After working with men and women with autoimmune disease for over a decade, I can confidently say there is not one universal diet plan for those with an autoimmune condition. For example, the diet that works for you may not be right for someone else, even with the same autoimmune diagnosis. This is because we each have our own unique body chemistry and food triggers. Customizing your AIP diet plan based on your bio-chemistry and lifestyle is the most effective way to improve and sustain your health.
With that being said, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet has made a name for itself in the health and wellness community. The AIP diet is best known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, as the name implies, it improves gastrointestinal and autoimmune symptoms from the inside out.
The Autoimmune Protocol is similar to the Paleo diet. However, it’s more restrictive during the elimination phase because it removes a variety of potential inflammatory food triggers. It takes everything up a notch and facilitates healing. It focuses on supporting and nourishing the body while calming and healing the gut.
In my clinical opinion, after working with hundreds of patients to improve gut health and autoimmunity, the best diet for those struggling with an autoimmune condition is a customized anti-inflammatory diet. We implement aspects of the AIP diet while also taking your unique biochemistry into consideration. I believe customizing a diet that is right for each individual is what sustains health long term. In short, by customizing and tweaking an anti-inflammatory and autoimmune specific diet, you can experience symptom relief and even symptom remission!
To best understand the purpose of the AIP diet, let’s start by defining autoimmunity. Autoimmunity occurs when the body attacks healthy tissues as a way to protect itself. As this happens, the body can no longer identify proteins that are actually pathogenic or harmful. As a result, the body attacks organs and organ systems because it mistakes them for foreign invaders. This creates a state of inflammation that is unique to each individual.
The most helpful treatment for autoimmunity is to reduce inflammation. One of the most effective ways to decrease chronic inflammation in the body is through the foods we eat. By using food as medicine, the autoimmune paleo protocol effectively manages symptoms associated with autoimmune disease, as well as other inflammatory conditions.
The AIP diet works by implementing the consumption of nutrient-dense foods, while eliminating potential dietary triggers and inflammatory foods. Subsequently, inflammation decreases, the immune response is reduced, symptoms improve, and those suffering with autoimmunity reclaim their lives.
While the AIP diet cannot cure an autoimmune condition, it can help to reduce the severity of symptoms you struggle with. It’s an important tool in the multidisciplinary approach to treating an autoimmune disorder.
In addition to encouraging a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet, AIP supports positive lifestyles changes, including:
Although the AIP protocol is best known for its impressive effect on autoimmune cases, its health benefits don’t stop there. AIP has the potential to help anyone suffering from chronic inflammation or disease. This may include diagnosis of leaky gut, SIBO, asthma, allergies, eczema, hypothyroidism, depression, and more.
Other potential signs of chronic inflammation, include:
By removing inflammatory foods from the diet, chronic inflammation in the body decreases, allowing the body to heal properly.
Unlike the standard American diet, AIP focuses on whole, nutritious foods, including:
In addition to consuming these foods, the AIP protocol stresses the importance of quality and variety. It’s best to source high quality foodssych as grass fed and finished beef, pasture-raised poultry, and non-GMO organic produce. This helps to avoid food chemical reactions. The AIP diet also encourages eating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods by filling your plate with color and prioritizing in-season produce.
The top inflammatory foods and substances to avoid include:
Eliminate these inflammatory foods temporarily from the diet. This AIP elimination phase allows you to safely consume foods that you are less likely to be sensitive to, while allowing your body to heal and repair itself.
Once your body has healed and recovered, reintroduce these foods one at a time to identify any food sensitivities. I teach my clients the 2-2-2 method, which takes both IgG and IgA food sensitivities into account. It helps identify possible triggers as you slowly add them back. For most clients, I find cycling AIP works the best (this is what I personally do to keep my autoimmunity at bay). Cycling might look like following the protocol for 30 days, twice a year. Or doing a seasonal 7 day cycle at the change of every season. This is what I walk clients through in the 7 Day Gut & Autoimmune Reset & Reboot. You can join the waitlist for the next group reset, here.
By reducing overall inflammation in the body using the AIP protocol, you can reap many health benefits, even if you are not struggling from autoimmunity.
Some of the most impactful and common benefits are:
In my experience, the best personalized AIP diet combines key elements of several diets. For example— AIP, paleo, gluten-free, keto, anti-inflammatory, meditteranean, and a whole food plant-based diet.
