How AIP Helped Natasha’s Hashimoto’s Disease
1. When and why did you start AIP or something similar?
In 1998 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, and later with Pernicious anemia and Addison’s disease.
Seventeen years of mismanagement in my treatment by mainstream doctors resulted in my being extremely unwell and barely functioning. I was so sick and tired I literally could not function. I was at times incapacitated and could not even get out of bed.
I had severe pain in my legs and body, and I could hardly sleep at all – it was all taking its toll on me. Mentally, emotionally and physically I was falling apart. It was so bad at times I really thought my husband (Stephen) and son would be better off if I just left one way or another. I was that bad!
All this pain and grief came at a very high cost. Stephen had to be absent from work sometimes to look after our son and me. Eventually, he was forced to quit his wonderful career to stay home and look after us.
This left me absolutely devastated, as the financial burden was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. At that stage; I was seriously considering some desperate things.
In 2014 I was going through one of the worst flares of my illness. I believe major changes and stressors in my life brought this on.
I relentlessly researched trying to find the key to what I was missing to help me regain some normalcy and enjoyment in my life. I researched for thousands of hours and spent thousands of dollars trying numerous supplements and treatments.
One day my research brought me to Dr. Terry Wahls’ TED talk about Minding your Mitochondria; this was my light bulb moment!! It clicked; this could be the key I had spent so many years searching for!!
I became obsessed. I read everything I could about the Autoimmune Protocol and Paleo, and I figured, in my haze of brain fog I had nothing to change but the way I ate! I decided, with what I was dealing with that it was better for me to go full AIP straight out of the gate!
I had a small advantage in that I am quite an experienced cook, and for the most part could adapt and substitute recipes to Australian produce and the available products, and convert lots of my recipes to the AIP.
2. Did you stick very strictly to the elimination phase of AIP or were there some foods you allowed in?
Yes, I absolutely stuck to elimination phase strictly because I knew how sick I was and that I would only be setting all my hard work back by cheating. I wanted to set myself up for success, not failure. I knew that if I cheated on the elimination phase it could potentially set off another flare and at the time I was so sick I was willing to do anything to feel well again, so adhering to the protocol fully was essential to me.
I had also read about the biggest mistakes people make when going AIP. Rushing the elimination or cheating whilst in the elimination phase were some of the biggest reasons people had failed at AIP. Failure wasn’t an option anymore – I was determined, despite how debilitated I was physically, emotionally and mentally.
3. How long did it take for you to experience benefits?
I didn’t really feel any results for about 6 months as my body was so inflamed after almost 20 years of autoimmunity. I knew it was going to take a substantial amount of time for my body to start to calm down. During this time, for the first time in my life, I learned how to really listen to my body and to have self-love and compassion for my body, after surviving this.
The first few weeks were the hardest, especially considering there were zero recourses with Australian lifestyle and seasonal produce in mind. We eat very differently from the US, and the majority of AIP recipes are from there.
4. If you did a reintroduction phase of AIP, what did you reintroduce first and how did that go?
I stared the reintro process after 6 months on the elimination phase, which is much longer than recommended – however it is what I felt was right for my body. At the time I wanted to give my whole mind, body and spirit as much love, compassion and space to calm and heal as I could.
I knew that AIP isn’t meant to be a forever way of living, yet I was also quite nervous about starting the process, as I know many are. It’s like I was afraid of undoing all my hard work, but I knew I wouldn’t succeed if I didn’t give it a go.
The first foods I brought back in were seed spices, which I was really keen for. I was really missing a proper chai and pepper! I had no issues with them and then moved onto egg yolk. That was ok, but whites were an issue for a while until I discovered that I was ok with them cooked in something – not just by themselves. This made me very happy because we all miss our eggs on AIP. They are just so versatile and baking is so much easier!!
After nearly 3 years I have been able to add back in just about everything on a infrequent/rotational basis. I feel it’s really important to our overall long-term healing success to be able to bring back in as many eliminated foods as possible. We need them for their wide range of nutrients and diversity of the microbiome – and above all, having optimal enjoyment from our food and lifestyle.
5. What are the main benefits you’ve experienced through using AIP?
My goal when I started AIP was to put all my conditions into remission, no matter what I had to sacrifice. After being on the protocol for several months the thing I actually noticed first was that my skin got better. I had struggled with acne all my life and was extremely self conscious about my face. I began to notice my skin wasn’t as sensitive and oily. The hormonal breakouts had all but disappeared and the dry cracked skin on my feet was healing.
So for me, it was great to finally have clear skin and to be confident for the first time in my life – to not have to use heavy, full makeup to hide behind.
Sixteen months after starting AIP I discovered I had a hidden co-infection, Candidiasis, in my gut. This is where Candida (a form of yeast) actually becomes overgrown. It took a great deal of further hard work and more sacrifice to heal. I eliminated all sugar, stopped drinking Kombucha and water kefir and all other yeasts and used a combination of herbs and supplements to address it.
Once the Candidiasis was cleared up I got the results I had been working so hard for, “you are in remission!” After being on AIP and then a modified paleo diet for so long I really thought I wasn’t going to one of the “lucky” ones. After finding out that I had in fact achieved remission it actually took the best part of a year for me to fully appreciate and accept my recovery.
AIP has given me the foundation to successfully manage my conditions for life. I am beyond grateful for the knowledge I now have.
6. Can you share some of your favorite AIP dishes that kept you going?
Here are the links to a couple of my favorite AIP recipes, which you can find on my site.
7. Any tips you’d pass on to others who are looking to start AIP?
The biggest tip for anyone considering AIP would be to just simply do it! I got to such a bad place and I had literally tried EVERYTHING. I had spent tens of thousands on supplements and all sorts of therapies, specialists – you name it. I figured I had nothing to lose except to change the way I eat.
Yes, I had a huge emotional attachment to the foods I was giving up, especially nightshades, as I am of European descent and love them, but I had to change the way I felt about the food I was eating. I switched from focusing on the foods I couldn’t have that were harming me, to the foods that were healing me.
Another pitfall I encountered was not initially taking a holistic approach by also addressing my emotional, mental and spiritual health. AIP isn’t just about the food. Making sure you are healing all aspects of your health is essential to overall healing. Also remember that AIP isn’t meant to last forever. In the meantime, you’ll be amazed at how well you can adapt and actually enjoy this lifestyle.