The AIP diet has helped so many of my clients that I had to write my first blog post specifically on this diet. Although several studies showing the efficacy of the AIP diet have not been published yet, one very impressive study is the study called Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Below, I will discuss the AIP diet, what foods to include, and which foods to avoid.
The Elimination Phase
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is a paleo-like elimination diet designed to help people with autoimmune conditions reduce inflammation and improve their symptoms. The diet is based on the theory that food sensitivities or allergies trigger many autoimmune diseases. By removing these foods from the diet, the AIP diet aims to give the immune system a chance to heal and reduce inflammation. Some people find they can go into total remission on this diet, while others have a substantial decrease in symptoms.
There are two ways to do the AIP diet. The first is cold turkey. That means giving all the food that triggers your inflammation up at once. This can be a much more complex way to start the diet, depending on what you ate in the past. This is an excellent option if you already eat a more paleo-like diet and have a sound support system.
The second option is the slow and steady transition. This is a 6-week process. The first week is a planning and preparation phase. The following five weeks are eliminating two food groups per week and, at the same time, adding one nutritional powerhouse. By the end of the six weeks, you will be fully compliant and ready to start the 30-90 journey before reintroduction.
The AIP diet is divided into two phases: the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase. During the elimination phase, various foods known to trigger inflammation possibly are removed from the diet. These foods include:
- Pseudo-grains & grain-like substances (Amaranth, buckwheat, chia, and quinoa)
- Processed vegetable oils
- Processed food chemicals & ingredients
- All added sugars
- Sugar alcohols
- Nonnutritive sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin, stevia, etc.)
- Nuts & nut oils
- Seeds & seed oils
- Nightshades or spices derived from nightshades
- Spices derived from seeds
The elimination phase typically lasts anywhere from 30-90 days, depending on the patient’s needs. During this time, people on the AIP diet may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and mood swings. However, these symptoms typically improve as the body heals and can be lessened by working with an AIP coach practitioner specializing in this diet.
Once the elimination phase is complete, people can reintroduce foods one at a time. This is done slowly and carefully to monitor the body for adverse reactions. This is the most challenging part of the diet and should be done in stages. There are four stages of reintroduction. Stage 1 consists of foods that people tend to react to the least, and stage 4 includes foods that are more known to be common trigger foods. This doesn’t mean some won’t respond to food in stage 1 or any of the stages. However, by starting with stage 1 and moving slowly through the steps, the patient has a greater chance of increasing the foods they can eat more quickly. If a food triggers a response, it is removed from the diet. The patient will need to pause reintroducing food until all symptoms have dissipated.
The AIP diet is challenging but very effective for people with autoimmune conditions. Suppose you are considering trying the AIP diet. In that case, working with a nutritionist who is an AIP coach practitioner or specializes in autoimmune disease is essential to ensure you do it safely and effectively.
Here is a more detailed look at the foods that are allowed and not allowed on the AIP diet:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, wild game
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, goose, turkey, quail
- Fish and seafood: Wild-caught fish, shellfish
- Leafy vegetablesEggs
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Allium-family vegetables
- Sea Vegetables
- Vegetable-like fruits
- All other fruit
- Animal fats
- Plant fats: Avocado oil (cold-pressed), coconut oil, olive oil (cold-pressed), palm oil, palm shortening, and red palm oil
- Probiotic foods:
- Leaf, flower, root & bark spices
- Certain flavorings (e.g., Coconut aminos, red wine vinegar, etc.)
- Natural sweeteners (used in moderation) (e.g. coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Here are some tips for following the AIP diet:
- Read food labels carefully. Many processed foods contain hidden gluten, dairy, soy, or other AIP-restricted ingredients.
- Cook at home as much as possible. This will give you more control over the ingredients in your food.
- Find AIP-friendly restaurants. There are a growing number of restaurants that offer AIP-friendly options.
- Be patient and persistent. The AIP diet can be challenging but worth it for many people.
- Do not skip ahead or try to take shortcuts.
- Journal your symptoms carefully during reintroduction to determine if a particular food is a trigger.
- Review supplements to ensure they are AIP-compliant
- Be prepared when traveling. Look at lodging choices, restaurant choices, and batch cooking to bring on a variety of food on your trip, and even think of bringing a mini “travel kitchen.”
- Buy several AIP books, or find trusted AIP-friendly websites with recipes
- Make sure to “Prep your Pantry.”
- Cook ahead, plan.
- Have a lot of AIP-friendly snacks on hand
- Batch cook
Common Mistakes on the AIP diet
- Skipping to different stages during reintroduction
- Not reading labels when buying food
- Not waiting long enough when reintroducing food
- Introducing several foods at the same time
- Not being fully compliant, “just an occasional cheat.”
- Taking supplements that are not AIP-compliant
- Not eating enough carbohydrates
- Not planning ahead
Most importantly, if you are considering trying the AIP diet, it is essential to work with a nutritionist who specializes in the AIP diet. They can help you ensure that the diet is proper for you and that you are doing it safely.
Here are some of the potential benefits of the AIP diet:
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved gut health
- Reduced symptoms of autoimmune conditions
- Increased energy levels
- Improved skin health
- Weight loss
There are some cases where the AIP diet doesn’t work. That is why working with a nutritionist specializing in the diet is so important. When this does occur, they can look at other things that may be happening, such as SIBO or histamine intolerance, among others.
The AIP diet is not a cure for autoimmune conditions, but it can be a helpful tool for managing symptoms, putting your disease into remission, and improving your quality of life.
If you want more information about getting help with your autoimmune disease and how diet and lifestyle change can help you feel better, follow me on TikTok or Facebook, or feel free to schedule a free discovery call.