A fresh start – I’m finished with AIP

I’m finished with AIP. In fact, I’m not even eating ‘paleo’. Over the past few months I have been experimenting with all kinds of non-paleo foods such as grains, pseudo-grains, legumes and dairy and I’ve concluded that the paleo diet no longer suits my needs. Before I get into details about how and why, let me just be clear that I am not dismissing or rejecting the benefits of the AIP or paleo diet. Clearly AIP has helped me tremendously to recover from both a Crohn’s flare and Alopecia Areata, but now that I have regained my health I personally believe that AIP no longer serves its purpose for me, particularly because it is limiting my health in other ways.

My thoughts on Paleo

AIP is an elimination diet. It’s not meant to be lived forever but instead utilised as a powerful tool to regain health in times of crisis. Some people follow AIP for years and that’s fine if they feel that their autoimmune disease is particularly hard to control. Some people gradually transition to a standard paleo diet; others choose ‘primal’ and sustain these lifestyles for many more years. The point is that AIP is a learning process. It allows us to discover which foods cause us to flare, which are totally intolerable and which are perfectly safe. Above all of this, AIP provides the opportunity to truly CLEAN UP the gut – repair those broken tight junctions, clear out candida overgrowth and return the digestive system to optimal functionality. The science behind the diet shouldn’t be dismissed. Gut dysbiosis is a real thing. Leaky gut is a real thing. Both need to be fixed in order to move forward with better health. Both are caused by toxic, junky diets high in refined sugars, non-organic produce, GM gluten and soy; stress and poor lifestyle choices.

Having said that, I don’t believe that we should get caught up in the idea that paleo is the only ‘right’ diet. I don’t believe in all this ancestral nonsense about how we’re not designed to eat grains and that we shouldn’t. Grains shouldn’t be demonised as if they’re a poisonous food – it’s only what we’ve done to them with fertilisers, pesticides, genetic modifications and other crap that has made them a threat. People talk about our paleolithic ancestors as if they were the only generation of humans with a healthy diet. This is total rubbish. What about even just a few hundred years ago when people safely ate wheat and dairy? Did they suffer so badly with autoimmune disease back then? No! Where were the chemicals? NON-EXISTANT.

This might sound airy-fairy to some people but I find it incredibly hard to believe that this abundant, life sustaining, joy-bringing food was put on earth to poison us. People all over the world depend on grains where meat is scarce and unaffordable. They live happily ever after. I think we need to take more responsibility for our actions (the way we treat food) but also for our behaviours, emotions and lifestyle choices that inflict unnecessary pain upon ourselves. These are at the root of illness. There’s so much to be said on this but it’s a subject  which I will delve into in a future blog post. For now I’m just making my declaration to you that I am no longer following AIP and presenting just some of the reasons why.

I’ve never been happy about the level of meat consumption necessary to sustain my weight while on AIP. I’ve dreamt for a long time of more balanced diet. I’ve been questioning how some people can follow a plant based diet and still manage to recover from debilitating diseases. Take for example, ‘Deliciously Ella’ (Ella Woodward) who follows a clean, gluten, soy and refined sugar free vegan diet to cure Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. And she’s not alone. There are many others who claim incredible benefits of veganism, a diet that is jam-packed with grains. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m all in favour of veganism and that this is my new lifestyle choice, it’s not. What I’m saying is that I can appreciate a variety of diets and each is tailored to suit the constitution of the individual. This is why I’m now studying nutrition; I don’t believe there is a one size fits all. BUT if there’s a trend across all of these diets it’s that junk food is an absolute no. That means no refined sugars, refined oils, additives, preservatives, GM, heavy pesticides and fertilisers.

So what am I eating now?

I believe in balance. Balance in mind, body and soul. Equally, our diet should be balanced. I don’t believe that grains and dairy were put on this earth to poison and destruct our bodies. We did that. We did that with our minds, our emotions, our behaviours, our chemicals and our abuse and misuse of nature. I will write another blog post about this but to summarise:

I am eating:

– All gluten-free grains and pseudo-grains (buckwheat, brown and white rice, GF oats, amaranth, quinoa, etc. – all organic if cooked at home, non-organic when eating out)
– All dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream, etc. – organic at home, non-organic if not)
– All legumes, beans, pulses
– All fruits and vegetables including occasional tomatoes
– Chicken
– Red meat only once a week
– Potatoes
– Dark Chocolate
– Red wine
– Very mild chilli
– All spices and seeds

Not eating:

– Gluten
– Refined cooking oils (sunflower, palm, vegetable)
– Soya of any kind
– Fish (because I’m allergic but I will experiment soon).
– Coconut (because I’m allergic)
– Processed meats like bacon and ham
– Anything with additives or preservatives, gums, stabilisers or lecithin

I’m temporarily not eating bell peppers, aubergines and strong chilli – these are powerful nightshades that I haven’t tried reintroducing yet but I will soon.

