Does Being on The Autoimmune Protocol Suck?

Autoimmune disease comes in all different forms. I have been on the autoimmune protocol for about 11 months.  I spent a whole year before going on it contemplating whether or not I should do it.

It is daunting. Overwhelming. A. Lot. Of. Work. All that cooking. I got used to it. 

I had questions. What will I be able to eat? Will I be able to go out to eat? Will I be able to have any fun? What will a social situation look like? I adapted. 

I have had such a love for food my whole life. It was my friend when there was no one else. It was love. It was comfort. It was my everything. It was the way I showed love or that I cared about someone. I cooked for them. I baked. I loved to bake. Bread, cake, cookies, brownies, muffins, more bread, more cake. What my kids didn’t eat I did. I love sweet things. I love chocolate. I loved sugar. None of this is allowed on the autoimmune protocol. So, you bet, I took a long damn time to decide to do this knowing what I would have to further cut from my diet. We can be positive and say, “Look at all the good stuff you CAN have.” Well. You can have a lot of stuff. Lots of vegetables. Veggies up the wazoo. You can have beef heart! And Liver! Yum! Do you hear the sarcasm? When 39 years of your life is consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD), this feels like kind of a big deal. Especially if you have emotional ties to food. 

I know I am supposed to be eating those nutrient dense offal things. I am not because I can’t get past the idea of what it is. The texture even. Gah! No thanks. 

When I did this. I was all in with what needed to be restricted. But I was not adding in any offal. So I didn’t and you know what? I still felt really good. My thyroid numbers got better. Then, as I started to feel better I added some foods back in. Not in the “proper” way but in a way that worked for me which was like this: You put pepper on that meat? Okay. Let’s see if I have a reaction to it…. No reaction. Okay. Pepper seems to work.  

One day in August I made plantain brownies with carob. The recipe called for 2 eggs. I ate half the pan in about 12 hours and had a major reaction but it wasn’t how I expected. Not even 12 hours in to eating those brownies did I become so irritable that I could not even stand myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was raging. My poor kids. So, no eggs for me. I reinforced that idea when I mistakenly ate some gluten free crackers that had egg yolks (no wonder they were so good) as a snack before bed and the next day became increasingly irritable. That really bums me out. I liked eggs. I know that I dot’ want to live life in a state of constant rage though so I am willing to cut them out. I am not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong. I am actually a little pissed. I have a pity party every so often and do the whole “why me?” thing but then I let it go. The more I do that the worse it gets. 

Now it is 11 months in and I have let some things slip. I have a vegan gluten free bread every so often and some Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers on occasion. They don’t seem to wreck my digestion and if I don’t eat them every day it seems to be fine. 

I have decided that if I am so restrictive with my diet, I am unhappy. I do my very best most of the time and on occasion I do enjoy something off the protocol and I don’t feel bad for it. I still always eat gluten free but occasionally have some dairy. Dairy and I don’t get along so if I have it, it is usually just a tiny bit. Like a lick of ice cream or a dab of butter. I definitely feel better when I stick closer to the protocol. I have not reintroduced peppers or eggplant but have done well with some of the nightshade spices like chili powder. I am not so sure on tomatoes though. I have to do a "real" reintro to know for sure. That would mean just eating tomato instead of adding tomato in to a recipe and wondering if that is what has caused the issue. I'm not very diligent about doing a proper reintro of a food. I let life get in the way. 

The real killer for me is sugar. I am addicted and I have intense cravings which are related to a yeast overgrowth which I am working on killing off. Too much sugar has resulted in me having to deal with psoriasis and this last go round with it gave me two new patches to deal with. Needless to say I got really mad when these popped up. I first got mad at myself for eating stuff I know is bad for me and then I got mad that I just can’t be normal. That is the most frustrating part for me. I just want to be like every one else sometimes and I can’t. When I look back on my life though it seems like I never have been able to be like every one else. When I try to be I find Idon’t feel like myself. So I have come to realize that my path is to take the road less traveled and see what I find. For me that is this new life of stress management, sleeping when I need to and eating so that I don’t continue to stay sick. Being well means different things for different people and my mission is to help you figure out what well means for you. 

What do you do that makes you feel good?

Your body talks but are you listening?

I know I wasn’t. This is week 6 on the autoimmune protocol. Or maybe week 7. I have lost count and truthfully, don’t care all that much. My mind feels so good, my energy could use a little push along but it is getting there. I feel pretty good. I think it is really amazing how our moods can be so affected by food. Our bodies talk to us and all we have to do is listen. 

Food cravings? 

They usually mean that your body is asking you for something. 

