When I Tell People Not To Start AIP
Why would I possibly tell someone not to start the AIP diet? Because now, three years into AIP clinically I have seen some big issues emerge no one is talking about. So it is time to start a conversation.
I get a lot of these kinds of messages in my inbox:
"I want to start AIP to heal my gut. I have _______ (insert whatever autoimmune disease comes to mind) and would like to come off my medications and feel better. My doctor told me to start AIP and that it may be helpful."
That person was told by their endocrinologist to start AIP and they started researching on the internet about AIP and saw the success stories, websites, support groups and loads of social media telling them it is the magic bullet they are looking for.
But it isn't. Because the only magic bullet is you. And changing your diet while very wonderful and valuable will only get you so far. Currently my practice includes those who have been on AIP for over a year have hit big roadblocks and are struggling to find out why. They don't know how to progress forward because their diet is already so strict there is little else they feel like they can do. So, those who have not started AIP are in a great position to prevent that issue I see over and over and over now. Here is why:
- Changing your diet will usually never by itself heal your gut
- It takes a skilled practitioner to figure out what is causing your gut to be leaky and then fix it
- If you don't look at DIET, PHYSIOLOGY and THE RELATIONSHIP TO YOUR LIFE together, then your body will not be fixed even if it appears to be fixed in the short term.
- Many on AIP who have been on the diet for a year or more feel stuck in the fear of flaring, do not know 'what is next'
- Most AIP information people read is a bottom-up approach. While that has its merits, it is a longer and more arduous route to healing and requires a formula to work.
Bottom-Up vs. Top-Down
Here is an example of both of these:
Bottom-Up AIP Plan:
Go on AIP. Work hard. Stay dedicated. Follow the lists of AIP-approved foods. Trouble shoot if things get messy. The harder you try, the less likely you will flare. Keep your stress down so you don't flare. Eat nutrient dense. Stay on the wagon. If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Sleep is important. Be an AIP-warrior. Be stronger than your disease so you can 'win'.
Top-Down AIP Plan:
Welcome to your life. It will be a bit messy. Stumblers are welcome here. You know that diagnosis you have been told you have to fight against and be stronger than? Well, you don't have to. In fact, that illness is here to help you win. We are going to use everything to lift you and help you, illness included. You know that fear you have of flaring? It is actually information about the relationship to your life. Lets use that to heal the misunderstandings that have formed from difficulty in your life. You increasing the compassion toward yourself doing this difficult thing called illness is the cure. Lets let that be the center of your health and everything else like diet and supplements is just an accessory. So, lets get started. What do you believe about your illness? How can you use your stumbling blocks as stepping stones? Do you have painful memories about growing up? Or history of an eating disorder from your teen years? Do you feel that you have to run away from or make right some painful memories in your life? Yes? Great. Lets use those painful memories as part of how we will heal your body. Lets use every little bit of what you think is bad about yourself to get you out of the place you currently are in. Lets take all of you and your beautiful messy pieces and use it as compost for the garden of healing. Lets use it all.
Those are here to help you find your inner healer. Lets not push those thoughts and feelings away. Lets pull them closer. Illness is helping you remember that the body is not built for perfection. Illness is here to help you remember the wholeness you are searching for is in your heart and loving and not about being disease free even though being disease free is the goal I wish for you too. There is no Right or Wrong on this path by the way, only you discerning what feels best. You Loving You doing this hard thing is the secret sauce. Everything like diet and supplements are only accessories for You Loving You. We are not going to science our way out of this because we don't need to. Everything you need is already right here. We are going to use everything we have judged wrong and right about our choices and life and include them in your healing. We are going to love our way through this. That will build an internal capacity inside of yourself to deal with the difficulty and struggle all of us humans have on the planet and will continue to have. Lets use every little bit of our lives to compassionately work through these things instead of pushing away and making disease wrong.
So, big difference in those two approaches. Top-down gets a full view of life. Top-down does not make anything wrong or right to heal. Top-down is the path to cooperation and alignment inside of you. Top-down does not require you to do anything it only requires you to change your perspective. Top-down is the path of awakening to our wholeness. The wonderful realization that everything that comes present in our lives does so to help us grow wisdom. Top-down means you can't ever fail or mess up. Top-down means that we never are off the path. Top-down means we use all the things that we think have been our biggest failings as information to grow our hearts bigger. "Oh look at how big this mess is! Okay, more about me to love then!" I say that to myself every. single. day. We start from a place of wholeness instead of searching or wholeness through a diet or lifestyle. Remembering we are already at the destination we are searching for is the awakening. Not the doing. Then we can use all the things that show up as helpers, including illness to remember this. We change the thought from: "Oh, I have illness, I am not whole. I will do this diet and lifestyle to become whole" to "Oh, I have this illness, so life is waking me up to something. Perhaps it is waking me up to my wholeness and there is nothing I need to fix."
