Autoimmune Paleo Diet - Should You Do It?

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.)

4.    Legumes

5.    Dairy

6.    Nuts and seeds - including spices and oils (this was a very tough one for me!)

7.    Eggs

8.    Nightshades - tomatoes, all peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and several spices

9.    Seed oils (only oils allowed are coconut, olive and avocado oil)

10. Sugar

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:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/

https://unboundwellness.com/

https://autoimmunewellness.com/opt-in/

https://thyroidpharmacist.com/

 

MyFitnessPal and Food Journaling: the Perfect Starting Point

Many of the people I talk to have great ideas and intentions to improve their nutrition and health, but don't know where to start. Logging or journaling your food intake is the perfect place to start your nutrition journey! If you want to start logging, I suggest using MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is a food logging app that is completely FREE! Well, technically you can pay for upgrades, but I have only used the free version and it is definitely sufficient! Here's how to get started: 

1. Download MyFitnessPal App to your phone and/or bookmark on your desktop computer.

2. Start TODAY by entering your current food intake. DO NOT pay attention to the calories or carb, fat, protein amounts it gives you. Eat what you normally would eat if you weren't logging. This will give you a good idea of what your baseline calories and macronutrient percentages are. Log this way for at least 2 full weeks. Remember, we want to make small, sustainable changes, and knowing your starting point is EXTREMELY important.

3. Look at your log for the last two weeks... find one small (tiny) change to make that you feel 100% confident that you can do everyday for two weeks. I'm not talking about drastically cutting your calories. That will not be sustainable or even remotely helpful to your long-term health. Instead, if you are noticing that you log a soda everyday, try to swap that out for a better, less processed option (i.e. water, tea, sparkling water). Still not sure what changes to make? I would love to help you! See my program options here!

4. Continue to log and making small improvements to your diet every 2 - 4 weeks.  

I personally like using MyFitnessPal because it has such a large database of all foods, it has some great shortcuts to logging (like remembering your frequently eaten foods), and it calculates my calories and macronutrients for me. I also use it to enter in my weight, measurements, and pictures. 

I encourage anyone who is serious about improving their nutrition to log their food everyday (at least initially). As a nutrition coach, it allows me to view what each client is eating, so that I am able to track their current habits and give them individualized goals and habits based on that current intake. Logging is also a great tool for you to learn about the foods you eat. Different foods have different macronutrient percentages (carbs, fats, and protein). Many people are surprised to learn what the actual amounts of carbs/fats/proteins are in the foods they eat! You might be surprised, too!  Also, eating different foods and different macronutrient amounts plays into how you think, feel, and perform. By logging your food, and keeping track of how you are feeling, you are better able to find YOUR optimal diet.


Just like doing anything for the first time, learning how to log is a huge part of the process. At first, it may seem time consuming and hard to remember. I promise, once you get the hang of it, and make this a habit, it is very simple and hardly takes any time at all.
The key to changing your diet and improving your nutrition is knowing where you need to improve.

Start logging today!!

 

Glutamine... Because Winter Is Here

It's that time of year where we have to start taking this not-getting-sick business seriously.

Ever since college, I have gotten sick each and every winter. Until recently, I just accepted that this is what happens to my body in the winter. However, this year, I found a supplement that has actually made a difference.

Glutamine.

Glutamine is an amino acid. Not just any amino acid. It is a conditionally essential amino acid. This means that, typically, our bodies are gracious enough to produce enough glutamine on their own and therefore it does not need to be supplemented. However, if we are experiencing physical or emotional stress, illness, or trauma, our internal glutamine stores can become depleted. Since glutamine is a vital fuel source for the intestines and immune system, we become more susceptible to sickness when our stores become depleted! Think about the last time you were extremely stressed or injured. You may have also picked up some sort of sickness either during that time or shortly thereafter.

Glutamine has also been linked to gastrointestinal tract support. So for those who have any sort of gut permeability (leaky gut) issues, glutamine could also aid in healing and repairing your GI.

SIDENOTE - If you are eating processed foods for most meals and the majority of your calories are coming from processed carbohydrates, I suggest you start improving your diet before taking any sort of supplement, no matter how great that supplement is. Start with the basics first. When you have mastered the basics, then you can move on to supplements. The most drastic improvements to health come from eating real, quality foods in the right quantities. This is simple, but not easy. The good news is, I can help you with that. By taking small steps to improve your diet habits, we can make big changes together. Check out my different program offerings. If you are already dialed into your nutrition, and still finding yourself catching every sickness that you come into contact with, glutamine could definitely help you fight those off more effectively.  

My suggestion... Along with eating a variety of quality foods (most important), I suggest that when you start feeling the slightest bit under the weather, supplement with glutamine to ensure you stay healthy. There are no reported adverse effects to taking it, even if your body is already making enough, so in my eyes, it's better to be safe than sick and sorry! You can add it to your coffee, tea, protein shakes, etc.


Since I have been experimenting with healing my GI tract in relation to Hashimoto's, I have been taking glutamine daily (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition when the immune system attacks the thyroid glad - more on this in another post).  I usually add a scoop of unflavored glutamine to my morning berries, sprinkled on top, as well as my tea sometimes. It's completely flavorless, so adding it to your food or drinks is easy.

Let me know if you decide to try glutamine and how it goes! If you decide not to try it, I would also be interested in hearing more.

Stay healthy, my friends!