Apr 05 , 2023
Most autoimmune diseases have strong ties to gut health and adjusting your diet can have profound effects on the symptoms you experience. As more research continues to be done on autoimmune disease and food intake, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet has risen in popularity and has become a reliable path for treating many autoimmune conditions and the associated symptoms.
Why Does Diet Affect Autoimmune Health
Many experts believe that the source of many autoimmune diseases starts in the gut. When the balance of healthy bacteria is thrown off, toxins that can cause inflammation breach the gut wall - called leaky gut syndrome - and can travel to other parts of the body. This triggers the body to mistakenly attack healthy cells, causing autoimmune disease.
A healthy diet rich in nutrients is the best way to maintain a healthy gut and the AIP Diet aims to offer this relief.
What is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet?
The AIP Diet focuses on foods that naturally fight inflammation (the source of most autoimmune diseases) and avoids foods that are known to cause inflammation. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the diet can be more or less limiting.
Foods to include on a regular basis as part of the AIP Diet include fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, nut butter, minimally refined grains, teas, fish, legumes, coffee, dark chocolate, and certain seeds.
There are exceptions to some of these foods. Certain vegetables, like nightshade varieties (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes), are known to irritate the gut and should be avoided. Some people may experience irritation when consuming other options on this list, like coffee and legumes, and should thus avoid those specific triggers.
When on the AIP Diet, all people should avoid red meat, refined sugar, alcohol, white bread, pasta, fried foods and processed meats. These foods are major sources of inflammation and are known to exacerbate - sometimes even cause - autoimmune disease.
The Elimination Phase of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet
In cases of serious symptoms that persist, adding an Elimination Phase to the AIP Diet can be helpful. The Elimination Phase is a period of time (usually 1-3 months) where the vast majority of foods are eliminated from your diet. Once symptoms decrease, you will slowly add certain foods back into your diet one at a time to “test” whether or not they increase your symptoms. This can be very helpful if you have very specific triggers that may cause more inflammation or irritation than would normally be expected.
During the Elimination Phase, you should avoid all foods that would normally be avoided on the AIP Diet, as well as all grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, coffee, food additives, and certain medications.
During this period, you should focus on eating fresh, nutrient-rich foods, minimally-processed meats, fermented foods, and bone broth.
While the Elimination Phase may be difficult, it is one of the best ways to identify your specific triggers so that you can continue to eat as much as possible, while avoiding what is necessary for your body’s specific needs.
Is the AIP Diet Right For You?
The AIP Diet has been shown to be an effective source of relief for many autoimmune conditions. Many people discover specific triggers that are unique to them and are able to modify the diet to fit their specific needs. If you are suffering from symptoms due to autoimmune disease, the AIP Diet could offer relief from your symptoms and may even reverse certain autoimmune conditions.