Anyone who is chronically ill can attest that unendingly sickness is no fun. With the rate of autoimmune disease on the rise, some have turned to the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) as a possible answer to getting their body back on track.
The problem though is that the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol is, in all honesty, a very restrictive food-based approach to reversing chronic inflammation and damage that begins once your body has lost it’s ability to correctly identify itself from an invader.
While you may have heard of this “diet” from Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (aka. The Paleo Mom) who was a featured speaker on the Women’s Gluten-Free Health Summit, the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol can have some amazing effects. In order to simplify the process and make AIP easier for you, I sat down with Mickey Trescott to talk about her health journey, why AIP worked for her and how you can give it a go without going crazy.
Then take a moment and leave a review on iTunes sharing what you’ve learned and why others would benefit from subscribing as well!
How to Make the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol Doable with Mickey Trescott
Jennifer: Welcome back to the Gluten Free School Podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Fugo. Today we are going to talk about the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. This protocol is something that you’ve probably heard about online.
There are several different people who talk about it frequently. But I wanted to approach this topic from a place that’s pragmatic, practical, and something you can actually follow.
Mickey Trescott is the chef and blogger behind the website Autoimmune-Paleo.com, which provides recipes and resources for the autoimmune protocol.
After recovering from her own struggle with both celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience, in order to help others realize that they’re not alone in their struggles.
She’s certified as a nutritional therapy practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association and the author of the newly released Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol.
Mickey is also on the board of Hashimoto’s Awareness, a support and advocacy organization for those with autoimmune thyroid disease. She recently moved to the Willamette Valley, in Oregon, to start a homestead with her husband.
Mickey, welcome to the podcast!
Mickey: Thank you so much for having me, Jennifer. I’m really excited to be here.
Jennifer: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you ended up realizing that you had an autoimmune issue? Actually, I know that you have at least two that we talked about in your bio.
How did you get in – I don’t know – How did you find out about it and then get introduced to what this autoimmune protocol is?
Mickey: Yes. So I was about 26 when I started having some health problems. They weren’t anything incredibly specific. When I went to the doctor, they weren’t really able to find the source of them.
But over time, I just had this feeling like something was wrong. I’d stand up and feel like I needed to pass out all of a sudden. I wouldn’t have any endurance when I was exercising. I’d have trouble waking up in the morning and falling asleep at night. It just seemed like things were really off.
Eventually I did get a diagnosis of celiac and Hashimoto’s disease after I had quite a health crash. It was at this bottom when I ask my doctor, what can I do about this? They basically just told me, “Go to gluten-free and you’ll be fine.”
Well, I wasn’t, and I actually continued to develop neurological symptoms. Things got worse. We did more tests. We could not figure out the source of the problem.
When I was at that point, I reexamined what I was eating because it was clear that I wasn’t finding help from the medical community and I needed to do something for myself.
This is the short version of the story, but basically I had been vegan for 10 years. And I had really dug myself into a really dark place with nutritional deficiency with certain vitamins and minerals and things. Then I was suffering from this autoimmunity and I wasn’t feeling my body properly.
So when I started doing research about diet and autoimmunity, this autoimmune protocol kept coming up. It really appeared to be a tool that people were using. A lot of researchers and doctors were talking about how they were using it with their clients and their patients to help them figure out which foods were holding them back from optimal health.
So I tried it myself and it was really effective for me. It was over probably six to nine months that I really made a recovery. I went from being jobless, bedridden, and with no hope in life — I was really depressed — to being able to function and work and go back to school to study nutrition.
I started writing my book. I mean it was incredible, the transformation that I was able to have with this. [Now] I have dedicated my life to teaching people and providing resources because it’s just a really amazing process.
Jennifer: I wanted to highlight something that you said. The doctors told you to go gluten-free. And that clearly, from what you were saying, wasn’t enough.
