In January, my wife and I started on the auto-immune protocol of the paleo diet. We completed our 30 day commitment at the end of the January, so this wrap-up post is about a month behind – or is it?
I pose that question because it seems that the autoimmune protocol is never really done. It’s simply a starting point to calming down your autoimmune system so that you can better evaluate how things affect you. You may need to go 60, 90, 180 days or more in clean eating and testing over and over across a wide spectrum of foods to really get dialed in on how your body reacts. For some, a test of a food that results in a reaction may call for a new 2 week period of strict eating before the next food challenge. The process can take months, perhaps even a couple of years of strict/test/strict cycling. That’s a pretty daunting task, so you have to ask yourself the question:
At what cost am I willing to explore how my body reacts to certain foods?
In January, my wife and I ate exactly one meal at a restaurant. Even that meal violated strict autoimmune protocol – it’s pretty hard to find a meal devoid of nightshade-derived spices at a Mexican restaurant. We skipped chips and salsa, rice and beans, and tortillas – all delicious things – in order to stay as close to our commitment as possible while we enjoyed a nice dinner out with friends. Fortunately, we didn’t hit any reactions that evening. Do you enjoy eating out? This protocol makes it really difficult to do that, and honestly, it’s easier to not go out versus trying to find the one thing of the menu that you can eat (if you modify it).
So what DID we eat?
Lots of meats and vegetables, and some fruit. I logged everything I ate into myfitnesspal, so if you’re interested in seeing exactly what I ate, just friend-request rick_knowles. We ate very simply and used the crockpot pretty frequently. An excellent resource for autoimmune paleo information and recipes is The Paleo Mom. To find new and interesting stuff to make, we would typically take a look at our ingredients and google search for what to do with it, as in “autoimmune paleo chicken carrots”.
As far as a macronutrient breakdown goes, each week of the 4 weeks, I ate 53% fat, 25% carbs, and 22% protein.
What happened from the experiment?
Initially, following the protocol, the greatest result was annoyance and a desire to quit. Breakfast was the most challenging, because eggs were a huge staple of our mornings. Eliminate cereals and eggs at breakfast and suddenly not much is left that matches what you think breakfast should look like. The easiest way to resolve this problem is to adjust your mindset. There’s nothing wrong with eating last night’s leftovers for breakfast, but it didn’t “feel” right because, you know, that’s not the way I was raised. The next easiest way is to simply skip breakfast and practice a little intermittent fasting.
I did lose weight and size over the month, dropping 10 pounds and 5.5 total inches across the neck, chest, waist, hip, and thigh measurements. Following this protocol got me back on track for the weight I had gained from enjoying my holidays a little too much, but I can’t say that I felt much better. I suspect that’s because I really didn’t have much in the way of food sensitivities in the autoimmune realm in the first place. I was joining in on the experiment in support of my wife. Now, the weird thing that did happen to me during the protocol is that I had my first gout attack in 2 years at week 3 of the experiment. This was a major bummer for me, as I had felt “cured” from gout from the last 2 years of clean eating. To tighten up my nutrition even further and have a gout flare return was depressing, to say the least. The why it happened is still a mystery.
For my wife, she reported fewer headaches and other body aches. In the reintroduction phase, eggs, paprika, and cumin have been added back successfully. Almond butter seemed to bring on a stomachache. Chili powder definitely brought on a stomachache. A glass of red wine led to a migraine, but red wine in cooking did not.
For both of us, we’ve had a few successful reintroductions to grass-fed butter in small doses with no apparent issues. That’s after 20 years dairy-free for my wife and the last year dairy-free for me. However, it’s too early to tell if it’s a long-term keeper, an occasional okay item, or something we should leave alone entirely. If there’s one dairy product that we’d love to add back, it’s real butter!
So what now?
Really, it’s more of the same. Eat clean > test > evaluate, then move on to the next item. Better information leads to better decisions. Happy eating!