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
– Red meat only once a week
– Dark Chocolate
– Red wine
– Very mild chilli
– All spices and seeds
– 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.
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