It’s impossible to cater to each individual’s unique needs and biochemistry when following one single diet as the end all be all. In addition, every person has different and unique inflammatory triggers that should be identified. As an example, someone with an autoimmune condition may experience inflammation from broccoli. Broccoli is considered a “healthy food.” I would never recommend avoiding it unless we know you can’t have it due to a sensitivity.
If you’re just beginning to use food as medicine for an autoimmune condition, I recommend first starting by avoiding two main food groups, gluten and dairy. Those with an autoimmune condition tend to have difficulty breaking down gluten. I prefer to test my clients for a gluten intolerance, and find that over 80% of individuals with an autoimmune condition test positive for a gluten reaction. Secondly, dairy products (coming from A1 casein) are pro-inflammatory for most individuals with gut and autoimmune disorders. For this reason, I recommend eliminating both the dairy and gluten proteins from your diet to start for a few months and see how your body responds.
So that leaves the question about what to do with everything else listed above? What about legumes, nightshades, gluten-free grains, nuts, and eggs? These foods are typically considered healthy and this is where the confusion begins. It’s important to know that for most individuals, these foods are healthy, nutrient dense, and filled with fiber. These foods are essential for a healthy microbiome because they provide unique prebiotics that feed good gut bacteria. However, it’s important to understand that these foods can be inflammatory for some individuals with an autoimmune condition.
That leads me to my next suggestion, which is a multi-step process and one that I center an entire program around in my practice. The ideal way to determine what foods are best for your body (which can change over time) is to do a combination of a food sensitivity testing and elimination phases of trigger foods. With the right process, you can identify which unique diet is best for you based on your chemistry and a little trial and error. I’ve seen my clients thrive time and time again as a result of this system.
The mistake I see so many people make is attempting this on their own and spending years eliminating healthy foods that are not triggers for their unique biochemistry. Unfortunately this can lead to avoidable stress, overwhelm, disordered eating, nutrient deficiencies, and gut imbalances. Working through this process the right way should always give you more food options rather than restrictions.
The Leap Mediator Release Test (MRT®) is the fastest and most effective way to identify your unique food sensitivities and triggers that contribute to inflammation. This is the gold standard so you don’t waste time avoiding foods that actually contribute to your health.
The MRT is the only blood test that measures your inflammatory response to foods and food-chemicals. It identifies the foods you should steer clear from and your unique green light foods, which have the lowest level of reactivity. Most importantly, many independent studies confirm the MRT is the most accurate and comprehensive blood test available for food and food-chemical reactions above all.
I recommend the MRT in combination with a unique and personalized protocol. This is the most strategic method of combating food sensitivity related illness. The combination of MRT testing and dietary protocol has successfully treated thousands of patients with IBS, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia, ADD/ADHD, IBD, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, and more over the past decade. I have seen the results firsthand. The symptom relief my clients experience when avoiding their unique food sensitivities is why it is the #1 tool I recommend in order to personalize a diet for autoimmunity.
You don’t have to stress about what to eat to heal your gut and improve autoimmunity! If you are looking for specific gut healthy and autoimmune friendly meal plans and recipes, my Gut & Autoimmune Meal Plan Subscription is the best way to take the stress out when it comes to what to eat. You can check it out here!
If you’re looking to dig deeper and finding the right diet for your specific needs, we are currently enrolling new clients inside my 12-week comprehensive Microbiome Makeover program. It includes vital functional medicine labs (including the MRT), personalized coaching and protocols, and a 3 phase system to help you learn how to eat to heal specifically for your body. It’s my absolute favorite program, and one that you have access to for life! You can apply here for the program and set up a free Discovery Call with us to get started.
It’s no wonder the AIP diet has quickly gained popularity over the last several years. With an increase in chronic inflammation, metabolic disease, and other illnesses in America today, the benefits of adopting the AIP diet are endless. By utilizing the most nutrient potent foods available, we can subsequently unleash the healing power of food and allow our bodies to restore from the inside out.
It’s important to note that in order to reverse autoimmunity and feel your best, you must first heal your gut! Getting personalized support and working with a practitioner that can help you with the proper testing and process is key.
As always, finding the right diet for you is the first step in healing. This might look like taking a few elements from the AIP diet and combining it with another diet, such as a mediterranean and plant-based diet. At the end of the day, your diet should always help you feel less stressed, satisfied, and thriving! Food is medicine when we are nourishing the right way.
If you have an autoimmune condition, I would love to hear what food plans have worked for you. Let me know in the comments below!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
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