Episode 11: Reintroducing Foods on the Paleo AIP

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podcast graphic with photos of host and 2 guests

The Two Most Common Mistakes People Make with Reintroductions

  1. Not doing them at all. Strict AIP isn’t meant to last forever. The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) has two phases: (1) Elimination and (2) Reintroduction. Some people make the mistake of thinking the elimination phase is meant to last forever. While that phase is incredibly important for healing, it’s designed to be temporary. Once our autoimmune symptoms improve, we are meant to expand our diet again. Reintroductions are the slow, careful process of figuring out which foods are safe for you to eat again.
  2. Rushing the process and reintroducing too many foods at once. Truth talk: the AIP is hard to do. A lot of people white-knuckle their way through the elimination period and then rush the reintroductions, because they miss these foods so much. Unfortunately, this muddies the experiment. If you get an inflammatory response, you won’t know which food caused it, putting you back at square one. The reintroduction process is scientific self-experimentation at its finest, and you want to do it right, because you don’t want to have to repeat the elimination step.

In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Whitney Ross-Gray from Nutrisclerosis and Alaena Haber from Grazed and Enthused. We talk about the reintroduction process: when to start, how to do it correctly, and share our experiences about which foods we’ve each added back into our diet.

Listen to the Show

Show Notes

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Meet Our Guests (0:51)
    • Whitney Ross Gray is the blogger behind Nutrisclerosis. Whitney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. She declined medication and her health also declined to include: vision trouble, neuropathy, bladder urgency, leg weakness, muscle spasms, sexual dysfunction, brain fog, fatigue and weight gain. When she started having difficulty walking, that was her “wake up call.” She embraced the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) in 2010, and within one year, most of her MS symptoms disappeared. All that remains is some minor vision loss, difficulty jumping, and occasional bladder urgency. Following the paleo diet and lifestyle for five years, Whitney knows what it takes to stick with it long-term, and has also experienced falling to the temptation of going off-diet and feeling symptoms return. This motivates her to maintain her healthy lifestyle.
    • Alaena Haber is the blogger behind Grazed and Enthused. She was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at age 19, when she experienced severe anaphylatic reactions to foods that prior to that moment had been fine for her to eat. It was her allergist who first looked at her thyroid function, when her allergy tests came back negative. In spite of going on thyroid medication, she developed a wide range of symptoms including daily headaches, digestive issues, back pain, fatigue, swelling, moodiness, irregular menstruation, anemia, and hand spasms. She went paleo in 2010, and that alleviated much of her pain and fatigue, but her digestion worsened, culminating in severe abdominal pain and scary weight loss. In December 2013, she embraced the AIP. Within 2 days, she felt 90% better. Now, all of her symptoms are gone, with the exception of hormone imbalance. She’s working with a functional medicine practitioner to restore her fertility (infertility and autoimmunity often go hand in hand.) Alaena also talked about why most people with Hashimoto’s do best with a combination of diet and thyroid medication, and why diet alone isn’t enough (nor is medication alone).
  • What Are Food Reintroductions? (22:53)
    • An elimination/provocation protocol is the gold standard for identifying food intolerances.
    • You eliminate foods until your autoimmune symptoms start to improve (a minimum of 30 days). Then you reintroduce them, one at a time, to test your body for tolerance. It’s a powerful way to communicate with your body about what foods nourish you and what foods harm you. I’ve written a complete guide to this process which you can find here.
  • How Long Should You Wait Before Reintroducing Foods? (24:20)
    • The minimum time is 30 days. The maximum time is never. We all need to choose our own timing within that window. Wait until your autoimmune symptoms have improved enough that you have a clear baseline for testing for food reactions. Don’t wait so long that you’re tempted to binge and reintroduce a whole bunch of foods at once.
    • Whitney waited 18 months, but she did a “looser” version of the protocol. Back in 2010, there was very little written about the AIP, so she removed the big offenders (dairy, nightshades, nuts/seeds) but continued to eat chocolate, spices and alcohol occasionally. Sugar was actually her first reintroduction, sneaking back in through cravings. From there, she did more systematic reintroductions for the next year.
    • Alaena tried reintroducing chocolate at 3 months, because it was the food she missed the most. She had a negative reaction, because her body hadn’t healed enough. At 6 months, she was able to reintroduce chocolate successfully.
    • Eileen began her reintroductions at 6 weeks, because the mental/emotional pressure of the restrictions were making her think about binging on non-paleo junk food. She chose to do reintroductions instead. Having been paleo for 6 months before that, a lot of healing had already happened, and she took another 6 months to complete the reintroduction tests slowly and carefully.
    • If you are struggling emotionally on the AIP, there are more resources available now than when I did the protocol 2 years ago. Join the online support communities, so you don’t feel alone. Cook a wide variety of delicious AIP recipes, so you don’t feel deprived. The AIP Recipe Roundtables are a  great resource.
  • The Reintroduction Process (37:28)
  • What Foods Have We Personally Been Able to Reintroduce? (50:36)
    • Whitney has reintroduced white rice, egg yolks, butter, and occasional nuts & seeds.
    • Alaena has reintroduced fresh legumes, fruit-based spices, chocolate, and occasional coffee.
    • Eileen has reintroduced eggs, chocolate, white rice, fruit-based spices, seed-based spices, nut oils, occasional nuts/seeds, occasional fresh legumes, and a bimonthly glass of wine.
  • Outro (1:01:29)

