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“Strict” AIP is NOT a Life-Sentence
The AIP is meant to be approached in stages – elimination, maintenance and reintroduction. Unfortunately, reintroducing foods often intimidates people because they fear either the process or the potential reactions, and they get STUCK … stuck on the STRICT AIP elimination stage for too long, which is not healthy for body or mind. On the flip side some are too impatient and try to add foods back in too quickly making their efforts futile.
By now I hope you’ve read up on the AIP and understand the three stages to the dietary process. If not, please go back to step #1 and be sure to get a good grasp of it all.
To re-cap, the reintroduction stage is where the real food-trials come in. You’ve removed the most commonly reactive foods from your diet, and now you’ll be adding them back in, sloooooowly, in a specific order (most nutrient dense options first) one at a time to determine if you are reactive to any of them.
So … when can you get started?
I know I’ve said this a few times but the AIP is meant to be a template, it’s a very personal protocol and eating plan and so too goes the topic of reintroductions. For some, a minimum 30 day of elimination stage is fine, for others it might take 60 or 90 days or much longer, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. Bottom line, there’s no one right answer for everyone … it’s personal!
Typically, Functional Medicine Practitioners recommend not starting the reintroduction phase until you’re “symptom free” (or have seen some significant improvements) … and obviously this varies by person and condition.
Your body needs time to “rest and digest” … “recover and repair” … basically, you need to be in an un-inflamed state before you try reintroducing foods, otherwise you may never really know what you’re sensitivities are.
To put timing in perspective, because I know you REALLY want to know how long you’re into this for, think of it this way … you didn’t get sick over night, your digestive and immune system didn’t take one hit that caused them to fritz! For many, it’s likely that your body has been taking some abuse in the form of poor eating and drinking habits, toxic exposures or poor lifestyle habits for a while and it’s just been a long slippery slope into your current state of dis-ease. Realistically then it’s going to take some time to un-do those things, bring inflammation down and improve your gut function. Thankfully our bodies are miraculous and can heal if we give them the tools for the job.
If you’re struggling after 30, 60 or 90 days and feel you should be ready, step back and look at your situation honestly. Have you addressed all of the other areas of the AIP as well? Stress, exercise/gentle movement and environmental toxins are a couple that can play a huge role in your recovery, and if you’ve been avoiding addressing these, they may well be what’s stalling your progress. Beyond this there are other factors to consider too and you may want to consider this article on Troubleshooting the AIP.
IMPORTANT NOTE – if you’re still not seeing improvement after 90 days of giving the full Autoimmune Protocol a chance, please seek the advice of an expert to help you dig deeper to find your root cause – there is likely something else holding you back from healing that may not be obvious – click here to find a professional near you.
Some may want to rush into reintros, but remember … slow and steady wins the AIP Race!
Resist the urge to start too soon and resist the urge to wing it when it comes to reintroductions. You’ve put in 30-90 days (or maybe even more) on the elimination stage, don’t waste that effort by throwing in the towel or choosing to decide for yourself how best to reintroduce foods.
The elimination stage was meant to heal your body, and if you’ve been patient and are really feel quite well, reintroductions will likely be an easy process for you. Starting with a “clean slate” so to speak will allow your body to speak to you when you’ve reintroduced something that is not agreeing with you.
That said, be sure to follow a systematic plan of reintroduction when the time comes, including keeping a food and symptom journal (more about that in the resources below).
So, how do you get started? Following are the guides and resources I recommend you consider for best results.
What ever you do, keep moving forward – there are no rewards for longest amount of time on the AIP elimination stage!
I’m always shocked and stunned when I hear people in my AIP Recipe Collection Facebook Group proudly comment that they’ve been strict AIP elimination for 759 days or “x” number of months or years! No, no, no, no!! This simply can’t be!
I mean, I get it, there are a lot of folks out there who simply feel too darn good after having eliminated the top inflammatory offenders from their lives that they don’t want to go back to feeling horrible again. But this is where food fear creeps in, and ultimately why we find people out there touting that “the AIP is a dangerous, restrictive diet that just keeps people sick.”
Let’s be clear, elimination diets and the reintroduction process is still considered to be the gold standard in assessing food allergies and sensitivities – even more so than largely inaccurate food sensitivity / allergy testing (you can read more about that here if you’re wondering about that statement). The elimination phase gives the body time to calm and heal, BUT it is NOT meant to be long-term, that is NOT the goal of the Autoimmune Protocol! The magic starts to happen when we begin reintroductions and strive for nutrient density and variety in our diet. This is when we start accumulating personal data and identify what’s potentially driving our symptoms.
Beyond that, reintroductions are just practical! They help improve our quality of life and open up our ability to socialize more freely. No one wants you to get stuck on a restricted diet – it’s hard to maintain – but more importantly we don’t want to get stuck in long-term restriction because it could cause more harm than the good you’ve seen it do.
Don’t be a case that perpetuates the myths and misconceptions about this protocol – keep moving!
If you remember, back at the beginning when we started talking about what the AIP is, what we’d eat and what we’d avoid, we specifically said there were some very nutritious foods that would be eliminated – TEMPORARILY! In short, limiting and restricting food groups long-term can cause dysbiosis in the gut and nutritional deficiencies, so we need to get those back into our diets as soon as possible if they’re not problematic to our individual case.
That said, I hope you see how important it is that you MUST put on your big people pants and take on reintroductions. You’ve already proven that you can do hard things by making it this far, reintros are just the next step – and you’ve got this!
Reintroduction Guides & Resources:
Reintroductions can be tricky, but like I said, you can do hard things. It’s always tempting to try to compare your reactions with someone else’s, but the bottom line is that this too is VERY individual. You will need to keep good track as you go along so you can recognize signs and symptoms of reactions and celebrate all the wins along the way.
As always, my number one, go-to resource for ALL stages of the AIP, is – The Autoimmune Protocol ebook – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne
As of June 2021, the first cookbook dedicated to AIP reintroductions was released, and it’s spectacular! It’s great for all stages of the AIP and a great motivator. It discusses the process of reintros and provides delicious recipes to keep you progressing – check out my review here – The Autoimmune Protocol Reintroduction Cookbook – Kate Jay of Healing Family Eats
More articles from my favorite, reliable AIP Experts:
Definitive Guide To Reintroductions – Autoimmune Wellness
Personalized AIP – Autoimmune Wellness
Reintroducing Foods After Following the AIP Elimination Stage – The Paleo Mom
Updates to the Autoimmune Protocol – The Paleo Mom
Top 5 Mistakes People Make Reintroducing Foods – Eileen Baird
Why Aren’t My AIP Reintroductions Working?
Now that we’ve covered what the AIP is and the basics of where to get started (that’s found in Start Here Part 1 if you missed it) and you’re feeling a little more comfortable with the concept, we can move on and dig in to some additional resources you may find helpful and enjoyable (watch for the links in the paragraphs below and click).
Food Lists – If you haven’t read up on this yet, be sure to check out the details on my Food Lists page. This is pretty essential, so be sure to concentrate your efforts here next.
Mental Preparation – While it’s logical, it may not be obvious that we need to take a moment and prepare mentally for the AIP. You deserve a moment to be angry, (because like I’ve said elsewhere on this site, Grieving Over Illness is a real part of your healing journey) but this is about more than that. You need to establish your baseline, pump yourself up with a few positive affirmations (I know it sounds corny but it really helps throughout your challenging times and sends positive messages to your brain and body for healing), be sure to give yourself permission not to be perfect (it’s next to impossible to be PERFECTLY AIP all the time), be thankful and then put on our big girl/boy pants and get on with it! Check out Angie Alt’s post on Autoimmune Wellness, 6 Ways to Mentally Prep for the AIP (click here for the article).
Keep It Simple – This is probably my TOP tip! I talk about it in my motivational post, but I also recommend this post by Autoimmune Wellness, 5 Ways to Keep It Simple on the AIP (click here for the article), which talks about keeping your focus on nutrient density, a few good kitchen tools, using a basic approach to meals instead of complicated recipes, keeping convenience products in their place and avoiding trying to make too many changes all at once.
Kitchen Tools – I get asked a LOT what kitchen tools are essential for the AIP, so I’ll quickly refer you to a couple of great references: #1 Go to the Autoimmune Wellness website Resources page and click on Our Favorite Kitchen Tools (click here for the page) for a list of suggestions, #2 Check out the Kitchen Tour (click here for the page) feature on their website where average AIP-ers share their kitchen set ups so you can be inspired to get into your kitchen (these features include suggestions for kitchen tools and gadgets too and people are featured by the autoimmune disease that they’re coping with). I’m flattered to have been included back in July of 2018, and you can check out my kitchen tour here.
Motivation to Get Started – I LOVE this little summary of the 20 core principles that are important for empowering you on your AIP journey – I hope you find it motivational too. It’s a quick read – The AIP Manifesto.
Digging Deeper – If you’ve made it this far and you’re still hungry for more information or maybe you’re trying to do some diagnostics on your AIP efforts, check out my next post of recommendations where you can dig deeper into do’s and don’ts, troubleshooting and more – click here for Digging Deeper & Troubleshooting – Start Here Part 3.
