The Autoimmune Protocol aka as AIPaleo

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This journey has led me to something called the Autoimmune (AI) Protocol or AIPaleo. And simply put, this just means I need to take care that I don’t eat anything that can cause an immune response all the while working on my diet and lifestyle choices so I can heal my leaky gut. Remember my immune system is already on overdrive, so it’s important for me to do everything I can to not trigger it any further. What I have learned though is it’s not only the diet part that’s important, but those other lifestyle factors (stress management, sleep, etc) that play a big, if not bigger, role in my overall health and healing. Those by the way have proven WAY waaay harder to implement than the diet! You may never guess it but making a daily constant effort to ensure your not only getting the correct type but also correct amount of exercise, ensuring you get adequate amounts of sleep, ensuring that you are managing your stress….all of these are what I am continuing to struggle with implementing. The diet, for me, is turning out to be the easy part!

Now let me clarify. There is nothing easy about this way of eating. I say above that it’s the ‘easy part’ only in relation to the other lifestyle factors that I find so challenging. Being on the autoimmune protocol is far from easy….at least in the beginning anyway. What I have learned from experience though is that over time, it becomes such a way of life that you can’t imagine going back to how you ate before. An awesome quote that was shared was: “it’s only hard until it becomes routine” (kudos to The Paleo Mom for that one.)

So what is the Autoimmune Protocol? It’s an elimination diet in it’s simplest terms. It’s eliminating all of the most commonly known food allergens, as well as foods that can cause gut dysbiosis (this is where your gut bacteria are in the wrong numbers or in the wrong location), that can contribute to a leaky gut, that can cause a hormone imbalance or that can cause that inflammation or immune response in your body. Not only is it an elimination diet though, but it urges just as strongly the inclusion of nutrient dense foods that you need to ADD into your daily diet as well.

One thing that is commonly overlooked is that if you are dealing with a leaky gut which has progressed into autoimmune disease(s), you are most likely dealing with a massive nutrient deficiency (a major player in the development of these diseases in the first place and something that I have been working hard at correcting.) So not only focusing on what to exclude, but also what to include, is key to correcting those deficiencies and truly finding healing.

Want to see where I learned about the details of the Autoimmune Protocol? Check out this post here from the Paleo Mom, whom I cannot recommend enough for her scientific based explanations about the protocol and lifestyle factors that go with it.

 

What went wrong

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Where did things start to go wrong? I’m not 100% sure what my trigger(s) may have been yet, but what I do know is that my gut plays a big role in my health and my dis-ease.

One of the reasons that things started to unravel for me was due to something called intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’. It is just as it’s name implies. The spaces in between the cells lining your gut become…well, leaky. They start to allow things such as proteins and pathogens, that were never meant to pass through in the first place, to enter your body and start wreaking havoc with your immune system. All you have to do it google ‘leaky gut’ and you will get loads of information about the physiology on how this manifests but two of my favourite resources are Chris Kresser and The Paleo Mom. They write in detail about this here and here.

So backing up a little bit, what you need to know is that in order to get an autoimmune disease in the first place, you must have the trifecta of the following:

1)   You need to have a genetic link to develop autoimmune disease. Know anyone in your family that may have: arthritis, allergies, cancer, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, schizophrenia, Graves Disease, Addisons Disease, Celiac Disease, contact dermatitis, Crohn’s Disease, Gastritis, Hashimoto’s, MS, Ulcerative Colitis, etc?  The list is long and getting longer. A great post to check out would be this one here describing not only the more commonly known AI diseases, but some surprising ones as well. This genetic link plays a key role in developing any autoimmune disease to begin with, but not as much as one might think. It actually only factors for about 1/3 of your susceptibility.

2)   An environmental trigger. So this could be anything ranging from infections, toxins, hormones, or just plain old bad luck.

3)   Diet and lifestyle factors – and their contributions to you developing a leaky gut.

An important thing to note is that once you develop an autoimmune disease, you can never truly ‘cure’ it. Once your body has learned to attack itself, it does not forget this. But you can lessen your symptoms or even put your disease into remission.

So back to the gut. Your body and more specifically your immune system, due to it’s leaky gut and passing of proteins or toxins from your gut into your blood stream, starts to get confused. It’s ability to tell the difference between what is foreign and what is actually your own body (self), starts to fail and you literally start attacking your own cells, a process called molecular mimicry. As this progresses you start to develop specific symptoms as the damage caused to your cells, tissues and organs from the constant attacks, starts to build. And why do some develop one autoimmune disease over another? How come you don’t necessary end up with the same AI issues as say your Mom and/or your Dad had? Well this is the fun part – it’s all random. Luck of the draw. Fluke. Whatever you want to call it!

