Adopting the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet may support overall wellness for people battling autoimmune conditions. This comprehensive elimination and reintroduction diet is designed to reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and minimize the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Does the AIP diet work? According to extensive scientific research, the AIP diet works to reduce or eliminate many symptoms of a variety of autoimmune conditions. It’s a short-term, restrictive eating plan that allows patients with autoimmunity to identify and eliminate trigger foods.
In this article, we’ll discuss the AIP diet, how it works, potential benefits, and whether it might be a suitable choice for you.
What is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet?
Often compared to the Whole30 or Paleo diets, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is more strict, designed specifically to help people suffering from autoimmune disorders.
The goal of AIP is to heal the immune system and gut by:
- Eliminating foods that cause inflammation and other autoimmune-related issues
- Promoting nutrient-dense foods
The AIP does not just aim to alleviate symptoms, but to help patients address autoimmune dysfunction at its root.
By identifying and eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, the AIP diet allows the body to heal. This diet helps people with autoimmune conditions identify a personalized way of eating that will support their body and avoid triggering symptoms.
A key component of the AIP diet is its focus on other lifestyle factors. Stress management, sleep quality, and physical activity all play vital roles in managing autoimmune conditions. This holistic approach emphasizes how the AIP aims to improve the overall quality of life for those with autoimmune diseases.
How to Follow the AIP Diet
The AIP diet is a systematic approach to eating divided into three stages: elimination, reintroduction, and maintenance.
During the elimination phase, AIP dieters avoid food groups known to trigger inflammation and autoimmune responses. This phase aims to decrease inflammation and alleviate symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
The elimination phase is the first step of the AIP diet and typically lasts 1-6 months, but can vary depending on the individual. This period is considered complete when the patient has experienced a significant improvement in autoimmunity symptoms.
Note: Because this protocol is very strict for the first several weeks to months, we don’t recommend the AIP diet to patients who are pregnant, nursing, or have a history of disordered eating.
As the reintroduction phase begins, patients gradually reintroduce excluded food groups, one at a time, while observing for any adverse reactions. This stage can be a slow process, as each food group must be tested separately for a few days to a week.
Any food that causes a return of symptoms or an inflammatory response should be removed again and tested once more a few weeks later. If the reaction happens again, we recommend the patient permanently remove that food from their diet.
The key is to personalize the diet to your unique needs and responses.
This phase be undertaken under the guidance of a healthcare professional, such as a health coach, to ensure it is done safely and effectively. PrimeHealth members have access to nutrition and health experts who monitor progress and provide ongoing support.
Looking for some easy, yummy, AIP-friendly recipes? We love Meal Prep On Fleek’s easy AIP recipes!
The maintenance phase starts once the patient has successfully reintroduced various foods without triggering autoimmune symptoms. Maintenance may last a lifetime and promotes better gut health, fewer autoimmunity issues, and a high quality of life.
Patients who successfully reach this point can now enjoy a personalized diet rich in nutrient-dense foods while avoiding the identified trigger foods.
During this phase, patients work to maintain a balanced diet that caters to their tolerance levels. Regular check-ins with healthcare professionals can help manage the diet more effectively and adjust it as needed over time.
Foods to Avoid on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet
During the elimination phase, patients exclude several food groups. These are potential trigger foods for inflammatory responses and symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases.
Here are some of the major categories of foods to avoid:
- Grains: This includes all forms of grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, and products derived from them.
- Legumes: All kinds of legumes like beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, and peanuts.
- Nightshade vegetables: Nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes (excluding sweet potatoes), eggplants, peppers, and spices derived from peppers (e.g., paprika, cayenne).
- Dairy products: All forms of dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, butter, and products containing dairy, are off-limits.
- Eggs: Avoid both yolks and whites.
- Sugars and Sweeteners: This includes all forms of sugars, honey, agave, maple syrup, stevia, and other artificial sweeteners.
- Food Additives: Emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives often found in processed foods should be avoided.
- Vegetable and Seed Oils: Vegetable oils and seed oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oil. NOTE: No matter what diet you follow, vegetable and seed oils are particularly inflammatory and their consumption should be minimized.
- Nuts and Seeds: This includes all forms of nuts, seeds, and their derived oils and butters.
- Alcohol, coffee, and certain spices like cumin and fennel, which come from seeds, should also be avoided.
Foods to Eat on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The AIP diet is restrictive but encourages patients to consume many delicious, nutrient-dense foods. Incorporating these foods into your diet can offer vital nutrients to help reduce inflammation, promote gut health, and support overall wellness.
Here’s what you can eat on the autoimmune protocol diet:
- Meats: Lean meats, particularly grass-fed and organ meats, are encouraged due to their high nutrient content.
- Fish: Fish, especially those rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and mackerel, are beneficial.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables other than nightshades are encouraged. These include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits can be enjoyed, but in moderation due to their sugar content. Berries, apples, bananas, and peaches are good choices.
- Healthy Fats: Coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil are preferred sources of healthy fats.
- Fermented Foods: Foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha can help promote a healthy gut microbiome.
- Bone Broth: Rich in nutrients, bone broth is a staple in the AIP diet.
