Podcast from https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/05/paleo-autoimmune-protocol/
[00:15] EXO Cricket Protein Bars
[01:35] Emulsified MCT Oil
[03:00] Kimera Koffee
[07:09] Who is Eileen Laird?
[08:21] Where does the phrase ‘Phoenix Helix’ come from?
[09:50] What is exactly an Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
[12:32] The minimum of 30 days of elimination diet
[16:51] What a sample daily meal plan would look like
[29:02] Why Eileen isn’t a fan of Stevia
[33:42] A surprising “substitute” for organ meats
[35:40] Three “gentle” ways to detox
[37:55] What is Dry Skin Brushing?
[40:18] How to make meals interesting if you can’t use nightshades
[42:35] Little trick about garlic
[43:39] How to transition back to normal eating after following the AIP
[49:42] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield. There’s one diet that I recommend more often than any other diet on the face of the planet. I’m going to tell you about it in today’s episode, but before we talk about dieting, let’s talk about eating, and I want to tell you about something I’ve been eating lately called E-X-O. E-X-O is actually a bar, a very flavorful bar that’s got no glutens, no grains, no soy, and no dairy. It was developed by an award-winning three Michelin starred chef, the actual former head of research and development at the Fat Duck which was ranked the number one restaurant in the world during this guy’s tenure, and the actual bars are made out of, you guessed it, cricket protein powder. They have flavors like peanut butter and jelly and banana bread. They’ve been featured in Men’s Health, in the New York Times. They’re this incredible start-up based out of New York City and they actually taste really, really good.
Now here’s the deal, you can actually get a sampler pack with all of their most popular flavors, their sweet stuff and their savory stuff, and you do so when you go to exoprotein.com/ben. That’s E-X-O protein dot com slash Ben for these cricket protein bars. It’s the protein of the future. So they’re a small, they’re a nimble start-up, they sell-out all the time, so get them while the getting’s good, exoprotein.com/ben.
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And then finally, this podcast is brought to you by something you could put said oil into, Kimera Koffee. You can check it out at K-i-m-e-r-a-k-o-f-f-e-e dot com. They’ve got folks like bodybuilders, adventurers, MMA artists, crossfit athletes, some of the most extreme athletes on the face of the planet relying on this stuff to fuel themselves every single day, along with little old moi.
They’ve got a bunch of recipes on their website too for things like Nick the Tooth’s Gorilla Coffee, which is coffee that’s blended with a bunch of different super nutrients like maca root, and almond butter, and organic coconut oil, and stevia. And their coffee itself, before you even put anything in it, has a bunch of different compounds called nootropics in it that spin the dials in your brain. They’ve got Alpha-GPC, taurine, L-theanine, DMAE, so above and beyond just the caffeine in the coffee, they’ve got a bunch of other compounds that make you smarter and improve your brain’s power output, cognition, and focus. So you get 10% of this stuff if you go to kimerakoffee.com, that’s K-i-m-e-r-a-k-o-f-f-e-e dot com, and at kimerakoffee.com, you use discount code Ben to save 10%. Alright, that’s it. Let’s jump into this episode, and find out about that diet I mentioned.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“One part of your immune system, depending on your diagnosis is working overtime, and some herbs and supplements stimulate one part of the immune system. So if it’s the part that’s already working overtime for you, it’s gonna make your symptoms worse, but if it’s the part that’s not working overtime, it can sometimes help you balance out.” “And what happens is there’s a few, like guard cells circulating your immune system that know which foods were a problem for you, and so that when you reintroduce them very carefully, very scientifically, if it’s a food that is a problem for you, and your body’ll let you know very quickly.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield here, and it seems like probably about once a month, possibly more frequently than that on a podcast or in a comments section of an article I’ve written, I’m recommending that somebody, whether that somebody is having skin issues like acne, or eczema, or gut pain, or brain fog, or food allergies, or intolerances, or constipation, or any other signs of immune system issues or inflammation issues, seems like I’m recommending that they try this thing called the Autoimmune Diet.
And the problem seems is that this diet, typically it’s meant to be followed for kinda like a shorter period of time in most cases until things are kind of healed up, it can be confusing when it comes to whether you really need to use it to heal an issue, which foods are allowed and which ones aren’t, how to transition off of it back into normal eating, how long you need to stay on it, and what you do after you’ve finished up a cycle of this diet.
So I decided to get somebody who just wrote a book about this diet. It’s this handy little book that I would imagine that would literally takes you like an hour to read, and the author’s name is Eileen Laird. She just wrote A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. Now, I read this last week and it’s exactly what it promises, super simple. It’s written like a conversation between friends and it contains pretty much everything in a tiny little book that can easily fit in your purse or your backpack.
And, so, who is Eileen? She’s a writer. She’s got a podcast called the Phoenix Helix Podcast. She writes for Paleo Magazine which, if you haven’t read that magazine yet, even if you’re not Paleo, which I’m not by the way, you can still get a lot of benefit out of that magazine. I write for it as well, and I’ll link to that on the show notes, but she’s actually worked quite a bit with reversing like joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis with this diet. She’s got a blog called Phoenix Helix, and I’ll link to that in the show notes, where she’s got recipes, and research, and stories about the Autoimmune Diet, and Autoimmunity, and the column that she writes in Paleo Magazine is called Autoimmune Answers. So, that being said, Eileen, I have a quick question for you before we jump in, where does the word or the phrase Phoenix Helix come from?