Unfortunately there may come a time when you feel it’s one step forward and two steps back. In cases like this you might want to dig a bit deeper into the do’s and don’ts and do a little troubleshooting.
I’m going to get on my soapbox here for a moment here,
so brace yourselves!
TRACKING – There is a REAL need for proper tracking and monitoring to know what’s working and what’s not. By tracking, I mean everything we consume, what we do daily (work, sleep, exercise, relaxation, self-care), our stress levels, reactions to food, medications and more – this can be more than just an upset tummy so if you’re not sure what else this may include, read up on reintroductions (even though you may not be to that stage yet), things to watch for include itching, skin problems, dizziness, pain, congestion etc. I call this type of tracking a food/mood/poop journal, and yes, it is a real thing! If you’re not doing it, I highly recommend you look into it (one of these days I’m going to write a post about it), but for now you should know a few things:
1) Reactions to foods, supplements, etc. can happen up to 72 hours later (trust me – you’re not going to remember this type of detail 3 days later unless you journal it!),
2) While the AIP is NOT about weight loss I highly recommend you weigh yourself every morning and keep track of it – reactions can come by way of subtle inflammation, and weight fluctuations can help you pin-point your triggers,
3) You don’t need to buy anything fancy or find some special app for this – I used an Excel spreadsheet and kept it in the cloud so I could update it on the go. The best part about a spreadsheet is it’s searchable, so I could easily look back when exploring problems and reactions.
GIVE IT AN HONEST SHOT – It’s only by truly giving the Autoimmune Protocol your full attention that you’ll really know what’s working and what’s not. The Elimination Stage is 30 days minimum, but 60 – 90 days is not uncommon before most see marked improvement in symptoms. Don’t expect miracles … slow and steady wins the AIP race. IF after giving it a REAL and HONEST shot you’re not seeing seeing the improvement you expected it is time to start the troubleshooting process as you may be dealing with underlying issues that you may need professional help to get to the bottom of and start treating.
DID YOU REALLY? – I hate to be a nag, but did you REALLY give it an honest shot? Did you really follow the protocol properly? First and foremost, if you’re struggling but have never considered The Autoimmune Protocol book by Dr. Ballantyne, I will again suggest it to you. Not only does she include information about the basics and reintroductions, but she includes troubleshooting as well. If you’re honestly ready to start troubleshooting, keep reading.
Do’s & Don’ts
I’ve saved this until part three because I really want you to keep it simple starting out, and because, let’s face it, nobody wants to be faced with an even LONGER list of restrictions and directions after trying to adjust to the foods allowed and omitted. This article by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, AIP Do’s and Don’ts (click for article), is an amazing compilation of issues she’s helped people like us work through on their healing journeys. There are almost literally a bazillion links to other articles shared in her post, so if you’re not feeling up to digging really deep at this point, be careful to look at this with a more high-level or basic approach – read the introduction and them simply consider each numbered headline and assess whether it’s something you think might be one of your pitfalls, something you’re skipping or not giving enough attention to on your journey. Once you determine your weaknesses, look further at those as a starting point – don’t read items that don’t apply to you, this will only cause yourself overwhelm and confusion.
Progress & Patience
From time to time you’ll hear people mention “detox,” “Herxheimer” “withdrawl” or “die-off” reactions when you begin the elimination stage of the AIP – and if you’re feeling worse than before you began, you may be scared or want to give up. I suggest taking a look at this well-written post – Is a Healing Crisis Really Healing?
If you’ve been on the AIP a while and you think it isn’t working or feel your healing journey has stalled, be sure to read – How to Gauge Success on the AIP When Progress Isn’t Obvious.
Another common pitfall is our own impatience, and who can blame us, we just want to feel better! check out Eileen Baird’s article here – Is Your Impatience An Obstacle to Healing?
Maybe you feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back? If you’ve seen some progress and are discouraged because you feel like you’re backsliding, you may just be suffering a temporary flare. I personally have to remind myself of this frequently! I’ve been on my personalized AIP for quite some time and I start to think as though I’ve come this far, surely there should be no going back. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case and from time to time we’ll face a flare of symptoms for one reason or another. If that’s you, check out this very helpful article – Autoimmune Flare Self Care.
Probably the best article I’ve read on this topic is written by Mickey Trescott of Autoimmune Wellness. She delves into when you do and when you don’t need to troubleshoot, first steps to troubleshooting, three areas to explore and her own personal experience troubleshooting the AIP. Click here to read the full article – Troubleshooting the Autoimmune Protocol – A Guide.
