Autoimmune Paleo Diet
Eyre follows a strict diet in The Irish Fall to help the inflammation and chronic pain associated with her autoimmune disorder (Esophageal Crohn's). This diet was passed down to me by a special couple: Rebekah & Frank. When Frank shared his diet with me and all he learned from his Naturopathic doctor, it changed my life and the trajectory of my conditions. I truly believe diet has helped save my life. And I would not be writing books without the quality of life that it has afforded me. These are two extraordinary humans with the most beautiful hearts and giving souls! And I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me. But I can pass it on.
I hope this diet will be of help to you whether you have Crohn’s or another autoimmune, inflammatory, or chronic illness. Sending you so much love and spoons!
***PLEASE NOTE: There are NO affiliate links. I don't get any money for the products I have suggested. They are listed as examples and products that have worked for me now or in the past. I have to follow a low histamine diet now so some may no longer be an option for me. This post is purely to try to help others.***
All the items on the list have been so important in healing my gut and body. Hopefully they will help in healing yours, too. Please listen to your body throughout this process :) What works for one person may not work for the next. We were all created differently.
I recommend cutting every on the list out at first. I cut everything out for 6 months and then I added certain things back to my diet one at a time. This way I could tell what was triggering for me. Most people say it takes about 2 years before they see a huge improvement in quality of life. I have continued to eliminate and tweak my diet, but I agree. I did see a change within a few weeks, then a bigger change at six months, and at two years, where I regained much more quality of life. I believe my diet has helped to save my life. It has helped more than any medication for my Crohn's, it's just a much slower process. I hit many plateaus that made me want to give up, but I’m so glad I stuck it out. I think you have to look at the diet as a mindset–way of life that will continue to heal your body.
Some categories you might always have to avoid and others you may be able to add back, but in a limited amount. Or you might only be able to add a few items from the food group back. I just wanted to mention this part of my diet journey in hopes that it helps you in creating your specialized diet. Everyone is different so just remember to listen to your body! I would say my diet is a tweaked version of a hybrid between an Autoimmune Paleo and Low Residue diet. lol. However, I've recently had to switch to a low histamine diet for my Mast Cell Disorder. Hopefully, I will be able to post that diet after the release of The Roman Agenda. I always get asked to classify my diet, but really you want your diet to fit you and your needs!
This definitely provided the most relief for me! Right after I was diagnosed, I googled how to help with Crohn's and this was the number one suggestion. I was laughed at by my GI at the time, but I believe this change was pivotal. It also helped me to regain some quality of life back the fastest of all the changes. I went gluten free for a year, but the benefits plateaued and I still lacked a lot of quality of life. It was then that a friend told me of his diet journey and that conversation truly helped to save my life. I drastically changed my diet. Gluten free helped buy me time until I could figure out my diet and my triggers. While going gluten free made the most impact, avoiding triggers has helped me slowly regain more quality of life. It's a gradual change, but the little changes add up. It's worth it! Just be patient and continue to think about the end goal. It's easy to say it's not doing anything because the changes are so small and gradual, but those changes can add up to make a huge difference in your life!
Some of my favorite gluten free brands: Nairns and Bob Red Mills.
I have developed a lot of allergies, but one of the most difficult allergies I have is to preservatives. I have been able to identify allergens such as Polysorbates (any number) and PEG (polyethylene glycol). I have spent countless hours finding medicines and products without these harmful ingredients. I now have to get all my medications compounded. But when it comes to food, manufacturers don't always list the preservatives they use. "Rosemary extract" can even be an alias for preservatives. The best way to avoid preservatives is to look for "preservative free" on the label. I can tell when I eat food with preservatives because my face breaks out in small, painful, red bumps. I also get very dizzy, sleepy, and a pounding headache and/or migraine around 30 minutes after eating, along with a whole host of allergic reaction symptoms. If you experience this, then you may have trouble with preservatives that you didn't even know were in your food. The companies are very sneaky about this. I had the most trouble with preservatives when it comes to proteins and meats (I’m now pescatarian). Delis can spray seafood and meat when they come in to the store to preserve them at your local grocery store. And meat can even be injected with MSG or preservatives. The best policy is to buy a brand labeled preservative free!
This is a huge trigger for migraines, headaches, and GI upset for me. MSG can be labeled as anything. It can even be labeled as sea salt. The best policy is to go with brands you know and if you get a headache and/or migraine after eating something and you know MSG is a problem for you, then it most likely contains MSG. I am very sensitive to MSG. I'm sensitive to the point that I will get a migraine 30 minutes after eating, as well as becoming dizzy and shaky. I sometimes feel like I am going to pass out and vomit from it. I have before. When I think of MSG, I think of seasoning. For example, a lot of restaurants use grill seasoning and this is almost always loaded with MSG. I always buy organic herbs and make my own seasoning. I think it tastes better anyway! And growing your own herbs can be a fun hobby too. It also keeps the mosquitos away!
