Viewing entries tagged
elimination diet

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How to Deal with Regression

CC image courtesy of Kenrick Turner

CC image courtesy of Kenrick Turner

Let's face it, having autoimmune disease is not an easy road. The healing path is full of hills and valleys, and even though I like to think its always linear, I have written before how the reality is much different from the fantasy!

But sometimes we tumble into a crevasse so deep, its hard to realize what just happened. For the last several weeks (more like 5 now) I have been dealing with one of the worst regressions of my autoimmune disease in probably 4 years. At first I was somewhat nonchalant about it. I had a few days of really bad symptoms, but then bounced back pretty quickly to feeling great. Then it happened again, and again and again! After a few weeks of this, I knew something was wrong because now Im spending more days in bed or on the couch than I am outside or up and about.

I think the biggest part of the healing path is mental. I go through phases of denial about my health. For example, I happily sit in denial of the affects of caffeine on my body. I went weeks recently pretending that my matcha blended tea was my new BFF. Loving the ritual, loving how it made me feel. Completely denying any fact that I was getting hooked, feeling more and more sluggish when I woke up, and that days without it were giving me headaches. So we had to break up. (BTW, I found a new morning beverage BFF - no caffeine and supportive of liver and detox pathways - Thank you Jessica at Delicious Obsessions!)

I also have a tendency to just drive through the pain. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, and I can handle quite a bit. But when I just go about life as if I don't have pain (or any other of my AI symptoms) I can get another good case of denial going! Really, I start numbing out to what my body is trying to tell me, and carry on as if nothing is wrong. Then my body rebels and pretty much forces me to take a complete day of rest!

So how does one deal with regression? I'll share with you what I am doing, in hopes that it will help some of you when you are in a deep valley or crevasse of your own.

  1. Admit there is regression in the first place. I know, this sounds a lot like the first step in a 12-step program, but frankly, its the starting point! You can't start to heal or start climbing you way out until you admit what might be happening. It took me a good 3 weeks before I admitted to myself that I was in full regression!
  2. Be kind to yourself. Even if you knowingly did things to get you into the crevasse (can we say sugar during the holidays anyone?), be kind to yourself. Meaning take time to relax, give yourself permission to need more healing.
  3. Clear your calendar and commitments. If you don't know by know, Im one of those that over-achieves the over-achieving! So when I feel great, its pretty much a sure bet that I have taken on too much, packed my calendar and signed up for 35 new courses to start on the new year! When I am in full AI regression, there is no room really for much other than sleeping, nourishing food and maybe some walking. Work tasks get minimized down to the absolute necessities.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Once I was able to admit there was a regression going on, I finally called my doctor. I requested additional lab work be done and reviewed those results with colleagues and my doctor. Once I had my appointment with her, immediately I started to feel better! Not only was there validation that something was wrong, but we constructed a new healing plan and actions for me to take to start to feel better! Such a relief to get some help!
  5. Examine your lifestyle. There are 4 key lifestyle areas that contribute to wellness: Nourishment (food), Rest (sleep), Movement (exercise), and Stress (ya know, stress!). This is a tough step mind you, I always hope that I can be a little less regimented with my lifestyle, but when I get too relaxed and let things creep in, inflammation creeps in! I had to get pretty honest with myself about these areas of my life leading up to my regression. The number one area where I was not managing well was S-T-R-E-S-S! I had fallen off the Headspace practice, taken on too many commitments, had to deal with too many negative people and stopped doing my weekly hikes in the forest. The other contributing factor was with food. I had let too much sugar and caffeine creep into my diet over the last few months. Plus I was trying to reintroduce foods from the AIP elimination. I really think that too many nuts (grain free baked goods during the holidays) were contributing to massive inflammation I was/am experiencing. 

How do you deal with regression? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment below - would love to hear your ideas!

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Simplifying Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction - Part 1

CC image courtesy of Barbara Krawcowicz

CC image courtesy of Barbara Krawcowicz

As you may know, I'm currently in the full elimination phase of the autoimmune diet protocol (AIP). I decided back in June that I would try AIP again to see if it could help some of my lingering symptoms. After a phased in approach to the eliminations (of which I wrote about over on Mickey Trescott's blog, Autoimmune-Paleo), I decided to stick with 100% elimination for a number of months while I work at getting rid of my Giardia friends. So its been quite a while that I have been without grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, nightshade veg, nuts, seeds or eggs!

