The Autoimmune Protocol + FODMAPs Sensitivities

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I suspect that my so-called gluten-sensitivity is actually a FODMAPs sensitivity. During my research, I stumbled across the autoimmune protocol. As someone with an autoimmune condition (vitiligo), my curiosity was piqued, and I went on to read a few articles. I hadn’t really expected to find much – after all, how much can does a disease affecting your skin really have to do with your diet?

Apparently, a whole lot more than you’d think.

I’m not going to talk too extensively about the hows and whys behind the autoimmune protocol. Sarah Ballantyne has written extensively on the topic – I’d highly recommend exploring her posts if you have any questions.

Honestly, I’m tired of living with digestive distress. Over the part eight or so months, I’ve been eating everything – even gluten containing foods – hoping that my symptoms would resolve. Obviously, they haven’t; if anything, my IBS-type symptoms are worse than ever. As I’ve said before, something has to change.

The autoimmune protocol promotes avoidance of nightshades, eggs, seeds and nuts, alcohol, NSAIDS, and excessive fructose or sweeteners. I’m going to be combining this protocol with a low FODMAPs protocol (avoiding galacto-oligo-saccharides, fructans, lactose, fructose and polyols) in hopes of a) resolving my digestive issues and b) finding which foods I tolerate and which ones give me symptoms. The protocol is essentially a modified paleo protocol.

AIP/FODMAP Protocol

I’ll be following the strict AIP + FODMAPs protocol for a month. After this time, I’ll begin to reintroduce common FODMAPs foods (one every five days), recording any symptoms. Once these have been tested, I’ll move on to foods on the AIP no-go list.

Obviously, I have no intention of following this for any extensive period of time. Avocados, nuts, eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, spices, and dairy products are mainstays in my diet, and I’m hoping I won’t have to see many (if any!) of them go. I’ll be posting updates here and on twitter, as well as meal pictures on instagram. ūüôā

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On Anxiety

Over the course of the past year, I’ve gained weight. Deliberately. I did it without too much anxiety – after all, school became my new focus, and I began to really emphasize food quality over (limited) quantity. I ate more food than I did in the two years prior combined, and certainly more than I had in high school (I certainly don’t miss the days of two Splenda-sweetened low-fat Danone yogurts and five almonds for “lunch”).

Today, I haven’t a clue what I weight. I don’t especially care, either. The last time I stepped on a scale was at a skydiving shop in Fiji; the number was still obscenely low and yet higher than it had been four months prior, which had me feeling anxious all over again. I don’t weigh myself, and I probably never will again. It simply doesn’t matter, and I don’t need to get hung up on a number that doesn’t mean a damn thing.

At the beginning of June I got my period back. My body finally decided that I had restored enough energy to resume reproductive function. I cried in relief that day and could not smiling, feeling absolutely proud of myself. A good friend took me out for a Bloody Caesar, which I savoured almost gleefully. Staring down at infertility at the ripe old age of twenty had been somewhat anxiety provoking in its own right.

Gaining weight was hard. I know I said that it wasn’t too anxiety inducing, but it definitely wasn’t easy. I cried about it, and cried again. I listened to my hunger and ate, without restricting myself, and kind of hated myself for it. I went up two pant sizes and could actually buy jeans in actual stores for actual adults again. My cup size went up twice (at least some of it went to good use). My shirt size remained the same, but my arms filled in. Once again, I could no longer recognize that person in the mirror staring back.

To some extent, I mourned – the loss of the ridges of my spine and my protruding hipbones, my slightly receding clavicle, the spaces between my knee tendons and the crevices in my armpits slowly filling in. I could sit comfortably on chairs again. I could shave every inch of my legs. My hair and nails grew up strongly. And the feelings I had numbed away all returned full-force; the happiness, my drive for success, and – as I knew it would – the anxiety that started it all in the first place.

I struggled with myself. I had days where I wanted to give up. I wrote about it in my journal, trying to keep upbeat and failing somewhat miserably. I woke up and waveringly ate breakfast, lunch, supper. Rinse, repeat. I finally relearned what it was like to feel full, not only on food but also on life. I finally faced up to the anxiety that had plagued me from the age of nine, and acknowledged that what I had been taking out on my body had nothing to do with it.