If you’ve come this far and still don’t know where you’re going wrong, I highly recommend you consult a Functional Medicine Practitioner or Certified AIP Health Coach so that you are sure to address any underlying issues. Without getting to the root cause of your illness, the AIP can feel a bit like putting a band-aid on a battle ship! Click here for where to find professional help and even a list of Paleo-Friendly Autoimmune Specialist MDs.
NOTE: As with any significant dietary change, you should in fact have only undertaken the AIP at the recommendation of a trained nutritional coach or physician.
By now you probably realize that alcohol is out on the AIP … but you’re likely wondering the whys behind it and how you’ll possibly manage to get through family functions, social events, the holidays and what are you possibly going to do to constantly dodge casual drinks after work!
This post will cover they whys, a glimmer of hope and my take on the situation. If you haven’t already seen my post on Surviving Social Life on the AIP, you’ll want to make that your next stop after this post, because what ever you do, you don’t want to isolate yourself just because the AIP can be hard. You’re strong and you can do hard things … you’ve got this!
Why is Alcohol Out on the AIP?
So – what’s the real deal about alcohol? So many health gurus are touting it as “good for your health” – especially wine! So why do we need to avoid it on the AIP?
Be sure to read Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s full article – The Whys Behind The AIP: Alcohol – click here. (The following are a few of the most important snippets and are direct quotes taken from the article.)
Highlights From the Article:
- Alcohol consumption directly causes an increase in intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut)
- The “holes” that alcohol makes in the gut epithelial barrier are known to be big enough to allow some very large molecules into the body, … If it gets into the blood stream, it stimulates systemic inflammation, stimulates the immune system, and damages the liver.
- Alcohol consumption feeds gram-negative bacteria such as E. Coli to create bacterial overgrowth of these more toxic bacteria… Excessive alcohol consumption is also correlated with gram-negative bacteria growing very high up the digestive tract, in the duodenum and sometimes even the stomach.
- Even fairly small amounts of alcohol can damage the lining of the gut; specifically, alcohol leads to “mucosal damage in the upper small intestine with a loss of epithelium at the tips of the intestinal villi, hemorrhagic erosions and even hemorrhage in the lamina propria.” If that sounded bad, that’s because it is. It’s similar to the damage caused by gluten in celiac patients.
Why This Is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT If You Have Autoimmune Disease:
- If you have autoimmune disease, you have a collection of genes that makes you more susceptible to developing a leaky gut and to having an exaggerated immune reaction to substances that leak out. This means that anything that increases intestinal permeability should be avoided.
Will I Ever Be Able to Drink Alcohol Again?
- Dr. Ballantyne advises to avoid all alcohol until you are starting to see some success on the autoimmune protocol.
- There is some good news, but I want you to read Dr. Ballantyne’s full article first. You’ll find out more there about what, when, and how often you can try a reintroduction.
Read the full article – The Whys Behind The AIP: Alcohol – click here.
You may also want to consider this article – Understanding Your Social & Emotional Relationship With Alcohol – click here.
My Two Cents on Alcohol and The AIP
I’ve taken a lot of questions from distraught members about this topic, so I’m compelled to include some personal comments and reminders here to help you keep this all in perspective. Trust me, you’re not alone, this is not the end of the world, you will get through this too! You’ve got this!
- You’re not the first person to have to say no to a drink. While I know this is not the same thing, think about those recovering from alcoholism – saying no is not that unusual – don’t feel awkward about sticking to your healing plan.
- There are LOTS of people on various diets these days that avoid alcohol – some for health reasons, some for weight loss – again – you’re not alone – don’t feel awkward about saying no to alcohol.
- One of my favorite sayings since I started AIP is “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail” – set yourself up for success! Think IN ADVANCE about how you’ll handle the situation – this is covered well in my Surviving Social Life on the AIP post – check it out – lots of great advice! Own it and act natural! Or as Angie Alt of Autoimmune Wellness says “Don’t Be Weird”! If you don’t make a big deal about it, no one else will either. When it comes time to order, simply defer to a mocktail or non-alcoholic sparkling beverage and don’t apologize for it or miss a beat. If asked you could say something as simple as “I’m taking a break from alcohol right now” – that might be all that it takes!
TIP: I have a friend who manages feeling awkward about ordering by getting to the restaurant or work function early so she can speak to the bartender – she orders a mocktail or a spritzer in a fancy glass and asks the bartender to remember her order – no one questions if it has alcohol in it or not and she feels better about not having to create a dialogue about why she’s not drinking. You can use the same plan of attack at a family gathering, wedding or a party – no one notices, no one really cares.
Take Me To The Mocktails!