This is one of my biggest triggers. I absolutely LOVE Italian food. However, every time I ate a red sauce, I had so much pain. But when I decided to start this diet journey I was determined to do it right. This made such a difference. Honestly, not eating out made the biggest difference. I wasn't tempted to cheat. Making your food from scratch makes such a big difference for your health because you know everything that is in your food and you can even keep a food journal. You can find triggers so much more easily. I finally found a way to make a nightshade free red sauce and have never looked back (I still have the recipe if you’re interested). Nightshades tear up my GI and cause havoc on my joints and muscles. Some common nightshades to look out for are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers (this includes paprika).
HIGH GRADE OIL
High Grade oil is extremely important. This makes me sick faster than almost anything. When I eat something with a cheap oil, like canola oil, it makes me sick at my stomach and sleepy almost immediately. Changing your diet can definitely help with fatigue. I like unrefined coconut oil. Avocado oil is another good option. However, I think the secret to good cooking is coconut oil. It makes everything more tender, sweet, and savory. Some people like to use Kalamata oil, but I like to avoid olive oils. It is just really hard to tell which ones are high grade. I have heard a lot of stories about people paying a high price and finding out that the olive oil wasn't high grade at all. I think there is less chance with Kalamata oil, but I would stick with one of the other ones I listed.
My favorite oils: Pompeiian Coconut Spray & Dr. Bronner's Unrefined Coconut Oil
This made such a huge difference for me! I cook all my vegetables and they are so much easier to digest. Also, this limits exposure to bacteria that might be on uncooked vegetables. I am a Microbiology major and one of the classes that stuck with me the most was food microbiology. After hearing all the ways you can get food poisoning, you start to look at food differently! I avoided salads at least two years, but I have been able to add organic butter leaf lettuce back to my diet. I will only eat a salad if I have prepared it myself using this lettuce. I never eat salads out at restaurants. This is one way to get sick fast and start a flare! It has been nice to add occasional side salads back. However, I suggest only adding butter leaf lettuce once you are sure of your diet. And I highly suggest making your own salad dressing! I make a "vinegrette," "greek," and "cesear" from scratch to avoid oils, preservatives, and MSG. Pretty much salads are a pitfall for me. I'd be happy to shares my recipes. They're so easy!
Nitrates are a huge trigger for headaches and migraines. I think they are also a trigger for GI and chronic disorders. I definitely suggest buying items that are labeled "nitrate free" if there is an item that may contain nitrates. A common place to see this is turkey bacon or meats. It is best to look for “uncured” as well on the label.
My favorite brands before I went pescatarian: Wellshire & Applegate
SULPHATES & SULFITES
These also seem to be a big trigger for me. They cause sweating, GI problems, and dizziness. Avoid wines if you drink! Also watch out for salad dressing like balsamic!
Even though this is a legume, I wanted to make it into its own category because this might be the number one trigger for most people. And I have found that soy is a huge trigger for people with GI and autoimmune conditions. Cutting out soy was much easier than I thought! I switched to coconut aminos and felt so much better. It tasted just as good and I'm able to enjoy my favorite Asian dishes!
Favorite brand: Coconut Secret
I know a lot of people are not going to agree with me on this one and I did go dairy free for the first 6 months, but I have been able to introduce some products into my diet that are just lactose free. I found that a lot of the dairy free substitutes for cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream were packed with bad fillers. So I decided on these items I would just try lactose free. (Quick overview: lactose free is a dairy item that has an enzyme like lactase added so that it removes the lactose). Before my low histamine diet, I also ate aged cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan, and provolone. The lactose is lost almost completely, if not completely, during the aging process. If I use a soft cheese, like ricotta, then I will use a dairy free option. However, when you are eliminating food, you have to make sure the substitutes are still healthy and don't have triggers. For me, the dairy alternatives for these items had too many bad fillers so I decided to use lactose free for these few items. I love oat milk and I cook with it almost every night. It's just a few things that I think are better than the diary free alternatives if you are going to use them. But always listen to your body. I definitely recommend looking very carefully at the dairy free ingredients and reading the label every time you get a product because ingredients could change or what you find as triggers could change as well on this journey.
Favorite Brands: Green Valley!!!! (Thank you to this company!) Beckon (the best ice cream!) and Forager (the only milk I can drink!!!). If this companies went out of business I would starve. lol.
