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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol | The Next Step

I’ve reintroduced seeds, dairy, nuts, eggs, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, corn, rice, sorghum, and nightshades. Eggs, chocolate, and nightshades are still on my shit list, but everything else has been fine. My diet only resembles the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol in spirit now – I still focus on nutrient density, I drink broth daily, try to get in my organs weekly, and avoid (almost) everything processed. I still aim to get 8+ hours of sleep a night and move a lot during the day. I’m working on meditation and have been writing in my journal most mornings since January. But I’m eating dairy, nuts, and seeds semi-regularly.

I feel like I’ve reached an equilibrium. I know for certain now what doesn’t cause a problem for me, and I have a pretty keen idea about what does. The problem lies in that with the remaining few items on my shit list, I’m not completely confident about what’s doing what. Eggs appear to be behind my inexplicable skin rash, but I’m waiting until it’s completely cleared before trying them again. Chocolate appears to make me irritable and depressed, but since that comes a day or two later, it’s difficult to pinpoint for sure. And nightshades (even spices) appear to be behind my HS boils, but again, since those don’t pop up for a few days – and up to a week – later, there’s still room for denial.

With chocolate and nightshades, I’m in a holding pattern. I’m not yet willing to say I’ll never eat them again, but I am carefully introducing them and avoiding them in cycles, seeing if I can eke out exactly what dose equals what response and if any small amount is safe, ever. I might have gotten impatient two weeks ago and had a big ol’ salad from Chipotle which was rife with nightshades, only to acquire a few small and relatively painless boils a week later. They haven’t developed beyond that, so I’m starting to wonder if I might tolerate nightshades somewhat in small and infrequent amounts.

Basically, I know what is most likely to cause me problems and I’m pushing at the edges of my reactions. This will probably go on for a few months as I test amounts and well as individual things. It will be tedious, I’m sure, but I want to know exactly what I can get away with. Nightshades and chocolate aren’t exactly the easiest things to avoid in social situations, especially since the nightshade category covers so many things – it’s easy to forget one or two when asking about ingredients, as well as easy for them to forget one or two when telling you. Especially when it comes to paprika.

Meanwhile, I’m playing around a bit with macronutrient ratios, inspired by Petra’s own experimentation with the Wahl’s Protocol Plus. While I am extremely intrigued with the idea of eating a ton more fat, while eating less in general and thereby saving money on groceries, I’m not keen on messing with my diet too much while also in the middle of TTC. Big diet changes = big hormonal changes, which would make an already unpredictable cycle even worse. So I’ll just have to save trying that protocol out for later or a longer TTC break.

But I am playing with eating more fat in general and slowly decreasing some of my carbs and protein. Not anything extreme, just subbing out one snack for another here and shifting my macros so that most of my carbs are at night. Right now I have a few meatballs and a boatload of greens for breakfast, coupled with a mug of chicken broth and a piece of coconut fudge. The fudge has replaced the cup (or two) of fruit I have in the morning, as well as any additional snacks like nuts or plantain chips. Lunch is usually protein with a lot of vegetables and a small amount of carbs and fat. Dinner is more often than not light, and mostly protein and carbs. My biggest carb load is definitely at the end of the day, although I try to have some after my workout on lifting days.

I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks and so far like this set-up. All the fat and protein in the morning keeps me full from breakfast (7:30am) until lunch (1pm, sometimes 2pm now). I don’t need to snack if I eat enough for breakfast, which is amazing because I’d had trouble breaking my mid-morning snack habit during previous Whole30’s and the AIP. Lunch keeps me churning until I get home, and then I’m usually only a little hungry – not ravenous and cranky like I used to be.

Energy-wise, I still need to do some tweaking. My mornings are great, but I hit a low about an hour after lunch every day. It could just be my natural circadian rhythm, but if I can decrease the amount I’m yawning at my desk, that would be awesome.

I might have to shuttle all my carbs to the end of the day – except for workouts. That will require some more planning, and maybe some more coconut fudge. Also as I begin incorporating commuting by bike into my weekly schedule, I’ll have to figure out the best way to add more calories. More fat? More carbs? I don’t know, but I’ll play with both.

I do know that low carb lifestyles don’t work as well for women as they do for men, so carbs will remain a beloved part of my diet. I’m just mostly playing with timing at this point.

Timing with nightshades, timing with carbs, timing with everything.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Corn (Tortilla)

I know last reintro post I said I was going to do tomatoes next, but that had been passed on my wrong assumption that our garden tomatoes were already ripe. Alas, they are green as can be, while our zucchini are already monsters. You can check out those crazy huge zucchini over at my wife’s blog.

