The Autoimmune Protocol is a diet that helps heal the immune system and gut mucosa. It is applicable to any inflammatory disease.
We have a problem in this country with how we eat, treat disease and heal disease. AIP addresses inflammation in the gut that causes Autoimmune Disease. Autoimmune disease is a condition where the body cannot tell the difference between healthy tissue and foreign invaders and a hypersensitive reaction occurs. The body starts self-tissue attack. For months or perhaps years, this self-tissue attack can occur silently until full blown autoimmune disease develops. There are more than 80 types of “official” autoimmune disorders (and MANY more being discovered daily), but all autoimmune disease have in common is tissue self-attacking in places like the thyroid gland, brain tissue or salivary glands to name a few.
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet works to reduce inflammation in the intestines. Many elimination diets are not complete enough and often do not remove immune triggers that promote inflammation in the gut. AIP works to calm inflammation in the gut, and also calm inflammation in the body. And while autoimmune disease can never be cured, it can be put into remission. The AIP diet is geared toward healing the intestinal mucosa and supporting low inflammation in the body that can temper the fires of an autoimmune flare-up. First I would like to say that this is our interpretation. There is more than one interpretations of how to “follow” the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. I call it a lifestyle because in a modified form it is how I eat and live my life. It is also how I recommend my autoimmune clients to eat in their own modified form long term as well.
The Autoimmune protocol has been said to be a version of the Paleo diet, but really, I see that it is so much more than that; it is a dramatic way to address inflammation that is driving Autoimmune Disease that has its beginning roots in the gut. Diet is one aspect of healing. And, although it is the largest aspect long term health, in the short-term, there are other components that require the help of a skilled practitioner. I suggest you find one that is trained. I personally have a professional practice primarily around helping those on this diet as well as nutritional lab work evaluations, supplement protocols and dietary support. Please email me at email@example.com if you would like to set up an appointment and work together remotely. There are many divergent paths that have a summation with the AIP lifestyle like Autoimmune disease; adrenal fatigue, H-P Axis imbalances, parasites, SIBO, liver congestion, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance that play a role in how you may use supplements along with the AIP diet to heal your body. Generally I suggest a 6-8 week protocol with no cheating. When I said “no cheating”, I say this with a “pretty please”. This diet counts on you to put your effort into it, and unfortunately the nature of high allergen foods is such that even small amounts of slip ups can set you back significantly. Each person who decides to try the AIP diet should work with their practitioner to determine if they are candidates for a low histamine, low latex and/or low FODMAP in addition to following AIP. This is where you will benefit from having an experienced, clinically seasoned practitioner to help personalize your AIP plan. Other adjunct protocols may include: functional blood chemistry, saliva hormone testing, saliva adrenal testing, stool testing and antibody tests.
A word about Supplements. I use supplements regularly. I don’t discount them. But, food should and must be the most important change in your life for health. Nothing can replace food and its value. Changing your approach to food in your daily life along with managing stress are the two most important changes you can start today. The issue with supplements and why they have gotten such a bad rap in my view, is they are being used improperly by well meaning practitioners. I spend a tremendous amount of time coaching clients, creating recipes and building people’s food life. I always start with the food and build up. But after doing this clinically for a good amount of time, those who cannot manage maintaining micro-nutrient levels through food alone, or those with genetic issue driving disease, supplements work very well. Be cautious however; many many supplements contain ingredients that are not AIP friendly.
- Nuts (including nut oils like walnut and sesame seed oils)
- Seeds (including flax, chia, and culinary herb seeds like cumin and coriander)
- Beans/Legumes (this includes all beans like kidney, pinto, black as well as Soy in all its forms)
- Grains (Corn, Wheat, Millet, Buckwheat, Rice, Sorghum, Amaranth, Rye, Spelt, Teff, Kamut, Oats etc)
- Alternative sweeteners like xylitol and stevia
- Dried fruits and/or over-consumption of fructose (I recommend up to 2 pieces of fruit a day)
- Dairy Products
- All Processed Foods
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, mustard seeds, all chili’s including spices)
- No vegetable oils (olive oil and coconut oil is permitted)
- Culinary herbs from seeds (mustard, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, dill seed)
- Vegetables (except nightshades)
- Fruits (limit to 15-20 grams fructose/day)
- Coconut products including coconut oil, manna, creamed coconut, coconut aminos, canned coconut milk (with no additives like guar gum and carageen or bpa lined cans) shredded coconut (this list does not include coconut sugar and nectar)
- Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, lard, bacon fat, cultured ghee (certified to be free of casein and lactose)
- Fermented Foods (coconut yogurt, kombucha, water and coconut kefir, fermented vegetables)
- Bone Broth
- Grass Fed Meats, Poultry and Seafood
- Non-Seed Herbal Teas
- Green Tea
- Vinegars: Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic (that has no added sugar)
- Sweeteners: occasional and sparse use of honey and maple syrup (1 tsp/day)
- Herbs: all fresh and non-seed herbs are allowed (basil tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, savory, edible flowers)
High FODMAPS may disagree with some on the AIP diet. For example; nectarines, coconut or onions may bother some people. Whole30’s great Paleo Low FODMAPS shopping list: http://whole9life.com/book/ISWF-Shopping-List-FODMAP.pdf
If you are reacting to certain starches in foods, it may be a sign that high FODMAPS need to be eliminated from your diet. Also, Ashwaganda is in the nightshade family, and should be eliminated during the first phase of AIP. I find it usually well tolerated in general by most people however. If you are FODMAPS sensitive, eliminate for 10-14 days and then slowly reintroduce.
Some Great Reasons To Consider AIP:
- AIP (autoimmune disease) is a disease of inflammation that causes self-tissue attack
- Food is a powerful way to reduce inflammation and calm the immune system
- Diet may not be enough and specific protocols of gut healing and removing SIBO and immune support supplements may be needed
- Food is the biggest component of medicine in addressing AIP, but not the only one
- 95% On The Diet is not on the diet
- Being 100% on the diet makes this program work and makes you a rock star
- IN ADDITION to this protocol, some individuals have food sensitivities, which should incorporated into this diet. If you are sensitive to carrots for example, don’t eat them while on AIP
- Additional Supplements are usually required in my experience to fully heal the gut
- I allow green beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas unless low FODMAPS is needed. Because green beans are not mature bean seeds, I allow them. Not everyone in the Paleo world will agree with me about that however and you may consider taking them out during Phase 1. My hard line is no mature beans seeds from the legume family
- Brain Chemistry and Adrenal Fatigue are likely culprits in autoimmune disease and need to be addressed. I highly recommend using a skilled practitioner who can properly survey brain and adrenal function and help you. I do not recommend the use of hormones or neurotransmitters in treating brain function (like Melatonin) and advise using caution when using precursors to neurotransmitters. It is my opinion that one cannot treat one without the other.
- Undiagnosed Insulin Resistant Hypoglycemia is a big factor in inflammation that can contribute greatly to autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue and brain dis-regulation. Working with a practitioner who is knowledgeable in ALL of these areas will help you improve more quickly than using 100% diet to heal autoimmune disease.
Eliminating these foods is important to reduce inflammation. All of the above listed foods can be gut irritants and exacerbate dysbiosis in the gut and contribute to SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). AIP can help address the GALT imbalances (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue) in the intestines. Because the gut contains such a large percentage of immune system GALT tissues (70%) that mediate the T & B Lymphocytes that carry out immune system attack by producing antigens or antibodies, the goal of AIP is to reduce this from occurring. It is widely accepted that gut mediated inflammation is applicable for addressing Autoimmune Disease. Below are the studies I have found that link the gut to the immune system. I encourage you to print these articles out and bring them to your doctor.
There are a few ways to approach reintroduction.
- 72 Hour Rule: It takes 72 hours to produce an IgA, IgG and IgM mediated antibody symptom. It can be physical or mental in nature. Lethargy, brain fog, aching joints, rashes, stomach aches, numbness, feeling hung-over, bloating, gas, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, memory loss.
- Re-introduce only 1 food every 5 days and when you re-introduce the food, eat enough of it to elicit a response. A small bite, then a few hours a spoonful and then that night a serving.
- Keep a food re-introduction notebook! I work with many, many people who reintroduce food after a cleanse or AIP and they have a sensitivity symptom and can’t remember what or when they did the reintroduction. Writing everything down helps a lot.
I also recommend doing yearly or twice yearly cleanses and support phases, eating fermented foods and bone broth at least 2-3 times a week in 1/2 cup portions. The reason we are compelled to share this all with you, is that food is fun. I believe you can be on the AIP diet and do as a lifestyle. You can be a foodie and do AIP. I love food too much to feel like I cannot eat foods that are satisfying, creative and exciting. Food is spiritual for me. It is my path. Helping others heal is my path. Teaching is my path. As I share my recipes with you, I eat them too. You are not alone in your path to health. We do this journey together.
There are many resources available to you beyond diet and supplements. I talk about them extensively on this blog as well as in my private practice. Looking beyond diet and supplements can be a very valuable endeavor on your path to healing. Here are a few posts to check out:
Other Fabulous AIP Resources: