According to the fantastic online resource Autoimmune Wellness, the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP, is an elimination diet that has been specifically designed to help those suffering from autoimmunity determine their food allergies and sensitivities, reverse nutrient deficiencies, balance gut flora, and heal their bodies over the long-term. In a nutshell, the Autoimmune Protocol calls for removing foods that are most likely to be problematic for people with autoimmune disease—grains, beans, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, as well as food chemicals and additives. In addition, nutrient-dense foods are added to restore nutrient status, such as bone broth, high-quality meat and wild-caught fish, as well as organ meats, fermented foods and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Over the course of the elimination phase (which can last from a month to a year), you take note of the changes you experience in your health. When it comes time to slowly and systematically reintroduce foods, you will be able to tell exactly which foods are holding you back, and able to use this information to construct a diet that will best support your healing needs.
Most of you know I’ve removed gluten and dairy from my diet already, while doing my best to remove soy and I also avoid caffeine and alcohol (for the most part). The reason I started with removing gluten is for a couple reasons. The first being because, according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian (the author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal?):
“Gluten sensitivity is basically defined as any immune response to gluten and an immune response is never good for a person with Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune disease. The immune system is already imbalanced and overactive during an active autoimmune condition. A consistent immune reaction to a regular food in the diet only makes the immune system more volatile, further exacerbating the autoimmune condition.
This overall activation of the immune system creates inflammation and explains why symptoms of gluten sensitivity vary. For some the inflammation may target the joints, creating pain and swelling. For others skin rashes and skin disorders ensue. Many others suffer inflammation in the brain, resulting in brain fog, mood and anxiety disorders, or memory loss.
The list of inflammation-induced symptoms brought on by a gluten sensitivity goes on and depends upon the person’s genetic makeup. Needless to say such systemic inflammation also flares up an autoimmune condition.”
When it comes to my decision to cut out dairy, Dr. Izabella Wentz says it best: “There are certain studies that had been published that show that gluten can also cross-react because of the protein similarity to dairy protein. So that’s why many people don’t really feel better until they get gluten-free as well as dairy-free.”
While I’ve noticed remarkable changes in how I feel over the past months, it’s become apparent that I have a long way to go. And what’s scarier, I’m noticing signs that point to what Dr. Kharrazian mentions above around brain inflammation. Since I’m still eating foods that are likely cross-reacting with gluten or that I may have a sensitivity to, it’s time to get rid of them. Cross-reactive foods like rice, corn, gluten-free oats (all things I eat a lot of these days since giving up gluten) have proteins similar in structure to gluten and can trigger the same immune response, so it’s kind of like I’m still eating gluten.
So, fair warning: if you choose to go out to eat with me in the New Year, be prepared (you might be embarrassed) as I’ll be the person asking the waitstaff allthequestions.