25 fascinating days on an extreme (low-carb) version of the AIP

We started the AIP on December 23rd, but leveled up to our own extreme low-carb version of the AIP on January 1st, to experiment with starving out the harmful bacteria which lurk in the intestinal tract and contribute to gut permeability.

I called it the X-AIP, just for kicks.

We thought we’d try the X-AIP for 30 days, followed by a 30-day low-FODMAP version. But as Matthew’s system has gotten more pure over the last month he’s noticing how he reacts to different foods, including some high FODMAP foods, so we’re moving on to a low-FODMAP AIP a little sooner than planned.

carrot love

Image from http://fudi.st/

As of today we’re putting some plant parts back in (pumpkin, some root vegetables like parsnips & carrots, & some fruits like blueberries & plantains). We’re still figuring out what to include and what to exclude for this low-FODMAP variation because there is so much contradictory information to sift through, but the goal is to avoid high FODMAP foods in addition to the regular AIP food guidelines. What’s left? This post by Gutsy by Nature is the best I’ve found so far, as it addresses the ambiguities that seem to be part of the topography in FODMAP-land.

Even though I’ll have to give up avocados I’m still super intrigued to try this new AIP variation. I’m actually a little surprised by how fascinated I am by all of this.

For me, the past 25 days on the X-AIP has been a nutritional experiment with some interesting outcomes, particularly in the area of energy (way down) & mental health (way up). Previously I’ve always correlated energy & mental health so it has been thought-provoking to notice them move in opposite directions.

I am not a person with an autoimmune condition. I don’t know how many people without autoimmune conditions have done a strict AIP. I know Melissa Joulwan is one, but she pretty much hated it! Most of us don’t get this extreme until our health & our lives have completely fallen apart.

Some notes after 36 days on the AIP (9 days AIP + 25 days X-AIP):

  • Energy: In December, after 4 days on the AIP I reported a “dramatic, disconcerting, almost obscene” increase in my energy. This ridiculous degree of vigour continued for the first 2 weeks on the X-AIP, but then started to decline. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a.) The super low carbohydrate diet; b.) A busy/stressful month; c.) Reduced exercise; or d.) That when I started the AIP I took out the powdered electrolyte hydrator I usually use in my water for hot yoga. I originally took the electrolyte powder out for AIP-purity, and was attempting to replenish electrolytes with Himalyan salt & seaweed in foods, but my lower energy was beginning to impact my ability to do my life, so I put the electrolyte powder back in on day 28 of my AIP & it helped a bit, but not enough.
  • Exercise: I scaled back my exercise during the X-AIP from 5-6 times a week to 3. I wanted to be realistic about how much time I would have, what with Matthew needing my support for various nasty medical procedures this month, going back to grad school, and being unsure how a super-low-carb diet would affect my energy. As it turned out 3 times a week was about perfect for my energy level. I still did my hot power flow yoga, but I took rest days in between. I prefer to exercise 5-6 days a week, but that felt unsustainable on the X-AIP. Which is good information! In an earlier post about carbs & muscle mass I suggested experimentation with carbs. This has been a great 25-day experiment & I better understand the benefit of the denser sources of paleo-friendly carbs for exercise. For me, anyway!
  • Elimination: On day 11 of the X-AIP I experienced an intestinal revolution that occurred (suddenly) while driving at 112km an hour on the highway. Suffice to say I have never been so happy to see a roadside outhouse. I’m guessing this alarming phenomenon was due to some kind of recalibration of my gut, which was the whole point of the X-AIP experiment. Better out than in.
  • Mental health: The only improvement I noticed during this time was in the area of my mental health. In an earlier post I listed the 9 health issues that resolved after I went paleo. One of them was depression, which lifted after I had been paleo for 6 months, and never came back. But what I am experiencing now is a whole new level of mental health. Even though my energy has taken a hit, the love of my life is suffering and getting holes poked in him all the time, I have 3 children that I worry about constantly (just ‘cause), my work is stressful, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen (which I do not love), & I’ve gone back to school, I’m just floating on this amazingly buoyant sense of well-being. It is a revelation, and I am now officially & completely convinced that gut health=mental health.
  • Cognitive capacity: In addition to being more tired, the lower carb diet also seemed make it harder to think clearly.

