Fear of AIP Reintroductions. It's real.
If you're just starting on the Autoimmune Protocol or haven't started yet, you probably laugh at this, wondering how anyone could be scared of being able to start reintroducing all those foods you miss (or will miss). It seriously sounds like the most outrageous concept, being scared.
But alas, the feeling is quite real – and quite common.
You've spent weeks, maybe even months, in this cocoon of safety. You know that if you eat the foods within the confines of the AIP diet, you'll be safe. You'll feel great. You'll have the energy you need, the brain clarity, the freedom from symptoms.
Yet you wonder if you reintroduce anything if all the negatives, all the things you've managed to hold off for a period of time will come rushing back.
Will I have a reaction?
Will I undo all this hard work that I've put into this diet over the last few weeks/months?
Fear Is Normal
It's TOTALLY normal to feel this way. I think most people go through it in some form or another.
There are a few things you can do to get over the fear though:
(1) Make sure you know when you're ready to reintroduce foods (more on this below)
(2) Know that it's important to try to reintroduce foods for:
• Ease of life. Travel, eating out, eating with friends and family, buying a wider variety of foods – even simple things like lunch meats and canned veggies with citric acid
• Nutrient value (many of the foods we exclude on AIP are very nutrient dense and really help support the gut microbiome). You don't HAVE to eat these foods all the time, but it's really nice to know that you can if the opportunity presents itself.
(3) Take it slowly – there is no set timeline for how long or short the reintroduction process has to be. While it's recommended you don't go BELOW 48-72 hours per food reintroduction, you can take weeks if you'd like for each one. Pick one of the Stage 1 reintroductions and spend a good 7-14 days with it. You'll find as you get more successful reintroductions under your belt that you'll get more confidence and then it's almost hard to not want to eat ALL.THE.THINGS at once.
You can watch more all about this fear thing in this video:
How to Know When You're Ready to Reintroduce Foods on AIP
One of the big factors in this fear thing is knowing whether you're actually ready to reintroduce foods on AIP. I think a lot of people aren't sure, so they just stay on AIP just because it's safe.
The main rule of thumb with AIP reintroductions is to wait until you have marked improvement with your symptoms and feel better than when you started – enough that if you were to have a reaction with a food during reintroductions you'd be pretty darn sure.
Some people want to go off a timeline – like 30 or 60 days on the elimination diet and then start reintroductions, but I caution you not to do that and listen to your body instead. If you feel great at 45 days but want to go 60, that's fine, but just don't say ahead of time “I'm doing this for 60” and then start if you haven't had any improvement.
NOTE: If you've gone 90 days into the diet and still haven't had any marked improvement, it's time to start troubleshooting. There could be other factors at play, like infections, parasites, medications needing to be adjusted, nutrient deficiencies, etc. It's best at this point to work with a qualified medical professional to figure out what the underlying issue is.
Healing Does NOT Stop with Reintroductions
I think that also some of the fear is that if a reaction occurs, healing will stop or be erased. But this isn't necessarily true. First of all, healing does not stop when you start reintroducing foods – healing continues throughout the whole process. If you DO have a reaction, chances are it may set you back a bit but it won't stop or erase any healing you've done up to this point.
If you have a particularly bad reaction then you may be set back, but let's go into this with a positive attitude and not expecting to have bad reactions. Of course, I hope it goes without saying that if you had a bad reaction to a food prior to AIP, chances are you may still have one, so do exercise caution and save something like that for the very end or not at all.
Personalization – One of the Purposes of AIP
AIP is meant to be a healing diet, but it's also meant to provide a customized roadmap to what you can eat on an ongoing basis. Reactions are one of the ways we can determine this personalization.
This means, don't get discouraged if you have a reaction – it might just mean you need some more healing before that particular food can be reintroduced into your diet.
And it also means you KNOW that you shouldn't include it. This is extremely valuable information!! People spend hundreds of dollars on food sensitivity tests and they aren't always accurate. But this is as accurate as you can get. Look at this as a learning opportunity and consider yourself blessed that you have this information now.
Journaling is Important
Throughout the reintroduction process it's important to write down what foods you've eaten, the sleep you've gotten, how much movement/exercise you've done, any other factors that may affect you, and any symptoms you experience. Journalling allows you to make the connection between the symptoms and other factors more easily.
I think journalling helps alleviate some of the fears as well because then you've got it all written down somewhere – it's concrete evidence that things are going ok (or not) and that can give you even more confidence to continue.
Don't Be Afraid
I think the main point of this is to not be afraid to try new foods once you've healed on AIP. Know that it's normal to feel this way, honor those feelings for keeping you safe, and then take the plunge. If you're really struggling, come join my free Facebook group and tell us about it – we'll talk you through it!