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When I was studying nutrition as my Bachelors degree at Virginia Tech, I focused on simply making healthy choices, not on following a specific diet path. I have always been a believer that what works for one body doesn’t work for everybody (and I still believe that to be true), so I didn’t want to follow any specific protocols.
And then I began to display more and more symptoms of multiple autoimmune diseases and related conditions…
I’ve shared my autoimmune story several times, but suffice it to say that I eventually found myself desperate enough to try pretty much anything. I had done a few rounds of a traditional Paleo / Primal style diet. I had cut out gluten for more than a year and a half. I had shifted away from nightshade vegetables. But my myriad symptoms persisted and continued to get worse.
I had read about the GAPS diet for several years, but the intensity of it always turned me off. It just didn’t feel like a good fit for my body or lifestyle. When I discovered the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, however, I knew it was a fit. Yes, it would still be intense and require a commitment the likes of which I had never seen before, but it just felt right.
Who developed AIP?
Autoimmune disease specifics of the Paleo diet were originally discussed by the founder of the Paleo diet, Dr. Loren Cordain. Authors and bloggers Robb Wolf and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne have taken it to the next level. Dr. Ballantyne, who runs the site The Paleo Mom has contributed significantly to clarifying and enhancing the roots of what we now know as the AIP diet.
While the Paleo diet has been touted for its positive health effects, there are still elements of it that may not be ideal for those with autoimmune diseases, which is why a more strict protocol was developed.
Who benefits from the AIP diet?
Not shockingly, the Autoimmune Protocol is recommended for individuals living with autoimmune diseases! It can also be used by people with autoimmune related disease or people on the spectrum of autoimmune diagnosis (people who don’t necessarily have a specific autoimmune disease but whose symptoms are indicative of immune system involvement or compromise).
Please always consult with your doctor prior to making any major diet or lifestyle changes!
Some common autoimmune (& related) diseases that could potentially benefit from the AIP diet include:
– Celiac disease
– Chron’s disease
– Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
– Lichen sclerosus
– Lyme disease
– Mixed connective tissue disease
– Rheumatoid arthritis
What is included in the AIP diet?
There are so many websites that outline the specifics of what you can and can’t eat on the AIP diet! Some of these include breakdowns from The Paleo Mom, Autoimmune Wellness, and Ultimate Paleo Guide. I also read some incredible books prior to getting started, including (affiliate links) The Autoimmune Solution, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, and The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.
I don’t want to repeat everything that has already been said well by so many others, but here’s my overview. AIP involves:
– Eating as many nutrient-dense and gut-healing foods (like leafy greens, organ meats, and bone broth) as possible!
– Avoiding foods that cause inflammation and immune responses (like eggs, dairy, grains, wheat, alcohol, nuts, seeds, and nightshades).
– Getting adequate sleep as much as possible.
– Reducing stress!
These 4 tenets make up the incredible healing impact of AIP! The goal is not to have a severely restricted diet forever, which is why there are specific elimination and reintroduction phases of the diet. Most knowledgeable people recommend at least 30 days of elimination before attempting reintroduction, but this number can vary depending on the person.
Is it really possible to do this diet and still live a normal life?
I can tell you from personal experience that yes, it is possible to stick to the guidelines of AIP while living your normal day-to-day life. There are sacrifices that have to be made, like not eating out (or making sure you plan ahead and speak to the chef prior to), planning & prepping your meals with diligence, saying no to that delicious smelling brownie, or skipping out early on a night out so you can sleep, but it is all worth it.
UPDATE 7/20/17: I’ve now made it past 60 days on the AIP elimination diet! Yipee! You can read the lessons I’ve learned so far here.
If you need support or more info on the Autoimmune Protocol, including recipes, meal plans, success stories, or in-person communities and training, check out the following resources:
Grazed & Enthused
The Paleo Mom
A Squirrel in the Kitchen
Healing Family Eats