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Starting Whole30 for serious autoimmune disease


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Hi, folks! I started the Whole30 with the autoimmune protocol on July 1st. I have psoriatic spondylitis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects my spine, my eyes, and the joints, tendons and ligaments throughout my whole body.

Three years ago, I went from being a woman who had built a 2-story house with my own hands, cut and stacked my own firewood, walked my dog 1-2 miles most days, danced twice a week, maintained a very large garden, and more... to someone who sometimes can't walk 200 feet, has been in chronic pain every day for 3 years, who nearly lost my eyesight to this disease, and who's hands are now so badly damaged that I have had to go on disability. I used to be able to leg press 300 pounds, do 20 full push-ups, use 15-20 lb dumbbells for upper body work, dig post holes by hand, and shovel literally tons of soil to build raised garden beds. (I really miss those days!)

I've been put on multiple immune suppressant medications, with only partial benefit. But those meds have stopped working, and I've been taken off of them. Right now I don't want to try any more. I've lost my faith in the ability of modern medicine to really help me, and now want to try some alternative options. I've been studying about Paleo for quite a while now. I believe it offers a possibility for bringing my disease at least under partial control.

Another strong incentive for me is the fact that I can't use enough narcotic medications to control my pain. I was put on high doses of steroids in a prolonged effort to save my eyesight, and it looks like my pituitary and adrenal glands have quit producing my own cortisol. My doctors believe it is permanent, and that I'll need to remain on steroids for life. (Not if I can help it!) At any rate, strong narcotics seriously aggravate my adrenal insufficiency, and cause my body temp and BP to drop to potentially fatal lows. I really need to find a way to reduce my inflammation in order to control my pain!

The autoimmune protocol is very challenging to follow. Most paleo recipes seem to contain eggs, nightshade family, or nuts. It's been difficult to find enough recipes that I enjoy that fit the protocol. Is there any one place that offers a good collection of autoimmune recipes?

Also, there is another diet that helps some spondylitis patients, that focuses on a low or no starch diet. Most fruit and some sugar is OK, but no starchy food, including sweet potatoes. Do you know if anyone has completed a Whole30 using fruit as their main source of carbs (for about 60-100g of carb a day)? That would be in addition to eating a lot of non-starchy vegetables. Not sure if that much fruit is compatible with the Whole30 concept. I have no interest in eating very low carb and reaching ketosis.

Right now, I am dealing with the pain and limitations of this disease, PLUS the withdrawal symptoms of starting the Whole30. UGH! I've been a major sugarholic for most of my life. Right now, I'm also tracking my blood sugar, as I'm pre-diabetic. It seems to drop reasonably quickly after eating fruit, but I've seen my blood sugar continue to rise for 3 hours after eating a small amount of sweet potato with a meal. Weird! And my morning fasting blood sugar is sometimes higher than what it was before I went to bed. (Huh?) Hopefully, this program will improve my blood sugar issues.

The good news is that my rheumatologist is willing to let me try this diet, and postpone starting another immune-suppressant medication. So, I'm willing to do what it takes to try to make this work. But I'm really hoping that I can start seeing at least a little improvement before I see her again in 6 weeks. Cross your fingers for me! If you have any suggestions that might help, I'd like to hear them. OR success stories of people with similar serious issues that have used a diet to help control their disease. Thanks!

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I'm sorry your life came to a grinding halt, but kudos to you for making your own way and trying something new to get your medical issues controlled so they don't control you as much. I'm afraid I can't answer your questions as I'm a newbie to this myself, but I can sympathize. Excruciating pain brought my life to a standstill a few years ago and diet changes were the first thing that made a dent in it and gave me some quality of life. I can only hope it'll do the same for you!

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I can't speak to the official word on vegetables for carbohydrates, but I will say fruits were my main carbohydrate source for my Whole30 -- I had a sweet potato exactly twice the whole time. There are some starchy/sweet squashes, too. Maybe butternut squash or acorn squash would work for you?

Similarly, I can't point to a one-stop recipe source, but somewhere on here, I read something about "thinking like a chef" and building meals from a protein outward. I've found this really helpful, and tend to start with whatever protein we want to have, then add a vegetable I like, and then pick a seasoning mix that suits my mood. Basically, I think if you spend some time looking at recipes and seeing what their seasoning and flavor profiles are, it gets easier to adapt those to other foods. For example, I know I really like ginger/garlic/lime/crushed red pepper so I often use that. Alternately, I'm big on cumin/jalapeno/lime/black pepper, and oregano/garlic/basil. These are REALLY simple, but they're good on almost anything. A lot of nights, dinner is whatever vegetables and protein I have handy sauteed in coconut oil with one of those seasoning mixes.

