As you may know, both of us here at AH have PCOS. We’ve both struggled in our own ways with it and strive to learn more about it and how it impacts our bodies so that we can have a good quality of life in spite of it. There are ups and downs. Stuck in “down” mode, I called a friend for some words of encouragement. She shared with me her experience with an autoimmune disease, and the success she finally found with the autoimmune diet. This led me to do some research about the diet, as there is some thought that PCOS could be autoimmune or linked to autoimmune conditions. At this point, I’m willing to try anything to look and feel better, so I decided to give it a try.
The autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) aims to heal your gut by eliminating inflammatory foods. Those off-limit foods include anything processed, grains, nuts, legumes, dairy, coffee, and nightshades. Don’t know what nightshades are? I didn’t. Nightshades include eggplant, tomato, potato, all forms of peppers, among others. Interesting, right?
I was excited to learn that I would be able to eat any kind of meat, sweet potatoes, fruits, healthy oils, honey, coconut flour, certain herbs and spices (salt is okay but sadly no black pepper), tea, and of course lots of veggies. At first it felt strange, because I had purposely worked eggs, quinoa, almond butter, flax and chia seeds, black coffee, and cayenne into my regular diet at the recommendations of dieticians and nutritionists because of their health benefits, but I put my doubts aside, looked up some AIP recipes, made a shopping list, and got started the next day. It is like a stricter version of the paleo diet, with emphasis on meats and vegetables. It also seemed doable because it’s only recommended to follow the strict AIP diet a limited time (a minimum of 30 days), and then once you feel better you can begin reintroducing foods one at a time to see how your body reacts to them. Note it takes about ten days to fully reintroduce a food, and you should only reintroduce one food at a time so you can really pay attention to how your body feels after bringing it back into your diet. You may notice some things are okay and can be added back into your regular diet, while some things should be incorporated only occasionally or even rarely or never. Knowing I wasn’t necessarily kissing my black pepper shaker and jar of cashews goodbye forever made it easier to start.
I had a headache nearly every day for the first week, which I’m sure was due to the absence of coffee, but within just 2-3 days I was sleeping better, feeling fuller and more satiated (I could FEEL my body digesting), going to the bathroom more regularly, experiencing more energy for exercise, and enjoying the taste of things I never thought I would (hello, plantain chips) without missing their unhealthy alternatives (potato chips are my weakness).
After I got the hang of things (about two weeks in), and found some “normal” recipes, it wasn’t too bad at all. Considering that I started this diet about two months into quarantine, it was a great time to reset and refocus on my health, after the initial stress and fear of the unknown that came with the beginning of lockdown, and the unchecked snacks and glasses of wine that followed. It really was the perfect time, because the temptation of eating out with friends didn’t even exist/wasn’t even possible. I developed a newfound appreciation for sweet potatoes and coconut (Did you know about all of the things made from coconut?! Coconut milk, oil, flour, sugar, manna, aminos...I did not!).
The first things I reintroduced were eggs and black pepper. #3 was dark chocolate (high cacao content)! I have not eaten rice or anything fried since coming off the diet, only eat potatoes on occasion and in very limited amounts, and other carbs like bread (I usually aim for sprouted grain bread, if anything) and crackers rarely and again in very limited amounts. Those 30 days forced me to break addictions - addictions I didn’t even think existed because of my mostly healthy lifestyle - and wiped out most of my desires to eat bad foods. Even when I get the urge to have some fries or cake, the thought of how I will feel after is usually enough to kill the craving. When it’s not, I’m usually only able to take a couple bites.
I ended up losing 15 pounds, but more than that, an awareness of every item I bought at the grocery store and every thing I put in my mouth. While it would be difficult to maintain this diet long-term (and as mentioned earlier, not usually recommended), especially in social settings, there are certain things I am taking with me. For example, when baking and cooking, I want to try to adapt some of my favorite non-AIP recipes using some of the healthier alternatives that got me through this diet, like arrowroot and cassava flour, coconut milk, and sweet potatoes in place of other carbs.
Knowing myself, it can be hard to stick to eating clean 100% of the time long term, and I usually need a reset (almost always after the holidays!). I’m not sure if I will repeat this diet, or try out something like the Whole 30, but just knowing that anytime I feel my symptoms returning or worsening, I can work on healing my gut by eating this way gives me comfort and confidence.
Here are some of my favorite recipes that I still incorporate into my diet, five months later:
Breakfast Hash - https://foodbymars.com/aip-meal-plan/
Chicken, Bacon, Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - https://allthenourishingthings.com/chicken-bacon-kale-stuffed-sweet-potatos-paleo-whole30-aip/
Spinach Avocado Chicken Burgers - https://unboundwellness.com/spinach-avocado-chicken-burgers/
Sweet Potato & Turkey Breakfast Hash - https://unboundwellness.com/turkey-breakfast-hash/
Easy Chicken Stir Fry - https://rootedinhealing.net/2019/08/20/easy-aip-chicken-stir-fry/
Sweet Potato Chicken Poppers - https://unboundwellness.com/sweet-potato-chicken-poppers-paleo-aip-whole-30/
Are you going to try this diet? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience!