Is AIP Forever?

Yes. No. Maybe.

LOL!

There are phases to the AIP elimination diet. The initial phase, the “elimination” phase, is not forever. Is it difficult? Yes, indeed! How difficult it is will depend on your current diet and lifestyle habits. When I first started full on AIP, I had already been following a Primal lifestyle for a couple of years, and prior to that had been JERF, and prior to that, Atkins. Before I started Atkins in 2008, I was your typical junk food junky. I ate manufactured foods all day every day, with small portions of fresh real foods only occasionally.

Starting AIP directly from a starting point of our typical diet of manufactured convenience foods, and daily fast food stops at the drive-thru will, for some people, prove to be too much all at once. It is possible to take it slow, one step at a time, you don’t have to rip off the band-aid in one fell swoop, but some people do. Whichever works for you, is what is best. Everybody is different. I learned in the AIP cert course many different methods to work our way to “full on” AIP. Whichever route you take to get there, the end goal is the same. A goal to better health, and better management of our chronic disease.

So, is AIP forever? And is this instead of medication, or along with?

Yes. There are some foods that you will eliminate, and you will find that you will never be able to eat them again for the rest of your life. Most common is gluten, and it is suggested by all the autoimmune/nutrition experts that gluten is a major contributor to ALL autoimmune diseases, not just celiac, so it should be eliminated by everyone, forever. Next most common is conventional dairy products. Raw, grass fed dairy may be ok, eventually. The initial elimination phase though is only 30 to 90 days, so no, it’s not forever. Some people stay longer, depending on their goals. I myself stayed on the elimination phase the first time for 4 months, and in that time got Sjogren’s, psoriasis, and celiac into remission. Everyone’s results will vary, depending on their disease, and the damage that has already been done.

No. There are some foods that as you reintroduce them, you will find do not cause you any problems at all, so you can have those foods regularly. Mostly these foods will include legumes with edible pods, such as green beans, or snow peas (generally the legumes that you can eat raw, in the pod, you can’t do that with kidney beans for instance). I was able to reintroduce quite a lot of elimination phase foods without issue. My diet is quite varied now.  Some other foods continue to give me grief, even years later, so I avoid them. I do not feel deprived by this. I would rather avoid these foods that make me ill, than eat them out of convenience, or just to “fit in” with what everybody else is eating. If I eat kidney beans, I get severe vertigo. That’s not fun! If I eat anything with even the slightest bit of soy in it, I get a headache and stuffy nose. This causes me to be less productive at work, and who wants a headache? I don’t miss these foods at all.

Maybe. Other foods that for years caused me issue, like white potatoes, which I avoided since 2008 when I started Atkins, now no longer bother me in small amounts occasionally. It took 9 years, but I can eat them again. But now I don’t even want to! Sweet potatoes are so much more flavourful, why would I want to eat bland white potatoes? Bleah…Your mileage may vary of course. You may be able to reintroduce them (in Stage 4) and have no problems. You may find that all nightshades are problematic, and may never be able to tolerate them. If that’s the case, by that point you won’t miss them anyway, as you will have learned so much about new foods that so many other options are open to you.

The reintroduction phase does take quite a long time. There are four stages, mapped out in specific order starting with foods that are least likely to cause problems in Stage One, lastly to the foods that are most likely to be problematic, like nightshades and gluten free grains in Stage 4. If during any stage you find that if you can’t have “X” food RIGHT NOW you will explode, then go ahead and have a small serving of it (except gluten please!). I usually cave in after a few weeks without chocolate. Generally speaking, some nice dark organic, fair trade, rainforest alliance certified, gluten free, soy free, dairy free raw cacao is really good for you! Full of antioxidants and polyphenols. So, having one serving of it for a special occasion, or because you had a bad day, and then putting it aside again until you get to that reintroduction phase for seeds is perfectly fine. AIP is not meant to be torturous. It is meant to be healing, and is meant to teach you what foods are causing you problems and contributing to your autoimmune disease. If you have that small serving of chocolate and experience a return of symptoms, then you know chocolate is something you may not be able to eat. Right now. Try it again in a few weeks after more healing. Like me with the white potatoes, it may take several years, or it may just be a couple of months. Be patient.

What to do if you reintroduce a food, and you experience full blown flare up of your worst symptoms? Well, you go back to the beginning. Every. Single. Time. Even the foods that you have successfully reintroduced should be eliminated again, and go back to full on elimination phase AIP. This will help control the flare, and hopefully make it be less likely to cause damage, or to last very long. I used to get flares of things that would last sometimes longer than a year. Now I get flares that last anywhere from one day to a few weeks, depending what I’ve done to myself. Yes, we are our own worst enemy! Diet and lifestyle are the most effective treatment to autoimmune disease, and also the most common cause of flares. That’s the point of the AIP is for us to learn what our own individual triggers are, and then we can avoid them. If we don’t avoid them, we cause a flare. Sounds like motivation to me!

One of the most important things to remember about AIP is that we’re not just eliminating “bad” foods. If we did that, then we’d be very deprived indeed, because there really isn’t much left! We also introduce a lot of really good health promoting foods that people don’t normally eat a lot of, if at all in the standard diet of convenient frankenfoods.

We introduce foods like organ meats, seafood and fish, lots and lots and lots of colourful vegetables, insects (yes, BUGS!), fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, healthy fatty foods like avocados and olives, and fruits. Every meal, every day.

You’re also going to be taking a good hard look at your lifestyle. All the healthy food in the world isn’t going to help a lick, if you stay awake all night binging on Netflix or playing video games! You need to sleep. Sleep is vitally important to good health and to healing from chronic disease.

We also need to get up and move regularly. In the early weeks of starting AIP, you may not be very mobile, but a short walk once or twice a day is enough to keep the lymph system flowing. As you get more into AIP, as you start to feel better and have more energy and strength, you can go for a longer walk more often. And you might even start an exercise program. The best one is the one that you enjoy, so that you will keep up with it! It’s no use to sign up for a Couch to 5K programme if you hate running! Pick something you enjoy doing. And if you don’t know what you will enjoy, try a bunch of different things. Most fitness centres have drop-in prices or free trials so you can check out various exercise classes once or twice, without need of a monthly membership.

If after 90 days you’re still not feeling optimal, then it’s time for troubleshooting, but that’s a bit too much to get into in a blog post, and is best left for each individual situation, when, or if, you get there.

I hope this has helped you a bit to understand what AIP is, and how it works. No, all the food eliminations are not forever, but the lifestyle is for life. Once your immune system has gone all wonky, there’s no way to turn that off. AIP can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine, or on its own, only you can make that decision which way to go. Some AIs absolutely need medication, like type 1 diabetes, or Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s, but even with medication, we can all benefit from a health promoting diet and lifestyle. There is no cure for autoimmune disease. But in the meantime, we have AIP, and it’s our best option.

If you are ready to start AIP and need some coaching, I’m here for you. Send me an email to rebecca@rebaweber.ca or click the “Contact” menu above. There are so far over 100 AIP certified coaches around the world, and there will be more next year, and more the year after that. We’re here until there is a cure and we’re no longer needed.

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