Getting my autoimmune disease diagnosis of Hashimoto’s at 17 changed everything for me. I went from being healthy on paper to a chronically ill person overnight. It took time to come to grips with my Hashimoto’s disease, and even more time to heal my Hashimoto’s, but it’s all possible. Diet was an enormous factor in taking control of my autoimmune health, and the AIP Diet was a game changer for me. I believe in this approach, the template, and what it did for me, which is why I decided to write The Complete Guide to the AIP Diet.
The Complete Guide to the AIP Diet.
First, what is the AIP Diet or Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
The AIP diet stands for Autoimmune Protocol, and it’s designed for those with autoimmune disease to reduce inflammation to allow their bodies the opportunity to heal. It removes inflammatory foods, gut irritants, and immune stimulants for a minimum of 30 days. After the elimination period, foods are reintroduced one by one to see if the body has healed and can tolerate them again.
Many continue to follow an AIP template even after their autoimmune symptoms have reduced. This can be a preventative measure to stop symptoms from flaring again, or it may just be that you feel better eating more of an AIP template.
Regardless of how long you follow it, AIP is meant to be a short-term healing solution and not a long-term way of life.
What if I don’t have issues with “x” food?
There’s a common misconception that if you don’t have a noticeable reaction to a certain, you don’t have to avoid it. However, that’s not always the case. All too often our body can be so inflamed that we don’t even notice reactions to certain foods.
For example, I ate tomatoes pretty much every day of my life for over 20 years. It got to the point where I didn’t even feel a reaction, because I was constantly in a reactive state. Once I eliminated the food from my diet and added it back in, I was able to calm down the inflammation to where I could see a reaction.
Giving your body the time to heal and taking a break from the foods listed here can be incredibly eye opening. There may be some foods on this list that you never really have any long term issues with, but giving the elimination diet at least 30 days to gauge your reaction is necessary for understanding what you can and cannot tolerate.
What can you eat on the AIP diet?
- All animal proteins (excluding eggs)
- All vegetables (excluding nightshades)
- Fruits in moderation
- Healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, animal fats, etc.)
- Bone broth, organ meats
- Grain-free baking flours (cassava, tigernut, tapioca, coconut, etc.)
What should you avoid?
- All grains (wheat, oats, rice, corn, etc.)
- All dairy (all dairy of all types)
- All legumes (all beans such as lentils, black beans, chickpeas, and vegetables like green beans as well as peanuts)
- Nightshade vegetables and spices (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, all peppers, red spices)
- All nuts and seeds
- Seed based spices (mustard, cumin, sesame, etc.)
- Thickeners, gums, and food additives
- Poor quality seed oils (sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc.)
Do you have to follow it forever?
No, you do not! The point of the autoimmune protocol is to allow you body time to heal and then reintroduce foods one by one.
I know it’s confusing to see bloggers like myself who seem to follow the autoimmune protocol permanently, but we don’t. Though many bloggers serve the AIP community, the majority of them have reintroduced foods. I myself still follow and AIP template, but have reintroduced foods like rice, almonds, coffee, chocolate, and more.
Many follow the AIP diet for 30 days to a few months before they start reintroducing foods.
How do reintroductions work?
When you’re trying to gauge your reaction to foods, adding them all back in at once is the opposite of what you want to do. You want to go slowly, and mindfully to avoid overloading your body, and to allow yourself the time to see a reaction.
Here is the step by step process for reintroducing foods…
- Follow the protocol for a minimum of 30 days, until you get to a point where you’ve noticed a significant amount of healing.
- Start with the level 1 reintroduction schedule.
- Eat the food in isolation (don’t do multiple new foods at once) and wait 3 days to gauge a reaction.
- Track your reactions with a food journal. You’re looking for things like headaches, mood swings, skin changes, fatigue, bloating, etc.
- Add foods that work to your rotation, and table the foods that don’t work.
- Repeat the process.
So what does the AIP reintroduction schedule look like? Here is a brief outline of how the levels of reintroduction are phased… Click to Download the PDF
For more resources on reintroductions, check out this e-book and this blog post
How do you know you’re healing and are ready for reintroductions?
This answer varies for everyone. Here are the two ways that I would gauge whether or not you’re healing…
- A change in your labs/blood work.
- A noticeable reduction in your symptoms.
The details of that are different for everyone and need to be addressed on an individual basis. Talk to your own doctor or practitioner about what healing may look like for you personally.
Does the AIP diet really work?
Everyone is different. Many with autoimmune disease find success with an AIP diet, while others do not. There’s no way to guarantee that this approach will work for you, but here are some stories of encouragement of those who healed with the AIP diet..
I know what you may be thinking… “Stories are all anecdotal. Where’s the science?” I’ve got you covered! There was a recent medical study on the autoimmune protocol diet that you’ll find here. The results are astounding and encouraging!
When it comes to living well with autoimmunity, what else should you consider other than diet alone?
Healing is about so much more than just diet alone. Here are some other factors to consider…
- Stress reduction
- Home and body care products
- Community Support
- Underlying infections
- Working with a doctor (check out this post)
… just to name a few!
AIP Diet & Lifestyle Resources
The list of AIP resources is growing by the day! This community is vibrant and flourishing, and there are so many amazing blogs, books, and influencers to follow. Here are just some of my favorite resources…
- UnboundWellness.com… AKA me… hiiiiii!
- …and many more!
Where do you even start?
Where do you start? First is more research and some soul searching. Making sure that this is the right step for you right here, and right now. Just because this isn’t a good fit today doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements that you can take and start applying until you’re ready for the next step down the line.
The resources above are all amazing next steps for more research as is my e-book, the 30 Day Gut Healing Diet Plan & Guide which lays out a 30 day meal plan that’s AIP and is focused on gut health. You can check it out here!
Regardless of where you choose to go after reading this, I hope it was helpful in answering some questions and guiding you towards your next steps.