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How Angie Alt Went From Lichen Sclerosus Agony to AIP Joy

Hey, welcome! I am so excited to be here today with the amazing Angie Alt! Angie is a Certified Health Coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as well as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Consultant with the Nutritional Therapy Association. Angie leads group coaching programs as well as working one-on-one with a small number of motivated people looking to take control of their autoimmune disease through the Autoimmune Protocol (hereafter AIP). Additionally, Angie works closely with medical doctors and researchers to educate them on the benefits of AIP for autoimmune diseases and how to implement the protocol.

Angie is also the author of the award-winning book “The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook), co-author of “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, and co-host of The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast.

Angie has Lichen Sclerosus, as well as Celiac disease, and is here with us today to share how she healed her Lichen Sclerosus and autoimmune disease through AIP. She is a tremendous powerhouse and educator in the world of AIP and nutrition therapy. 

This is such an important episode if you have been looking for more insight and guidance with respect to diet, food, and Lichen Sclerosus, this podcast episode is for you. It is chock-full of information, so be sure to bookmark these show notes so you can come back to them.

Lichen Sclerosus Support Network – A Huge Thank You To Our Sponsor!

However before we jump into today’s episode, I want to thank our sponsor, the Lichen Sclerosus Support Network (LSSN), for making this podcast possible. LSSN is working towards getting people diagnosed earlier and getting treated better.

Be sure to follow them on IG and FB @lichensclerosussupportnetwork.

LSSN logo, a teal heart and white letters reading LSSN through the heart with a purple background.

Angie’s Lichen Sclerosus Diagnosis Story

Like many autoimmune warriors, Angie’s journey to a diagnosis was long and winding, with many twists and turns over the years. During the time in which Angie began to experience symptoms, she was living in West Africa. 

Image of a pregnant person sitting on a bed, holding their belly, representing Angie's pregnancy.

When she was 21 she gave birth to her daughter.

Importantly, those who are prone to autoimmune issues tend to have them surface around the time of big hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy and giving birth, post-partum, and menopause.

Two months after giving birth, Angie noted some changes to her labia and itching. She knew, especially with the skin changes, something wasn’t right.

This was back when the internet wasn’t nearly as utilized as it is today, and, accordingly, Angie opened up a medical encyclopedia and came upon Lichen Sclerosus.

Angie thus went to see her OB-GYN and said I think I have Lichen Sclerosus. He examined her and confirmed it was Lichen Sclerosus. He gave her a prescription for Clobetasol. However, he failed to mention Lichen Sclerosus is considered an autoimmune disease. Further, he provided no instruction on how to best utilize the steroid and for how long she needed to use it. 

Adding Onto The Autoimmune Pile

Angie complied with the steroid, however, she didn’t find that it did much to alleviate her symptoms. Additionally, as a busy single mom, Angie didn’t prioritize her health. Around this time, she started developing symptoms of celiac disease – which she was later diagnosed with. Furthermore, she was also showing signs of undiagnosed endometriosis, which hasn’t been confirmed as an autoimmune disease, but there are similarities. 

Because there was so much damage in her small intestines from Celiac Disease, she started having more and more symptoms because she was so malnourished. Of course, this led to mental health issues. This is in part because she was undernourished, but also because it’s stressful to have health issues. 

Thus, in addition to Lichen Sclerosus, Angie had endometriosis and Celiac Disease.

Moving Towards Empowering Herself Through AIP

Angie was told to simply follow a strict gluten-free diet and she would be OK. However, Angie wasn’t seeing much success. She began to feel as though she had exhausted all that the traditional medical system could offer. Angie heard about lectins from a friend of a friend, which are anti-nutrients in grains. She researched this, which led her to Rob Wolf and the paleo diet. In 2012, Rob wrote a book called “The Paleo Solution”, and Angie recalls reading that if you have an autoimmune disease, you probably need to cut out some extra things. This was a huge lightbulb moment for Angie.

Before Angie when on AIP, she was told to go gluten free for her Celiac Disease. The image has a chalkboard saying 'gluten free' and is surrounded by bowls of different grains.

She continued researching Sarah Valentine (The Paleo Mom) who, at the time, only had a small website with a few blog entries. Sarah had a research background and was refining the paleo diet for autoimmune disease through what is known as AIP.

The Incredible Results of Adopting AIP

Angie jumped right into it and went cold turkey into AIP. She felt better after a couple of days, and 6 weeks later her gluten antibodies dropped by half, and six months later it was like having a new body.

It’s been 9 years that Angie has been on AIP at the time of this recording, and she’s been thriving ever since and is empowering others to utilize AIP sustainably.

How did AIP help Angie’s Lichen Sclerosus?

Angie has been doing this for 9 years, so she’s found a diet that suits her body and helps her body thrive. She was able to reintroduce a lot of foods so her diet isn’t at all restrictive. During these 9 years, Angie had great control of her LS; it stayed very mild, she didn’t experience flares, and this was all managed almost exclusively through AIP. Nowadays, Angie has her LS followed by Dr. Krapf, and therefore Angie manages and keeps her LS at bay through proper use of steroids and AIP. Dr. Krapf provided Angie with quality information concerning how to use her steroids optimally and the importance of using steroids.

What is AIP?

It’s a dietary and lifestyle protocol for autoimmune diseases, including Lichen Sclerosus. It has two phases: an elimination phase and a reintegration phase. 

The Elimination Phase – What You Need To Know

During the elimination phase, you need to eliminate a lot of foods. For example, you are to eliminate all grains and pseudo-grains, all dairy, all legumes, soy, peanuts, all processed vegetable oils, all processed foods, all refined sugars, all nuts, all seeds, including coffee and chocolate, all fruit and berry-based spices, all nightshade produce (e.g., tomatoes, bell peppers, white potato, eggplant), all eggs, and all alcohol.

Image of a person sitting at a table eating, representing part of the diet portion of AIP.

Importantly, the elimination phase is about more than simply not eating a laundry list of food. It’s also about flooding your body with nutrients and fueling your body for the healing process. This involves adding:

  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil or pastured lard, bone broth, organ meats (for example, liver).
  • Colorful vegetables (this makes up a big portion of AIP).
  • Fermented foods.
  • Fish and shellfish (as long as there are no allergies).

Once you see symptom improvement, or, hopefully, resolution, you move to phase two. Phase one typically lasts about 60-90 days.

The Reintroduction Phase

In this phase, you slowly start to reintegrate foods you eliminated during phase one. During this reintegration, you mindfully take note of how your body reacts. For example, if you reintroduce dairy and you notice you are stuffy and congested, this is your body saying you cannot tolerate dairy.

In this phase, foods are divided into four stages. The first stage is comprised of foods that most people are least likely to react to and are the most nutrient-dense. Most people can incorporate these foods. As you get to stage four, these are foods that most people with autoimmune diseases cannot tolerate. Further, these foods often do not have a strong nutrient profile. For instance, in the first phase, you see egg yolks. Most people can tolerate the yolks (it’s the egg whites they have trouble with) and they are super nutrient-dense. Conversely, in the fourth stage, you may see tomato (which is a huge driver of symptoms for those with autoimmune disease). Lastly, some food will never be included such as gluten. Most folks do not get gluten back in their diet because they are such a common driver of symptoms.

Importantly, the goal is to go through the process so you find out what is the right diet for you. The aim is to have the least restrictive diet that gives you optimal health.

Where Do Supplements Fit Into the AIP Picture?

With Angie's background in nutrition therapy, Angie tries to have clients get as many nutrients as possible from actual food sources. However, if they aren't eating a lot of organ meats, then you may need to supplement. Further, if you have a lot of symptoms from your autoimmune disease, you may be lacking key nutrients and careful supplementation can help initially to address malnutrition.

As much as possible, Angie suggests working with a nutrition therapist or expert to find out what you need to be supplementation and what your dosing schedule will look like.

Image of a hand holding a supplement, with bottles of supplements and an orange on a table, representing the fact that in some cases, people may need to supplement initially on AIP.

Standard American Diet to AIP in 6 Weeks

AIP is not easy. 95% of the clients Angie sees have a very difficult time implementing and sticking to AIP. Most folks deal better with a slow and steady change versus an all-in, cold turkey change. 

Therefore, Angie created a program called ‘SAD to AIP in 6’ to help guide people through AIP. In her program, over 6 weeks, you eliminate a couple of food groups per week, you slowly add back food. Further, Angie makes sure you have a good structure for meal prepping, so you aren’t chained to the stove cooking healing food 24/7. Additionally, each week Angie highlights a lifestyle aspect to focus on. For example, sleep, stress management, movement, connection to nature, and connection to other human beings. These 5 lifestyle points have a huge regulatory impact on our immune system and its proper functioning. This piece is of great importance because the underlying thing behind all autoimmune diseases is immune dysregulation/an overactive immune system.

Thus, while AIP is largely centered around diet, the protocol also stresses these five lifestyle changes. The goal is to have great management of your autoimmune disease and heal your body.

Who Cannot Do AIP

Unfortunately, vegans cannot do AIP. When it comes to folks with vegan and vegetarian backgrounds, it’s not healthy for them unless they are willing to eat fish and seafood. Without fish, because you can’t eat soy or legumes on AIP, then they wouldn’t have a protein source and you cannot heal your body without this.

What You Need To Do If You Want To Flood Your Body With Nutrients and Heal your LS/Auto-Immune Disease on Your Own

You do not need to take Angie’s SAD to AIP in 6 or work with her one-on-one to do AIP. There are tons of resources in Angie and Mickey’s book “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness” (see Resources below) or on their website/podcast at www.autoimmunewellness.com. They have loads of resources online to help guide you through the protocol. They can sign up for the newsletter and get a bunch of resources. And the AIP community is very large, so there is a lot of information out there.

Image of four people with their arms around each other representing the importance of community and support when doing AIP.

That said, it’s nice to have professionals with training in nutritional therapy to help guide you through it and someone with a coaching background that knows the psychological obstacles that may surface and deal with those.

Finally, it can be nice to do this with others so that you have a safe, supportive community to go through the protocol with you. 

Closing Thoughts

Angie is a huge proponent of finding what works for you. If that means steroids, or steroids and AIP, AIP, and laser, she’s open to it. She believes that we should utilize all the tools available from Western and alternative medicine to heal our bodies. If steroids only help you 80%, definitely experiment with other tools to get you up to 100%. Our values and experiences are different; find what works for you. 

If you want to follow Angie on Instagram, check her out at @angie.alt

Virtual Meetup Information

Did you learn anything new from this episode? Have you or are you going to try AIP? Are you interested in other ways you can manage LS through diet? Let me know! Email me at Kathy@lssupport.net or DM me at @lichensclerosuspodcast on Instagram.

Better yet, why don't you tell us at our Lichen Sclerosus Support Virtual Meetup!

We meet every other Saturday from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm Eastern Standard Time. This is your opportunity to share your diagnosis story, what is working for you and what isn’t, and ask the group questions. Perhaps share your experience with diet and LS!

I have met so many incredibly strong LS warriors through these meetups, and I would love for you to join our community. 

Sign up at lssupport.net/connect for notifications and updates! Our next meetup is on February 5th, 2022 – I cannot wait to see your face and hear your voice!

Lichen Sclerosus Support Virtual Meetup

Check Out Our Membership

Have you heard of the LS Warriors membership?

It's our private group where we learn how to tackle the mental and physical side of Lichen Sclerosus together. It's a positive safe place to get evidence-based information from people who understand what we're going through.

Find out more on our website here or click the button below.

Join LS Warriors Now

Resources

Learn more about AIP at www.aipcertified.com. If you are in the health industry, this website trains you on how to use AIP with your patients.

Sign up for the newsletter to get free resources at www.autoimmunewellness.com

Keep an eye out for Angie’s courses.

Buy Mickey and Angie’s book, “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness” here – to help you implement AIP on your own by clicking HERE.

Check out the Autoimmune Wellness Podcast HERE.

By Jaclyn

I am the author of The Lost Labia Chronicles, a blog about Lichen Sclerosus, Sex, and Mental Health. I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosus in 2019 but had been symptomatic for over a decade. My mission is to provide support and hope to others with Lichen Sclerosus.

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