Eileen: Yeah, I’m glad you asked. So, I have rheumatoid arthritis and it hit my life like a wrecking ball back in 2012. I was super fit, I was hiking 10 miles for fun on the weekends, I was working as a deep tissue massage therapist, and within six months of rheumatoid arthritis hitting my body, I was limping across the living room and I didn’t have the strength to like wash dishes. So, how I describe it as I felt like I was knocked down so hard that I didn’t know if I would ever rise again, and I just needed images of hope and the Phoenix, of course, rising from the ashes is something that really spoke to me, and the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol is a big part of the way I was able to do that.
So, I think anyone with Autoimmune disease that’s severe, and I think most of them might know that there’s such a thing as a mild one, knows what I’m talking about. It’s just their symptoms might be different than mine based on their diagnosis, but it can just really dramatically impact your life and everyone’s looking for hope. So that’s the Phoenix, and then the Helix just symbolizes our DNA, and that we are more than our DNA. So I know that you talk about that all the time, so I’m a big fan of epigenetics, the ability to affect the expression of our genes, and that we aren’t a slave to them and we don’t have to lose hope just because we have some that set us up for a vulnerability.
Ben: It all makes sense now. Okay. Phoenix Helix. I like it. It rolls off the tongue quite nicely.
Eileen: Thank you.
Ben: It’s got a good ring to it. Okay. So, let’s start here for folks. What exactly is the Autoimmune Paleo Diet.
Eileen: So it’s a diet and lifestyle program designed to reduce inflammation body-wide, calm down an overactive immune system, and give your body a chance to heal. So that’s kind of the broad view. The details are, it’s an elimination diet at its core. So it removes a lot of the foods that are known to be inflammation triggers for people in general, that’s like the Paleo foods, and then it also removes more foods that are known to sometimes be a problem for people with autoimmune disease specifically. And so, your audience, are they pretty familiar with what Paleo is?
Ben: Yeah. They’re pretty familiar with what Paleo is, and in podcast number 350 of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show, I talked about auto-immunity, and how the body tends to like mount an inflammatory reaction against itself in response to certain environmental factors or food factors, right, like mold, or fungus, or, you know, certain foods to which you might be intolerant or allergic. And so, yeah, folks are familiar with what the Paleo diet is, but this diet is different than the Paleo diet, right?
Eileen: Right. So, it’s harder to just be up front about that, but it can also make…
Ben: ‘Cause you eliminate more foods.
Eileen: Yeah, but it’s, like you had mentioned early on, that’s not meant to last forever, and so you start with Paleo, but then you also remove, I know some people who are Paleo are kind of Primal Paleo, so they eat high-quality dairy. The autoimmune protocol, you can’t have any dairy at all, you can’t even have ghee. It also removes…
Ben: And I know, you’re about to launch into a bunch of other things that you potentially can’t have, but to my understanding the reason is that these proteins that you’re eliminating on an autoimmune protocol are the proteins that your body would mount an inflammatory reaction against?
Eileen: Potentially. So the beauty of an elimination diet is you remove all of these potential immune system inflammation triggers for a minimum of 30 days, and that gives your body a chance to calm down, the chronic inflammatory response can go away, you start to feel a little bit better, you get a good baseline for improvements. And what happens is there’s a few like guard cells circulating your immune system that know which foods were a problem for you, and so that when you reintroduce them very carefully, very scientifically, your body, if it’s a food that is a problem for you, your body let you know very quickly.
Eileen: And if it’s not a problem for you, then you can get that food back in your diet. And so it’s different for each person.
Ben: Why 30 days? Is there science behind that or is that just like a random number?
Eileen: There is science behind it, I think some elimination diet say 21 days of it is the minimum. I know the AIP has always been 30 days, and I don’t know that’s just because Robb Wolf kind of started promoting that and he’s big on the 30 day, you know, see how you feel after 30 days of trying something that’s good for you. It’s definitely 21 days it takes for your immune system to calm down. So if you don’t do it for a full 21 days, it’s not long enough.
Ben: That’s what I was curious about, if it was related to like gastrointestinal mucosal growth, like you know, ’cause your epithelial cells are constantly turning over in your intestine and from everything that I’ve seen, it’s, you know, somewhere in like the four to eight week range that it takes for complete epithelial cell turnover in your intestine for your gut to basically heal more or less, or to reinvent itself. That was why I suspected that it might be 30 days or approximately four weeks and I know a lot of the autoimmune protocols that I’ve seen tend to range from like 4 up to 12 weeks or so, but I was just curious if you had any other ideas about the whole like, you know, follow it for 30 days type of recommendation.
Eileen: That makes complete sense to me, what you’re talking about, and I know there’s an immune system component too.
Eileen: Because Sarah Ballantyne has talked about that before where she says there’s different types of immune cells and some have longer lifespans than others and so it gives a bunch of them a chance to frankly die and go away, and then only the guards are circulating.
Ben: Okay, and these immune cells that die and go away would be the immune cells that contain the memory, so to speak, or the programming to attack the body’s own tissue because they can’t differentiate between the body’s own tissue and that thing that you might be allergic to, like the dairy proteins that are in butter, for example.
Eileen: Yeah. So it gives like the attackers a chance to die and then the guards still have the memory. So if you eat that food again, they’ll let you know that that’s a problem for you.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Eileen: Does that make sense?
