Next week I hit my one year anniversary on the Autoimmune Protocol. On Tuesday, to be precise. Not that I’m counting. Much.
Not sure what the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is?
It’s a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system.
You can read more about it here.
It’s been a wild ride, this past year. Life changing, even. So much so, that I thought I should share some of the experience with you.
Did you know?
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise across the western world. Here in Australasia, they currently affect 1 in 20 people. In the United States, there are over 50 million sufferers. Pretty sobering stuff.
What exactly is an autoimmune disease?
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Autoimmune diseases can be defined as,”a broad range of related diseases in which a person’s immune system produces an inappropriate response against its own cells, tissues and/or organs, resulting in inflammation and damage. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases, and these range from common to very rare diseases. Some autoimmune diseases affect mainly one part of the body (such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes) whilst others can affect many parts of the body (such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic vasculitis).”
As with many life-altering events, an autoimmune illness is almost guaranteed to cause you to re-evaluate your priorities.
― Joan Friedlander, ‘Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease’
My particular autoimmune issue is Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), sometimes known as acne inversa. HS is a painful, chronic skin disease that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin – usually in very uncomfortable places. Frankly, it’s horrible.
I have suffered from HS for over twenty years. And until this year, I never talked about it.
What I have learnt in the past year on AIP
In a nutshell, I have learnt that it is possible to put my 20+ years of autoimmune related illness almost completely into remission by making dramatic changes to my diet and lifestyle.
And, if that was all I learned, then I would be a very happy little Vegemite.
But, here’s what else I learned…
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. And, when it comes to what we eat, the Autoimmune Protocol is literally a manifestation of this. The protocol removes all potentially inflammatory foods from the diet to enable the body to heal.
And yes, it does take work. And planning. And requires a level of commitment that many of my friends have found difficult to understand.
But. In return, as you start to heal, you feel F A N T A S T I C. Truly. Brain fog lifts. You wake in the morning feeling energised. Bloating disappears.
You will develop an appreciation for the sort of food your grandmother (or maybe even great-grandmother!) probably cooked. Fresh. Seasonal. Local. Full of flavour.
I don’t even go to the supermarket anymore. The farmers market is my supermarket.
Gut Health Matters
Really, the protocol is all about improving gut health. But there are two things that I now do religiously that I believe have significantly improved my health.
And, they are all to do with my gut.
1. Bone Broth
I now make bone broth regularly from a mixture of bones from pasture raised animals. It has become a staple within our diet here at Casa TSL. I make it into soup, use it in sautéed veggies, add it to gravies and just drink it.
I alternate the type of broth I make so I am maximising the vitamin and mineral benefits. Last week it was beef bone broth. The time before that, it was duck.
2. Fermented Vegetables
We eat at least a tablespoon of home-made fermented veggies with every savoury meal. Think sauerkraut. I make the fermented vegetables about once a month from vegetables and salt. That’s it.
Fermented vegetables add all sorts of beneficial bacteria to my gut that I would not otherwise have in my diet.
And, one more thing – both bone broth and fermented veggies are ‘cheap as chips’ to make.
It is becoming more and more apparent, in this fast-moving era of getting twice as much done in half the amount of time, that we are not getting enough sleep. This is making us sick. We are designed to need sleep. It’s when our bodies regenerate.
In my case, I had a home invasion just over ten years ago. Bit scary. Three men in balaclavas decided to have a look around my home at 4.30 in the morning and I caught them. Fortunately, they weren’t very interested in me. Just my stuff. But – it messed badly with my ability to sleep.
Now, I make sure I’m in bed between 9.30 and 10pm. Every night.
And, I really understand the value of a good night’s sleep. But it took some work. And some time. And it involved resetting my circadian rhythms by implementing my own personal ‘Operation Sleepy Time’ ritual.
I’m pretty sure LM will tell you I’m a nicer person to be around as a result.
I didn’t know I was stressed. I didn’t know I was a constant worrier. Until I worked out that I was a complete stress head. And, on top of that, I managed to hide it from almost everyone. Can anyone relate?
Of all the changes I have made over the course of the past year, and that I continue to work on with the AIP, how I manage stress is the most difficult for me. By far. In fact, it’s a biggie for many people. Sarah Ballantyne wrote a great post on her personal battles with stress recently.
Coming up with strategies that work for you are key to managing stress. Yoga didn’t cut it for me. Meditating on my own sends me to sleep. But. I love walking in nature.
And my fabulous doctor, Kate Norris recommended the Buddhify app. It’s a personal meditation assistant that really seems to be working for me.
And, I’m a great fan of Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique.