Mickey: No. Other celiacs know this. This is the story that I hear over and over with both people who are diagnosed with celiac disease and people who know that they’re sensitive to gluten even though they don’t have celiac disease.
They removed gluten and they’re told, “Everything will be better.” Well, it actually got worse.
I didn’t develop any neurological symptoms until I stopped eating gluten. I think what happened was I had this low-grade inflammation all the time from the celiac. When that was removed, I was really reacting to all this other stuff in my diet and in my environment. It brought it to the surface.
So that’s usually a really hard concept for people to realize: how doing something really good for someone, like removing gluten from the diet, can actually make you feel worse. It’s just because it gives your body the space to actually have a reaction to foods as opposed to not being able to produce any reactions, which is the state you’re in when you’re always inflamed.
Jennifer: When you say something like “the autoimmune protocol,” I think there are so many diets out there today, so many different approaches, and oftentimes women don’t know which way to go. It’s like you’re at a crossroads with signs pointing in 10 different directions. “Should I do Paleo? Should I try GAPS? How about SCD?” There are so many things.
Initially, I think the gluten-free thing is the most common path people walk, but similarly to you they don’t always feel better. I would even venture to say that most may feel a little better, but at the least I think most people don’t feel 100% better going gluten-free.
So what would be the difference between doing an autoimmune protocol and all these other diet options? Why would someone actually want to choose this path that you’ve gone down for themselves?
Mickey: The autoimmune protocol is actually not a diet. It’s an elimination process. So the idea is that someone removes certain categories of food for a specified period of time. That’s all variable. You can do it for longer or shorter. You can choose to include more foods or fewer foods. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Basically, it’s a process by which people can figure out their ideal diet. This is why I really think the autoimmune protocol is a wonderful place to start for anyone who has a diagnosed autoimmune disease or just is experiencing health problems that they haven’t been able to sort out through conventional medicine or through other dietary modifications.
It is geared towards people who have autoimmune disease, so the research that’s backing it has found that the foods that are removed are the ones that are most likely to be problematic for people with autoimmune disease.
They also tend to be foods that people who don’t have autoimmunity can be sensitive to, like eggs, which are a very common food allergy and sensitivity. You go for a period of time without all of these common foods that can be otherwise healthy to see if, once you get them out of your diet and then you reintroduce them, you can tell, “Okay, eggs are a problem.” You might not know that if you’re eating eggs every day.
That’s how it’s different. Paleo has a framework that is grain-free and legume-free and dairy-free. The autoimmune protocol takes that one step further. We also remove eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables like potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, some other supplements like ashwagandha, and sweeteners too, any stevia or anything like that, food chemicals, guar gum.
So the idea is just to get all this stuff out and have a clean slate. Then you add them in one at a time to figure out what’s affecting you.
Jennifer: That, to the regular person, is going to sound overwhelming. “Oh my gosh. What are we going to eat? I can’t have nuts. I can’t have seeds. I can’t have eggs.”
What can you include on the protocol?
Mickey: Jennifer, since you’ve seen my book…
Jennifer: I know. It’s beautiful.
Mickey: …you can see there are actually a lot of foods that you can eat. And you can be very happy and healthy and nourished on this diet. It just takes a little bit of reframing.
So the way that I’ve presented it in my book is just by focusing on all of these amazing delicious, beautiful, easy-to-prepare foods that are compliant with the protocol.
That includes any kind of fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey. Basically any meat is fine. You can have a wide variety of vegetables, cooking fats, tons of fruits. The sky is the limit as far as that — fresh, real food.
And the catch for a lot of people is that these are not convenience foods. These are not things that you can easily walk into a restaurant and order. The trick is to acquire these foods from your grocery and then figure out how to make them and get this food on the table.
Jennifer: That’s always the question. It’s the practical, pragmatic aspect because the truth is – you and I both know this – it’s really challenging to change your diet to something that’s very different from what you’re used to.
