Reintroductions: Where I stand – Feb 2016

I’ve intended to write this post for a while now but I’ve been slowed recently by my search for a new job, studying, and lots of changes at home. Just as I finally got down to typing last week I was struck with my first cold in YEARS!! I’ve been aware that despite being incredibly ill with crohn’s, a bout of arthritis and on-going alopecia over the past few years, I haven’t once caught the flu or even a brief cold! It then occurred to me that this may actually have been down to the fact that my immune system had been on such overdrive with it’s attack response that those little bugs didn’t stand a chance! Until now. YAY! I see it as a good sign that I caught a cold; it tells me that my immune system has genuinely calmed down. I was pretty chuffed!

Anyway, down to business. A popular question I receive from followers is:


‘How do you manage reintroductions and gauge reactions with a condition like alopecia, which, doesn’t make itself apparent until it’s too late and the hair has already fallen?’


THAT’S A VERY GOOD QUESTION.

I began my reintroduction process with great trepidation. The whole time I was following the elimination stage (which was 5 months before my first reintro) I was super paranoid about making mistakes for fear that all of my hair would fall out or I would be rushed into hospital and pinned down for bowel surgery. Before I continue, let me point out that that level of worry is not healthy and is totally detrimental to your healing. Your thoughts hold the capacity to make or break you. So anyway, when it came to trying out these foods again I was apprehensive to say the least.

I then discovered some brilliant guides such as
Phoenix Helix: Paleo AIP Reintroduction Guide
Phoenix Helix: Top 5 mistakes people make reintroducing Foods
Phoenix Helix: Podcast – Reintroducing foods on the Paleo AIP
The Paleo Mom: The Reintroduction Quick-Start Guide 

***PLEASE read at least one of these guides before you try reintroducing anything***
There is a specific procedure to follow that will not only make the process as safe as possible, but it will also enable you to clearly notice what you’re reacting to and how. The different foods are categorised in 4 stages according to what you should try first and what you should wait a little longer for. Timing is everything! Sarah Ballantyne covers this in her book ‘The Paleo Approach’, as does Eileen Laird in ‘A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol’.

It became clear to me that reactions/intolerances to food will not necessarily manifest as a direct symptom of your particular autoimmune disorder. So for anyone with alopecia, there are warning signs to look out for before you come anywhere close to your hair falling out again. I’m still here and I still have all of my hair but I’ve definitely had a few reintroduction hiccups. No biggy!

The signs and symptoms to look out for may sound pretty subtle as you read this list but I have found that once you’ve healed and are feeling in great health, small changes become much more noticeable!

 

Sign & symptoms of food intolerance during reintroductions:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, stomach ache, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and undigested food in stool
  • Increased mucus production – phlegm, runny nose or post-nasal drip
  • Aches and pains in muscles or joints
  • Fatigue, reduced energy or energy dips
  • Skin changes such as rashes, acne, dry skin, spots, dry hair or nails
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Sneezing, itchy eyes or mouth
  • Mood swings, feeling low or depressed, anxiety
  • Food cravings for sugar, fat or caffeine
  • Trouble sleeping
  • For alopecia sufferers: I notice a bit of an itchy scalp

As you’ll discover in the guides I have listed, there is a 72 hour window during which time any of these symptoms may arise. The method for reintroductions is that you should try a mouthful of the food and wait a couple of hours to see if you have any obvious allergic reaction. If not, go ahead and eat a full portion of that food and assess yourself over the next 72 hours (DO NOT REINTRODUCE ANYTHING ELSE DURING THIS TIME!) Normally reactions will occur within the first 24 hours but some people do find symptoms can arise up to 72 hours later. Even if your reintroduction is not successful, it’s not all doom and gloom! Wait a few months and try again. Your body might just take a little longer to heal before it can tolerate certain foods.