Instead I decided to try corn, since I’ve been wanting to stop with the cabbage leaf tacos and have some real tacos for once. Well, real minus the nightshade everything. So not truly real, but I can pretend. Right?

I made sure the ingredients were mostly simple and clean and – most importantly – that the corn had been treated with lime, a process called nixtamalization. This makes the corn way more nutritious and things like B3, calcium, and protein more bioavailable by severely reducing the phytic acid, an antinutrient that blocks the absorption of more beneficial nutrients. It also reduces mycotoxin, which is a nasty byproduct of mold that shows up in all sorts of grains and legumes in small, but still potentially irritating, quantities.

Basically, if I’m going to be able to eat corn, then nixtamalized corn will be the most likely candidate.

So I felt pretty confident grabbing a corn tortilla and loading it up with chunks of meatballs and a wee bit of brie. I ate it, then was still hungry and ate another. Surely corn was going to be fine for me. I used to eat tons of corn tortillas back in the day.

Not so much.

Within thirty minutes, I felt like I’d eaten a brick. Within an hour, I was severely sick to my stomach, so much that I wished I didn’t have such an iron stomach and could actually throw up. We had to walk to the farmer’s market at that point to pick up our meat CSA and meet a friend, and every bit of the way was just awful. It didn’t clear up until early afternoon, and even then I didn’t have much of an appetite.

It was as bad, if not worse, than when I had the egg yolks. I’m more than a bit surprised by how bad my reaction was, because I was convinced it would be an easy peasy reintroduction. Well, that’s what I get for not being careful. I was going to be incredibly slow and careful with the tomatoes, but I should have remembered to do the same here. You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now about unexpected reactions what with yolks & chocolate. Alas, sometimes I am not smart.

So no corn, at least for now. I’ll be curious to see if it effects my skin problems over the rest of the week. If it doesn’t, then I may occasionally allow myself small bits of corn, knowing that I won’t feel well for a little while afterwards. But if it does, then it goes on my strict avoidance list.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching our tomatoes and willing them to ripen.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Rice (Flour)

Okay, so it wasn’t really rice rice, but then, plain rice hasn’t been a part of my diet for almost three years. Even back when I ate grains regularly, I rarely touched rice because – frankly – I was terrible at making it. I liked pasta better anyway, or a good still-warm loaf of white bread.

I incorporated rice flour by way of some mostly paleo hot cross buns over the Easter weekend. They were a blend of yeast and almond flour and brown rice flour, speckled with currants and cranberries, and held together with gelatin instead of eggs. They were all right, but nothing to write home about. I might work on the recipe more and post it in the future, but there are a dozen better ones out there already, I’m sure.

Still, tasty and a great way to breakfast on top of a hill with a spot of tea and some friends.

For this reintroduction, I mostly just ate a few of the buns over a few days and then called it good. I only really use rice for baking these days, anyway, so it was a good road test. Nothing flared – which I expected – and nothing felt weird, so rice is in. I’ll just have to keep an eye on how many baked goods I make, since having both rice and almond flour really opens up the doors.

The gelatin substitution for eggs worked really well, by the way. I haven’t found many recipes that use it, but the basic ratio is 1tsp gelatin (dissolved in water) to 1 egg. It almost seems too moist when fresh out of the oven, but holds up a whole lot better than other binders – like xanthan or flax seed – after a day or more. I am definitely switching to gelatin in any future baked recipes – at least until I can have eggs again.

Next on the list: giving chocolate another go. This time I’m limiting myself to one Alter Eco chocolate bar over the weekend instead of going crazy. After going through the ingredients of every single chocolate bar at our local grocery store, Alter Eco was the only one that didn’t have soy of some sort. Although a tiny bit of soy probably wouldn’t hurt, I’d rather not have any confounding factors.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Dairy

Technically, this week was just going to be cheese, but then I had a moment of weakness and chugged some whole milk, so it turned into dairy.

I started with cheese, though – stinky, pungent, wonderful blue cheese. I had tiny bits on my kale and on my burgers for three days, then I waited like a good AIP reintroduction-thing. Nothing happened – no gastrointestinal distress, no zits, no bloating. Felt absolutely fine. I only managed to wait two days before my milk binge, though, which I have to admit was the same day of my BFN. I might have been feeling a little down and frustrated with everything.

There is definitely a point one reaches, months into this reintroduction process, where you begin questioning the point of everything. I’ve gotten droll a few times, but never as bad as last week. You just get absolutely tired of restriction and wonder if shoving a pie in your face will or will not make all your efforts nil. Then you have milk instead, because the thought of redoing this process makes you physically ill.

