Monday, 9 November 2015

Healing Psoriasis Using AIP : Bloggers Share Their Stories

The thing about healing any condition is that everyone's journey is different, even if they're healing the same thing. 

Like psoriasis, for example. 

Some people find their psoriasis patches can be triggered with nightshade spices, which don't seem to affect me. Others can eat AIP sweet treats and cakes with no problems, whereas I can't. 

Sometimes it's good to hear about the achievements (and the struggles) of others on a similar journey. It can help you realise that there might be other factors you maybe hadn't thought of (like sleep, or exercise for example), that's worked well for them so far. 





I asked four AIP bloggers, who are all using diet and lifestyle to heal psoriasis, to talk about their healing and share their experiences and what effect, if any, the autoimmune protocol has had on their psoriasis. I hope you find their answers interesting and inspiring - they inspired me, for sure. 

Thank you to:
Kat, of The Primordial Table
Tara, of Paleo Cajun Lady
Erin, of Enjoying This Journey
and Vanessa, from True North AIP.


How long have you been on AIP? 
Kat: I've been doing AIP for just over 2 years. I started in September of 2013

Tara: I've been on AIP since March 10, 2014, right after I read The Paleo Approach.

Erin: I initially made a change with my diet by following a primal template. Shortly after, I learned about the paleo autoimmune protocol and jumped right in. So my best guess is since March of 2013.

Vanessa: I have been on the Autoimmune Protocol since April 1st, 2012.  So 3 ½ years to date.  Almost 3 years of those with strict AIP and some unsuccessful reintroductions and only in the ¾ of a year have I been successful in reintroducing a number of non AIP foods. 

When did you notice a change in your psoriasis since starting AIP? 
Kat: I noticed a change in my arthritis almost immediately...about two weeks. My skin took a little bit longer. I would say that my nails started clearing up within a month but while my skin started improving, it didn't stop spreading and cracking for at least a couple months. Then it finally started shrinking and calming down.

Tara: Unfortunately, my psoriasis symptoms were the last to be improved. I would say, it took about six months before I started showing any real improvement in my active rashes.  I even had a new one pop up on my inner elbow about six month into the AIP, after an unsuccessful food reintroduction.  Little by little, all of my rashes and scalp psoriasis began to subside. My worst rash with lesions began healing after about 9 months on the AIP.  Happily, they're all now gone.

Erin: It took a while. I had some patches that would pop up on my forehead, at the top of my nose, and behind my ear that started after having my son - that took about six months to clear. But other than those spots, the bulk of my psoriasis {since I was five} was on my scalp. I still have some scalp psoriasis, but the discomfort and flakiness is minimal.

Vanessa: I didn’t notice a change with my skin for quite some time after starting AIP. I noticed changes with so many other things first such as sleep, energy levels, mood, etc. In addition, other conditions I was dealing with saw changes first such as an improvement with Reynaud’s syndrome. It actually wasn’t until almost 3 years in that my skin started to show significant signs of healing. 

Slowly over these years I could tell that there was a lot of healing happening as my list of symptoms got smaller and smaller. But for the most part healing of my skin was pretty slow. But what I did notice is that I could determine that when I experienced a flare, that it was directly linked to a stressful event that was going on in my life. Prior to starting AIP, these flares were much more random and seemed to happen at any time for any reason. So I finally understood that if I could pay a lot of attention to managing my stress, which obviously a huge part of being on this healing protocol, I would be finally able to control my skin from getting any worse. 

What has been the biggest factor for you, in your healing (eg. stress, sunlight, sleep, diet + certain food triggers)
Kat: I have specific food triggers. I was already avoiding gluten so going AIP meant that I discovered that nightshades cause massive inflammation for me and they flare my arthritis and psoriasis almost immediately (within 24-48 hours). I still struggle with stress so I have to admit that I would probably be a lot further in my healing journey if I could find more ways to manage my stress more effectively.

Tara: I used to think getting my stress under control was my biggest factor in healing.  But, just recently I have started to believe food allergies and intolerances were the biggest factor in deterring my healing.  Being on the elimination phase of the AIP has shown me how many foods were causing flares in my psoriasis symptoms. I also found a direct correlation to my hormonal cycles and an uptick in my psoriasis symptoms.  Getting my hormones under control on the AIP have helped in keeping my psoriasis flares in check.

Erin: I know a premature reintroduction of pecans and almonds caused a flare on my hands and feet {which also happened to cause my first known Psoriatic Arthritis flare}. As I look back though, I truly believe getting sunlight, stress management, and guarding my sleep are the biggest tools at my disposal.

Along with scalp psoriasis; growing up, I had patches of plaque psoriasis clustered all over my legs and torso. It wasn't until I started basking like a lizard in the sun as a teenager that those lesions went away. They've never come back, but I do have a scar on my ankle to serve as a reminder.

Sleep and stress management have always been my biggest areas of opportunity. Life gets crazy. I juggle {not so gracefully}. And I struggle. Some examples of how I've been guarding my sleep: forcing myself to go to bed no later than nine p.m. Monday-Friday, wearing blue-light blockers, and taking magnesium. For stress, I've been unplugging for an entire week each month, meditate before bed and sometimes in the afternoon, and being creative - whether it's coloring, penpalling, or cooking. Yes, cooking is calming to me. :)

Vanessa: Stress management, by far, was the biggest lesson I needed to learn with my own healing. Prior to AIP though, I don’t think this was a possible achievement as I was experiencing so many imbalances, I didn’t have the ability to control the stress I was experiencing. So once my health started to improve overall, and I started paying attention to how re-regulating my sleeping patterns, scaling way back on the exercise I was doing, etc, and started to really pay attention as to how to decrease the overall stress in my life, it seemed that only then did that free up my body enough to allow healing to begin. 