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14 comments on “Episode 11: Reintroducing Foods on the Paleo AIP”

  1. I loved this podcast! The thing that resonated with me the most is how you got stressed out with the elimination phase. Obviously it’s different now with more AIP cook books and people posting recipes online, but it still can be hard to deal with. And now you have a wider variety of things you can eat. I will be waiting a while before I start reintroducing, but this gives me a lot of hope. I do miss rice and cheese the most 😛

    There is something that I can’t find anywhere and would love to hear/read about. People have gone off medications, and it would nice to know how they did it (tapering off or cold turkey), and how they worked with their doctors. My experience in the past is that doctors are extremely difficult to convince. I know for a fact that I will get into a horrible flare if I do it cold turkey, but I also know that I may not need meds my whole life, so it would be nice to hear some stories and get tips.

    1. Basmah, you might a little bit psychic. I am actually coordinating interviews for a podcast on medication decisions. Expect that episode within the next 2 months.

      1. Haha it always freaks me out when I dream about something, and a similar situation occurs in real life a couple of days later. Or when I just think of a random classic song/tv episode, and it’s on the next day. 😀 I am so glad you are doing it! I think my new doctor would be more open to reducing meds eventually, so I can’t wait to hear what others have to say.

  2. Hi and thank you for making this information available. I have been diagnosed with both Hashimoto’s and Achalasia, a rare swallowing disease that is now recognized as an autoimmune disease. At this point, I don’t even have symptoms of Hashimoto’s. It was simply found on a blood test and I haven’t begun taking medication for it. The Achalasia is a different story. I’ve been on the AIP diet for over a month now and have some relief of symptoms but still have lots of issues with this disease. Do you have any knowledge of anyone having success with diet and this disease? I’m trying to decide whether or not to get surgery or whether to continue searching for dietary answers. Unfortunately, my decision is time sensitive because the esophagus can become dilated over time making surgery less successful. Surgery also comes with complications, including the possibility of lifetime GERD. Lastly, I’m considering reintroducing foods but am not sure since I’m far from feeling cured and don’t know if I should switch to another diet, continue with this one for longer, modify it with other restrictions, etc. Sorry for the long comment, but would welcome any information you may have. Thank you! Amy

    1. Hi Amy. Those are tough decisions. I wish I could help, but I think you’re the only one with the wisdom to know what’s best for you. Do your research, and then trust your instincts. While I don’t know anyone with Achalasia, the fact that you’re improving on the AIP is hopeful. If you decide you need the surgery, I recommend continuing with dietary healing, to support your health and prevent further problems down the road. Gentle hugs to you!