It’s difficult to go out and eat. You can’t get convenience food. You can’t say, “I’m just going to pick up this one thing because I running low on energy and I didn’t have lunch and I’m late.” And you’ve got a family. You’re crazy busy. And yet somehow you’ve got to eat.
That creates a lot of stress for people. They say, “I can’t have all this food that I like that’s easy for me and that I know. Then all of a sudden, I’ve got to cook a lot.”
The thing I love about you and your book is how practical it is. It’s very practical. I think it takes away that fear.
So why don’t you share with everybody, in making this practical, how can we prepare?
If someone is considering doing this and giving it a shot, your book is a great template for it. It’s the template you should follow if you’re going to do it for a significant period of time.
How can they do this and start cleaning up the pantry and doing all the stuff to make it a lot easier than it might sound right now?
Mickey: The first thing I always tell people is to start with any food that’s going to be a “never” food. So we’re talking processed food, sugar, gluten. Throw it away, give it away. Get it out of sight. Don’t have it in your house. If you have someone in your family who really needs to have that food and you’re not in agreement about dietary change together, maybe have a designated area and move it where you’re not going to see it.
The next step is the foods that are gray-area foods that are healthy, but you won’t be eating them for a month or two, like the nuts and seeds and some spices and stuff.
Put them in a box and put it in the closet. You can bring it back out when time comes to reintroduce. Not having those foods, not being confronted with them when you’re cooking every day, and not having them be an option is really helpful.
And then the third step is replacing all of that stuff with food you can eat. So this is maybe getting some different variety of cooking fats, maybe getting some different herbs and spices that are actually compliant with the protocol, and then shopping for really fresh fruits and vegetables and just making sure you have that on hand.
Jennifer: I love that. That’s awesome.
Mickey: Yeah. My whole motto is: Set yourself up for success. If you paste a list of foods on your fridge and expect yourself every time you open it to say, “Okay. Yes to this food. No to that food,” then decide when you’re hungry to not grab one thing and grab another, it’s not going to work. You need to clear it out and actually do some meal planning.
Jennifer: I can tell you right now. If you don’t typically cook that much and you think that you’re going to do this – unless you are one of those uber-committed people and it’s a very small percentage of people that can do that – it’s not going to happen. That’s a recipe for failure from the get-go.
And having a plan. I love that you’re talking about planning because that’s really what does help you get going. Even in my book, I talk a lot about having a menu plan.
I know it’s not sexy, but isn’t it true?
Mickey: Yeah. A lot of people are really turned off by the idea of it, but it is “make or break.”
Jennifer: I have a question for you. How long would someone stay — I assume there are stages of some sort — is there a way to tell how long you should stay on the full elimination and then start reintroducing things?
Mickey: Yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up because it’s a very common question. The answer isn’t as easy as you would think.
You really want to stay on the elimination diet until you feel improvement. It’s not possible to tell if a food is affecting you negatively if you haven’t felt any better through the whole process.
So say someone with psoriasis tries autoimmune protocol. They do it for a month. Maybe their skin doesn’t change. That’s really common. Skin is a really low-priority organ for the body. It takes a long time in my experience for skin things to heal compared to some other issues.
But maybe this person, their digestion, just feels awesome. Maybe they had reflux or constipation or something and that’s all been resolved. That person could start reintroducing some foods if that’s what they wanted to do at the end of 30 days or however long it took them to start feeling better. Or they could decide to go longer and see if they can get some more benefit out of it.
What doesn’t work is when people do it without feeling any benefits and then they continue. They think that chances are unlikely that you’re going to experience, just magically somewhere off in the distance, some benefits.
It’s not really common. Usually there’s an underlying issue why someone isn’t getting better.
Yeah, basically people need to wait until they feel something changed. It makes sense. You have to be able to tell if the reintroductions are going well or not.
Jennifer: Just to clarify that, if someone is on this for a long period – let’s say somebody is on this for five months, six months. If you are on this for a significant period of time and you don’t feel better, do you suggest that maybe now it’s time to go seek help from a medical professional?