 

Why is this right for me?

  • I want to gain weight and I don’t feel I can achieve this while eating AIP. My body burns fats too quickly and doesn’t allow me to store any of it. I need a higher carbohydrate diet to allow my body to burn glucose for fuel and store fat. I need to gain weight because I’ve had Amenorrhea for a year and a half (due to low weight). Amenorrhea puts me at risk of osteoporosis.
  • Food brings me so much pleasure. I don’t drink alcohol except for a very occasional glass of wine so my social life is very much centred around eating-out. Not limiting myself or my friends with strict dietary rules is important to me.
  • I have tolerated all of my reintroductions very well and I’ve EARNED this. I put in the hard work to heal my gut and I waited to ensure I was feeling in optimal health before testing and re-testing myself.
  • Massively reducing my meat consumption makes an all-organic diet more affordable for me. Organic beans, legumes, grains are more cost effective. I’ll also be happier not eating so much meat.
  • I don’t care about alopecia. As long as my tummy is in a good state (no Crohn’s disease symptoms) I do not worry about how food might potentially affect me in the long run. Alopecia and Crohn’s will always be a part of my life – it’s my reaction to stress. So long as I control my emotions, I have no reason to flare again.
  • I’m studying to become a Naturopathic Nutritionist and therefore an understanding and experience of a variety of dietary needs is important to my work.
  • Mind over matter. I don’t fear my food and I absolutely believe that what I’m doing is right for ME. I don’t fear my autoimmune diseases and I put a lot of positive energy and trust into my belief that I am well and that my body is far more resilient than I have given it credit for.

 

What does this mean for AIP?

I still want to help people with AIP. As I said earlier, it’s a powerful tool to be used in times of crisis but can also be a long-term lifestyle choice for some people. All I’m saying is that I’ve done my healing and I don’t believe I need it any longer. If I were to have a serious Crohn’s flare in the future I would consider reverting but I wouldn’t bother for alopecia. I think we have more control over alopecia than we realise. Alopecia has taught me so much on a spiritual, soul-searching level (I’ll discuss another time). I’ve done my best to heal this far with diet but attitude conquers all. Love, positivity and fearlessness are key to healing. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t shared my alopecia experience with you and if I hadn’t decided to stop worrying about it. I know now that every time my stress and anxiety levels rise regarding ANYTHING in my life, I’m putting myself at risk of relapse.

Life is to be enjoyed. You can and you WILL enjoy some of your favourite foods again once you’ve put in the work. Some people may choose to clean up their diet by following a vegan lifestyle – good luck to you! This may very well work too. SO LONG AS YOU BELIEVE IN IT. I just encourage you all to think about your choices and not jump on the wagon of what everyone else is doing. Stop comparing, sit back and ask yourself, does this FEEL right for me? I 100% believed in AIP when I began and it felt so right for me. That was then, this is now. Right now it feels right for me relax my diet, enjoy my old favourite foods and be rewarded for my efforts. I’m happy.

Going forward

I will of course still be writing posts to help you on your AIP journey but over time I will be changing the face of this blog. I want my approach to healing to be more holistic, diverse and inclusive – not so paleo-centric. I’ll be sharing all of my food with you whether it is AIP or not but I will label them clearly. With time I will also be changing the name of the blog to reflect this change and to create a better platform for my future career as a Naturopathic Nutritionist (any name ideas are very welcome). There’s a lot to look forward to and I’m very excited about this change!

Lots of love

Stella x

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27 thoughts on “A fresh start – I’m finished with AIP

  1. Hi Stella, I’m Rahul, suffering from Alopecia Areata & I desperately want to try this AIP diet.But the Problem is all the recipes in AIP diat are almost impossible for me to make & follow ( as I’m a bachelor living away from home & eating in Mess) , However I can go for Only Fruit diet instead,
    Is it advisable..?? Will it serve the purpose..??

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  2. Thanks so much for this post. Really puts hope and an exciting future out there. Encourages me to experiment more and live less in fear. Explains why vacations and less optimal diets always seem to go surprisingly well. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this post, Stella. I’ve been struggling with a Crohn’s flare-up for months now and while I’ve been on a low-fiber, FODMAP, AIP diet for much of that time, I’m still symptomatic (pain due to a stricture in my small intestine). I’ve recently decided to let go of the rigidity of this diet because I’ve lost too much weight and it hasn’t solved anything. I just can’t consume enough of anything permitted by this diet to maintain my health especially given that eating any volume at one time is a problem for me too. I feel a bit defeated as a consequence – I really thought it would help – but I have to recognize when something isn’t right for my version of this disease. So, again, thank you for this post. It helps me feel a bit better knowing that I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stella, so glad to hear that you have finally healed and getting back to your old self again. Your comment on how you felt this diet wasn’t the best for you anymore especially because of the gaining weight issue I can completely relate too. Your words are still of great encouragement and I still look forward to reading your blog. Thank you so much for helping me out, I am still on the road to recovery with some diet mishaps, but healing very well. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am very excited:)

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  5. Your words here really resonate with my own experience, and I so appreciate your willingness to share your story with such candor and boldness.

