Nutrition has been the key to unlocking my wellness. Since beginning the autoimmune protocol a number of months ago, I have been asked many, many questions. Here are the most commonly asked questions I hear, and my answers:
What kinds of food do you eat?
I currently eat according to the autoimmune protocol, also known as paleo autoimmune protocol, or AIP. The autoimmune protocol is an elimination diet, and a stricter version of paleo.
What are the benefits of the autoimmune protocol?
Technically speaking, the autoimmune protocol helps reduce inflammation in the body, improve immune function, and heal the gut. Personally speaking, the autoimmune protocol, along with healthy lifestyle choices, has provided me with incredible relief from many of my autoimmune disease symptoms. I have also noticed improved immune function, and improved digestion.
Why are on you on the autoimmune protocol?
I started the autoimmune protocol in January of this year after I was officially diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was working with a naturopath at the time who recommended that I change the way I eat. I was already eating what most people would consider very healthy, but I would allow “cheat days” each week. I will never forget sitting across from my naturopath, and hearing that I was really sick and that I had to clean up my eating in order to allow my body to heal. I did my own further research, and I implemented the autoimmune protocol, realizing that by eliminating certain foods, my immune system and my body should heal in time. The struggle was real. It was hard to cut out my favorite foods, and it took me time to find new fresh, organic whole foods to replace them. I dug out all the self-control I could muster and it got me through until I could FEEL the difference in my body.
Has your weight changed since you began the autoimmune protocol?
Yes. I have lost 15-17 pounds. I went from around 127 pounds to around 110-112 pounds, which weight I have stayed consistently at for four months.
In the years prior to beginning the autoimmune protocol, I exercised most days of the week, and ate what most people would consider very healthy. I worked out with a trainer a couple of days a week, and exercised on my own as well. I was not overweight at all, but deep down, I had known for several years that I was holding on to extra weight. I knew how hard I was exercising, I knew how well I ate, and I knew the results did not show my self-discipline and hard work.
In the months prior to starting the autoimmune protocol, my health had deteriorated to a point that my work outs were extremely difficult to keep up, and then impossible to keep up. Although it broke my heart, my body had enough. I had to stop my workouts.
Within one to two months of stopping my workouts, I began the autoimmune protocol. The weight I suspected I had been holding on to fell off, even without the intense exercise.
How long have you been eating according to the autoimmune protocol?
As I write this, I have been on the autoimmune protocol for about six months. From my understanding, most people stay on the autoimmune protocol with all eliminations for 30-90 days, then they begin reintroductions. When I started the autoimmune protocol, I was planning on starting reintroductions around my 60 day mark. And I did. It did not go well. Within days of starting reintroductions, many symptoms returned with a vengeance, including fatigue, acne, body aches, anxiety, and others. I whole heartedly admit I did not handle reintroductions correctly. If I am being honest, I knew deep down my body was not ready for reintroductions. At that point, I was listening to my taste buds, not my intuition. Once my symptoms returned, I quickly went back to the autoimmune protocol with all eliminations. Within a week or two of going back, my symptoms improved again.
How long do you plan to stay on the autoimmune protocol?
Honestly, I do not know. I have a newfound belief that my body will let me know when it is ready for reintroductions. It is not there yet.
Do you ever “cheat?”
No. I do not. But I did. Once. I was at a family gathering, and the family I was visiting did not know how I eat, and I was uncomfortable and embarrassed to tell them. I only see this family once or twice a year. I worried about offending them by bringing my own food. I worried about what they would think. I packed my own food, but left it in the car. I decided that I would try to mingle during dinner in hopes that no one would notice that I did not eat. That plan went out the window when I realized it was a sit down dinner, and that we would all be eating at the same table, at the same time. There would be no way to hide that I did not eat. Not wanting to offend anyone, I grabbed a plate and put on a few items that I figured I could get away with, and I ate. Boy did it taste good! But, boy did my body not like it! Eating that one little meal ending up taking me out for almost a week when my autoimmune disease symptoms returned with a vengeance.
That experience was a painful learning experience that provided me with a number of realizations and lessons. The biggest realization was that I needed to learn to speak up and communicate about my health and nutrition. I needed to let go of my embarrassment. I knew that my family and friends loved me, and they wanted me to be healthy. All I needed to do was communicate with my family prior to the party, let them know the situation, assure them that I loved and appreciated them, and was looking forward to spending time with them. I knew from that day on, I needed to trust that our family and friends have my best interest at heart, and would not want me to eat anything that would set my health back.