Looking for some great alternatives to alcohol on the AIP? There are LOTS of great recipes posted in our Facebook Group – simply use the group search feature there and look for “mocktail” “cocktail” or “beverage” or the exact name of what you’re looking, for like “iced tea” “lemonade” “egg nog” or “mule” – I even use a hashtag there called thirstythursday, so you can search for that too! Trust me, there are LOTS of great options so you won’t feel left out! ♥
Get everything you need to jump-start your healing with the Autoimmune Protocol today!
The Autoimmune Protocol e-book was created by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD to provide you with an accessible, practical-focused AIP resource.
This all-in-one guide delivers:
- 3oo+ pages of quick-access information on the AIP
- 4 weeks of meal plans with shopping lists
- over 80 family-friendly recipes, all 100% AIP!
- automatic updates, delivered directly to you!
- and so much more!
WHY AN E-BOOK?
With The Autoimmune Protocol e-book, you’ll never be left out of the loop on updates to the AIP again! You’ll get instant access to updates to the protocol, via revisions to the e-book accessed through your account! And, just to make sure you know to look for them, you’ll be e-mailed every time updates are available!
TIP: If you prefer something printed – choose the sections you want a hard copy of and have them printed by a local office supplies store (I personally just printed the protocol and not the recipes)
Available from the Author: Dr. Sarah Ballantyne – Click here to purchase
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Autoimmune Protocol e-book
Go To Bed: 14 Steps for Healthier Sleep e-book
The Paleo Template e-book
Experts, Support Groups & Meet-Ups
While I’m not a huge one for “support” groups sometimes you just need someone to bounce things off of, ask questions, get a little motivation and most importantly not feel like you’re all alone.
I have just one word of warning for you on support groups – always be sure to educate YOURSELF and do NOT rely on information you receive in support groups as the be-all, end-all word on any topic. You should always seek appropriate medical guidance or nutritional assistance over advice you find in support groups. I’m saying this here because I’ve left many support groups because of wildly varying and inaccurate advice – I think they can be very dangerous and prefer to do my own research within the parameters of experts I trust, and when necessary discuss my concerns with the experts. You should know that even groups put together by the experts openly admit that they are NOT closely moderated, and that they rely on “peer-support” – so please BEWARE!
That said, I’m going to start with where to find expert advice. Sadly you may have to search further than your G.P. or medical specialist.
Reliable Advice Online
There’s a LOT of information out there … and while Google is a wonderful thing, it is so easy to spend copious amounts of time trying to sift through the good, the bad and the down-right scary! I can tell you from experience you’re better off to find a few exceptional resources and stick to them like glue for your information. Sure, from time to time you may need to branch out, but if you have a solid foundation of online resources that you know are reliable you’ll save yourself valuable time and precious energy.
You’ll find a few key articles on the Resources Page listed under the title Advice for Beginners.
Functional Medicine Practitioner
As with any significant dietary change, you should in fact only undertake the AIP at the recommendation of a trained nutritional coach or physician.
If you’ve only started on the AIP due to personal research and you’re unsure whether it’s right for you and your condition, I highly recommend you seek the advice of a Functional Medicine Practitioner. You can find one near you using this listing – Functional Medicine Practitioner Listing, and you can read more about it here in my post – Finding Your Root Cause.
Paleo-Friendly Autoimmune Specialist MDs
Yes, they do exist, but they can be hard to find. Thankfully, Eileen at the Phoenix Helix has complied and maintains a list on her website – check it out here.
Personal AIP Health Coaches
If you know you need to be on an AIP diet but are struggling to personalize it to your own needs and health condition, you may want to consider the services of a Health Coach. This listing will take you to a list of coaches certified by the experts in the Autoimmune Protocol – Certified AIP Health Coach Listing.
AIP Coaching Programs
Beyond hiring a personal AIP Health Coach there are some options for joining online guided group support programs. There are three that I recommend, plus one for autoimmune exercise – you can learn more about them on my Coaching Page. The one you choose will depend largely on your comfort level with making diet and lifestyle changes and whether you’re a self-starter or need more of a support group surrounding you.
AIP Medical Research
I get asked by a lot of members joining our Facebook Group as to whether there is really any proof that the AIP works for autoimmune disease, and I always reply with an emphatic, YES! If you’re interested in learning more about the medical studies that have been conducted about the efficacy of the AIP, you can keep up to date via the Autoimmune Wellness website here.
Living Matrix Health Timeline
Whether you’ve seen a Functional Medicine Practitioner yet or not, you’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of finding the “root cause” or “underlying cause” of your autoimmune disease.
To help you get the best support this little tool can help you provide your medical team with a thorough health history and potentially will help you find your root cause, making it easier to achieve healing.
