Recently, I have been experimenting with a new diet, called the Autoimmune Paleo Diet. I am not trying this diet to lose weight, gain muscle, or for any desired aesthetic purpose. I am trying to heal (hopefully). For those of you who do not know, I have an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.
Hashimoto's occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces hormones that coordinate many functions in the body (metabolic rate, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, and bone maintenance). Symptoms include fatigue, cold sensitivity, hair loss, weight gain, muscle aches and stiffness, joint pain, and dry skin. Eventually, the thyroid could completely shut-down as a result of this attack. This is exactly what I do NOT want.
SIDENOTE: There are many other autoimmune conditions, and if you think that you could be suffering from Hashimoto's or any other autoimmune, please, go to your doctor and get checked out!!
In my mind, it makes sense that if I am putting something into my body that it doesn't like, it will let me know. Hashimoto's is my body's way of saying "no" to something that I am giving it, and letting me know that it doesn't like it. That is why I decided to start experimenting with food. If I can put my Hashimoto's into remission by changing something I am eating, that's reason enough to get through some hard times in a diet.
The Autoimmune Paleo/Protocol (AIP) Diet is not easy. It's a stricter version of the paleo diet and is basically an elimination diet. Elimination diets have you remove foods considered to be irritants, for a period of time, and then phase them back in slowly to see how you react to each food. Where the Paleo diet removes grains, dairy, legumes, and all processed foods, the AIP diet takes things much further. Foods eliminated on the AIP include:
1. All alcohol
2. All Caffeine (including teas)
3. Grains (and all pseudo-grains like quinoa, millet, etc.)
6. Nuts and seeds - including spices and oils (this was a very tough one for me!)
8. Nightshades - tomatoes, all peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and several spices
9. Seed oils (only oils allowed are coconut, olive and avocado oil)
11. Processed foods - basically anything that comes from a package or restaurant
12. NSAIDs - non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.)
AIP is focused on healing. In order to heal the gastrointestinal tract, foods must be added in that aid in healing. Some of these foods include, fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.), bone broth, fish, quality meats, and as many vegetables (especially greens!) that you can manage!
My clients know that I do NOT advocate removing any whole food source (eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy, and whole grains) from a diet, UNLESS you are having some sort of reaction to these foods. Many of the foods above provide excellent nutritional content (although some do not, and excluding those foods from your diet would be beneficial for everyone... I'm looking at you processed foods). Taking out real food sources for no reason makes absolutely no sense. However, if you are experiencing some sort of reaction (in my case, Hashimoto's), experimenting with an elimination diet could help.
Like I said earlier, the AIP Diet is not easy. It's extremely difficult. The whole idea is to totally eliminate the foods that could be causing a reaction for a good chunk of time (at least 6 weeks) and then reintroduce, or "test" them one at a time. This takes patience. It also takes time. Re-introducing foods once/twice a week takes many months. It does not allow for slip-ups or having things outside of the "Diet" in moderation. I am not a fan of diets that have a set of inflexible "rules" as that usually leads to feelings of failure and guilt, and are typically very unsustainable. These are not feelings I want to associate with eating, and no one should. That being said, this is different to me. This has an end in sight and most importantly, the potential to heal.
I am now on the downhill slope of it, and I am adding foods back into my diet. I am excited and hopeful that I can learn what will work for me. Remember, there is no one "perfect diet". A perfect diet is going to look different for each person. It takes time and effort to learn what works best for you. What worked for your co-worker, sister, or neighbor may not work the same for you. We all have different genetic makeups, lifestyles, cravings, and so forth. If you are wanting to learn more about how you can individualize your diet and maximize your potential, I would be happy to help! Check out my service offerings here.
Should you do AIP?
I would not suggest it for anyone that does not have an autoimmune condition. It’s not a sustainable diet to be on, and should only be done if it has the potential to truly benefit ones health.
If you do have an autoimmune condition, research wisely and make a very conscious decision to complete it before starting. Personally, if it puts me into remission from Hashimoto's, it will be worth it.
Some of my favorite AIP websites are: