The autoimmune protocol (AIP) is an elimination diet that helps autoimmune disease sufferers find relief from their autoimmune symptoms. Further, the autoimmune protocol provides lifestyle support for autoimmune disease.
As far as nutrition, the autoimmune protocol is comprised of an elimination phase and a reintroduction phase.
AIP Elimination Phase
In the elimination phase of the autoimmune protocol, foods that trigger an immune response are temporarily eliminated to give the immune system a chance to rest.
Many autoimmune disease sufferers find relief from their autoimmune symptoms during the elimination phase. While many people experience a gradual improvement in their symptoms, some find quicker relief.
The amount of time spent in the elimination phase varies, and depends on the individual.
Typically, the elimination phase lasts a minimum of 30-90 days. Although some stay on the elimination phase much longer, it is not designed to be lifelong.
A general list of foods excluded during elimination phase include grains (including gluten), dairy, soy, eggs, nightshades, nuts, seeds, legumes, alcohol, processed vegetable oils, processed food ingredients and chemicals, refined sugar, and sugar substitutes. You can find a detailed list of foods to exclude here.
While many foods enjoyed on the Standard American Diet are excluded, there are a number of nutrient dense, whole foods that are included.
Foods to include while on the autoimmune protocol include: many types of quality meats, fish, shellfish, organ meat, all kinds of vegetables except nightshades, a variety of fruits, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and gut microbiome superfoods.
After finding relief from autoimmune symptoms, individuals then transition into the reintroduction phase of the autoimmune protocol.
During the reintroduction phase, excluded foods are gradually and systematically reintroduced back into the diet, one at a time.
The goal of the reintroduction phase is to add back in as many nutrient dense foods as possible, using caution to identify any food sensitivities or intolerances.
There is a recommended order of reintroductions, as well as a recommended timeline for reintroductions. Further, you can read about the ins and outs of reintroductions here.
While reintroducing a food, the return of autoimmune symptoms is usually a sign that a food needs to be eliminated again. After further elimination, the food can then be retested for reintroduction, if desired. Subsequently, foods which repeatedly trigger a return or worsening of autoimmune symptoms should be considered for long term elimination.
The length of time spent in the reintroduction phase of the autoimmune protocol is highly dependent on individual needs and circumstances.
The autoimmune protocol also includes lifestyle factors that support living well with autoimmune disease, bolster the immune system, and improve overall wellness.
Lifestyle factors emphasized on the autoimmune protocol include:
- Reducing and managing stress.
- Improving the quality and quantity of sleep.
- Movement/exercise while avoiding overexertion.
- Connection with others and nature.
- Reducing exposure to toxins.
AIP Quick Tips
- Focus on foods to include, rather than foods to exclude.
- Remember to include a variety of nutrient dense foods, and avoid the trap of eating the same thing everyday.
- If eliminations feel overwhelming, consider adopting eliminations in phases over the course of a number of weeks, rather than all at once.
- If needed, work with your medical team to address any underlying gut issues, nutrient deficiencies, or concerns you have.
There are many AIP resources available, depending on your needs.
Understanding the science behind autoimmune disease, and why many autoimmune disease sufferers find relief through the autoimmune protocol can help individuals find the willpower and strength needed to start the elimination phase. The science based AIP resources I recommend are all by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, and include:
The Autoimmune Protocol ebook by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne
The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne
Learning to live with autoimmune disease, and starting the autoimmune protocol can feel isolating and overwhelming. Therefore, I love the following DIY guide for living with autoimmune disease:
Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt
There are many free online AIP resources, including a number of AIP blog posts on my website, which you can find here or search my website using “AIP” to find more. You can read about my AIP journey here and here.
As comforting as it is to read about how others navigate the autoimmune protocol, it is important to understand that the autoimmune protocol is not a template that looks exactly the same for everyone. If you find you need individualized AIP support or help troubleshooting the AIP, you can find a list of AIP Certified Coaches here.
“What is the AIP?” YouTube Video
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