Ben: Yup. It makes perfect sense. So you were talking about how, unlike the Paleo diet which would allow for something like grass-fed butter, for example, the autoimmune protocol would actually only allow for something like ghee, which contains none of the dairy proteins.
Eileen: Actually, it doesn’t even allow ghee.
Ben: Oh, really? Not even ghee?
Eileen: And I’m glad you brought that up because one thing I’ve learned, so I’ve been doing this for, like in this community, for about four years now, and I noticed a number of people were reacting to ghee which doesn’t make any sense based on what we know about ghee, and what I’ve learned is just the autoimmune body is just different than any other body.
And so trace, trace, trace proteins are enough to trigger an autoimmune body, whereas someone else who just, maybe, gets a little sinus congestion with regular dairy and they do great with ghee, for someone with autoimmune disease, what I have found is, it’s interesting, some people can have dairy, like no problem, and if they can have ghee, they can usually have butter, high fat cream, and sometimes even cheese.
Eileen: And then others like me who react negatively to other forms of dairy, I can’t even have ghee, it causes me to flare.
Ben: What are some other foods that would be more, I hate to use the word ‘allowed’ ’cause it sounds so religious, but would be examples of some other foods that would be on the Paleo diet, but that wouldn’t be on an autoimmune protocol?
Eileen: Sure. So nightshades are a big group. So that things like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, and a few other little herbs like ashwagandha. So that goes out for, at least temporarily, eggs are out, and nuts and seeds. And a good way to look at it is just think of them as temporarily excluded, and I think of the auto immune protocol as a great self-experiment on your body. That’s really what it is. So you’re removing these foods for a while, hopefully you’ll start to feel better. So that lets you know, “Okay. Some of these foods are a problem for me specifically.” And then the reintroduction process lets you figure out which ones those are, and then you can expand your diet again and still feel good.
Ben: Alright. Lest we lose all of our listeners just now with you excluding everything from nuts and seeds to nightshades and ashwagandha…
Eileen: I know. It’s overwhelming.
Ben: Walk me through a sample daily meal plan. Walk me through like what you would eat if you were following like the gold standard version of this program for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and maybe throw a snack in there so people can kinda wrap their head around this.
Eileen: Sure! So you’re really focusing on, it’s not weird foods at all, it’s like really high-quality meat, seafood, vegetables, some fruits, and healthy fats. So you start the day with, a lot of people love to do skillet breakfasts with some leftovers maybe from the night before. So, it might be some shredded meat and some sweet potatoes and some greens mixed in with maybe some lovely coconut oil, and some seasoning that are allowed on the AIP, but that’s a little tricky with seasonings, but there are, like herbs generally speaking are allowed. A lot of the spices are out temporarily, but you do get some of those back. But you maybe throw in a bunch of Italian herbs or Greek herbs for some flavor, I love starting the day with soup, and I know that can sound strange in the United States, but like a huge portion of the world starts their day with soup, and I find it…
Ben: I had a lot of good soup at a lot of good Japanese hotels.
Eileen: Right? Exactly! And it’s like a nourishing, really satiating, gentle way to start the day. So I make a big batch of homemade chicken and vegetable soup every week and it lasts, it feeds my husband and myself for five days. So I don’t have to cook in the morning, so I just heat it up. So that’s a really nice way to do that. And I’ve actually been able to reintroduce eggs successfully and I still prefer the soup, so that’s an example of AIP food sometimes taste even better than what you’re used to once you change your habit.
Ben: I want to hear about lunch and dinner here in a second as well, but for, let’s say for like an athlete, somebody who’s really physically active following the autoimmune protocol, do you find that they just have to step back because, let’s face it, soup is not that nutrient dense. There are some people getting up in the morning and hammering through like 90 minute workouts. For people like that, is the general recommendation to step back when you’re doing an autoimmune protocol and like just start doing like yoga and easy workouts and stuff like that? Or are there more nutrient dense options than, say soup, for something like breakfast.
Eileen: Yeah. I think it really depends on the person, like why are you doing the autoimmune protocol and where are you at in your health? So I know that, a lot of times, if an athlete, maybe, ’cause you mentioned a bunch of people who maybe could benefit from the autoimmune protocol, who maybe don’t have autoimmune disease, but they’re experiencing symptoms that are related to leaky gut and increased inflammation, and it is true that if you can take a break and just step back while you’re doing the Autoimmune protocol and relax more and do a lower key exercise during that time, that gives your body a greater chance to heal. And I do find people in that situation, if you don’t have auto immune disease, you’re more likely to be able to reintroduce almost everything after 30 to 60 days because your body just needed, needed a break, if that makes sense.
Ben: Yeah. It does make sense, and in a many cases, like what I’ll do when someone comes to me with say, like adrenal fatigue, a lot of times you tend to see a lot of immune system issues go hand-in-hand with that. A lot of excessive inflammatory issues go hand-in-hand with that.
You know the Ironman triathlete, the crossfitter, the Spartan racer who needs that one-two combo, and so what I’ll generally do is I’ll put somebody on like yoga, super slow lifting, easy swimming, maybe a little bit of like breath work, some nice walks in the sunshine and a lot of like mobility work, right, like foam rolling and all sorts of things that tend to keep that busy high-achiever athlete, fitness enthusiast’s mind and body occupied without them actually having to charge down the highway pounding the pavement and putting more stress on the body, but then I’ll combine something like that with a recommendation to use an elimination diet just to allow the body to completely clean up.