So while the diseases/symptoms may all be different, as you can see from the list above, the route cause of them all is the same.

 

The start of my journey

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I ended up here because I am fighting illness, and I am trying to not only understand the root of the illness but am also trying to prevent its progression (and with some luck see relief in my symptoms!) And I wanted to share my journey. But how did it all begin?

For me, it was about  7-8 years ago (so 2006 ish or so – very hard to determine as my initial symptoms were all so vague) when things just started to seemingly ‘fall apart’. It started with one symptom which turned to two and then five and before I knew it, I was going into my doctors office with a list a mile long trying to figure out why my body was spontaneously de-combusting.

Between the starting point in 2006 ish and the spring of 2013, the years were spent chasing symptoms and specialists (and alternative therapies  – some of which I would rather soon forget) who never really had any answers for me. They did however have many suggestions of medications that they would have liked me to try, which I pretty much resisted across the board.

Then on April 1st, 2013 – I embarked on the real journey. The journey of truly learning about my autoimmune diseases and how to find relief from them. I started on the Autoimmune Protocol and that is when, finally, I started to see and feel some change.

To date, I have been officially diagnosed with 2 autoimmune conditions: Psoriasis and Raynaud’s syndrome. I suspect that there might be something else going on as well, and that has been part of my goal – uncover what might be missing. But what could that be?

There might be a 3rd, as of yet undiagnosed AI disease, which would put me into a special category of having MAS (multiple autoimmune syndrome). Read more about this here. I say I ‘suspect’ as no 3rd issue has been diagnosed to date but once you get one autoimmune condition, the likelihood of developing another one (or more) is very high unless you can intervene and stop the progression. And with MAS, one autoimmune disease is almost always skin related.

Or there may be something else holding me back from healing further? Perhaps an infection (viral, bacterial, parasitic?) These would certainly fit with my work history (I’m a registered Animal Health Technologist and have worked in facilities from coast to coast – New York, Seattle and Vancouver) or my travel history (which up until I had kids was extensive!)

If you were to look at me, you wouldn’t say that I look ‘sick’. My friend and health guru over at Alt-ternative Autoimmune writes a great post about this here. If one were to look at me, what you would see is the psoriasis, and if you were lucky enough to be around when it hits, bone white fingers or toes from the Raynaud’s. You would certainly know me to always be cold and have a serious intolerance of lower temps and windy days. But you would never be able to see the havoc that was/is brewing inside my body.

That long list of symptoms I referred to earlier included about 30+  fun filled mysteries that could never be explained away. They wax and wane and appear to sometimes fade away but come back with a vengeance when I least expect it. Some examples include:

Brain Fog

Blood sugar dis-regulation

Dizziness/Vertigo

Deteriorating eyesight

Fatigue/Exhaustion

SADD

Revolving allergy symptoms (to jewellery, dental fillings, food, etc)

Extreme susceptibility to colds and sinus infections

Heart palpitations

Chronic cough

Digestive issues

Peeling of entire regions of skin (thumbs in particular)

Insomnia and/or inability to fall back to sleep

Difficulties with concentration, reading and speaking

Anxiety

And of course, the Psoriasis and Raynaud’s

And the list goes on and on…..

Up until I started on the AI protocol, I had resolved to the fact that since my overall health was deteriorating at such a rapid pace, I might not be able to remain a functioning mother to my two boys (ages 6 and 3 at the time). Most days at that point were very difficult to get through truly feeling good and the bad ones far out weighed the good.

That is until I started to put the all pieces ‘together’, instead of trying to take them all apart. I’ve always known and believed that our bodies are not made up of different systems that work entirely on their own accord. Instead, if one thing goes down, it more often than not will take a host of other things down with it. It wasn’t until I had this light bulb moment AND started digging a little bit deeper, did I truly understand that my body wasn’t just spontaneously imploding on itself but rather it was fighting against an illness, that started many years ago, and was progressing to the point of starting to take ‘things down’ with it. Now I have managed to gain control of not only my health but my families as well. I have become my/our biggest health advocate and have spent endless hours coming up with answers to many of my/our health related questions.

This is why I am here. To tell my story in an attempt to share some valuable information that may help someone else gain back some of the control they feel they have lost. One of the worst things one of my specialists ever said to me was: “There is nothing you can do about this. You need to resign to the fact that this will be your life”. I will never regret not heeding that advice.