  3. Hi,
    I have a question about the AIP diet. I started the diet a few weeks ago to try to speed up my healing process with Hashimoto’s (I had been on gluten free, dairy free diet for several months with results.) I know that herbal teas are allowed on the AIP diet, but do we have to watch for ingredients in the tea that would be off of the diet (such as cardamom and certain spices)? Also, is cocoa in lotions/soaps OK? I am curious about these two things, and I have not found any information on these two topics as I have looked for an answer online. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Krysta. Yes, the AIP does apply to herbal teas as well. One store-bought herbal tea I like that is AIP-friendly is Honeybush. Also, here’s a recipe for Homemade Herbal Chai Tea. It includes a foundation recipe for the elimination phase of the AIP, and then extra spices you can add during reintroductions. As for your last question, cocoa is eliminated because it’s a seed and that can be hard on the digestive tract. I think cocoa butter applied topically would be fine.

  4. All of your podcasts are pure gold Eileen. I love how you’ve structured the show format, and you moderate so well that it’s not until one listens to other (rambling, incoherent, “we’re so hilarious” :-/) interview podcasts that it becomes clear how skilled you really are. Thank you. I’ve listened to several of your episodes over and over, and this one touched my heart for so many reasons. I think I’ve had you on a ‘Holy AIP pedestal’ Eileen (I guess we all choose our heroes and exalt accordingly!), so hearing that the AIP elimination phase was actually tough for you kind of lifted a giant burden from me. 🙂 On Day 28 of my elimination phase, I found out that my blood tests came back negative for *any* autoimmune markers, and thanks to the AIP, I also had no sign of inflammation or infection (!!). I *do* however, have no thyroid function at all (it says “no reflex” on my labs…scary right?). My (new, young, awesome) doctor assessed that my thyroid meds had been too high for several years, and she’s confident that we’ll get it started again–especially since it’s still there and not destroyed by my immune system as I had been SO sure. I was soooo sure of my “Hashimoto’s and probably Celiac” since November and that’s why I dove into AIP before I even found my new doctor. So, I’ve been feeling like I got kicked out of the cool kids club, floating anchorless, re-introducing foods yet thinking, “Do I even bother? I don’t have autoimmunity!…and what do I do now? There’s no *plan* for what’s wrong with me!!” But for many reasons, this latest podcast of yours made me feel like I’ll be okay, and that perfection with food won’t solve all my problems and effect world peace anyway ;-). What I DO want to say is just “Thank you, Eileen.” It was your voice that got me through this month of AIP, your posts (and responses) that helped me hold my heart together when it was oozing out my fingers, and your recipes and roundtables and links and gorgeously organized information that pushed me forward every step. Though I maybe *resent* the AIP diet (somehow…I don’t know…just…%$#@! Y’know?), I don’t regret my sojourn in the Autoimmune world. And since I’ve bought everyone’s cookbooks, I’ll still be making all the yummy food 😉 ! In fact, I have your “favorite breakfast” chicken stew on the stovetop right now. Sorry to write so much here. I just wanted to publicly thank you for the immense amount of work that you do. And you are still my hero, even if I’m not an autoimmune ‘sister’ :-D.

    1. Deanna, what a beautiful comment. Thank you so much for your compliments, and I’m always happy to step off the pedestal. 😉 I can understand your mixed feelings about not getting a diagnosis, yet I’m so happy for you that you’ve found a good doctor, and there’s a strong hope for healing. Consider your AIP journey a health boost. And you’re always welcome in my club!

  5. Thank you so much Eileen for your wonderful podcasts. They became my go-to in my learning process in how to start reversing my health. I learn so much from them.

    However, before listening to this particular one, I was still wondering if the elimination diet is worth the effort or is just crazy… I now start to understand that is the best things one can do to start improving one’s health.

    Thank you for sharing the knowledge! Much appreciated.

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