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Healing Through Food: The AIP and Me

Friends, I am beginning (another) journey with (another) special diet. And since so many of you followed along with my journey on the GAPS Diet, I decided to share this trip with you, too. I hope you find it informative…or at least interesting, even if only in a voyeuristic kind of way.

I have made no secret of my health troubles and write about it freely. By now, most of you are probably aware of my struggle with Ulcerative Colitis, bacterial overgrowth, and other various digestive disorders. Lest you think these chronic woes are simply “a really bad tummy-ache”, I assure you that these are debilitating illnesses that often have me laid out in bed for an entire day. I miss so much of life because of these illnesses, and because of the side-effects of the drugs to treat them.

It is my dearest wish to be able to eat food again without pain, and to have the energy and zest that I once had. So even though GAPS didn’t really work out for me, I have not stopped seeking healing. I do a lot of reading. And I do a lot of research. And I’ve found something interesting.

It might be more accurate to say that this diet found me, since I wasn’t really looking for a new diet. The one thing that GAPS did do for me was to put me more in tune to my body and how I feel after eating certain foods. I have known the effects of a few foods for years (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, beans/legumes). I knew that my body was refusing these foods and I have avoided them. But a few other foods worked on my system more subtle-y and it was impossible to tell that my body didn’t like them until I had spent months on the GAPS Intro Diet. Eggs, nuts, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants all cause me some level of digestive distress, along with any and all grains and starches. But these foods are such a big part of my diet that I have continued to eat them anyway (with the exception of the grains and starches). The emotional benefits of consuming them, in my opinion, outweighed the physical costs to my body.

In my research, I eventually realized that what I was eating was essentially a Paleo Diet. I didn’t research, nor did I care to research, the philosophy or the science behind the Paleo Diet, and so I didn’t really attach myself to the Paleo movement. All I knew was that the food was working for me. I was basically in it for the recipes. As I browsed for recipes, I encountered various iterations of that diet to “treat” different diseases. Eventually, I found the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which (a-ha!) eliminates the very foods that bother me–eggs, nuts, and nightshade veggies. But the very thought of figuring out more restrictions and finding or creating more recipes was simply overwhelming. I didn’t think I could do it.

Enter, Diane Sanfilippo’s book, Practical Paleo*. This book is a New York Times Bestseller, so it doesn’t really need my review or my recommendation. This isn’t supposed to be a review post, anyway. Suffice it to say, this book is fabulous in so many ways. The recipes, the research, the readability, and most of all the meal plans! When I saw that Diane had done all of the legwork for me–created a 30-day AIP menu, provided the recipes, and even made out the shopping lists–I decided that I might be able to do this diet after all.

The last remaining obstacle was feeding my family for the 30 days that I’d be cooking (constantly) for myself. I knew I didn’t have the energy to cook separate meals 3 times a day for 30 days. I had tried that on GAPS and it didn’t work out well at all. My solution? 30-days of freezer meals for the family. I already had the best freezer cooking resource on my bookshelf. I invited a good friend (a very good friend) to join me in an all-day cooking marathon and we chopped 10 pounds of onions, browned 18 pounds of ground beef, and stuffed 30 freezer bags with fresh meals. The result? 29 days of freezer meals for my family, and one for my friend’s family–a bargain price for all of her chopping and stirring and browning.

So what is this Autoimmune Protocol anyway, and how does Ulcerative Colitis fit into it? Well, Ulcerative Colitis is now accepted as an autoimmune disorder, a disorder in which the body mistakes part of itself as a pathogen and attacks itself. Different autoimmune disorders attack different systems in the body, but the general result is inflammation in whatever system is under attack. You may be quick to brush off the term “inflammation”, thinking of the time you stubbed your toe and it got red and swollen and hurt for a while. That was acute inflammation. Your body did what it was supposed to. It was hurt, inflammation set in; things got better, inflammation went away. With autoimmune disorders we’re not talking about acute inflammation. People who suffer from autoimmune disorders have chronic inflammation. Whatever part of their body is under attack is always red, swollen, and painful.

There are some studies that suggest that autoimmune disorders can be successfully treated simply by reducing the inflammation. The science behind these studies are full of medical terminology that I don’t begin to understand (have you ever needed footnotes for the footnotes?), so I can’t explain the how’s and why’s behind those treatments. But it’s enough for me to just see someone getting results from it.

The Autoimmune Protocol supports and enables your body to reduce inflammation over a period of time. If you’re following the AIP, you don’t consume foods that are gut irritants or that trigger inflammation or immunological responses (these include grains and gluten, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol). And you consume a lot of the foods that are soothing to the gut lining, easy to digest, and that promote healing. In addition to diet, the AIP includes lifestyle changes to promote gentle movement and exercise and reduce stress. Stress and the wrong kind of exercise (either high-intensity or none at all) can both contribute to chronic inflammation.

Will all of this make any difference? I really don’t know. But I have a good feeling that it might be the right direction for me. Much of it represents things that I am already doing or have done in the past. But my body is in a different place now than it was. And I have new perspective and can approach this diet with new intention. Maybe it will be helpful, maybe not. But for the next few weeks I’ll be here on Mondays to report what I’m eating (and not eating), what I’m doing (and not doing), and how I’m feeling.

And, as if blatant voyeurism isn’t enough motivation for you to join me here, I’ll be hosting a giveaway of Diane’s book, Practical Paleo, sometime in March. And I know you wouldn’t want to miss that.

