What is AIP these days? In this post, I am going to offer a new way to look at AIP.
Since AIP has been introduced it seems that there is an attempt to define it. That has value because when you go to the grocery store you need to know what food to buy, so I get it. AIP came forward as a diet to reduce inflammation, since autoimmune disease is a disease of inflammation. There are lists, books and pdf's (including my own) floating around that clearly lay out what AIP is and what it isn't. Great, awesome, cool. Those are super helpful. But that was over 2 years ago and science has changed since then my friends. There has been an introduction of certain kinds of labs and science that has come forward and from what I can see, the world of treating Autoimmune Disease Naturally is changing and that is good news for you. Not many practitioners were having the discussion about co-infections 2 years ago. Or food antigens causing molecular mimicry. Or that talking about how the current offerings of stress reduction and sleep doesn't really touch the stress that caused the start of disease. I came to write this post for various reasons. I have a full-time practice as an AIP nutritionist (meaning I see what works and doesn't work with clients on a daily basis which is vastly different than studying the 'science') I work and study in the functional medicine world so I am privy to a large amount of other clinicians on the front lines of autoimmune research and the most updated clinical applications. My crowd is down to 15 foods, have been on AIP for a year or more, and are 5 practitioners in, and still not getting better. In fact, many are still getting diagnosed with more autoimmune diseases. Diet and stress reduction is only ONE PART of getting better if you have an autoimmune disease, and there is a lot more you can do with AIP than what is currently reported. As a Nutritionist, I dedicate quite a bit of time to learning the applicable science that is allowing people to get better faster. It is very exciting, and I am going to share it with you here.
The current list of Do's and Don'ts of AIP is a vague starting place, not a structured list that must be followed as so many believe. However, 2 years ago that was not the case. I actually don't refer to that list anymore. I help people to create THEIR OWN. When my clients do that, I notice their bodies heal faster. I am getting WAY more serious about finding the causes of inflammation and utilizing all the tools available to my clients to do so. I find for instance, talking about nutrient density with clients is helpful, (to heal micronutrient deficiencies) but when you are looking at 3 active, chronic co-infections happening along with 3 autoimmune diseases, nutrient density is not in the first conversations I have with clients. I am having the conversation of how to build a team of healers to help them. More often than not, there are multiple co-infections in those on AIP who have been tirelessly working for over a year on their diet and can't figure out why they are only 60% better.
1. When you start AIP, a wonderful thing happens. You reduce inflammation. This can make you feel better. I have also noticed clinically that it can actually mask persisting co-infections. So lets say for example you have a chronic, active Epstein Barr virus with your Hashimoto's, but you don't know you have EBV, because your doctor has not checked that out. (I URGE you to read this EBV article btw) You decide to go on AIP. You feel 70% better. Did AIP work? Yes and no. Did it help regulate the immune system? A bit. Did it get rid of the EBV? No. So you get a better regulated Hashimoto's from going on AIP and you also get a false sense of being better because it did not really take care of the chronic virus. And that chronic virus will persist. And the gut will remain leaky (albeit 'less leaky!') because chronic infections keep the gut 'leaky'. Will copious amounts of bone broth cure the EBV infection by healing the gut? Or eradicate a Cytomegalovirus? Perhaps some reading this will argue that curing micronutrient deficiencies with liver pate for example may allow the body to become strong enough to clear co-infections. I am not saying that it can't, but I am saying that from the reports of my clients, the answer is almost always, no. AIP became a crutch, not a cure.
2. Foods that are AIP "approved" are provoking an immune response for YOU. Ongoing food sensitivities will persist inflammation in your system. I recommend now that everyone customize AIP from the beginning. I do this with Cyrex Labs Panel 10 only. The science to do this was not available 2 years ago. So I consider the "AIP Lists" to be somewhat outdated now. Those that are on AIP who want to take the test but don't know if they should because for instance they have not eaten rice for over a year..well that is a good consideration. However, the test has tremendous value because it will look at AIP foods you are currently consuming that are problematic. For this reason I have abandoned Elimination & Challenge diets because I see them consistency not work as well as lab work. If you are eating AIP foods that are provoking an immune response, then AIP becomes a crutch, not a cure.
3. Is bone broth all is is made out to be? Maybe. But what if you have an immune response to gelatin? Or SIBO? Then is it healing your leaky gut? No. Or ginger? Or chicken livers? Without disregarding its value, the very things that are touted as Nutrient Dense may not work for you and your immune system. If you are sensitive to AIP foods that are commonly known as gut healers, but YOU have an immune response to them, then AIP became a crutch, not a cure.
4. You are not looking at what you believe about your life, and the role of your disease in that equation, then AIP will continue to be a crutch, not a cure.
5. You have head trauma somewhere in your timeline (concussion, car accident, skiing accident, sports injury etc) that is perpetuating an immune response in your system.
6. Your practitioner does not know how to address #1-5
If the following considerations are not taken into account, then AIP will turn into a crutch and not a cure. I know that is a big statement, but I have too many people emailing me who are dedicated to AIP, depressed and down to 15 foods because they only changed their diet and their practitioners are missing the bigger issues:
Anemia (over 20 kinds of anemia patterns to consider btw)
Your Belief System is at the TOP of the list. If you examine closely what the top researchers say about healing, every singe one of them says that you cannot heal unless you look at this. (See my book The Loving Diet)
The H-P Axis & Brain-Gut Axis has not been addressed
Adrenal/Cortisol dysfunction (affects blood sugars, inflammation, thyroid) and almost impossible to fix with persistent co-infections
Co-Infections (viral, parasite, bacterial and yeast)
MMC and Vagal Issues that persist without intervention
Blood Sugar Issues
Your thyroid is not regulated (T4 and T3 are required for the intestinal mucosal integrity)
You Are Eating AIP Foods that you are producing IgG antibodies to (and/or IgA, IgE)
You have Histamine Sensitivities
AIP recipes sites are full of SIBO drivers which is a big co-infection I see. Coconut flour, cassava flour, tapioca flour, gelatin...I suggest finding and understanding what the drivers of your autoimmune disease is along with changing your diet. This is often the hardest part.
So there you go. I have reoriented my nutrition practice to be more progressive toward inflammation. When I did that, everything changed. I changed. My clients changed. People have found a sense of relief that there is less stabbing in the dark knowing what their body is doing. There is so much more yet to come. I have found the most difficult piece is finding a proficient practitioner and building the foundation inside yourself to strengthen your compass so you get a gut feeling about which direction feels right for you. But, the next few years will be an exciting time for us. As we open our hearts to change, change will open its heart to us.