This post contains affiliate links. Click here to see what that means!
That being said, we only promote authors, products, and services that we wholeheartedly stand by!
“AIP Stories of Recovery” is a success story series about regular people from the Autoimmune Protocol community who are changing their lives using the protocol. Each month a new person is featured and readers have the opportunity to discover all the different health challenges that are being overcome by folks just like themselves on the same path. At Autoimmune Paleo we hope you’ll be inspired by, empathize with, and learn from these stories. If you are interested in sharing your story, please email us through the contact form.
Meet Laura! Laura’s life turned upside down in 2006 when a swollen knee turned out to be rheumatoid arthritis. After years on medication, followed by all the changes of motherhood, she found her symptoms getting more and more severe, but in a pivotal moment she decided to completely change her diet. Her healing began within a week of that decision and she never looked back!
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed in 2006, when after a series of mysterious joint pain and swelling, my knee got very swollen and stayed that way. It took a while to get a proper diagnosis as I live in a ski town and the doctors here wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t injured myself. Finally an orthopedic surgeon saw me and immediately saw that I needed a blood test. I was referred to a rheumatologist in Vancouver who told me I would never snowboard, run or bike again and to look into aqua fitness classes!!!! I wanted to die. Anyway, I was smart enough to realize that he was not the doctor for me and I changed doctors.
After a nasty time on Methotrexate (which did nothing for my symptoms) I decided to wean myself off it. I was injecting it at the time and luckily was able to keep my symptoms under control with just Plaquenel for a few years. During that time, I was very lucky. My flares were moderate and not very frequent. I completed Ironman Canada in 2008 with no problems. In 2009 I got pregnant. I stopped taking Plaquenel during my pregnancy and breastfeeding and I had almost no flares. In 2011 I got pregnant again and did not stop nursing until the spring of 2013. That was when my RA started acting up again badly. My flares got more and more severe and frequent as hormonally my body went through a huge change.
Describe what your lowest point with your health journey was like?
The summer of 2013 was my lowest. I was not taking any drugs and was watching my body slowly but surely deteriorate. By the end of the summer, my feet were so swollen I could barely walk and I had to use my forearms to pick my kids up, my hands and thumbs were in such a bad state. Not only was I in pain, but also I was not able to do the things I loved and I think that was worse.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution?
Basically, what was the tipping point? The tipping point was going to a wedding on Vancouver Island with my husband and not being able to dance at the wedding (I could barely walk). I knew that either I went back on drugs or found something else to help.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
I found the Autoimmune Paleo website that weekend [of the wedding] and it changed my life. I had always eaten quite healthy and had given up grains in May of 2013, but this took it to a new level. I realized I had spent the summer eating tomatoes, eggs, and nuts every day. I started the AIP on September 1st and wow was it hard at first. I was hungry. I was making two meals (one for me and one for my family) and it was overwhelming. But within a week, I noticed such a drastic improvement that I stuck with it.
I got in the habit of batch cooking and of making meals that could be modified easily to feed all of us. I have been able to reintroduce quite a few foods and have found a version of AIP that works for me. I will never eat gluten again, but I can get away with small amounts of most everything else (except alcohol which causes flares almost immediately). It means I can go out for dinner once in a while and not stress about the menu and I can eat out at friend’s homes without being “that person” who can’t eat anything. I just keep pretty strict AIP the rest of the time and it works for me.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
Other than the Autoimmune Paleo site (and cookbook, which I love!), I found the Phoenix Helix website to be super helpful and inspiring. I also got The Paleo Approach book. Although I am not really into the science of the whole thing, the book was so helpful.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
Yes. Every time I see my doctor she tries to get me back on Plaquenel. I decline each time. I firmly believe in the power of food and the AIP made so much sense to me. I am now 100% committed to healing myself this way and I couldn’t imagine going back on drugs. I love eating the way I do. I actually look forward to my weird breakfasts, sardines and bone broth!
It can seem like our lives are consumed by a chronic illness, but there is so much beyond those struggles. What brings you true joy right now?
Being able to snowboard with my kids. Cooking. Getting stronger at Crossfit. Teaching my children about healthy choices and seeing them eat nutritious food (they don’t even ask for cereal anymore!).
I’m so glad you’re not taking Plaquenel. My daughter’s rheumatologist suggests it, but she’s resisting. It can destroy colour vision…and she’s an artist!
Thanks for sharing your story. So glad you’re so much better!
I really needed this to help get myself back on track. So thank you. I also have RA. 40 yrs young and and small children. Symptoms only started 7 months ago but at one stage was so bad I also couldn’t walk or use my hands. I was on My way to going strict AIP over two months but after some setbacks, I got terribly off track. I’m ready to give it another go.
Natalie–wishing you luck this next go-around!
Yay, Laura! Here’s to reclaiming joy and health!
Thank you for the inspiration. I just started the AIP diet plan and hope it works. I have RA, fibromyalgia, IBS and Reynaulds. I have already noticed a difference with IBS and hope my RA and fibro will also improve. Your story as well as this website is keeping me going. My goal is to have less flare ups and hopefully stop requiring infusions every 4 weeks.
Thanks for being here, and keep us posted! Early progress is always encouraging 🙂
I was diagnosed with RA when I was 13. I went from being super active playing every sport, to waking up one morning unable to move. I was in a wheelchair for about 7 months and only started moving again because of lots meds: Enbrel, Methotrexate, Prednisone, and Plaquenil. I’m 28 now, still Enbrel, Plaquenil, and Sulfasalazine. I’m just learning about AIP and wished I would of sooner. I haven’t started yet, and want to know how will I notice the change the diet is making if I’m still on all my meds? I know my doctor won’t be super supportive in this, but am not sure if I should slowing decrease the Plaquenil … or sulfasalazine. I just know I need to do this.
It is completely okay to combine the best of natural & “DIY” measures (like dietary & lifestyle changes) w/ medication, if it is necessary for you. Our goal is feeling our best and using all the options is worthwhile. Folks who use the diet at the same time as medications may actually notice faster progress or notice that the medication seems to be working better than before, however, some medications might make it more difficult to recognize foods that do & do not work for you when you begin attempting reintroductions. All of this said, NEVER change your medication on your own. Work w/ your doctor to slowly adjust medication or discuss w/ him or her that you are attempting the diet & consider goals together, like attempting to wean off. Best of luck to you!
Hi Naomi! You 100% need to work with your doctor on this, but what most people do is try to achieve symptom management while on their medications + the elimination diet, and once they are feeling great, have the conversation with their doctors to begin weaning off. We are absolutely not anti-conventional meds over here – what we propose is using the best of conventional and natural medicine, and what we can DIY to feel our best. Hope that helps you on your journey!
Just started AIP four days and already notice big difference with swelling and fluid buildup from RA. I was diagnosed 26 years ago but after reading realize I had it as early as 13 yrs old. I am 67 yrs old. Things were going great with medication for many years, but in February I started with increased swelling, pain, etc. Blood tests showed drugs had failed so I am in the process of cleansing one drug from system to start a new one.
I had heard about AIP diets froms the nutrition guy at our health club. After internet searches, I found Angie and Mickey’s website and decided to give it a try. Amazed at how quickly my body is responding. Long way from reintroducing foods but intend to go slow.
Thank you for this resource.
Thank you for sharing Cynthia, and we wish you success as you navigate this! Best to you!
I’ve been on the AIP for about two weeks now and can’t say I’ve seen too much improvement with my RA (previously vegan, gluten, sugar, and fat free for about 1 month but switched to AIP). I was recently diagnosed and have not started any medications as I’d like to try and put it into remission naturally. Any idea how long until I may see some improvement? I’m afraid to try any medication.
Hi Virginie! Two weeks is certainly not enough time to start seeing improvement for most people (although some do!). We usually say try 30-90 days, and at that point, if you don’t notice any changes it is time to work with a practitioner for troubleshooting. Hope it helps!
New to this site but happy I joined and very, very excited to see your success story. I too, have RA, and have been pushed all the typical RA drugs. I took plaquenil and steroids for a couple of years but have been drug free for the last 3 by taking a heavy dose of supplements, herbs, and eating Paleo. I just recently started to get bad flare ups again so I am now trying AIP to see if I can get it under control. All the success stories really motivate me, especially in a world where doctors are so INSISTENT on the drugs and doom and gloom of the disease.
Best wishes to you and thank you!
Wishing you luck Jenna!
Hi! I have been diagnosed with RA 3 months ago. Been with swelling and pain for about a year. Practitioners insist in medication but I am trying to investigate as much as I can to try something else and avoide it or at least, delay it (I’m 43). I feel hopeful to read this experience. The problem is that I am Argentinian, I don’t have easy access to the books. So I started following IG accounts with #aip but find it hard with the language and some ingredients. I really need some orientation in Spanish. Do you know if there is somebody? I have been doing some research here but nobody seems to have heard about AIP. Thanks so much!
Hi Sofia! We have trained an AIP Certified Coach in Argentina, you can look her up in the directory here: https://aipcertified.com. Also, I have published The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook in Spanish – it is called “La Cocina Autoinmune.” Wishing you luck!
Diagnosed with RA a year ago. I am 69 now. I was put on methotexate injectable and folic acid. Prednisone if needed. I have bald areas on my head now. My liver enzymes were up and down. 3 months ago, I saw a photo of myself. I realized I had accepted feeling and looking sick all the time from the methotrexate. Enough is enough. I found myself a Naturopath Doctor, to guide me, and started AIP 16 days ago. I tapered off methotrexate 10 weeks ago. I prayed, I rekei’d myself, I spoke to my immune system in positive ways. I feel so much better already, but find AIP difficult to accomplish on vacation. Not all restaurants have the right foods, like unbreaded fish. Or oil and vinegar dressing without sugar.
At home it was much easier to whip up a nutrient dense meal.
Before AIP, I was eating mostly off the “NO” list. I love nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs.
I am looking forward to getting some of those foods back.
The blood test revealed I have no reaction sensitivity to the nightshades. So I am thrilled about that.
Glad to hear about your positive wins Steeny!
Hi Steeny! It sounds like you have had quite the journey – I am hoping for continued recovery for you and that you are able to get some of those favorite back. -M