If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve had some serious gut issues in the past. I tried everything from eliminating certain foods to changing up my exercise routine. And though some things helped, the results were short-lived.
I would quickly go back to feeling bloated and completely off my game.
Eventually I learned that leaky gut syndrome and lack of gut bacteria were causing my problems. But after seeing a naturopath and FINALLY getting the proper testing and treatment, I recovered from this very quickly.
But my story is not unique. I’ve gotten tons of messages on Insta from people suffering from many of the same symptoms I had. And some of them ask about the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP).
While this isn’t the method I used to start feeling good again, I was curious and did a little digging. Here’s what I found.
WHAT IS THE AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL DIET
Auto immune protocol diet is supposed to help with inflammation in the gut that causes Autoimmune Disease.
Usually when a virus or bacteria attacks your body, inflammation happens. Your immune system starts sending antibodies to fight off germs.
And normally, your immune system knows the difference between your own healthy tissue and a virus.
But sometimes when there’s too much inflammation in your body, your immune system gets confused and it starts to attack healthy tissue. Your body attacking itself is basically an autoimmune disease.
But what causes “too much inflammation”? Well, it seems that eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods causes gut inflammation that then provokes your body to attack itself. Stress and high cortisol can also be a factor.
AIP diet is supposed to help with that by healing your immune system and your gut.
When you eliminate all the foods that are causing gut issues and inflammation reduces, you body should stop attacking itself.
But this diet is incredibly strict. It dictates everything from what you can eat to the types of beverages you can have each day. It draws a lot of inspiration from the paleo diet, eliminating grains, dairy, and legumes.
That’s because it’s supposed to trigger your body into responding to inflammation and bacteria in a healthy way. And it’s supposed to do it as quickly as possible.
FOODS YOU SHOULD AVOID ON AIP DIET
The AIP diet asks you to follow a stricter version of the paleo diet. That means that you’re going to have to cut out the following foods:
- All dairy products
- Nightshades vegetables (Plants like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet and hot peppers. These plants contain alkaloids which will make your inflammation worse.)
- Legumes (beans, peanuts, etc.)
- Processed food
- Refined sugar
- Processed seed-based oils (canola, grape seed, vegetable oil)
- All nuts and seeds
- Alternative and artificial sweeteners
There is no cheat day and you’re expected to keep these foods out of your diet indefinitely. Otherwise, you’ll trigger the same inflammatory response you struggled with right when your gut was starting to heal.
FOODS YOU CAN EAT ON AIP DIET
And here’s what you can eat while on the AIP diet:
- Coconut: This includes all coconut products like oil, manna, butter, etc.
- Olive oil
- Dairy-free fermented foods
- Vegetables (but not nightshades, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
- Fruit (in small quantities)
- Vinegars without added sugar
- Maple syrup and honey in moderation (make sure they are in pure form and high quality)
- Fresh and dried herbs
- Arrowroot starch (as a thickener)
- Grass-feed beef gelatin
- Non-factory farmed meats
- Sweet potatoes
The point of the autoimmune protocol diet is to eat wholesome real foods. I know I talk a lot about avoiding processed sugar and convenience foods, but when you’re on this diet, this is an absolute must.
Every meal should be heavy on the veg (but no nightshades) and incorporate those good fats – olive oil, coconut milk, and avocados.
When you add those good fats, your body will have the tools it needs to start repairing itself.
THE PROS OF THE AIP DIET
The diet is designed to help you start feeling better. It’s supposed to get rid of those gut-irritating foods that cause belly bloat, discomfort, nausea, and pain. But that’s not all it does.
YOU MIGHT LOSE WEIGHT
Weight loss should not be the primary reason you start the AIP diet. But it might be a side effect of making the switch.
Think of it this way: the autoimmune protocol diet is highly restrictive. This means a lot of the food you’ve been eating in the past gets eliminated completely.
It gets replaced with healthy and fresh foods. When you’re first transitioning and getting rid of processed sugar and convenience foods, you’ll likely see a dip in the scale.
Just remember, the weight loss probably won’t continue unless you’re exercising along with following the protocol.
YOU’LL FEEL BETTER
The biggest pro to starting the diet is that it should get you better quickly (depending on what your gut health issue is). Elimination diets get rid of every possible problem food. This means you’ll be eating the foods your body needs rather than continuing with those that make you feel ill.
THE CONS OF THE AIP DIET
The diet is relatively new, even though it draws heavily from the paleo diet. But that does mean there are still some things the AIP diet is just starting to figure out.
IT CAN BE HARD TO STICK TO
Any restrictive diet can be tough to follow. Lots of people have trouble staying on paleo diet which is not as strict.
And the autoimmune protocol diet is even stricter.
If your doctor advised you to start this diet, you can check out this article for a few helpful tips to make sticking to any diet a bit easier.
LACK OF EVIDENCE THAT THIS DIET REALLY WORKS
Autoimmune diseases are very serious conditions that affect a lot of people.
It would be great if a diet change like this could help people that struggle with their health. For now, there’s not a lot proof that this diet really works. But there are some studies that seem promising.
I found one from 2017 where doctors tried helping patients that have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by putting them on the AIP diet for 6 weeks. And this really did help them!
But this is just one autoimmune condition. More research is needed to support claims that this diet can help with other autoimmune diseases.
SO, SHOULD YOU TRY IT?
I’m a huge fan of feeling better and doing that by eating wholesome and healthy foods is great. But that doesn’t mean the diet is the right choice for you.
If you think you have an autoimmune disorder or are struggling with gut health, schedule an appointment with your doctor first. This should always be your first step.
While you’re there, discuss your interest in the autoimmune protocol diet. If they give you the go-ahead, try it out! You might find that it works for you.
And with help from your doctor, you can make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to help your body most.
Love Rachael xx