I hear from Hashimoto’s patients all the time raving about Autoimmune Paleo for changing their lives. I invited Mickey Trescott, author of the great book The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, to share her story as well as some of her favorite Paleo Autoimmune Protocol recipes.
Written by Mickey Trescott, Autoimmune Paleo
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis at the age of 26 by a naturopathic doctor, after seeing various doctors and specialists in the months prior trying to get to the bottom of my deteriorating health issues. Nine months prior, I had a seizure-like episode when I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night; my husband found me thrashing and shaking and when I came to, I vomited and my heart was beating erratically.
Before that episode, if you had asked me, I thought I was incredibly healthy. I had been eating a Vegan diet for nearly a decade, was an avid cyclist, runner, and rock climber. I worked long days on my feet, super energetic, and was always down for an adventure. Now, when I look back at that period of time before I got sick, I remember little warning signs I had been shrugging off—hair loss that wasn’t limited to the shower but appeared all over my bedding and the rest of my apartment. Decreased energy, more muscle soreness, and an inability to wake up in the morning without a few cups of coffee. Numb and tingling extremities (I blamed this on the cold and damp Pacific Northwest weather of which I was unaccustomed to). Weight gain even though I was eating 1200 calories of carrot sticks. Because I didn’t know any better, I kept marching forward with my life, ignoring what was about to hit me square in the face.
After I recovered from that episode (for which I should have gone to the emergency room), I visited my family doctor, requesting a thorough workup. They did a battery of tests and declared me fit and healthy. Something was different though—Instead of brushing off all of the “little symptoms”, like I used to, I started noticing things and anxiety started to set in. Rough skin and painful cystic acne. Brittle and chipped fingernails. Digestive symptoms, bloating, gas, and IBS. These symptoms were worrying me, and so I decided to tighten up my diet. I did the master cleanse, followed by a three-month raw foods Vegan diet. This way of eating left me feeling worse than ever, with constant hunger, weight gain, and complete lethargy.
I continued to hire new doctors to pinpoint the cause of my ailments, but none of them were willing to do further testing considering the thorough workup I had earlier that year. I sought out a naturopathic doctor, who was the first person who actually listened to my concerns, did not tell me I was crazy, and offered to order some tests the other doctors hadn’t ordered.
What we found was Hashimoto’s and Celiac antibodies. And so I was diagnosed with both of these autoimmune diseases—but instead of medication (which I sorely needed), I was told to go gluten-free and placed on a cleanse/detox program consisting of smoothies and supplements three times a day for three weeks. I came out of the program completely weak and unable to function, and when I came down with a cold one day I never recovered. From that day on, I was so exhausted and in pain I was unable to work and lost my job. I visited the ER three times in the next six weeks for erratic electrolyte levels and chronic infections. I started experiencing worse symptoms than I had ever experienced before—low blood pressure so bad I could hardly get up to use the restroom, chest pain and pleurisy so bad that every breath produced a sharp pain, and the loss of feeling on one side of my face, hands, and feet in addition to slurred speech, dizziness, and vertigo.
My naturopath had nothing but supplements to try in response to my sudden downturn. I fired him and returned to conventional medicine, the doctors of which were convinced I was suffering from autoimmune diseases like Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis. I underwent a battery of testing, nothing tangible turning up to explain how I was suffering. “Let’s just see how this progresses over time” they said. At this point, I hadn’t been working in months. Without health insurance, my husband and I went into massive debt for the hospital visits and testing. I was so sick that I was unable to cook, clean, or run errands, and expecting my husband to provide for us as well as keep the home put a major strain on our marriage.
It was at this point that I decided to stop looking for answers from medicine and start taking my healing into my own hands. I started to do research about the connection of diet and autoimmune disease. Why was it that eating gluten-free was not helping me, and in fact, seeming to make me worse? How did this happen to me despite the fact that I had been eating a low-fat, plant-based diet for nearly a decade? I was introduced to the research of Dr. Kharrazian, as well as those in the Paleo community like Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser. All of these practitioners were recommending a diet quite the opposite of what I had been eating—one based on pastured meats, wild seafood, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. It cut grains, legumes, soy, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables along with all processed foods and refined sweeteners.
