I Tried an Autoimmune Protocol Diet to Treat My Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis—Here’s What Happened
Using food as medicine to help treat ailments from the flu to cancer is nothing new. Studies have shown that the ancient Greeks saw food and drugs on the same continuum as treatments for illness, and both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine are known for using herbs, plants and food to support the body’s natural healing process. Armed with that knowledge from my time covering the wellness industry and knowing I’ve always been sensitive to pharmaceuticals, I looked to diet and lifestyle changes for treatment when I was diagnosed with my second auto-immune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, in summer 2017.
I reached out to NYC-based Aimee Raupp, author, acupuncturist and herbalist, for help. With a Master’s of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine, a Bachelor’s degree in biology and 12 years of working with patients, Aimee helps women improve their vitality, celebrate their beauty, and guide them to reconnect to the presence of their optimal health. She also happened to be working on her latest book, Body Belief: How To Heal Autoimmunity, Radically Shift Your Health & Love Your Body More, which comes out March 13.
Using her Body Belief process, Aimee guided me through a three-month protocol for healing autoimmunity. Yes, healing. Here’s what happened as I dramatically changed my diet and my thought patterns to help treat my Hashimoto’s.
Step 1: Changing My Food Habits
My first meeting with Aimee was full of hope. I’d been struggling with side effects of celiac disease for more than 10 years, and adding in the Hashimoto’s diagnosis left me with a heart full of anxiety and a body that felt like it was rebelling. But Aimee’s confidence in my body’s ability to heal itself with the right support broke through my darkness and provided a shining sliver of bright hope that I hadn’t felt in years.
We began with a Reawakened Health Coaching session via Skype where Aimee learned all about my health history and shared with me her Body Belief plan for treating autoimmunity. I then embarked on her food plan, which eliminates a variety of everyday foods and food additives that have been shown to contribute to inflammation in the body, and can flare up autoimmunity. This included a two-week Prep phase, an 11-day Purify phase and a 12-week Reawaken phase.
What struck me about this whole process was that I was not eating as mindfully as I thought I was. I was aggressively avoiding gluten (thanks, celiac disease), but wasn’t totally tracking the rest of my food very well. Dairy, which can contribute to autoimmunity, especially in celiac and Hashi patients, showed up much more often than I thought, and I was accidentally eating a lot of corn and soy, two other ingredients that can contribute to autoimmunity.
It was also HARD. I suddenly lost the ability to go out with friends, and any trips I embarked on included an extra suitcase full of food. Says Aimee, “It is a lot of work. However the intensity of the work isn’t forever… Once you get the groove and understand how your body reacts to certain lifestyle factors and nutrition factors then you can begin to shift it in a way that better suits your life.”
Step 2: Changing My Thought Patters
A significant part of Aimee’s plan that makes it stand out from other auto-immune protocols is dedicating yourself to not only food changes, but also thought-pattern changes. Each portion of her treatment includes elements of daily self-care, journaling and recording how you physically and emotionally feel about everything that’s happening. She emphasizes that if you don’t believe your body can heal itself, it never will.
I struggle with negative thought patterns, however seemingly innocuous. In this portion of the treatment, I found myself so angry with my body for not responding how I thought it would or how I wanted it to. I realized that I had begun to subscribe to the belief that I would never get better. In fact, I was holding onto that fear as a defining part of who I was. I was scared that believing I could actually feel better would only result in being let down—again. But the daily exercises that reminded me to be kind to myself, body and soul, were a key to my healing.
Says Aimee, “The bottom line is your brain and your body communicate with one another and your body; it’s cells hear everything your brain says. So the conversation you are having in the privacy of your own mind is absolutely affecting your health. And when you address this piece that is one true healing and true thriving can occur.”
Step 3: Committing to Long-Term Change
If you’ve struggled with a chronic condition, you understand the mini cycles of grief that can plague your life. It can take a long time to accept that this health issue is part of your everyday life, and you have to attend to it forever. One thing that’s helped me over the years is finding the places within my autoimmune conditions where I have choices and control of how I feel.
Doing the Body Belief program gave me more insight into how individual foods impact my body and ultimately my wellbeing. I’d done elimination diets (hello, Whole30!) before, and they’d failed to give me the deep knowledge of what does and doesn’t work for my body. Body Belief felt different for me. Thanks to the mindfulness element of the program, I was able to connect to myself in a new and hopeful way. I know now that I get headaches from eating egg whites; raw tomatoes give me stomachaches. Without the very deliberate mind-body connection that Body Belief has, I would have sailed through the food reintroduction process in the way I had before: without the full ability to hear what my body was saying to me.
And that difference is what makes the long-term commitment much more doable. While I’ve added in many more foods now that I’ve been doing the program from more than six months, there are still foods and food additives that I stay away from. I’ve established a balance between the strict protocol and the foods that make me feel my best.
Says Aimee, “Your body deserves to heal and thrive, and this program will help you do just that. So if you want to feel better and heal from autoimmunity, this is the kind of plan you need to follow and commit to because your health deserves it. It took your body a good amount of time to get to the state of not feeling well and it will take a good amount of time to get you back to optimal wellness.”
Is Body Belief For Me?
Aimee says that her program is for “anyone who is looking to feel better. Anyone who has been dealing with health issues and can’t seem to figure them out. Anyone who suspects they have an autoimmune condition. Anyone who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and is still not feeling their best.”
I can attest to the fact that it takes time to heal; I’m still working on getting to my optimal health. But doing a plan like Body Belief gave me back some of the control I felt I’d lost. It helped me reorient and re-engage with my body to hear what it had been trying to tell me, and to understand how I could start the process to fuller health. Now, it’s not about a “diet,” but about loving myself where I am, and understanding my body’s perspective. My focus isn’t on my limitations but on the choices I do have, and how choosing what’s best for me, every day, leads to a happier and healthier life.
Aimee Raupp’s book, Body Belief: How To Heal Autoimmunity, Radically Shift Your Health & Love Your Body More, is available now for pre-order. If you buy it before it’s released on March 13, you’ll receive a free digital workshop from Aimee to guide you through your healing journey.