What is the autoimmune protocol of paleo?
A popular saying in the paleo world is: my paleo is your paleo is my paleo is your paleo. It means that everyone has a different take on what is paleo and what isn’t. And if that’s not confusing enough, there is also the autoimmune protocol. So let’s first identify what paleo is and then explore the more restrictive AIP (autoimmune protocol).
I like Kurt Harris’s Paleo 2.0 manifesto Here the best. I like Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet and Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution the best. They explain everything with science, bio chemistry and anthropological speculation. But here is a simple summary. Eating paleo means eating only meat, vegetables, tubers, roots, nuts, seeds and fruit. In that order. All the food on that list should be from credible sources, the meat should be wild or from grass fed or pastured animals who have not received any hormones or antibiotics. Or any chemicals.
Do you think that the paleo diet sounds restrictive? Wait til you hear the additional foods that have to be cut out within that list for the AIP! Not everyone will have to eliminate these additional foods forever. Different people are sensitive to different things within these restrictions. The best way to assess what you are sensitive to is to completely eliminate the following foods for 3 months or so and then reintroduce them (slowly) and see how you react to them. The list of foods within the paleo diet that should be avoided: nightshades, eggs, dairy, yeast, fruit, nuts and seeds. Along with food restrictions there are other nuances like peeling the skin off of everything, no birth control pills, no NSAIDS, no alcohol (not paleo anyway).
I am happy to say that after 18 months of elimination and reintroduction, I can handle a couple of eggs a week, grassfed butter, my Aunt’s red sauce, and hard cheese. I also eat white rice on heavy lifting or high activity days. These are things I can eat occasionally. I still approach them with caution. And I only eat the best quality food that I source myself. I recently ate a commercial egg and had a bad reaction. My eggs come from a sweet lady who keeps chickens who eat mostly lizards, snakes, bugs, seeds and some corn.
The way I approached this diet was to go paleo first. I cut out all non paleo foods from my diet, but I continued to shop at the grocery store and Costco for all my meat and veg. Then I cut out the AIP foods starting with nightshades, I would cut out a food group every week or 2. It was really hard for me to let go of eggs and nuts because I used them so much for cooking. But I did it! Then, I had what I called my ’30 day MS push.’ I made a list of all the things I needed to do to get rid of my MS once and for all. The list included finding acceptable meat sources, getting my supplements in order, quitting drinking, adding more wild fish to my diet and stop buying commercial produce. And that took a full 30 days to nail down.
The prospect of only buying pastured or grass fed meat is daunting. I got my beef and pork supplier from a Crossfit Wilmington post. I am forever grateful to Matt, one of the CFW instructors, who posted about Hilltop Angus Grassfed see the farm here until he was sure they had enough business to make a Wilmington delivery worth while. At first they only carried beef and I didn’t know where I was going to find pork, but then Hilltop started selling pork, much to my relief. I had the names of a couple of pig suppliers, but let’s face it, I already have a full time job and a family, I simply was running out of the motivation to call around, ask all my questions and set up a pick up. I wish this diet was mainstream and there was competition among these kinds of farms with advertising. It may be that way in other parts of the country, but here you have to go looking and put some time in to find these places. Eating this way is labor intensive and requires research. It’s also a bit more expensive to buy better quality meat, but I found the money I saved by not buying processed food, cereal, boxed items, etc left me spending the same amount on food that I had been in the past. And with the price of processed food rising, the ratio is tipping more in my favor.
Switching to locally grown vegetables was a lot easier than finding grass fed and pastured meat. There is a food co-op in town and a few farmer’s markets that feature local farmers. You can read my post ‘Farmers Market Buzzkill’ about how there are nothing but nightshades during the summer around here. That part did suck, but in that case I just went back to Costco and bought a huge bag of broccoli. I am not living in a region with ideal soil for variety, unfortunately. But it’s no Afghanistan! I have a friend who managed to stay paleo at Baghram AFB in Afghanistan. If he can do it, we can do it.
So to review, paleo means besides meat and vegetables, you can have nuts, seeds, eggs, raw dairy, nightshades and fruit. The autoimmune protocol of paleo means eliminating those foods. And remember, the diet is only part of your recovery. You also have to get good sleep, manage your stress and ENJOY YOUR LIFE! Attitude plays a huge part. Have you imagined your neurologist telling you you have no disease activity on your MRI? Have you visualized yourself feeling awesome? If you’re in a wheelchair, have you told yourself that you will be walking again? Visualized yourself running? You’ll find that it is easy to have a good attitude when you eliminate grains and sugar. A gray cloud is lifted from your brain in a matter of days.