving and I made a traditional dinner for everyone that was gluten free. I enjoyed some of my gluten free stuffing and ate green beans, both of which are not allowed on the elimination phase of AIP so today I am back to square one of the elimination phase of AIP eating only healing, nutrient dense foods for at least the next two months. I will then try to do a reintroduction the proper way which I will talk about in later posts. I am hoping you will follow me on this journey to healing so that you can see it can work for you too.
I thought I would list my current symptoms for my Hashimoto’s so we can get a baseline of what is going on. I will also list my latest lab work so hopefully we can compare results for the better.
Symptoms (since we are all bioindividual, your symptoms may be different than mine):
- cold hands, feet and bum and sometimes a general cold to the bone feeling (especially in winter)
- sleep disturbances (especially when stress is not managed)
- irritability, mood instability
- heavy periods (I do have an iron deficiency but hypothyroid women tend to have heavier periods)
- brain fog
- slow to process information (if you listen to the Real World Paleo Podcast you can hear that I take some time to develop a thought)
- a general feeling of blah (almost as if I am depressed but I am not)
As of 10/6/15 my labs were as follows:
- TSH 6.13 uIU/mL high
- FT4 .74 ng/dLlow
- FT3 2 pg/mL normal
I keep forgetting to ask my doctor to test my Reverse T3 since it hasn’t been tested for a year (it was 11.4 ng/dL November 2014 which is in their normal range).
I should also list for you what supplements I am taking to help this process along:
- Betaine HCl (Biotics or Pure Encapsulations)
- Fish Oil (Biotics or Metagenics)
- High dose Vitamin C (Metagenics)
- Adrenal support (Biotics or Pure Encapsulations)
- B Complex (Pure Encapsulations)
- Vitamin D3 (Biotics)
- Selenium (Pure Encapsulations)
- Zinc (Douglas Laboratories)
- Vitamin E (Pure Encapsulations)
- Iron (Pure Encapsulations)
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil (Green Pastures)
I do not recommend you buy supplements of any kind from retailers like Amazon and here is a good blog post explaining why. Buy only from a trusted and reputable source or from a practitioner like myself. Buying from a practitioner like myself not only helps me make a living but helps to run my website and podcast. I also think you should, run, not walk away from anyone who wants to fill you up on a boatload of supplements without first finding out exactly what might be troubling you. I never ask my clients to take this many supplements even though these are pretty basic and are needed for my particular situation. It is always best to start out slow with supplementation and work on getting your digestion working first so at a minimum you might want to try the Betaine HCl which can be purchased at health food stores or food cooperatives or Whole Foods. No one has a better HCl than anyone else. There is no proprietary ingredients. Stomach acid is stomach acid.
My next post will talk all about what foods to include in AIP and what foods to exclude and the reasoning behind all of it. Join me here next week, won’t you?