In my life pre-AIP, things looked very different. I had a fast paced, high stress job in the fashion industry. I was “managing” that stress by eating out and drinking alcohol most nights of the week, and doing both to excess especially at weekends. Looking back, I’d been using alcohol to manage problems for about 15 years at that point. And I was in my early 30s.
I got away with it for a bit, then my quality of life started to disappear almost overnight. I was exhausted all the time and no amount of sleep made any difference, my brain did not work and I questioned every decision I made, my memory was non existent, I had to write everything down. Physically, I was starting to get the pale, puffy face associated with hypothyroidism (see the photo above) and my stomach was always bloated.
Life was not great! However, luckily my doctor was. Unlike many people, I received the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis pretty quickly (I’d thought I was just lazy and getting old – at 32 – so to be honest the diagnosis was a relief) and started medication shortly after that. The medication did help initially, I felt great again for a few months and it was amazing! Then the old symptoms started to reappear and I knew I needed to make some bigger changes.
I’d been doing a bit of reading on the subject and found that most places recommended going gluten free. So I did that, and experienced real reversal of symptoms such as the bloating and brain fog. A month of so after cutting out gluten I gorged on Turkish bread….the response I felt afterwards has made it very easy for me to say never again to gluten. Around this time I also reduced the processed foods and added sugar I was consuming, increased the veg, and I was pretty happy with the health improvements I was experiencing.
By now I’d heard of the Autoimmune Protocol through Mickey Trescott at Autoimmune Wellness. And I thought to myself, wow, that sounds impossible! I’m so glad I don’t need to do that. How restrictive (the irony, considering how restrictive having a chronic disease can be)! But I kept on coming back to it, reading the recipes, people’s recovery stories, and I thought, I want to see how good I can really feel!
At this point I’d taken the lifestyle piece of AIP at it’s word and changed the part of my life that was providing the most stress: My job! Well, I’d changed to part time and started studying Nutritional Medicine, which would become my new career, as I was so blown away by my own health improvements from diet and lifestyle. I also started easing myself into AIP diet aspect slowly, using the wonderful free resources from The Paleo Mom, Autoimmune Wellness and Phoenix Helix mainly.
Changing your diet and lifestyle in such a dramatic way is not easy. My social life had to change dramatically and eating out was off the menu for the first 2 or 3 months. I had to think more about each meal I made and make sure there was always food in the house that I could eat. Remember to take snacks in the early days in case I got hungry while I was out. Taking my own food to events if necessary. But all of this perceived “inconvenience” paled in comparison to the benefits I received. Apart from the continued reversal of the Hashi symptoms I had, I also had endometriosis removed around the time I started AIP, and approx. 6 years later and the symptoms still haven’t returned. Perhaps the most unexpected change I’ve experienced has been in my mental health. I had experienced anxiety for as long as I can remember, and more recently panic attacks but these disappeared somewhere along the line with AIP, and this has been life changing on a daily basis.
I started AIP in 2014 and now it’s 2019. Life is different! I’m 40 and feel so much better than I did 10 years ago. I’ve been able to reintroduce a wide range of foods, including nightshades, legumes and coffee. Dairy is a no, and gluten is a NO WAY!!! Do I feel restricted? Definitely not. AIP opened my eyes to eating a far more diverse range of veggies than I’d ever considered before, when I compare what I can eat to what I choose not to, even on elimination phase AIP, there’s still so much to choose from.
What AIP has given me is a framework to use balance my life around. I know if I’m managing stress and sleep well, then I’m ok with eating out once a week or so. If my sleep is not so great, then I need to make sure I’m getting in my nutrient dense foods and stress relief. Overall I feel empowered with the knowledge to manage my own health, and that’s something that I think has been taken away from many of us. So let’s reclaim it!