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A Holistic Approach To Autoimmune Wellness

Written by: Kimberly Wolfe, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

For over 15 years, I had suffered from mysterious joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, and a plethora of other symptoms. Fifteen years and too many doctors to count, without a diagnosis. According to The Paleo Approach, by Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., in the United States, autoimmune disease is considerably under-diagnosed and research significantly underfunded, but estimated to be twice as prevalent as heart disease and four times as prevalent as cancer. There is no autoimmune medical specialty and no particular test to make a diagnosis. A diagnosis has to be pieced together through multiple tests, medical history, and symptoms. As a Registered Nurse in New York State, quite frankly, I knew very little about the autoimmune disease before I was diagnosed with one myself. Finding answers to my own health issues required a very different approach than what I was used to. No pills? No shots? No IV infusions? My doctor gave me a solution I was unfamiliar with: AIP.

What is AIP?


AIP, sometimes referred to as Autoimmune Protocol or Autoimmune Paleo, is a nutrition and lifestyle protocol aimed to heal the gut and decrease inflammation in the body, eventually leading to symptom reduction and even remission. Within the first 2 weeks of being on AIP, my joint pain had disappeared, I could think clearly, my skin cleared up, and I had lost 5 lbs. After 90 days, I felt like I had a brand new body. I felt stronger, had more energy, and was able to get up in the morning without being in pain. I no longer suffered from headaches, joint pain, GI issues, and I had lost a total of 25lbs. I had no idea how bad I felt until I felt better.


Unfortunately, autoimmune disease is not curable. Once your immune system goes astray, it never goes back. Instead of just attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, the immune system attacks healthy tissue, sometimes leading to a fountain of complications. Fortunately, with AIP, autoimmune disease doesn’t have to control your life. In conjunction with a healthcare team and possibly traditional medical intervention, AIP can give you a say in how your body responds to your disease. Holistic intervention, like AIP, can help give your body what it needs to thrive rather than just survive.


AIP is a scientifically-based protocol focusing heavily on nutrient-dense food that works for your particular body. Contrary to popular medical-based diets, there is no one correct way to implement AIP. AIP is designed as a bio-individual approach to weeding out food that no longer serves your body while implementing the most nutrient-dense foods for you. It starts as an elimination diet, in which certain food groups are taken out of your diet for 30-90 days and then slowly reintroduced one at a time. By listening to what your body tells you during the reintroduction phase, you can figure out which foods work for you and which ones don’t.


Because AIP is so much more than just the food you eat, fundamental lifestyle factors are implemented alongside the diet. All changes implemented during this protocol work together to create a symbiotic approach to healing your gut. Yup, I said it. Food isn’t the only thing that affects your gut! Lifestyle aspects included in the protocol like sleep management, social interaction and support, connection with nature and yourself, stress management, and movement all support proper gut health. Your brain and gut work very closely together, assisting each other in many ways. If you’ve ever had an upset stomach because you were nervous about something, you’ve knowingly experienced the Brain-Gut Connection. So it makes sense that things like stress and sleep can have a huge effect on your gut health.


Do I have to be on AIP forever?


I find that this question comes up a lot. The quick answer is yes, but the truth is that nutrition and lifestyle aspects change as you change. Some foods never make it back onto your plate, but often, people find that what didn't work at first may work further down the road, after the gut has had time to heal. The fact is that AIP can make you feel better, but deviating from it can sometimes cause autoimmune flare-ups and make you feel so much worse. For most, the motivating factor to stay AIP compliant is the wellness and quality of life they experience when following the protocol. As someone who is in the maintenance stage of AIP, I can say for sure that the positives of AIP completely outweigh any struggles that come along with the lifestyle change. AIP truly is a lifestyle with a growing community of people who support each other every step of the way.


How do I start AIP?


As you may know, there is a plethora of information out there in the world, and not all of it is accurate. Having an AIP Certified Coach on your side can help you navigate this tricky terrain. AIP Certified Coaches are health and wellness practitioners who have been certified to help you properly implement and troubleshoot AIP. Health Coaches can help in a variety of ways, but they are first and foremost masters of habit change. Creating healthy habits is essential when bringing new lifestyle changes, like AIP, into your life because habits allow you to make changes without having to think about it every step of the way. When lasting habits aren’t formed, people often fall off track and revert to old habits that no longer serve them. A Health Coach can help by making new habits last so you can get back to being the healthiest version of yourself. Looking for an AIP Certified Coach?


Ballantyne, Sarah. The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Victory Belt Publishing Inc., 2013.


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Kimberly Wolfe, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kimberly Wolfe is a Registered Nurse and AIP Certified Health Coach who works with the autoimmune population in reversing symptoms, increasing energy, and improving quality of life. She uses a holistic and scientifically-based nutrition and lifestyle approach to heal the gut and decrease inflammation in the body, allowing clients to start feeling their best. As an autoimmune patient herself, she has found great relief in her own symptoms through this individualized nutrition and lifestyle approach. She is dedicated to teaching real solutions to empower people who suffer from autoimmune diseases to feel in control of their health and well-being.

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