Hey, my lovely friends! I’m excited to share about the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, aka Autoimmune Protocol with you! As you may have read in my previous posts, I did this diet years ago when I was in the thick of my battle with Autoimmune Hepatitis. Autoimmune hepatitis is in fact not a viral form of hepatitis. It is when there is chronic inflammation of the liver caused by antibodies made by your body that attack the liver cells. It can happen to other tissues and organs of the body, like the thyroid (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), the joints (rheumatoid arthritis), etc. I was in desperate need to decrease the inflammation in my body and to start to heal my gut, where all disease begins! So, I researched and scoured the internet and found the AIP diet! I printed out all of the info, and I took it to my gastroenterologist. He basically handed it right back to me and told me it was a bunch of horse$#!%. No joke! He said, “sure if you want to go buy the most expensive cuts of meat, knock yourself out but it’s not going to cure your problem!” I left that meeting pretty discouraged about it and I didn’t start the diet. I waited a whole year and a half until that same doctor told me that his protocol (the one I had been on for 6 years) was not working, and was not ever going to work. He said I would need a liver transplant if the next set of drugs (the side effects of which included cancer) didn’t work. Well, that set of drugs didn’t work, thank God! I then went back to my thoughts on alternative treatment options because I did not want to be getting a transplant at that young of an age (or ever!). Life after a transplant is not what you might think for many people! So, I decided before we went that route, I was going to give the alternative methods a try, and guess what?! They WORKED! I started the AIP diet in combination with an all natural supplement protocol that I found in a book by my now dear friend and mentor, Denise Otten. The book is called, “Curing Courtney” and you should definitely read it! It’s a heartwarming tale of a mother’s mission to heal her daughter from this life-threatening autoimmune disease after the medical treatments did not work for her. She followed the protocol by Dr. Burt Berkson. These books are linked at the end of this post. I was in remission from this protocol and the diet within 6 months! I couldn’t believe it! Six years of drugs and weakening my immune system, pumping me with steroids, the horrific weight gain, the insomnia, depression, acne, severe mood swings, uncontrollable stress and frustration, increased hunger and irritability, all could have been avoided if I’d known about this diet and supplement protocol. It speaks to how important it is that we fully research ALL of our options before we start long-term medical treatments. We don’t realize how damaging pharmaceutical drugs can be to our bodies over longer periods of time. We are taught to just trust whatever our doctors tell us and that they certainly have our best interest in mind. I’m sure most of them think that they do. But they never see the other side of what these drugs can do to our systems, because, when the side effects take hold and we start having OTHER problems they just send us over to the other specialists who deals with that problem. For me, the steroids caused a lot of anxiety and insomnia. So, what did they do? Just sent me over to the psychiatrist for some sleeping meds (which are addicting – and thankfully I didn’t follow through on it)! And, “Oh, you’re gaining weight? Go see the dietitian!” (who put me on expensive weight loss shakes that were 100 calories each. I got one meal a day of protein and vegetables and 2 shakes. Does that sound like enough nourishment for someone with a serious illness to fight?!) Anyway, my point is, you gottta consider your options before you just accept everything you’re given from the medical world. Do your research, join Facebook groups for whatever it is you’ve been diagnosed with. Talk to THE PATIENTS! That’s where you find the best and most information! Join groups for the drugs you have been prescribed. Find out what the patients are experiencing while on them and ask about their success with alternative treatments. Research, research, research! I can’t say it enough! It is your best tool to your best health! You have to take your health into your own hands. You are your best advocate and the person who you can trust the most!
So, now for a little information about the AIP diet… First of all, know that the AIP diet is not only for autoimmune disease. It works for all kinds of chronic inflammatory diseases. The entire goal of the Autoimmune Paleo Diet is to reduce inflammation in your body, particularly in the gut! Our mission here is to heal the gut mucosa. We do this by eliminating foods that trigger immune responses in the gut. Some of these foods you might think are completely healthy and wonder “why would that be causing me inflammation?!”
FOODS ON THE NO LIST: Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, legumes, wheat, dairy, sugar, gluten and other grains of any kind, quinoa, nuts, eggs, seeds, dried herbs from seeds like mustard, alcohol, chocolate (I know, WHHHYYY!!??? Chocolate is always on my no lists!! 🙁 ), coffee and black teas, artificial sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame, sodas including diet, and any processed oils like Canola oil or processed foods like cookies, crackers, lunch meats, canned soups, etc. You’ll want to stick to the produce aisles, meat and fish department, and frozen vegetables without any preservatives.
