Top 3 weight management strategies on the Autoimmune Protocol

JFC Petra WW and AIP1This is the 4th in a series of posts about Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

Find the first on Joanna Frankham’s blog.

This post focuses on the top-three strategies for weight management identified through research that Joanna and I conducted with 20 long-term AIPers, 90% of whom indicated that weight management still causes them stress.

Our Method

Through a confidential survey, one question we asked respondents was about weight management strategies that worked for them while on the AIP. The question wasn’t multiple choice: people had to come up with their own ideas.

11 of the 20 women who participated in the survey had not yet identified things that worked. Nine of the 20 women had. From these responses, three strategies emerged. Continue reading

Personalize Your Diet for Weight Loss

Personalize Your Diet for Weight LossWe each respond differently to the same food.

Specifically, our blood sugar responses differ.

And elevated blood sugar leads to all kinds of health issues, including obesity.

A New Scientific Understanding about Obesity

Like most people who have struggled with being overweight for most of their lives, I’ve suspected for decades that our response to food is individualized.

Because I’ve spent those decades watching my effortlessly-slim sister scarf down all the food she wants.

If I ate like she does, I’d be obese.

I know. Because I used to be.


But now, we have scientific proof to back up what most overweight people have always known…

Breaking News: Maybe Overweight People Haven’t Been Secretly Binging & Lying About It All This Time

Continue reading

The Microbiome: the Protocol

My favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie, Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott, Mark Sisson

Some of my favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott & Mark Sisson

Health and disease begin in the gut. Hippocrates said it and these people agree:

So, I mapped the systems that are impacted by intestinal microflora in the Origin of Illness.

Then I used that map to determine what parts of the system are actionable, to create a list of things we can do to support microbiome health.

Thereby creating a microbiome protocol~.

In this post, let’s look at what some of my favorite healers and optimizers have to say about each of the elements in this protocol:

Actionable Microbiome 3

We’ll find out what they think, classic web-log style~.

In part one we’ll cover stress management, diet, sleep and physical activity. In part 2 we’ll review caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment and gut health therapies.

Stress Management

Sarah Ballantyne, the Paleo Mom, explains how stress undermines health & how it can lead to hormone imbalance. She also writes about her personal battles with stress.

Mark Sisson, originator of the The Primal Blueprint, offers the definitive guide to stress, cortisol and the adrenals and covers how stress can make you fat.

Eileen Laird, of Phoenix Helix, interviews Datis Kharrazian in this podcast, in which Dr Kharrazian refers to stress as “the single most impactful factor on the expression of autoimmune disease”.

Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, shares 6 ways to hack stress  and covers meditation for stress relief and anxiety.

Mark Sisson also offers 15 stress hacks and 10 forgotten stress relief tips.

Susan Vennerholm, of Backcountry Paleo, considers restorative yoga and  how optimism helps manage stress in her guest posts on the Autoimmune Paleo blog.


An anti-inflammatory & nutrient-dense diet is the core of all the healing and optimizing protocols, including:

As well as customized variations, such as a low-FODMAP AIP.

All of these protocols are based on the same science and are fundamentally aligned. They are all gut-healing, anti-inflammatory, ancestral eating systems.

This is a big subject, but in short, healing protocols (like the AIP & Wahls) tend to be be more restrictive than the optimization protocols (like Primal & Bulletproof), but then they are elimination diets, with the assumption that some off-limits foods may be reintroduced in time. Whereas, though both Primal & Bulletproof make allowances for more dietary flexibility, optimizers recommend this pattern of eating as a lifelong commitment to peak performance.

So, it’s kind of like this:

Healing & Optimizing Protocols


Chris Kresser considers sleep to be one of the 9 steps to perfect health.

Sarah Ballantyne writes about sleep requirements & sleep debt and the link between sleep & weight.

Eileen Laird considers skipping sleep as a cause of an autoimmune flare. Mickey Trescott has explored why sleep is important for people with autoimmune disease. Joanna Frankham describes her difficulty with sleep and what she’s doing about it.

Mark’s Daily Apple has over a dozen posts on sleep. Here’s one: How to Manufacture the Best Night’s Sleep in Your Life.