Mickey: Yeah. I would say sooner than that. I think five or six months is a long time with no improvements.
There’s a very fine line between disordered eating and food restriction. I’m really not a fan of being too restricted with the diet.
When you people don’t feel success, I think they should get things investigated sooner than later, maybe a couple of months.
Sometimes, I would actually say a lot of the time it’s an underlying gut issue, so maybe a pathogen or parasite or something that a diet isn’t going to fix.
Jennifer: That’s a great point because I have heard that from many people who have been eating a certain way for a really long time. They tell me, in the letters that I get, they still don’t feel better and they just don’t know what to do.
My point is if you’ve been doing this this long, it sounds like it’s time to go seek medical help.
Jennifer: There really is only so much – I mean I love food. I think you and I are probably both in agreement with that, we love food — but there’s only so much it can do.
Mickey: Yeah. And it can be a part of the solution. Food is a part. Lifestyle is a part. Medical intervention is a part. You’ve got to put it all together to get a healthy person sometimes. So yeah, that’s a great point.
Jennifer: Let’s go back to the reintroductions. Where do you start? Do you just pick one and then try it? How does that whole piece of this work?
Mickey: I have a list in my book of the foods that are least likely to affect someone. So you want to start at the top of that list.
That’s going to be foods like nuts, seeds, egg yolks, ghee, which is clarified butter. Those are foods that are highly unlikely that someone is going to react to, even someone with autoimmune issues. It’s just a precaution that we’re leaving them out.
Further down the list are things like egg whites, hard cheeses, butter, various nightshades like potatoes and peppers.
As you graduate along the list, you can check something off. For me personally, I can do nuts. I can do seeds. I can’t do ghee, even though it’s something that’s tolerable for a lot of people. I have a very bad reaction to it. So I didn’t move on to the next dairy. I just don’t do any dairy.
I can do eggs just fine. I can do some nightshades. Potatoes are fine for me, but tomatoes are not. Who knew? I would have never known if I hadn’t gone through this systematically and tried these different foods and saw what happened to my body.
Jennifer: There’s no way to – I think people look for these shortcuts. They’re like, “I don’t want to go through this whole process.”
I do understand that. I really do. This is a process. You have to be committed to it for a certain period of time. It can affect your social life and whatnot. Maybe you’ll have some tips for people about that.
When you are going through this, I think that the challenge is that people want a pill or a test to tell them exactly what to eat. I don’t think we’re really there yet. You really have to see for yourself. You have to test and see what happens.
Mickey: Yeah. That’s a really good point. What you’re learning in this process, as much as you’re learning different things about foods that you didn’t know before how they affected you, is how to feel your body when you’re experiencing something. Something that a lot people aren’t really in touch with is “How do I feel after I eat this thing?”
I know for myself, I never really thought about how I digested things. I really didn’t notice when a food, which I know now, totally wrecks my digestion. I just would be like, “Oh, I have a stomach ache. That’s weird.” I never connected the two.
When you start to have that sense, you notice it even about emotional situations or getting enough sleep or lifestyle stuff. You realize when you put yourself in situations that can make your body feel a certain way.
I think that’s a really important skill for people to have.
Jennifer: Yeah. What would a bad reaction look like?
Mickey: It can actually be anything. It can be – like I talked about before – a digestive reaction. It can be a skin reaction, which is what a lot of people are used to with food allergies like rashes, flushing.
It can be a temperature change. So someone gets really warm or really cold after eating something. It can be a flare-up of your symptoms. So that’s a really easy one. If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, they do the autoimmune protocol, and their joint pain goes away. But then they eat a tomato, and their joint pain comes back. That’s pretty obvious.
Mood changes. Some people get emotional reactions to food, which a lot of people are very surprised to hear.
Even though I have celiac disease, I actually don’t get any gut reactions to gluten. But when I’m accidentally glutened, I have zero tolerance for any stress.
