AIP

Autoimmune Protocol FAQ

What is the AIP Diet (Autoimmune Paleo Diet)?

The AIP diet or the Autoimmune Paleo diet is an elimination and reintroduction protocol designed to reduce inflammation and heal leaky gut with the purpose of reversing symptoms caused by autoimmune disease.

There’s an eating plan to stick to, which involves two phases: an elimination phase, followed by a reintroduction phase.

The list of food to exclude on an elimination phase seems extensive, however, you need to eliminate any and all possible triggers foods. All the foods on the list have the potential to irritate the digestive system, damage the gut, and, when leaky gut is present, even seep through the intestinal wall and trigger inflammation.

How does the AIP diet help?

Gut health. The AIP diet, focuses on healing the gut by eliminating foods that cause inflammation to reduce symptoms in those with an autoimmune disease. It is also used to find out which foods are aggravating their symptoms, causing inflammation and essentially making their autoimmune disease worse.

Blood sugar balance. The AIP diet, focus on the blood sugar balance as imbalance can lead to systemic inflammation, hormone imbalances and immune flare ups.

Nutrient density. Micronutrient deficiencies are common in autoimmunity, therefore the AIP diet focus on including nutrient-dense foods to help your body to heal and support immune function.

How to start the AIP diet?

Going immediately from a standard diet to an AIP can be overwhelming for many people, which is why I generally suggest starting with slow-and-steady transition or try 30 days with the standard Paleo approach if you haven’t done yet.

Some prefer to go straight into the AIP, so all you need is to choose the most suitable and realistic approach.

What can you eat on the AIP diet?

Quality meats: beef, bison, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork, and wild game.

Organ meats and offal: bone broth, liver, kidneys, tongue and heart.

Fish and shellfish

Healthy fats: fatty wild fish, grass-fed animal fat, cold-pressed coconut oil, avocado oil, avocado, olives.

All vegetables (excluding nightshades)

Fermented food and drinks: kombucha, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut yogurt (additive-free), sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled ginger, fermented vegetables.

Edible mushrooms

Noodles: cassava noodles, shirataki yam noodles (sold in Asian grocery shops)

Fruits

Grain-free baking flours: coconut, cassava, tapioca, tigernut.

Herbs and spices: basil, cilantro, cinnamon, clove, coriander leaves, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lemongrass, mace, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, saffron, salt, thyme, turmeric.

Vinegars: apple cider vinegar, balsamic, coconut, red wine, sherry, plum, white wine.

Others: herbal teas, rooibos tea.

In moderation: fructose (in fruit and starchy vegetables), pomegranate molasses.

Very occasionally: maple syrup, maple sugar, honey, dried fruit, dates and date sugar, molasses.

What foods do you avoid on the AIP diet?

Alcohol and coffee

Grains: barley, bulgur, corn, couscous, kamut, millet oats, rice, rye, spelt, wheat.

Pseudograins: amaranth, buckwheat, chia, quinoa.

Dairy: butter, cheese, creams, yogurt (coconut yogurt is acceptable), cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk, mayonnaise, margarine, whey.

Eggs

Soy

Cacao

Nuts and seeds

Beans, legumes, and peanuts

Nightshade vegetables: eggplant, all peppers, tomatoes, goji berries, potatoes (sweet potatoes and yams are fine).

Nightshade spices: cayenne, chilli powder, paprika, red pepper, curry.

Seed and berry-based spices: anise, annatto, caraway, cardamon, celery seeds, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, sesame, mustard, nutmeg, poppy seed, allspice, star anise, peppercorns, whole vanilla bean.

Medical mushrooms

Poor quality seed and vegetable oils

Processed sugar (honey and maple syrup are fine)

Sugars and artificial sweeteners: agave, corn syrup, high fructose syrup, aspartame, neotame, sucralose, etc.

Food additives, gums and thickeners like guar gum, carrageenan, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, soy lecithin.

How long do you follow the AIP diet?

You don’t have to follow the AIP diet forever! How long you choose to stay on the AIP is 100% up to you and should depend on how you feel following the diet. A strict elimination period of at least thirty to ninety days is recommended. However, many people stay on the protocol for months until they start seeing the resolution of their autoimmune symptoms.

If it’s been the max amount of time around 3-months on the elimination phase and you still aren’t feeling relief, it’s definitely time to get more help. You can find a Functional Practitioner, or Naturopath, or Nutritional Therapist to help dig deeper into your condition.

How do you know you’re healing and are ready for reintroductions?

Everyone is unique and if you’re working with a practitioner who recommends otherwise (and you agree), or are feeling like you’re not quite feeling the best yet, you can hold off a little longer. But do not exceed 3 months. In my practice, I tend to recommend 4 to 12 weeks or no more than 6-weeks especially if it is a source of stress. Like I mentioned before, there could be another reason why your body is not getting better, you are still experiencing flare ups so after 3 months on the AIP diet you should start focusing more deeper and perhaps some testing is needed.

Your stress level, genetics, sleep quality, exercise, nutrient intake and underlying health issues will affect your reaction to foods.

However, if you feel that your symptoms improved and you are happy where you are you can start the introduction phase.

How do the AIP food reintroductions work?

When you’re trying to gauge your reaction to foods, adding them all back in at once is the opposite of what you want to do. You want to go slowly, and mindfully to avoid overloading your body, and to allow yourself the time to see a reaction.

Here is the step-by-step process for introducing foods

  1. Select a food to reintroduce and plan to eat it three times in one day.
  2. Start with half a teaspoon and wait 15 minutes. If there are reactions, stop.
  3. If there are no reactions, eat one full teaspoon and wait 15 more minutes. If there are reactions, stop.
  4. If there are no reactions, eat two teaspoons and wait two–three hours. If there are reactions, do not go any further.
  5. If there are no reactions, eat a normal portion of the food and wait 3–7 days. Do not reintroduce any other foods and track reactions during this time. (Many reactions could indicate a potential food sensitivity, or a return of your autoimmune symptoms.)
  6. If there are no reactions different from your improved baseline after the AIP elimination phase, that food can be brought back into your diet and you can begin another reintroduction.

NOTE: If you have a reaction to a food you introduced, you must wait until those symptoms are completely gone before moving on to the next food introduction.

Does the AIP diet really work?

All of us are different and we react differently to the diet or lifestyle changes. Many with autoimmune disease find success with an AIP diet, while others do not. There’s no way to guarantee that this approach will work for you, but my own and clinical experience with the AIP protocol led to positive changes.

There was a recent medical study on the autoimmune protocol diet that you will find here.

What else should you consider while following the AIP diet?

Your autoimmune flare-ups can be triggered by both lifestyle factors, environment, and the foods we eat. The autoimmune protocol addresses it all. Here are some other factors to be considered:

Managing stress

√ Getting plenty of sleep

√ Spending time outdoors

√ Making time for moderate exercise

√ Getting the support you need

√ Home and body care products

√ Underlying infections or nutrient deficiencies

It’s important to acknowledge that an AIP diet is not a cure, and it may not be enough to put a disease into full remission or heal damaged tissues. Further support such as medication or targeted AIP supplements may be necessary to maintain the body’s optimal functioning. There is no shame in using conventional medicine in addition to a dietary and lifestyle approach to healing.

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