And some folks will dish out the hundreds or thousands of Dollars for really complete laboratory testing, right, like Cyrex lab tests which I personally consider to be the gold standard in food allergy testing, but some people don’t have the time or the resources to specifically like laser target and identify the specific foods that they might need to eliminate and so, kind of like covering all the bases, right, with something like this elimination protocol, I find, especially in folks who need that 30 day healing period, or who need an off season, or who need to push the “reboot button” on the body, this tends to be a very good program to go hand-in-hand with exercise recovery and not, you know, based off of what launched our discussion to this which was soup, high, high amounts of exercise, if that makes sense.
Eileen: Yeah. It totally does. And autoimmune protocol is supposed to have a lifestyle piece anyway, so you are supposed to be a prioritizing sleep, and stress management, and getting out in the sun, and so everything you just described on that exercise protocol would be perfect for just about anyone doing it. I love it. It sounds beautiful, actually.
Ben: Awesome. Okay. So let’s move on past breakfast where we’ve got the option of things like soup. Now did you say eggs, by the way?
Eileen: No, I said I was able to reintroduce eggs.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Eileen: And so I could have those every day if I wanted to, but I actually prefer the soup, and then you did, I’ll say it like, so say someone is an athlete doing this anyway though, even though that’s maybe not always the best idea, but some people are gonna do what they’re gonna do, you can definitely pile up that skillet, you know. Do if you want nutrient density, definitely add some organ meats. I’m a huge fan of organ meats and lots of starchy vegetables, I know, are really helpful for people who are athletes as well as the Greens. So just, and then extra fats for the calories.
Ben: You mean like beets or parsnips or things like that?
Eileen: Yeah! Those are great choices, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, plantains.
Ben: Gotcha. How about for lunch?
Eileen: For lunch, I love a big salad because it’s just something you can whip together without having to cook and grabbing some meat from a leftover meal, or canned salmon, or canned tuna, lots of vegetables. For dressing, I tend to go pretty simple. I love olive oil vinaigrettes and, and again, just some herbs. So I can whip that up in a small amount of time and it can be pretty filling and, depending on your energy needs, you know, you just make a bigger salad and add a lot more protein.
Ben: Now in terms of the salad, one thing I wanted to ask you because, not to put you on the spot, but I’ve been doing this a lot, ’cause I have a salad like that almost every day for lunch, really. Tons of greens and avocados and I’m even careful with doing too many of the nightshades, or like the tomatoes, the potatoes, the eggplants, I don’t completely eliminate them, but I do know that, even in people who don’t have immune system issues, they can cause a little bit of inflammation, but I have been using lately insect-based proteins, like, well specifically crickets. What, do you know where those would fall into the spectrum?
Eileen: They are allowed.
Eileen: So you can absolutely have crickets, and they’re considered organ meat. Isn’t that funny? I was talking to Terry a while, and she said anytime you eat the whole animal, you’re eating their organs at the same time. So it’s kind of, it’s an incredible nutrient-dense food choice, isn’t it?
Ben: Cool. Yeah. I’ve been eating a lot of these just like organic whole roasted crickets that I order and I’ll try and put a link in the show notes. Oh! And by the way, for people who are listening in, I’ll also have a link to Eileen’s book as well as the other things we discussed if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/aip. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/aip. Now how about, moving past lunch, what would one do for snacks during the day?
Eileen: You mentioned avocados. I think they’re just wonderful. I get a huge energy boost when I eat those. Those are one of my favorites. Another simple snack I like is toasting coconut flakes. A lot of people on the Autoimmune protocol, since we mentioned a little bit about organ meats, really get into pates and that’s something you can kind of have a bunch of single servings in your fridge or freezer and just grab with some either plantain chips or like carrot sticks for a quick dip, and that’s a huge, nutrient-dense energy boost. A lot of people feel a real zing when they eat that.
Ben: It sounds like my kids’ lunch that I packed for them this morning. My wife’s out of town right now, so I’ve been packing lunches for my kids and they’re, you know, I sent them off to school with one of the pemmican bars, right, which is like rendered fat and meat which I doubt that would be acceptable, right, on an autoimmune protocol?
Eileen: That’s a good question. So there are a couple of, like convenience foods on the AIP that make us very excited. So the Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar is AIP friendly and they also have, I believe it’s a Pork Bacon Bar, that’s AIP friendly, and a Beef Apple Bacon Bar that’s AIP friendly. So those are pemmican bars, aren’t they?
Ben: They, well yeah, they have some pemmican in them, but the ones that I give my kids, it’s pretty much just like rendered fat, beef, and sea salt. It’s from the US Wellness Meats is where I order these from, just because they’re literally just like tubes of fat and my kids love them.
Eileen: Oh! That would be fine.
Ben: And they keep them satiated for a long time, so I throw those in. And then I also, they have these little stainless steel lunch boxes, right. So it’s very hypoallergenic, and there’s no plastics and I’ll generally do for them carrot sticks, some rice crackers, a bunch of avocado chunks, some type of meat, and then pemmican for a snack, and so, as you’re describing this I’m realizing that I’m kind of packing my children for school an autoimmune-friendly lunch, even though they don’t necessarily have arthritis.
Eileen: Yeah! I was just thinking, that’s an awesome lunch!
Ben: Yeah, it actually is. Oh! And there’s also, typically I’ll throw in some kind of ferment in there, right, like sauerkraut, or pickles, or something like that.
