A question I’ve had since I’ve begun the autoimmune protocol (AIP) and I have an autoimmune disease is, should my children do it as well? Sarah Ballantyne, aka The Paleo Mom, and author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach cookbook, shared on the Balanced Bites podcast episode #72 that while you can do the autoimmune protocol for preventative reasons, you don’t necessarily have to.
I came to this scene by being introduced to and following several Weston A. Price/real food blogs. A few years ago, when the GAPS diet was making its waves through the real food community, it seemed like everyone was doing GAPS! GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and quite similar to the Autoimmune Protocol, it helps deal with leaky gut/intestinal permeability and helps reverse many diseases, including autoimmune diseases. In fact, I was going to start GAPS if I hadn’t come across a functional medicine doctor who advised me to do AIP instead. However, one thing that I appreciated from a strong voice in the GAPS community was that of Cara’s, from Health, Home & Happiness. I recall her saying more than once that before you jump into GAPS, try a few other things first. Add more fermented foods into your diet. Take a probiotic. Try removing grains or dairy. She was cautious to encourage everyone to do GAPS, because everyone’s needs vary, and some guts probably need more or less help than others. That reasonable approach is very much in line with what Sarah Ballantyne had to say as well.
She shared that if you have a history of autoimmunity in your family, remember that genetic susceptibility is only one third of the picture. Diet and lifestyle account for another third, and environmental triggers are the other third.
Ballantyne says the paleo diet is a good foundation to be preventative for any autoimmune disease. This makes sense as the paleo diet has a focus on nutrient dense foods and removes processed foods and all the other stuff our body doesn’t know with what to do!
The reality is though, that gluten may never be your friend if you have autoimmune history. 😐 This may be a hard pill to swallow, even for me, as I’m wont to enjoy a slice of sprouted toast with some butter. However, if it keeps me in a healing place, then it’s worth it. Question for any AIPers: have you ever been able to reintroduce gluten-containing grains?
The other crazy thing to me is eggs! Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition and one of the most wonderful foods, but even eggs have anti-nutrients as I was reminded by the Paleo Parents. As they can cause inflammation, this is one reason why they are removed during the strictest phase of AIP. However, you may find you’re able to tolerate pastured egg yolks upon reintroduction, and Ballantyne says it’s okay to rotate those through your diet (but they may not be a daily staple). At this point, I think I can live with that, as I’ve found some suitable breakfast substitutes.
The other foods in the AIP that are initially avoided are nightshades and nuts and seeds. Ballantyne states that these foods on the paleo diet are actually some of the less nutrient-dense. For example, nuts and seeds can have a high omega 6 ratio, which can increase inflammation. So, if you take them out, you’re reducing your inflammation levels. Also, tomatoes aren’t as nutrient-dense as I thought maybe they were, so, there’s not much of a nutritional loss there (although I will probably miss salsa for quite some time).
Again, if you have autoimmunity in your family, but you haven’t seen symptoms for yourself yet, first of all, yay!, and secondly, just keep on with your paleo template, and monitor yourself for symptoms. What are the symptoms? Good question–we’ll cover that in the next post!
Do other members in your family follow the autoimmune protocol with you? If not, how do they eat?