The Living Matrix offers something called MyTimelineTM it’s a powerful tool that enables you to easily document the unfolding phenomena that lead to your ill health – a process that often occurs over many years, perhaps even a lifetime. It gives you and your practitioner the “Big Picture” so you can take the necessary steps to build back your health.
The process to complete your timeline can be long and require a bit of work, but it prompts you to think about your symptoms and issues and – just as importantly – when they may have begun. It also asks about key events in your life so that you can begin to see the patterns – it’s really very amazing! The process was an eye opener to me and can really help your Functional Medicine Practitioner to quickly grasp your health history. Click here to go to the access page and get started building your own timeline (don’t be afraid to add extra details you feel are important) – you’ll even be able to print out a summary when you’re complete. You can read more about it here in my post – Finding Your Root Cause.
Meet Ups & Support Groups
Location Specific Groups
Looking for support and want to connect with fellow AIP-ers in your own local area? Maybe you need advice where to find AIP compliant ingredients locally but are having a hard time – who better to ask than someone that lives in your area!
Be sure to check out this comprehensive list of support groups compiled by Autoimmune Wellness … it’s wonderful!
You can find a full list here – they’re constantly updating this, so just select the latest list.
Emotional Autoimmunity Website – Navigating the Emotional Side of Life with Chronic Illness – there used to be a support group but it has been closed down – probably too much work because this one WAS closely moderated.
Facebook – AIP Instant Pot Recipes
Facebook – Coconut-Free AIP Recipes Group – If you have an allergy to coconut but need to stick to the AIP Diet, you may wish to try this group.
Facebook – AIP Canning, Preserving, Dehydrating and Fermenting
Facebook – Low Histamine AIP
Facebook – AIP During Pregancy and Breastfeeding
Facebook – Low FODMAP Recipes & Support – NOT AIP but you may find it helpful
If you haven’t already read my motivational message, be sure to visit the page by clicking this link. It may just be what you need for a little pick-me-up, and it also directs you to my article on the stages of grieving over illness.
Feeling privileged to be featured in the July 2018 Autoimmune Wellness Kitchen Tour!
What is Kitchen Tour?
Kitchen tour is one of the many resources at Autoimmune Wellness that I encourage folks to check out. If you’re interested in learning how to set up your kitchen for AIP, what changes you might need to make, suggested appliances, tools and gadgets for the job this resource is for you!
If you’re interested in catching a glimpse inside my humble little kitchen (well – my previous kitchen), reading a bit about my personal health journey and suggestions for those starting out on the AIP I invite you to take a read…
How She Manages Hashimoto’s & Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis in Ontario
AIP Kitchen Tour is a monthly feature in which we profile a member of the AIP community and their kitchen setup in hopes that it will further inspire us to get our kitchens organized and set up for success! We’ve interviewed folks who are making the AIP lifestyle a reality in everything from college dorms and small city apartments, to large households with non-AIP family members, and everything in between. Through these interviews, we hope to share how they make it happen across a variety of budgets and living situations, and give the community a wealth of inspiration. Read more Kitchen Tours here!
Name: Gail Shankland
Location: Ontario, Canada
AI Disease: Hashimoto’s and Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis (a rare digestive disorder)
How long have you been eating AIP? Just short of a year. I began shortly after my diagnosis in spring of 2017.
Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
Happily, Yes! It was important for me to try adding nuts (not peanuts) and seeds back into my diet as soon as I felt up to it. I needed every major source of protein I could get my hands on (in addition to meat), as my digestive disorder was causing severe nutrient deficiencies and protein loss with edema that my doctors couldn’t figure out. Fortunately I don’t seem to have much of a problem with nuts and seeds and spices derived from them, so I’m very grateful — this opens up a lot of options for me.
Chocolate! Yes — my beloved chocolate is my friend too. I’m oddly not great with the really dark chocolate they say is healthiest, but can happily have a little gluten free semi-dark to milk chocolate without any problems.
Chickpeas were added back fairly early on, and while I miss lentils and beans I’m not ready to jump back into that just yet.
I have no intention to go back to being a regular consumer of eggs (I believe eggs to have played a big role in the my autoimmune bucket overflowing), or dairy (I’d already removed that from my diet prior to going AIP), though I can use ghee occasionally without any issue, and I don’t get too concerned about friends and family adding butter or a splash of milk to a dish they’re serving me.
I’ve been fortunate to have the occasional gluten-free treat without incident, so I’m thinking eggs in baked goods and grains in extreme moderation are probably also going to be just fine.
I miss tomatoes — we used to eat a lot of them in sauces. I’ve tried fresh tomatoes and tomato paste in small quantities and had no real issues, but I’m going to refrain from overindulgence for sure. But what a treat to have a little tomato paste on an AIP pizza!