I had that moment then, and then a few more times this weekend while we were attending my brother’s wedding in FL. Traveling on the AIP is no fun, even when you can have things like butter and seed spices. Then there was the cake and the pizza and the bagels and the cinnamon toast and the BBQ ribs, all so tantalizingly close and completely out of reach. I knew, logically, that by avoiding all that crud I would feel much better throughout the weekend and when we returned home. But oh, how it tempted.

So how did I survive the weekend away from our own fridge? Well, first I made sure there would be kitchens available, and then I hit up the local grocery store. I grabbed a bag of greens, ground pork, a sweet potato, an onion, some mushrooms, and some smoked salmon. I threw those together in various combinations for four meals while snacking on whatever fruit was available and the occasional sliced cheese.

For the plane, I spent some time the week before brainstorming snack ideas. I was most worried about this portion of the trip because airport food is notoriously… glutentastic. Also damn expensive. After making a long list of foods, we ended up bringing smoked salmon, cucumber slices, avocados, homemade beef jerky (recipe coming soon!), plain sliced roast beef, plantain chips, and dried mango slices. With a big breakfast beforehand, all of this got me through nine hours of driving and flying and layovers.

And the leftovers helped me get through dinner and breakfast the following morning. My only problem was that by the time we got home again on Monday, I was a little tired of the monotony of meat and greens. Since I knew dairy was fine, I might have had frozen yogurt for lunch on Monday. It was worth it.

Now back on the wagon – except not really, since I didn’t fall off it to begin with. Being home with all of our spices and own food is so much more relaxing than being on the road and wondering how/what I was going to eat next. I could not have done it without a few of the reintroductions – I had some cheese and yogurt and butter over the weekend, too. I can’t imagine traveling while still on the full AIP, although I know it’s been done.

Next on the reintroduction list is… I don’t know. I think I might try chocolate again this weekend. I’m a little weary to try nightshades when we will probably be TTCing again in the coming week. I actually don’t have many things left to reintroduce before we get into the non-paleo arena. Oh – I know. I’ll try rice flour this weekend. I want to make some hot cross buns for Easter, after all. 🙂

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Yogurt

First off, I owe you an almond flat bread recipe. This three ingredient flatbread is simple, fast, and delicious. It calls for almond flour, tapioca flour, and coconut milk, but you can also use yogurt if you’re out of coconut milk. I’d advise using the coconut, though. It just tastes better.

Oh dairy. You have been so good to me. I never once thought I might have a problem with dairy, and for once during this whole reintroduction phase, I haven’t been proven horribly wrong. Dairy might not be the most nutrient dense and best food ever, but so far I don’t seem to have a problem with it.

There were no flares. If anything, my inexplicable skin rash looks better. It’s still not gone. It’s lingering on (and on and on) but there are also no new splotches and the rashes I already have have definitely faded since January. I’ve since accepted that it may just take a while for the rashes to fade for good. At least the one under my eye is gone.

I couldn’t find grassfed yogurt, so I settled on organic. I could have made my own yogurt from grassfed milk, but really – how likely is it that I would continue doing that after reintroduction? Grassfed milk is both difficult to find in our area and expensive, and I’m not confident enough to make yogurt yet. Someday – it is a skill I would like to have. But not right now, when I have so many other things going on.

So I went for the tastiest organic yogurt I could find, which happened to be this awesome Bulgarian style stuff wot comes in a glass jar. I’d had it before and I took this as an excuse to indulge again, since it is a little pricey. But it’s so good. It’s tarter than conventional American yogurt, and perhaps a little thicker, and so full of fat.

Side note: I was going to try milk-based kefir as well, but apparently whole fat, organic kefir is nonexistent here. What is the obsession with no fat or low fat dairy? I can understand if you’re on a strict body sculpting diet, but that doesn’t explain it’s prevalence. We need to change this, one full fat dairy deliciousness at a time. The science supports it, after all.

I should probably just make my own. Looks like those kefir grains are getting bumped up my “to buy” list.

I had yogurt for three days in small quantities, sometimes alone, sometimes with some fruit, and once with a little paleo granola (minus the almond flour, stevia, and chia seed, plus molasses). Then I waited a few days, like usual. Nothing happened immediately after eating the yogurt and nothing happened in those days after. Since I’m still feeling pretty peachy, I think I can rightfully declare this one a success.

Phew, I’ve been needing it.

So that makes a successful reintroduction for butter, seed spices, tree nuts (I might have snarfed a handful of walnuts last week too, to no ill effect), and yogurt.