Why?? Because all of these foods are triggers for inflammation. While some of these things have very healthy components, for someone with an autoimmune disease they can trigger the immune system and cause more inflammation. So, we eliminate these foods for a period of time to calm the inflammation in the body. I eliminated all of these foods for 6 months until I saw that my liver enzymes were back down into the normal range. That meant that the inflammation in my liver was no longer active. Then, I slowly added back in some of the foods so that I was on the “regular Paleo Diet”. The regular Paleo Diet allows you to add back in nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), eggs, nuts, seeds, and chocolate (but very clean, cacao only! Do not worry though, there are many amazing chocolate brands out there that are Paleo approved!). You might not think that adding these few foods back into your life would make a big difference, but it really does! I feel like I can enjoy a lot of food now. I have remained on the Paleo Diet for years, with bouts of veganism and plant based eating. I have to adjust my diet accordingly to what’s currently going on in my body and my symptoms. But, I never eat gluten, dairy, or sugar. Grains and legumes are still hard for me to digest much of the time, but I try sometimes – always sprouted!
FOODS ON THE YES LIST: (I highly recommend focusing your mind only on the things that you can have. If you are constantly complaining and longing for things you can’t have, you will never be satisfied with the things that you DO have! I think this applies in all areas of life! 🙂 ) Fruits, coconut products like coconut butter, flour, and aminos (which taste similar to soy sauce and can be used in place of it in recipes!) vegetables, fermented foods, such as homemade coconut yogurt, kombucha, fermented vegetables, and non-dairy kefir, herbal teas, honey and maple syrup, vinegars, grass fed meat, organic poultry, wild caught fish, organic organ meat (I didn’t do this actually, but the organ meat is loaded with nutrients!), bacon without ANY preservatives (so your conventional brands of bacon and lunch meats are a NO), and unprocessed oils such as coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, as well as cultured ghee, which is like butter without the lactose. Always choose organic whenever possible. I know it is hard to find sometimes and also expensive. But, your body needs to be free from as many toxins as possible. Toxins from pesticides can REALLY affect you and your immune system! If you can’t buy organic, at least buy an organic wash and scrub them well. Check out this guide to help you decide which foods are most important to buy organic.
You’d be surprised at the things that you can still eat and how satisfying it is, especially when you try out some of the recipes. I will try to post several over the coming weeks.
The AIP diet is incredibly nutrient dense! When you eat a variety of all of these foods you are getting so many crucial vitamins and minerals that your sick body so desperately needs! When you have an autoimmune disease you are most definitely nutrient deficient. By eating these highly nutrient dense foods, you will feed yourself the nutrition that will help to heal your organs, tissues, and systems in your body to help bring everything back towards balance.
One person whom I respect so much in the Paleo community is Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. She wrote the books “The Paleo Approach” and “The Paleo Approach Cookbook”. Both of these books are where I send everyone who asks to to learn about the AIP Diet. I personally love “The Paleo Approach Cookbook” because I feel that it really explains everything you need to know about the diet and provides recipes as well! Sarah is an excellent person to follow on social media if you are interested in the diet, too, because she is always posting new and relevant information. She goes by the name “The Paleo Mom”. I will link her books and some of my other favorite AIP recipe books at the end of this post!
Now, you may be thinking, there is absolutely NO WAY that I can possibly eliminate all of these foods from my diet! I get it. I was there, too. It was one of the most challenging things I had ever done at that time in my life. But, honestly, it took about four weeks to get past all of the cravings (the first 2 were by far the worst), and then it was smooth sailing from there! I was loving the way I felt, the energy I had, the WEIGHT I lost! I lost 20 lbs in the first 3 weeks, and 60 lbs total in six months. It was fast! Taking sugar, dairy, and alcohol out were huge game changers for me!
My TOP TEN TIPS for starting out on this diet are to:
- Always be prepared for meals and snacks or else you will cave! Make a trip to the store every week with a list of your planned out meals and ideas for snacks. STICK TO THAT PLAN.
- Pre-make homemade crackers, cookies, and dips for when you get cravings! This was such a lifesaver for me! You know those sugar cravings that are so uncontrollable you think you might go crazy and eat an entire cake?? Yeah, those happen the first couple weeks on this diet and you MUST be prepared! I love these Plantain Crackers, these AIP Sugar Cookies, and these Coconut Cookies!
- Use Pinterest and cookbooks to find great, easy, recipes. When you’re sick you don’t want to be doing recipes that are too involved and can tire you out. I look for recipes with fewer ingredients that take less prep time. Find AIP recipe alternatives for your favorite foods like pizza, tacos, and burgers! They do exist! And, they’re GOOD!
- Try to think about food differently. Instead of thinking about satisfying cravings, or what you can’t have, focus on what that food is doing for you nutritionally. What nutrients is it feeding your body? What do those nutrients do to help you heal? Concentrate on the positive aspects of the food you CAN eat.