We human beans are social creatures. Even us introverted types. Connecting with quality people really matters and has an impact on our health*. This AIP caper has unexpectedly connected me with an amazing and generous community of other autoimmune sufferers around the globe. I am immensely grateful.
So what now?
Now, I keep going on the protocol.
In terms of my diet, I keep slowly reintroducing foods. I know more of my food triggers than before. And, I know that these are different for everybody. Gluten will never be my friend. And, HS sufferers seem to have big problems with nightshades – so, I’m a little scared to try tomatoes and eggplant and chill. Although I do miss tomatoes dreadfully. Bizarrely, the odd white potato doesn’t seem to be an issue.
I keep working on managing stress and making sure I get enough sleep. I make sure I move everyday. Bella (the poodle) gets lots of love!
My autoimmune affliction has affected me in many ways – physically, emotionally, and no doubt psychologically. But, in a weird way, I’m a little bit grateful to have it.
Without it, I wouldn’t have overhauled my eating habits. I’m healthier now than I’ve been in years. People comment on how wonderful my skin looks. Me, who had chronic acne as a teenager.
I would not have addressed my stress levels and less-than-stellar sleeping routine. And, my hormones and gut health would have further deteriorated.
I am lucky. My autoimmune issues are not life threatening. I won’t die from HS. But, they have been serious enough to give me a big wake up call about what really matters to me – my health. My loved ones. A meaningful career.
And this past year on the autoimmune protocol has been life changing.
If you have any questions about the Autoimmune Protocol or Hidradenitis Suppurativa, feel free to drop me a line.
*conversely, spending too much time with ‘energy sucking’ people can be detrimental to your health!
Happy AIP-iversary! 😀 I’m so glad you’ve had successful reintroduction along the way. Here’s to another year of learning and healing!
Hi lovely Erin – Thanks, my friend!
I think the BIGGEST learning, that I didn’t really talk about in the post, is the holistic healing. WHOLE body stuff. It’s all a wee bit woo woo for some. And, I’m still getting my head around it.
Peeps like you make the process so much better! And yes! – Here’s to another year of improvements…
You should be very proud of yourself! Another beautiful post-you inspire me
Awww! Thanks Aimee!
It is really gratifying to experience first hand how much our diet and lifestyle choices directly affect our health. It’s been an eye opener, for sure. And a really positive one! 🙂
Reading this just gives me more hope that I too can turn my life around as you have. Yes, I too suffer HS, had acne as a teenager and now also suffer the delights of ADHD, Bipolar disorder, IBS, sleep apnoea, terrible moodiness and general irritability. It pains me that I’ve been ignorant for the last 20years as to what was causing all of these and it was only within the last 12months that I’ve worked out that it’s as simply as what I’m eating.
I realised also only recently that my car gets premium unleaded, my dogs are fed premium dog food, my horse is only fed the best quality and highest protein feed, and yet for the last 20years I’ve given very little thought or care to what I’ve fed myself… And yet I expect it to perform far greater feats than the car, dog or horse?
It just makes no sense and for once the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train!
Believe me when I say I get just how horrible HS is. And, how it affects your life in ways you don’t really appreciate until you start to manage it. You CAN do it!
I’m so pleased you’re finding the blog helpful. Watch this space – change is afoot in TSL Land…
Here’s to lots of wins for you! 🙂
Congratulations on AIP-iversary. So weird, isn’t it, sometimes it takes a life experience that is devastating & extreme to open up beautiful potential. I’m assuming that you have experienced some success with reversing the Hidradenitis Suppurativa symptoms?
Petra – you always seem to articulate my thoughts with so much more clarity than I can. I love that term, ‘beautiful potential’. Thank you.
HS is diagnosed/measured in stages – from I to III. I had 20 years of stage II. The difference between where I was 18 months ago and today cannot be fully expressed. As you know, curing an autoimmune disease is not possible. But I can say that I am managing it now. While I get the occasional flare, it is nothing like it used to be and I can generally pinpoint what set me off. And, as I fine-tune my autoimmune protocol to fit my particular triggers, I hope to kick it into remission.
Understood~. Thanks for clarifying. Getting the point where one feels like one is ‘managing’ an autoimmune situation is a huge step forward.
I love following your journey… it is inspirational on many levels. Congratulations, Kxx
K – I love seeing your cyber-face, too! 🙂
Glad I got back into blogging now, this hits close to home on a number of levels, some that helped throw my own blogging off the urls this past while. Thanks for this.
Hey PK – lovely to see you back in Blog-land.
Feel free to drop me a line if you wanna’ chat more, my friend.
Thanks. Will do.
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