Currently ixay on the eggs, cocoa, coffee, and nightshade spices.

For once,  I feel like I’m starting to run out of things to reintroduce. What’s left are cheese, milk, whole nightshades, and the rest of the non-paleo foods, like beans and grains. I’m hesitant to even try beans and grains, since I don’t eat those normally, but if the stars align and I have the courage, it would probably be a good idea to just see what sort of reaction I have. Granted, that’s yet a few months out, at least.

This week I’m continuing the dairy trend with cheese. Beautiful, wonderful, complex cheese. I love the super stinky, moldy varieties. I acquired my favorite stinky blue yesterday – we’ll see how it goes.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Almonds

This whole process feels like two steps forward, one step back. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s frustrating. But ultimately worth it. Right?

I call my mother every week and have been doing so since college, which happens to coincide with the same period we’ve been living in different states. Towards the end of the initial 30 days period, I told my mother about the AIP and that I was doing it, and ever since then she asks me weekly how it’s going and what new things I can eat.

I’ve come to notice with my weekly talks that I feel more and more like a broken record each time I answer those questions. What have I added back successfully? Oh, butter, seed spices, and… um… yeah. But hopefully (insert other food item) soon! Rinse, repeat. Every week I feel a little more lost and a little less hopeful. I’ll get out of this dietary maze someday, yes?

So nightshade spices and coffee are both on probation. I had a seriously awful resurgence of HS in the last three weeks, so much so that sitting on Friday was excruciating and I’ve been doing everything I can not to sit or put pressure on my butt since then. I’ve had three individual flares over those three weeks, first on my upper back, then on the side of my thigh, and finally right on my rear.

It’s no good and something I’ve been eating through all that time has to be causing this resurgence. I thought the first two might have been hormones, and then the second two might have been coffee, but didn’t really look at the time frame until these last two. I don’t actually suspect coffee, because of that time frame, but since the worst happened under coffee’s reintroduction, I’m being extra cautious.

If nothing else, this resurgence has taught me that something is causing these flares. I’d almost forgotten how bad the boils could be, how very painful, until now. Which means the AIP was working.

My guess is that the culprit were the nightshade spices, and that they cause a reaction cumulatively and after a few days. I’m going to cut both them and coffee out completely for a few weeks to let myself heal and also confirm it isn’t something else causing it.

In the meantime, I wasn’t going to introduce anything new, but broke down and made almond flour flatbread last week. Then I declared that my reintroduction for the week and made some more flatbread the next day. It was so good and as far as I can tell, hasn’t done anything to me. I haven’t tried almonds on their own yet, but since I was using the Trader Joe’s almond flour, which is ground whole, raw almonds, I don’t expect there would be a difference.

This week I am bringing in organic yogurt. I really need to make sure I’m getting enough calcium now that we’re firmly TTC-ing, and I never had a problem with dairy in the past. I would have had grass fed yogurt, but apparently that is more like a mythical unicorn for what success I’ve had in finding it in our area. I also want to see if extra probiotics would be helpful, since the only other probiotic I’ve been eating is the sauerkraut we make at home.

Here’s to hopefully being able to tell my mother next weekend that I can eat something besides butter and seed spices. 🙂

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Coffee

march-79

Coffee, oh coffee – how I could sing of my love for you. You have been my faithful companion for well over a decade. You woke me up for an untold number of mornings, the scent of your brewing heralding a new day. Every time I’ve had to give you up, it was horribly difficult. You smell so good, taste so wonderful, and go so well with cream and sugar. You are one of my best friends, a true partner in life.

But maybe we should have some more time apart.

It’s not that I don’t still love and cherish you, but you might not be the best thing for me. I had you in short bursts through the weekend, but even in small doses you made my heart pound and my nerves sing. It felt good frankly, but afterward… I was hollow.

You’re a drug, coffee, and that can be a good thing – but also a dangerous thing. Tea doesn’t make me twitch. Tea doesn’t make me irritable. Tea is quiet and patient. I can linger over tea for an hour or more, but coffee – you’re there and then you’re gone and I want more more more, nevermind the dry throat, the jitteriness, the sleeplessness and crankiness.

Our brief reuinion might have caused my HS resurgence this week, and that’s really not cool. No – I know I can’t fully pin it on you and my instincts are telling me it wasn’t you, but for my own health I need to be sure. I’ll be fair to you and give you a second chance. But in small doses. And not for a few more weeks.

It’s not you – it’s me. No, wait, it’s you. You’re just not the best thing for me, coffee.

But maybe we can still be friends?

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