Chocolate cravings are a sign of magnesium deficiency

Sweets cravings in general are a sign of a need for chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur or tryptophan

Bread cravings can indicate a need for nitrogen

All of these things can be found in a nutrient dense whole foods diet but sometimes we have a hard time deciphering exactly what our body is asking for and we often choose the wrong things and then still end up looking for something else to eat or more of what we just ate. Ever had that happen? 

That is what led me down the path to autoimmune disease. I was not listening to my body. It was screaming at me loudly and I kept hushing it up. My thyroid was going crazy- what you might call a thyroid storm. That storm killed my baby at 34 weeks gestation. My doctor had not a clue why he died.  A few years later I had a severe case of ringworm that I got from my job working at a gym. (By the way, the only thing that worked to get rid of it was a homeopathic remedy I bought online. I got no help from conventional medicine) five or so years later and I am itching my arms and chest to the point of bleeding with no conceivable idea why. Finally it hit me- there has to be something going on inside that is causing this to happen. I enlisted the help of google and discovered that maybe removing gluten from my diet might help. So I did and it did help. Itching was gone. Voila. This intrigued me so I did some more investigating and found my self a naturopathic doctor who did lots of tests and helped me on the path to where I am today. I took more initiative on my own to clean up my diet, cut sugar and eventually enter in to the autoimmune protocol. I did not want to go there but I am so glad I did. 

When I do decide to reintroduce foods I figured there was only one way to do it. Everything you will read will tell you to go at least 30 days strictly on the protocol. The reason for this is that it will give your body plenty of time to heal enough to let you know what foods are not okay for you. Your immune system will have had a chance to relax rather than being in a constant state of alert. Much of what has caused that inflammation in your body will have left, but your immune system will have enlisted some cells to be watching for those foods which are a problem to re enter your system. When you reintroduce something that your body does not want, your body will let you know by an inflammatory response. What that will look like for you will be vastly different than what it will look like for someone else. For me, things are showing up in my skin. You should have no reaction at all if your body is feeling pretty good about what you have reintroduced. 

The longer you wait to reintroduce foods you have eliminated, the more healing your gut can do and the more peace you will bring to your immune system. One thing to keep in mind though is that if this whole diet is going to cause you more stress, then wait to do it. That is okay. 

What I am learning is that you can reintroduce foods that you miss the most to see how you react to them and move on down the list of favorites from there. There are some things to think about in this though. If you are going to work on reintroducing dairy start with the least offensive thing first and that would be grass fed ghee, then grass fed butter and so on down the line. 

Many people recommend starting your reintroduction with egg yolks before reintroducing the whole egg. The white of the egg is what you will more than likely have an adverse reaction to vs. the yolk. The yolk has all the nutrients and make sure there is no white on it so rinsing it under cold running water is ideal before eating it. 

How do you start reintroducing a food?

First, make the food you are planning to reintroduce. 

Second, take a few small bites. This will keep any reaction you may have to a minimum. Wait 15 minutes or so and if you do not react, then eat a little more and wait 15 minutes longer. If nothing eat a little more and then wait a couple of hours. If you have no reaction, you will want to try a regular portion of it. Eat it and enjoy it and then wait. Listen to your body over the next three days. How do you feel? Your body can take up to three days to react so pay close attention but don’t drive yourself nuts! Look for symptoms of your autoimmune disease- skin rashes, joint pain, fatigue, digestive issues, poor sleep quality, brain fog, mood issues or anything else you used to experience. If any of these show up then you know to avoid that food and you should wait for all the symptoms to go away before trying another food. 

If the food you tested produced no reaction, then you can go ahead and eat some of it every day for a good week and pay close attention to your body. Listen to it very carefully. A response can accumulate over this time period where it would not have been noticeable at first but after a week of eating it, you know for sure it is not something you tolerate. If your body is happy after a week then you are good to go. 

The best thing you can do for yourself and your autoimmune disease is get to know your body. This will make the reintroduction process that much smoother. You know how your body feels from day to day. If a symptom you feel is similar to how you may feel sometimes then you have to question if it is normal or a reaction. 

Personally, I have dealt with a lot of denial in even thinking I needed the autoimmune protocol. My ND at one time said I am on my own personal autoimmune protocol and frankly, that just wasn’t cutting it. Sometimes the things we love most (potatoes and tomatoes and chocolate) are just the things we need to eliminate to experience true healing.  I am in denial about reintroductions too. I am good at fooling myself or talking myself in to believing that it just couldn’t be true that chocolate or nuts might not be good for me. I am also a bit scared to reintroduce something and find out for sure that I may never be able to eat it again. The thought of never eating chocolate again ornot being able to enjoy a treat made with almond flour really sucks. 

So with that I wish you much luck on your AIP journey and your reintroductions. Please tell me in the comments what has worked for you and what you had to give up. 

Peace and Love, 

Stephanie