- Make a big pot of soup at the beginning of every week and eat it for lunch (or breakfast! I did this!) every day! It simplifies your daily cooking so you can just make one big meal like dinner, and not have to spend ALL day in the kitchen. My favorite soup of all-time is an AIP soup! I make it all the time even when I don’t need to be AIP. I make it for other people when they’re sick or when someone in their family died. I’ve even made it for Christmas Eve parties! Everyone loves it, and it’s incredibly comforting. It’s called Chicken Pot Pie Soup. You can make it in the crockpot!
- Invest in a crockpot and an Instant Pot! I did not have an Instant Pot when I first did AIP. But, it would have been a lifesaver if I did! It cuts down on cooking time so much! You’re probably going to eat a lot of sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash, and instead of waiting an hour for them to cook, they’re done in minutes in the Instant Pot! The crockpot is great for slow cooking roasts and soups overnight, too! You can also do large amounts of bone broth in the crockpot, which is very healing as well!
- Get your family on board! You will need support. Ask them to please respect your new eating habits and not try to tempt you with the typical fare at family functions. You need to explain to them how important it is that you stay on track for your health. A bite of something off the diet here and there WILL make a difference, so don’t give in and don’t let others tempt you. Ask your spouse and children to not keep cookies and chips and things that you used to love in the house anymore. Or at least ask them to hide it and not eat it in front of you. The first few weeks are the hardest, so the cravings won’t last forever, but it is helpful to not have those temptations in your face in the beginning. (I can now look at all kinds of desserts and admire them but not feel the urge to eat them at all! It does go away!)
- Eat before you go to parties, or at least bring your own food! You can make a veggie tray with an AIP approved dip for yourself, some AIP approved chicken bites on a skewer with veggies, there are still lots of little appetizers and snacks you can make for parties. Life isn’t actually over 🙂
- Look at restaurant menus before you go. I like to use the app YELP to search for gluten free restaurants, or paleo friendly restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask for things specially made. I always do and they always accommodate. Even if the waiter is rude, don’t let that bother you too much. They probably have no idea what life is like for you and it’s only a lack of understanding and empathy. It’s amazing how much more compassionate you’ll become on this wellness journey!
- Drink lots of water with lemon! Not only will this help curb your cravings for food, but it’s great for cleansing your body, too! It will help flush out other toxins that can be contributing to your inflammation! I used to carry around thermoses of water with lemon or sparkling mineral water with lemon. I couldn’t have made it through without it!
I hope that this is helpful to you! Please know that I am only a message, email, or comment away and would be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns that you might have. I was so thrilled with how changing my diet from the standard american diet (SAD) to AIP helped me so much! I would love to see it help you or a loved one. Have you tried the AIP diet before? If so, please leave a comment. I would be so excited to hear how it helped you!
Now, since it’s fall, I am going to leave you with an easy AIP Turkey Pumpkin “Chili” Recipe!
AIP TURKEY PUMPKIN CHILI
- 1 lb organic ground turkey
- 2 1/2 cups organic AIP approved Beef Broth or Beef Bone Broth (check the label to make sure there are no unapproved ingredients)
- 1 15oz can of organic pureed pumpkin
- 1 chopped organic zucchini
- 2 TBS Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 16oz bag organic frozen butternut squash
- 2 cups (or more) organic frozen cut green beans
- 1 10oz bag organic frozen beets
- 1 dried organic bay leaf
- 6 garlic cloves, minced (I use a garlic press and it is amazing! Linked below)
- 3/4 tsp organic ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
- a couple sprinkles of organic ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp organic dried oregano
- 1 tsp organic ground sage
- If you aren’t AIP, and want to make this a Paleo chili, you can add 2 chopped red peppers and a chili pepper to add some spice, as well as 1/2 tsp of All-spice. You can also add 1 BPA-free can of organic diced tomatoes. You will want to decrease the amount of broth (at least by half) if you add the tomatoes.
- Feel free to replace some veggies with other veggies. I often use frozen cauliflower instead of beans, or I add frozen chopped carrots in. If you don’t like beets, try radishes instead! You don’t have to use frozen vegetables. You can definitely use fresh! I just like to save myself some time and energy. You can definitely be creative and flexible with this recipe! It tastes even better the day after when all of the flavors have mixed together 🙂
My little helper, Barkley! He’s my 2 year old mini Goldendoodle baby!! 😀
- Turn your stovetop burner to medium-high heat. Add ground turkey to a big pot or dutch oven and cook until no longer pink. Turn the heat to low.
- Add the broth and pureed pumpkin, and stir.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and bring it to a boil, while occasionally stirring. Then turn the heat back down to low, cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Enjoy! I love to bake or steam sweet potatoes (steam in the instantpot in 25 minutes!) and serve this over top! 🙂
Please let me know how you like the AIP chili! It is not quite the same as usual chili, so it might take a little getting used to. I hope that you enjoy it and it brings you some warmth and healing 🙂