* This item was sent to me free of charge. The items were given to me, but I am not obligated to provide a review and the thoughts and opinions are my own. I only provide reviews of items that I find to be truly worthy of recommendation.

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  • I have been researching info on autoimmune disease and eliminating nightshades from our diet.
    None of my research talk about soaking grains and nuts. Nor eating organic. Are these things important still?

    Rebecca Holton November 27, 2017 AT 4:01 pm
  • I love the idea of freezer cooking for 30 days. That is a lot of work but would be well worth it. My boyfriend and are are starting AIP. We’ve already done Paleo so we’re used to lots of restrictions, so hopefully this transition will be a bit easier.

    Amber January 12, 2016 AT 11:02 am
  • Hi I am starting the same journey will watch your blog with interest. I have been diagnosed with Graves disease I want to manage my disease with food and lifestyle changes spent 8 weeks in a coma July 2015 I believe this triggered the Graves. I don’t want to be a victim passively dealing with this illness I am a survivor so I’ll walk a few miles with you if you don’t mind .

    Trish Roche January 2, 2016 AT 11:21 am
  • I’m on day 3 of the AIP (autoimmune protocol of the Paleo diet) and already feeling like I need support. So glad to find this blog, and looking forward to reading on and finding out how it all unfolds for you. My autoimmune disease is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but I have grown increasingly symptomatic despite “normal” labs and have also determined to do what is within my power (changing my diet) to increase my wellness and hopefully slow the progression of the autoimmune process. I’ve already been off wheat, rye, barley and corn for three years, but the AIP feels significantly more restrictive. I’m relieved to learn there are others traveling a similar journey. Thank you.

    Aimee February 28, 2014 AT 1:35 pm
  • I learned through Tara Chester Grant that all my diseases were caused by leaky gut and bad digestion. I had so many labels from the doctor including: IBS, chronic fatigue, MS, brain tumor, restless legs, adhd…I never took their medications for them, I kept believing I do not have them and went on my merry way. I had a 40 year bout with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) that was hard to deny as it is the 3rd most painful disease (contentious large boils that open and drain often) but I had to deny it as the doctors did nothing but give antibiotics (don’t work) and or cut parts of your body off (which also didn’t work)…well I stumbled unto a blog by Tara Chester Grant (aka: about HS a little over 2 months ago. She personally educated me on leaky gut and bad digestion problems and suggested I start on the Auto Immune Paleo Protocol with no nightshades. In 2 weeks my so called “incurable” disease (HS) was in remission. I no longer have IBS and feel flipping fantastic! I know ALL my other stuff will go away. I also lost over 30 pounds and see a better life ahead health wise! Perfect timing for me as Tara just wrote the only book on the subject The Hidden Plague (Dec 13′) it is about HS and auto immune diseases, the AIP elimination diet, nightshades and etc. It is chock full of help and recipes to die for! I hope that others too will throw out everything in their fridge, cabinets and start fresh and kick disease in the butt & become fully alive and healthy….the only way that will happen is if you do it!

    Dawn December 7, 2013 AT 7:55 pm
  • This is the coolest website, I am trying the 30 day free trial! I have lived the last 30 years with chronic daily migraines, IBS, and other health issues. I have tried many things in the past but it wasn’t until I was finally diagnosed with Celiac and Dairy Allergy that things have been coming together. Nightshades and a definite trigger particularly tomatoes. I have been on the AIP for over 30 days and feeling much better but have a long way to go! I started my journey with SCD, which I still am on with practical paleo thrown in :) Good luck!

    nonimad November 12, 2013 AT 11:26 am
  • Kasha – YES! Fatigue can be the only obvious symptom of a food sensitivity. I am sensitive to eggs in that manner- if I eat them, within 30 minutes I feel as if someone has replaced all my blood with lead. The fatigue is so bad I literally can’t move, can’t think, can’t function for a good few hours after. No stomach problems, just crushing fatigue. I was on something like the scd and ate so many almonds I became allergic to those in the same manner as well. One of the several reasons I think that is a horrible protocol for people with a very compromised gut. No one who has leaky gut should be eating that much of a highly allergenic protein. Live & learn I guess.

    Oreo May 12, 2013 AT 10:48 am
  • I too hopes this helps and I will be checking in on your progress. I was recently diagnosed with Lymphcatic Colitis and dealing with some of the same issues along with dealing with Fibromyalgia at the same time (much longer time). I too believe food is the ultimate medicine! I will be reading up on her book and may be right behind you on the diet. I feel toxic and need help and not more pills!

    Thanks for the I go and good luck!


    Melissa March 20, 2013 AT 7:46 pm
  • Hi,
    I do wish you luck and I find it refreshing people like you on the web blogging and creating websites for others. I can tell you a little of my situation and you will see there are so many like you. We went through 3 years of horrible pain with our grandson. I kept pushing and he was dx. this Jan. with full blown celiac disease. It had to come from somewhere and since I am Italian my husband and I turned our house into a gluten free zone. Along comes paleo. this is where I have to introduce my husband to things. I have slowly been working through recipes and making adjustments here and there to make the meals what I need and a little something he likes.
    For example: I made a paleo stir fry the other day. For him I cooked some rice noodles. It was in a seperate pan so I had my paleo and he had a paleo plus but still the same meal. Eventually I will find other paleo recipes that will be more satisfying and he will get used to the changes. The fact is, I believe every family can adapt its making the choice. When you find a recipe you really like stash it into the family collection and have just one side for them. It makes for a great conversation at the table and you are making a meal for the whole family to enjoy.

    cristi March 20, 2013 AT 8:02 am


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