Tag Archives: paleo AIP

A Year Later: Update on the Inexplicable Skin Rash

It’s been an entire year since I finished the first part of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and I feel like it’s time for another update. I started that whole thing because I had an inexplicable skin rash that showed up one November – now two years ago – and started spreading. It didn’t itch, it didn’t flake, it didn’t do anything except spread. When it also didn’t start to fade after a year, I went to the doctor and found out it was inflammation, possibly because of something or other.

Well, duh. I could have told them that. But they couldn’t tell me the cause and when the inexplicable skin rash decided to migrate to a spot right beneath one of my eyes, I decided I had to try something. That something was the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol – hereafter called the AIP – which is a very strict, healing diet and lifestyle. You avoid eggs, nightshades, grains, dairy, nuts, seeds (including seed-derived spices), alcohol, NSAID’s (like Aleve), food additives, and anything else that’s fun, while focusing on eating tons of greens, bone broth, fermented foods (like kefir and sauerkraut) and organ meats and getting enough sleep and exercise. It sucked.

But it worked.

Now, a full year later, my inexplicable skin rash is 99% gone. I can feel a little raised area where the first (and largest and most persistent) patch was, but aside from the biopsy scar (hiss) there is nothing to see. The big red patch on my leg after the egg reintroduction? Gone. The patch on my wrist and the inside of my elbow? Gone. All the little bits and pieces speckling my torso – gone gone gone. I would take a picture, but it would just be a picture of skin.

Not only that, but the AIP took away the big, oozing bumps I used to get on my rear and, although I’ve gotten a few small, irritating ones – exclusively when nightshades crept back into my diet, accidentally or intentionally – I haven’t had to utilize band aids like I used to. I’ve also been able to do sit-ups for the very first time in almost two years, because the inexplicable bump/awfulness at the base of my tail bone is finally healing.

Another big thing: I haven’t had a panic attack in going on three years now, and not even an anxiety attack in the last year. My depression was problematic in the latter half of last year, but during the stricter phase of the AIP it was nonexistent. I’m still figuring out why.

My diet has changed irrevocably, although it’s no longer as strict as the initial AIP introduction – nor should it be. I still eat a big heaping of greens for breakfast every day and make a batch of broth each week. I still mix pureed liver with meatballs and try to get in heart and tendon and tripe when and where I can. My coffee consumption is steady at one cup a day – literally a cup, I measure it – and I mostly drink herbal tea after that.

But I do partake in the occasional dairy – usually full fat milk, very rarely yogurt, more oftentimes amazing cheeses – and I go all out on the seed spices (MUSTARD YES). Although I officially reintroduced nuts ages ago, I eat far less of them than I did when I was just paleo and I actually tend to forget they’re even an option most of the time. I don’t have a problem with rice or oats, so those will sometimes make an appearance, but rarely. I also indulge in alcohol perhaps a little too often and haven’t been as good about saying no to baked goods as I had been in the past – a mental trade-off for having to avoid nightshades and eggs, I think, not that that makes it any better.

Overall, though, I’m glad I did it. I’m amazed at how thoroughly the inexplicable skin rash has vanished and I’m looking forward to the day where I can run my fingers over the place it was and wonder if it even happened.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Duck Eggs

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After the sadness that was confirming my sensitivity to regular ol’ chicken eggs, I remembered some snippets of info I had run across during my extensive reading on the AIP that some people, while intolerant of chicken eggs, can, in fact, tolerate the eggs of other fowl beasts. Chicken eggs, for some odd reason, have allergens that are specific to only them, whereas the rest of the feathery kingdom are fine & dandy. Water fowl, specifically, are thought to be the least problematic.

I actually tried out guinea hen eggs about a month ago with no ill effect, but the guy who sold them to us has since disappeared entirely from the farmer’s market. That’s all right, ’cause they are kinda small and expensive, to be honest. Then one fine Sunday we were picking up our meat share when I spotted a “duck eggs $5/doz” sign. Considering in the past I’d only ever seen duck eggs going for $5 a half dozen, this was a steal. So we grabbed them. And I tried them.

I had the first egg two weeks ago now and, as far as I can tell, I haven’t developed any new rashes. I didn’t do as careful an inventory beforehand as I should have, so I’m not 100% sure, but there have been no big, glaring, obvious changes like there were with chicken eggs. I’ve only been having one or two, three times a week (vs the 3/day I’d been doing with chicken eggs), and I’m going to keep it at that rate for another week or two and keep checking for rashes.

