The AIP diet, also known as the Autoimmune Protocol diet, is a relatively new, food-based approach to healing the gut in order to reduce inflammation created by autoimmune conditions. Some Autoimmune diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Endometriosis, Hashimotos, Lupus, Celiac Disease, MS, Crohn's Disease, Psoriasis, and Thyroid disease, often resulting in inflammation, chronic pain, swelling and misery. The diet aims to reset the immune system by avoiding foods that cause inflammation and attempts to reduce the symptoms of these conditions. It also contributes to gorgeous, radiant, red-free skin.
An autoimmune disease starts with the body attacking itself. With autoimmune disease awareness and diagnoses on the rise, there are over one hundred confirmed autoimmune diseases, but the root cause remains the same. Our immune system’s job is to protect us from harmful microorganisms that it detects within our body. In Autoimmune disease, the first thing that happens is a breakdown in the ability to detect the difference between the foreign invader and ourselves, and in turn, the immune system starts to attack itself rather than the bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. that it is supposed to protect us from. The specific autoimmune disease is then classified by which proteins, cells, and tissues are attacked.
Stories of people suffering from an autoimmune condition often begin the same way; with symptoms like unexplained chronic pain, fatigue, joint pain, and headaches that are repeatedly explained to doctors and still misunderstood. Doctor’s aren’t able to figure it out, and it’s common that people don’t feel supported or understood by their healthcare practitioners, leaving most of us to resolve to silently suffer while the symptoms continue to worsen. As stated by Dr. Will Cole in his eBook, Functional Medicine asks the vital questions that very few conventional doctors ask: “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?” Western medicine treats the symptoms but never seems to get to the root cause. In other words, Functional Medicine looks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label.” Unfortunately, the western medical system is flooded with misinformation and doctors are practicing on the foundations of studies that are decades old. However, a little something to keep in mind is that these dismissive doctors, too, are part of this broken system and we have to continue on with compassion instead of allowing them to discourage us. We now have the knowledge and resources to find confidence in trusting our intuition and the power of relying on ourselves to heal.
This is where the Autoimmune Protocol comes in to play. These diseases are direct links to our food and lifestyle choices, and the protocol is helpful for any inflammatory disease. As confirmed by Angie Alt and Mickey Trescott, of The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast, an incredibly informative podcast on the autoimmune wellness journey, even these generally dismissive doctors are contacting them after seeing their self-informed client’s profound results from the AIP Diet. So much so that they are further educating themselves on the protocol in hopes of implementing it into their practice.
The AIP diet is quite restrictive, eliminating any possible foods that might be triggers for your disease, like nightshade vegetables, like peppers and eggplant, and NSAIDs, like aleve and ibuprofen. It helps to reduce symptoms and heal imbalances by decreasing inflammation and healing gut dysfunction. Gut health is extremely important in healing. More than likely if you're suffering, your digestive tract and gut isn’t in the best shape and byproducts of all things passing through your intestines are leaking through your gut barrier into your blood stream, causing the immune system to respond. The goal is to eliminate inflammatory and allergenic foods to support the body in cooling down the immune system.
The AIP diet is an elimination diet strategy, and equally important to elimination is the act of reintroduction. Many end up staying on the protocol for months or until they start feeling relieved of their autoimmune systems, but how long you choose to stay on the diet is a personal choice. A strict elimination period of at least 18 months to two years is recommended before reintroducing nutritional foods that were initially removed for potential harmful compounds. The best part of an elimination diet is that in time you get to reintroduce foods that you have been avoiding.
The diet often raises concern for people who enjoy dining out. First and foremost, if it’s not perfect, it's OK! Healing yourself does not mean having to put the joys of life aside, like eating out with friends. It is so important to not be too hard on yourself if you slip up. The guilt and blame you are putting yourself through for not being perfect might even be doing more harm than the “banned” food you just put into your body. Trying our best counts for a lot. Concentrate on the foods you can have instead of everything that isn't compliant. There is no shame in being upfront with your waiter or waitress. In regards to our health, we have to get past the fear of seeming too picky or high maintenance. More often than not, your waiter or waitress will be happy to work with you to find something that fits your dietary needs.
We are teaming up with Doctor Will Cole in formulating a four week long, AIP compliant, nutritious and delicious meal plan and will be sharing it soon. We know that the restrictions can seem quite difficult, so we are excited to do our part help make the protocol diet as fun and feasible as possible.
Keep in mind that diet is just the first step. Focusing on sleep, self-care and self-love, moderate exercise, meditation and a stress management practice that works for you is equally important. The protocol is great because it goes beyond food, and recognizes the importance of a balanced lifestyle in the autoimmune wellness journey. Rest is easily overlooked, but is right up there in importance with diet. Remaining hopeful and positive and giving yourself the space to do things that bring you peace and joy will help to achieve optimal results. Without these important, but often-overlooked components, the other factors will fail to be as effective. Try to remember that it is not about only having the right mindset when it comes to the food; it’s a balancing act and how you feel supersedes anything you eat.
Click on the link below for AIP compliant foods as well as the ones to avoid:
AIP FOOD LIST
Stay tuned for the meal plan...
By Jena Covello and Alexa Ouaknine