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Simplifying Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction - Part 2

CC image courtesy of Nomadic Lass

CC image courtesy of Nomadic Lass

So a couple weeks back, I wrote Part 1 in this series. Go check it out if you have not read it, as it contains tips on apps you can use to help you simplify. 

This post is about my specific planning and how Im using those apps to help me identify which foods will become part of my normal regimen and which foods will stay out for an undetermined amount of time. Let's start with my plan, shall we? I wanted it to be simple and I wanted to just start with a few foods to add back. So I set up a 5 week plan, introducing two foods each week, giving myself 3 days of introduction and then 4 full days of rest. I also planned out what forms of that food I would try in my reintroduction meals. This is exactly how I help clients with their plans, and now its time for me to put my work to test on me!

So for week one, over the course of 3 days (which equals 9 meals and maybe a few snacks), I experimented with almonds, almond flour and chocolate. Really, what happened, was it was Halloween and my husband really wanted some Capello's GF Cookies and I caved to have some with him - hence my choice of almonds and chocolate. But it was not all Capello's those three days, I also tested by eating almonds and a few bites of 100% cacao. 

Then it was about monitoring. In testing two foods at once using the Food Detective app, I can identify a culprit food and simplify introduction. Without it I can only test one food at a time and it would take me twice as long to do this rather lengthy n=1 experiment. Im keeping track of any symptoms using another app and with those two, I can easily see if I have an adverse reaction. Plus, I have an additional 4 days in the week to track symptoms - sometimes it takes 72 hours after eating a food for symptoms to show up. See the sample calendar below.

Week 1 results are in!

The green checkmark (above) denotes no symptoms and nothing on the Food Detective app. The red X's indicate symptoms and that Food Detective suspected a food. So what happened? Well, I got pretty bad brain fog, nasal congestion, my thyroid started acting all janky and I started gaining weight (water weight = inflammation). This started about 30 hours after the first introduced cookies and continued through Wednesday.

So what does this mean? Well it means either Im sensitive to Almonds, or Cacao, or Sugar! Sugar got tested since there was also sugar in the cookies and any chocolate that was not 100%. And, truth be told, I ate french fries at a restaurant on Saturday *SHOCK & HORROR*. Which means I also tested Potatoes and seed oil! So now I have 5 culprit foods and no clear way to sort out which one it was. What can I say? Life happens and I am human and sometimes you just have to get a little crazy.

Now that I have done a complete AIP reintroduction bender in week one - I can say that I have some suspects. But I have to be my own food detective and sort out which one of the 4 caused the reaction. And it could be several, not just one.

So now what?

Im giving myself an extra week back on full AIP to let the inflammation reside and get back to my normal full-AIP-feeling-great self. Then I will proceed with Week 2 as planned. For me, its just easiest to put my week 1 test items (almonds, cacao) at the end of my plan. So I will re-test those and this time test without sugar... and potato fries.... and seed oils :)

The important thing here is to take the information in stride. It could be really easy for me to say, "forget it, Im not reintroducing anything else" but then I would never know if any of the other foods (which all are fantastic sources of nutrients by the way) will work. Its also important to realize that I, while trying to keep things simple, gave myself a complex multi-variant analysis problem. And since I never liked those problems in Calculus, I'll just re-do the test and keep it simple this time.

This stuff is not easy, but boy is it easy to make it hard! So Im carrying on and sticking to my plan. Its going to take some time, but I think its worth it in the end. Frankly, I have felt better in the last several months than I have in years and I know its because I have finally removed something that is causing inflammation and autoimmune flares. So let the sleuthing continue!

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Tips for Conducting n=1 Experiments on Yourself

CC image courtesy of CIFOR

CC image courtesy of CIFOR

I have come to learn in my healing journey that for a lot of areas of health, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't always work. If it did, then the whole "eat less, exercise more" should be producing a ton of skinny people - yet we see obesity rise day after day. This is not for sake of a lot of people not following the advice - they actually are! It's that the generalist approach is not working for them!

Biology in the human body is affected by so many things: We can be genetically programmed for blue eyes , but we are also a product of our environment. There is even a whole world of science called epigenetics which studies how our environment can trigger certain genes to "turn on". Diet, lifestyle and genetics play a big role in human health. Even without doing genetic testing, like 23 & Me, you still probably know where your heritage roots are. Are you a descendant of Northern European cultures, or did your family come from South America? All clues to what it takes to be optimally healthy.

With so many things that can affect our overall health, its no wonder that general approaches often fail for a large part of the population. This is where n=1 experiments come in. This is a play off typical scientific studies where n represents the number of test subjects or samples. An "n of one" refers to running an experiment with only one subject or sample. Typically this is less preferred, as you'd want larger samples to be statistically meaningful. But when it comes to what works for me, or for you, the best thing to do is self experiment. 

Now if you want to be very scientific about it, Chris Masterjohn, has a set of guidelines on how to do proper self-experimentation and have it be scientifically accurate. This is a good read, because you don't want to accidentally draw conclusions on your self-experiments that may not be true for you. 

Tips on conducting n=1 experiments:

  • Measure everything! There is a lot of truth to the adage, "what you measure, improves". If you are not tracking your progress (positive or negative) you can't see the results! This doesn't meant measure everything at once, but for the context of what ever experiment you are conducting, write down your observations and any measurements you can!
  • Limit your experiments to one at a time. Truly, the human body is a complex system. And if you decide you are going to experiment with a new diet, a new fitness regime, a new meditation class all at once - you won't be able to determine which of those things led to the result! So unless you want to become some mad statistician who does multi-variant analysis for fun on a Friday night, I suggest you conduct one experiment at a time.
  • Do the experiment long enough. You won't know if strawberries cause low-level inflammation by eating them once during a Sunday brunch. You have to expose yourself to them multiple times and in random order (see Chris's article above) to be sure. Plus, most systems in the human body take time for them to "settle" in to the new routine. Give anything a good 30 days to be sure. Another way to view this is that doing pushups once or twice isn't long enough to conclude that they do or do not build bicep muscles. You need to be consistent for a long enough period of time for the body to show changes.

So what is my current n=1 experiment? I have decided to try a change in my macronutrient ratio to induce what is commonly called Nutritional Ketosis (NK). This means that I'm eating more fat in my diet than previously to see if I can convert my body from burning glucose to ketones. You can read more about this here, and here. I am doing this for weight loss. I won't lie. But I will report back at the end of my 60day experiment to see if I have lost any weight or not. Stay tuned...

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