What Led Me To AIP
You’ll come to learn I post a lot of recipes that help me feel good and “heal me.” It wasn’t without lots of trial and error until I learned what worked for me. Back in 2019, I started feeling really sick. I was so short of breath at work and around my house it was annoying more than anything.
That Summer, I went to Montana to visit family, and spend a week in the beautiful Glacier National Park. I had to stop every 20 feet to catch my breath, it was ridiculous. Looking back now, I’m lucky I didn’t die. I constantly had chest pain in the middle of my chest. Unfortunately, I have a stupid amount of medical history for my age, so every test in the book was run.
I was losing weight and getting sicker by the day. I had every CT scan, ultrasound, blood test, pulmonary function test, echo, stress test, stress echo, and exercise stress test. It even went as far as having a bone marrow biopsy done. Like WTF?
After about 6 months of non-stop testing, all I got was a dose of steroids and this is probably related to your autoimmune disease. Talk about the biggest letdown ever. I HATE that answer, and I’m sure many of you do too. I guess because it felt like the ball was in my court, and the blame was on me. Like I did something to cause this?! I’m literally doing everything you ask me to, how is this my fault? I eat right, I exercise, I have an active job…where did this come from?
I hate the vagueness of autoimmune disease, and I hate that it is always there as a scapegoat.
Later I would learn that my symptoms were manifesting into something way more serious, that I wish I would have known at the time (or am I glad I didn’t know?). It was time for me to take matters into my own hands, and I finally committed to an AIP diet.
What is AIP?
AIP stands for Autoimmune Paleo or Autoimmune Protocol. If you are on my side of TikTok, you will see these incredibly skinny girls with perfect abs saying “watch how I healed my gut.” It is nothing like that. However, there is something to be said about whatever is going on in your gut. I’ll be the first to admit, what you eat makes a difference. I consulted a functional medicine nutritionist, spit in a tube (which btw is really hard to do with Sjogren’s), and found what set me apart.
On AIP, you pretty much eat meat and vegetables. The principle is to remove all things that could cause inflammation for several months, then slowly reintroduce them to see how your body reacts. It is not easy. I repeat it is NOT easy. You have to give up pretty much everything – dairy, eggs, nuts, gluten, sugar, alcohol, your free time. It takes A LOT of discipline and A LOT of planning. This is where those kitchen essentials come in handy!
The functional medicine nutritionist guides you in what you can naturally consume to make up for your body’s deficits whether it be in food form or from supplements. She taught me a lot about free radicals, and what I was specifically missing from my genetic make up that I could supplement with diet changes.
Motivation and Discipline
How did I get through this? I had my eye on the prize, I had one goal. A baby. I wanted so badly to have a family, and a beautiful baby. I knew this would be my only shot to get as healthy as possible, on as few meds as possible, so I could one day carry a beautiful baby girl into this world.
That was my motivation. I was on this diet for about 6 months, until COVID hit and all they had in the grocery were chicken thighs and maybe one bag of spinach, if you got there at 7 am. My AIP journey ended there, but it did change the way I eat forever. I actually crave vegetables now.
My body feels fulfilled when I have certain foods. I know gluten and sodium will leave me bloated, swollen, and miserable. I have very minimal dairy – because who can actually give up cheese? I never once let go of coffee. That is an addiction I will take to my grave! I do know that processed sugar makes me fatigued and cranky. The best part, my husband actually prefers AIP meals! Now he still loves his spicy, fried chicken, pasta, and all the carbs in the world. BUT, one of his favorite meals is AIP.
I’m Sorry, You Said What?
If you are new to AIP, it is literally a whole new world.
Along with AIP, comes a lot of new terms. There are things like arrowroot starch, cassava flour, nutritional yeast, and A LOT of coconut. Y’all my head was spinning. WTF are these things? How do I even do this? Fortunately, there are a lot of resources to help and more companies are coming on board with stocking allergen free foods (hit me up *wink*).
I had to learn what these new ingredients were and how to use them. My biggest worry was where am I actually going to find these things?! Luckily, I have a Whole Foods in my city. Fortunately, a lot more smaller stores and big box companies are starting to carry more AIP friendly staples.
Need Help Getting Started?
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Here are a few people that helped me along:
Terry Wahls, MD
First and foremost is Dr Terry Wahls. Obviously started following her story because of her last name. Then I learned she had debilitating MS. I’m a PT, so that drew my interest. She created a whole Wahls protocol that nearly healed her MS. Now this is very intimidating – you have to eat like 9 cups of vegetables a day and include things like liver into your diet. Don’t be me, don’t start with this protocol because it is intimidating.
However, I do think I owe her thanks for my incessant vegetable cravings. She has excellent peer reviewed, published work on her protocol and the effectiveness on MS symptoms. She also has a cookbook and book. Again, I warn you, these recipes will have your mind blown by the type of ingredients she calls for. I don’t even think I could find some of them within a 50 mile radius of where I live.
Michelle Hoover, NTP
Next, the ever loving millennial, Michelle Hoover. Once I came across her Unbound Wellness blog/IG/cookbook, I was like, “okay, now we are talking.” She does an AMAZING job turning your typical foods into AIP compliant meals. If something she makes isn’t AIP, she will tell you how to make it AIP. She is amazing, and will make you feel like your goals are actually attainable. I still cook a lot of her recipes and she has inspired me to come up with my own, based on her substitutions and recommendations. She will teach you how to substitute ingredients that you can easily find at your local health foods store. Did I mention she is amazing?!
She too, has a great cookbook! Most of the recipes in this book are not on her blog (last I checked), and is a great resource for getting started. You can find it here:
Do Your Research
If you are like me, you will go into extensive research before starting some “fad diet.” Especially when your health is involved. I need to know the why and how before I just make this commitment. That is where Drs Mark Hyman and Amy Myers come in. They are both medical professionals with research on why our bodies are so reactive and/or responsive to certain foods.
I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist. I am a physical therapist that has lived with chronic illness her whole life. I am just sharing my story and what worked for me. Changing my diet helped me feel amazing, HOWEVER it did not cure me. It takes long term commitment, but will change the way you view foods. Have open discussions with your doctors, and do your research! Don’t give up!