How do you eat out?
Eating out can be tricky, but is totally manageable with planning. I will be writing a blog post about my experience with eating out on AIP in the coming months.
Do you cook AIP for your whole family?
Yes and no. I cook AIP meals, but sometimes add one or two items for my husband and kiddos that are not AIP, that I do not eat. Sometimes our entire meal is AIP. Both of our kiddos are gluten free, for various reasons, so our meals are always gluten free.
Is the daily cooking exhausting?
Yes! It can be. There is an adjustment period. For me, I just had to suck it up, get in the kitchen, and start cooking and preparing all my meals. I had to know exactly what I was eating. I had to get out of the “let’s go pick up dinner” frame of mind. Yes, I did eventually start eating out, but even at the best restaurants where I explain the situation to the waiter or manager, I have still had issues. I can not stress enough how important it was for me to have complete control over all my meals for a period of a couple of weeks, so I could see whether or not the autoimmune protocol helped me. Even now, as I write this, I am taking a break from eating out (except for an occasional green juice or smoothie bowl from a couple of places I trust). I am taking a break from eating out at restaurants because I had a bad experience at a restaurant I trusted, and had symptoms return for a number of days. It was rough, and I simply do not want to go through that again yet.
How do you travel while eating AIP?
Traveling while eating on the autoimmune protocol is 100% doable! It does take planning and preparation. It also helps greatly if you can have access to a kitchen while traveling, but even if you do not, there are tricks and hints. I will write a blog post on traveling while on the autoimmune protocol in the coming months.
Are you a foodie, and do you like to develop recipes?
I am not a foodie. At least, I am pretty sure I am not a foodie…since I am not entirely sure what a foodie is. I like to keep what I cook quick and easy for the most part. I bought a couple of AIP cookbooks when I first started AIP, but they were overwhelming to me. It was easier for me to look at the list of foods to include in my diet, and to shop and cook based on my favorites. I would buy my favorite foods and cook them in quick and simple ways that were manageable and familiar to me. Since I was introducing a whole new way of eating, I felt like it would be too much to try to learn to cook and bake in new ways at the same time.
Within a couple of months, I added in foods I was unfamiliar with, and my husband and I learned to improvise more in the kitchen. We learned what flavors we like, and tried new ways of cooking in time. Is that called developing recipes? Even if they are quick and simple recipes? I am not sure, but I will share some of our family favorites over the coming months.
Is the autoimmune protocol isolating? Where do you turn for support?
Yes, for me, the autoimmune protocol was isolating for a time. I am the only person in my circle of family and friends who eats this way, and it was extremely isolating. For months, I felt alone in the autoimmune protocol.
When my health was approaching its lowest point last year, it was hard for me to function, so I decided I needed to take a break from social media. I cut Facebook and Instagram out of my life for at least six months, if not longer. I simply needed laser focus on my little family and my health. It was a blessing, and was what I needed at the time.
Eventually, from a place of feeling alone in my autoimmune disease and healing, I felt inspired to share my story on this blog. My web designer encouraged me to also share my story on social media. Further, she encouraged me to look for others on social media who were sharing their wellness journeys as well. I was terrified to return to social media. I did not want it to take over my life, or distract me from my family or my health goals. I ultimately decided to take a leap of faith, and opened my @wellnessunraveled Instagram account. Since opening my account, I have been able to find a huge support system on Instagram in the AIP and autoimmune disease community. It is so comforting to see so many others who eat the way I do, who are overcoming the challenges of living with an autoimmune disease, and who are healing.
Do you think the autoimmune protocol is for everyone?
No, I do not. I believe in bio individuality. I believe in learning to listen to our bodies. I believe in prayerfully seeking inspiration when healing. I believe that what my body’s nutritional needs are at this time may be different than what your body’s nutritional needs are. I believe that my body’s nutritional needs will change in time, and I will adjust my nutritional journey as needed.
Phew. That was a long post! I have shared some of my nutrition journey, and I would LOVE to hear about yours! Please comment and let me know about your nutrition, or if you have a blog post, or Instagram account about your journey. I would love to follow along your journey and be Insta friends!