I have started to get a lot of reader questions on my facebook page, and have since started using that space more as a forum for discussion. The feedback on each other’s posts has been amazing, and I continue to be inspired by the way everyone has been supporting each other through their struggles on the autoimmune protocol. For some of the more common questions, I decided that I would start doing a Q and A series here on the blog, eventually turning into a FAQ. Here is the first batch – I hope some of you find this helpful!
How much fruit is too much in a day?
This depends on the person. If you are coming to the autoimmune protocol from a diet high in processed carbs and sugar, you most likely have some blood sugar dysregulation that needs to be addressed. The way to fix this is to make sure all of your meals include a moderate portion of protein and plenty of healthy fat, along with some AIP-approved carbohydrates. If you are still experiencing blood sugar swings and energy crashes between meals, don’t reach for a piece of fruit – here the same guidelines apply, make sure there is also protein and fat. Over time your body will learn to use fat for fuel, and you will be able to avoid the blood sugar crash. This takes time to transition to, so in the meantime, be prepared!
That being said, fruit has tons of vitamins and minerals and is allowed on the autoimmune protocol (unless they are nightshades), so there is no reason not to include some unless not well tolerated. I think 2-3 pieces of fruit a day is perfectly fine, but I wouldn’t get into the habit of exceeding that on a regular basis, replacing whole meals with fruit or getting into making smoothies.
What’s best to eat when your energy levels crash?
The same thing you would eat at a meal time – a snack with some protein, good fats and a some carbohydrate. I like to have leftover soups or stews in the fridge for snacks, and if I am in a pinch I will heat up a frozen sausage patty and eat with a piece of fruit or an avocado.
What’s your thoughts on nuts?
They are not allowed on the autoimmune protocol, but they are usually well-tolerated once reintroduced (provided the person does not have an allergy). If you are looking for a place to start after completing the elimination diet, try soaking or sprouting nuts if they aren’t initially well tolerated.
What supplements would you recommend?
I think it is important to use a good probiotic, and switch it up every once in awhile to make sure you are getting a variety of strains. I like Prescript Assist soil based probiotic, as well as Probio Max as a high-potency multi-strain. Aside from that, I think most people do well with the addition of Vitamin C and Magnesium. If you have digestive difficulties, HCL, ox bile, and enzymes can be helpful (I would recommend finding a practitioner to help if you want to supplement with HCL). I don’t really think of it as a supplement (its more a food product), but Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil is a great way to get Omega-3s as well as the fat-solube vitamins A and D.
Aside from the above, I don’t like making blanket supplement recommendations for people on the autoimmune protocol. Everyone is at a different place with their health, and what might help one might hurt another. If you want to look into getting more specialized recommendations, I suggest you look up a qualified practitioner who can go over your history with you and make suggestions.
I’m curious why coffee is a no no.
Coffee is a seed, and seeds are eliminated from the autoimmune protocol. Consuming excess caffeine is also hard on your adrenal glands, the organs responsible for coordinating the stress response. Coffee has also been shown to be cross-reactive to gluten in some individuals. I have written a post about giving up coffee here.
How can you keep from losing weight on the autoimmune protocol? I benefit so much with my AI issue but lose too much weight when I’m strict with it.
If you are losing weight on the autoimmune protocol, you need to make sure you are eating enough healthy fats and carbs. Fats are your most dense energy source, so make sure you are getting plenty of it from fatty cuts of meat and used in cooking. Also, make sure you are getting enough carbs, especially complex carbs like plantain or sweet potato. For some people, they unknowingly eat too few carbs on the autoimmune protocol and it can contribute to unwanted weight loss.
How do I know I’m really sensitive to certain food?
Learning to listen to your body for sensitivities takes patience and practice. Reintroduce foods slowly and systematically, giving yourself a few days (or even weeks) to gauge how it is making you feel. Some reactions are quick and obvious (rashes, digestive changes, AI flares) but others can be more subtle and take days to appear. You most likely won’t be able to tell for sure if you tolerate a food or not the first time reintroducing it. You may have to play with it over a period of time. Food sensitivities aren’t always black and white – you may eventually tolerate eggs from chickens not fed soy, once a week, while if you were to eat conventional eggs every morning you may have a problem. The best thing you can do is go slow, and learn how to listen to your body.
How do I know my gut is healed and I can incorporate those foods back again?
If you feel great and have no symptoms of your disease anymore, try reintroducing foods slowly and systematically every so often. If you have no return of symptoms, it is a sign that you are tolerating them, but proceed with caution until you get to a clean Paleo style diet. I do not advise introducing non-paleo foods back into the diet for those with autoimmunity.
How long can a person stay on the AIP?
As long as you like! It is perfectly safe to be on for the rest of your life, if you want. Many people choose this way of eating long-term because it keeps their autoimmune diseases at bay, and if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what else is!
Is the intolerance related to the quantity, or is it like an allergy, when you can’t even touch the offending food? Say with nightshades… Can you eat food that has been touching nightshades?
It can be. In the beginning, I recommend being 100% strict with the protocol, no cheats, no cross-contamination. This gives you the best chance of relieving your symptoms so you can have something to gauge reintroductions on. When you start to test foods, you might find that it is not black and white. Some people who are sensitive to nightshades can’t even breathe in the spice if it was recently used in the kitchen. Others can tolerate some nightshades, like potatoes, but not others, like tomatoes. Some people are sensitive to certain quantities – for instance, eating eggs once a week might not cause a problem but if they ate them every day they might get a return of symptoms. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, this can all change with time!