My Autoimmune Protocol Experiment

During the month of October, I followed a strict Whole30 and a very stringent autoimmune protocol. I was curious to see if there was some underlying autoimmune business causing inflammation in my body and limiting my ability to lose body fat — or if my stubborn fat is the result of  (a) the adrenal fatigue I’ve been working on for about a year and (b) having had my thyroid removed in November 2008. Those things seemed to be the likely culprits conspiring against me feeling and looking my best, but I’m always up for an interesting N=1 experiment. In the last few months, I’ve been working with a new doctor, trying new supplements and medication, and experimenting with different ways of working out. The Whole30+autoimmune protocol was an additional chapter in my N=1 saga.

If you’re new here, or need a refresher on my checkered past, you can read all the details in these previous posts:

Now if you’re ready, buckle up, buttercups! This is what I have to say about 30 days of the autoimmune protocol.

What I Eliminated

The autoimmune protocol is designed to eliminate foods that can be problematic for people who suffer from autoimmune diseases and/or leaky gut. I’m 99.99% sure I don’t have an underlying autoimmune issue. Some people who have thyroid challenges suffer from autoimmune disease — like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — that causes their hypothyroidism; my hypothyroidism is the result of having my thyroid removed. (That is a sentence with a shit-ton of multi-syllabic words, no?)

But to satisfy my curiosity and to walk in the (black, stompy) boots of my readers who do have autoimmune issues, I decided to tackle a very strict Whole30 along with a very strict autoimmune protocol.

These are the things I eliminated:
— all foods excluded by the Whole30 (which is how I eat 90% of the time anyway
— eggs
— nuts
— seeds, including all seed-based spices
— nightshades: white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet/hot peppers, spices derived from peppers like paprika and chile powders
— food fun

What I Thought of It

You guys, I really tried to have a good attitude. I did! But I failed. Miserably.


First, I had a stern talk with myself: Melissa Kathryn, I said, far too many people in the world don’t have food to eat at all! How dare you whine about giving up cumin and homemade mayo for a month?!

That worked for about 48 hours. So then tried to get my taste buds on board…


I invested in a bunch of dried and fresh herbs — and that led to some new recipes like Italian Pork Roast, Golden Cauliflower Soup, Cauliflower Brains, Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup (recipe coming next week), and a new chopped salad recipe for Well Fed 2. But the novelty wore off pretty quickly. I like herbs, sure, but for me, their impact is lessened without the underlying earthiness of spices. And I really, really missed the heat of hot peppers. Which brings me to…

Weekend Breakfast

As long as Dave and I have been a couple — that’s 20 years, my friends — our Saturday mornings have consisted of a workout followed by breakfast in a restaurant, where we eat food prepared by someone else and linger over coffee. No eggs and no hot peppers has meant no Habanero Mexican Cafe, our current Saturday morning spot. Instead, we went to the Central Market Cafe (a restaurant inside the Central Market grocery store) so I could hit the salad bar for roasted chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, raw veggies, and fruit with a side of extra-virgin olive oil, while Dave ate food from the Cafe. It was a fine compromise, but it was subsistence eating, not a weekend reward for a week well done.

I Feel… The Same

The biggest bummer of all— and, ultimately, the triumph — is that I felt the entire time like I was suffering for nothing: I didn’t feel any differently without eating the forbidden foods as I did when I was enjoying them. My sleep stayed the same: between 8 and 9 restful hours per night. My skin, which always looks great during a Whole30, looked the same. My bathroom habits, clothing fit, and digestion all stayed the same — and they are always great when I follow the Whole30. This experiment was to see if I would feel better and/or lose weight, and I didn’t. I felt good to great, but no very much different than usual, and my clothes fit about the same.

Nothing dramatic happened.

Except I whined. And bitched. And stomped. And pouted. And picked at my food like a sullen teenager. There was even a day when I threw away half my salad because it was so lame, I just didn’t want to eat it. That. never. happens.

But I also experienced a deeper compassion for people who do have autoimmune issues and need to adapt their habits to accommodate their health. It’s very difficult eating out on the Whole30; it’s close to impossible while following the autoimmune protocol. Foods that I don’t think of as particularly special — Texas BBQ, an omelet, fajitas… basically, my “eating out, paleo go-to foods”— are off the table because they include paprika or peppers or eggs. So, dear friends who have autoimmune disease, I get it now, and I’ll try to keep that in mind as I develop recipes for this site. And Well Fed 2 will definitely include notes about how to adapt its Whole30 recipes to be as autoimmune-friendly as possible.

What I’m Doing Next

Whole30 & Documentation

I love the way I feel when I follow the Whole30 guidelines, so I’m sticking with them through the month of November. Keep in mind, that I don’t feel deprived when I eat Whole30-style, nor do I drive myself nutso with being Sergeant McStricterson. I eat wisely in restaurants, and I don’t stress myself out.

