If you’re living with an autoimmune condition, you may be surprised that one of the most powerful healing tools might be your diet.
In fact, the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is designed specifically for people living with immune dysfunction and chronic pain.
The AIP diet is extremely nutrient-dense and devoid of foods that activate the immune system, irritate the gut, and cause gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of microorganisms in your intestines).
And, no matter the chronic illness you're living with...
The AIP Diet Could Help Give You Your Life Back!
According to the National Institutes of Health, autoimmune disorders affect over 23 million people in the United States. Despite these staggering numbers, many people with chronic pain and autoimmune symptoms are told by well-educated medical professionals that the problem is “all in their head”.
Autoimmune disease is the result of the immune system losing the ability to differentiate between a foreign invader (virus, parasite, bacteria) and your body’s own healthy tissues (thyroid, intestine). It is a very real and prevalent condition and one of the top 10 causes of fatality in women under 65.
As your immune system attacks your own tissues, damage to healthy cells, nerves and organs builds up. Over time, the telltale symptoms of extreme fatigue, weakness, muscle and joint pain, chronic sinus problems, chronic digestive problems, rashes and mood swings begin to emerge.
What Is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP)?
The autoimmune protocol diet is designed to help heal your gut mucosa and to remove substances that may stimulate the immune system. These are replaced with nutrient-dense foods that calm the immune system and help to heal damaged tissues and organs.
AIP is a gentle but powerful way to spark your own body's miraculous ability to heal. And it can benefit a myriad of conditions.
In fact, there are more than 80 officially documented autoimmune diseases. The most common autoimmune diseases include:
• Grave's disease
• Hashimoto's thyroiditis
• Type 1 diabetes
• Multiple sclerosis
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Celiac disease
• Sjögren's syndrome
• Polymyalgia rheumatica
• Ankylosing spondylitis
• Alopecia areata
• Temporal arteritis
And while many of these might seem unrelated, what they have in common is that the body attacks itself!
Now let’s move onto…
What to Avoid on the AIP Diet
The Standard American Diet (SAD) contains so many pro-inflammatory foods, your immune system gets primed and ready to attack every time you sit down to a meal.
While the list of foods to avoid on the AIP diet may look restrictive, avoiding them could be the most powerful step you can take to put chronic illness into remission.
Now, let's break it down to understand why these foods are a no-no on the AIP diet:
• Gluten – This is a pro-inflammatory protein that should be immediately and permanently removed from the diet of anyone living with an autoimmune disease.
• Grains – Individuals with autoimmune disease are often sensitive to grains (irrespective of gluten) as the compounds in these foods can also cause an inflammatory response. Grains can also be difficult to digest.
• Legumes – Legumes such as peas, beans, and peanuts are avoided because they contain anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and lectins that interfere with digestion, promote leaky gut and lead to inflammation.
• Dairy – A common allergen and cross-reacts with gluten. Pasteurization increases allergic potential and promotes leaky gut. Raw, grass-fed dairy products may be tolerated after the initial phase.
• Sugar and Alcohol – Both are pro-inflammatory, disrupt the gut and offer no nutritional value.
• Eggs – The protein and enzymes in eggs are capable of working their way through your gut lining (especially if it is already damaged) and entering your bloodstream, potentially triggering an autoimmune response.
• Nightshades – Nightshade vegetables such as white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (including paprika) must be avoided because they contain trace amounts of nicotine and an alkaloid toxin called solanine.
• Nuts and Seeds – Because people with autoimmune disease are likely to have a leaky gut, sensitivities to nuts and seeds are common. Under this category, coffee and cocoa should also be eliminated, along with nut and seed-based oils.
• Fruit and Seed-Based Spices – Including mustard seed, cumin, celery seed, nutmeg, allspice, caraway, cardamom, coriander, curry powder, fennel seed, fenugreek, and peppercorns. All of these can be problematic and should be eliminated entirely in the first phase.
• Artificial Anything – Food additives like carrageenan, guar gum, benzoic acid, MSG, aspartame, sulfates/sulfites, nitrates/nitrites, BHT, BHA, and food dyes must all be avoided on the AIP diet as they can promote leaky gut, inflammation, and even neurological dysfunction.
• Drugs – NSAID pain relievers can worsen leaky gut syndrome. If taking, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives.
