Millions of people with autoimmune disease have been given the same answer from their doctor when they asked how to cure it: “You just have to live with it”.
If only it were that easy.
Depending on the gravity of the condition, the symptoms of autoimmune disease can be very difficult. While some of them are successfully alleviated with prescribed medications, many symptoms persist, and some are even worsened by the side-effects of the medical treatment.
A change in diet and lifestyle is advised. There has been talk of many diet approaches, including Paleo and Keto, but an Autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) is designed specifically to address the symptoms and consequences of autoimmune disease which could make it the most adequate option.
However, it would be unwise to apply any sort of diet restriction without getting all the insight you need.
What is AIP?
This diet is known as one of the many modifications of the Paleo diet, which is based on vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds. It excludes foods that could cause inflammation of the gut, focusing instead on healing foods that are rich in nutrients.
This particular modification is based on the idea that autoimmune diseases are caused by a “leaky gut” – a theory that there are holes in the gut which release the food to leak into the body.
The goal of eating anti-inflammatory foods is to heal the holes which should result in preventing the autoimmune response, reducing the symptoms of the condition, and resetting the autoimmune system.
How can it help you?
A 2017 study found that this diet approach can be effective in treating inflammatory bowel disease. Further research is not yet as precise regarding other autoimmune diseases, but we do know that certain foods play a role in some autoimmune conditions. The available evidence suggests that an elimination diet of this sort can be helpful in treating inflammatory diseases and autoimmune conditions.
The basic principles of AIP
The AIP diet is based on eliminating any foods that can promote microbial dysbiosis, trigger intestinal inflammation, or represent common sensitivities. It’s centered entirely around fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, fresh, and fermented foods.
The foods to remove from your diet:
- Nightshades (peppers, potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, and chili-based spices) contain high levels of saponins and sometimes even capsaicin, both of which can increase gut permeability.
- Grains and legumes also contain saponins. Abstaining from them can result in the reduction of inflammation.
- Eggs have many allergenic proteins and many people are very sensitive to them.
- Dairy is a common sensitivity and it can trigger a gut immune response.
- Nuts and seeds are also among the most common allergens and have several antinutrients which might affect intestinal permeability.
- Alcohol, even in the smallest amounts, promotes intestinal permeability and microbial dysbiosis.
- Refined sugar and food additives are harmful as it is, but for an individual with an autoimmune disease, their impact can be awful.
The foods to include in your diet:
- Fermented foods
- Organ meats
- Bone Broth
How to practice the AIP diet?
There are three stages of the AIP diet.
- The elimination stage:
If you decide to practice the AIP diet you should follow it strictly for a couple of weeks. The transition to this nutritional approach will start with the elimination of all the unwanted food groups. To make it easier to follow the AIP diet, you should have a clear and simple AIP meal plan which obeys all the mentioned principles.
- The maintenance stage:
After you have transitioned to the AIP diet, you need to maintain the food eliminations and focus on maximizing the intake of nutrient-dense foods. Optimally, the maintenance phase should last for about 60 to 90 days and a minimum of 30 days.
- The reintroduction stage:
After the period of maintenance, you can gradually reintroduce the foods that you have avoided. You see, many of the foods from the paragraph above are actually healthy for your immune system and gut microbiota. The goal is to determine if there is a reaction when you introduce a specific food or food group. This will allow you to broaden your diet and identify the foods that could have a negative impact on you. If you notice an adverse reaction, you should exclude the ingredient from your diet in the long run.
The elimination of certain foods can, by all means, be helpful for individuals with autoimmune diseases. And while we still haven’t seen much concrete scientific evidence backing the curative effects of the Autoimmune protocol diet, nothing implies that it could in any way be harmful to try.
It’s important to remember that the AIP diet is not about random restriction. The ultimate goal is to learn which foods make you feel your best and which harm you – and then base your diet on that knowledge.