Eileen: Yeah. The only thing that would be different for someone on the autoimmune protocol is just replace the rice crackers with like plantain chips or sweet potato chips.
Ben: Oh, yeah! Makes sense.
Eileen: But, otherwise that’s an AIP lunch.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. So, rice is something that you wouldn’t want to include on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet?
Eileen: Not during the elimination period, but a lot of people, myself included, are able to reintroduce that later.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. And then what about for dinner?
Eileen: So dinner, I like a wide variety. I do like to cook enough that I have leftovers. So that’s important when you’re on the autoimmune protocol. There is a lot of cooking, so it’s nice to make it easy on yourself and do big batches, but I host a recipe roundtable on my blog every week where like bloggers link up about an average of 15 to 20 new recipes a week to keep people from being in a rut, but, so for me it varies. The recommendations, definitely you want to eat some seafood for the omega-3 fatty acids. So salmon, halibut, some good high-quality seafood a few times a week if you can. Organ meats a couple times a week if you can, but you can also do things like meat loafs and, you know, roast chicken and, I love the slow cooker for an easy meal, for roasts and stews, things like that, and the Autoimmune protocol is also really big on vegetables. So every meal, lots of vegetables, and your body just loves those, all those nutrients.
Ben: Now, when you’re talking about the omega-3 fatty acids, what about algae, like spirulina, and chlorella, and stuff like that that a lot of the vegans or vegetarians will use as a source of omega-3s or DHA?
Eileen: What’s a little tricky for that is if you have autoimmune disease, anything that can stimulate the immune system can be tricky depending on which way it stimulates you, and those things, the algaes, can have immune system stimulating properties. So it’s not recommended during the elimination period, but after that, you can kinda test it out. Like, so for autoimmune disease, and you’ve probably, if you had a show, I’m sure you talked about it, but there’s the TH1, TH2. It’s like your body, one part of your immune system, depending on your diagnosis, is working overtime (chuckles), and some herbs and supplements stimulate one part of the immune system. So if it’s the part that’s already working overtime for you, it’s gonna make your symptoms worse, but if it’s the part that’s not working overtime, it can sometimes help you balance out. So that’s a good experiment for the future, but I wouldn’t recommend it during the elimination.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So there are a few specifics that you get into in the book that I wanna dive into. The first would be something that I use, and that I was interested to see that you weren’t big fan of and that’s stevia. So I’m one of those guys that use a lot of it, but I have a little bottle of like dark chocolate stevia that I’ll toss sometimes into like a little bit of coffee, or into a smoothie, or something like that to give it a chocolatey flavor without the sugar, but you talk about how you’re not a fan of stevia. Can you explain why?
Eileen: Yeah, and I should say that Sarah Ballantyne is kind of in charge of the Autoimmune Protocol, and so she’s the one who did the research on to this and I am just kind of following her guidance. So, she said that the, stevia has, the chemicals that make it sweet are similar to hormones in terms of their structure and they can cause hormone shifts in the body. And so people with autoimmune disease, we are crazily sensitive to hormone shifts. It’s also interrelated to the immune system. Like for me, I have to be actually really careful with vitamin D supplements because, this may be too much information, but if I take too much, like it makes me skip a period for three months and that’s crazy ‘cause it’s a hormone, but it’s not a sex hormone, but in my body it can throw things off.
And so Sarah’s concern with stevia was that if it has a hormone effect on someone’s body, it might interfere with their symptoms, and her theory in general is you can’t cheat sugar. Like she would rather people occasionally indulge in some raw honey or maple syrup in small quantities than to kinda get hooked on stevia on any kind of regular basis. So she recommends removing it during the elimination period, but people could try that during reintroductions. She doesn’t like it for herself, but I know some people, they really love their stevia, so I think you can just, again, you know, n equals 1 test that on yourself, but not during the elimination period.
Ben: Yeah. The main argument I’ve seen against stevia when it comes to the hormonal argument is the effects on insulin and the subsequent response by the HPA axis, meaning that a lot of people would get like stevia-induced hypoglycemia where they’ll taste stevia, it’s a non-caloric based sugar source, but you still get this dump of cortisol, and adrenaline, and insulin, and a lot of times because your body does not have sugar in the bloodstream, but you’re telling it that there’s something sweet, that adrenaline and cortisol is supposed to mobilize sugar from like liver glycogen and muscle glycogen stores to bring your blood glucose up and what happens is, in many cases, after that, you get like this hypoglycemic drop. Now doesn’t seem to happen to me. It’s probably just because I’m movin’ so freaking much and I’m very insulin sensitive and I don’t seem to have those issues, but I would think that in people who are struggling with something like adrenal fatigue or who have issues with adrenaline or cortisol, it could be an issue. It’s really interesting.
Eileen: Yeah, and you’re right that the adrenal fatigue almost goes hand-in-hand with a lot of autoimmune diseases because it’s just exhausting to be under that kind of attack.
Ben: Uhmm. Yeah. And stevia, by the way, it’s a glycoside, and I do know that glycosides can be very similar in chemical structure to hormones. So yeah, I’m reticent to give up my dark chocolate stevia. I really am. But I guess that’s all I think.
Eileen: I understand.
Ben: What about other things like xylitol, or erythritol, or these other non-caloric based sweeteners?
Eileen: None of those are allowed for those reasons you were saying in terms of how the body responds to those and there’s even, and again I think you know more about this than I do, but I was under the impression that some of those other ones feed bad bacteria, on top of everything.
