Monday, April 25, 2016

Is the Auto Immune Protocol (AIP) 'One-Size-Fits-All'?


I'm convinced that one of the most bizarre things in the world is the concept of something being 'free size' or 'one size fits all.' Am I right? Think about it for a minute. There are as many different sizes and shapes of people as there are people...tall, short, petite, athletic, lean, chubby, curvy, etc. Then you get the combinations of descriptions... tall and lean, short and athletic, petite and curvy, etc. If people don't come in one size, then why do clothing makers think they can sell clothes in 'one size.'



No, this isn't a post about size or body image, but just bear with me for a minute to think this through.

Years ago I was a different size than I am now. I was significantly bigger. One day, a friend (a lean friend I might add) and I were walking through the mall and a saleswoman at one of those little kiosks tried to sell us wrap-around skirts and swore they would fit anyone. Well, fit is relative I guess. The skirt wrapped 1.5 times around my friend and on me the edges met and the tie held it together, but I would've had to stand still if I wanted to wear it without flashing the world.

So, people aren't one size.
And, we'd all agree that it doesn't make sense for clothing to be one size.

BUT, how about diet and lifestyle? How about the AIP lifestyle in particular?
Many of us seem to be looking for a one-size approach to the AIP. Does it exist?

There are basic tenants of the AIP lifestyle that apply to all of us:
  • eliminate all inflammation causing foods (grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, sugars, nightshades, etc.) until you see relief from your symptoms.
  • add nutrient dense foods (organ meats, broth & lots of veggies) to your diet
  • watch your lifestyle (sleep, stress management, exercise, etc.)
BUT, after 18 months on AIP and meeting (online) LOTS and LOTS of AIPers, I've discovered that aside from those basic tenants, all of our AIP journeys will be different. There isn't one mold that we can all fit into. We're all different people and we all have different diseases and we're all going to heal differently. Each of our AIP adventures is different and that's ok.




Some of the variables that I've noticed are:
  1. Length of strict elimination phase:
    For some people, 30 days or 90 days of strict elimination may be enough to see improvement. And for others, it might be years until your body starts to recover. What I've found to be key here to to remember that even a small step in the right direction is progress. Whether it takes a month or a year, if you're feeling better and enjoying life more, that's what's important. I've learned to be patient with my body and my healing and to enjoy the journey.
  2. What we can reintroduce:
    I know a lot of people would like a list...
    everyone with _____ AI condition will be able to reintroduce ______, but not _________.

    But, it just doesn't work that way. Each of us will need to figure out for ourselves what we can cannot reintroduce. Thankfully this great book on reintroductions takes the guess work out and walks you through that process one step at a time.

    For some context, after 18 months I'm still strict 97% of the time and I'm ok with this being my new normal. I actually enjoy it. I've properly reintroduced black pepper, a few seed based spices, chocolate and eggs (in moderation), but most of the time I'm happy without them. That other 3% of the time is when I choose to go out to eat and not worry about the seasoning or the oil, or the odd occasion when I might have a non-aip treat. Each of these times I weigh the possible inflammation against the benefits of enjoying this food or time with my friends and make an informed decision. I've learned to listen to my body instead of telling my body how it should react.
  3. Exercise? yes? no? how much?:
    If you follow more that 2 fellow 'aipers' on facebook or instagram, you'll regularly see more than 2 levels of exercise. Which one is right for you? Who knows?

    I see everything from strolls on the beach to yoga to crossfit to heavy lifting to running. This is one of those things that it's best to work with your doctor on. My doctor told me that I needed to let my body judge how much I can handle. Most of the time that means I enjoy walking, but occasionally, when the mood strikes, I'll ride my bike or kayak or go for a jog. I've learned to listen to my body and the cues it gives me.
  4. Other Lifestyle Options:
    Just like with the other three, we each need to make our own decisions about other lifestyle choices. The decisions sometimes are made with the help of our doctor (supplements, testing, further food eliminations), sometimes are based on listening to our bodies (sleep, stress management, massage) and doing what works for us. And sometimes, these decisions fall into the arena of 'doing the best you can for you' (buying all organic foods, natural home & beauty products, etc.). 
If there is one piece of advice I'd like to go back and give myself 18 months ago it would be this.... 'You're an individual and you're healing process is going to be different than everyone else's. Listen to your body and take it one day at a time.'



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