Next up will be some of the nightshade spices — my hubby and I LOVE spicy foods, so it will be nice to try that and hopefully start having the odd spicy dish in moderation if all goes well.
How has the AIP changed your life?
I don’t quite know how to express what a dramatic change it’s made. Without it I might well be in hospital, on a feeding tube or elemental liquid diet, or at minimum having to attend a lot of doctors appointments where they wouldn’t be able to tell me much of anything.
My doctor is quite frankly astounded by the improvements to my health in just short of a year (all without traditional medical intervention beyond the diagnosis). Knowing little about my disease, the doctors and nutritionists at the hospital were stumped as to what to tell me to do, so they simply told me I should “Google it” and start learning about my disease (no joke — they told me that).
At the end of next month I’ll return to my specialist for my one-year follow up — a Gastroenteroligist who also had little to suggest for me and therefore didn’t invite me back any sooner than a year! I’m tempted to cancel the appointment because I don’t need his input, but I’m eager at the same time to tell him that controlling inflammation through diet and lifestyle is the answer, and that they should be learning more about this so they can help others. It’s not that hard — if I can do it, anyone can!
The list of improvements I’ve seen is a LONG one! My hair has grown back in (I lost at least 1/3 of it according to my hairdresser), my fingernails and toenails have all grown back (after having fallen off due to malnutrition), I’ve got my sense of taste back, my mystery rash has cleared, I’ve put just the right amount of weight back on and have been able to maintain my happier, healthier new weight, I’m getting stronger every day, and the list goes on! People tell me I’m the healthiest looking sick person they’ve ever seen! Ha! Thanks AIP!
Size of your kitchen: 17 x 9.5 feet
Favorite thing about your kitchen:
That’s a tough question! I guess if I had to narrow it down, I’d say that I have plenty of storage, which allows me to keep things neat and tidy and ready to get cooking!
Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
It doesn’t come with my own personal chef! Ha!
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my kitchen, though I’d love to have a nice big bay window above my sink… the current window is a little too high for me (I’m pretty short), so a lower, bay window would allow me to see into the yard more easily (including my little bird bath) and to grow some herbs and sprouts without taking up counter space.
Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
I’m not much into gadgets, so I’d have to make the super practical recommendation and say good knives. I know some may not consider these to be cheap gadgets, and yes there are LOTS out there that carry a hefty price tag, but in reality, just a good set of decent knives shouldn’t make much of a dent in your wallet. We spend so much time chopping and prepping, this should be number one on your list if you haven’t already made the investment.
A simple mandoline slicer is a nice item to have as well — I had one (a wedding gift) and never used it prior to AIP, but now I use it ALL THE TIME! So easy to make quick ribbons of veggies for quick cooking under the broiler — awesome!
I will admit I seriously considered buying a counter-top spiralizer since I figured I’d never be able to live without pasta, but I’m happy I waited on that, as I’ve learned to live with less pasta in my life, and I’m not that crazy about “zoodles.” I did however invest in a small hand-held spiralizer which more than meets my needs.
What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
Before going AIP I’d already been gluten-free for several years and had made a start detoxing my kitchen; upgrading frying pans and cooking utensils, switching to glass storage and spice containers, upgrading cutting boards, etc., so there really wasn’t a huge adjustment.
HOWEVER, there were two big changes we did make.
- After some research, we decided it was time to get serious about our water, and we invested in a Berkey water filter. Living on a farm we already had a need for bottled water and a basic gravity-fed water dispenser in our kitchen for drinking, but that got moved to my home office (we still bring bottled water in but it gets filtered) and the Berkey took center-stage.
- Food washing became a priority for us when my Functional Medicine Practitioner shared some information about parasites and how she was seeing more and more patients dealing with parasitic involvement as the root cause to their autoimmune diseases. It just makes sense, considering our food comes from all over the world — never mind the risk of germs from people touching it in the stores. So, now I have some economical, super absorbent dish drying mats that I use every week. No fresh produce is put away until it’s had a good bath in some vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oils. Sometimes I resent the extra time it takes on grocery day, but in the long run it’s time saved because this means I’ve already washed and pre-trimmed or scrubbed my produce and meal prep becomes a breeze.
If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
Some would say an Instant Pot, but I’ve refrained from buying one of those, so, I’d have to say a good sized slow cooker is priority. Bone broth becomes such a big part of your life on this healing diet, I don’t see how you could be without one.
