Fran's Kitchen

What is AIP?

The Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP, is a specialized version of the Paleo diet, with an even greater focus on nutrient density and even stricter guidelines for which foods should be eliminated. Foods can be viewed as having two kinds of constituents within them: those that promote health (like nutrients) and those that undermine health (like inflammatory compounds). Some foods are great diets because they have tons of benefits with very little or no constituents that undermine health—good examples of these superfoods are organ meats, seafood, and most vegetables. There are other foods that aren't so great because they have a ton of problematic compounds—good examples are gluten-containing grains, peanuts, and most soy products.

The biggest difference between a standard Paleo diet and the Autoimmune Protocol is where we draw the line between “acceptable” foods and “unacceptable” foods in order to get more health-promoting compounds and fewer detrimental compounds in our diet. People who are typically quite healthy can tolerate less-optimal foods than those who aren’t. You can think of the Autoimmune Protocol as a pickier version of the Paleo diet; it accepts only those foods that are clearly healthy.

How Does AIP Work?

The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol works by addressing four key areas known to be important contributors to chronic and autoimmune diseases. Drawing on insights gleaned from more than 1,200 scientific studies, these diet and lifestyle recommendations specifically target:

 
  • Nutrient density - The immune system (and indeed every system in the body) requires an various amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and amino acids to function normally. Micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances are key players in the development and progression of autoimmune disease. Focusing on consuming the most nutrient-dense foods available enables a synergistic surplus of micronutrients to correct both deficiencies and imbalances, thus supporting regulation of the immune system, hormone systems, detoxification systems, and neurotransmitter production. A nutrient-dense diet further provides the building blocks that the body needs to heal damaged tissues.
  • Gut health- Gut dysbiosis and leaky gut are key facilitators in the development of autoimmune disease. The foods recommended on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol support the growth of healthy levels and a healthy variety of gut microorganisms. Foods that irritate or damage the lining of the gut are avoided, while foods that help restore gut barrier function and promote healing are endorsed.
  • Hormone regulation - What we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat affect a variety of hormones that interact with the immune system. When dietary factors (like eating too much sugar or grazing rather than eating larger meals spaced farther apart) dysregulate these hormones, the immune system is directly affected. The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet is designed to promote regulation of these hormones, thereby regulating the immune system by proxy. These and other essential hormones that impact the immune system are also profoundly affected by how much sleep we get, how much time we spend outside, how much and what kinds of activity we get, and how well we reduce and manage stress.
  • Immune system regulation - Immune regulation is achieved by restoring a healthy diversity and healthy amounts of gut microorganisms, restoring the barrier function of the gut, providing sufficient amounts of the micronutrients required for the immune system to function normally, and regulating the key hormones that in turn regulate the immune system.
 

As you adopt the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, your food choices become focused on consuming the nutrients to support this healing—foods that provide everything your body needs to stop attacking itself, repair damaged tissues, and get healthy again: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to sustain a normal metabolism, build new tissue, and produce hormones, important proteins, and signaling molecules; and the full range of fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to get rid of inflammation, regulate the immune system, and support the normal functioning of all the body’s systems.

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What Can I Eat on an AIP diet?

The AIP diet involves increasing your intake of nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods while avoiding foods that may trigger your disease.

  • Organ meat and offal (aim for 5 times per week, the more the better)–read more here.
  • Fish and shellfish (wild is best, but farmed is fine) (aim for at least 3 times per week, the more the better)–read more here and here.
  • Vegetables of all kinds, as much variety as possible and the whole rainbow, aim for 8-14 cups per day
    • Green vegetables
    • Colorful vegetables and fruit (red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, white)
    • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress, mustard greens, etc.)
    • Sea vegetables (excluding algae like chlorella and spirulina which are immune stimulators)
    • Edible Fungi, like mushrooms
  • Herbs and spices
  • Quality meats (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild as much as possible) (poultry in moderation due to high omega-6 content unless you are eating a ton of fish)
  • Healthy fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed animal fats [rendered or as part of your meat], fatty fish, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, palm oil[not palm kernel])
  • Fruit (keeping fructose intake between 10g and 40g daily-note that 20g is probably optimal)
  • Probiotic/fermented foods (fermented vegetables or fruit, kombucha, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut milk yogurt, supplements)–read about them here and here.
  • Glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue, joints or skin, organ meat, and bone broth)
  • Source the best-quality ingredients you can.
  • Eat as much variety as possible.
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Avoid the following foods

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Refined and processed sugars and oils
  • Eggs (especially the whites)
  • Nuts (including nut butters, flours and oils)
  • Seeds (including seed oil, cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices)
  • Nightshades (potatoes [sweet potatoes are fine], tomatoes, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne, red pepper, tomatillos, goji berries etc. and spices derived from peppers, including paprika)
  • Potential Gluten Cross-Reactive Foods
  • Alcohol
  • NSAIDS (like aspirin or ibuprofen)
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners (yes, all of them, even stevia)
  • Emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives
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