I had never heard of the autoimmune protocol diet [some call it AIP] until four years ago. It was just after I learned that I had Graves Disease and was struggling to level out my hormones. We were also trying to reduce the inflammation in my body because it was really high! One thing about me and my beliefs is that I do not do diets, nor do I believe in dieting and I also think they can bring bad relationships with food. When the doctor had mentioned the word diet I wasn't really listening anymore. After going home and doing my own research I soon learned that this was more of a body reset and efforts to control inflammation without medicine but rather food. This is done for 30-90 days and then you slowly add things back into your diet, eventually finding what works and what doesn't work with your body. Around week 3 your body will start to show small signs of improvement, I know its a battle but I promise it's worth it!
What is Autoimmune Disease?
There are over 80 types of autoimmune disease making it more difficult to get the correct diagnosis. Autoimmune diseases can be caused by genetic factors, infection, stress, inflammation, medication or a leaky gut. Healthy immune systems are designed to produce antibodies that attack foreign or harmful cells whereas autoimmune immune diseases produce antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues. Over time the attack on healthy cells and tissue can bring things like joint pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, brain fog, and tissue and nerve damage. To view the full list of Autoimmune Diseases, click here.
What is Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
The Autoimmune Protocol diet is an extension of the Paleolithic diet aimed to reduce inflammation, pain, leaky gut and other symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases. This diet consist of two phases, the elimination phase and reintroduction phase. The initial elimination phase focuses on eliminating of food groups including grains, legumes, nightshades (learn more about those here), dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils, and food additives. Replacing those foods with with health-promoting, nutrient-dense, minimally processed meat, fermented foods, and bone broth foods that are thought to help heal the gut, and ultimately, reduce inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Working on stress management, physical activity and getting enough sleep is beneficial as well!
Once there has been enough improvement in symptoms and overall well-being the reintroduction phase can begin. This phase, allows you to gradually reintroduce the avoided foods back into the diet, one at a time, based on the tolerance. Stick to one food item a week and keeping a journal is helpful when tracking food that causes problems vs ones that don't! Your body is your body, listen to it and eat what makes your feel good, not what others might say is to eat!
Food to Avoid
- Grains: rice, wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc., as well as foods derived from them, such as pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals
- Legumes: lentils, beans, peas, peanuts, etc., as well as foods derived from them, such as tofu, tempeh, mock meats, or peanut butter
- Nightshade vegetables: eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, etc., as well as spices derived from nightshade vegetables, such as paprika
- Eggs: whole eggs, egg whites, or foods containing these ingredients
- Dairy: cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk, as well as foods derived from these milks, such as cream, cheese, butter, or ghee; dairy-based protein powders or other supplements should also be avoided
- Nuts and seeds: all nuts and seeds and foods derived from them, such as flours, butter, or oils; also includes cocoa and seed-based spices, such as coriander, cumin, anise, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, and nutmeg
- Certain beverages: alcohol and coffee
- Processed vegetable oils: canola, rapeseed, corn, cottonseed, palm kernel, safflower, soybean, or sunflower oils
- Refined or processed sugars: cane or beet sugar, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup; also includes sweets, soda, candy, frozen desserts, and chocolate, which may contain these ingredients
- Food additives and artificial sweeteners: trans fats, food colorings, emulsifiers, and thickeners, as well as artificial sweeteners, such as stevia, mannitol, and xylitol
Foods to Eat
- Vegetables: a variety of vegetables except for nightshade vegetables and algae, which should be avoided
- Fresh fruit: a variety of fresh fruit, in moderation
- Tubers: sweet potatoes, taro, yams, as well as Jerusalem or Chinese artichokes
- Minimally processed meat: wild game, fish, seafood, organ meat, and poultry; meats should be wild, grass-fed or pasture-raised, whenever possible
- Fermented, probiotic-rich foods: nondairy-based fermented food, such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and coconut kefir; probiotic supplements may also be consumed
- Minimally processed vegetable oils: olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
- Herbs and spices: as long as they’re not derived from a seed
- Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider, and red wine vinegar, as long as they’re free of added sugars
- Natural sweeteners: maple syrup and honey, in moderation
- Certain teas: green and black tea at average intakes of up to 3–4 cups per day
- Bone broth: check out 9 ways to use bone broth, here.
It can most defiantly be a little daunting but along the way if your choose to fall in love with food thinking more of it as fuel and a medicine makes it easier. Once you start to feel better throughout your entire body from your mind to your joints and to gut and energy. After all is said and done you will be left knowing what foods cause your body pain vs cause no problem. Putting the protocol diet to the test my myself was a struggle at first, but after feeling so horrible, looking for anyway to feel better, eliminating food didn't seem so hard. After sticking with it for a few months I was happy to see and feel better. Since then I am still figuring out trigger foods and discovering new allergies but feel 10 times better than I did four, three, two years go. If you are struggling with an autoimmune disease this diet might help give your body a reset, allowing it to begin the healing process. Always speak to a trusted doctor or nutritionist before changing or starting new diets.