The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) is a diet designed to reduce the pain, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with an autoimmune disease. Some of the most common autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and celiac disease. Many autoimmune sufferers who have followed the Autoimmune Protocol Diet have experienced decreased inflammation and pain as well as other common autoimmune symptoms like digestive disorders and fatigue. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, it will help to learn more about the Autoimmune Protocol Diet.
Immune System and Autoimmune Disorders
Your immune system is designed to create antibodies that will attack harmful bacteria and cells in the body. When you have an autoimmune disorder, the immune system begins producing antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues rather than harmful bacteria and cells. When this occurs, you may experience a plethora of symptoms including abdominal pain, brain fog, diarrhea, fatigue, joint pain, nerve damage, and tissue damage.
Causes of Autoimmune Disorders
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. Certain individuals have a genetic propensity toward autoimmune disorders. Others develop an autoimmune disorder after an infection, a period of acute or chronic stress, or systemic inflammation. Additionally, certain medications increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.
Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the digestive tract becomes damaged and leads to increased intestinal permeability. When this occurs, certain autoimmune disorders can also develop. There are certain foods that can increase the risk of developing a leaky gut, including gluten, processed foods, refined carbs, artificial sweeteners, and dairy products.
Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet eliminates these foods and replaces them with nutrient dense foods that help heal the digestive tract, relieve the symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders, and reduce systemic inflammation. The Autoimmune Protocol Diet is similar to a traditional paleo diet; however, the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is stricter and has two phases – the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase.
The first stage of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is the elimination phase. During this phase, you will remove all medicines and foods that may cause inflammation in the digestive tract, activate the immune response, or cause imbalances in the bacteria in the GI tract. During this phase, you will eliminate:
- Food Additives
- Dairy products
- Medications, i.e. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS – naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, and aspirin)
- Processed sugars
During this phase, you will be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole foods, fermented foods, bone broths, and minimally processed foods can be enjoyed. In addition to this, the Autoimmune Protocol Diet recommends healthy lifestyle changes like reducing stress, getting more physical activity, and trying to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
You will continue the elimination phase until you notice a noticeable reduction of your symptoms. The length of this phase of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet will vary from person to person. Some individuals notice an improvement within 3 weeks while others may not notice a reduction of symptoms for 30 to 90 days.
Once your symptoms begin to reduce and you begin experiencing an improvement in your overall health and well-being, you will transition to the reintroduction phase of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet. Here you will begin gradually reintroducing the eliminated foods back into your diet.
The goal of the reintroduction phase is to identify the foods that cause your symptoms and the ones that do not cause any symptoms. The reintroduction period allows for the widest variety of foods you can tolerate.
When reintroducing foods, you should limit it to one food at a time, allowing 5 to 7 days before another food is reintroduced. This timeline allows enough time to determine if the food causes any symptoms to reappear. Foods that cause no symptoms can be added to your diet. Foods that cause symptoms should be avoided.
You should reintroduce certain foods in a particular order. For instance, if you are reintroducing dairy products, opt for dairy products with low levels of lactose first, i.e. yogurt, ghee, etc. Do not try to reintroduce a food if you have an infection, have had a poor night’s sleep, are under excess stress, or after a strenuous workout.
* Tip – The food that your body can tolerate may change over time; therefore, you may wish to reintroduce foods that caused symptoms again in the future. Do this by following these instructions below.
Step by Step Instructions for Reintroducing Foods
Step 1: Pick the food you wish to reintroduce. Begin by eating a small amount of the chosen foot (1 to 2 tablespoons) and wait 15 minutes to see if you have a negative reaction.
Step 2: If symptoms are experienced, write the offending food down and remove it from our diet. This food item should be completely avoided at this time.
Step 3: If you do not experience any symptoms, eat a full serving of the food item. Then do not eat anymore for the next 4 days. During this period do not introduce any other new foods.
Step 4: Re-Test the same food again and wait 4 days.
Step 5: If you have no symptoms during the reintroduction phase, you can begin including this food into your diet on a regular basis. Repeat this 5 step reintroduction process for each new type of food.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet is an extended elimination diet that takes time within the two phases. While the first phase removes the most common food triggers, and the second phase reintroduces these items back into the diet; many individuals find it difficult to maintain. The good news is if you do not make it through the entire process, you can continue where you left off by beginning at phase one and transitioning to phase two again.
Benefits of Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet helps to identify the foods that trigger your symptoms of autoimmune disorders, including pain and systemic inflammation. This diet typically works best for individuals suffering from inflammatory autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease, lupus, and celiac disease.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet has been shown to help ease many of the symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders. If you would like to see if your symptoms are related to food intolerances or certain types of food, seek out the guidance of our functional medicine providers who specialize in autoimmune disease management. They will help ensure you receive the nutrients you need throughout each phase of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet plan.