My preliminary conclusion, though, is that they’re okay. They bake well and make a delicious breakfast, so double plus. Considering my history of reintroductions, though, I’m going to remain cautious with this. The inexplicable skin rash is so, so sensitive, so if it doesn’t continue on its healing path as it has been doing these past few months, I’ll stop eating duck eggs.

But! I definitely think once the rash is completely gone, duck eggs will be on the menu. Maybe not quite a staple like eggs became, but an occasional breakfast treat.

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Patience is a Virtue: the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol

After I finished the 30-day super strict autoimmune protocol back in January, I wrote a somewhat lackluster recap & review of my experience. I noted at the time that some of my lack of results might be turned around over the coming months as I continued to (mostly) adhere to the diet and take extra special care of myself.

Now that it’s been over six months, I feel like I should amend my review.

The paleo autoimmune protocol is fucking amazing and magical.

I didn’t have the results I wanted after 30 days because it took a helluva lot more than 30 days to get the issues I have in the first place. Now that it’s been a wee bit longer, all of my skin issues are so much better. I could sing!

The tomatoes were a very strong reminder of just how far I’ve come. I mentioned they gave me a boil. One boil. A single one. Uno. Eins. Unum. Raz. And it was tiny, so tiny.

This is a big deal because before the AIP, I would have constantly two to three, and was dealing with up to five of these godawful things at a time. This recent one was a wee bit painful when I biked, but those old fuckers made it impossible to sit and I often had to plaster them with bandaids because they oozed. They got so bad that it was painful just to walk. When I first started getting them, I went to the doctor – as you do, right? But instead of getting any idea of wtf they were or how to deal with them, she chastised me for not being hygienic. That stuck with me for so long that when I went to the dermatologist for my inexplicable skin rash, I went out of my way to avoid mentioning the boils.

Not that the derm helped with the rash, anyway.

So these last six months, aside from one or three flairs, I’ve been boil free and it’s been wonderful. So good that I forgot how uncomfortable those little fuckers could be, in fact. If it means I can’t ever have salsa or hot sauce again, it’s a difficult deal, but I’ll take it.

But it’s the inexplicable skin rash that started me down this journey and the inexplicable skin rash that bummed me out the most at the end of January. I’ve updated on that rash since then, that it looked like it was improving, albeit slowly, but now I can confidently say that it is almost gone. The bit on my wrist that was flared for so long is now nothing but a small set of bumps I can only tell are there when I run my finger over them. The larger patch on my waist is now mostly just the biopsy scar and a small bump or two.

It looks so much better, guys. Even the dime-sized circle on my leg that I got with my last round of egg-trying has reduced itself to a teensy pinkish spot instead of the flaking red nastiness it had been. Another large, egg-sized spot on my leg that had been nasty and raised and ugly is completely vanished. I’m left with a few small rashes speckling my torso, but even those are slowly fading. I bet they’re all gone by November.

This weekend I even had a nasty flare across my stomach that had me in tears (one of many things…), but it’s all but gone already. Apparently, the faster I get back on track when they show up, the faster they go away. That helps explain why the original few have stuck around for so very long – I didn’t even see a doctor about them for over a year. But they’re healing. Slowly, oh so slowly, but they’re healing.

A few things I’ve noticed that seem to help them heal faster: being militant about drinking broth with gelatin. Not only do any cat scratches I might have received disappear quicker, but the rashes smooth out in leaps and bounds instead of plodding along, barely changing for weeks. The key thing seems to be gelatin; I’ve been drinking broth religiously since January, but it’s often chicken broth and it usually doesn’t gel on its own. But if I add a teaspoon of gelatin, suddenly I see those improvements in my skin almost right away. I wouldn’t have to add gelatin if I made proper bone broth all the time, but I’ve learned I don’t like the taste of bone broth and will avoid drinking it. So what’s the point of making it when I won’t drink it?

The other thing: extra coconut oil, often in the form of coconut fudge. I started making and eating these to help alleviate some of my intense hunger in the mornings – which has been working amazing btw – and as a bonus, I noticed my skin clearing up faster at the same time. I have no idea why, but I’ll take any excuse to keep eating these. They’re just that good.

This is all to say that if you’re in the middle of doing the Autoimmune Protocol and you haven’t seen the results you wanted yet, don’t lose hope. This shit takes time. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of time. But if you’ve stuck with it this far, it’s really fucking worth it to keep going. Even for people like me who don’t have a really bad condition, or one that’s been around for years and years, it can still take a while. It sucks, but it is definitely worth the relief and knowledge in the end.

