Just another friendly warning that I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any kind. This is a representation of my personal experience and should not be taken as medical advice. What worked for me might not work for you! But let me know in the comments if you have any ideas on that matter!
The Paleo AIP Cookbook Giveaway has really blown up (and there’s still a day to enter!). Which I guess surprises me, because when you realize you have an Autoimmune disease, you usually also realize you are overwhelmingly alone. Your spouse just doesn’t get it. Your doctor just doesn’t get it (or worse, doesn’t know about it or care about it). Your family members are probably sympathetic and curious, but they just. Don’t. Get it.
My Autoimmune disease is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I wrote about it briefly in a post a few years ago, but I understand a little more now and I have a little bigger audience. I’ve even answered a question or two about it.
This summer has been my first opportunity to truly approach my disease from a proactive stand point, and I have learned a lot that I want to share.
How I Manage My Disease
Everyone’s experience of an autoimmune disease is different because what’s being attacked is your system. However, The Paleo Mom has been a great resource to learn what things to try to see if you will feel better.
Since discovering Paleo & an endless reading list of websites, I have learned that wheat (gluten), dairy, grains, and nightshades are murder on your immune system (even if you’re relatively healthy).
I’ve learned that thyroid problems lead to adrenal and cortisol problems.
I’ve learned that adrenal and cortisol problems mostly just make you feel like you’re experiencing dying.
I’ve also learned (& continuously need to re-learn) that sometimes you have to just Stop. Doing Things. Seriously — stop checking off the to-do list or making social plans or “cleaning up around the house to relax” because your body needs rest time. And, oh yeah, do your best to sleep 10-12 hours per night every night of the week. (It’s very hard). Which leads me to my main point:
The Key to Autoimmune Health is Sleep More & Letting Go
The thyroid is the engine behind all of your body’s hormones and your immune system. In the course of my experience, the past few months has meant panic attacks and heart palpitations. A few months ago it meant lethargy and weight gain. I hope soon that it means balanced health and a deep understanding of what makes me feel healthy.
While there are many Paleo or Autoimmune folks who actually need to gain weight, an indicator of autoimmune conditions can also be resistance to weight loss. (And let’s not underestimate the side effect of being depressed about the weight loss so you get into awful habits, which in turn lead to more weight gain).
While the topic of obesity and weight loss deserves its own post (or even its own blog), I bring it up here because any excess or insufficiency indicates a problem of balance, which is essentially a problem of health. Too heavy is unbalanced. Too light is unbalanced. And with autoimmune, regaining balance (aka coming to a healthy weight) is a sign of health and homeostasis.
Despite being an athlete for a long period of time, I have been overweight for the past 5-6 years. There are a lot of circumstances, but here we’re just talking about solutions, & there have been two fundamental game-changers in my life this summer: high-quality sleep & letting go of the desire to lose weight. Here’s the recipe:
- Go to sleep in a pitch-black room before 8pm
- Wake up naturally without an alarm (set the alarm, but wake up naturally before it)
- Dedicate yourself to the AIP Protocol, but otherwise unlimited calorie intake
I also call this the “chill the f&#* out” diet.
Your body is a miraculous machine that was made to heal and renew itself. All it requires to do so is water, nutrient-dense food, and high-quality sleep. If you aren’t doing those things, you will not feel healthy. (& On the flip side, if you cannot do these things, you will not feel healthy. Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep and obsessive feelings about food are all indicators that you should see a doctor or a health professional!).
Almost 30 pounds slipped away from me this summer because I stopped caring about it (I mean, as much as any overweight person can stop caring about it… it’s still hard to not see it as a victory) & I developed health-bringing habits of sleeping & eating nutritious food. I know this is true because after each weekend Potato-bender, I can feel the difference (and so can the scale). When I get too used to honey & grass-fed full-fat cream in my coffee, and when I get too comfortable with feeling good, so I stay up til 9:30 or 10pm, I can feel the difference (and so can the scale). But when I eat (lots) of clean food and rest, I start to feel like myself again and I dip further towards a balanced body.
Reversing or addressing an autoimmune condition takes dedication and patience. But if you give your body the proper tools, it can happen!