    Your older posts showing how you experienced remission with your alopecia areata with AIP were part of what motivated me to try it for myself. And my hair started growing back, and it seems to be sticking, and of course I’m happy about that. But I think the most important thing I’ve gained from the whole experience (and I feel like I’ve gained so much) is a shedding of all the confining notions of what having or not having hair means and a newfound appreciation for good health and what I can do (and am happy to do) to support it.

    I have also made a lot of successful reintroductions since starting AIP back in February, and I also found that strict adherence to AIP over the long term is not right or necessary for me. I always hoped it would not have to be.

    I wish you the best in your studies and in life. Thanks again for sharing your story.

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  6. I just found you video last nigjt and cannot stop reading your blog. I have had aa for most of my 61 years. I want to begin my healing within. Can you advise as to where i can find the AIP foods that i can and cant have.
    Thank you do much for sharing…i felt im not alone any longer. I knew of no one else that has aa and everyone always focuses on my hair loss and “feels sorry” for me which makes it even worse.

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  7. Hi Stella, We are just beginning on this journey, my daughter Lilly has AA, she is 6 years old. For the last year my wife and I have known about the bold areas but Lillys has never noticed them as they are at the back of her head. As time has gone on the AA is becoming increasingly worse and is starting to become more noticeable. After discovering your amazing story and how you regained control of your health I am eagerer to try to control Lilly’s alopecia areata, eczema and recently diagnosed low thyroid gland with food if possible.
    Have you had any experience with the AP diet with children? I am a little concerned about cutting whole food groups out of Lilly’s diet, as her body is still developing.
    I will research further into all areas but feel that as you say in your original you tube video that this is a internal problem that can only be fixed from within.
    I am hoping that cutting out food that disagree the the body can only help, my only worry is that we will not be able to cut all the foods out in the AP diet to find which foods are the cause.

    Any advise you can offer will be gratefully received.

    I wish you all the best for the future and good luck with the studying.

    Lots of love.

    Andy. xx

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    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks for you message – that’s a very good question and I’m glad you asked. I’ve had many parents with young children approach me in the past and I have previously told them that I see no wrong in following the AIP. However, I have since changed my mind (in the time that I have been studying Biomedicine) and I now have to say that I agree with you, I don’t think it’s right for a child to follow a paleo diet. From my own experience of weight loss while on the diet I believe it would be far to stressful for a child’s body to endure, not to mention potentially detrimental in terms of growth and development. I think it’s important for children to have a varied diet – calcium from dairy (although of course this is abundant in leafy greens) but also a rich supply of glucose (from carbohydrates) which is essential fuel for all metabolic process in the body – particularly while growing!
      I also feel that since stopping the diet myself, it may not have been wholly necessary if it wasn’t for my crohn’s disease which really did need the extra gut clean up. I think it’s entirely possible to recover from AA without such extreme measures so long as the individual is able to manage stress, anxiety and all other negatives emotions such as fear, hate, jealously, anger etc etc which I believe have a tremendous impact on the body. Obviously your daughter is very young so this is not so clearly applicable but it may be worth considering the environment that she is exposed to.
      Having said all of this, I do believe that gluten is the biggest trigger of all autoimmune diseases so I would recommend cutting this out and see how she gets on. If you can, try not to just replace gluten containing foods with like for like ‘gluten free items’ as these are often jam packed with crap like additives, preservatives, chemicals etc. I think the best you can do is ensure that all dairy products are organic, and try to buy all organic products wherever possible or affordable (I can’t afford all organic so I tend to prioritise that my grains and dairy are). I would also recommend adding some daily probiotic yoghurt to her diet, reduce ‘refined sugars’ where possible and opt for fruit sugars, honey, maple etc. I would just think of it as ‘cleaner’ eating – free of chemicals and crap. I read the labels of everything I eat and if it doesn’t sound like a real food, I don’t eat it.
      I hope that all makes. I wish you the best of luck with your daughter. x x

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  8. Stella, I found your site and story just a few months ago and at this point I have read pretty much everything you have written. Thank you, thank you, for sharing your story, knowledge, and experience. I so appreciate your take and your writing voice is just quite enjoyable as well. I’ve had AA for years and years. Through good times and bad. Recently I dipped into a bout of hair loss after a particularly stressful time with work – my body’s warning sign to slow down and get centered. I’ve been going strong on AIP now for about 6 weeks and am already seeing some progress, which is awesome. More importantly cooking loads, having plenty of rest, and learning to be sociable in a big city without a glass of wine in my hand has been incredibly enjoyable and eye opening. It’s been a great reset, so far. You definitely inspired me to give this a try, so thank you again. Good luck with your studies. You are going to make an amazing practitioner.

