The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a three-pronged healing diet based on the Paleo template.
Stage 1 : Elimination
Stage 2 : Reintroduction
Stage 3 : Maintenance
Paleo already removes foods unavailable to our cave-dwelling ancestors, however the AIP goes a step further. It eliminates foods that stimulate the immune system, down-regulate hormone production, irritate the gut and cause inflammation, especially for people living with autoimmune disease. The AIP helps your immune system to calm down, so your body anti-inflames and symptoms reduce, if not disappear.
The AIP focuses on nutrient dense foods to encourage gut healing and repopulate the microbiome. It also incorporates gentle movement, optimized sleep, stress management and seeking joy such as social connection and self care.
As the AIP resets your body, you should find out which foods you are sensitive to, and eventually find your bioindividual template.
The AIP is designed to be a temporary diet. The minimum time you should spend on the Elimination phase is 30 days before moving to the Reintroduction phase, however in reality it will take longer. Think about how long has passed from recognizing those first symptoms, to receiving your diagnosis. Probably years, so it’s unrealistic to expect an overnight fix.
But it only takes 21 days to break a habit. So once you get into the routine, the AIP becomes second nature. Then, when you start to see the benefits, you’ll wonder why you didn’t hop on sooner.
Taking away foods that are known to cause inflammation, irritate the gut and stimulate the immune system will go a long way to promoting healing.
What does the AIP remove?
- Grains – including rice, corn and oats
- Pseudo Grains – like quinoa
- Dairy – all types
- Eggs – all types
- Nuts – including nut butters/oils
- Seeds (and seed spices) – including chocolate and seed butters/oils
- Legumes – including soy, peanuts and beans
- Nightshades (and their spices) – such as tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, paprika
- Fruit and berry-based spices – like black pepper and cardamom
- Alcohol – including alcohol-based vanilla extract
- Refined sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners (including stevia)
- Stabilizers, thickeners and all processed foods
The AIP isn’t just about what to avoid though. It’s crucial to add in foods that are high in nutrients to heal the gut.
What does the AIP include?
- Meats and poultry (grass-fed/pasture-raised where possible)
- Organ meat – think nose to tail eating
- Fish and shellfish (wild-caught where possible)
- Vegetables – as wide a range as possible, think “eat the rainbow”
- Mushrooms and other edible fungi
- Sea vegetables – such as dulse, kelp, wakame ..
- Fermented foods – like sauerkraut, coconut/water kefir, kvass, kombucha
- Bone broth, collagen, gelatin
Once your symptoms are under control and you’ve done a significant amount of healing, you get to start the reintroduction process. It’s best to do this in the four stages below, as laid out by Dr Sarah Ballantyne in The Paleo Approach.
Stage 1 –
- Egg yolks – all types
- Legumes with edible pods – green beans, runner beans, peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas
- Fruit and berry-based spices – allspice, star anise, caraway, cardamom pod, juniper, pepper (black, white, pink, green), cumin seed, dill seed, fennel seed, fenugreek, mustard, nutmeg
- Nuts and seeds (oils only) – Macadamia, sesame, walnut
- Nuts and seeds – Chocolate, cocoa, coffee (occasional basis)
- Dairy (ideally grass-fed) – ghee
Stage 2 –
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, coffee (daily), hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, chia, flax, hemp seeds, poppy, pumpkin seeds, sesame, sunflower, or any other flavours, flours, butters, oils and products derived from them
- Egg whites (or whole eggs) – all types
- Dairy (ideally grass-fed) – butter and butter oil
- Alcohol (small quantities) – gluten-free beer or hard cider (max 8 oz), wine (max 5 oz), fortified wine (max 3 oz), liqueur (max 3 oz), gluten-free spirits (max 1 oz) – ghee
Stage 3 –
- Nightshades – bell peppers (sweet peppers), eggplant, paprika, white potatoes (peeled)
- Dairy (ideally grass-fed) – buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, cream cheese, curds, dairy-protein isolates, heavy cream, ice cream, kefir, milk, sour cream, whey, whey-protein isolate, whipping cream, yogurt
- Legumes – chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, split peas. (These may be better tolerated if soaked first)
Stage 4 –
- Nightshades or their spices – ashwagandha, cayenne pepper, cape gooseberries (ground cherries), garden huckleberries, goji berries (wolfberries), hot peppers (child peppers and their spices), naranjillas, pepinos, pimentos, potatoes (unpeeled), tamarillos, tomatillos, tomatoes
- Gluten-free grains, pseudo-grains and other grain-like substances – corn, fonio, Job’s tears, millet, oats, rice, sorghum, teff, wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa. (May be more tolerated if soaked first)
- Legumes – Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, butter beans, calico beans, cannellini beans, fava beans (broad beans), Great Northern beans, Italian beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, peanuts. (These may be better tolerated if soaked first)
- Alcohol (moderate quantities) – gluten-free beer or hard cider, wine, fortified wine, liqueur, gluten-free spirits.
How to do a reintroduction –
Choose a food you wish to try and get your journal to hand.
- Eat half a teaspoon or less (a teeny weeny nibble) and wait 15 minutes. If you have any symptoms don’t eat any more. If there are no symptoms ..
- Eat one teaspoon (a tiny nibble) and wait 15 minutes. If you have any symptoms don’t eat any more. If there are no symptoms ..
- Eat one and a half teaspoons (a slightly bigger bite) and wait 2-3 hours. If you have any symptoms don’t eat any more. If there are no symptoms ..
- Eat a normal size portion, either one its own or as part of your meal. Wait for 5-7 days, monitoring for any symptoms. Do not try any other reintroductions during this time. If you have any symptoms don’t eat any more. If there are no symptoms you may include this food in diet.
Remember: The AIP focuses on much more than food. It’s important to concentrate on lifestyle components too.
- Sleep – a minimum of 7 hours, but 8-10 is better
- Movement – lots of gentle movement is best while you are healing. High intensity exercise is taxing on the gut and can slow down healing
- Stress Management – regulating cortisol levels keeps inflammation in check
- Self Care – seeking joy, contentment, gratitude, getting out into nature
Live your best life with the foods and lifestyle that suit you best.
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