• High Intensity Sweeteners – Including luo han guo and stevia can stimulate the immune system due to hormone-like structure and should be avoided.
What to Eat on the AIP Diet
Now that you know what to avoid, let’s focus on what you can enjoy on the autoimmune protocol:
• Pastured Meat & Wild Seafood – Grass-fed beef, bison, wild game, chicken, turkey, pastured pork, wild-caught fish and shellfish
• Vegetables – All vegetables (except nightshades)
• Lacto-Fermented Foods – Water and coconut kefir, fermented vegetables, kombucha, and sauerkraut
• Fruit – All fruits (Limit high sugar/high fructose fruits. Opt instead for antioxidant-rich berries and cherries)
• Herbs + Spices – All fresh and dried herbs, spices that are not seed-based (peppercorns and nightshade spices like dried pepper flakes should be excluded)
• Healthy Fats – Coconut oil, avocado, avocado oil, olive oil, tallow, lard and duck fat
• Nourishing Beverages – Water , green tea, bone broth, and coconut milk
How to Do the Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The keys to success on the autoimmune protocol diet are being committed and tracking your symptoms. A strict elimination period of at least 30 to 60 days is typically recommended.
However, once you start to feel your energy and vitality return and your pain and brain fog ebb away, you may decide to remain on the protocol until your symptoms resolve.
Remember to keep track of your symptoms! Keeping a journal indicating what you ate, how you felt when you ate it, and if you noticed any symptoms afterward is one of the best ways to establish the connection between food sensitivities and flare-ups. Reintroducing foods slowly – and one at a time – is the best way to evaluate their effects. Delayed hypersensitivity reactions can occur as much as 72 hours after consuming a food.
Once you understand which foods worsen (or calm) your symptoms, you will have gained significant control of your health!
Get Started with the Autoimmune Protocol: A Sample AIP Meal Plan
As with any new diet, getting started can be difficult. Below are two sample menus to help you begin. And be sure to check out US Wellness Meats catalog of AIP-Friendly Foods that will make the transition a breeze!
• Breakfast: Coconut milk, frozen berries, grass-fed gelatin, and avocado makes for a nutritious, easy-to-digest smoothie.
• Lunch: Plantain chips, avocado slices, Vital Choice Wild Red Salmon with diced onions and a drizzle of olive oil.
• Snack: AIP-friendly turkey jerky and a cup of bone broth (be sure to check labels or make your own)
• Dinner: Roasted herb-rubbed chicken breast, baked sweet potato with coconut oil and baby spinach.
• Breakfast: AIP-friendly sugar free beef bacon or pork bacon served with sliced avocado and lacto-fermented sauerkraut (like Bubbie’s)
• Lunch: Cooked wild shrimp served on a bed of organic kale drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and lemon.
• Snack: Original Pork Rinds and a cup of bone broth (be sure to check labels or make your own)
• Dinner: Grilled grass-fed French ribeye steak (my personal favorite), mashed cauliflower and Primal Kitchen AIP-friendly herbs, and sautéed collard greens.
In addition to following a healing AIP diet, be sure to optimize your levels of vitamin D, get plenty of fresh air and movement, and engage in stress-reducing, joy-enhancing activities to nourish your body… and your soul!
Ed Note: Kelley Herring is the founder of Healing Gourmet. She is currently developing the world’s most advanced (and easy to use) completely personalized menu and meal planning program, called Meal Genius™, featuring dozens of items from the US Wellness Meats catalog of natural and pasture-raised products. It is especially useful for those following a special diet and for those with allergies and food intolerances. Stay tuned for more information in the weeks to come!
1. Understanding Autoimmune Diseases. NIH. http://niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Autoimmune/default.asp
2. The Whys Behind the Autoimmune Protocol Nuts and Seeds. The Paleo Mom. http://www.thepaleomom.com/the-whys-behind-the-autoimmune-protocol-nuts-and-seeds/
3. What is the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. Phoenix Helix. http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/05/19/what-is-the-paleo-autoimmune-protocol/
4. Teaser Excerpt From the Paleo Approach: The Trouble With Stevia. The Paleo Mom. http://www.thepaleomom.com/teaser-excerpt-from-the-paleo-approach-the-trouble-with-stevia/