 

Use a bit of common sense

Think about any foods you were a bit ‘funny’ with before you ever tried AIP and consider whether you actually want to reintroduce them at all. I have made a conscious decision not to reintroduce nuts and eggs (at least, not for a long time anyway). This is a real shame because both are perfectly paleo, very nutritious and of course, delicious. My reason for this is based on a history of allergies. I have always been VERY allergic to almond and occasionally a bit funny with peanuts (which are actually a legume!). I’ve never been able to eat macadamias or brazil nuts but I have always been seemingly fine with walnuts and hazelnuts. I used to call it my ‘selective nut allergy’. Who knows, I may actually have been allergic to walnuts and hazelnuts all along but my symptoms didn’t manifest as anaphylaxis and instead persisted as an underlying contributor to my autoimmune disorder. I’m not willing to take the risk right now. If I was dealing with a different autoimmune disease for which the symptoms would make themselves known immediately, I might experiment, but with alopecia I’m not willing to wait and see!

The same goes for eggs. As a child I came out in hives when I ate eggs and although I grew out of this kind of reaction as an adult, my ability to tolerate them was very temperamental. Sometimes I would be totally fine, other times I would feel nauseous, have stomach ache or end up with diarrhoea. I was always able to eat cakes though?!? Again, given that I was allergic from a young age, I imagine eggs could be an underlying problem for me. It’s pretty well known within the AIP community that they can be difficult to tolerate (especially if they’re soy-fed). Do your research and make a decision that is right for you. Many people find that it’s actually the egg whites that they’re intolerant to and in fact yolks go down a treat! Angie Alt (autoimmune-paleo.com) and Joanna Frankman (joannafrankman.com) can tolerate soy-free pastured eggs and Eileen Laird (phonexhelix.com) can eat any type of eggs. If you’d like to know how to separate yolks from whites and learn more about their nutritional value, have a read here:
Phoenix Helix: How to separate eggs. The nutritional power of yolks.
To learn more about why eggs can be problematic for some people, read here:
The Paleo Mom: The whys behind the autoimmune protocol – eggs. 

 

My reintroductions

Successful

  • Green legumes with edible pods (sugar snap peas, runner beans, peas, green beans, mangetout, etc.)
  • Fruit and berry based spices
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Seeds
  • Butter (see my thoughts on dairy below)
  • Red wine
  • Chilli peppers (mild and in small doses)
  • White rice
  • Tomatoes (so far I’ve only tried a few cooked in my soup)

Unsure

  • Dark chocolate

 Unsuccessful

  • Potatoes

Yet to try

  • Raw tomatoes and tinned tomatoes
  • Paprika
  • Sweet peppers
  • Aubergines
  • Coffee
  • All dairy except butter
  • Potatoes (again!)

My symptoms
I always like to remind myself that everyone is different. What I can tolerate isn’t necessarily going to work for somebody else and what he or she eats regularly could be very difficult for me to handle even just once! I’ve run into various difference symptoms while experimenting with these foods and not all were successful the first time round. I am most noticeably struck by fatigue which very often develops into joint aches (particularly in my knees where I once suffered a bout of crohn’s related arthritis), I become moody and irritable, anxious or depressed and very often break out in acne or dry skin. My mum also says I look very heavy under the eyes when I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t! The only gastrointestinal symptoms I have experienced were brought on by potatoes which caused my strongest reaction so far. I had a lot of stomach pain, nausea and cramping along with all of the above.

Chocolate
The reason I say I’m ‘unsure’ about dark chocolate is because my reactions have been a bit hit and miss. I’m usually fine with one or two squares in isolation but I noticed that if I eat a piece each day I develop joint pain and fatigue, which is eventually followed by acne. I haven’t had any chocolate since mid-December 2015 so I’m due to try again. I also suspect that my reactions were partly stress related so it’s difficult to judge.

How to reintroduce
It’s taken a long while to try these foods because I always wait for an appropriate time. I don’t want to experience symptoms while I’m working or out with friends so I always end up delaying my experiment and then that delay gets pushed back further because something else comes up! ‘Experiment’ is the key word here and you really should treat it as one – a science experiment under controlled conditions. You should make sure you’re in a good mood, you’ve slept well, you’re feeling healthy and not experiencing symptoms from a previous reintroduction. Then of course make sure you’re comfortable and able to deal with the consequences if it’s unsuccessful.