High Leverage Physical Activity

High leverage means you get maximum benefit for your effort.

In the case of exercise, it’s actually really easy (and pretty common) to be low-leverage: to put out a lot of energy in for a negligible (or even negative) result.

Chris Kresser explains this in his post Why You may Need to Exercise Less, and suggests that instead we move like our ancestors. He also advocates High Intensity Strength Training.

Exercising inappropriately can be problematic for people with an unbalanced microbiome. Sarah Ballantyne addresses this in two podcasts: Exercise Performance & Gut Health & The Too Much of Exercise. On her blog she also stresses the importance of exercise, explores the benefits of gentle movement, and tells us why she likes yoga.

Dr Terry Wahls explains how exercise to promotes brain health.

Susan Vennerholm, guest blogging again at Autoimmune Paleo, also cautions against over-exercise as a person with an autoimmune condition, and writes about cardio, high intensity interval training and resistance workouts.

Mark Sisson wins first prize for the highest number of exercise-related posts. His primal movement recommendations are summarized here. He has also written about  why exercise feels like a drag; why it’s the best medicine; the relationship between exercise and inflammation; and managing mitochondria through exercise. He also makes the case against cardio.

 Next up we’ll learn what these biohackers have to say about caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment, and gut health therapies~.

Find part 2 here.

Healing Optimization



Have you heard the one about the rheumatologist, the ear-nose & throat specialist & the functional medicine doctor?

life is everywhereYesterday Matthew & I went to appointments with three different doctors in two different towns regarding treatment for his autoimmune conditions & unexplained nausea.

We figured if we had to spend a ridiculously hot day catching ferries, driving & waiting we might as well do some research.

Before we left we came up with three questions for Matthew to ask each doctor. I armed myself with a notebook & pen so I could transcribe their responses.

These were our questions:

  1. What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?
  2. What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?
  3. Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?

At each visit, we waited until the end of the consultation before we broke out our questions.

The responses were illuminating:

What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “There’s something perverse going on in your immune system & it turns on itself. Why does it come? We don’t know. It could be a genetic predisposition or viral. The ear is immunologically active.”

Rheumatologist: “I don’t know. I’d win the Nobel prize if I did.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “I wouldn’t say it’s well understood at all. The question is what sets the immune system up to act abnormally. What triggers it. Genomic analysis is important. As people go through life there’s triggering events, exposure to gluten when there is a genetic predisposition to intolerance, parasitic infection, exposure to metals or chemicals, significant emotional trauma. The process that keeps the abnormal immune response moving forward, I think, is largely related to diet, sleep and stress.”

What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “I think it is hogwash. But it works for some people. It is something we advocate based on how we understand the pathenogenisis. It might work for some people.”

Rheumatologist: “There have been a lot of studies on dietary manipulation and autoimmune. They’ve done elimination diets between control and subject groups and there is no difference. It’s like in medieval times when people worshiped the sun and then the sun rose and they thought they’d caused it. In those days people believed that nightshades should be avoided. There’s no scientific evidence for that. A falsehood is being perpetuated on the [inter]net all the time. You have to go to the websites that are scientific and have reliable information.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “That’s Hippocrates’ theory.” [He pulled out a handout depicting the Functional Medicine Matrix and described it to us] “These are the foundational principles: nutrition is right in the centre.”

Functional Medicine Matrix

Functional Medicine Matrix

Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “If we concentrate on an ear thing, I’ve told you what we can do in terms of ear things. It would be safe to infuse your ear with prednisone, but just to try it just because you can doesn’t make sense.”

Rheumatologist: “Every drug has its own bad side effects. At times the treatment may be worse than the disease. At times the disease may be worse than the treatment. It’s a trade-off.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “What we’ve just talked about for the last 45 minutes. Try and look at the system. No matter what your background, if you try to do something beneficial at one part of the system, it will affect the whole system.”


The  Ear Nose & Throat Specialist and the Rheumatologist (who we saw first) had no advice, tips, ideas, leads, tests, treatment suggestions, research reports or referrals for Matthew during each of those brief appointments, even though he has been on disability leave from work since January 1st due to debilitating nausea which is only getting worse and has been to a string of other specialists who have also turned up nothing and offered nothing. If we hadn’t learned about Functional  Medicine (on the internet from other Autoimmune Protocol bloggers), Matthew would have now exhausted all options available through the Western Medical System. His livelihood and life would be completely on hold, maybe forever, without a single medical ally willing to stick with him to find a solution.