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    • Wow thank you for such a lovely message! I’m so glad you like my blog and find it helpful! 🙂 I think it’s great that you’ve recognised how much stress has an affect on this disorder and can read the signs that you need to chill out and recentre. I still have to remind myself to do this at times! Best of luck to you, I wish you well x

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  9. Thank you for your words Stella and sharing your knowledge and experiences which i find extremely helpful. Thank you Stella, i really wish you all the best in your new start xxx

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  10. Thank you so so much for these words 🙂 I have been following your story since your first YouTube video and tried AIP for a few months to help with my alopecia areata, which has now unfortunately progressed to totalis. The diet, (although I should have stuck with it longer) was instrumental in me taking back control over my life. I felt so so helpless in the beginning, following such a strict diet and really looking after myself gave me the strength I needed to cope with, what has been undoubtedly been the hardest year of my life. I meant to get back on it, and for sure I have learnt heaps about nutrition and most importantly- how to cook!! (before I was a beans on toast kind of girl!) maybe one day I will follow it again, but for now I am enjoying life, i refuse to let hair loss take anything else away from me 🙂 so thank you again for sharing your journey so far publicly, good luck with your studies and I look forward to more updates! xx

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    • I love your attitude Claire! I wish others would feel the same about just enjoying life and not letting alopecia control it. That’s the first and biggest step to healing! I’m so glad that dieting has helped you to regain some control. I wish you all the best x x

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  11. This. This!!! I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am that you’ve shared this and how much I agree with your philosophy behind your choice. Makes me want to shout, ‘Amen’! I do believe the science is sound with leaky gut and its role in autoimmune disease. We are still amping up to begin the AIP diet (my 15 yo son has suffered from pretty severe alopecia areata for the last 2 years). I’ve also recommended the diet to those around me…..but I always use the caveat ‘Just roll your eyes at the caveman stuff’. I’m not convinced their diet was superior. You have been my #1 inspiration to begin seriously looking at diet (we quickly nixed steroid injections but had just figured there was nothing more we could do) and to begin the AIP diet. But after our guts heal and we see good hair growth in my son, I fully intend to introduce things like rice, and other foods you’ve introduced and embraced. You are brave and wise and I truly appreciate you and am deeply thankful you have shared your journey. You are an inspiration to me!
    PS
    I don’t think you could have a better title than Whole Earth Life. It’s perfect!
    PPS
    I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for us as we begin our journey to healing for alopecia areata. We’re really quite a healthy bunch (I’ve got 3 other kids younger than my 15 yo) and so really are targeting that specifically. Would you tweak the AIP diet? Are there foods that aren’t allowed that you think could be? Or would you still suggest following it strictly until healing begins?

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    • Thank you so much for your lovely message Kellie!
      At the beginning of the diet I would say you can ignore the stuff about black pepper, green legumes, spices (not chilli or paprika) and seeds. Most people are absolutely fine with those and I ate them very early on.
      I would say give the diet a go strictly (except for the above) for at least 30 days. Everybody is different in terms of how long it takes for hair to regrow because it depends on the level of damage in the gut. Once you see progress you can begin the reintroductions.
      xx

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      • I appreciate your advice! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I just think you’re tops!

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  12. Stella,
    Good for you for being honest with where you are at and recognizing that AIP isn’t right for you anymore. A lot of people are mislead into thinking that it is AIP or nothing, when in reality most of us who have “graduated” from the elimination diet eat a variety of paleo and non-Paleo foods (myself included!). I’m thrilled at the success you’ve had and all of the major reintroductions you’ve been able to make, and wish you continued success both with your health as well as in Naturopathy school. xxx

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  13. Do you think the alopecia will return, now that you aren’t doing aip?
    I just started reading/following all of your posts and videos.
    And, I just started the AIP today! I am lost 😦

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    • If I don’t control stress my stress levels and any other negative emotions then yes, my alopecia could very likely return. There is no absolute cure for any autoimmune disease, we can only do our best to treat the symptoms and push it into remission by treating the cause. The cause for me was poor diet and gut problems and I’ve dealt with both of those, but just as much, and maybe even more so, the cause is stress and I’m working very hard to deal with that too.
      Good luck with AIP! I’m sure you’ll heal very soon 🙂

      Like

  14. Love this, Stella! Happy to see how far you’ve come and that you are creating a “protocol” that works for your individual needs. ❤

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