The process known as the “Autoimmune Protocol” is, essentially, a diet that is based on eliminating specific foods in order to uncover any allergy or sensitivity that adversely affects your health.
Additives found in foods, such as the oils in which the foods are cooked, sometimes cause these allergies and sensitivities. Other causes for sensitivities may also include artificial flavors, colors, or additives that are meant to preserve or embellish the look of some foods.
Symptoms of resistance to some food products are particularly harsh to people suffering from autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity occurs when cells and other tissue in the human body react automatically in a diversity of ways after exposure to certain substances. Chronic inflammation is one of the widely known symptoms that come with autoimmunity. Lack of proper nutrition also leads to deficiencies that could cause further issues, from low blood sugar to other major deficiencies. This is why it is so important to know exactly how, and with what, you are really feeding your body.
The Paleo lifestyle aims to mirror, as closely as possible, the dietary habits of our Stone Age ancestors. The rationale behind this practice is to eliminate foods that are processed, frozen, pre-packed, or bagged. The idea is to only eat the foods that the human body is naturally prepared to digest. Therefore, the protocol asks that you discover which foods are more problematic to your body and to slowly replace them with other, natural food options.
A key factor to the Paleo diet is its list of allowed foods. Paleo is known for accepting nearly any food, but it takes exception with legumes, dairy, sugar, grains, starches and peanuts. Foods should be eaten as naturally as possible, and pre-packaged foods are usually off-limits.
The autoimmune protocol is known as “The Paleo Approach” for this very reason. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, who wrote the eponymous book, breaks down the process in different steps, explaining it in detail.
You will remove and replace foods in your diet, on a week-by-week basis, and you will analyze the effect of the change. To compensate for any fluctuation in nutrient value, eat foods that are naturally very rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. Therefore, the whole protocol is based on recording your symptoms, making food lists, creating a food substitution list, and continuing to analyze how specific foods affects your body.
As with all diets, learning to know how your body responds to certain foods will take time and analysis on your part. Food diaries are strongly encouraged, as you can record the symptoms that you have before and after exposure to food. Weight fluctuation, water retention, increases or decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar, and even psychological responses, are recorded in food journals as part of the elimination process. Slowly but surely you will be able to get a good map of accepted and off-limits food options that you can use for the rest of your life.
Based on your specific needs, the process can last as long as a year, or as little as a month. It is all about discovering your body’s digestive behaviors, and uncovering your actual dietary needs.
Aside from the great nutritional value that eating unprocessed foods brings to your body, the protocol will help you re-learn how to eat, and how you look at food. Paleo is a swap-food diet, so you will also be exposed to a myriad of new dishes and ideas to make the transition smooth and effective.
A secondary benefit will inevitably be weight loss. When you eat foods that are digested well, you will have more energy and will be likely to increase your metabolism with added physical activity. Moving more, eating less, and using the right foods to nourish your body will be the key ingredients to a healthier lifestyle.
The most important benefit of the protocol, however, is a pain and discomfort-free life. No longer will you have to put up with bloating, excess water retention, and other effects of bad eating. Maybe for once you will discover how it feels to enjoy the actual process of eating, savoring food, and letting it digest effectively without discomfort.
As with everything, do not engage in any changes to your diet, or to your health, without first consulting your primary health care provider.
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