I will still stick to my guns about only starting the AIP if you are really and completely convinced it could help, though. It is not a fun endeavor, and once you start you can’t really stop. Well, you can, but it’s a waste of your time. You have to keep going, you have to keep plugging on, and if you do – it is really fucking worth it.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Tomatoes

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I’ve finally started the process of sussing out exactly which, if any, nightshades I might tolerate. Since we have a super abundant tomato plant in our garden, it seemed most reasonable to start with tomatoes. Not only could I add a few fresh tomatoes to my salads, but I could smother a gf pizza with homemade tomato sauce and enjoy.

First, these are fresh, local, organic, etc etc tomatoes, so if I’m going to have an issue with them, I’m going to have an issue with all tomatoes. That’s always a good place to start.

Second, I have steered clear of all nightshades the last few weeks and the boils I get had completely cleared up. For this experiment, I continued to steer clear of all other nightshades, including that sneaky, pesky paprika. I could go on at length about how much I have come to loathe paprika, or at least the way it pops up in the most random of places, but I’ll leave that for another day.

So, the test. The Sunday before last I made a pizza at home using all our own ingredients to limit a potential sneak attack by paprika (*shakes fist*). On Monday and Tuesday I included at least one whole, sliced tomato in my lunch salad. Then I sat back and waited.

In the past with nightshades, I’ve noticed a reaction about a week later, usually in the form of painful boils in uncomfortable places. So I thought I would have a whole week to wait before anything showed up.

Not so. By Thursday of that same week – four days from the first tomato – I already had a nasty little boil. Thankfully, just the one, but it has made biking to work uncomfortable, even almost a full week later. I think it decided to erupt on top of a nerve, which certainly hasn’t helped.

So, that’s fairly definitive. I haven’t had any boils for going on almost two months (that was the last time I had all the nightshades), but within a week of eating tomatoes I get one. I think I might still duplicate this experiment with tomatoes, just to be abso-fucking-lutely certain – but I’m already fairly convinced that in addition to having a sensitivity to eggs, I am also sensitive to tomatoes.

But! On the positive side, three servings of tomatoes only resulted in one kinda painful boil, instead of, say, the full on eruption and agony I have had in the past. So although I will mostly steer clear of tomatoes, at least I know what to expect if I slip up or indulge. It still sucks because I fucking love salsa and pizza and tacos, but I can survive.

Next on my list – probably this weekend, if this boil is completely gone by then – will be paprika, because seriously. You can’t even find hot dogs that don’t have paprika. Mustard! Has! Paprika! And don’t get me started on the number of pre-made foods that simply list “spices.” If I ever find them, I will punch – in the face – whoever allowed producers to get away without listing all those damn spices on the ingredients.

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Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction | Eggs Redux

I haven’t been blogging much about the autoimmune protocol partially because there’s not much left to report on and partially because my current diet is more normal paleo than AIP. That is, minus nightshades and eggs.

Before last week, the last time I’d had eggs was February. At the time, I tried just the yolks from our own chickens’ eggs, carefully rinsing each one and saving the whites for Lady. I had them plain for breakfast and tried them baked in a coconut cake. Each time they left me with indigestion, like I’d swallowed a brick instead of eggs. Within the week, my inexplicable skin rash had spread. It was a no go. But I held out hope.

One portion of the AIP protocol is to try, try again. Sometimes a food that caused a reaction after the initial 30-day phase will lessen in its severity months or years down the line. You just keep it out and eat a nutrient-dense diet and hope. So I knew I’d be trying eggs again.

I’d originally planned to wait until the rash went away entirely. Last week was supposed to be another jab at nightshades – specifically tomatoes. But I looked at all those eggs on our counter and I stared into the fridge at my dearth of breakfast options and said fuck it. I was going to try eggs again.

This time, however, would be different. This time I knew that the yolk alone could be problematic, so I wouldn’t bother separating out the whites. This time I would try to keep it as simple as possible and just have one egg. Just one. For three days. Three eggs total! That couldn’t hurt. Right?

At first: no. With the whole egg – and just one egg – I didn’t feel like I’d swallowed a brick. I felt fine, actually. No reaction at all. I began to get my hopes up.

You can already tell where this is going, can’t you?

And then. And then. A week later I was shaving my legs and I noticed a raised red dot. I ran my finger across it, felt the telltale roughness. On my shoulder when I removed my shirt the next day: another. The rashes on my wrist and torso were fading, but here were new inexplicable rashes. The first new ones in months.

Dismay. Disbelief.

Then frustration. Annoyance. Outright anger.

Finally, acceptance.

I am allergic to eggs, even soy-free, grain-free, corn-free, organic backyard chicken eggs. I could try duck eggs – might, someday – but right now they’re too expensive and difficult to find here.

I’ll try again in another six months, but I’m not really holding out hope.

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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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