AIP in 2023
2022 was certainly a shake up of a year for me regarding my health. I had always, (perhaps bit smugly), considered myself to be a healthy person. After all, I was trained as a naturopathic doctor and I knew the ins and outs of optimizing wellness. I had a good diet and I exercised. I didn’t use excesses of anything harmful to the body. Sure, I had lots of symptoms like fatigue and dry eyes and dry mouth and joint pain, but wasn’t that part of getting older? Oh, and I had trouble sleeping, and I was anxious, and my brain didn’t seem to work right anymore, but it could all be explained away… post menopause, everyday stress, caregiving, etc. except when it all came to a head in November of 2021 when I couldn’t stand it any longer. I think the expression is that I was a “hot mess”.
I felt like I was falling apart. I sat in my optometrists office and poured it all out, the dry eyes, the dry mouth, the profound fatigue. She wrote a referral to my medical doctor and that got the ball rolling for me. A few referrals and consults later, I had a CPAP machine to treat my diagnosed sleep apnea, and after that I had a confirmed diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome. I found trying to integrate all the new self care around these two conditions, as well as continue my main job as an essential caregiver for my parents, and work on my coaching business, to be quite a challenge.
The rheumatologist mentioned medication as an option, but also that it could mean major side effects but I had a plan I wanted to put in place first. I am not opposed to medication, should the time come when I need more help controlling my symptoms. There are some autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and Hashimoto’s where medication is critical. I felt my healing journey, at this point, could be self-hacked. My professional experience with autoimmune conditions had taught me the importance of figuring any co-existing health conditions. Autoimmune can’t be cured, but other health issues causing stress to the body can be helped, which maximizes healing. Dietary irritants can be removed. Infections can be healed. Nutrition can be optimized.
In mid-April I started on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). This is a brilliant healing protocol first popularized by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. In her book, “The Paleo Approach”, she provides an evidence based method for removing foods that are potential roadblocks to healing, and at the same time integrates foods with the most healing potential. That is half of the protocol. The other half is about optimizing lifestyle. I also started seeing a naturopathic doctor, and asked her to optimize my gut microbiome. We found a bacterial infection and started treating it with herbs and supplements.
I began with the elimination phase of the AIP diet. I was already gluten free and 95% dairy free. There were a lot of foods to remove, but also new foods to explore, some of which have become my favourites. After a time, I followed the reintroduction protocol and was able to add a number of foods back into my diet without aggravating my symptoms. I will say that this was a darn hard diet to implement. I have a lot of past experience with different diets, including elimination diets, and I still found it really hard. Healthy foods like eggs and nuts and tomatoes were no longer on the plan, and I had to get very creative in the kitchen to prevent boredom. I lost weight because the inflammation in my body was improving.
So what happened? First I noticed the joint pain getting better. Much better. I no longer lay awake with an aching back or hips at night. I found my knees rarely bothered me climbing stairs. Next, the dryness in my mouth improved. I had saliva and my enlarged tongue shrank. Finally, the dry eyes had some tears again and were less gritty at night. Energy was the last thing to improve and took a number of months, but finally I started feeling better than I had in two or three years. I could read and retain what I read. I could write. My mind also became sharper and my memory improved. Some of my blood work markers have also improved, which is an exciting “objective” finding.
This was exciting! This was working! I had to be able to share this with my coaching clients! Now that I could think and function better, I enrolled in the certified AIP coach training and became a certified coach. I am set up to offer one and one AIP coaching to a few clients at present. It is a tool that people can use at the beginning of their autoimmune journey, or along the way. It works while you are waiting to confirm a diagnosis, and it works along with medications and treatments recommended by your health care team. I have so many resources to share with you to make the AIP journey easier, and I can’t wait for the day when you tell me, “Hey Wendy, I am feeling better!”. Is 2023 the year you start the AIP and start healing your autoimmune disease? If you are interested, I would love to chat with you about whether this could work. Can I give you a quick free call? Here’s a link to book the call, and I hope to meet you soon, https://wendy-presant.practicebetter.io/#/5f2552f72a90290754264baf/bookings?s=5f2556142a9029075426521d