The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is intended to help individuals identify, and remove foods that cause allergic or inflammatory reactions that may be interfering with their body’s natural functions.
These reactions include headaches, tiredness, cramps and soreness, thyroid disease, and arthritis. Unlike other diets, the AIP diet is not meant to be a long-term lifestyle change. The most restricted form of the diet is meant to be followed for only a limited time.
After following an extremely restricted diet, patients can slowly reintroduce foods to isolate and identify the ones that are harmful to them.
Basic Overview of the AIP Diet
The body’s immune system is how individuals fight off disease. The body recognizes bacteria and other foreign invaders, and attacks and rejects them. However, in some cases, the body can misidentify its own tissues as invaders and attack them as well.
This causes what is referred to as an autoimmune reaction, with symptoms such as harmful inflammation. One potential trigger for autoimmune reactions is eating the wrong kinds of foods.
The next few slides will give individuals a basic overview of the AIP diet, though it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or nutritionist before starting the AIP diet.
Aims of the AIP Diet
The principle behind the AIP diet is to strip an individual’s diet down to the most basic and natural foods. In this, it is very similar to the paleo diet, although even stricter.
Individuals then follow this limited diet until they start feeling their health improve, which signals the autoimmune reactions are stopping. This should be a minimum of thirty days, although six to eight weeks is more usual.
Once individuals are satisfied with their recovery, they can begin to reintroduce foods, although only one at a time and with at least three days’ delay between new foods so they can track potential reactions.
One of the aims of the AIP diet is by following this procedure, individuals should be able to discover which foods trigger their autoimmune attacks and eliminate them permanently from their diet, leading to improved overall health.
Food to Eat on the AIP Diet
Like the paleo diet, the AIP diet emphasizes natural foods, especially those high in protein and low in carbohydrates. When selecting food to eat on the AIP diet, individuals should avoid anything high-carb or overly processed.
The basic AIP diet is heavy on protein and fat in the form of meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as certain kinds of vegetables. Fruit is allowed, although only in limited quantities. Cooking oil is allowed if it’s a healthy fat, such as olive or coconut oil. Flour should be non-grain-based, such as coconut or cassava.
Vinegar and fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha are acceptable if they are not dairy-based and have no added sugar. Food chosen should be organic, free-range, and/or grass-fed, as much as possible.
Foods to Avoid on the AIP Diet
The list of foods to avoid on the AIP diet may seem intimidating, but individuals should remember these aren’t meant to be permanent restrictions. Once again similar to the paleo diet, the autoimmune protocol diet bans dairy, grains, and legumes.
However, the autoimmune protocol diet goes further: eggs, nuts and seeds, and spices, which are usually okay on the paleo diet, are forbidden by the AIP diet.
Individuals are also expected to avoid nightshade-related vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Alcohol and coffee are forbidden.
Foods with added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup are not permitted, and even sugar-alternative sweeteners such as stevia are not allowed (although small amounts of honey or maple syrup for sweetening are okay).
Effectiveness of the AIP Diet
The restrictive nature is one of the main challenges to the effectiveness of the AIP diet. It’s hard for most individuals to stick to, even if only for two months. This is why physician or nutritionist support is recommended.
Since the autoimmune protocol diet is so restrictive, it’s very important for individuals to monitor what they’re eating and make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need, through supplements if necessary.
Many individuals who do manage to stick it out report feeling improved health as their autoimmune inflammation recedes: clearer skin, more energy, less pain, and less dependence on medicines.
If inflammation is a concern, the AIP diet may be a way to help individuals identify and eliminate potential health threats in everyday foods.