The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a diet which helps to reduce inflammation in the body, and minimize other symptoms of autoimmune diseases. The diet focuses on eliminating foods known to promote symptoms, and replace them with more nutrient-dense foods which are thought to heal the body from the inside-out.
If you have an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto thyroiditis, psoriasis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac, this diet may be a option to consider after checking with a medical professional.
Increasing evidence suggests that modification to dietary intake can influence inflammation and reduce symptoms of IBD and other autoimmune disorders.
To begin, the AIP encompasses two phases: elimination and reintroduction.
The AIP Elimination Phase
The AIP is an elimination diet, which involves avoiding certain foods for several weeks at a time. The purpose is to try and identify which foods may be triggering symptoms of autoimmune disease.
There is an initial elimination of food groups including grains, legumes, nightshades, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils, and food additives. The rationale being, to avoid foods that may trigger inflammation within the body.
Typically it is recommended to follow the elimination phase for at least 30-90 days before introducing new foods, although some may experience improvements within 3 weeks. The AIP Elimination Phase will be packed with nutrition, while eliminating dietary toxins and autoimmune triggers. Foods that will be avoided during this phase include:
Foods to Avoid
- Trans Fats
- Chemical Additives
- Artificial Flavorings
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Legumes & Beans
- Processed Foods
- Vegetable Oils
- Night Shades
- Alcohol & Coffee
The food groups to avoid on the AIP diet are thought increase gut permeability, which can cause damage to the gut barrier. This may lead to problems such as “leaky gut”, which can be a trigger for symptoms in individuals with autoimmune disorders.
Foods to Eat
- Vegetables (excluding Night Shades)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fruit (small amounts)
- Avocado Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Milk
- Dairy-Free Fermented Foods
- Honey or Maple Syrup
Nutrient dense foods like these are rich in vitamins and other nutrients which may help reduce symptoms of autoimmune disorders. The AIP emphasizes consumption and preparation of fresh, nutrient dense foods, bone broth, and fermented foods.
The elimination phase is followed by a reintroduction phase, the duration of which can vary by individual, until a measurable improvement in their symptoms has been made. Staged reintroduction of food groups is initiated gradually, as individuals identify specific foods or food groups that may contribute to symptoms while liberalizing their diet.
After following the elimination phase for at least 30-90 days, you may transition into the reintroduction phase. There are 4 stages of reintroduction. Follow each stage for 30-90 days before proceeding into the next stage.
There are currently not many drawbacks to the AIP diet, especially when performed under the guidance of a medical professional. The benefits seems to outweigh any possible risks for most individuals. There are a number of possible health benefits of the AIP diet including:
- Reduced inflammation
- Less joint pain
- Symptom management for autoimmune disorders
- Improved digestion
- Increased focus and concentration
Autoimmune diseases cannot be cured but their symptoms can be managed. Some research shows that the AIP diet can reduce inflammation and provide benefits for people with autoimmune disorders.
With minimal downsides, the diet can be a good option for those with autoimmune disorders who are seeking to improve their symptoms.
Anyone starting a strict elimination diet should consult with their doctor first to assure that it is safe for their health.
Kristen Kuminski, RD, CDN
Kristen is a consultant Dietitian with experience working with a variety of individuals and populations. Kristen has experience counseling/ coaching clients in eating disorders, pediatrics, weight management, mental health nutrition and other chronic health conditions.