Jennifer: Wow, that’s so fascinating. All this stuff is so fascinating. I feel so intrigued by how the body works and how food affects it. It’s just amazing.
So I’m curious to know this. You did mention lifestyle issues a moment ago. How do those play a part in this whole matrix of healing?
Mickey: Yeah. So when we change our diet, that’s just one facet of health. It’s the fuel that we put into our body, the chemicals that we’re feeding all of our cells with this nutrition. It’s part of it.
Another part of it is, like you said, the lifestyle factors, sleep, stress reduction, getting the proper amount of movement. All of those things are I think really important to being a healthy, vibrant person.
If you’re changing your diet and maybe you’re sleeping three or four hours a night, and you have a serious problem there, it’s unlikely that you’re going to see all the benefits of the diet change when you’re not getting restorative, regenerative sleep.
Same thing goes if someone works in an extremely stressful job. They’re not going on any vacations. They’re not taking any breaks. They’re not reducing their stress. That’s going to hamper them.
So yeah, I think it’s really important for people to address those things too if they can.
Jennifer: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing your story and clarifying a lot of these points for us about the autoimmune protocol and the practicality of it.
Again, the practical nature of making change is so important. I know we all love following people that are doing amazing research and work. That’s great, but I think sometimes it gets a little hard to make the changes.
I think we need more people that are focused on how you do this, how you make it easy.
I want to ask how listeners get a copy of your book, The Autoimmune Protocol.
Mickey: Awesome. My book is available in book stores. Barnes & Noble and independent stores should have it in stock. If not, they can order it. It’s also available on Amazon. I have an e-book version on my website, which is Autoimmune-Paleo.com.
Jennifer: That’s great. I would highly recommend that everybody do this. But you also have a really great two-week free elimination diet meal plan, shopping list, et cetera, for those that sign up for your e-mail. Yes?
Mickey: I do. Yeah. Everything is there to get started. It’s all free and it includes all the recipes and everything in full. So there really are no excuses not to get started.
Jennifer: So I would recommend to everyone, please go and do that because I think this is a great thing, even if you’re just curious, dipping your toes in and checking out Mickey’s elimination plan that’s free on her website. It’s a great way to get a sense of what is to come.
I will tell you the book is beautiful. The photographs are fabulous. It’s got a lot of great recipes. It’s easy to use. If I were to do this – and it’s something I’ve considered trying – I could follow it every day. It just makes it so easy.
So I would really recommend, if you’re looking for a new book and something that’s not like your regular cookbook, this is a really great resource. It’s definitely more than a cookbook.
Thank you so much for joining us, Mickey. I appreciate it.
Mickey: Yeah. Thank you so much for your kind words and for having me on here, Jennifer. This has been great.
Jennifer: I appreciate it, and thank you for making the time.
So go check out Mickey Trescott. She’s at Autoimmune-Paleo.com. She’s also on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll have all the links below.
You can buy her book, The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and local retailers. I’ll have some links below. So it’s pretty easy to pick up a copy.
Again, if you’re not quite ready to do this and you’re on the fence, go check out her free two-week elimination diet meal plan. I think that’s a great place to start especially if you’re new to hearing this conversation or it’s something you want to get a sense of what it is and how it works.
And please, remember to rate, subscribe, and review this podcast. Head on over to Gluten Free School, leave your questions and comments below.
I’d love to hear from you. I would like to keep this conversation going. I think autoimmunity is a big topic. It’s been one of the biggest topics over the last year for Gluten Free School members. This is a great place to take a look at some dietary changes that will help you move forward and hopefully see some change.
All right. Thank you so much for joining me. I look forward to seeing you the next time. Bye-bye.
To Buy Mickey’s Book –> CLICK HERE
Mickey’s Website – http://www.Autoimmune-Paleo.com
Facebook – http://facebook.com/autoimmunepaleo
Instagram – http://instagram.com/mickeytrescott