Another handy lesson I try to keep in mind from here is that meals don't actually have to be varied. Sometiems I eat chicken with steamed broccoli for 2 or 3 lunches out of the week. It's easy, I like it, and it's fine.

I really hope you find something that helps with your inflammation.

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Wow! I hope we can help.

I am not familiar with specialized diets or recipe sites, but two sources come to mind that may be helpful to you. One is the meal map in It Starts With Food that shows you how to build meals by choosing your protein, adding a vegetable or two, and varying the spices. Two is my website http://www.wholelifeeating.com because most of my more than 300 Whole30-compliant recipes are simple to make. I specialize in easy, one-pot meals. You can surely find 100 recipes that would fit your needs on my site.

Eating a lot of fruit tends to keep the sugar dragon alive and well, so we encourage favoring vegetables over fruit in the Whole30. And vegetables provide more nutrition than fruit by a long shot. That said, if you need to avoid starchy vegetables, you can eat fruit.

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I've heard of many folks who have had serious health conditions improved by giving up grains/sugars. Sugar and grains are so debilitating. I can sympathize. Years ago, I was slim and athletic. Fast forward to thirty years later, and I am obese, full of painful arthritis, and still have residual digestive issues and brain fog issues because I didn't know I was gluten/casein intolerant until 3 years ago. My favorite foods had always been bread and cheese....

At the advice of doctors, I dieted using the low-cal, high carb methods. I took meds. I just got sicker and fatter over the years. I'm so grateful I found the Weston Price Foundation and subsequently the Paleo way of eating.

All that to say is, what I experienced is nothing compared to what is going on with you. I feel for you. I'm so glad you are going to try to control your health with a good diet!

Blood sugar issues are different for every individual, but when you are going off sugar, it can really fluctuate wildly. Regarding fruit, perhaps you can eat the low sugar fruits more often, like berries, cantaloupe, pears, etc., and stay away from the higher sugar fruits, like oranges, watermelon etc. Some folks think that eating fruits along with fats help regulate blood sugar, so perhaps consider eating fruit with coconut milk, or right after a meal.

If you have access to garnet yams or Japanese yams, these tubers seem to work better for me than regular sweet potatoes, and I have to eat only 1/2 of the tuber at a time. (That is, if you still want to eat them.)

Years ago, I did a diet that was very high in fruit. It contributed to wrecking my metabolism, and it's been a long, hard road toward good health. I'm not there yet. I love fruit, but I really have to be careful with it, because it makes my blood sugar spike sometimes. I'm not diabetic, but insulin resistant.

I think that you can adapt many Paleo recipes to eliminate nightshades, nuts, and eggs. Actually, I think that the less foods you are able to eat, the easier it is in the long run, although we all tend to look at it as so unfair and restricting. Focusing on proteins and veggies seems blah and boring - and very challenging. However, there are many varied veggies and proteins out there, and so many ways to cook them. I know that I can really get in a rut and eat the same stuff week after week. Then I drag out a cookbook and think, "Wow, there's so much I haven't yet tried!"

I encourage you to seek out the assistance of a Paleo nutritionist or dietitan. It would be money well spent. I believe that Whole9 has a RD available for consulting. Many people also highly regard Chris Kresser. (Not with Whole9)

I wish you the best and I hope this way of eating helps you.

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Thanks for the suggestions, folks! I appreciate the support. Veggies stir-fried in coconut oil with protein is very satisfying for me, but right now my stomach hasn't adjusted to eating lots of vegetables with every meal. I just need to keep experimenting with different seasonings to give me more variety. I have the book "It Starts With Food", but I was frustrated that every time I looked at another recipe idea, it seemed there were always tomatoes, peppers, curry, chili, eggs, nuts, etc. I'll keep looking around. Tom, thanks for suggesting your site! I'll spend some time on it to get more ideas.

I've already confirmed this week that I can't eat pineapple at all, even in small amounts - it gives me major diarrhea. :( Because of my current medications, it's important that I eat regularly. I still felt sick this morning, so I ate just some chicken and one small banana, hoping it would be bland enough for my stomach. BUT my blood sugar 4 hours later was over 145! Yikes! Guess I shouldn't eat bananas at all right now. Decided to try to stabilize my sugars by having beef with stir-fried non-starchy veggies for a late lunch, and 3 hours later (7 hours after the banana) I'm still at 120. Guess it really would be a good idea to consult with someone with more experience with diet and blood sugar issues.

Best wishes, everyone!

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