Recently a woman who is a fan of my Facebook page reached out asking, “There are lots of Paleo success stories on the web, but not so many AIP success stories – just wondering if any of your readers can share, to encourage the rest of us?” When I read her comment, I was really moved. By almost anybody’s standards, Autoimmune Protocol is a difficult, very restrictive diet to maintain. I’ve had no less than five doctors tell me that it was far too tough to follow, so they did not recommend it. A globally recognized expert told me early last fall that he couldn’t imagine maintaining it for more than three months, despite the fact that his clinic advocates the protocol for extremely sensitive Celiacs. Even when definite signs of healing begin to appear, it can be a struggle to stay motivated on AIP. What about the times when success on AIP is not easily measured?I thought I would write a little today about how I measure AIP success in an effort to help people like the woman who asked, “Can you encourage the rest of us?” As long time readers know, I love me a list:
1) Tangible success matters. It has been much easier for me to remain on AIP this long (May 1 was two years), because I had some improvements early on that I could see in the numbers. In Celiac Disease, gluten antibodies can be measured in the blood. Due to cross reactivity to other foods, my antibodies actually rose after I adopted a traditional gluten-free diet. You can imagine my despair over those numbers, especially because at that time my mainstream doctors were telling me that cross-reactivity was not an issue. Soon, I had my own testing for cross-reactivity done and I embraced AIP, within six weeks by gluten antibodies fell by nearly half. The last time I had them tested I was at a zero from an all time high of 161, with a lab normal range being between zero and three. You can read the details of that story here. If there are ways to measure in numbers your autoimmune fight, spend the time & money to get the testing. It can be a huge motivator.
2) I used to be in the E.R. regularly with allergic reactions and what I now know were various symptoms of malnourishment due to a damaged small intestine. Other than a minor incident involving a blood sugar crash (it was a reaction to starting a prescription pancreatic enzyme as I have pancreatic insufficiency from Celiac), I haven’t been to the E.R. in nearly two years. That seems like a funny measure, but it is very clear. There are also physical improvements that I did not see in numbers, but that did occur. I sleep better and have far more energy, I don’t sweat as much (I used to wake up drenched in sweat), I don’t have GI pain, I don’t burp constantly or get painfully bloated, I don’t feel shaky and unsteady inside, I don’t have numbness and pain in my legs, arms or the center of my face, I don’t have searing pain in my rib cage, my hair stopped falling out . . . all of these things slowly dissipated one by one. Sometimes I think the slowness of the healing process, can make AIP feel like it is not working. Try taking the long view as often as possible.
3) Some physical improvements have been more difficult to achieve. I have been unable to gain weight. I am still struggle with beginning a serious exercise routine. BUT, I have gained soooo much ground mentally and emotionally. I had crippling anxiety issues prior to adopting AIP. Within three days of starting AIP and dropping birth control pills, it was all gone. I have not required any anxiety medication in two years. I stopped seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist, because I did not need their help. I am emotionally much more stable and my family is very relieved to see a happy mom, instead of an angry, depressed, or sobbing mom. My mental clarity is a 1,000% better too. I had to withdraw from college courses (attempting to complete my degree) due to how debilitated I had become. I could not read course work, I could not write effectively or participate in class discussion. Basically, I could not concentrate and process information well anymore. Now, I work full time as a health coach (and I am weeks away from graduating with my certification!), I write my blog, design & lead group programs and study AIP and the Paleo approach endlessly. I can handle all that mental work with ease again. When measuring your AIP success, don’t discount the somewhat less “defined” areas, like mental and emotional well-being. They are powerful indicators of health. Are you happier than you were a month ago . . . then AIP is probably working.
Finally, there is the intangible: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti
The greatest measure of my AIP success really has nothing to do with the protocol. Just over two years ago, I made a public declaration that I was NOT going to accept living in a sick and tired body. I was NOT going to be told that the most reasonable thing to do was to endure my situation aided by countless medications meant to either make it only slightly more tolerable or dull my emotional response to it. Through several years of exposure to medical systems all over the globe, I had come to understand that we are indeed a “profoundly sick society.” I made the decision to be absolutely committed to regaining true health, not just adjusting well to being unhealthy. My commitment has not wavered since that time and that is a major success. Have you remained committed to your true health, despite living in a society that encourages ill health? The courage to keep trying IS success.
Speaking of a profoundly sick society . . . I totally used to be part of it. Next time all about how I was wrong.