So, in summary, I’ve been kind of stupid & slothful, but euphoric!

I’m really looking forward to getting my energy back, though.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out this whole FODMAP thing, including AIP friendly low-FODMAP recipes.


15 thoughts on “25 fascinating days on an extreme (low-carb) version of the AIP

  1. Thanks for linking to my post about low-FODMAP and AIP. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this combination lately. I am totally with you on this: “I am now officially & completely convinced that gut health=mental health.” I can not believe how much more emotionally stable I am now than when my gut was a wreck. Like night and day…

    • Thank you for being in touch & addressing the ambiguousness of FODMAPs in your post. It interesting to learn that you’ve had the same experience. The gut-health/mental-health connection has so many implications. Historically, even.

  2. Thanks so much for your posts Petra. You (and your hubby) starting the X AIP inspired me to think along the same lines. I have HLA B27-mediated reactive arthritis and have been trying to manage it for the last year with diet, without much success and with considerable amounts of pain/swelling. So in addition to my paleo AIP diet I’ve gone no starch, low carbohydrate. Two weeks in and I can hardly believe that I’m about 90% pain free. It’s early days I know and I’m trying not to get too excited but its the best I’ve felt in ages. I’ve been ok energy-wise and I totally agree with you on the mental health bonus. Though that might also be because I’m not dealing with pain on a daily basis in the way that I was.
    I’m looking forward to hearing how your husband is doing.
    Thanks also for your recipes!

    • I am thrilled that you are finding something that seems to be working! From what I’ve read about other people’s experiences the improvements continue, though I completely understand about not wanting to get excited. Not sure if you’ve seen these posts from Emily: http://fieldnotesonhealing.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/six-month-update/ & Eileen: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/09/15/my-experience-with-the-paleo-autoimmune-protocol/ It’s hard to know with Matthew right now because he has this other health complication (severe nausea) that has emerged & he is undergoing a battery of invasive diagnostic procedures around that. But the fact that he has been off methotrexate for a couple of months & is able to function at all is encouraging. You know, in the way that feeling encouraged came sometimes become so relative to your situation! Let me know how things progress for you… this whole area is fascinating to me and I think we can learn a lot from each other.

  3. Thanks for the recap! I started my AIP being very low carb, almost by accident. I ended up discovering I feel better when I have moderate carb intake, but was worried about weight gain with starches so turned to fruit. Now I’m dealing with old sugar habits! My next step is to try very set amounts of non-sweet starches like plantain and taro and see if I can get off the sugar train again.

    Good luck with the low-FODMAP experience!

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  7. Thank you for the x-AIP info. I have treated Ulcerative Colitis (very longstanding) with good results. I was kind of floundering around by myself. Love having a site to check in with. I started with a low fiber when I was 14 with a doctor, anorexia was preferable to eating due to the amount of pain I had after meals. Later on, obesity has become a problem after being told my pain was all in my head, therefore I figured I should ignore the pain. Over the years 15-20 bowel movements/day became the norm. I noticed some relief with Atkins in my 20’s. I found SCD with quite a bit of relief but noted problems with sugars, progressed to paleo, then AIP, dropped the nightshades, added low fodmap. Finally 2 bowel movements/day, no diarrhea, bloody stools stopped. Skin is clearing up-the fire in my face and crusty eczema disappeared with the fodmap onion/garlic removal recommendation. Hoping for much improvement on my next colonoscopy.
    I am now 58 and finally becoming more comfortable. Losing the “thinking thru mud” feeling is wonderful.

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