I am so excited to introduce you to Meagen Ashley from Itsallaboutaip! She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to AIP, which stands for The Autoimmune Protocol- an extension of the Paleo diet that focuses on removing gut irritants and reducing the inflammation at the root of disease. It is a very therapeutic and healing way of eating (and living!) that I want my awesome community to have a better understanding of! Let's learn about all AIP entails. Meet Meagen!
Meagen is a grade one teacher and is currently studying at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Holistic Nutritionist. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada in a small town with her fiancé and two cats. Meagen has used the healing diet, known as the autoimmune protocol (AIP) combined with lifestyle changes, to put her chronic skin conditions into remission, improve her energy levels, and lose over 80 pounds. She spends her spare time creating AIP friendly recipes and lifestyle posts that she shares on her blog in hopes of helping others with autoimmune conditions regain their health too. Follow her on Instagram for daily AIP food inspiration and a sneak peek into how she manages a busy career and a healing lifestyle.
AIP 101 – An Introduction to the Autoimmune Protocol
The Autoimmune Protocol is a healing diet that eliminates specific foods, along with lifestyle changes which help to reduce inflammation, heal a leaky gut (poor digestion), and help put autoimmune conditions into remission.
Foods to avoid: gluten, grains, nightshades, dairy, eggs, nuts/seeds, legumes, alcohol, refined sugars & oils, processed foods, and additives.
Avoiding these foods helps to reduce inflammation in the body and improve digestion as many of these foods irritate the digestive system and can make inflammation worse.
Foods to include: Nutrient dense foods such as: bone broth (my favorite), grass fed meats, seafood, organ meats, fermented foods (ie. sauerkraut), healthy fats, and organic vegetables.
These foods help to heal the body by providing the nutrients your body needs along with gut healing properties.
There are two food phases on the autoimmune protocol. The first is the elimination phase where you follow the foods to avoid list strictly. Once you see significant improvements in your symptoms you may start the second phase known as the reintroduction phase. This is where you strategically reintroduce one food at a time. During this time it is helpful to use a food diary to track any reactions you may have to the food you are trying to reintroduce. There are many resources out there that can guide you through the stages of reintroductions (foods that are least reactive to foods that are most reactive).
It is recommended that you remain in the elimination phase for 30-60 days before trying any reintroductions. I personally recommend staying in the elimination phase for at least 90 days. Many people make the mistake of trying to reintroduce the foods they are missing too quickly and this can hinder the healing process. While the elimination phase is not meant to last forever, it is important for you to listen to your body to decide when it is time to try reintroductions.
The two most important lifestyle changes are sleep and stress management. Prioritizing sleep is a must. At least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is ideal, although many people find they feel better on 9 or 10 hours of sleep a night. The second most important change is stress management. Since we cannot control others actions, we need to learn to control our reaction to others. Take up meditation ( I like the Headspace app) or yoga. Bottom line - find a way to relax and reduce stress. In addition to sleep and stress management is regular gentle movement, a daily dose of sunshine (30 minutes), and happiness.
Of all the changes, these lifestyle choices prove to be the most difficult for people. Even if you are following a healing diet, if you aren’t getting enough sleep or you are constantly stressed out then you likely won’t see an improvement in your symptoms or you will see a stall in your healing. Start with one lifestyle change at a time if needed and commit. Your body will thank you!
I have been following the autoimmune protocol for almost three years. During this time I have incorporated many of the lifestyle changes but still struggle with stress management. I have tried many food reintroductions but have only successfully reintroduced 2 foods. To put this into perspective, I have had autoimmune symptoms for almost 20 years. So while it can be frustrating at times I try to remember how far I have come and that my body just needs more healing time. Our autoimmune symptoms didn’t show up overnight so we can’t expect the healing to happen overnight either. So keep working at becoming the best version of yourself. I know the journey is long, but it will be worth it!
XO Meagen Ashley