One year on the AIP/Paleo diet (+ favorite recipes)

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I could write an entire post about the sometimes mysterious “root cause” of the disease and its varied manifestations, but I will leave that to the experts. In short, it’s a misunderstood disease that affects pretty much every part of a person’s body (think of all of the things for which your thyroid is responsible—mood, weight, temperature, skin condition, alertness, etc—now throw them totally out of whack).

I’ve been managing my condition with medication for years, a typical course, until I got pregnant with our son. From that point, everything we were doing to manage the disease went awry. Hashimoto’s reared an ugly head after I had my son and I suffered physically and mentally/emotionally as a result. I was even diagnosed with mild depression about a year after he was born.

It took a couple of years for me to figure out that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal and that I could take action. One winter break, 4 years ago, my best friend Jes sent me an article about the problematic relationship between gluten and autoimmune disease. Several of my friends had “gone gluten free” and seen improvements in their allergies (an autoimmune response), so I thought I would give it a try. It was my New Year’s Resolution that year.

By March, my life had changed dramatically. My symptoms lessened, my depression receded, and I just felt better. In fact, I felt great. I will never go back to gluten. People ask me if it is worth it, usually whilst waving delicious-smelling bread under my nose, and I say with full confidence, “heck, yes.”

Fast forward to last year (end of 2015) and I am still learning about my disease and trying to alleviate some of the related and lingering health issues. I learned about the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet and its potential for helping to reset/restore an autoimmune system. It was New Year’s again, so I thought I would give AIP a try. Short story: It sucked. It was 30 days of pretty much hell. Some days were good, some days felt disastrous. But through the process, I began to understand more about my body, the food I eat, and how to cook in a way that heals my body.

AIP is probably not a long-term diet for most people. After 30 days, you begin reintroducing certain foods until you are pretty much doing a paleo diet (or whatever modified diet you end up with). That’s where I am now. After a year, I am living well on a paleo diet and my lingering symptoms rarely appear. Paleo for me means no dairy, no unnatural sweeteners, no grains, no legumes, no soy, and only a few nightshades.

I won’t belabor the explanation of the diet, and I’m not intending to give anyone medical or nutritional advice (you really should consult your doctor to discuss your health), but I do want to share some of my favorite AIP or paleo recipes, including ones that helped us pull off amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners this year. Even if you aren’t doing paleo or AIP, these recipes are excellent.

I should also say that doing a diet like this is much easier when you have a supportive family, who will deal with the dietary changes with a sense of humor, adventure, and forgiveness. I have that too, and I’m so grateful to my husband and son for their support.

Happy New Year, friends! Take care of yourselves. And without further ado…

Best AIP or paleo recipes I’ve had lately:

Grain-free tortillas, from Nurture My Gut (Paleo) — This is the one recipe I share with everyone. It’s easy and delicious! Seriously, give this one a try, even if you don’t intend to change your diet. Goes great with…

Slow cooker pulled pork, from Beyond the Bite (Paleo/AIP) — Easy and slow cookery goodness. Makes a ton and makes great leftovers.

Maple balsamic roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and cranberries, from Old House to New House (Paleo) — I survived on brussel sprouts on this diet and this recipe tops them all. We made this recipe to accompany mashed potatoes, roast beast, and paleo popovers for Christmas dinner.

Breakfast casserole with bacon, sausage, sweet potato, and kale, from A Calculated Whisk (Paleo) — Hello, Christmas morning! This was super tasty and easy to make.

Shepherd’s Pie, from Noshtastic (Paleo) — This recipe requires a few (easy) steps and plenty of cook time, but it’s worth it. It’s easy to double the recipe so you can have leftovers all week.

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes, from Civilized Caveman Cooking (Paleo) — Who says you can’t have pancakes on a Paleo diet?? These are easy and not too eggy.

Citrus bison meatballs with sweet potato noodles, from Autoimmune Wellness (Paleo/AIP) — This meal is easiest when you have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. One of you can tackle the meatballs while the other makes the noodles. The result is delicious. This is one of my son’s favorite meals!

Tangy cucumber salad, from Real Simple (Paleo/AIP) — This salad got us through the summer. It’s so easy to make and it’s a crowd-pleaser. Paired with no-buns burgers, you got yourself a yummy summer meal.

Paleo homemade marshmallows, from The Urban Poser (Paleo) — I just discovered homemade marshmallows, thanks to a local friend. They’re pretty easy to make and fun to tinker with.

Gambas al ajillo, from About Food (Paleo) — We play with tapas a lot on this diet and this is one of go-to dishes. Perfectly spicy, these shrimp go great over zucchini pasta or crusty paleo-friendly bread).

Paleo pumpkin pie, from Cook Eat Paleo (Paleo) — Made this at Thanksgiving and, while my crust did not turn out great, the pie filling was amazing. Mmmmmmmmm pie.

Grain-free rhubarb, raspberry, and apple crumble, from Cook Eat Paleo (Paleo) — This is breakfast, yes breakfast. It’s tasty served over coconut yogurt.

Paleo apple muffins, from Cook Eat Paleo (Paleo) — These are simple and tasty. I made a double batch one week when Mike was out of town and they helped me survive the hectic mornings of getting V ready for school.

Beef stew, from Sweet Treats (Paleo/AIP) — Mike and I love this stew, but it’s not V’s favorite. Extra points for the rutabaga in this recipe–it totally wins in combination with the leek greens. Amazing stuff.

Sweet and spicy chicken fingers, from The Endless Meal (Paleo) — You may notice that we don’t have a lot of chicken recipes. That’s because our go-to chicken meal is a roasted full chicken with pan vegetables. We haven’t been as experimental with chicken and fish this year, but they’re on my list for 2017. Anyway, Vaughn really loves these chicken fingers.

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