I recently went on a 2 week Pacific Coast Highway road trip with my mom from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the holidays. My mom has had rheumatoid arthritis for a few years now, which is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks your joints, and has yet to find relief from pain and discomfort. She still has a hard time walking at a normal pace and gets tired easily throughout the day.
It’s been frustrating and difficult trying to convince her to go on the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet for a while now, especially because she lives in South Korea, where almost all foods are heavily spiced and filled with nightshades and soy sauce. It was too daunting for her because she has a hard time cooking for herself with her aching joints, which I completely understand. So when she told me she’ll be visiting for the holidays for an indefinite period of time, I thought, “What a great chance to put her on the autoimmune protocol!” And it was!
So today, I want to share my experience of what worked, what didn’t, and how we were able to stick to the diet for 2 weeks during out AIP road trip. But first…
What is the Autoimmune Protocol?
Although I’m familiar with the Autoimmune Protocol as an NTP and what it’s about, it’s a whole different beast when you are attempting it yourself, especially while traveling, and it took a ton of preparation and education beforehand.
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a diet designed to heal the gut and reduce inflammation in the body for anyone dealing with an inflammatory disease. Especially for those who are suffering from an autoimmune disease, AIP can be quite helpful because it limits all foods that are known to cause allergies and inflammation like eggs, gluten, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, vegetable oils, alcohol, and nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and all types of peppers. Yes, it’s restrictive, but after some time of feeling better, you can start re-introducing some of the foods back in one at a time to see which foods you do not react to and which ones you do.
All autoimmune diseases begin in the gut. Once the digestion is compromised by poor diet, stress, genetics, and/or toxins, it can lead to leaky gut, which means that inappropriate food particles seep through your intestinal lining and into various tissues in the body. Eventually, the body cannot differentiate between its own tissues and foreign invaders, and starts attacking its own tissues. This can manifest in many different ways and this is how different types of autoimmune diseases form. My mom’s autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, is the type that attacks her joints.
By limiting the foods that inflame the gut, AIP can reduce the inflammation that affect the body as well. 70% of our immune system reside in the gut, so it’s extremely important to heal the gut first in order to heal the body. And that’s why the AIP diet works for so many people!
Preparing for the road trip
Like I mentioned above, it took me a few hours of studying and educating myself to get prepared for this trip. I had to start from scratch with how to cook in the kitchen, what spices to use (and not to use), and which new ingredients to purchase that were AIP-friendly. AIP blogs like The Paleo Mom, Phoenix Helix, The Curious Coconut, and Autoimmune Wellness were EXTREMELY helpful. I also bought 2 books: The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook and The Autoimmune Wellness Cookbook, and I can’t recommend them enough if you are starting your AIP journey. They had some amazing insights and recipes to start out with.
Besides the knowledge piece, I did a ton of prep cooking before the beginning of the trip. I made Fig Energy Bites (above photo), AIP Mayonnaise, Bacon-Beef Liver Pâte, and Carrot Ginger Soup from The Autoimmune Wellness Cookbook, as well as bone broth, sauerkraut, and AIP breakfast pork sausage.
I also bought tons of snacks for the road. The last thing I wanted was us getting hungry and having to stop at a random restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where we have to slip on the AIP diet because nothing on the menu is compliant. These snacks were lifesaver on the road and it was able to hold us up until we found a kitchen or a food allergy conscious restaurant.
Some of the snack items were:
- Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna
- Dang Gluten Free Toasted Coconut Chips, Lightly Salted, Unsweetened
- Inka Crops Original Plantain Chips
- Organic Raw Tigernuts
- Pork Clouds – Rosemary & Sea Salt
During the 2 weeks, it took us about a little over a week to get from SF to LA, with many stops along the way. We made sure to only stay at Airbnbs with a full kitchen, so we can really focus on quality home cooked meals. Like I mentioned, I used the cookbooks that I bought and AIP blogs for delicious recipe ideas and inspirations. However, I’m such a free spirit in the kitchen and don’t like to follow recipes exactly. So after trying out several recipes, I quickly got more comfortable with AIP cooking, and was able to produce my own recipes and ideas. You probably noticed that my past few recipes are AIP-friendly and that’s because I was able to be more creative once I became familiar with the Autoimmune Protocol!
One of the most helpful tricks was batch cooking, especially when we wanted to spend more time exploring the area and the beautiful coasts and less time in the kitchen. By making multiple portions at once, we were able to enjoy the leftovers for 2-3 more meals which made sticking to the AIP diet much more manageable.
When first going on the AIP diet, it’s really difficult to dine out because most restaurants use cracked black peppers, nightshade spices, and vegetable oils. I knew that eating at restaurants may be unavoidable at times while traveling, so I researched a lot to find places that were food allergy friendly, gluten free, and/or farm-to-table to make sure they used quality ingredients. Yelp was honestly our best friend and I used search terms like “organic,” “gluten free,” “nightshades,” “paleo,” and “food allergies” to find dining spots that would cater to my mom’s diet.
I was actually surprised about how accommodating these restaurants were and how they allowed us to change the dish completely to fit my mom’s diet. I even asked some places if they could cook her food in olive oil instead of vegetable oil and they were totally fine with it. I think the trick is to be super nice and friendly, and don’t be afraid to ask a bunch of questions.
It was surprising to find out that a lot of the servers knew what nightshade vegetables were! We ended up paying a bit more for her meals but I think it was totally worth it to stay on the safe side. We even brought our own dressing to the restaurants so she can enjoy burgers and salads without worrying about the inflammatory oils in the dressings they serve.
It was a bit more difficult when we decided to eat Korean food in LA, because all the sauces and side dishes were heavy on the soy sauce. However, we were able to get Korean BBQ with non-seasoned meats, and oxtail soups that we asked them to hold the black pepper for. It worked out really well and we were able to avoid non-AIP foods to the best of our abilities.
My mom’s progress
It’s actually a bit too early to tell if the diet has changed her flare ups. We’ve been on the road for 2 weeks with occasional dining out, so you can see why it’s difficult to be 100% compliant to the AIP diet. However, I do see that she has more energy throughout the day and she’s been talking about how much better she’s been sleeping. She’s also been eating a lot when this time last year, she didn’t have much of an appetite. This is a good thing because she lost so much weight in the last few years because of her illness and she has always been skinny. I think the diet definitely helped her feel better overall so I hope to update you later when there’s more progress.
The road trip is over but my mom is still staying with me for an indefinite period of time, so we are sticking to the AIP diet while she’s here. Expect to see more AIP recipes from me because that’s mostly what I’ve been cooking up recently!
If you or anyone you know suffers from an autoimmune disease and you need help on how to get started, or if you have any questions about my experience with my mom, do not hesitate to contact me! I love sharing my stories with you all, especially if it can help you or your loved ones in your health journey. I look forward to updating you again soon so stay tuned!
Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.