Comparatively, Dr Cline, the Functional Medicine Doctor (who is also an MD) had two treatment recommendations based on the results of the stool test he ordered last visit: a powerful probiotic that Matthew could order online or purchase from the onsite store, and CBD (non-psychoactive cannabis) to disrupt nausea and pain, which he could order online. He gave Matthew a requisition for blood tests; gave me one research report and promised to e-mail more; and offered to loan us (at no charge) a kit to test the electricity in our house, with instructions for how to deal with any problems we might find. Then he asked Matthew to come back in a month when the results of his genomic analysis would be available.

Dr Terry Wahls’, also a Functional Medicine Doctor & an MD, wrote an article titled ‘what your neurologist & rheumatologist won’t tell you‘ which supports the findings of the mini-study we conducted yesterday. Dr Wahls’ recent paper on treatment for autoimmune multiple sclerosis using a paleo diet & complementary non-pharmaceutical therapies also, interestingly, reported no serious side effects.

Paleo Myth Buster: Carbs & Muscle Mass


I had a friend tell me the other day that he got inspired and decided to go paleo, but then he read something about paleo causing muscle loss so he had some french toast.

Because french toast is going to help him build muscle mass?

I thought about inviting my friend to squeeze my glutes so he could judge for himself, but I thought that might get weird.

Paleo contradicts the nutritional programming we’ve had all our lives, so it’s understandable if there’s questions and fear. In one quick google search of the paleo gurus you can find enough contradictory information to get you really perplexed. Such as:

  • Carbohydrates are unnecessary;
  • Eat carbohydrates before exercise, during exercise, and immediately after exercise or your face with fall off;
  • Don’t eat carbohydrates until 30 or more minutes after exercise;
  • Fast before & after you exercise;

It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe you are safer with the french toast.

What I think about all that is: experiment.


Experiment with:

  • Just eating paleo & not worrying about carbs;
  • Eating one higher carb meal a day & eating lower carb the rest of the time;
  • Eating low carb for a spell (less than 100 grams a day);
  • Eating super low carb for a short while (less than 50 grams a day);
  • Eating carbohydrates before exercise &/or during exercise &/or immediately after you exercise;
  • Fasting before you exercise;
  • Fasting after you exercise;
  • Exercising on an empty stomach and having a higher carb meal soon after (that’s what I do, currently);

If you’re not exercising yet, I have a blog post about that!

Then observe yourself as you tinker. How do you feel, during & after?

Keep experimenting until you find what works for you. If you hit a plateau (of energy, enthusiasm, weight loss, or what have you) experiment some more. You are the science project. Observe yourself & keep tweaking until you find your sweet spot. Expect that sweet spot to evolve as you do.

Usually what the paleo gurus are saying is simply: Hey this is what has been working for me lately. I guarantee they keep observing & tweaking, and their tweaks might even get them to a different perspective over time.

Learn from those who’ve gone before, for sure, but be your own guru.

If your body thinks you are starving, it will use your reserves, including muscle, for fuel. But I eat robustly. My body is much less confused than it was pre-paleo. It doesn’t think I’m starving. It’s delighted by how nourished I am and just wants me to put on my shoes so we can go for a run together.

Want to see what that looks like?

This was me on french toast:


Me at age 41

And here I am now:


Me at age 42
(Photo by:

So what do higher-carb meals look like when you’re paleo?

For me, they include squash and roots:

  • Yam fries with portobello bison burgers;
  • Rutabaga hash with bacon & eggs;
  • Spaghetti squash with paleo pad thai sauce & chicken;
  • Salmon beet fritters with greens;
  • Oven roasted parsnips & carrots with steak & salad;
  • Chai squash pie with halibut;
  • Mashed turnip with sausages & sauerkraut;

Um… yum!

So if you want to eat french toast, go to it. Just don’t say you’re doing it to preserve your physique. Cause that’s silly.