About a year ago I broke out into hives and never figured out why. A couple of months ago I woke up and my left eyelid had swollen half way shut. I was told at urgent care this was most likely a delayed allergic reaction. Antihistamines cleared up both the hives and the eyelid, but since it happened twice I was referred to an allergist specialist.
Based on my history and symptoms she didn’t think it was a food or environmental allergy. Instead of testing me for reactions to common allergens she recommended that we first do some blood work to rule out autoimmune diseases. She was able to rule out serious diseases such as Lupis but my ANA test did come back positive. This means that my allergic reactions are the result of healthy cells being attacked by my immune system from time to time. An ANA test can sometimes come back positive in a person who doesn’t have any autoimmune issues. However, since I have been diagnosed with psoriasis and mild rosacea in the past my doctor has ruled this out as a false positive. Psoriasis and rosacea are also autoimmune diseases and it’s not uncommon for someone with one autoimmune disease to develop more as time goes on.
My allergist feels that since my breakouts are not frequent I don’t need to be on antihistamines on a daily basis unless my I start having more episodes. Since I’m currently not exhibiting any clear signs of another specific autoimmune disease I’m waiting until my next appointment with my primary care physician so I can go over my labs with her and see if there are specific tests or specialists I should be consulting with.
Right now this isn’t a big deal, however, I know what autoimmune diseases run in my family and I’m a big fan of being proactive vs reactive when it comes to health issues. So after going over some resources that were recommended to me, I decided to try The Autoimmune Protocol or Paleo program. This is very similar to people who follow a paleo or whole 30 plan except it is much more restrictive. You cut out all foods that can cause inflammation and after 30 days you slowly start reintroducing them one at a time. You keep a log of your symptoms and how you are feeling each day. When you have a reaction to something it’s a sign that you want to avoid that food.
I’m over a week into the elimination portion of the program and it’s hard. You are limited to any meats and fish that are fresh and don’t have any additives or hormones and any fruits or vegetables as long as they aren’t nightshades. This means no grains, no seeds, nothing processed, no eggs, and no dairy. I’m lucky that I live in NYC and have access to butchers, fish markets, and farmers markets which makes meal planning much easier.
There are three things that make this plan challenging for me.
1.It is animal protein based: I’ve gone through spurts of eating a vegetarian diet. I started eating meat again this winter around the time of my surgery because my iron levels were so low and my body wasn’t absorbing supplements. I’ve been off iron for a few months now since I’m no longer anemic and had been eating less and less dairy. I was hoping to go full vegetarian again and perhaps eventually vegan but that doesn’t seem possible right now. I have a lot of guilt around eating meat which I shouldn’t because I was raised an omnivore so this isn’t a new concept to me. While meat is encouraged at every meal on the AI Paleo plan I’m following the suggested plan for people who aren’t used to eating a lot of meat. I typical day for me has one meat meal, one seafood meal, and a vegan meal which is usually soup and a salad or a breakfast shake with coconut milk for a little fat and protein.
2. It is challenging to eat out: A lot of my socializing is around meeting friends for a meal. This program makes it challenging to eat out. I generally have to limit myself to a salad and make sure there are no nightshades like tomatoes on it and do a vinegarette or oil and vinegar for the dressing. The other alternative is getting a meat and vegetable dish as long as I can get it without condiments or marinades that may contain nuts, seeds, or nightshades.
3. You can’t have coffee. Beans and legumes are also off limits which includes coffee beans. 😦 Caffeine is allowed in the form of tea. I like tea but I LOVE coffee and I’m still having a hard time with this elimination.
In all my posts about health, I must emphasize that I’m not a medical expert or doctor. I would like to share the resources that I am finding the most helpful right now:
The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook
The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast
The Paleo Mom
Simple French Paleo
A Squirrel in the Kitchen