If you suffer from inflammation or pain, your doctor may have told you about the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or you may have stumbled upon here looking for ways to relieve your symptoms independently.
The AIP diet’s goal is to change the way people eat with the hope of reducing or eliminating autoimmune disorder symptoms. Some people rave about its success, while others feel they never find a triggering food.
We’ll show you both sides of the spectrum so that you can decide if the AIP diet could be the right fit for you.
How the AIP Diet Works
The AIP diet works by helping people with autoimmune disorders reduce the chances of a leaky gut, which specific foods cause. As a result, your stomach will have time to heal itself by not eating these triggering foods. The result could be less inflammation and pain, along with any other autoimmune symptoms you typically experience.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases that the AIP diet might be able to help include:
Type 1 diabetes
Some research suggests that a leaky gut could be the reason for inflammation in individuals with autoimmune issues. However, more studies need to happen to confirm this.
So, we encourage you to speak with your doctor before giving the AIP diet a try.
Foods You Can Eat on the AIP Diet
Many people view the AIP diet as a more rigid form of the paleo diet. It’s a two-phase process that involves different foods that you can and can’t eat.
Phase 1: Elimination
The elimination phase is likely how you have it pictured, removing all foods that could potentially cause gut inflammation and impact gut bacteria or an autoimmune response.
You’ll also need to eliminate potentially gut-damaging medication, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
You’ll then replace the foods you remove from your diet with gut-healthy ones such as:
Meat with little to no processing
By making these changes, you may notice improvements in your autoimmune disorder symptoms in as little as three weeks. However, it’s common to have to follow phase one for 1 - 3 months before you (theoretically) see noticeable improvements.
The AIP diet indicates that you should remain in phase one until you’re satisfied with the reduction in pain, inflammation, and any other symptom you want to target.
Phase 2: Reintroduction
The AIP diet’s reintroduction phase is a similar approach to a person trying to self-diagnose a food allergy. You’ll start by selecting one food on the AIP diet’s elimination list and reincorporating it into your diet.
There are a few points to note here:
You should reintroduce foods on the elimination list one at a time.
Eat the food for a minimum of 5 - 7 days if you don’t show symptoms.
After the 5 - 7-day mark, you can follow the same process with a different food item.
According to many people who follow the AIP diet, you’ll likely know pretty quickly whether your body negatively reacts to a food you’re reintroducing. If and when your body reacts, you’ll know it’s a food you should avoid eating.
Here’s a fact that might surprise you: Food sensitivities are constantly evolving. Therefore, a food you react to today might not cause a reaction five years from now and vice versa.
Foods on the AIP Diet Elimination List
When you’re going through phase one of the AIP diet, you’ll need to stop eating all of the following foods:
Refined and processed sugars
Furthermore, you shouldn’t drink alcohol or use anything with tobacco.
Once you begin to reintroduce food in phase 2, you’re welcome to pick whichever food item you’re craving most and work through the list.
Tips for Reintroducing Food
If you’re on the AIP diet under a doctor’s supervision, we encourage you to follow their recommendations about when, how, and what food you reintroduce.
But if you’re going at it on your own, below are some tips to consider when you reintroduce a food of your choice:
Test the food by eating about one teaspoon of it
If you don’t react after 15 minutes, eat 1.5 tablespoons
Assuming you don’t have a reaction after 2 - 3 hours, eat a normal portion of it
Avoid the food for 5 - 6 days and wait to see if symptoms arise
When reintroducing dairy, move from the lowest lactose concentrated food to the highest
Furthermore, be aware if you’re going through a period that would normally cause an autoimmune disease inflammatory flare-up, such as if you did a hard workout or had a bad night’s sleep.
AIP Diet Pros
The AIP diet is primarily for people with autoimmune diseases. So, below are some of the advantages you may experience by following this diet.
Reduced Pain and Inflammation
Research suggests that food can trigger inflammation in the gut, causing discomfort and pain for people suffering from autoimmune diseases. So, the AIP diet might be able to help you discover what food(s) are causing pain and inflammation via the process of elimination.
Unsurprisingly, eating little more than fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein is an excellent way to shed some extra pounds. Just be cautious as you reintroduce food, should weight loss be your goal, for it’s easy to regain the weight if you don’t eat the reintroduced foods in moderation.
AIP Diet Cons
The AIP diet is far from perfect, and it requires a significant amount of motivation and careful practice to have the chance of seeing results. So, below are a couple of the most significant potential disadvantages you might encounter.
There’s No Proof It Works
The fact that the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the AIP diet is one of its biggest faults. While select studies show that dietary changes can reduce inflammation from autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the reality is that scientists need to run many more studies to support these findings.
It’s Difficult To Follow
Most people need a tremendous amount of willpower to follow the AIP diet. The first phase eliminates nearly every food group, essentially stripping your food intake down to a paleo diet. Then, you’ll need to keep careful records and schedule keeping as you reintroduce each banned food at what many would consider a snail’s pace.
What Are the Risks of the AIP Diet
The AIP diet may cause you to fall short nutritionally, particularly when you start with phase one. Therefore, you should take a dietary supplement.
Furthermore, since the AIP diet aims to treat symptoms associated with an autoimmune disease, it can be dangerous to attempt this diet without medical approval and supervision.
Are You Ready To Try the AIP Diet
Chronic inflammation and pain from an autoimmune disease are tiring. So, the fact that some people rave about the successes of identifying triggering foods through the AIP diet makes it worth the try for many people.
Just ensure you follow your doctor’s recommendations before embarking on this journey.
Dr. Deborah Anderson, 7 Surprising Facts About Food Sensitivities, retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/7-surprising-facts-about-_b_6902802
Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5647120/
Stephanie Watson, Autoimmune Diseases: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and More, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/autoimmune-disorders
Heidi Godman, Chronic Gut Inflammation: Coping With Inflammatory Bowel Disease, retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/chronic-gut-inflammation-coping-with-inflammatory-bowel-disease