Autoimmune protocol — what in the world does that even mean? Well, essentially the AIP diet is the Paleo diet on crack.
The Paleo diet, or the “hunter and gatherer’s diet” is known throughout the fitness world. Essentially, it takes everything out of your diet that you cannot come across naturally. No bread, dairy, processed foods, sugars etc.
The autoimmune protocol Paleo diet is similar, but it also excludes the foods that can cause flair ups and physical reactions to individuals suffering from various autoimmune disorders.
The AIP diet cuts out foods that can irritate the gut, cause bacterial imbalances in your digestive tract or activate your immune system. Bacteria imbalances and leaky gut are both common symptoms of autoimmune patients, which can be directly related to your diet. Autoimmune disorders can be tricky, and medications can help, but the AIP diet focuses on healing you through restoring your digestive system and your body holistically.
But this diet is not just for those with diagnosed autoimmune disorders. Do you have irritable bowel syndrome, more commonly known as IBS? Do you feel sluggish and “weighted down” throughout the day? Do you have trouble sleeping through the night? What about migraines? Or anxiety? The AIP diet might be able to help you.
All of these symptoms can make your everyday life difficult. However by making a few hard but beneficial changes to your diet these nasty symptoms can be subdued.
What is the AIP Diet?
Now what does this diet entail? You should avoid eating the following:
Meats Factory-farmed meats and farm-raised seafood
Grains Oats, rice, millet, quinoa, wheat and all gluten
Vegetables Nightshades vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, onion, peppers, white potatoes, Gogi berries and all pepper-based spices (cayenne, nutmeg, paprika, etc.)
Dairy Cheese, yogurt, ghee, butter, ice cream and half and half
Eggs Avoid all eggs
Nuts and Seeds Avoid all nuts and seeds — this includes almonds, cacao, coffee, cashews, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds
Fermented Foods Fermented soy products like tofu
Sugar and Sugar Replacement All sugars including agave, molasses and honey
Fats All butter, ghee, all margarines, canola oil and all other seed oils
NSAIDs Ibuprofen, Naprosyn, Naproxen Sodium, Ketorolac and others
Alcohol Beer, liquor and sugar alcohols and extracts, like vanilla extract
I know what you are thinking — then what can I eat?! It’s simple. Fruits in limited quantities, almost all veggies, grass-fed meats, fermented foods and coconut anything.
Things You Can Eat While Following the AIP Diet:
Meats Beef, bison, chicken, turkey, boar, wild-caught fish and game meats
Vegetables Everything else! Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, beets, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and more.
Fruit Everything! You do not have to avoid fruit and can enjoy two the three pieces of fruit per day, but make sure you’re not eating too much — even natural sugars can be detrimental to your health in excess!
Dairy Coconut milk — but make sure it doesn’t have any additives!
Fermented Foods Kampuchea, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir wade with water or coconut water
Fats Coconut oil, lard, duck fat and olive oil
Once the initial shock wears off and you see how much you can still cook and how exciting it can be to create new recipes and learn about the food you are consuming, it gets much easier. Some of my favorite AIP-friendly recipes are ground beef with crispy herb sweet potatoes, sautéed zucchini noodles, steamed lemon broccoli, spinach and sour kraut or a baked sweet potato with grilled salmon on a bed of mixed winter greens. So you see, you’re really not limited to a carrot and a slice of turkey a day. You can eat, and well.
So why do this to yourself? It seems so extreme and it sounds like just another rule book or diet I cannot follow that will only make me feel bad when I fail yet again. Honestly, I hate even calling it a diet.
Think of it less as a diet and more as a lifestyle revamping. You’re choosing to rid your body of the toxins that can cause you pain or discomfort. You are healing yourself without that fourth prescription and copay.
Since starting the autoimmune protocol, my migraines have been cut in half, I feel energized throughout the day, I have regained some regularity in going to the bathroom (no longer embarrassing…way past that point) and have learned to love cooking!
I have stopped taking headache medicine, and all the energy supplements I was abusing before…except my morning coffee…which is probably frowned upon, but I’m human. I have lost a few unhealthy pounds and gained some good muscle in its place.
The AIP diet isn’t for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t come as an easy transition for most, but starting slowly, giving yourself grace, and committing to the health benefits well outweigh the lack of pasta and donuts.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms I listed earlier, give the AIP diet a try. It’s not forever (or it could be!) and you can reintroduce certain foods slowly as you see what does and does not upset your immune system.
But Phoebe, what about sweets? Doesn’t this look delicious!
It is 100 percent autoimmune Paleo. This simple dessert is a blended frozen banana topped with cinnamon as a late night ice cream substitute. Not only was it delicious, but my tummy loved it and I didn’t feel the effects of indulging for three days afterwards.
Don’t look at what limitations this diet sets — instead look at the possibilities it opens. Days without pain and discomfort. Enjoying your life more fully. Not constantly pumping your body full of medicine to make it through the day.
Your body and health are one of the few things in this world you can have an affect on. Make your vessel the best it can be so that you can in turn make the world a little better.
Resources: The Paleo Mom — she has all the research you could want, plus recipes and helpful facts. Autoimmune Paleo — this is an excellent recipe source, and also includes so many helpful blogs and videos to get you started