The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet has been around for a few years. It’s a food-based approach to eliminating unwanted inflammation in a person’s body. It is a diet that is designed to help reduce inflammation and help heal your body’s digestive system should it be infected by autoimmune conditions.

The diet is very restrictive. It’s therefore only designed to be followed for around 30 days. It can cause a nutrient imbalance due to only eating a limited number of selected foods. The diet mainly includes meat and vegetables. After the suggested period, you’d start adding one food at a time (something you ate before starting the diet) and see whether it causes inflammation.

Elimination diets are designed to determine which foods are not compatible with a person’s body. Generally, it can be difficult to analyse which food is causing inflammation, as multiple food sources are cut at once. Or if one food is cut at a time, the gut may not have recovered from the previous diet. Therefore by following the AIP diet, you gives your body the chance to reduce inflammation before exploring which foods are not compatible with the body.

The Aims of the AIP Diet

  • To reduce inflammation-causing foods and reset the body’s immune system. The idea is to reduce overall inflammation, which is caused by autoimmune disorders. The diet is able to put the condition into remission due to less inflammation.
  • To treat leaky gut syndrome. It has been hypothesized that autoimmune disorders can create micro holes in the intestinal tract. This means that the food is able to escape and causes inflammation to spike significantly. Therefore by only eating foods that don’t cause inflammation, this will give the gut the chance to heal.
  • It focuses on following the paleo diet, though in a much more restrictive format. The AIP diet also promotes the intake of vitamin and nutrient-dense foods. 

Foods and Substances to Avoid on the AIP Diet

The AIP diet is very restrictive, therefore there is a long list of foods that you can’t eat. These are foods known to cause inflammation of the gut. The list below is broken down into two sections – foods you would not eat whilst on the paleo diet and foods on the paleo diet, which is also limited.

Foods to avoid whilst on Paleo and AIP diet:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods
  • Refined sugars
  • Industrial seed oils (vegetable and canola oil)

Foods to avoid which are included in Paleo: 

  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds (including spices like cumin)
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Nightshade vegetables – these are a family of flowering plants that are also known as Solanaceae (tomatoes peppers, aubergine, potatoes)
  • Gum
  • Alternative sweeteners
  • Emulsifiers 

Substances such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, ibuprofen etc.) and alcohol should also be avoided whilst on the diet. This is because they can have an effect on the immune system.

Foods You Can Eat

Whilst the list is small, it is still possible to eat well whilst on the AIP diet. These foods can help while your body is recovering from chronic inflammation. The following foods you are able to eat:

  • Coconut, including oil
  • Olives, including oil
  • Fermented foods – as long as they do not contain dairy
  • Vinegars (Red, white balsamic etc)
  • Honey and maple syrup (in small quantities)
  • Herbs
  • Gelatin from grass-fed beef (a lot of cows are fed a grain-based diet)
  • Teas derived from leaves, not seeds
  • Fruit – only recommended to consume no more than two pieces. This is due to the body’s difficulty to break down fructose.

Does it Actually Work?

Research has been conducted to determine if the AIP diet can help overall inflammation of the human body. The disease in concern was Hashimoto’s Disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism, as it causes your body to attack your thyroid. 

The study’s findings suggest that AIP may decrease systemic inflammation and modulate the immune system. This is evidenced by a decrease in mean hs-CRP and changes in white blood cell (WBC) counts. Given the improvements seen in the participants’ symptoms, as well as markers of immune activity and inflammation, this would suggest success. But further studies in larger populations implementing AIP as part of a multi-disciplinary diet and lifestyle program are needed to be sure.

The paper showed that although the diet did not cure Hashimoto Disease, it did reduce overall inflammation. Researchers now want to do larger generalised tests to see if this diet could be effective in combating overall inflammation.

Summary

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet has been around for a few years. It’s a food-based approach to eliminating unwanted inflammation in an person’s body.

It’s a diet designed to help reduce inflammation and heal your body’s digestive system, should it be infected by autoimmune conditions.

The diet is restrictive and should only be followed for a suggested time of 30 days. This is because it can cause a nutrient imbalance – you’d only be eating a few specific foods.

The diet is mainly made up of meat and vegetables. After the suggested period, you would start adding other foods back into your diet.