If I’m allowed to add others to this list, I’d suggest that a food processor and/or blender would be next in line. I’ve probably used my food processor more in the past year than I have in the prior 25! Our blender gets a good workout as well (my hubby loves his smoothies), and I use it a lot for things like sauces, blending plantains for waffles and making one of my favorite AIP desserts. I originally thought I’d have LOVED to have the most expensive one on the market (because the Vitamix is capable of high enough speeds to make and cook soup in the container), but we’re super happy with our considerably less expensive Ninja and find it’s more than up for the tasks at hand… so spend wisely!
Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
Stay organized! I find cooking to be a much more enjoyable experience when my kitchen is neat and tidy, when my cupboards and drawers are organized and everything is where I expect it to be so I can grab it quickly.
It’s also helpful to keep the pantry, fridge and freezer sorted with things in the same place all the time — I find this super helpful when I need a hand in the kitchen (I can easily tell my hubby where he can quickly lay hands on an ingredient I’m after) or when I need to check what I’m getting low on for my next trip to the grocery store.
How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
Convert them! Ha! Just kidding… sort of.
My number one piece of advice for anyone trying to please non-AIP eaters in their house is to keep it simple! Make an AIP main dish and round it out with non-AIP sides for your family. Typically it’s just my hubby and I that I’m cooking for, so it’s pretty easy.
In the beginning I used to make alternate side-dishes, like regular potatoes or rice for him, but since he suffers from his own autoimmune diseases he decided to join me (for the most part) on the AIP journey.
When it comes to cooking for friends and family, I just don’t tell them what they’re eating! AIP is just REAL FOOD after all. But, if we’re having folks in, I’ll often make additional sides or round out the meal with good quality gluten-free rolls or a baguette, or just regular bread and send any left-over dishes or bread that I can’t eat home with them. Sometimes I’ll have guests bring their favorite dessert, but most times folks are quite happy to try the AIP treats I serve, and they’re always surprised by how good they are.
My second piece of AIP advice is keep it on a “need-to-know” basis. I find for the most part, if you don’t tell people that the food in front of them is “AIP” or “Paleo” or “gluten-free” or otherwise… they’d likely never guess! Telling them it’s special just puts false ideas in their head that they might not like it.
Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
My bread maker has been pretty useless for a number of years now (since I’ve been gluten-free), but it’s been completely decommissioned now.
What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
Mickey will probably shoot me for saying this, but I’m not much of a batch-cooker. It should be right up my alley because I’m all about being organized, but in reality, when it comes to cooking I’m pretty lax.
I’d probably refer to my cooking style as “big-cooker” rather than “batch-cooker” Since there are only two of us, I find it works for me to simply cook a few bigger meals (or double a batch of something) throughout the week so that we have left-overs once or twice or throw a few meatballs in the freezer.
A couple of my faves would be Spatchcocked Chicken from Autoimmune Wellness (makes a great dinner and left overs for a second meal or chicken to be used in any number of other dishes) and Zuppa Toscana from Unbound Wellness (makes an enormous batch of soup for us that we’re happy to eat any time of day). Loaded Veggie Turkey Meatballs from Savory Lotus are one of my favorite meatballs — I usually make a double batch at dinner so we have them as a meal and then leftovers for snacks, breakfast or to freeze. Since I’m a lover all things treat, I will make a good size batch of Carob Avocado Mousse and store it in individual size serving dishes (it does well for over a week in the fridge and freezes and thaws well too).
What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t have a favorite AIP cookbook. I have a whole bundle of AIP e-cookbooks but for the most part my recipes are found online.
Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?
- Have an attitude of gratitude. I know that sounds cliché, but keeping a positive attitude about making the change to AIP is so important in the healing process. I often have folks tell me how they think the AIP is so restrictive, and they’re so sad about what they’re missing out on. I try to focus their attention on all the exciting new foods they’ll be trying and enjoying before long. A little perspective never hurts either, and I often can’t resist reminding folks that there are many people in the world that have to restrict their diet even further than the AIP — I personally was faced with the potential of having to go on a feeding tube if I couldn’t turn my disease around, and in the beginning EVERYTHING I ate had to be cooked. That makes folks realize that “I’m bored with salad” is quite an insignificant complaint.
- Keep it simple! Don’t think you have to break the bank going out to change every tool in your arsenal or replacing every item in your pantry. Balance and reasonableness need to prevail. Take it slow and steady or you’ll be ready to throw in the kitchen towel before you even get started.
Gail runs an AIP Recipes Facebook Group which you can join to get some AIP inspiration in the kitchen.
Looking for even more suggested kitchen tools, gadgets and small appliances? Having a hard time finding AIP Pantry items and snacks? Check out my AIP Amazon Shopping Resource and my Food Sourcing Page.