AIP Balance Week brought to you by your AIP community …
We have dedicated this week to acknowledging and addressing the emotional effects autoimmune disease has on each of us. AIP-ers tend to focus heavily on physically healing our bodies, going to great lengths to source the highest quality food we can find and afford. We spend countless hours in the kitchen which can take us away from hobbies and social activities that used to provide joy. Eating out at restaurants is stressful at best, and I cannot imagine having to also cook for a family or raise children when on AIP. Packing compliant lunches for work and planning ahead for vacations and holidays requires focus, willpower, and dedication. I have a ton of respect for the AIP community and admire everyone’s self-determination to heal and prosper. We should all be very proud of ourselves and each other.
Most of us came to AIP after successive failures with conventional medicine, vegan diets, steroids, ignorant doctors, and/or ignoring our symptoms until they really interrupted our quality of life. We managed to open our minds to organ meats, intensive food preparation, increased grocery budgets, and a bit of social isolation (more on this later in the week). And we’ve had little wins. Some in the form of successful reintroductions… others in the physical lessening of painful inflammation. I often reflect on my health prior to beginning AIP. Day after day of fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, mood swings, unexplained rashes, facial swelling, mouth sores, hair loss, amenorrhea, severe constipation and diarrhea, bloating, reflux, and drastic weight loss. My intestines felt raw, my body felt abused, and my mind confused. I rarely experience any of those symptoms anymore since going on the AIP. The ones I blamed for stealing my quality of life, my perkiness, my freedom, my hope for the future. Food used to flat out scare me because I didn’t understand how or why it was hurting my body. I was angry at my doctors, especially in 2012 when I re-read my blood work from 2008 that showed gluten antibodies. No one told me at the time (“It wasn’t important to my Hashimoto’s diagnosis” my doctor later said), and I continued a grain-based diet until January 2012 when my GI doctor gave me a prescription for low-dose naltrexone, a diagnosis of IBS, possible Crohn’s and 3 types of gastritis, and a mandatory Paleo diet (he wrote “Google Paleo Diet” on the back of my lab work).
I remember leaving that doctor’s appointment and heading straight to my pantry. I grabbed all my boxes of vegan-friendly seed crackers, soba noodles, and organic cereal and threw them straight in the trash – my first mini victory. I already had a fridge full of kale, cucumbers and sweet potatoes, so transitioning to a Paleo diet was not difficult for me in the least. I embraced the Paleo diet in full force. This was around the time my husband used to massage my back and stomach every night (I would call them “kidney massages” or “liver rubs”). My intestines were so inflamed after a day of gluten and soy-based vegan food, they were pushing on my organs and causing incredibly sharp pain. I look back now on all those nights hovering over my toilet, shivering with goose bumps and incredible nausea, spent thinking “this is going to be my reality every day for the rest of my life… there is no cure for autoimmune disease”. I can painfully recall the thousands of days in a row that I felt my body was rejecting life. The facial swelling and weight fluctuations particularly affected my self-esteem, and it became something I fixated on as a marker of my wellness. I lost 25 lbs within a year on my petite 4’ 11’’ frame. My friends and family worried; they accused me of having an eating disorder and I became scared to even tell them about my vomiting spells because I didn’t want them to think I was doing it on purpose. It was a lonely and scary time in my life, and my now husband was the only support I had through all of it. I mention these personal moments because these memories have contributed significantly to my emotional health these last few years. Along with the endless doctor’s appointments, thousands of hours of online research, expensive tests and procedures, and lack of social support, I only have recently found acceptance of my autoimmune disease and peace with my body (thanks to AIP of course). All of those moments of frustration built onto one another to the point where I couldn’t visit the doctor without breaking out into tears at least once in my 7-minute appointment. Have I made it clear how angry, sad, and resentful I used to be about my health? AIP has helped me make tremendous strides in my mental wellbeing, and I can’t thank Sarah Ballantyne and the other AIP lady bloggers enough for their knowledge and support the last 10 months.
Emotional health deserves more than just one blog post though, and I feel very strongly about supporting the community through my story, so I will be posting a series of articles on the topic this week that have affected me and women I know in the past several years, and that I have a hunch may be on the minds of at least a few of my thousands of readers who come to my site for support during their great AIP Journey.
Infertility & Autoimmunity
Social Isolation on AIP
The Harms of Over-exercising
Body image & Disordered Eating