Ben: Yeah. If you have like small intestine bacterial overgrowth, or you have, I believe, like yeast, or fungus, or candida, even sugar alcohols can present an issue in the same way that wine or beer can be an issue if you tend to have gut problems like that. So, yeah. Unfortunately, you just have to retrain the Western palate, right, to not to have sweet things.
Eileen: Exactly and I think it happens. I mean, I know it’s not easy, but it absolutely happens in fruit tastes sweeter and you just don’t crave it as much, at least that’s been my experience.
Ben: Well, you can have, I mean I noticed as a snack that you have in the book, for example, you have a fresh berries with coconut whipped cream. So you can do things like berries and fruits?
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Eileen: Absolutely. You don’t want to binge on it where you’re having like 10 a day, but absolutely, I’d say a few servings a day is fine and delicious and berries are so good for you.
Ben: Uhm, yeah. So, another thing that you mention in the book is liver, which you already mentioned, of course, a little bit earlier in the podcast as well. I get this question a lot, I’m curious what you think about it, but the liver is a detoxificant, right? It’s one of the body’s filters, so by eating liver, wouldn’t you theoretically be also eating a lot of toxins? Like you up regulated your liver intake on something like an autoimmune protocol, would you not introduce yourself to more toxins?
Eileen: It makes sense that people think that, but it’s not true. So where the body stores the toxins is in the fat primarily, and the liver is filled with all of the nutrients we need to detoxify. So that’s one of the reasons it’s so recommended on the autoimmune protocol is we do want to safely detoxify our body and give our body the nutrition it needs to do so, and liver is just a powerhouse for doing that. If you want to watch out for toxins, you, if you’re, that’s why, I guess if you can afford it, you know, organic meats are ideal. If you can’t afford it, go with lean meats if you’re eating conventional meats.
Ben: Okay. So it’s really the fats in the meats and if you’re eating non-organic or you, for example, find yourself in a situation where you’re not eating like a grass-fed, organic, either organ meat or regular meat, you would want to go for as low-fat as possible because fat is where the toxins are gonna be stored.
Eileen: Yeah, exactly. And if you’re eating high quality organic grass-fed meat, that fat is actually really healthy, but, yeah, in a conventional animal, not so healthy. And my understanding is the same is true for the bones, so if you’re making bone broth, which is recommended on the autoimmune protocol, that’s a good place to invest some of your money in organic.
Ben: Okay. So the liver processes toxins, but it doesn’t store toxins is basically what comes down to?
Eileen: Exactly. Yes.
Ben: Alright. Gotcha. That’s a very important clarification ’cause you know, lot of people get concerned about organ meats and toxins.
So, another thing, speaking of detoxification, you actually talk about during the autoimmune protocol, gentle ways to detox the body. You talk about three gentle ways to detox the body. Can you get into those?
Eileen: Absolutely. So epsom salt baths are one of my favorites, and dry skin brushing is another, and if you have access to sauna, that was the third one that I mentioned. There’s some other ones that I didn’t put in the book like clay masks and clay foot baths, but the idea is to support the body’s ability to detox without pushing it so hard that it’s too much at once. And the beautiful thing about the autoimmune protocol, if you’re making nutrient-dense choices, the nutrients themselves are naturally like chealating and detoxifying for the body, but it’s nice to have these ways to help the body let it out.
So like in a sauna, if you’re sweating it out, that gets lots of things out of the body, my understanding everything from heavy metals to pharmaceuticals to plastics. So that’s a wonderful thing. Same thing with the clay. The epsom salts, I believe it’s both the sulfur and the magnesium that are helpful, and an added bonus of the epsom salts is the magnesium that a lot of us don’t get enough of, and any time we’re under stress that gets depleted, and autoimmune disease is really stressful, so you’re gonna get good bang for your buck, and if you do it before bed, it helps you sleep which is good for your body. So that’s one of my favorites for sure.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. The epsom salts, that was actually something, prior to reading your book, I wasn’t familiar with, was the fact that you actually can get a sulfate release, which is a lot of people use like glutathione as a detoxificant, but you get sulfur introduced into the body in the same way that you would if you were taking glutathione, or eating sulfur-rich vegetables like you know, broccoli, or cauliflower, or garlic, or onions, or something like that, when you do epsom salts or magnesium salts bath, which I suppose is why the giant hot springs that I like to go to in Montana smells, my kids say it smells like a giant fart just because of all the sulfur in it, but that’s actually a very, very good way to detox the body, or at least introduce a lot of detoxification-based sulfates into the body.
And then you talked about dry skin brushing for increasing blood flow and lymph in the body and I’m curious, just for people who haven’t done that before, what exactly does dry skin brushing consist of? What do you need for it, and how do you go about doing it?
Eileen: You can probably go to Amazon and find, just type in dry skin brush and what’ll come up, you want a brush with a long enough handle that you can reach your entire body and it’s a soft bristle that’s not gonna scratch your skin, but it’s going to stimulate your skin. And what you do is you basically brush towards your heart. So if you’re reaching down for your legs, you start at your feet and kind of go up your body. Same with your arms and from your back, you’re gonna go from the back, around to the front of the body and, yeah, the lymph vessels are directly underneath the skin and so it does a little gentle stimulation to them to get them pumping a little bit more strongly in the right direction. Lymph drainage therapy is a wonderful form of body work. If you can ever find anyone who does that…
Ben: What’d you call it?