However, my days of documenting every morsel I put in my mouth and obsessively examining my mood and sleep patterns have come to an end. I think it’s very valuable to keep a record during an N=1 experiment, but 30-60 days is enough to gather data. There’s a risk of becoming overly-analytical, I think, and too closely monitoring our own behavior can be just as damaging as being completely clueless.


I’m not making myself an omelet with chile peppers, eggplant, cumin, and pine nuts quite yet (although that does sound tasty).

As the wrap-up of my autoimmune protocol experiment, I’m methodically following the re-introduction guidelines explained in this post at PaleoMom to slowly work eggs, nightshades, spices, and nuts back into my meals. While I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have a reaction when I start those foods again, the whole month will have been wasted if I don’t re-introduce them one at a time to make sure.

I’m as happy as a caveman at a wild boar barbecue to report that I started with hot peppers (a little early) on Day 28 of my month and had no adverse reaction. Hot peppers are back on the menu! Yesterday, I added spices to my food — Tsardust Memories in my morning spaghetti squash and last night, Mergeuz Meatballs! — and I feel just fine. I feel better than fine; I feel like my spicy self again.

Sunday, I’m eating some eggs to see how those sit with me, then the following weekend, I’ll give tomatoes a shot. I’m really looking forward to a slow-simmered tomato sauce or some freakin’ salsa at Habanero!

A Few Words on Discipline For Discipline’s Sake

Following the paleo diet can be quite challenging on its own. It sets us apart from our non-paleo friends and family, removes alcohol from social situations, and forces us to use the interrogation techniques of the Gestapo at our favorite restaurants. All of that vigilance is ratcheted up to 11+ when you take on the Whole30 — and the autoimmune protocol is damn near “off the charts” for me in terms of restriction.

I’ve found so much peace following the paleo diet (and even the Whole30 guidelines) because it doesn’t feel restrictive to me. It feels expansive, creative, nourishing, and natural. But I felt like I was on a four-letter word, with a capital-D, DIET while following the autoimmune protocol.

If you don’t have a physical reason to follow the autoimmune protocol, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to force yourself to do it. Restriction can backfire, and discipline solely for the sake of being disciplined isn’t necessary for most of us. If you’re just trying to live a healthy, happy, productive, grateful life, you don’t need to deny yourself all pleasures. Discipline for discipline’s sake is not a self-loving act, and above all else, I hope this blog reinforces the idea that I think each of us deserves to treat ourselves with love.

If you have a physical condition that warrants following a restrictive diet, honoring those restrictions is an act of self-respect and self-care. But if you’re just being strict because it makes you feel virtuous or like you’re “doing something,” I want you to stop being mean to yourself. Immediately.

More on Autoimmune Protocol

If you have physical symptoms that make you think you might benefit from the autoimmune protocol, there is a wealth of helpful information in the book It Starts With Food. Additionally, Practical Paleo includes menus with recipes for autoimmune diseases, and the PaleoMom has a metric ton of helpful blog posts on her site. Here are a few to get you started:

Modifying Paleo for Autoimmune Conditions
The Whys of the AIP

And just in case you need to tackle the AIP yourself, here’s a page with links to all of my meals throughout my Whole30+AIP month.

Whole30: Week 1 Meal Plan

I really don't understand meal plans. I mean, conceptually, I get it. When you're starting a new eating plan, an expert tells you exactly what...

Read More
My Whole30 Story

It occurred to me that new readers might not be familiar with my long, loving track record with the Whole 30. It's not a success...

Read More


  • Sarah says:

    As someone with an autoimmune disease who is about to embark on the Whole30…thank you. For the recipes, resources and for the forewarning that it’s probably going to just suck. I do love me a good curry. Sigh.

    • Mel says:

      You know, it might suck. But if you can really focus on your health, it will help. Maybe 🙂

      The things that kept me going:
      1. Thinking it *might* be good for my health.

      2. Knowing the info would be helpful to you guys, so I had to suck it up.

      3. Making the recipes I really liked: Golden Cauliflower Soup, the zucchini soup that’s coming, the Italian Pork Roast

      Good luck to you!

  • Andrea says:

    Good for you for sticking with it! Even though it didn’t change anything for you…now you’ve done it and now you know so you can eliminate that from the “what if it’s…” category! And for that I know you are thankful! Enjoy your reintroduction…and on a selfish note…Well Fed really educated me and introduced me to the world of cooking with spices (THANK YOU, BTW) and I would have been dreadfully sad (for you and me) if you found that you had to eliminate them completely!!!

    • Erin in Flagstaff says:

      I want to second what Andrea wrote: your love of all things spicy has opened my world to new spices. I have even visited a Penzey’s sice store!

      I’m glad you can continue to enjoy your favorite spices, and I hope you discivered some good herb combinations for recipes. The Italian Pork Roast recipe was delicious!