Legumes are a trigger that really upsets my gut. I usually see the difference within hours or a day after eating them. I also feel pain and aching in my joints and muscles. The popular legumes are peanuts, peas, beans, soybean, and chickpeas. I think avoiding legumes is really important. Although, some people are able to add certain legumes back. Changing from peanut butter to almond and pumpkin butter has helped me a lot. I did not eliminate nuts from my diet. I am hypoglycemic and I needed another source of protein. I enjoy pecans and coconut. I did try cutting out nuts for a while, but it did not make a difference for me. If you are still having trouble this is something you could consider. However, nuts have been a great source of protein for me. If you are going to cut out nuts I would suggest cutting out everything but coconut first. Removing coconut is going to limit you so much. In this journey, you will find the balance of what has to be avoided and the things you can enjoy in limited amounts so that it's not so difficult to find things to eat. If it's too difficult to find things to eat, then you'll give up. And if you have to eliminate one group at a time until you get down to this list to eliminate everything for 6 months that's great too. Do what you need to do so that the diet is achievable. Don't be hard on yourself, but stick to what you outlined and don't cheat! Cheating really blurs the lines. I used to cheat and think it was fine, but you won't be able to tell about your symptoms and track triggers. Prioritizing the diet and seeing the extra time you spend shopping, looking at ingredients, and making food from scratch as your investment in healing really makes such a difference.
Favorite Brands: Barney's for almond butter
Seed free helped with my gut irritation. I think avoiding seeds is just a good policy for anyone with GI problems. Some people can eat hemp hearts that are shelled because they are soft. They put them in smoothies. If you can blend up the sends enough in the smoothies then that's a way you might be able to eat them. But if you have UC or diverticulitis then seeds are a definite no.
AVOID PROCESSED SUGAR
This is huge for me!!! Processed sugar is so bad for inflammation! I switched to organic coconut sugar, liquid monk fruit, and organic agave nectar. I have never looked back. It made such a big difference. I continue to work on cutting back sugar. I try to substitute fruits for sugar as well. It makes such a huge difference to have natural sugar. I am hypoglycemic so I have to be careful of how much sugar I have anyway. It has really helped to have these natural sugars. I avoid artificial sweeteners at all cost! I have actually been to the ER from Splenda. Watch out for Sucralose and aspartame in the "inactive ingredients" of medications. I always read medication labels. And before compounding, I called my pharmacy to ask the manufacturer name of any new medicine so I could look up ingredients. DailyMed is a great site to find ingredients. You never know what manufacturers will put in things, even simple items that you would think would be one ingredient items!
While you will see I limit grains, I definitely avoid corn. It is just too hard to digest! You might could see about products with organic non-gmo, but I think you're going to find corn is a no go.
LIMIT GRAINS (I include Rice & Oats in my diet)
I cut out grains completely for the first 6 months of my diet. I wanted to make sure I was feeling better with the diet and that I had eliminated my trigger foods. Of course, diet and our food is ever changing. I still find different ingredients to eliminate from my food and products. So it's important to always read ingredient labels and never become complacent. The more triggers we can eliminate, the better we can feel and the better our body can heal. Grains are something that I wanted and hoped I could add back to my diet. Some people are not able to eat any grains, but after 6 months I was able to add a few grains back. I started by adding rice for two weeks and once I did okay with those, then I added oats back for two weeks. I like to limit my grains, but I do like to have them in my diet for heart health. I also find that they absorb acids well and they help my GERD (acid reflux). I have found moderation and only eating a few types of grains work well for me.
Brands I love: Bob's Red Mills, Nature's Path, Purely Elizabeth, & Lundberg
I try to buy everything organic. It is worth spending the extra money. Especially if you are concerned with autoimmune or chronic illness! When I ate meat, I thought it was really important to pay more for my meat products to be organic. I looked for organic, vegetarian fed, free range, gluten free, preservative free, and grass fed on these labels. The quality of the meat you ingest is huge! Actually, non-grass fed meat has been linked to cancer recently whereas grass fed meat has not. Your protein source really makes a huge difference.
SUPPLEMENTS & VITAMINS
It's so important to get the extra nutrition and vitamins you need. It's hard when you have GI problems to always get this nutrition especially during a flare. Finding a chewable or gummy vitamin is so important to get better absorption especially with GI problems. I always look for these when looking for vitamins!
Favorite brands: I use Pure for everything now due to my Mast Cell Disorder, but VitaFusion was my favorite gummy.
I know this is a LOT to take in! When my friend outlined the diet he and his sister followed, my mind was blown and so overwhelmed! And I know that it doesn't even seem achievable, but it is possible! Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grow! This is YOUR journey to help heal yourself and your gut. This is YOUR journey to a better quality of life and higher functioning. Enjoy it as much as you can and celebrate your victories. Don't let anyone make them feel small! I thought I probably had 5-10 years to live when I was first diagnosed at age 25. And I'm still here. It is POSSIBLE! You have the potential to help heal yourself :)
Sending you love and endless spoons!
The Irish Fall :
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