We recently took a trip to Puerto Rico for 4 days for a wedding. I was extremely worried about maintaining such a restrictive diet while traveling, so I put a lot of effort into being prepared. To my knowledge, there are no Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or organic markets in PR, but I knew I could find an abundance of tropical fruit to supplement what I could pack in my suitcase. Our hotel room had a mini fridge and coffee maker where I could boil water for tea, but I had no method of cooking meat or veggies. I was most concerned about having access to quality protein during the trip, so I sprang for some Sophia’s Survival Foods grass fed beef jerky, which has two flavors that are AIP friendly. I also brought along several tins of BPA free, wild-caught tuna and salmon. For quality fats, I packed garlic-infused olive oil, packets of coconut butter, olives, and a few avocados (which are abundant in PR, but we had some at the house that would’ve gone bad while we were away). For healthy carbs (and to satisfy my sweet tooth while everyone else was eating piraguas, pan sobao, and mallorcas) I brought a bunch of dried fruit: pineapple and coconut, apples, and mango. Plus some homemade fig/coconut bars and coconut/date balls (similar to this recipe, but omitted the cashews and agave). I packed several tea bags and cans of coconut water for when I got tired of drinking plain water, and homemade seaweed snacks for when the salty cravings hit. Here’s my stash just prior to packing.
Our travel day went smoothly, and with lots of jerky, seaweed snacks, and dried fruit in my bag, I was never hungry. Though I did stare longingly at other passengers’ pizza slices, sandwiches, pastries, and lattes.
When we arrived, we went straight to the closest grocery store and stocked up on fresh fruit and leafy greens. I felt well prepared to be completely AIP compliant for the duration of the trip.
I was exhausted from traveling, so I stayed in the hotel room and slept while the rest of the family ventured out the next morning. I ate lots of fresh fruit and more jerky for breakfast. And lunch. The wedding was that evening, and as I contemplated what to put in my bag to eat for dinner while the rest of the guests dined on the fancy, professionally catered, four-course meal, I started to dread eating more jerky and dried fruit. And I wasn’t feeling the tuna. We weren’t even at the wedding yet, but I was already feeling excluded from the festivities. I certainly couldn’t drink alcohol (because I KNOW I react badly to alcohol) or eat wedding cake (too much refined sugar), but couldn’t I at least eat the same meal as everyone else? So I decided to just pack some dried fruit to eat in lieu of wedding cake, and allow myself a cheat dinner.
It was incredibly delicious. Some kind of pea soup garnished with a root chip- I wanted to lick the bowl. Then, beautiful greens arranged like a shell or fan and tied at the bottom with a thinly sliced cucumber, with tomatoes, bleu cheese, prosciutto, and a lovely vinaigrette. Again, had to stop myself from licking the plate. Then pork medallions with tamarind gravy, mashed potatoes, shredded carrots, and crispy asparagus. I gave my dinner roll away, but added the leftover butter to my mashed potatoes.
Then we danced the night away. I couldn’t drink like everyone else, but it didn’t matter because I was buzzed on the amazing meal I’d just eaten.
Then they brought out the cake. Chocolate with white cherry icing. And I realized I’d already eaten my dried fruit in the car on the way back from the ceremony. And I just really wanted some cake. And I’d already deviated from my diet plan, so what could it hurt? I’d just take a couple of bites. Mmmmmm. That was really good. What the heck- I’ll just eat the whole thing.
When I’d scraped off every last chocolatey crumb and every last smidge of icing, I leaned back, and realized I felt nauseous. It was definitely too much sugar, too fast. And I immediately regretted it. Eating the meal was fine, but I should’ve skipped out on the cake. Now, all there was to do was wait and see what the repercussions would be.
The next morning, I felt a little hung over, but was otherwise fine. (And everyone else was hungover, too, so I fit right in.) The whole crew met for brunch at Denny’s, and, again, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of more fruit and jerky. So I figured I’d just get what I want, but not go crazy.
So much for that. I got the Lumberjack Grand Slam. Two eggs, two sausage links, two slices of bacon, ham, hash-browns, toast (asked for whole wheat, but there really wasn’t anything “whole” about it), and two pancakes loaded with hopefully regular butter (as opposed to fake buttery spread) and drizzled with totally fake syrup. I doubt there was a drop of anything from a maple tree in that bottle. Anyway, I gobbled up everything but the hash-browns and a few bites of pancake. Oh- and I had decaf coffee (because I KNOW my system can’t handle that level of caffeine) with non-dairy creamer, which is loaded with nastiness.
Sooooo, between the wedding dinner and brunch, I definitely was exposed to gluten, dairy, nightshades, eggs, nitrates/nitrites, seeds (coffee), and all kinds of preservatives, additives, rancid oils, and high fructose corn syrup.
After brunch, I felt really tired. But that was to be expected after a day of traveling followed by a late night partying. I had to be extremely mindful of my energy levels and not push myself, so I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the hotel room, sleeping, while everyone else went out. The rest of my meals that day were AIP compliant, including this delicious tuna salad (tuna, capers, coconut butter, and lime juice) on a bed of greens with carrot sticks and topped with guacamole (avocado, lime juice, chopped culantro).
The next day was our travel day back home. I stuck with fruit and jerky for breakfast, but had crackers, cheddar cheese “product”, and a few bites of chex mix on the plane, along with a ginger ale. (I didn’t plan as well as I did on the way there.) And when we got to MIA, we ate at La Carreta. For any Latinos that frequent the Miami airport, you know this is the place to be for authentic, home style island fare. I figured it would be my last hurrah, and loaded my plate with cheesy sausage pasta and mashed potatoes, and shared a tres leche with my husband and daughter.
I half expected to wake up this morning with crazy stomach bloat, a swollen tongue, and no energy to get out of bed and get my daughter to school. But I was fine. I’ve had a few lesions coming and going, with a worrisome one at the back of my throat, but everything seems to be holding steady. I did need a nap this afternoon, but that’s not entirely abnormal, and I expected it as I’m still recovering from the traveling.
So, all in all, I seem to have handled the trip relatively well, along with the barrage of reintroductions of restricted AIP foods. I don’t believe that just because I didn’t have an immediate reaction, it’s ok for me to eat these foods again. I think I’ve made progress in healing my gut and building my immune system with probiotics, etc. But I’m still having autoimmune reactions, so I still have a lot of healing to do. I know there is a connection between my flares and hormonal fluctuations, so my focus may be shifting to balance my hormones in the near future.
I think sticking to AIP through the holidays may not be realistic for me, judging by my epic failure during this PR trip. I’m not sure what or how I’ll reintroduce foods, but I’m going to need to loosen up the restrictions if my sanity is going to survive the holiday season. Until I decide how to properly reintroduce foods, I’ll be back on AIP in the meantime.
This morning, I was back to my usual meat patties with chimichurri and raw sauerkraut. After four days with no probiotics, I know I’ve got some re-inoculating to do. And while I did enjoy my weekend away from AIP, I’m happy to be back to my healing diet. I’m grateful to have gotten through it without immediate repercussions, but I’m certainly not going to push my luck. Pancakes aren’t THAT delicious.