      • Mel says:

        I’m RIDICULOUSLY happy to be eating spices again — and relieved that now that I’ve re-introduced them, I haven’t felt any reaction. Whew!

        Fingers crossed for eggs, cause I’ve missed them.

        So glad you’re having fun with spices — and I’m going to continue playing with herbs (like the Italian Pork Roast) for my AI friends.

  • Alexandra says:

    Thanks for the truthful review. I considered the AI protocol since I have Addison’s and Hashimoto’s diseases.

    I think the Paleo diet has helped me tremendously with the side effects of steroid dependence. I have better energy and better skin, but I don’t think I’m ever going to feel 100% perky every day the way people without my issues do. I’m finally trying to accept that my normal isn’t going to be the same as everybody else’s normal. I’m missing some important organs! I don’t think eliminating more foods will make me feel like those organs are back.

    That may come across as negative to some people, but I see this attitude as freedom. I’m trying not to hold myself to standards created by people with functioning endocrine systems. I’ve cut my work hours, started taking naps, and started asking for help.

    I hope that you are treating yourself as well as you would treat one of your blog readers. I mean that with complete kindness.

    • Lauren says:

      Excellent post. As someone with thyroid cancer, I identify. Striving for a new normal is the best thing we can do for ourselves. It has taken me almost seven years to accept this, but it is liberating. Mel- Well Fed and your blog are life-changers. Thank you.

    • Mel says:

      I’ve been thinking a lot about the things you address in your comment… the “new normal.” I think I’m still in the place where I sometimes resent that I’m not “like I used to be.” and that’s hard sometimes.

      I tried reading a few books about dealing with chronic illness, but they weren’t quite right for me. Honestly, they were kind of mopey. I don’t want to be “defined” by hypothryoidism — it’s a thing I have to deal with, now who I am… if that makes sense.

      At the same time, I do need to find peace with accepting I might not be “like I was” and that’s OK. Better than OK.

      Anyway, good on you for defining what your new normal is and for treating yourself with compassion. And asking for help is ALWAYS a good idea. For everyone, not just those of us with health stuff.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Chris B says:

        In a way, I am struggling with the same type of thing, although, in my case and I am sure for many others, “the new normal” is being 60 years old and learning to deal with the various feelings and issues that arise around aging. In my case, “not like I used to be” involves changing skin quality, new wrinkles and sags and changing muscle tone. Things that can be ameliorated by trying to eat and live healthily, but NOT denied. Good familial genes have delayed a fair amount in my case, but it has finally crept up on me big time in the last year or so and watching my thoughts and feelings around the changes has been … interesting.

        • Mel says:

          I’m so glad you brought this up! I’ve been thinking about this aspect of it a lot lately, too. I’m 44, and honestly, it feels… weird. I mean, I feel the same on the inside — like a teenager most of the time — but yes, my body, skin, etc. are changing. I’m not always sure what’s aging and what’s thyroid related, but I LOOK different. Photos kinda freak me out a little :-). It’s a fascinating experience, and I’m sure it’s only going to become more so as I move into my 50s and 60s and beyond.

          Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim says:

      Whoa – I also have Addison’s and Hashimoto’s (and autoimmune ovarian failure). Addison’s is not common so I always perk up to see that someone else has it. I love Whole30, but have not stuck with the AI protocol for more than a few days … the good news is that I generally feel fantastic with plenty of energy. Like Alexandra, I went a long time with low energy levels and had to way, way cut back work. Eventually I figured out that I just needed more steroids, including mineralcorticoids and my life has been sooo much better. I also moved away from a hot climate. Another example that we sometimes have to look beyond food for the answers.

      Melissa – thanks so very much for Well Fed and your October experiment. I will make use of your food log as I go forward.

      • KAT says:

        Kim I have Addisons and Hypothyroidism you don’t see or run across many people that have it.
        I tried this diet and failed miserably, it was hard to give up foods that I enjoyed, I tried for 3 months and didn’t notice a difference I felt the same , all my lab works still came back as high cholesterol levels no change , I guess I will learn to live with high cholesterol levels , no change in nothing I followed the diet to the letter, it just didn’t work for me 🙁

  • Lindy says:

    Thanks for this post. As someone who has been on strict autoimmune protocol for over a year (even stricter than your post…no sweet potatoes and no FODMAPs foods), it can be a difficult road. Someone recently said to me, “I’d rather die than eat like that.” I realized that there are worse things than death…the chronic, severe autoimmune pain that’s like daily torture. Other people ask, “How are you so disciplined?” I just want to say, “It’s not about discipline. When you are in agony, you will do whatever it takes to stop the pain.” If I ever feel self-pity, I stop and think about how thankful I am that I know about a protocol that works and that I’m very blessed to at least have lots of nourishing, local meats to eat. Gratitude!

