Guest Post by Angela Alt: Business Travel on the Autoimmune Protocol

July 24, 2012 in Categories: by

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Allow me to introduce you to Angela Alt, a fellow Autoimmune Protocol follower who recently faced the challenge of business travel while following this more restricted version of the paleo diet.  I asked Angela to write about her experience, what worked and what didn’t and any advice she may have to others about to embark on a similar trip.  Visit her website at Alt-Ternative Autoimmune 

So, first let me say that I am really honored that The Paleo Mom asked me to write a guest blog for her.  I have only been on my Paleo journey for a short time and I have found her blog to be indispensible in educating myself about this diet.  The “how-to” has been really helpful for me, but even more valuable has been all the “why” that she provides. 

Specifically, I follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) in an effort to address three autoimmune disorders, Celiac Disease being my most recent diagnosis.  The information provided by The Paleo Mom about this variation of the Paleo diet has been key to my understanding of what is happening to my body and how I can take more control in addressing it.  Most importantly, though, it is her sharing the details of her own journey using the AIP that keeps me coming to this blog and inspires me to keep working at regaining my own health.

Recently, I finished a course of heavy-duty antibiotics that I was prescribed to treat a serious SIBO(small intestine bacterial overgrowth).  SIBO is really common in Celiacs.  I knew that I would need to strike quickly with probiotics immediately after finishing the course.  I had a challenge though, as I was traveling for work.  I was away from home for ten days.  I reached out to The Paleo Mom for some advice on probiotics, since I was not in a position to do any of my own fermenting.  It was during that correspondence that she asked me to write about traveling AND following the AIP. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the thought of going anywhere for more than a few hours is very anxiety provoking for me.  I can’t just grab a bite to eat anywhere along the road.  I can’t stop at a local diner and order a sandwich.  There is virtually nothing in a gas station or fast food joint that I can eat.  Obviously, for me gluten or the possibility of gluten cross-contamination is absolutely not worth it.  However, with two other autoimmune disorders, I also avoid the typical Paleo no-nos and then some (no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no nightshade veggies, no eggs, no nuts).  With restrictions this serious, how can a person travel for ten whole days?

It can totally be done, but it takes some forethought.  I am by no means an expert, having only started my journey with AIP recently, but the following was my approach. 

Five steps to AIP travel:

1)  Get reservations at a hotel with a kitchenette.  I couldn’t bring all the pots, pans, knifes, cutting boards, etc. that I would typically use to prepare my food with me, so this was really important.  My kitchenette included a microwave and an electric cook-top.  Not ideal, but very doable.

2)  Plan snacks for on the plane or on the road.  I flew from the West Coast to the East Coast, so it made for long travel days without access to my own kitchen and all the “safe” foods it provides.  Additionally, the restrictions of a plane made snack planning a little more challenging.  I brought dried seaweed, fruit leather, and buffalo jerky.  In the airport, I grabbed bananas and waters.  It wasn’t exactly ideal dining on the travel days, but I managed to eat enough to keep from feeling lousy.

3)  Enlist your friends/family/co-workers.  I asked my co-workers ahead of time if anyone had a blender I could borrow when I arrived at my headquarters’ office.  Smoothies are the cornerstone of my AIP breakfasts, so it was awesome that somebody could lend me one.  I also spent some time with various friends that live in the area.  Eating out is off the list these days, so I just explained what I could not eat and my friend’s kindly prepared safe meals on the nights I was visiting.  Having a few meals with friends was also wonderful, because it took a little pressure off of me having to plan and prepare meals every day of my trip. 

4)  Locate the nearest grocery store and hit it right after you arrive.  Traveling to the other side of the country by plane obviously meant I could not bring all my groceries with me.  I asked a friend to take me to a Trader Joe’s right after I arrived and I stocked up on about three days worth of food.  My hotel room had a small fridge and freezer, so I was able to have several days’ worth of food at a time.  When I ran out, I left work a bit early, walked to a Trader Joe’s near my office and restocked before heading back to the hotel.  I got all the basics:  meat, coconut milk, olive oil, tea, garlic, greens mix, veggies, fruit and frozen fruit (for easy smoothie prep).  I used salt and pepper packs from the hotel to season food.  (I also stopped at a Target and picked up a few plastic containers so I could store leftovers and bring lunch to work.) 

5)  Make time to cook.  Each evening I prepared extra big dinners and packed a portion to take to work as my lunch for the next day.  I also set aside one serving of meat for breakfast the next morning.  Considering the very simple meals I could prepare in my hotel kitchenette, cooking really did not take up much of my evenings.  In the morning I got up early enough to whip up a smoothie, re-heat some meat, and dice up some fruit.  This routine worked really well for the whole trip.

It went exceptionally well; much better than I actually expected, but it’s not like it was super awesome every moment either.  Here are some of the difficulties I had:

1)  It was really depressing on the plane and in the airport.  I used to think of travel time as my opportunity to do what I want and eat as I please . . . I would hop on a long plane ride totally excited to eat junky snacks and sip cocktails.  In airports I would buy ice cream or cookies or giant pretzels with cheese sauce and pig out while drinking ridiculous sugary mocha concoctions.  I didn’t anticipate how tough it was going to be to be exposed to all of it and not be able to eat any of it.  I am proud of my will power and focus on my health, but it did mess with my emotions some.

2)  Not going out to eat with old friends was hard.  Again, in my SAD eating days, a big part of reconnecting with old pals would have been going out to dinner.  I did not realize how tough it would be to be away from home AND be restricted in that way.  It was really special to connect with friends in their homes, chat around their tables, and save a few bucks (for everyone), but it was also a big adjustment.

3)  I needed to allow for some treats.  I started the trip out thinking, “I am NOT letting this trip get in the way of my strict adherence to this diet.”  At the end of the trip, I had my first glass of wine in two months and I allowed my self to get a plain, black coffee in the airport.  The wine felt like an incredible treat and drinking a cup of coffee while I had a layover in Salt Lake City turned it into the best layover of my life.  I had not had ANY caffeine in at least four months.  Travel can be challenging all on its own, doing it while following AIP is even more demanding.  Allowing a little wiggle room helped keep it manageable.

4)  My family & I used to live in West Africa.  We have traveled a lot, most frequently in the developing world.  Completing this trip made me feel really confident about following AIP & travel within North America, but I also had to confront the fact that if I am ever to travel overseas again, specifically to developing countries, this plan of attack will simply not be enough.  Much longer plane rides will require much more extensive food planning and in some potential destinations, getting off the plane & immediately hitting the grocery store to stock up on the specific foods I need is just not an option.  I’ll probably need a lot of time to work out how to best tackle travel on that scale and still safeguard my health.   

All in all, I would say, don’t let AIP keep you from travel, whether it is for work or pleasure.  Consider it an obstacle to be overcome on the journey to your good health!     

Here are a few photos of my meals:

Breakfast:  Tuna on mixed greens with seaweed, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Blueberry, banana, pineapple, and coconut milk smoothie.

Lunch:  Pork chop with sauerkraut and mixed greens salad with carrots, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Coconut water, pear sauce, and Craisins (the Craisins were a bit of a cheat, since they have added sugar).

Dinner:  Diced pork chop over arugula with sautéed onions, shitake mushrooms, and garlic and side of steamed carrots.  Sugar-free pomegranate juice and mineral water spritzer.

Comments

We are camping for 5 days next week and it should be interesting. It really is only me who is eating Paleo strictly. I am scrambling a bit to make it work. Only a cooler and cook stove should be interesting. I may be living on grain free dairy free granola bars :o)

Thanks for sharing! I went from paleo to GAPS intro to GAPS. We just went camping with friends last weekend and I was TERRIFIED about food. We brought some “Pam’s Paleo Crunch” (good it its awesome but has lots of nuts so not AIP friendly), home made beef jerky, lara bars, and my own seasoning to put on the meat. I also brought pastured cheese for the hubby and kids and ate the fresh fruit/veggies brought for the group. I voulenteered to be the cook which meant I knew what was going into my food and I wouldn’t be dosed unknowingly with something that makes me sick. It actually turned out to be a good time.

Thank you for writing about how to travel with a restrictive diet. For years I’ve been searching for others advise on how to do this. Although I’ve learned to travel in a similar manner to what you described, it would have been helpful to have this resource and not have to learn through trial and error. We are planning a trip overseas next year, and I am working out how to do this. It’ll be tricky, but doable, think.

I know this post will help many in the future. Thanks!

This is great info, thanks. I have two road-trips coming up this summer and have definitely been freaking out a little bit about how to travel with all of my food requirements!

Hello Angela and Sarah,

Great guest-post Angela. I’ve heard that eating grains in Europe won’t cause as much inflammation because the grains aren’t as GMO, or the molecular structure of the grain is still more primitive or something like that. Is there any truth to that? I’ve also heard that they now use more pesticides than one would expect in France.

Several years ago I went on a trip to France after becoming ill, and I was able to eat the bread in France without irritation or apparent side effect. I had a chat a few years ago with my, then, NAET/acupuncturist who is Polish. She told me that she, too, is able to eat grains in Europe without incident.

Have either of you had that experience or have you heard of similar experiences?

I haven’t traveled to Europe in years, certainly not since becoming aware of how food affects my health. It might be related to the type of grains, but also could be very strongly related to stress. Many people find that when they travel (and are having fun), they can eat things that they normally can’t get away with.

I recently had a very unique opportunity of traveling to Alaska for a work retreat to go fishing :) While this was very fun and exciting, it also created a lot of anxiety as I knew that the lodge we were staying in was the only thing on the island. There was no store, no fridge, or any way to cook my own food while I was there! The only food that I would have available to me would be the homestyle ‘stick to your ribs’ cooking by the cook at the lodge.

Knowing this in advance, I read this blog post and thought long and hard about how I was going to stick to the AIP protocol while on this trip. This is going to sound very strange…but I ate baby food. They make these organic squeeze pouches of baby food with just fruits and vegetables in them or just vegetables. I packed a ton of those, some canned tuna and brought some freeze-dried seasoning for it, I made some homemade marshmallows, pumpkin spice dehydrator cookies and beef jerky.There were some days that I felt this food wasn’t enough and I tried my hardest to eat whatever meat I could get my hands on that was going to cause the least amount of damage.

While I was definitely not AIP perfect while I was there…I definitely minimized the amount of pain that I would be in or the setbacks that would occur from eating all of the food that was provided. I just wanted to give some more ideas for those in similar situations. Thanks for all of your great ideas Angela and Sarah!

I’m traveling for a weeklong trip to NYC on Sunday. This means a 4 hour drive to the train station and then 5 days in NYC. I’m intimidated, but I probably shouldn’t be. I have various food allergies from eggs to gluten to dairy to soy that have (without me realizing it) have had me following along with my own modified paleo diet….and now here I am smack in the middle of AIP protocol. I think it’s just the new name that freaks me out. Go figure.
I’ve traveled before for week-long trips and eaten maybe 2 real meals in 5 days after running out of my homemade jerkey and dried fruits. My plan this trip had been to take along a lot of my paleo cereal which contains nuts, coconut and almond flour, maple syrup, coconut flakes, and dates and dried apples. Now, I’m thinking that isn’t a good idea.
So plan B was to order a crazy amount of grass fed jerkey options from the PaleoKits link on your sidebar, and I’ll be buying plenty of apples and other things I can eat, when I get to a Whole Foods. I’ll save the jerkey for the train and the 4 day hotel stay and go shopping for my scallop and lobster “stew” ingredients to make when I get to my friend’s place. That will last me a few days.
Here’s to hoping I make it through this with my sanity! thank you for all you do

Went camping for 16 days in Colorado on strict AIP (+eggs). Made 9 trays of beef jerky (about 6 pounds of beef) and stored in my (cool and dry) cooler along with dried fruit. Kept the ice in zip loc bags for this cooler and triple zip loc bagged the fruit and jerky, I was terrified the water would seep in and spoil my staple food. Also had many cans of organic canned chicken and fish, coconut milk, coconut chips, fresh fruit (mostly fruit that kept well) and lucky me, I can do eggs, so had eggs (hard boiled for long hikes, scrambled for some mornings). I also did some juice boxes, which I would never do at home because they are just basically calories, even though technically they were legal because they had no added sugar, but I kind of needed the extra calories while camping and hiking. When we could get to the store (we passed a Target once and a whole foods) I got some terra chips (a bit of a cheat) lettuce, and stocked up on more canned food and coconut milk. Oh, and there was one type of Applegate brand pre cooked chicken sausage that seemed to be safe, so we ate that several times after we hit the Target, although it is all expensive. We ate 2 meals out…one I ate a plain salad and a steak, the other was a nice lunch salad off the salad bar at Whole Foods near Basalt Colorado…lovely! I was pretty happy to get back to my kitchen, and my blender, and my hot shower though, 16 days is kind of a lot to eat out of a cooler and not really be able to cook…I think I lost a couple pounds.

Thanks for the great post and tip about the hotel with the kitchenette, I wouldn’t have thought of that.

Great info. I travel (by plane) every week for business. I’ve been avoiding multiple food sensitivities for about a year, and more recently started the AIP. I also try to fashion my veggies following the Wahl’s protocol (green leafy/ sulfur-rich/ colorful). I’m a dietitian (which has been so helpful in trying to navigate all these food restrictions), and find in some ways it’s more simple to adhere to the AIP. Rather than reading every food label, trying to decipher whether I can have it or not, now I just know that if it has a label, usually it’s out!

Here’s how I cope. I always pack a lunch (meat/veg) to eat on the plane, in a Foogo thermos. Yes, you can carry this on, as long as it doesn’t contain much liquid. It stays warm at least 4 hrs. When I land, my first stop is Whole Foods. I buy Applegate Farms chicken sausage for breakfast (the apple and sweet Italian flavors do not contain any nightshades), a rotisserie chicken to eat throughout my trip, fruit, carrot sticks, avocado, a bag of spinach/lettuce for salads (cheaper to buy a bag than pay $8/pound at the salad bar). I fill a container of salad ‘toppings’ (beets, artichokes, mushrooms, etc) from the salad bar, and get as many veggies from the hot bar as I can. They frequently have Brussels sprouts to meet the sulfur-rich requirement. Sometimes they offer cooked salmon filets at the deli counter. For snacks, I pack or buy shredded dried coconut, packets of coconut butter, fruit, or occasionally dried fruit. I always book a hotel with a fridge and microwave. I’ve even packed frozen food in my checked luggage (works for short-ish flights): sausage, frozen homemade meals, etc. Canned goods can be carried in your luggage: tuna, chicken, coconut milk (liquid must go in checked luggage.) It can be helpful to bring some ziploc baggies, or pack your lunch in the lidded coffee cups found in the room.

When I have business dinners out, I order a plain steak or salmon, plain salad w/oil and lemon wedge and side of steamed vegetables. I always specify GF/DF… apparently ‘plain’ isn’t always clear! The carnitas at Chipotle does not contain nightshades or other unapproved seasonings. I order double meat over lettuce and bring my own avocado (the guac has peppers.) The flame broiled chicken at El Pollo Loco is gluten/dairy free, although I’m waiting to hear back from them regarding nightshades.

I hope this helps any fellow road warriors out there!

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