Happy Monday to you! Thanks for stopping by Flawed yet Functional! As you might know, I’ve been on the Autoimmune Protocol diet since February 2018. While I had attempted a diet similar to this one to control my Type 1 Diabetes back in October 2017, this one has been far more successful. Do you know why? I’m using a food journal this time. Today I’d like to show you how to be successful with identifying autoimmune disease triggers by using a food journal. Bonus, there’s a free printable!
If you’d like more information on my health journey, click here.
Why Use a Food Journal?
Let’s jump back to October 2017, before I began my first elimination diet and dabbling my toes into the Autoimmune Solution. I had been managing my Type 1 Diabetes for six months by eating a gluten-free diet and incorporating more vegetables into my diet. However, I had begun to notice my morning blood sugars rising and even my lunch number being higher than usual while restricting my carbohydrate intake.
Frustrated and not sure what to do next (besides get back on insulin, of course!), I decided to give this “extreme” diet a try. It worked. Immediately.
However, I didn’t have resources to find tasty recipes, and I was too overwhelmed to try to create them myself. So after two weeks of amazing results, I started reintroducing foods. I reintroduced foods every couple days in whatever order popped into my head. Everything worked (coffee, nightshades, spices, eggs) until I accidentally ate dairy in some candy during the Thanksgiving weekend in November. Then all bets were off.
I didn’t regain blood sugar control until starting the Autoimmune Protocol in February 2018.
Yikes. The dairy in the candy threw off my gut balance and blood sugar control for almost 3 months! Now I was eating the candy for one and a half of those months, but it wasn’t until I did something drastic did my blood sugar management improve.
What would be different this time around? Why was this round of an elimination diet going to be more successful than the first? First of all, I had discovered the term “Autoimmune Protocol” and its oh-so-helpful-abbreviation “AIP” used to tag recipes on Pinterest. Second, I was going to start a food journal.
Yes, a food journal is one more thing to tack on to your list of things to do, but your diet is too complicated to remember what you ate and all the blood glucose numbers associated with it. You need to track your food so you can figure out what is irritating your gut and exacerbating the autoimmune response in your body.
How to Use a Food Journal
The concept of a food journal is simple: beginning at the start of an elimination diet, track food intake and applicable symptoms every day. Then when you are ready to reintroduce foods, mark the introduction and continue to track food and symptoms. You will be able to tell within a day or so if that food reintroduction was successful.
For each day I document my food, blood sugar, and sleep. As I went along I also added supplements, activity, and any abnormal activities (traveling, menstrual cycle, stress, etc.). Basically, if you think it might be affecting your blood sugar (or other autoimmune symptoms) then track it!
A food journal doesn’t need to be fancy. In fact, for my first 176 days on the Autoimmune Protocol, I used a $.25 spiral bound notebook. Buy them at back-to-school time. Super cheap!
Free Food Journal Printable for Type 1 Diabetics
To help you better track your symptoms and discover your food sensitives, I’ve created a printable for you to fill in to track all of these things. Simply print it out, put it in a binder close to where you eat, and fill it out with every meal.
When I created the food journal printable, I used my symptoms as a guide. Obviously this is geared toward diabetics, but just insert your autoimmune symptoms for blood sugar and you’re good to go.
Obviously track the date, but I also track how many days I’ve been on the Autoimmune Protocol. I’m weird like that. I like to know how long I’ve made it!
Sleep, good sleep, it vital to proper health. I didn’t know it until I began to track it, but if I’m not getting enough, good sleep, my blood sugar is higher in the morning. I use this space to jot how well I slept, if I went to bed and got up on time, did my children get me up in the night, etc.
I use this space to mark my work-out for the day and any significant activities that might affect my blood sugar. Sedentary or active days are marked. A day of blogging on the computer is likely to affect my blood sugar and needs a note because I won’t remember tomorrow! Likewise, if I take my kids to the zoo and push them up and down our VERY hilly zoo, that will affect my blood sugar too.
You may be like me when I started out and not taking any supplements. I didn’t add them in until I felt very comfortable with the food aspect of my diet. Don’t feel like you need to be taking supplements just because the space is there. If it is a part of your diet though, you should track it.
Use this space to make quick notes of what you ate at each meal. My meals are usually noted in a short, abbreviated list with the carbs marked above each food item.
I test my blood sugar four times a day: fasting first thing in the morning, before lunch, before dinner, and before bed. In trying to make this form usable for more than just me, I didn’t make special marks for a fasting or bedtime test. I simply mark the fasting reading as pre-breakfast and the bedtime as post-dinner.
Do you need encouragement to drink enough water? I definitely do, so I included a chart here to help me stay on track. Each box stands for one 8 ounce glass of water, but it’s generic, so use it for any amount you wish!
Use this space to mark anything unusual or significant about the day. Traveling, stress, sickness, menstrual cycle, etc. all play a role in our health. I also make sure to note any exposure to gluten, dairy, or eggs. The exposure has a long lasting effect on my blood sugar so I like to know what day I was exposed so I can estimate how long it will take to return to normal (or not freak-out at higher than normal readings until my body recovers). Take note when anything is out of the ordinary.
In a nutshell, use a food journal so you can properly identify food sensitivities and triggers for autoimmune symptoms. Writing it down is the best way to keep the many moving pieces straight. It is so easy to forget what you ate for breakfast today let alone a few days or weeks ago. Do yourself a favor, when you begin any dramatic diet change to take control of your health, start a food journal so you won’t be wasting any time or effort. Make the most of your health!