I definitely don’t feel it was any ‘one’ factor that made the real difference for me, but rather the combination of them all (also exposure to sunlight, addressing poor digestion and treating chronic Lyme disease) that allowed for real healing to begin. And it has been a very very slow process, where I had to have patience and trust in the process.  After suffering from psoriasis for nearly 7 years, my body clearly needed time in order to do the healing that was necessary for me to see significant changes in my skin. 


AIP before and after photos: from Vanessa at True North AIP


What have been the biggest challenges that you've faced in healing? (e.g. time, temptation to cheat, etc)
Kat: I guess the last answer and this one go hand in hand. In addition to stress, I also tend to rush reintroductions. I seem to be more effective at handling all or nothing but the Elimination Phase isn't meant to last forever and then I get to the point where I'm exhausted with it so I rush into reintros. I think if I could focus on balance and de-stressing, I could handle the reintroductions better and then see more results.

Tara: For me, the biggest challenge has been not fully understanding the process of the AIP. Like many people, I assumed that I could begin food reintroductions and "life as usual" after only a month or two after beginning the elimination phase of the AIP.  Once my gut had healed (after only 30 days), I began adding back foods that I missed.  Not long after that, I started working out and doing many of the things I missed doing.  I didn't understand that I should have waited to do those things and eat those foods until I was much further along in healing my symptoms.  This set me back a bit.  Once I realized that, I went back on the elimination phase, and stayed on it until I was almost completely healed. The next time I started reintroductions, I was able to do it honestly and without flaring my psoriasis symptoms.

Erin: I've always been honest about falling into the "gluten-free trap". After following the AIP 100% for six months and having failed reintroductions I went through a rebel yell stint of justifying an occasional treat that was gluten-free. My psoriasis didn't flare, but my joints hurt, my energy tanked, and my gut protested. Loud and clear. Lesson learned.

After fully embracing the AIP {#totesAIP} I gave myself even longer to heal, was patient, and didn't rush reintroductions. Once I did attempt a reintro,  I started small and did it the right way {e.g. black pepper instead of almonds}. For what it's worth, I don't look at my previous mistakes as cheating. The AIP is not my significant other. :) It is a daily choice I make to take care of myself.

Vanessa: Being PATIENT with the healing process the first couple years was the hardest lesson for me to learn. I was strict AIP for a solid 2 and 3/4 years prior to starting any reintroductions as I was waiting for a sign that it was ok to move to that level.  And while I noticed so many health improvements right away and over the months and years addressed so many problems, it really did take a long time for my skin to start showing the signs of this progress. I trusted in the process and it was actually very easy for me to stay strict to the diet (I think high motivation kept this easy for me!) but I was wanting so desperately to be able to reap the rewards of all my effort sooner than it happened for me. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting to heal psoriasis using AIP diet and lifestyle? 
Kat: Be patient with yourself. This isn't a straight path to perfect health. A healing journey takes you through hills and valleys and everywhere in between. Two years in, I still have bad days. But on the worst ones, I like to remind myself that I'm still doing much better than when I first started. And two years from now, I'll wish I hadn't given up; that I'll be even more proud of the progress I've made even then. 

Tara: The best advice I can give is to be patient and honest with yourself. From my experience, and others dealing with autoimmunity that affects the skin, these skin conditions take the longest to heal. You have to be honest with yourself when figuring out your triggers.  I know it's hard to do without many of the foods and activities you enjoyed before going on the AIP.  But, I am living proof that, if done correctly, it can work.  I am in complete remission of all of my psoriasis symptoms.  I have no active rashes or lesions.  Don't give up!  When things get tough, think about why you started the AIP.  You just have to be patient. 

Erin: #1 Be patient. The skin takes longer to heal because it is a low-priority organ. Your skin isn't pumping blood. Your skin isn't filtering toxins.
#2 Nurture yourself; nutrient-dense - both inside and out.
#3 Finally, for those on the fence about starting the AIP in the first, ask yourself, "what do I have to lose?"

Vanessa: Be patient as your skin will take time to heal. And during this process you may need to address other underlying factors to your health, just like peeling layers of an onion. So I think it’s important to not only trust in the process but to always keep learning and asking questions and see if there might be other factors to your health that need to be addressed and possibly corrected. 

Don’t ignore the stress. I always found this to be most ironic as the thing that was bringing me the most stress was my skin! So accept that your body is just tying to tell you that there are significant imbalances that need addressing and that in order for true healing to begin, you must look at your life on a daily basis and ask where and how you can eliminate some of the stress your body and mind are experiencing. 

And finally, be kind to yourself. Don’t hate your body and don’t hate your skin. Trust that it is doing the best it can and given the right tools, it will know exactly what to do with those to bring you to a place of better health.  Fight the good fight…just not with yourself. 


To conclude? 
Even though we all have the same condition - psoriasis - the time it took to heal and our triggers are quite different. Sugar is by far the biggest trigger for me, whereas for others it's particular food intolerances or working on dealing with other health conditions first. The beautiful thing is that our journeys are all different and we have all learned so much about ourselves and our bodies on the way. It's as much a discovery, as well as a means to heal yourself. 

But the main message I took from all these inspirational bloggers is this: it doesn't matter, if you're looking after yourself, whether your healing takes 3 days, 3 months or 3 years. Persevere, and feed your body with healing, nutrient dense foods and healing will definitely come. 

I hope you found this information useful, and please do go check out the bloggers who have kindly shared their stories with us. 

What have your experiences been of healing psoriasis using AIP? Has it worked for you? What changes have you seen? What are your biggest triggers?