Is it just me, or does it seem like there are a million new diets out there? It can be hard to keep up and even harder to understand what the heck they are. The AIP Diet can be incredibly healing, if you know how to do it properly!
What can be even more confusing is deciphering which diets are legitimate, well-studied therapeutic interventions. And which are bogus fad diets that offer extreme restriction and false promises. While Facebook and Instagram are amazing platforms for sharing information and knowledge. When it comes to our health, we need to make sure we’re working with health professionals and using dietary approaches that have been backed up by science and the health community.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet, or AIP Diet for short, is just that. It’s is a well-established therapeutic diet that has been specifically designed to help those suffering from autoimmunity issues.
Okay, tell me more. What are the basics?
The AIP diet, also known as “The Paleo Approach” is a protocol developed and refined by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. This approach has been specifically designed to help those suffering from autoimmunity. As Dr. Ballantyne explains herself, it is a “complementary approach to chronic disease management focused on providing the body with the nutritional resources required for immune regulation, gut health, hormone regulation and tissue healing while removing inflammatory stimuli from both diet and lifestyle.”
The purpose of the AIP diet is to flood the body with nutrients. At the same time it’s important to avoid any food that might be contributing to disease or hindering the healing process. Essentially, it is an intensive elimination diet.
Elimination diets can help determine food allergies and sensitivities. The goal of the AIP diet is also to reverse any nutrient deficiencies, balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut, and reduce systemic inflammation. Through the AIP diet, people are able to improve their quality of life and manage, sometimes even reverse, the symptoms of their autoimmune condition.
Who should follow the AIP Protocol?
The AIP Protocol is not necessary for everyone. Let me repeat that – the AIP is NOT a protocol to be followed by just anyone! The protocol has been designed for people suffering from autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Grave’s Disease, myasthenia gravis, etc.
If you currently suffer from an autoimmune condition or are concerned that you might be, please consult with a qualified health practitioner. A practitioner will help you to get the bottom of your problem and to see if the AIP diet is right for you.
I’d love to work with you – you can fill out this form to apply to work with me here!
What foods are allowed on the AIP Diet?
The foods allowed during the AIP diet are all nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory and healing. These foods provide everything your body needs to stop attacking itself, repair damaged tissues, and get healthy again. Emphasis is placed on choosing the best quality ingredients you have access to – i.e. organic, non-GMO and local when possible. Despite the restrictions, you should also try to add variety when picking ingredients as well (you might get sick of broccoli every day anyway!) In summary, here are the foods that you should focus on including during the AIP protocol:
AIP Friendly Foods
- Organ meats and offal (aim for 5 times per week, the more the better)–read more here.
- Wild-caught fish and shellfish (organic farmed is fine as well)
- Vegetables of all kinds – eat the whole rainbow!
- Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, celery leaves, etc.)
- Colorful vegetables and fruit (red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, white)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, watercress, mustard greens, etc.)
- Roots, tubers and winter squash (cassava, sweet potato, parsnip, beets, fennel, carrots, rutabaga, turnip, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, etc.)
- Onion family (aka alliums, onions, leek, garlic, ramps, chives, etc.)
- Sea vegetables (excluding algae like chlorella and spirulina which are immune stimulators)
- Mushrooms (and other edible fungi)
- Herbs and spices (note: not all spices are AIP friendly – click here for a full list)
- Quality meats (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild as much as possible)
- Healthy fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed animal fats, fatty fish, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil)
- Fruit (1-2 servings per day maximum)
- Probiotic/fermented foods (fermented vegetables or fruit, kombucha, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut milk yogurt, supplements)
- Glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue, joints or skin, organ meat, and bone broth)
- Prebiotic gut superfoods (cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, roots, tubers, alliums, leafy greens, berries, apple family, citrus, extra virgin olive oil, fish, shellfish, honey and bee products, fermented foods, tea and bone broth)
Which foods should be avoided on the AIP Diet?
The AIP diet is a very restrictive diet with a long list of foods to avoid. Again, this diet is not to be followed if you are not currently suffering from an autoimmune conditions. On this diet, you should eliminate the following foods from your diet:
- Grains (wheat, rice, quinoa, millet, rye, farro, cous-cous, etc.)
- Legumes (peanuts, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.)
- Dairy (milk, butter, cream, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
- Refined and processed sugars and oils (e.g. white sugar, corn syrup, agave, canola oil, vegetable oil, trans-fat, etc.)
- Eggs (especially the whites)
- Nuts (including nut butters, flours and oils)
- Seeds (including seed oil, cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices)
- Nightshades (potatoes [sweet potatoes are fine], tomatoes, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne, red pepper, tomatillos, goji berries etc. and spices derived from peppers, including paprika)
- Potential Gluten Cross-Reactive Foods – click here for more information on this!
- NSAIDS (like aspirin or ibuprofen)
- Non-nutritive sweeteners (honey and blackstrap molasses are okay)
- Emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives (e.g. cornstarch, soy lecithin, carageenan, etc.)
Is it all about food?
Although food is a large component of the AIP Protocol, there are other important factors to consider too. Here are some crucial things to consider while on the AIP Protocol:
- Getting enough sleep (at least 8-10 hours every night)
- Managing stress (mindful meditation is very well studied in the scientific literature and universally shown to be beneficial)
- Protecting circadian rhythms (being outside during the day, being in the dark at night and avoiding bright lights in the evening)
- Enjoying nature
- Nurturing social connection, having fun, making time for hobbies, relaxing
- Getting lots of mild to moderately intense activity (while avoiding intense/strenuous activity). Read more about the Paleo lifestyle here.
Is the AIP Diet a forever thing?
Short answer: no (phew!).
The autoimmune protocol is an elimination diet at its core, designed to cut out the most likely food culprits while flooding the body with nutrients. The best part about an elimination diet is that, eventually, you get to reintroduce foods that you’ve been avoiding.
Reintroducing eliminated foods is a critical step of your health journey. This is because some eliminated foods (like eggs, nuts, seeds, cocoa, and grass-fed meat) have impressive nutritive value. They can improve the overall nutrient density of your diet if well tolerated. Plus, the more dietary flexibility you have, the easier life is—you’ll have less difficulty traveling or eating in restaurants or at potlucks, work meetings, or any social situation.
While working with me, we’ll go through each stage of the AIP Protocol together, step by step. It helps to have someone on your team while going through this process – no one should suffer alone! Have any questions or comments about the AIP Protocol? Leave them in the comments section below or send me a message here!