I still marvel today at how much more energy I have. I walk to and from work, I swim across lakes, I play soccer with the twelve-year-old girls I coach. I want to do things, see people, succeed.

The anxiety follows me everywhere. I still struggle with body dismorphia and an almost overwhelming fear of failure. I say “almost” because it won’t overwhelm me, not this time. I’m still learning to be kind to myself – but the difference is that I am genuinely trying to be kinder to myself. I am aware of my anxiety, and this helps me to recognize and deal with it. I’m working on self-expression. I have yet to accomplish “taking it easy”, partially because being busy is my new coping strategy (arguably less harmful than attempting to starve my brain chemistry into behaving).

So anxiety makes an appearance in my everyday life, but I ignore it. For the most part, in any case. I generally like myself, and can acknowledge when I don’t without falling to pieces about it. I’m learning to adjust to this strange body that is mine, the one that has curves instead of edges and life instead of complacency. I think I like it – it is much better adapted to the whirlwind I experience every day.

Anxiety is the lot of our generation. Most of my friends have experienced some form of anxiety, men and women alike. Many of us take it out on our bodies, perhaps due to cultural conditioning. Some find comfort in food, others in depriving themselves of it. Some work themselves to exhaustion for a bit of peace of mind.

I have to consciously remind myself when I’m feeling – for a lack of a better way to put it – bad that I have a biochemical imbalance, that my body is not to blame. That I have to go on functioning and living. That there are millions of people, men and women, who, like me, know the all-too familiar clenching from a serotonin-deprived brain.

Every morning, I get up and get on with “it”, with whatever might be on my daily agenda. And every morning, I first make myself breakfast.

Nutritional Observations

I eat pretty much anything. I’m not about to make a fuss, especially when people go out of their way to prepare me a meal. Despite my somewhat tumultuous relationship with food, I love a good meal shared in good company – that’s my idea of a good time. At my wedding (sometime in the distant future), the food will be what I spend the most on.¬†

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I¬†fully believe you can appreciate – love, even – food without having an emotional relationship with it. That’s not to say that eating and emotions shouldn’t mix; they absolutely do. Carrot cake with cream cheese icing stirs up memories of my grandmother – it never fails to stir up feelings in me, and will forever remain my favourite cake. I have trouble eating crackers for the memory of devouring entire packs of them after school in high school – the discomfort of it all throws me off. My morning feels off without coffee.
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Nowadays, I don’t eat my feelings. Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry; sometimes, when I’m not (stress zaps my appetite, and I will nibble somewhat at the few parties I go to). I have trouble recognizing when I’m full; I feel hunger signals clearly, but have more trouble distinguishing when I’m full. It’s something I’m working on. It’s nothing I plan on worrying about.
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I’ve been paying attention to the way my body responds to my eating habits. A few observations:
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– Wheat and oats give me relatively severe digestive cramps. Oats are worse than wheat, for some reason.
– Too much sugar and processed carbs make me feel ill while simultaneously craving more
– An excess of raw vegetables gives me digestive trouble
– I don’t need a huge amount of protein at every meal
– I feel best with four mid-sized meals a day (upon waking, during lunch break, after work, and in the evening)
– I enjoy desserts with a fruit component far more than those without
– I tolerate dairy well, but it might be causing me acne (I might experiment with an elimination period sometime)
– I feel best on a high-fat diet, including healthy amounts of saturated fat
РI need a moderate amount of starchy carbs in a day to ensure adequate energy and prevent hypoglycaemia 
– Preferred starchy carbs: sweet potato, bananas, white rice
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I find that paying attention to the way different foods affect me is extremely interesting. My primary motto when it comes to food is “Everything in moderation” (with the obligatory “Including moderation” following this – thank you, Oscar Wilde!). With this in mind, I don’t restrict my eating whatsoever. If I want dessert (always), or a bagel, or salad, I’ll have it.¬†In general though, I eat in a way that makes me feel my best, savouring the less usual foods on the occasions they arise.
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With that said, I’ll be enjoying my fair share of “treats” today. It’s Canada day, and we’re all feeling a little “extra-celebratory”. Happy first of July, everyone!