Updated: Oct 16, 2018
They could be your neighbor, a parent from your kids' school, a friend, your coach, a teacher, a business owner you're doing business with... They experimented the AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Protocol to manage their symptoms and they accepted to share their experience with y'all.
For our first episode of this series of interviews, Pam is our guest.
My name is Pam, and I’m 53 years old. I live in Raleigh with my husband, Dave, teenage daughter, Claire, and two cats. We’ve lived here for about 25 years. I’m originally from Silicon Valley, but I have lived in, and visited, many other places in the United States.
What autoimmune disease(s) (AID) are you managing? What symptoms did you have? For about 10 years I had painful and swollen finger joints and was unable to wear my wedding ring. A rheumatologist said he had no idea what was causing it or what could be done to fix it. Then about 4 years ago, I had severe diarrhea for several weeks and was ultimately diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). I also had gotten severe brain fog and very low energy due to my recent lack of nutrients. My GI doctor put me on a medication that stopped the diarrhea, but my stool was still soft. His comments included, “You will be on this medication for the rest of your life… higher incidence of colon cancer… diet has nothing to do with it.” At an initial prescription cost of $230 per month, with persistent brain fog and low energy, and with lifetime repercussions, my husband and I had started to investigate dietary solutions ourselves.
How long have you been using AIP to manage your AID? Why did you start it? What/who advised you to start it? What are the results on your symptoms from switching to AIP?
Within a year after my UC diagnosis I met Dr. Loan Huynh, a chiropractor and holistic health care practitioner (you can find Dr. Loan here: http://optimalwellnessofraleigh.com/). I initially went to her for a chiropractic adjustment, but she asked extremely comprehensive questions about my overall health and diet. Her comments that first visit were that I was intolerant to gluten and dairy, and should avoid them completely. Dr. Huynh also said that all of my symptoms were caused by a leaky gut, which could all be healed in six months if I followed her dietary suggestions. While the diet sounded severely strict, it was also empowering and exciting news. With persistent symptoms, and medication that had increased in cost to $530 per month, restoring my health became top priority. Within two days of following her dietary guidelines my stools were normal, brain fog lifted, and energy was restored. After a month I stopped the medication, and have stayed off of it ever since without any symptoms. About six months after starting the diet my finger joints were no longer red or swollen, and I was delighted to be able to wear my wedding ring again. It even stopped some sinus issues that I didn’t know were related. My GI doctor did a follow up colonoscopy, and was shocked to see no indication that I ever had UC. He said he has never seen such a recovery from someone as sick as I was, but admitted that he does not have any other patients who have followed an AIP protocol.
Did you try to reintroduce some food? Which ones succeeded/failed and how did it go? As I healed, Dr. Huynh slowly reintroduced foods into my diet. Mushrooms and most nightshades seem fine. Most others are ok in moderation. Cow’s milk is still avoided, but goat and sheep milk cheese in moderation are fine. Eggs, corn, and nuts are okay in moderation. Sugar, alcohol, and many gluten free starches are also okay in moderation. I have learned to listen to my body.
What were your biggest challenges when you started AIP? What about now? Initially, I was very sick so my diet was primarily protein, healthy fat (olive, coconut, avocado), and certain non-starchy fruits and vegetables. I needed to learn new recipes, and often had to cook different things for my family because they weren’t following my diet. It felt like my whole life focused around food, and I lost about 8 pounds the first month because of the minimal starches. I felt great, but my body was transitioning from using starch / sugar for fuel to burning fat, and my weight leveled off after that. Traveling and going out to restaurants were particularly tricky because I needed to avoid all sugar, which included most sauces and dressings. Now much of the changes are second nature. And with the increasing number of people with food sensitivities, there are many more options at the grocery store and restaurants. I don’t mind avoiding most desserts as I have lost much of my taste for sweets. The most difficult thing is that I often have to ask about ingredients and avoid things that I’m uncertain about.
How AIP impacted your personal and professional life? My improved health is a huge positive for my family, as we are now more physically active. We recently visited Arizona and the Grand Canyon and did quite a bit of hiking. Cooking is still a bit complicated because my family likes some dishes that I can’t eat, but we’ve adapted many things to be tasty for all of us. I’m trying to get them to go dairy free for a while and see if it affects them, but so far they are not motivated. While I probably spend a bit more money splurging on certain foods to treat myself, it is more than offset by reduced cost of medication and doctor visits. AIP doesn’t impact my professional life at all.
What is your current occupation? If you have your own business, what is your website or social media to know more about it? I have been doing custom paint finishes on furniture and refinishing: https://www.facebook.com/brightleaf.interiors/www.brightleafinteriors.com I am transitioning to sewing unique women's handbags and gifts: https://www.facebook.com/JeanettesBagBoutique/
What would you say to someone considering doing AIP but who is afraid to start? Try it. Set a goal to follow an AIP diet for a week, then a month. Notice how your body feels. How is your energy level? How is your mood? How are you sleeping? I found it incredibly empowering that I had vast control over my health on a daily basis. I think you will ultimately find that AIP is easier than it sounds, and you will notice more health benefits the longer you follow it.