It’s time for another update, because mid-January marks my six month anniversary of doing the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)!
A Quick Recap
I was taking four medications for my RA just before starting AIP. I had been mostly Paleo for two months prior. My doctor recommended I wean off prednisone due to the side effects associated with using it for too long. I had a post-prednisone flare that made my whole body achy and weak, and my fingers and wrists sore and swollen. The resulting adrenal fatigue left me exhausted and unable to get out of bed. I think that flare helped me come to the decision to start AIP full force – I started AIP the week after. For my four month update, click here.
Current Pain and RA activity
My pain and swelling are finally getting to a point where I feel they are managed well. I say “finally” because I did not experience steady improvement over the past months on AIP – there were ups and downs, including a particularly painful few weeks in late November. That flare faded and I continue to improve, feeling the best I have since starting AIP. I use a single medication (Plaquenil). Last year (before dietary changes) I tried to use Plaquenil alone for managing my RA and it was not sufficient, so I am thrilled that AIP + Plaquenil is managing my RA well, now with consistent improvement. I take curcumin (turmeric) supplements in the morning and night, and this seems to help with overall inflammation as I continue to heal my gut. Morning stiffness is still a reality, but it’s quite manageable and fades as I get up and move around.
My energy is slowly coming back to me! During my post-prednisone days, my adrenal glands struggled to get back on their feet, and for months I felt fatigued and exhausted. I had low blood pressure, and would often feel light-headed and short of breath in the mornings. I didn’t feel like exercising – every once in a while I could manage a walk.
Now after six months of being dedicated to 8-10 hours of sleep per night and eating very well, I finally feel my energy coming back to me. I am able to handle activity without feeling so drained. I even started light weight lifting again, something I’ve always enjoyed. In a fit of optimism, I’ve been perusing new bikes on Craigslist in excitement for summer activities. Having my energy back has completely revitalized my outlook toward healing – I’m so grateful to have it back!
Digestion has always been a problem for me. Unfortunately during the first few months of AIP, my digestion seemed to get worse. I quickly lost weight and felt like despite all the amazing, nutritious food I was eating, I wasn’t getting nourished. I experimented with cutting out foods high in FODMAPs for a few weeks and experienced no change. I alternately gave up coconut and starchy veggies, trying to find the key.
This fall, I began supplementing with Betaine HCL and pancreatic digestive enzymes, as my rheumatologist suggested. She thought that low stomach acid might be a problem for me, and indeed it was. My digestion has slowly improved, though it still has a ways to go. I’ve stopped losing weight and feel like the wonderful nutrients I am eating are being absorbed.
If my RA symptoms and digestion stay on the road to recovery, I will likely try reintroductions in the coming months. I have no reason to rush these – I have adapted well to the restrictions –and so will take reintroductions slowly. As my energy continues to improve, I plan to invest more time in exercise and will continue to prioritize sleep. I am incorporating detox baths into my weekly routine – it’s amazing that something so simple can prove so effective.
Another future possible step for me is to meet with a Naturopath and get some functional medicine tests done to take the guesswork out of my ongoing digestive issues. I’m working on crunching the numbers to see if this can fit into my budget.
Do I want to get off my final medication? Of course! But I am not going to rush this. I want to allow my body this healing period and avoid spiraling into a withdrawal-flare by going too quickly. I meet with my rheumatologist in a few weeks and will discuss my next steps with her.
It’s crazy that I’ve gone six months without a sip of wine or a drink of coffee or a piece of chocolate – all those things that I thought I couldn’t live without. At the beginning, I never thought I would be able to commit to a month, let alone six. And I am ready to commit to much more. Onwards!