 

Some exceptions

I can tolerate vegetable/sunflower oil perfectly well. I’m aware that it’s not healthy and actually toxic – I NEVER COOK WITH IT – but I do make exceptions when I’m eating out at restaurants. I am particularly limited as a paleo-eater because I’m allergic to coconut so pretty much all paleo snacks are off-limits to me. As this is the case I do purchase root vegetable crisps (chips) cooked in sunflower oil to keep as an emergency snack. Or whenever I get the munchies…

I’m fine with red wine and can even tolerate quite a large quantity (very occasionally!) but white wine upsets my stomach and gives me diarrhoea. Weird, huh?

As a result of an allergic reaction to an anti-TNF biologic treatment last year that was inevitably cancelled, I developed a strange allergy to foods high in latex – avocado, banana, kiwi and plums. At one stage they would make me feel short of breath with a debilitating back ache as well as tired and anxious. I would have to knock back anti-histamine to make it stop. I don’t react so strongly now – just a little bit of fatigue the last time I tried a few months ago but I am still yet to properly reintroduce them full-time. Healing is an on-going process and this is so evident to me because with time I have been better able to tolerate foods and my very random development of a food-latex allergy has improved.

  

My thoughts on dairy

I’m not sure if I will ever bother to reintroduce dairy. I can’t make up my mind. I don’t miss it so I’m not in a hurry. I see it as the slightly-less-wicked sister of gluten. It can contribute to the development of a leaky gut which is the root cause of autoimmune disease. I’ve got no intention of going there again, so why bother flirting with it? I imagine I would probably tolerate dairy quite well but as with nuts and eggs, I don’t want to risk waiting until it’s too late. I need immediate reactions that tell me no! If there’s one thing the vegan and paleo communities can both agree on, it’s the absence of dairy. The only exception I’ve made is butter. I never use it at home but I will happily eat food cooked in butter at a restaurant. This is my way of finding a balance between and a decent, undisrupted social life and keeping my health on track. I can’t knock back shots of vodka until the early hours but I can enjoy a good meal (with butter!) and a glass of wine.

 

Love your food

Whatever you do, don’t fear your reintroductions. I’m a strong believer in positive thinking, energy and vibrational output. I think one of the reasons I struggled with some of my reintroductions the first time round was because I was so worried – thinking that these relatively safe foods were going to destroy me! I was probably even more wound up  because I felt I had something to prove to my doctor and I really didn’t want bowel surgery (for crohn’s)! Man, I could talk about this all day. I’m currently reading Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ which will most definitely provide content for a future blog post about how there is more to healing than just diet. I believe that our attitude, emotions and the environment we submit the cells of our body to has the biggest impact on our wellbeing.

Be thankful for your food, allow it to nourish you and visualise yourself in good health. Give those tomatoes a little kiss if you need to!

x x x
*If you find this blog helpful and you like to see more content from me, please consider a donation. The funds will help pay my tuition fees at the College of Naturopathic Medicine so that I can become a Nutritional Therapist and thus be better able to help you.*

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11 thoughts on “Reintroductions: Where I stand – Feb 2016

  1. What are your thoughts on milk kefir? I’ve heard a lot of people with chrons and with leaky gut curing themselves with milk kefir and I’ve done research and most are saying that dairy is very pro inflammatory but when its fermented it basically turns quiet alkaline in your body and has tons of b vitamins and probiotics, also would u ever try milk kefir or does your body not accept milk in any form?

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    • Hey! I think milk kefir and homemade probiotics yoghurt are foods that can be reintroduced after completing the elimination phase of the autoimmune protocol. Many people find dairy (in any form) difficult to tolerate and dairy is known to contribute to the formation of a leaky gut. In order to heal I think it’s best to leave it out but it is definitely a ‘friendlier’ type of dairy that for some people can be successfully reintroduced. The bottom line is that you won’t know if you can tolerate it unless you eliminate it first. Before I began AIP I actually started with the GAPS diet (which incorporates milk kefir) and then moved on to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which includes homemade probiotic yoghurt). I enjoyed eating both of these but it wasn’t until I quit dairy altogether that I saw a dramatic difference in my health. I would certainly try kefir or homemade yoghurt again in the future but I would never make it a regular/daily addition to my diet – I’ll stick to probiotic supplements.

