The instant I knew I had an autoimmune disorder and was not THANK GOD on the muscular dystrophy slide to wheelchair and death, I knew I wanted to start one of the amazing diets with which people have had so much success combating their autoimmune disorders.
It appeared that I had three main options: the GAPS diet vs. the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) vs. the Wahls Protocol.
I’d recently met a girl who’d had a lot of success with her autoimmune disorder and the GAPS diet; she thought it could help me even though I still didn’t know what was wrong with me. The GAPS diet (GAPS stands for gut and psychology syndrome) was originally developed to treat autism and mental disorders through healing the gut, but has since been shown to help autoimmune diseases through gut healing.
However the GAPS diet didn’t seem to be a perfect fit as it really is focused on gut repair and I don’t have the sense that my autoimmune disorder started with leaky gut. There are six beginning stages where you basically eat bone broth soup and gradually add a few more essentially baby foods back into your diet. It sounded like a ton of work and while (as anyone who’s been through this knows) I would do literally anything to feel better, I was so weak it seemed like starting with such a drastic diet change would possibly be too large a burden on my system.
Also, despite it’s extremely restrictive parameters it appeared that the GAPS diet doesn’t eliminate all foods that people have inflammatory responses to. Huh. It seemed like as long as I was going to try an elimination diet I might as well get rid of everything that could be inflammatory as I’d never had food sensitivities before and didn’t know what, if anything might be a trigger. I got the GAPS book at a used bookstore and found it shockingly uninformative, especially in the nuts and bolts of how to start the diet. There is much more useful information online. I found one website (PhoenixHelix, a great autoimmune resource) that modified it for autoimmune sufferers but that meant that the first six intro stages were all basically the same and then full GAPS includes all sorts of potentially inflammatory food! So while this can certainly be an amazingly healing diet for gut and psychology issues I wasn’t sure it was what I needed, at least not yet.
Another diet on my horizon was the Wahls Protocol. Invented by Terry Wahls who beat her MS and got up out of a wheelchair with it, the Wahls Protocol is basically a modified paleo approach. All these diets cut out sugar, grain, gluten, processed food, alcohol all the fun stuff…
On the Wahl’s protocol you can still eat some junk, just really limit it and eat NINE CUPS OF VEGETABLES a day. That’s right. Somehow this doesn’t seem like an autoimmune diet so much as a you-are-desperately-undernourished diet, which I didn’t think I was. Sure I drank a bit, ate some sugar and flour, but the majority of my diet already was healthy stuff and veggies and I’d cut out alcohol months ago due to feeling so crappy. Would cramming a few more veggies down my throat really make the difference?
I wanted a serious diet change and something truly targeted at autoimmune issues. And that’s when I read something, also on PhoenixHelix, where the author said they start their autoimmune patients on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and only switch them to GAPS if the autoimmune disorder is digestion related or the AIP doesn’t seem to be having success. Now that sounded like a plan.
The AIP makes a lot of sense to me because in addition to focusing on nutrient-dense food (yes I try and eat my nine Wahls cups of veggies a day and my organ meats) it cuts out literally everything that people tend to have inflammatory responses to. So no legumes, no dairy, no nuts and seeds, no nightshades. BUT you don’t need to start at step one of GAPS baby food. You eat richly and nutrient-densely, dining on all non-inflammatory foods.
It still means a lot of cooking for someone who doesn’t cook, and a lot of meat-eating for someone who doesn’t eat much meat. But honestly, it’s a relief and it’s fun to have a project after the last few traumatic months. I’m loving the diet and I’m learning a lot about cooking. I really think I made the right choice.
If you want to read more about these diets check out:
Gaps diet: http://www.gapsdiet.com. Though I found the main site to be, like the book, rather hopelessly organized. There is a lot of secondary information available online however.
Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. Some good resources: https://aiplifestyle.com/what-is-autoimmune-protocol-diet/ https://autoimmunewellness.com