Simplifying The Autoimmune Protocol (Guest Post by Toréa Rodriguez)

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I’m taking a break from blogging this summer as I focus on my move, but in the meantime I have some great guest posts on various topics lined up from the autoimmune community. This post is by Toréa Rodriguez, who blogs at torearodriguez.com.


The Autoimmune Protocol. Just saying those words can lead to overwhelm in some people. No matter whether coming from a SAD (Standard American Diet) or coming from already eating a real food diet, the thought of making so many eliminations can be daunting. This certainly was the case for me. But in my heart of hearts, I knew I wanted to try the diet to see if it could help make me feel better.

I have been eating a real food diet for the past 4 years since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. And for that, my diet morphed into being completely processed-food free, grain free, legume free and almost dairy free (I still ate sheep/goat cheese, butter and occasional ice cream). But in the last year, I realized that I might feel even better if I eliminated some of the other foods, as outlined in The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne. I already know that I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal, but I was really worried I would quit if I could not do it “right”. So, instead of taking the stairs two at a time, I decided to take them one at a time and break it down into simpler steps.

Step 1:

First, I broke each of the food groups into their own category. This helped because I was no longer facing this huge list of “no foods.” Even if I read a long list of “yes foods” the long list of “no foods” meant I was seeking individual ingredients out and constantly having to make decisions. For me, this leads to instant overwhelm and with the shorter list of categories, I could start feeling some of the anxiety lifting. My summarized categories turned out to be: Sugars, Nightshades, Nuts/Seeds, Dairy and Eggs.

Step 2:

Then, I sat down and wrote out how how I would replace those items with other foods or habits. You see, I have crutch foods. I’d find a food that “worked” and I would stick to it. Breakfast? Eggs. Afternoon snack? 80% Dark Chocolate. Dessert? 100% Dark Chocolate. You get the idea. But now, I had to find a way to replace those things. So I wrote out some ideas for how to replace the repetitive foods that were going to be eliminated. Of course, I referenced recipes on Sarah Ballantyne’s site and in Mickey Trescott’s Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook to help me! Also in that process, I realized my sweet cravings were often after meals. So I decided to take short walks after meals instead of reaching for the dark chocolate. Now, your list might look different than mine, but I will share my list with you below.

Step 3:

And finally I set forth a gradual schedule for me to make small changes that, over time, lead to the complete elimination plan. This was new for me, being the “all in” kind of gal. I knew that I needed to phase this in, else I may give up entirely if I slip up. So small moves. I decided to eliminate a single food group every 3 days. During that 3 days, I’d be able to get used to my substitutions and plans from step 2 to easily prepare by shopping ahead of time. By the time 15 days rolled around, I had all of the food groups eliminated. Ta da! Full blown AutoImmune Protocol, baby!

Here is my schedule and set of replacements. You can easily use mine, but you will probably gain more benefit and insight by creating your own. I decided to eliminate the food groups based on what I thought was going to work best for my schedule, or what I thought was going to be easiest. To that end, I left eggs to be last.  Interestingly, I discovered that transitioning away from my daily egg-breakfast crutch wasn’t as hard as I had imagined it to be.

Elimination

I can really see a difference with going full AutoImmune Protocol. Since eliminating those 5 food groups, I noticed my nagging skin issues (psoriasis on my face) have cleared up, my number of severe fatigue days are reducing, and my weight has started to normalize. These are things I have not been able to make any headway on over the last 4 years, so this is a good indication that something in those food groups was contributing to immune system overload. I am also super grateful that I took the time to simplify the elimination portion of the AutoImmune Protocol. I feel that this eliminated a lot of the stress and worry that would have accompanied my transition otherwise. If you’d like help simplifying your own elimination plan, feel free to reach out here or here and I’d be happy to help!

About Toréa Rodriguez

Toréa Rodriguez is a biochemist by training, former professional pilot and Silicon Valley executive. Her interest in health and wellness came from her own struggles with autoimmune disease. She’s returned to her biochemistry roots to embark on a adventure of autoimmune wellness coaching. You can read more from her at torearodriguez.com or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

8 comments

  • Nicole says

    I really like how methodical you were about easing your way into the autoimmune protocol! I have been thinking about trying it, but I don’t have an autoimmune disease. I have been diagnosed with H. Pylori and have other digestive issues, as well as fatigue and brain fog. I saw on your personal blog that you mentioned H. Pylori. Do you think that the autoimmune protocol would be helpful to me based on my symptoms? Thank you!

    • Nicole,
      Without sitting down and getting more specific, I would have to say it depends. There is no harm, however, in trying any elimination diet to see if it makes an improvement in your symptoms. It’s always worth a shot in my book. Its less costly than adding a supplement or treatment protocol and if you suspect there might be something there in your diet now that is adding inflammation or distress to you, then AIP is a good way to give your body and immune system a rest. Are you working with a functional practitioner now?

      Torea

  • Shaz says

    Torea, thank you for a fantastic post. I found this so very helpful! I did the 21 day sugar free detox (with autoimmune modifications) and it made a huge difference. I’ve been working out what to do for the long term. I merged back into a standard Paleo diet but my fatigued and brain has been slowly returning towards pre SFD days. Oh, I neglected to say I have ME/CFS. I ordered Sarah’s AIP book (but I live in Australia so it will take a while to get to me). But you are right, it is pretty huge to get your head around. One thing that has helped me hugely is getting a Thermomix. Have you heard of them? Fantastic things!
    So, I know I need to get strict again but am yet to get my head around this. This is an even bigger challenge with brain fog (I think brain sludge is a better description!) and chronic fatigue. Thanks. You’ve definitely given me food for thought!

    • Erin says

      Hi Shaz, you sound amazingly similar to me – I’ve been dealing with CFS and I’m also in Australia. Been doing the Paleo/GAPS diet for a couple of years now, and it’s been really helpful. Taking out sugar was the biggest eye-opener for me so I’m so glad you’re on to that! Although I wouldn’t want to speak for everyone who has CFS, in my case I really think the root cause is a gut problem, namely Leaky Gut Syndrome. You might find some of the elements of the GAPS diet helpful for you too, like the probiotic foods. Do you do any bone broths?

      Best of luck to you on your healing journey!

      Erin.

  • Torea says

    Shaz,

    Brain fog and chronic fatigue definitely make it harder because its so hard to mentally get your mind around the big picture! The same thing happened to me, I did AIP 4 years ago and felt great, then went back to Paleo + sheep dairy and over time, started to not feel great again. I think that giving AIP a shot a second go around would be helpful for you possibly. Its always worth a shot! Start small, and use my trick to break it up into pieces. That will help.

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Its great to hear from readers like you!

  • Michelle says

    This is such a great, stream-lined approach!

    At some point I know I need to go all-in AIP. I removed dairy and tomatoes this summer, and my eczema has cleared up. Eliminating dairy alone didn’t change anything, but removing tomatoes was like magic for me. I think I may go at it in a similar fashion to yours, but eliminating a category per month. That approach feels much more manageable to me.

  • Torea says

    Michelle,

    Isn’t it great when you discover a food that was previously irritating and yet when you remove it things clear up? Sounds like streamlining the approach like I laid out will work out great for you. Giving yourself permission to go at a pace that works for you is always great and much more motivating in my opinion.

    Good luck with your further investigations with AIP!

    Toréa

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