Eileen: It’s called lymph drainage therapy. That’s actually one of the things I do in my day job, and I love it, but it’s hard to find someone who knows how to do it and so dry skin brushing is like a home technique, it’s like a mild version of the same thing.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. You know, what’s kind of funny is my wife does dry skin brushing. I do not, but I think that I get a lot of the similar effects because I have this 10 acre obstacle course on my land that I run through once a week. So it’s typically on a Friday or Saturday, I do this obstacle course, and it involves like running through branches and getting like whipped by branches and a lot of times, I’m just in like a short and t-shirt or shorts and no shirt, and there’s like these giant logs that you climb over and you’re just scraping and literally brushing your entire body, head to toe, as you’re going over these logs and rocks and walls and I finish up and my skin, it’s almost like I’ve kind of removed the top layer of skin without, for the most part, bleeding and opening up wounds or anything like that, but it’s really interesting in that I, you know, once I finish that up and I’ll do like a cold shower, or even a magnesium bath, my skin feels different and I suspect that I might be, or maybe I’m just fooling myself, I suspect that I might be getting like a wild man’s version of dry skin brushing when I’m doing this.
Eileen: I think you are. That sounds really cool.
Ben: At least that’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it. Okay, so another question that I have, you mentioned that you can’t use nightshades and obviously, a lot of spices, right. Like I mentioned that I’m careful with nightshades, but I do cayenne pepper. Like I love cayenne pepper, red hot chili flakes on my food. I don’t think that those are allowed on an autoimmune protocol, but how would one go about like making food interesting, right? Like making food spicy or a little bit more peppy, if they can’t do nightshades?
Eileen: Yeah, it’s a really good question because it’s a huge loss in the kitchen when you first go on the autoimmune protocol, especially if you’re used to those kinds of spicy foods.
So there’s four ways you can add heat to your food that’s AIP friendly. So one is fresh ginger. It’s one of my favorites. The more finely you grate it, the more juice gets released and therefore, stronger both the flavor and the heat and what you want to do, like a little cayenne goes a long way, right, if you’re not on the autoimmune protocol, with these things on the autoimmune protocol, you gotta think the opposite way. Like the more, the merrier, you know. If you want a lot of heat, just do a lot of ginger. Same thing with garlic. The finer you mince it, the more heat you get along with that flavor. So be really generous with your garlic. Horseradish you can make if you get access to like fresh horseradish root. You just pop it into a food processor with a little bit of water, shred it up, and what happens is it starts releasing the chemical that makes it spicy, and the longer you let that release, the hotter it gets. So you get to decide for yourself how hot it will be because as soon as you taste it and it’s just hot enough for you, you add a little white wine vinegar and that stops the enzyme process. So you can make some pretty insanely hot horseradish that way.
Ben: Cool. I didn’t know that.
Eileen: And then wasabi, which I think, if anyone is into sushi, you know, they know wasabi.
Ben: I would imagine if you get wasabi, you would have to find it without many fillers and things like that.
Eileen: Absolutely. So, and it’s, yeah, you gotta be that label reader. There’s one online called Sushi Sonic that seems to be just wasabi and nothing else, and people have told me that’s a good one.
Ben: Okay. Cool. I’ll link to that one in the show notes for folks. So we’ve basically got ginger, we’ve got horseradish, we’ve got wasabi as three good ways to introduce flavor to foods.
Eileen: Yeah. Heat especially as well as flavor and then…
Ben: What about garlic?
Eileen: Yes. Garlic, same thing. I love garlic. And the finer you mince it, the more heat it’s going to have. And then a little trick for garlic is the allicin, which is the medicinal part of garlic, it gets released within the first 10 minutes that it’s cut, but if you throw it in a pan immediately it stops getting released. So any time you’re putting garlic in a food, if you just chop that up first and let it sit on the cutting board for 10 minutes, it’ll be more medicinal for you than if you throw in the pan right away.
Ben: Interesting. All sorts of cool little tips here. Okay. So, we’ve got this concept that you follow this diet for a minimum of 30 days as you heal your gut, and I would imagine that you’re looking for things like joint pain to begin to diminish, or gut pain to start to go away, but obviously there comes a certain period of time when you may want to just like have a tomato or you begin to introduce whatever grass-fed butter, or start to eat some of these foods that might be allowed on the Paleo diet, or really healthy diet that aren’t really part of an autoimmune protocol, how would you transition back to normal eating? Meaning is there like a specific order in which you reintroduce foods? Do you choose like dairy first, then, you know, wheat after that? Or how do you exactly go about getting off the diet, I guess, after you’ve been on it?
Eileen: Great question. So the first thing is to know when you’re ready, and that’s gonna be different for each person. So some people, like you said, you want to look for an improvement in your physical symptoms, you need to have at least enough improvement to give you a baseline during reintroductions ’cause if you haven’t, if you don’t feel any better after 30 days, that’s then that’s too soon for you. Most people are gonna feel better within a few months though.
