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
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.