When I began my journey with the autoimmune protocol on November 22, 2014 I did not honestly know the journey I was embarking on. I knew I was desperate. I knew I had been losing blood for six months. I knew my life was a faded shadow of what it had been before and I knew I was getting dangerously close to losing a vital organ and potentially giving up my ability to ever have a “normal” life. I had tried everything else, natural and medical alike outside of receiving intravenous biologic medications that carried with them a risk of lymphoma. The AIP diet was the last trick left in my bag and the only thing I knew was that it HAD to work.
I didn’t really think about how long I would be on it. I didn’t really think about reintroducing foods. I just thought about being able to make it through one day without pain, exhaustion and blood loss.
Well, almost 7 months later my disease is currently in remission. My energy level is back, my weight has stabilized, and I am usually completely pain free. After I began to see the effects of the AIP diet I decided to stay on it for six months to give my body a chance to really rest and heal. I didn’t want to rush into anything, however I still longed for the day that the reintroduction process would begin. A few weeks ago, that day came but to my surprise it wasn’t filled with joy and excitement the way that I had imagined it. Sure, I was excited, but I was also afraid and anxious and incredibly pessimistic about what lay in front of me. I am here today to let you in on a secret I only just learned; the reintroduction process is an emotional one.
Obviously, I miss some of the foods I haven’t had since November and I am excited at the potential of adding them back into my diet. I am excited at the potential of having a more flexible social life and of having more options at my disposal. As the complexity of the foods I am reintroducing increases so does my excitement. (I never thought anyone could be so excited about an egg yolk prior to this week.) I am also excited to learn what my body has to tell me. Until I neared the reintroduction process, I felt like the elimination period was the most important part of the diet, it is what put me into remission after all, but once I started thinking about it within the context of my long term goals I realized that the reintroduction process is the thing that makes this journey personal and my body’s reactions to certain foods will be the guide map that allows me to live an active life while managing my disease. All of the sudden I realized the unique opportunity I had given myself to start over with a blank slate and get reintroduced to my body.
Following closely on the heels of excitement however has been fear. Fear that I won’t be in tune with my body enough to know what foods I can’t tolerate. Fear of having negative reactions and triggering my disease, Fear that the reintroductions will all go poorly and my healing will not be progressed as far as I had thought. I know logically, that these fears are unfounded. I know that I will be able to decipher my body’s reactions, because my body has always let me know how it feels loud and clear up to this point. I know that I will have negative reactions to some foods, that is part of the process, but I know that I am better equipped at handling those reactions now and that by nourishing my body and removing the offending food I can avoid triggering a flare of my disease. Finally, my progress speaks for itself and I am confident in the healing that has taken place in my body, plus I have already successfully reintroduced Cardamom, nutmeg, mustard and egg yolks so I am already not a total failure at reintroductions! All of that being said, this isn’t just about logic and sometimes fears sneak in.
I am terrified of getting my hopes up about a certain food that I love. I don’t even want to think about coffee or chocolate because I am terrified that I will try them, combust, and never be able to have chocolate again! I have also basically convinced myself that I will never eat another almond or tomato in my life just because the world that those two foods open up in terms of convenience is way too large for me to even think about. Obviously, self-defeating thoughts are not productive and I have a lot of work to do mentally before I tackle chocolate, coffee, tomatoes or almonds. All I know is that if my gut overrides my brain and I do well with even one of these foods I will be a very happy girl!
Honestly, there is a little bit of frustration involved too. It is easy to think of reintroduction as the end of being on AIP, but in truth, in order to make the most out of this experience the reintroduction process needs to be done slowly and diligently. Each food, no matter how small, is a minimum of a 5 day process for me, this includes spices. If a negative reaction arises then it will become important to take a few weeks off to recover before reintroducing anything new. My hope is to have completed my initial reintroduction process by next November 22nd so that I can look back on the year and smile knowing that I invested a year into my health and came out stronger, wiser and healthier because of it.