Conducting an n=1 experiment with the Autoimmune Protocol definitely requires patience and dedication! The protocol takes a while, and often times people are (er, I mean, I am) impatient to add all the foods back in during the reintroduction phase because they miss them. Totally understandable. This is exactly what I did the first time I tried AIP, and I lost all the opportunity to really learn if any of the foods listed above could be triggers for autoimmune flare or symptoms.

So lets not waste all this effort of some fairly radical food elimination by rushing the reintroduction! I decided to plan out my approach this time, and in doing so am going to share with you. This will be a two part series that will out line the steps I am taking while I start my reintroduction phase.

What is a reintroduction phase?

The basic concept is that you start reintroducing foods one by one slowly back into your diet. By doing this, you control the variables you need to analyze so that you can identify if any specific food is a trigger. It's a lot easier in concept than it is in application. For example, I eliminated nuts & eggs (full list above) as an entire food group in one step. But during reintroduction, I'll need to reintroduce walnuts separately from almonds, separately from cashews, etc. The same with eggs: egg yolks separately from whites (more people are intolerant to whites than yolks). Couple that with the notion that it takes sometimes up to 3 days to create a response from an irritating food, you can start to see why reintroduction takes some patience! You'll want to vary the meals and keep track of any symptoms that may arise as a result of a reintroduction.

Preparation for Reintroduction

This is a super important step! If you are not prepared, then its easy to rush because you have not set any established guidelines for yourself. But what does that really mean? Most people are on full AIP elimination for 30-60 days. Well, I for one have been on it now for 5 months and plan to go to 6 months. All that time away from those wonderful foods - well the imagination gets to you after a while. I have conjured up mental images of just eating eggs and chocolate for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner... and snacks for a week but I know that won't be wise. With a little preparation, its much easier to be successful at the end!

  1. Decide what you will introduce first, second, and so on. This can be done based on your particular AI condition, or you may want to base it on seasonal availability of certain foods. Or, you may decide that you simply miss certain foods more than others. Either way, know which foods you will never reintroduce - for me, I won't introduce gluten; I already know its a bad idea for me - and which foods you want to try again. Remember, there is no guarantee after being on full AIP elimination, that you *will* be able to tolerate a food. You won't know, however until you try.
  2. Figure out a system for documenting symptoms and health markers. What we don't measure, won't improve! I always like to keep copious notes on all sorts of health markers when I reintroduce a food. You'll want to keep track of as many markers as possible: items such as sleep quality/quantity, skin health (rashes, itching, breakouts), digestive health (gas, bloating, belching, etc), energy/fatigue, mood, headaches, stool quality/quantity (use the Bristol stool scale), blood sugar/ketone levels, weight, joint pain/stiffness, etc. For some, this is going to be a journal and pen, for others its going to be a spreadsheet, and for me, I like to use a symptom tracker app, like this one that was recently introduced to me by a client.
  3. Food Detective - this is another app, but its really a great way to determine if a food is causing inflammation for you. It tracks the components of what you eat during meals and also monitors for elevated heart rate. Its based on the Coca Pulse Test that says if, after eating, your pules increases more than 16 beats per minutes above your morning pulse, then you may have eaten something you body is having difficulty breaking down or digesting. What is nice about this app, is that you can introduce two foods at a time and in combination with pulse tracking and symptom tracking (Step 2) you can narrow in on a food sensitivity and compress the time it takes for reintroduction.
  4. Set a schedule or plan. This last step is really important. You'll want to not only prioritize, in Step 1, but also set out a plan. The rule of thumb is that you want to introduce a single food across 3 days and at varying meals, and then give yourself another 3 days of rest without the food before having it be a "permanent" addition. The rest days are important because often times the symptoms are subtle and we won't notice them until they disappear. With the addition of Food Detective, you can have an additional food item introduced across the 6 days. This allows us to test 2 foods every 6 days. Depending on the number of specific foods, you can see how this might add up to a long period of time!! Start to plan out the foods and meals you plan to use in those weeks that you reintroduce.

In the next installment of the series, I'll lay out my plan for reintroduction and which meals I will introduce those items to share that with all of you. 

Are any of you planning or doing a reintroduction phase now? Would love to hear about your experience! If you have questions, leave a comment below!

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