Wendy Gettin' Healthy - Surviving and Thriving with Autoimmune Disorder
When Wendy Portledge was 32, she started getting sick. She had just moved to Victoria, BC. She started noticing dermatitis and at one point had lost nearly 1/3 of her hair. In spite of a host of prescriptions and treatments from doctors, the symptoms remained. It wasn't until she did her own research, and found out about Autoimmune Disorders that she decided to try a change in her diet.
“I was eating your typical “SAD” diet. I loved greasy foods, cheese, breads, pastries, you name it! My Maritime staples were mostly junk - poutine, garlic fingers, pecan butter tarts. We have drive-throughs everywhere and we used them. I hated fruit and disliked a lot of vegetables. I rarely cooked from scratch and ate mostly frozen meals at home."
What is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
“I read about Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which is an elimination diet set up to help fix your gut and improve autoimmune symptoms. Once I learned about it, I found a naturopath that would help me walk through the process."
The Autoimmune protocol diet may seem pretty scary at first. It's more restrictive than even paleo or gluten-free diets. AIP dieters have to eliminate dairy, grains, legumes, and high-calorie refined ingredients such as sugar and oils; there's also eggs, nightshades, gum, artificial sweeteners, various food thickeners. The list is lengthy, but Wendy Portledge decided to take her own path and eliminate foods gradually, finding this much easier than suddenly having to eliminate such a large array of options.
"Gluten, dairy, cane sugar, those were first. We did all grains, eggs, legumes, nightshades, eventually came alcohol and coffee. After a certain amount of time, I would follow with a controlled reintroduction and see if I reacted. It was clear at that point what I was reacting to and what I was not.”
That’s where AIP becomes less scary: you get to reintroduce foods you have taken out of your diet. As long as they don’t cause symptoms when you reintroduce them, they remain in your diet.
“I used to eat eggs every day. Now I know I react to them. If I eat an egg I am in extreme physical pain for 24 hours. I used to be in constant pain and now it’s only occasional and not as severe. I have learned to listen to my body and be aware of signals it’s telling me. My hair has grown back and my skin has cleared. My autoimmune issues are in remission.”
Finding the Motivation for the AIP Diet
Making massive dietary changes for the sake of health and healing is like quitting an addiction. You don’t want to do it, but you know you have to, and when you do, you’re miserable. Wendy experienced withdrawal not just with one substance but with several. “I called it Hell for five weeks as I went through detox from the sugar, gluten, and caffeine.”
When asked what kept her going, Wendy said it was an awareness of just how extreme her autoimmune symptoms had been. Her willpower was her absolute refusal to return to a life where she was losing her hair and suffering from dermatitis. Those five weeks of withdrawal were hard, but they were also the beginning of something new: a new lifestyle to support a healthier body, a new menu, and a whole new way of cooking.
Making the Most of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet
“I now make almost every meal from scratch, and my meals are full of flavour. I eat better than I ever have... When I was finally well enough to travel and had figured out my diet, I went back to NB to visit my family. That’s when I discovered Master Indian Spice Kits. I am fortunate enough to not have issues with most nightshades, so most of the packs I could use. I would replace any dairy with coconut milk and it worked well! I have noticed with the new packaging that a lot of dairy requirements have been changed to coconut milk, and even some sugar has been removed so you can add your own! These are amazing changes that fit exactly with my restrictions. A company that grows by listening to its customers is a company I will proudly support.
“Another wonderful thing with these kits is there’s room to grow as a chef. They help make you more comfortable with cooking. I always add veggies now and make it a full one-dish meal. I have learned to make wonderful Indian dishes with these kits and can now experiment outside the box. This is something I am grateful for and thank Master Indian for making wonderful Indian dishes reachable for the at home cook.
“My mother has taken note; I never had interest in cooking growing up. She is always impressed by my meals. My partner gets to eat healthier now and has no complaints…”
Wendy continues to chronicle her culinary journey, which you can find on Instagram at Wendy Gettin' Healthy