Pressure-Cooker Bone Broth
I believe consuming bone broth an integral part of the Autoimmune Protocol, because it is a nutrient-dense, gut-healing food. Bone broth is a rich source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, as well as gelatin and collagen.
I decided to embark on this elimination diet immediately, but I found that making the changes to get there were going to prove slow going and difficult. I eased in to eating meat, as I eased off of eating grains and legumes. After a three-month transition, I found myself 100% on the elimination diet and beginning to see some changes in my symptoms, although they came slowly. As I slowly regained my energy, I became capable of cooking for myself and could even do light gardening and started walking a few blocks a day.
Turmeric Tonic Kombucha
Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is a great source of organic acids, B vitamins, and various strains of probiotics and is a wonderful addition to the diet while on the Autoimmune Protocol.
As my blood pressure issues and pleurisy subsided, I found my stamina increase, to the point where I was capable of more physical activity. After three months on the elimination diet, I tried my first reintroductions—nuts, seeds, and eggs. While I found that I tolerated most nuts and seeds, eggs brought a worsening of my symptoms and I continued to avoid them. Although I was frustrated being on such a limited diet, I was more than happy with my ever increasing energy and that my health was finally moving in the right direction.
Bacon-Beef Liver Pâté with Rosemary & Thyme
Liver has amounts of notoriously hard-to absorb nutrients that those of us with autoimmune disease are usually lacking in – B vitamins, iron, zinc, and vitamins A and D. My bacon-beef liver pâté with rosemary & thyme has been my most successful attempt so far at making a dish that I actually look forward to eating.
With the next year brought some unbelievable changes in my health. I eventually went back to work part-time as a cook, working for a local family in their home. After six months, I moved up to full-time, and additionally enrolled to go back to school to become a nutritional therapy practitioner. I started my blog, autoimmune-paleo.com, to share the recipes that I had developed during my recovery.
Three-Herb Beef Breakfast Patties
The first question people often ask when they hear about the Autoimmune Protocol is, “What do I eat for breakfast?”. These three-herb beef breakfast patties are easy to make in bulk to be frozen for a quick reheat in the morning. I usually eat them with some breakfast greens, sauerkraut and a mug of bone broth.
It was around this time that the elimination diet I had used to get well, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), was gaining traction in the functional medicine and Paleo communities, and I decided to write a cookbook 100% devoted to the elimination diet called The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook: An Allergen-Free Approach to Managing Chronic Illness.
Garlic Rosemary Plantain Crackers
Looking for something to satisfy the crunchy craving while on the Autoimmune Protocol? I have been obsessed with these plantain crackers from The Paleo Mom. Many variations have been born out of her original recipe, and I’d like to share my favorite combination thus far—garlic rosemary plantain crackers!
Although it took me about a year to get there, I have been symptom-free, living a vibrant and healthy life for almost two years now. Although I can’t do some things I did in my prior life—like intense physical activity, staying up all night, eating whatever I want—I am more than motivated to continue on the path to keeping myself feeling well.
One of the recipes I get the most comments and praise about on my site is my AIP Carrot and Sweet Potato “Chili”. Most people love it because the ingredients are simple, its easy to make, and it tastes amazing!
It would be misleading to say that all of my success was due to the Autoimmune Protocol, but I do believe that getting to the root of my food allergies and sensitivities was a huge part of my recovery. Learning how to prioritize sleep, stress management, and working with a practitioner to treat underlying infections as well as get on the right dose of thyroid replacement hormone were huge pieces of the puzzle for me. If you are still on your way to recovery, my biggest piece of advice for you is to take it slow, be gentle on yourself, and don’t be afraid to own the process and take your healing into your own hands!
About Mickey Trescott
Mickey Trescott is the cook and blogger behind the website autoimmune-paleo.com, which provides recipes and resources for the autoimmune protocol. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook: An Allergen-Free Approach to Managing Chronic Illness, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol.