It took me a year and a half to heal myself, but much of the first six months was by trial and error until I worked with a functional doctor, received the results of the Cyrex tests, and found The Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP, (sometimes referred to as the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol) and Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Intestinal Health Through Diet, by Elaine Gottschall. Gottschall’s book lays out the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is similar to AIP.
There are many additional great resources that I recommend: Sarah Ballantyne’s site, ThePaleoMom, Mickey Trescott’s Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, Chris Kresser (I’m now his and Dr. Schweig's patient), and the SCD Lifestyle guys are a few fantastic ones.
After a full year on the autoimmune gut repair diet, the debilitating diarrhea finally stopped and I mainly had normal digestive function, my hair grew back in, the eczema disappeared, the heart arrhythmia stopped, my thyroid cysts haven’t grown any larger, and my menstruation and sex drive returned! I now have a great skin complexion, my rosacea is gone, my brittle nails are strong, and I feel great. I do not think I will ever be able to add grains back into my diet, but honestly I’m fine with living without grains. I wish I could say that I can now eat eggs, dairy and nightshades, but I cannot. I plan on trying to reintroduce them sometime in the future. Several years into AIP, I still haven't been successful in reintroducing dairy. I do have wine occasionally (maybe one time a month, or less) and on rare occasions my organic margaritas, made with organic tequila, organic limes, fresh squeezed, and local organic raw honey! :)
The Healing Rx that Worked for Me
Eat: organic vegetables and some fruit (soluble fiber and low glycemic); organic, pastured/grass fed and finished (for beef) non-GMO fed meats, especially the organ meats, wild caught fish and game; small amounts of fermented foods (without whey); soaked nuts and seeds; raw honey (just a little) and dates; herbs, black pepper and sea salt; raw apple cider vinegar; herbal teas; real/pure olive oil; coconut oil; lard; tallow; grassfed beef gelatin
DO NOT eat: any grains, any products with corn or gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, beans, legumes, nightshades*, fungi/mushrooms, sugar, or alcohol – almost all processed foods
DO NOT eat: genetically modified foods (GMOs) or meat that has been fed GM-feed, look for non-GMO certified and/or buy organic
Supplement minimally and targeted through nutritional testing: soil-based probiotics; vitamin D3 + K2; complex B vitamins; CoQ10, Epsom/magnesium salt baths; if tolerable
Sleep as much as possible: 8-10 hours/night
Non-toxic beauty, health, and cleaning products – I make most of my own from food grade ingredients (the DIY Organic Beauty e-book is a great resource)
Reduce/eliminate stress and do moderate to light exercise daily, yoga is a great help
Get support through a health buddy or use a health coach (the Holistic Moms Network has been a great support to me along the way)
*Potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, and cayenne peppers are classified as nightshade foods.
Additional notes: soluble vegetables like root vegetables and sweet potatoes have worked great for me; I particularly like the Japanese white sweet potatoes. I can eat raw cacao, but many people with similar issues cannot. I make my own chocolate with cacao and raw honey. I cannot tolerate coconut milk or yogurt (even homemade), but others on AIP can. I realize that this is an extremely restricted diet and that it is challenging. It has been possible for me because the alternative, of the staying in the state of sickness I was in, and getting sicker, was worse than this massive diet change regimen.
I am thrilled to have a healthy gut, skin, and body. It would be dishonest for me to say it was easy all along. It was especially hard in the beginning. I was extremely angry at our food system and that I could not eat out anywhere. Now I accept it and truly am grateful for the amazing nourishing heath-promoting foods I get to eat. When I travel, I bring all of my food wherever I go. I manage social situations and family gatherings by bringing food I love for myself and also bringing a dish I can eat to share. Happily, I am finding farm-to-table restaurants in many cities that understand clean non-toxic food and, happily, I can eat at those restaurants. The Plant Organic Cafe in San Francisco is one of my faves!
I am so grateful that I am now healthy and can lead a normal life with my girls. My body and my belly feel at peace versus the horrible turmoil I had before. I look forward to continued healing and maybe one day eating nightshades and eggs; but if I can't, I can live fine without them. I have learned that my health is my responsibility and I had to take it into my own hands to find healing. It has been a lot of research and effort, but all well worth it. I share my story in the hope that it speeds along healing for others that need it. Sadly, there are so many people sick today due to toxic food!
If you want to read more of my healing story, you can find part 1 and part 2 in my earlier blogs. I wish you great healing, health, and happiness. XO
Devona Bell has over two decades of professional experience in building regenerative local and regional food systems, food/farming/health/nutrition nexus, and natural resource management in the U.S. and internationally. She has worked in, lived in, and visited 40 countries and speaks English, French, and some Russian. Devona and her 2 girls left the DC suburbs and live on their beyond organic farm in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia raising their own food and meat without toxic inputs!
Photo credit: http://jlaphotography.com/
Note: I get no financial benefit from the companies, people or organizations that I have recommended here. I recommend them because I think they are terrific!