- Non-seed Herbs: Most leafy herbs and spices, such as basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric, are permitted.
- Vinegars: Most vinegars, including apple cider and balsamic vinegar, are allowed.
- Alternative flours: Grain-free flours are acceptable for the AIP diet. These include cassava flour, tapioca starch, coconut flour, tigernut flour, and arrowroot starch.
In addition to these foods, your healthcare provider may recommend probiotic supplements.
While following the AIP diet, it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated.
What can you drink on the AIP diet? Drinking plenty of water and herbal teas can make this diet more effective and manageable. Other AIP-friendly beverages include:
- Juices with no added sugar
- Water infused with fruit or leafy herbs (like mint or thyme)
- Decaffeinated teas
Is almond milk allowed on the AIP diet? Almond milk is not allowed on the AIP diet. Patients should avoid anything derived from nuts or seeds, including milks. The best milk replacements that fit the protocol are coconut milk and coconut cream.
6 Benefits of the AIP Diet
The AIP diet is more than a list of foods to avoid or consume; it’s a holistic approach to health. AIP offers several potential benefits, including:
- Reduced Inflammation: By eliminating potential food triggers, the AIP diet can help to reduce inflammation, a primary feature of autoimmune diseases.
- Gut Health Improvement: The diet’s focus on nutrient-dense and fermented foods may promote a healthy gut microbiome and address “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability, a common issue among people with autoimmune disorders.
- Symptom Management: Many individuals following the AIP diet report significant improvement in the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
- Improved Quality of Life: As symptoms improve and individuals learn to manage their conditions, many report an overall improved quality of life.
- Personalized Approach to Eating: The reintroduction phase allows individuals to identify personal triggers and build a customized diet plan that suits their unique health needs and promotes wellness.
- Weight Management: Those with certain thyroid conditions may struggle to maintain a healthy weight. As the AIP promotes gut health and improves symptoms, patients may experience an improved metabolism and increased energy to engage in healthy physical activity. Patients following this protocol often lose a significant amount of weight and reduce their BMI, even if weight loss or management wasn’t their primary aim.
Conditions Managed with the AIP
The AIP diet has a documented track record of success in managing several autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune diseases that may improve while on the AIP include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
Let’s take a look at a few of these in more detail.
The AIP diet can be beneficial for those with Hashimoto’s, a type of thyroiditis, by reducing inflammation and improving immune response. Removing gluten and other potential food triggers can decrease autoimmune attacks on the thyroid, potentially easing symptoms and improving overall thyroid function.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The AIP diet might help manage rheumatoid arthritis by reducing systemic inflammation. By removing potential food triggers, the diet may lessen joint pain and swelling associated with this condition.
Is the AIP Diet Safe?
The AIP diet is generally considered safe for most people as it promotes nutrient-dense foods and discourages processed and potentially inflammatory foods. However, it’s a restrictive diet that may not suit everyone.
People who are pregnant, nursing, or have a history of disordered eating should not follow the AIP diet unless otherwise directed by a medical professional.
The risk lies primarily in the potential for nutritional deficiencies due to the exclusion of certain food groups. That’s why working with qualified healthcare providers is important — we can ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients and supporting your overall health.
While the AIP diet may help manage symptoms, it alone is not a cure for autoimmune diseases. It should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Should You Try the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
The AIP can be a powerful tool in managing autoimmune conditions, but it takes significant dietary changes and a high level of commitment. If you’re dealing with an autoimmune disease and conventional treatments aren’t offering the relief you need, the AIP diet is worth exploring.
Before starting this, or any elimination diet, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider or a qualified health coach to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient needs. They can help customize the diet to your needs, make meal plans, and monitor your progress.
It’s also vital to pair this dietary approach with other lifestyle changes, like:
- Regular physical activity
- Consistent sleep
- Stress management
These lifestyle changes will improve the efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet.
Remember that the goal of the AIP diet isn’t to follow it indefinitely. Instead, the aim is to identify and remove trigger foods, heal the gut, and then gradually reintroduce foods back into your diet. It’s a journey to discover the most optimal personalized diet that supports your wellness and immune health.
Address Autoimmunity at the Root
Managing autoimmunity requires a comprehensive and holistic approach that extends beyond dietary changes. The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is a significant step in the right direction.
However, it’s part of a broader lifestyle management strategy that also includes regular exercise, good sleep, and stress management. Understanding how your body reacts to various foods and lifestyle factors is crucial to finding the root cause of your autoimmune condition.
PrimeHealth can provide you with the resources and support necessary to embark on your healing journey. Whether you’re just beginning to explore dietary interventions for autoimmunity or need further support in maintaining lifestyle changes, our team is here to help restore your health.
Are you in Colorado and interested in naturally reversing autoimmunity? Contact PrimeHealth today to schedule a phone consultation and take the first step towards reclaiming your health.
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Looking for more dietary options for autoimmune health? Check out these other protocols:
- Alzheimer’s Diet: 16 Foods to Fight Dementia
- Interstitial Cystitis Diet: What To Eat & What To Avoid
- The Carnivore Diet: Benefits, Risks & How to Follow
- How to Follow a Dysbiosis Diet to Heal an Unhealthy Gut
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