And the other thing to pay attention to is the psychology of it. For some people, like elimination diets aren’t hard, which amazes me, but I’ve talked to people who just are like, “No biggie. Restrictions aren’t a problem.” And then there are people like me who feel more and more rebellion the longer I’m on them, so you want to not like just go off crazy and eat everything at once ’cause then you’ve kind of destroyed the experiment and, instead, you want to get information. That’s really what this is about. So when you’re ready for reintroductions, you do want to pick one food at a time, and how it goes is, and I’ll tell you like which order to pick in a minute, but the process for introductions is you, say you picked, let’s say ghee. So say you made some mashed cauliflower and you added some ghee to it. So you would just have a little tiny taste of the mashed cauliflower just to make sure you don’t have like an allergic reaction right away, then you would have a full serving, and then you wait three days and see what your body does.
And if your body does nothing, then you go ahead and have ghee on maybe your meals every day for about five days just to make sure there’s no cumulative or mild response you missed, and again if your body gets does nothing then ghee is back in your diet and you’re feeling good. But if you, say, had the mashed cauliflower with the ghee and then within 12, anywhere within that three day window, you had an increase in autoimmune symptoms, or digestive symptoms, or the [0:45:40] ______ brain is big, so some people have psychology symptoms, then you know that ghee, yeah, at least for now is an inflammation trigger for you. So that’s kind of the reintroduction process.
And in terms of which foods to pick first, you wanna start with the foods least allergenic before the most allergenic. So if we pick the dairy category, ghee is the one you start with, and from there you’d go up to butter…
Eileen: And, you know, high fat…
Ben: Basically, choosing things in the order in which they would have the most amount of those proteins in them.
Eileen: Exactly. And like, so for eggs, the same thing. Like egg yolks are, that’s where the nutrition is anyway, so you’d start with egg yolks by themselves and then, if that went well, then you would try whole eggs rather than jumping straight to whole eggs. Some other spices are eliminated on the autoimmune protocol. The seed-based spices are and most people get those back, so I’d recommend people try those before like jumping to cayenne, for example, on the spices.
Ben: Okay. Okay. Got it. And then, when you’re reintroducing these foods, if you tend to have a reaction, you would just back off that particular food and keep it out? Or would you just go back to do a complete, strict autoimmune protocol because that’s a sign you’re not fully healed?
Eileen: No, because, no. You don’t, like if you successfully reintroduce some foods, you don’t need to take those out again because you’ve learned that they’re not a problem for you. You just wanna drop the one that is a problem, and then wait till your body calms down before trying another one though.
Eileen: Like, so if you’re flaring from, say eggs didn’t go well, you don’t want on the next day trying not to if you’re still feeling bad ’cause then you won’t be able to tell.
Ben: Okay. That makes sense.
Eileen: You wanna wait till that passes.
Ben: That makes sense. Alright. Cool. And you’ve got a full list of like foods and reintroduction protocols and everything in this book. It actually is a really, really good handy little guide and like I mentioned, especially if you’re listening in and you need to fix adrenal fatigue or you want to push the reboot button on your body, this is the diet that I find myself recommending most frequently when it comes to everything from recovering from stomach issues to over training, et cetera, especially when paired hand-in- hand with, you know, like Eileen said, a very kinda restorative exercise protocol. So it’s called “A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol”. If you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/aip, I’ll link to everything that Eileen and I talked about from crickets to magnesium, to wasabi to her book and beyond, along with her website Phoenix Helix. She’s also got a podcast by the same name, so I will give you all that stuff over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/aip and, Aileen, I wanna thank you for coming on the show today, and sharing this stuff with us, and writing this fantastic, handy, little book.
Eileen: It was a huge honor to be on your show. I’m a big fan of your podcast, so thank you for inviting me.
Ben: Awesome! Cool! Well, folks, this is Ben Greenfield and Eileen Laird signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield fitness podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com, for even more cutting-edge fitness and performance advice.
It seems like at least once a month on a podcast, I’m recommending somebody…
…whether that somebody is having skin issues like acne or eczema, gut pain, brain fog, food allergies or intolerances or constipation or any other signs of immune system or inflammation issues…
…try something called the “Autoimmune Diet”.
Problem is, this particular diet, typically meant to be followed for a short period of time until things are healed up, can be confusing when it comes to whether you really need to use it to heal an issue, which foods are “allowed” and which foods aren’t, how to transition off the diet back into a “normal” eating style once you’ve finished the autoimmune diet, and that’s exactly why I decided to have Eileen Laird on the show.
Eileen just wrote the book “A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol“, I read it last week, and it’s exactly what it promises, a book simple enough that even someone with brain fog can understand, written like a conversation between friends a simple and contains all of the essential information in a package small enough to throw in your purse or backpack.
Eileen is a writer, podcast host, and self-described “autoimmune warrior”, who has reversed rheumatoid arthritis through this diet. Her blog, Phoenix Helix, receives 1 million unique visitors annually and there she features recipes, research and personal stories about the autoimmune experience. She also writes “Autoimmune Answers”, a regular column in Paleo Magazine, and is the host of the Phoenix Helix Podcast, the only paleo podcast focused 100% on autoimmune healing.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What exactly the autoimmune paleo diet is…
-Why your body can attack itself and what you can do about it…
-What a sample daily meal plan would look like…
-A surprising “substitute” for organ meats…
-Why Eileen isn’t a fan of stevia…
-Why it’s a myth that the liver stores toxins…
-Three “gentle” ways to detox…
-If you can use nightshades, how you can make meals spicy…
-How to “transition” back to normal eating after following the AIP, and he an order in which you would introduce foods…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol
–Pemmican from USWellnessMeats
–Organic whole roasted crickets
–Dry skin brush
–Sushi Sonic wasabi