    • Mel says:

      Gratitude! It works like magic sometimes, doesn’t it?! Taking stock of what’s right, rather than wrong, can instantly turn the day around. Good on your for having such a good attitude about it. Congratulations on being a first-rate human in that regard!

      And my hat is off to you for tackling what can’t be an easy diet on a daily basis. Keep on keepin’ on!

  • SarahB says:

    Just want to say thanks! Thanks for documenting your experiment and your candid thoughts about it. Wonderful!

  • Kellyann says:

    That was such real story! We are so lucky to have you share!! Love the sentence: restriction can backfire. Oh, so true!
    Great info as usual.
    Thanks Mel!

  • Sara says:

    I can relate to your experience. I have hashi’s and tried the the AP to help my symptoms a while back, for almost 6 months and it didn’t do anything for me at all. I was also getting to be a little too b*tchy because I missed my favorite foods so much, and mentally I was getting really anal about food…and I didn’t want to be the fat weird food girl anymore…it’s like the AP negated all the great benefits I got from Whole 30, so I welcomed peppers and cumin and a relaxed attitude back into my life with a vengence! The only thing I kept out was eggs, because my LDL level improved without them. I know it helps a lot of people and I’m so glad for them, but for me it just didn’t do it.

    Congrats to you on finishing, and I’m totally excited for your new recipes and book!!!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! One of the gifts of this month is that the Whole30 no longer seems restrictive at all! And I agree: feeling like I was on a diet was no good for my mental energy. Keeping out eggs doesn’t seem so bad, given that you can have the other stuff. YAY! Good on you!

    • sarah says:

      I’m impressed that you stuck with it for 6 months even though you couldn’t see any improvement–I’ve only been doing it 3 weeks so far and, without any real improvement, it just feels like I’m fighting for willpower constantly. I’ve been really into “intuitive eating” in the past, and for me I need to feel like I can unite my food desires with what is good for my body. I’m planning on staying nut, dairy, and nightshade free for a while longer, but I am planning on adding eggs (and a few seeds like mustard and chocolate) back soon because I just can’t “feel” that they are bad for me.

  • Tom R. says:

    I love, love, love this post. However, it has a tone of disappointment that you don’t have an autoimmune issue. Congratulations! You’ve learned something about yourself. Whole30 is now time tested and proven, so enjoy that ride. Looking forward to seeing the post of “Saturday a$$-kicking workout and big freaking post-WOD breakfast at the Habanero.”

    Thanks for all you do.

    • Mel says:

      HA! I was disappointed about something else yesterday, and I guess that came through.

      I’m thrilled that I don’t seem to have an underlying AI issue. It’s a huge relief, and I’m also grateful that I had the experience this month so I better understand what some of my readers face.

      No ass-kicking workout this morning, sadly. I woke up coughing at 4:30, then slept in… THEN ate at Habanero. I ate salsa! And so far, I feel great. Two days will be the test, but tomatoes might be back on the menu 🙂

  • Jen says:

    I have a couple of autoimmune diseases and I’ve been dreading the AI protocol. I started seeing a local herbalist and while treating my adrenal fatigue my AI symptoms have virtually disappeared! I’m so grateful I can put the AI diet on the back burner and I might not ever need it (especially after reading this!). Your book made me feel like paleo is so delicious and nourishing, too! Hugs from Iowa

  • Marisa H says:

    So why don’t you have a thyroid anymore then? I’m sure you mentioned it somewhere but I didn’t see it in my brief post skim.

    • Mel says:

      I had my thyroid removed in November 2008. The doctor found a large nodule on my thyroid and was concerned it might be cancerous. It was too large to do a needle biopsy, so I had to have it removed. They took the entire right side and about half of the left, so there’s a little piece left, but it doesn’t work very well.

      The good news: no cancer. So that’s great. But since I had it removed, my fitness, weight, and energy have been an ongoing struggle. I’m really hoping I’m finally on the right track with my new Armour prescription, new habits, and Dr. Sebring advising me.

  • Andrea says:

    Spare a thought for those of use with severe food intolerance such as salicylates, amines and other naturally occurring food chemicals. I love herbs and spices and all foods flavorsome and tasty. However since my food intolerance has intensified and also now triggers severe Crohn’s attacks (autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease) all of that lovely tasty amd colorful food is off the menu. Trying to do Paleo or any other healthy diet is almost impossible when most vegetables, fruit, spices and herbs contain high levels of these chemicals. Without a variety of vegetables or anything to provide colour and flavour my staples are animal proteins plus gluten and lactose free carbs which translates into a bland, white diet. Healthy diets, even Paleo, are not for everyone.

    • Mel says:

      Hugs to you! I know it must be tough dealing with food issues in a world that wants us all to eat what’s convenient. You wrote “Healthy diets, even Paleo, are not for everyone.” That’s a great reminder that we’re all special snowflakes and need to find what works for each of us.

      Sending good vibes to you.

  • aseafish says:

    You are so right on many counts, as usual. I still whine about AI limitations, but I am no fan of pain. We do what we have to do. I’m glad to hear your take is that you don’t have to do it for health’s sake. I’m also delighted with your mention of increased sensitivity to those of us who do.

    I don’t cheat on Paleo nor on AI because I know what will follow. It’s not because I have something to prove as family and friends sometimes suggest. And I really, really miss hot spicy food.

    • Mel says:

      Yeah, cheating isn’t a treat when it hurts, right?! And that’s another reason I’m glad I did the AI for a month — because if I DO find a sensitivity to something when I re-introduce, it will help me remember that ALL of this — the training, the nutrition, the meditation — is to have a great life. And a great life is one with a minimum of physical discomfort and lots of energy — which is only possible if we feed ourselves well.

      I’m sorry you miss spicy food! I really am. Hugs.

  • Kelly says:

    All I can say is “brava”! You stuck with it, and it was HARD, and you still ended up feeling the same, but you still got something out of it. A lot of people would have given up by day 2. Thanks for taking us along.

    • Mel says:

      I’m quite stubborn, so I was never going to quit it. But I wanted to 😉 And Dave should get an award for dealing with my whining.

  • Mickey says:

    It has been really great to see your journey with this, and congrats for not having autoimmune problems! I’ve been on the protocol for a few months, and the benefits are great enough for me to contemplate making it the new normal. I’m now comfortable with my reactions to the banned food groups that I will gladly take a few days of joint pain for a spicy curry, or have some digestive upset to eat nuts. I keep it strict most of the time, but I’m finally getting to the point where I can live a little, and it feels great. 🙂

    I am super excited that you will be thinking of us autoimmune paleo dieters when you make new recipes for your site and book. I think the paleo scene is finally coming around and realizing that there are a lot of people on this diet that need resources. In the last month I have decided to do an e-cookbook, Diane Sanfilipo announced she is working on one, and a handful of bloggers like yourself have been trying the protocol and adding recipes. That makes me so happy! 🙂


    • Mel says:

      It’s great that you know how you can stretch and bend to indulge once in a while without hurting yourself too much. Awesome!

      I can’t promise that there will be a lot of deliberately AI-friendly recipes in Well Fed — but they will all be Whole30 compliant, and I’ll include notes for how to adapt them for AI, where I can.

  • Monica says:

    I think it is amazing that you let us all in on what you have been doing and how you really feel about it! No sugar coating. Your inner Abby AKA Pauley Perrette is showing through! Thank you!

  • Sarah says:

    OMG BRILLIANT! I just bought your book- which I ADORE, and have bought 2 more copies for friends- and I LOVE spices, peppers, nuts, and all things banned from the AI protocol. Add in a Fructose Malabsoprtion diagnosis and doing this AI Whole 30 – FODMAPS is seeming more and more impossible (and depressing). Having your meal plan is motivating. THANK YOU!

    p.s. your hot plates are genius.

    • Mel says:

      I’m so glad you like Well Fed — thank you! Hang in there… you can do it. And you might find that some of the forbidden foods are actually OK for you. Don’t despair!

      Hugs from Austin.

  • Kathryn says:

    Glad you can start adding back some of your favorits to your diet! Thank you for sharing your journey!

    I’ve got some Cinnamon Beef Stew simmering on the stove right now and it smells delish! Thanks for getting me excited about cooking 🙂

  • Linda Sand says:

    I’m glad to hear you are going to step through the reintroduction phase. Years ago I had to completely eliminate dairy for allergy testing purposes. I thought it didn’t make any difference until I was asked to drink half a glass of milk at the end. Bam! Instant, massive headache! So, now I know it was making a difference even if it was too subtle for me to realize at the time.

  • Cynthia says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! And the rest of your journey too. You’re simply amazing and so spot on. Your blog is where I come to find some understanding! After my gland was removed, the recovery stage was deceptively easy. Then out of the blue I became overly tired, weak and every muscle and bone in my body seems to ache. While a Whole30 didn’t help with any of that, it did allow me to start losing weight by swapping some carbs for fat. But the inflammation just won’t let up. I do find myself getting angry, esp when I can’t even do Child’s Pose, which was always one of my go to stretches, but things aren’t stretching like anymore. I dropped my Synth to 175 and added 5 of Cytomel about 3 weeks ago so we’ll see how that goes. And I’ve also stopped thinking of myself as the girl who could lift heavy and ran 5ks and did 50 mile bike rides and just decided to start all over again. So now you can call me Runner 5 😉 Screw the Zombs!

  • Thank you for doing this n=1 experiment, even if it was pout-inducing. I’ve been dreading doing the AI protocol. I’m still not sure if I need it, but I’m going to ask my doc to test me for autoimmune issues, just to see first, as while I know my thyroid quit, I never found out if it was through Hashi’s or not.

  • Steph says:

    When I did my own 30-day autoimmune protocol, I remember two things that got me through it: grill-smoking a couple tri-tips with salt and garlic, and making your rogan josh. I had to cobble the spices together without using anything pre-mixed, but OH NO A TRIP TO THE INDIAN SPICE STORE HOWEVER WILL I LIIIIVE (fans herself) (clutches her pearls).

    I should note that I didn’t bother with omitting seed-based spices, though maybe I should have? I don’t know. I never saw that in any of the AIP protocols I researched.

    Anyway…yeah. Even if I was “doin it wrong”, it felt like the death of fun. At the end, I discovered that what I eliminated didn’t make me feel any different…with the exception of alcohol. The moment I cycled alcohol back in, I had my first waking nightmare since I’d gone on the protocol. I am also fairly certain that fresh tomatoes don’t work for me. It’s pretty ugly, what they do to my digestion. Cooked, fine. Fresh, don’t stand between me and the bathroom if you want to live. 😛

    • Steph says:

      Er, I should also mention that the reason I put together my own rogan josh spice was to omit the obvious nightshades: paprika, chili. But cumin and coriander stayed in. Interested to know why you would omit those as well? And sorry if you’ve already said somewhere above.

  • Tasha says:

    Have you tried giving up FODMAPS or thought about SIBO as a cause? That’s what my sister is working on, could be the same for you?

  • Lydia says:

    Bless you for doing this, sticking with it, and faithfully reporting your experiences. I start my own AIP journey in January and your trailblazing help is invaluable.


  • Kim says:

    It was so nice to read through all these comments. I’ve been dealing with hypothyroidism for a few years (unknowingly), and was diagnosed a little over a year ago and am now on Synthroid. I’m just now making the connection between what I eat, my sleep & stress, and how they’ve affected me. It’s just nice to know I’m not alone. It’s been quite defeating at times, especially when few can understand what’s happening internally. Anyways, thank you all for sharing your comments.

  • sharon KAT says:

    I am new to this blog. received ur book yesterday read cover to cover! so excited been living here 4 years havnt used my stove yet can’t wait!!! love hot and spicy food. ive been doing paleo strict 3 weks lost 10 lbs feel beand look better just still cant sleep more than a few hrs without waking still waking up to p alot thru the night? any suggestions would b appreciated. gave up alcohol 3 months ago and am also going through menopause at 50 have been on and off for 2 years. Also when is ur new cook book coming out ?? one of my best friends has celiac and introduced me to paleo is there any way u can include notes for her to adapt recipes? thank u for making me excited about food and life again! KAT

    • Mel says:

      Welcome to our little crew — glad you found us!

      Congratulations on your success with paleo so far. That’s really great!

      My only advice for not waking up to pee is to stop drinking anything 2-3 hours before bed. New cookbook will be out October 2013.

      Re: celiacs… all of my recipes are gluten and grain free, so the recipes in Well Fed shouldn’t need any modifications.

      • sharon KAT says:

        Thanx for the quick.response and welcome. I went on a stock the pantry trip last nite FUN!! I also visited penzys site WOW good stuff! Was wondering if you could advise where to get coconut aminos? Also isn’t ghee an indian butter/oil? Havn’t found that in any of my stores either? I’ve never used spaghetti squash do I have to wait for it to ripen and if so how do i tell? Is there a difference between a regular peeler and a julliene peeler. i looked all over last nite none say for julliene vegetables etc. and I don’t see any difference? Ok thanx again hope to here from u soon. sharon Kat

      • sharon KAT says:

        Thanx for the quick.response and welcome. I went on a stock the pantry trip last nite FUN!! I also visited penzys site WOW good stuff! Was wondering if you could advise where to get coconut aminos? Also isn’t ghee an indian butter/oil? Havn’t found that in any of my stores either? I’ve never used spaghetti squash do I have to wait for it to ripen and if so how do i tell? Is there a difference between a regular peeler and a julliene peeler. i looked all over last nite none say for julliene vegetables etc. and I don’t see any difference? Ok thanx again hope to here from u soon. sharon Kat

  • melissa says:

    I’ve been considering the autoimmune protocol. I have Hashi and they think my adrenals are tanked. I’ve been doing hormones trying to fix things, I know not else to do st this point

    • Mel says:

      Good luck to you! A clean diet can’t fix everything, but it can give you a solid foundation so your stress management, sleep, etc. can help your body heal. Hang in there!

  • Leah says:

    I’ve been bloated for several months. Dr has tested everything. I eat paleo majority of the time- some wine here & there but pretty strict. I have no idea why I’m bloated. Some days worse than others. Any input? Should I try AIP? It feels hopeless!! I have an appt. w/GI but not sure what he will say.

    • Mel says:

      You certainly can’t harm yourself by trying the AIP, and it might help you get to the root cause of your bloating I have to admit: when I re-introduced eggs last week, I think I had a reaction. I ate two eggs for breakfast on Friday, then bloated like a balloon on Sat and Sun… didn’t sleep through the night, was drenched in sweat, had sugar cravings, and my skin freaked out. So… I’m on 3 weeks with no eggs again so I can eat them again to make sure. So yeah, AIP might be helpful for you.

      • Leah says:

        Thank you for your response. I’ve been researching this again and really considering doing the AIP. Has your bloating been better?

        • Mel says:

          Well… I’ve eaten eggs again and had no reaction, so my bloating that day was from something else. I also ate canned sauerkraut that day, so that might be the culprit. As it is, I’m back to my usual 90% Whole30 compliance, and I feel great.

  • Me & several of my friends are going to do the Autoimmune Protocol starting in January. Can you tell me if coconut aminos & capers are allowed on the diet? Thanks! btw – I LOVE your book!

    • Mel says:

      Yes to both… coconut aminos contain only coconut, which is 100% approved — and capers are the pickled buds of flowers, so no reason to avoid them.

  • Janis says:

    Hi Melissa,

    I’m fairly new to your site and asked “Santa” for your Well Fed book. My husband and I loved each recipe that I made, so I thank you for some very tasty meals! You should open a “Paleo” restaurant. You are that good. I just wanted to say that when I came upon your x’s on the food pics during the AIP, I had to laugh, because that’s how I feel, NO FUN. I am doing this for thirty days this month, like a lot of people, and am disappointed that I cannot continue with your recipes at this time, since a lot of them contain chili pepper type spices!!!! I am looking forward to getting back, hopefully, to those nightshades in Feb. Thank you so much for your cookbook. I have read it front to back. I’m going to check out more of your blog when you did the AIP for pointers and tips. I am a Delaware County Pennsylvanian!
    We were practically neighbors! Haha.


    • Mel says:

      I’m so glad you like Well Fed — thanks for letting me know!

      And yes, the AIP is not very fun… and spices are tough if you’re doing it very, very strictly. All herbs are allowed and cinnamon and turmeric are AIP-approved. Sigh; I know it’s not much.

      But a month isn’t so bad, and if you eat lots of yummy veg with coconut oil and some chives, you’ll survive. Keep us posted on how you’re doing!

      • Janis says:

        Thanks for the tips! You’re right, a month isn’t so bad. I’ll keep you posted and I’ll see if I can modify some of your yummy recipes for me and add the extra spices for the hubby. Everyone’s happy.

        • Janis says:

          Hi Melissa,

          Well, I’m really ready for this to be over with! Insert whining now! I miss so many foods and exotic spices! I am ready to reintroduce eggs, but will wait another couple of weeks! BTW, thank you for the links to Paleo Mom for everything AIP. It was very helpful, especially how to reintroduce certain foods and in what order. I was hoping my sleep improved, but it has not. My energy levels aren’t that great either. (I’m in my 50’s so perhaps menopause is playing a role in all of this as well) Well, thank you for letting me rant and I hope to make your cauliflower soup today!


          • Mel says:

            Yeah, it’s really not fun. I remember how much it was sucky, and I’m sending you good vibes. You can do it. And best wishes for smooth re-introduction of foods! Sorry to say it, but that’s kind of a pain, too 🙂

            But SCIENCE! It’s worth it. Promise!

  • Janis says:

    Thanks Melissa, I really appreciate it! Not looking forward to the reintroduction now either! Oh well, hopefully all will go smoothly.

  • ashley hibbitts says:

    M, I just re-read this post. I am starting Autoimmune and low FODMAP. I am having an inner tantrum today too! I feel like I need a sob session to say goodbye to lots of my paleo go to’s. Thanks for great guidelines. Hoping to meet you at Paleo FX this year!!

    • Mel says:

      I’m sorry, Ashley! It really can be a drag, but hang in there!

      I did a presentation at a gluten-free meeting the other night and someone was doing the AIP. She asked if I had any tips for making it better, and honestly, I think the easiest thing is to keep meals really simple. Make some GREAT steak or fish or chicken, a nice big salad with fresh herbs, some yummy veggies on the side. Use plenty of garlic and parsley… and sometimes, you just gotta white knuckle it until you get past the tantrum. Good luck! Hugs.

  • I’m about to start a whole 30 tomorrow and I’m glad I found your post on this. I do actually have a digestive autoimmune disorder so I’m interested to see how it affects me. Thanks for posting your experience!

    • Mel says:

      Best wishes for an awesome Whole30 experience! I’m on a strict elimination diet again — day 53! — and it’s not so bad once you get used to it. Good luck to you!

  • Kathryn says:

    Thank you. I have had to be nightshade free for over a year now (suddenly not able to breath type reaction) along with dairy free and gluten free. My family has dealt with food allergies for 14 years when my daughter was first diagnosed. It amazes me how flippant many people can be regarding food allergies and intolerances. I actually had one gal tell me I was wrong and that no one can be allergic to tomatoes. I proceeded to pull out my Epi Pen and ask her if she knew how to administer it properly. It pretty much stopped the conversation. I have three autoimmune diseases so it is a blessing to me to be able to have fun cooking in my kitchen again. It took me over 6 months though to get past my whining, weeping, anger, and return to the love of experimenting with flavors and food. One thing that helped me for all those just starting out was to splurge on a brand new herb or spice or fancy cut of meat or really good oil twice a month.

    • Mel says:

      Whew! Dealing with sensitivities, autoimmune issues, and just general life can be a lot, no? It sounds like you’re taking really good care of yourself. Right on!

      Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with us. Best wishes to you.

  • Tracy S says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have hashimoto’s tied in with a newly found seed allergy. HUGE red flag for needing to change my diet. And as a former lover of all things cumin, it’s been a struggle. Absolutely nothing takes the place of cumin. But step by step I’m making changes to my diet. Soon to include a whole30 and later include the AIP. I love all the recipes and advice! Thank you!

  • Hi Melissa,


    Second, I was wondering whether you considered that your emotional crabbiness during the diet was part of the whole process? Maybe there was some emotional detoxing going on? I see that often with my patients, and just thought I’d mention it. I know it was a while ago now, but I’m just reading the post.

    All the best!

  • Tricia says:

    Hi do any of you have unwanted hair on your face ??
    Do you think this diet will help. I can’t take it anymore!!

  • Samantha says:

    I have been on AIP for about 8 months and am now doing reintroductions. It has helped me immensely as I have ulcerative colitis. I totally relate to what you said about going out to eat, when you can find something it really only amounts to subsistence not enjoyment, I miss going out more but the food make at home is fresh and delicious though. Good luck in your journey!

  • Amanda says:

    I was wondering if anyone has lost weight doing AIP? I am starting soon and really need to lose weight.

    • Some people lose weight when they start following the AIP because their inflammation is reduced or removed. Everyone is different, but if you get your body healthy, you could lose weight. It’s very difficult for an inflamed body to get to its ideal weight.

  • Kendra says:

    Thank you for this! I’m on day 6 of the Auto Immune Protocol and I woke up today dreaming of iced coffee. I only drank decaf, but the smell, the taste, the ritual of it… Anyways, I’m not sure if the diet will help but feel like I need to do something. So it was very helpful to see that it’s not just in my head that this diet is hard. It is freaking hard. Even you thought it was hard (Proof! I’m not alone!)

    And it’s hard even though I normally avoid nightshades (well…mostly except that I love spicy spicess) and eggs, the rest have tipped me over to the side of DIET and frustration. Fingers are crossed that I’ll be fine when I add back in nuts, seeds, wine and, of course, coffee. Tea is a very poor substitute (sorry England).

    • Congratulations on six days of awesome self care. I know it’s really hard, but you can do it. During my experiment, I alternated through emotions like stubbornness, feeling sorry for myself, anger, and commitment. You may find that after you heal your gut, you’ll be able to reintroduce some of your favorites with no trouble. Hang in there and try to love your body enough to give it time to sort itself out. You’re not being punished, even though it sometimes feels like it. Instead, you’re treating yourself with kindness and gentle care.

  • Carolyn says:

    I’ve been doing the diet for 2 and a half months now and I don’t feel any change at all. I’m constantly hungry and never feel satisfied. I’m allergic to fruit so that’s cut out as well. I’m battling trying not to be grumpy and have self-pity that I can’t eat anything or enjoy food with my family and friends anymore. I don’t know why I’m not improving at all and need some encouragement!

    • It sounds like you just might need to eat more: add a little more fat and protein — that might fix you right up. There’s no need to hungry if you’re eating whole, natural foods, especially when you’re dealing with the added challenges of following the strict AIP. Try adding a little more food to your plate at each meal, or add another mini-meal to your day.

  • Christina says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been on the autoimmune protocol about a month now. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not forever and it sets you up to figure out what foods don’t sit well. For me, sadly, it’s th nightshades. I’ve felt a million times better since I nixed them and while I miss everything that tomatoes are in, I feel so much better that I know it’s not worth it.

  • Kelley says:

    I have had Ulcerative Colitis for ten years and want to get healthy and lose some weight. I’m on Day 14 of the “regular” Whole30, and I love it! But I haven’t eliminated eggs, nuts, and night shades. That’s so much of what I eat on this! I have no idea how I could eat like that. That’s eliminating practically everything. 🙁


    • I eliminated eggs, nuts, nightshades, and spices while doing a Whole30. It’s do-able, but you have to be vigilant 🙂 We event traveled while we were doing it, so it can be done. We ate a lot of burger patties, grilled chicken, slow-cooked pork roast, steaks with just salt and garlic on them… along with veggies and sweet potatoes. It was a little boring, but the food still tastes really good and we started to feel great after a while.