The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a diet that aims to reduce inflammation, pain, and other symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Many of our patients who have followed the AIP diet report improvements in the way they feel, as well as reductions in common symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as fatigue and gut or joint pain.
What is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
A healthy immune system is designed to produce antibodies that attack foreign or harmful cells in your body.
However, in people with autoimmune disorders, the immune system tends to produce antibodies that, rather than fight infections, attack healthy cells and tissues. This can result in a range of symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, brain fog, and tissue and nerve damage. A few examples of autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, IBD, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis.
Autoimmune diseases are thought to be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic propensity, infection, stress, inflammation, and medication use.
Also, some research suggests that, in susceptible individuals, damage to the gut barrier can lead to increased intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut,” which may trigger the development of certain autoimmune diseases.
Certain foods are believed to possibly increase the gut’s permeability, thereby increasing your likelihood of leaky gut.
The AIP diet focuses on eliminating these foods and replacing them with health-promoting, nutrient-dense foods that are thought to help heal the gut, and ultimately, reduce inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
It also removes certain ingredients like gluten, which may cause abnormal immune responses in susceptible individuals.
While experts believe that a leaky gut may be a plausible explanation for the inflammation experienced by people with autoimmune disorders, they warn that the current research makes it impossible to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.
Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Foods to avoid
- Grains: rice, wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc., as well as foods derived from them, such as pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals
- Legumes: lentils, beans, peas, peanuts, etc., as well as foods derived from them, such as tofu, tempeh, mock meats, or peanut butter
- Nightshade vegetables: eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, etc., as well as spices derived from nightshade vegetables, such as paprika
- Eggs: whole eggs, egg whites, or foods containing these ingredients
- Dairy: cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk, as well as foods derived from these kinds of milk, such as cream, cheese, butter, or ghee; dairy-based protein powders or other supplements should also be avoided
- Nuts and seeds: all nuts and seeds and foods derived from them, such as flours, butter, or oils; also includes cocoa and seed-based spices, such as coriander, cumin, anise, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, and nutmeg
- Certain beverages: alcohol and coffee
- Processed vegetable oils: canola, rapeseed, corn, cottonseed, palm kernel, safflower, soybean, or sunflower oils
- Refined or processed sugars: cane or beet sugar, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup; also includes sweets, soda, candy, frozen desserts, and chocolate, which may contain these ingredients
- Food additives and artificial sweeteners: trans fats, food colorings, emulsifiers, and thickeners, as well as artificial sweeteners, such as stevia, mannitol, and xylitol
Some AIP protocols further recommend avoiding all fruit — both fresh or dried — during the elimination phase. Others allow the inclusion of 10–40 grams of fructose per day, which amounts to around 1–2 portions of fruit per day.
Although not specified in all AIP protocols, some also suggest avoiding algae, such as spirulina or chlorella, during the elimination phase, as this type of sea vegetable may also stimulate an immune response.
Foods to eat
- Vegetables: a variety of vegetables except for nightshade vegetables and algae, which should be avoided
- Fresh fruit: a variety of fresh fruit, in moderation
- Tubers: sweet potatoes, taro, yams, as well as Jerusalem or Chinese artichokes
- Minimally processed meat: wild game, fish, seafood, organ meat, and poultry; meats should be wild, grass-fed, or pasture-raised, whenever possible
- Fermented, probiotic-rich foods: nondairy-based fermented food, such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and coconut kefir; probiotic supplements may also be consumed
- Minimally processed vegetable oils: olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
- Herbs and spices: as long as they’re not derived from a seed
- Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider, and red wine vinegar, as long as they’re free of added sugars
- Natural sweeteners: maple syrup and honey, in moderation
- Certain teas: green and black tea at average intakes of up to 3–4 cups per day
- Bone broth
Despite being allowed, some protocols further recommend that you moderate your intake of salt, saturated and omega-6 fats, natural sugars, such as honey or maple syrup, as well as coconut-based foods.
Depending on the AIP protocol at hand, small amounts of fruit may also be allowed. This usually amounts to a maximum intake of 10–40 grams of fructose per day or the equivalent of about 1–2 portions of fresh fruit.
Some protocols further suggest moderating your intake of high glycemic fruits and vegetables, including dried fruit, sweet potatoes, and plantain.
The AIP diet may not work for everyone, and its elimination phase is very restrictive. This can make this diet isolating and hard to follow. It may also lead to a high risk of nutrient deficiencies if its reintroduction phase is avoided for too long.
We have prepared a Vegan AIP diet Guide with recipes for our patients.
You may download it HERE.