This is a guest post written by Jo Romero who blogs at Comfort Bites Blog, celebrating good, comforting food, whatever your diet or lifestyle.
Thinking of Starting the Autoimmune Protocol? Here’s what to expect…
When people start paleo, it can sometimes take them a little while to adjust, especially if their diet previously consisted of lots of pasta, chips and pizza. You might think: “Crikey, what the heck am I going to eat without grains and dairy?”. It all seems very restrictive. And then you find out about the Autoimmune Protocol.
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a lifestyle plan designed for people with chronic autoimmune conditions. It’s based on the paleo diet but further eliminates any food thought to stimulate the immune system. Sarah Ballantyne, who has written two books on AIP and blogs at The Paleo Mom describes it as “very simply an extremely nutrient-dense diet that is devoid of foods that irritate the gut, cause gut dysbiosis and activate the immune system.”
Sounds great, right? The only problem is that here in Britain, the NHS website waves off the concept of a ‘leaky gut’as “vague and largely unproven”. But it is hard to ignore the ever-growing collection of success stories – of people who say they’ve sent conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis into remission using the AIP diet and lifestyle. If you suffer from an autoimmune condition and have thought about starting AIP, here are some tips before you start…
- It’s paleo, but with a lot more taken out
As well as no grains, dairy, processed foods and legumes, there’s a lot more you’ll be cutting out of your diet, at least for a little while. Any food that’s considered to have the ability to trigger the immune system into action is eliminated in the first stages of the diet – so that’s nuts, eggs, seeds (including seed-based spices) and nightshades (vegetables or spices). Sugar, even in its natural form – in fresh and dried fruit – is also restricted, but not cut out completely.
- But it’s not for forever
Good news. The elimination phase of the diet isn’t meant to last for ages. Sarah Ballantyne recommends that you eliminate these foods until you see an improvement in your autoimmune symptoms and then start reintroducing them back in, one by one. This is important for good nutrition, as well as helping you to gauge whether any of them are personal triggers for you. Most people do the elimination stage for about 30 days before bringing foods back in.
- Work alongside your doctor
Even though you’re starting a healing diet, you should still continue to manage your health with your doctor. If you’re on medication to manage your symptoms, don’t just stop taking it. And, because AIP eliminates quite a few food groups, it’s definitely a good idea to have a chat with your doc before you start.
- You CAN eat dessert. Occasionally.
So, while there are no nuts, eggs or seeds on AIP, you can still make a lovely pudding for a special occasion. AIP bloggers are coming up with new and creative recipes all the time, like ice creams, panna cotta or trifle. Just remember that natural sources of sugar like maple syrup and honey are still sugar at the end of the day, and just because it’s AIP-compliant, it doesn’t mean you can schnaffle up the whole thing. Even if you want to.
- You (probably) won’t see a difference overnight
I started AIP to try and heal my psoriasis, which covered my entire scalp, elbows, knees and parts of my chest for 25 years. One year later, and I’m sitting here, with one patch the size of a 1p left, on the back of my neck. On AIP, I felt better after a couple of days. But it took me about eight months before I saw any real difference in my psoriasis. Be patient and keep eating nutrient-dense foods and getting lots of rest. Which brings me on to…
- It’s not all about diet
As with the standard paleo lifestyle, it’s not just about what you eat. Getting daily exercise, quality sleep, fresh air and reducing your stress levels are hugely important. Studies have shown that yoga can be good for a healthy immune system, and it’s worked wonders for me. You could have the most nutrient-dense diet there is, but if you’re constantly worried and anxious, you could still experience flare-ups.
Jo Romero blogs at Comfort Bites Blog, which celebrates good, comforting food, whatever your diet or lifestyle. Visit Jo’s AIP Recipe Roundup for AIP-compliant recipes, and find out more about Jo’s battle with psoriasis. For further information on the Autoimmune Protocol, and the science behind it, the best place to start is the The Paleo Mom.
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