6 Signs of Top-Down Users:
- They don't discount anything. Sadness, grief, anger, forgiveness, vulnerability, frustration...are all ways IN to what ails you. All are valuable
- They continually ask themselves: "Is this the most loving way for myself"
- They TRUST that illness is here to help them grow wisdom instead of fighting against it
- They use joy, acceptance, cooperation and vulnerability as yardstick of growth instead of compliance, rigidity and againstness (namely: "disease is wrong")
- They take a comprehensive approach to wellness that includes: Physiology (Co-infections, Gut-Brain Axis, Endocrine System, Lab Work) Emotions/Beliefs (Your relationship to your Life is the Cure), Diet and Supplements as a comprehensive plan
- They let go of there being a formula to CURE their illness (like AIP) and instead take a journey inside of themselves to HEAL the places that need to be touched by their own LOVE and ACCEPTANCE as their biggest tools of health and healing
Is this easy? As a fellow Top-Down person I can say no. It is the hardest work I know of. It will cut though illusion and waking up from illusion is very difficult. But, Top-down has lovingly showed me the way into my own heart. It has rearranged life and asked me to cooperate with hard things and stop judging them as bad or as punishments. It constantly asks me to go above and beyond Good and Bad and instead take the perspective that everything is here to help me grow. What a relief! Now I don't have to spend time weighing my options and searching for the secret formula that so many diets and lifestyles seem to offer. Because ultimately if we don't get to the root of what really ails us (and it is more than our thyroids not working) everything will be a temporary fix. And each person on this planet is so spectacular, that illness means different things to each person. So we go after your treasure map which is individual to you. That is why I don't recommend AIP as a standalone diet. From a practical standpoint, I see too many people who thought they could heal their gut and now a year into AIP they are down to 10 foods and don't know how to navigate their way back to normal eating. I see relationships around food become more hostile because when someone is on AIP and they either flare or get another autoimmune disease on AIP they think becoming more strict with their diet is how they will control the feeling of helplessness and desperation. This may be news to you reading this. That there are serious drawbacks to AIP. I don't say this lightly. As a practitioner who may have the largest group of AIP clients of any person in the world, I thought long and hard about saying this out loud. But, this is a serious issue. A year ago everyone wanted to know how to do the diet. Easy enough right? Just eliminate non-AIP foods. But healing is never as simple as changing our diet and it never was. I have a very large client population asking me how to dig themselves out of the hole they got in from not examining all the contributors of inflammation. Most practitioners see it as straightforward. Search for the physiological inflammation and change your diet. Most are leaving out a vital piece: The relationship to your life is one of the biggest drivers of inflammation in the body and mind. So I suggest now to everyone not to start the diet unless they consider looking at all of those contributors. I see too many that didn't and they have worked themselves into a corner. Not that corners are bad. They actually can be powerful springboards to diving into what is really ailing us. We all get to the finish line eventually, but I am pointing it out in this post because I am getting asked this question a lot these days and this post is my answer to that question. Most of us need to go through the motions of the easiest route first. (like me! I really wish healing were as easy as just changing my diet and taking supplements...I tried that first too) But, then we discover that life is asking more of us than just changing our diet to heal.
I suggest then a plan to look at all the components of healing. Find the co-infections. Find out how your gut-brain axis is working. Look at how your endocrine system is working. Look at inflammation from ALL angles. Your beliefs, your struggles, your judgements, your sadness, your childhood, being scared about failing, feeling that only those with disease understand your plight. How you may come from a place of lack. Use every single one of those things as part of the treatment plan instead of the thing to cure. They are all your helpers. They are all here waiting for you to call upon them as a resource. Could a poverty stricken childhood be one of the most important ways to cure Hashimoto's? Yes. Could the feeling of hopelessness about ever getting better be something that does not need to be fixed and instead be valuable information to help you reduce inflammation in your body? Yes. Could the string of failed relationships be part of your Lupus diagnosis and also the way out of Lupus? Yes. I am suggesting using 100% of what is present as the way to heal. 100% of you counts. 100% of you is valuable. Even the part of you that hates disease. The part of you that may have felt like throwing in the towel when you got your diagnosis. That piece holds part of the majesty that is you. The wonder of you. Lets talk to that piece as a part of your healing plan. I see every single day that when we do, something changes in life and we move more into cooperation for what is. This message is somewhat radical, but it will be the way we change and heal on the planet.
Everything you need is within arms reach. We are doing hard things to remember our beauty is not defined by a body being disease free. We are so much more than that. The power of our loving reaches to the ends of universe. We know this. When we come together when a natural disaster hits, we see how love changes things. Look at the #occupylove movement. Or Martin Luther King Jr. Or Ghandi. Or Jesus Christ. All their messages were built on love. Now we will do this for how we heal our bodies. Will we invest in ourselves to love our most wounded pieces? When we do, healing happens. When we decide we are worth our own loving, we automatically start healing from the Top-down. That is the place of wholeness where illness helps us win. That is the place that holds freedom from what ails us. That is the opportunity illness and struggle is giving us. I love you.