Today's post has been written by my son, Sam. We realised Sam had severe gut issues when he was nearly 3 years old, so he was put onto a gluten free, dairy free diet. He's eighteen now so we're talking around 2003 or so. Back then there wasn't much information so we were at a bit of a loss as to how we could heal him, especially since my husband and I were rejected by doctors and consultants for years. We eventually stumbled upon the GAPS diet, which we all followed for several years before finding and transitioning to the Autoimmune Protocol in 2014. The transformation was astounding. Sam went from a baby who cried most of the time as he writhed about and refused to sleep, to a pre-pubescent child with anxiety, depression and anger management issues, to a young man who is fun, very loving, and extremely kind - in other words, a completely different person today. As his peer group began to suffer with their own mental health issues, Sam's only got better. As his friends at school were complaining of sadness and depression, Sam was leaving his behind. I wholeheartedly believe this metamorphosis is due to our intervention as we worked tirelessly to heal his gut, which also healed his mind. Read on, and you'll see I'm not the only one who feels this way.
As a boy who has lived most of his life to date on one healing protocol or another, the time has come for him to leave my skillet and home cooking for an independent life at university. So, with the hope of helping other families to understand their children as they help them to thrive, I asked Sam to write a very honest account of what it's been like for him to grow up as a "child of the AIP". The deal was he could write whatever he liked - the only stipulation was he couldn't swear!!
So here are Sam's unedited thoughts. If you have any questions, let us know and I'll get him to answer them for you.
Being on an elimination diet is not the easiest thing in the world.
Not only do you have to be super strict about what you’re eating and resist the temptation to buy food that sounds a lot nicer in the mind, but you also have to deal with the constant hassle that comes with it.
It can be incredibly frustrating, having to explain that you can only eat certain foods to everyone that offers you a quick snack, and it can be even harder to stay on diet if you aren’t used to regulating your consumption. As a child in England, I hated being on a diet because I had to watch everyone around me eat a lot of really nice-looking food. In addition, no one else at my school had ever even considered the possibility of a diet like mine even existing, and I was therefore interrogated about it often enough to drive me insane.
Years later, when I was put on the AIP, I had to say goodbye to many of my favorite foods and snacks such as eggs and nuts, and anything that incorporated those foods as ingredients.
It truly felt like I was on an elimination diet because, when combined with additional food and blood tests, the list of foods I could eat was continually shrinking.
My experience in Canada with the diet was made easier by the existence of vegans and the small multitude of people in a special network dedicated to the AIP, but it still felt like a chore to have to explain to each and every person that I wasn’t allowed to eat certain foods for reasons I wasn’t even sure about until recently. As such, I frequently cheated on the diet, and ended up spending hundreds of dollars just to compensate for what I was missing out on. While I felt remorse for letting all that money go to waste and managed to put my spending habits to rest, I never regretted actually consuming the food that I had bought. While on the AIP, I missed sugar like I would miss a family member, and every time I ate something off-diet felt like a reunion with a childhood friend.
The AIP isn’t all chores and torture like I’ve been making it out to be, though.
Over the years, I’ve noticed some definite improvements in both my physical and mental health, and I can only attribute these changes to the diet. My energy levels were much higher than they had been in my early teens, I was much less aggressive to my parents and sister even when they aggravated me to the point of lashing out, and I even managed to cure myself of my five year-depression. It was only recently when I came out of my stage of denial about the AIP being the cause of these changes rather than the new environment or my social standing, although those two factors definitely didn’t hurt.
Despite my eternal envy of others and their meals, I couldn’t help admitting that a lot of what the AIP had to offer tasted really good.
I still give my family grief over having to eat nutrient-dense foods like liver and fried salmon cakes, and I still complain about how making a salad big enough to feed four people is a chore I’d rather not do, but the results are always worth it, and the food always ends up tasting great. One thing I love about the AIP is how creative you can get with it despite how limited the diet itself is. For instance, we make ice cream out of bananas, coconut milk, and whatever fruit we feel like putting in there, and the taste of the finished product is right on par with store-bought ice cream.
To everyone out there who’s struggling with health problems like I was as a child, I’d recommend the AIP.
It may be an absolute chore to uphold the limitations that come with the diet, and it may seem impossible to avoid eating foods you normally wouldn’t think twice about, but the long-term benefits to your health more than make up for these short-term problems.
At university, I will most likely find it more difficult to stay completely on diet, but I will be trying my best to eat as healthily as possible, as often as possible.