The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) has tremendous therapeutic potential; but here’s the thing: it’s hard to eat so differently from our peers. Any specialty diet or food allergy/sensitivity can be isolating in itself. And, for some of us, following the AIP can create just as much of a sense of solitude at the diseases that forced us down this path.
And social isolation isn’t good for us. In fact, scientific research confirms that a feeling of connection is just as important for our health as not smoking, being a healthy weight, and being active. Social isolation and loneliness correspond with increased risk of morbidity and mortality; and conversely, a strong social support network corresponds with decreased risk of disease and increased longevity (see The Health Benefits of Connection). Having a strong social network provides a huge range of benefits. In terms of physiologic responses, the feeling of connection causes changes in hormones that directly improve our health, including regulating both cortisol and oxytocin. There’s practical benefits as well: it can make all the difference to have someone you can count on to watch your kids, pick something up at the grocery store for you, or talk to when you’ve had a bad day. Research shows that having a close inner circle of 8 to 10 people that you can depend on and confide in is optimal. Just knowing that you have people who are there for you, just feeling connected to even a small handful of people whom you trust and love, can make a huge difference in your ability to cope with, and heal from, chronic disease.
It’s also crazy helpful to know someone going through something similar, whether dealing with the same autoimmune disease or working hard to implement similar diet and lifestyle priorities. Someone who “gets it”, to bounce ideas off of, to share in successes, to commiserate with set-backs, to understand our enthusiasm, and know how we feel before we say a word–whether or not this person (or persons) is local to us, part of our inner circle, or whether we’ve ever even met in person is irrelevant. Nothing can replace this kind of kinship in a health journey such as those of us with autoimmune disease face.
So, how do you find this community? Where do you meet those people walking a similar road to yours, with whom you can share this journey? Where do you find experts to guide you, answer your questions, and places where you know you’re not the only one? I’ve compiled my favorite resources for you, representing a range of ways to connect, meet, interact, and get informed.