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  2. Hi, I actually came across your youtube video and I have to sat you have given me hope when I had none. I did the gluten free diet for about 4 months because I had heard it worked so well for others but it didn’t do much for me. I have had Alopecia Areata for 2 years now and my hair grew back the past summer with the help of steroids prescribed by my endocrinologist. But I didn’t like the side effects and stopped taking them and my hair has begun falling out yet again. So I was forced to look into the Paleo Approach( a book, ironically, that I had purchased last year and scared me off with the expectations). My problem has to do with hormones and I am thinking that is one of the reasons I have lost my hair, that is, aside from the fact that my body is mal-nourished. That being said, I am 24 and I was once beautiful and I didn’t appreciate it, now I wish I had my hair back. I went through great struggles to gain my confidence back and look into my inner beauty. And I was just about ready to give up when I came across your video and the fact that you were so strong despite what was happening to you gave me the strength that I needed to start taking the paleo approach seriously. Thank you for inspiring me. It really means alot. BTW I have purchased the other book you recommended on the YouTube video. Thanks again for making my life easier.

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    • Hi Liz! Thank you for your lovely message. It really means a lot to me to know that people find the blog and videos helpful and motivating. I know it’s incredibly hard to commit to a diet when you don’t see any immediate results but I assure you it is absolutely worth it in the long run – you’ll experience so many health benefits, not just a reversal of autoimmune disease. Please do give it a few months because it takes time for the gut to heal and the body to adapt; it’s not an overnight cure. I really do hope this works for you – please trust and believe in it – your positive thoughts are crucial.
      I totally know what you mean about not appreciating our own beauty in the past! I used to have SO MUCH thick luscious hair and all I even did was complain about how it didn’t style right, how it would go frizzy or just annoy me in every way! BUT it is never too late to love yourself. Start now, even with your patches, and you’ll find it will boost you on the path to healing. xx

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  3. I’ve been following the AIP since January and I’ve recently become very intolerant to bananas. I have never been allergic to anything before and have always been absolutely fine with bananas up until now as they cause major stomach upset. I was wondering if this is common/If you experienced any new intolerances come about after starting the AIP? x

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    • Hi Natasha,
      I’ve heard this is quite common in the AIP community. I think the problem is that because people feel limited by the diet they begin eating the same foods that they like over and over again. It’s not unusual to develop a slight allergy to something because of over exposure/over-doing it. Were you eating a lot of bananas before this happened? I promise it’s not a permanent problem though. Don’t eat them for a while and try again later. It’s a good idea to rotate your foods, try to break up your eating pattern with different foods if you can. Plus variety is super important for receiving different types of vitamins. I hope this helps! x x

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  4. Thanks Stella! I have been following AIP since December (when I thankfully came across your blog! alopecia areata…but over my whole head and much more obvious/thin than yours…thankfully no other AI manifestations, though) but have been getting a little lazy/despondent about it all…haven’t focused enough on nourishment and have been eating eggs and nuts cause I missed them soooo much. Since reading this, I have realised that a slight stiffness in my fingers and toes has come about since i made decision to start eating eggs and nuts again.. I was wondering what was going on…hopefully there is a connection there!! and hopefully now that I’ll stop eating them it’ll go away! Your post has got me back on track… I’ll be strict again for a month or so, see how the joints go, and then try the eggs and or nuts again. (PS although my hair still comes out in clump fulls I do have some peach fuzz happening… 😀 keep at it follicles!!)
    Thanks again for your encouragement, you’ve helped me heaps through the past months!
    Best wishes, Charlotte

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    • YAY FOR PEACH FUZZ!! That’s awesome! Focus on that and try not to worry about any of the hair that is coming out. I’m so glad you’re feeling motivated to be a little stricter with your diet. It’s crazy how the smallest things can have such a huge impact. Best of luck to you! Please do let me know of your progress x x

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