This post on the autoimmune protocol has been a long time coming.
Because I kept having to restart. I apparently have no willpower.
But it had to be done.
A Little About Me
Mid-2015, I started to get sick. It started with paralysed stomach muscles, and moved on to numbness in my legs. Then one day, I couldn’t lift my leg. A week later, I couldn’t walk.
I’m not going to lie, this wasn’t easy for me. For some people, it’s a breeze. For others who have no willpower, it’s not as easy as you’d think. But I’m glad I did it.
An MRI confirmed I had inflammation in my spine and brain stem. I spent five days in the hospital on heavy medication to reduce the inflammation. I also had a battery of tests done, including a spinal tap (this is about as NOT fun as it sounds, folks.)
I was able to walk again and slowly gained strength. Life was returning to normal, but about a month after my hospital stay, my results of that damn lumbar puncture came back and I was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, or ‘Devic’s disease’.
NMO is a rare relapsing autoimmune disorder. It’s characterised by transverse myelitis (which I had) or optic neuritis. It is similar to MS, but affects the spine and/or optic nerves.
I remain strong and regained feeling and mobility. I was lucky. Others are not so lucky. I still have some neurological symptoms like nerve pain in my abdomen and intense itching in my right arm. I still get numbness in my right hand from time to time, but nothing alarming. Because there is a high chance I will get another attack, I have to take immune suppressants.
What is the Autoimmune Protocol?
The autoimmune protocol (or AIP) is a diet that eliminates trouble-causing foods with the goal of healing the gut and by extension, relieving autoimmune symptoms. It is said that you can even put your disorder into remission by healing a leaky guy on this protocol.
The autoimmune protocol is very simple. Well, not simple to follow, but simple to understand.
It is Paleo – super-sized. Besides eliminating gluten, grains, and legumes, you also take out eggs, dairy, all nuts and seeds, sugar, and alcohol. You avoid nightshade vegetables like aubergine, peppers, white potatoes, and tomatoes. Related spices like cayenne and paprika should also be avoided. Fruit can be eaten but should be limited. Medications like NSAIDs should also be avoided.
For a more thorough explanation and list of foods, visit the Paleo Mom, who wrote the book on the autoimmune protocol.
Starting the Autoimmune Protocol
At the start of my autoimmune protocol journey, I was not eating well and it showed. I had nerve pain. I was waking up with pain everywhere. I had headaches and backaches almost daily.
My skin was breaking out. My face was bloated. I had gastrointestinal discomfort.
I needed this.
My first go around, I lasted about a week. For that week I felt great. But I failed. And then I failed again.
So I tried again.
Here’s what I learned.
My Autoimmune Protocol Experience
Let me preface this by saying I have confirmed intolerances to gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and almonds. Gluten and dairy are my biggest triggers, they both make me incredibly sleepy and foggy. So here is a basic overview…
From day 1 I noticed that I got tired after eating fruit. I had some blueberries with coconut puree and I was super tired after. I was perfectly fine before eating it. My skin started to break out a bit more the first couple of days, but I noticed the facial bloating went down. I had thought it was a side effect of my medication, but soon realized it was my diet.
By day 5 I wasn’t as hungry as I had been and my skin wasn’t as oily.
In this week I unknowingly had some gluten. My grandmother offered me some green beans. It looked like she had sautéed them, so I thought they were safe. After a few bites, I realized I was wrong. I immediately began to feel really foggy, like waking from a deep sleep that you just can’t shake. Almost like walking around in a haze. I glanced in the bowl and saw a little brown, and realized she had added a bit of soy sauce. It seems the more I avoid my intolerances, the worse my reactions are becoming.
This week I did eat a bit of gluten, on purpose this time.
Stupid, I know.
We were out, I had takeaway. I had some chilli that I knew contained some wheat.
My reaction? Itchiness. This was not a one-time thing unfortunately. I did it again, and was itchy again. I’m not sure why the new reaction, but it only gets worse as my diet gets better.
No real reactions to report for this week, but as my month of the autoimmune protocol comes to a close, I realised several things.
- My skin gets easily dehydrated and oily if I don’t get enough water.
- Too much fructose raises my blood sugar and makes me really sleepy. It also gives me pain.
- I feel my best when I avoid fruits.
- Cleaning up my diet (for the most part) has heightened my reactions to my intolerances. I must be extra careful to avoid them now.
- Eating too much, even completely Paleo meals, gives me some nerve pain on my abdomen. Nothing compared to the nerve pain that I get when I eat bad.
I’m not going to lie, this wasn’t easy for me. For some people, it’s a breeze. For others who have no willpower, it’s not as easy as you’d think. But I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot about my body and my symptoms. I will continue to clean up my diet and do my best to stick to it. Next up, I want to do a sugar detox. I know, the willpower thing. But besides gluten and dairy, I found sugar (even the natural kind) just isn’t my friend.
Now to you: Have you completed a round or more of the autoimmune protocol? Leave a comment and share your experience!