The Autoimmune Protocol or AIP is a more specific version of the Paleo diet aimed towards regulating the immune system and giving the body the opportunity to heal from the damage of autoimmune disease. It works by addressing four key areas known to be important contributors to immune and autoimmune diseases. Drawing on insights from more than 1,200 scientific studies, these diet and lifestyle recommendations specifically target gut health, hormone regulation, immune system and nutrient density.
The primary dietary recommendation for those with autoimmune disease is to adhere to a strict Paleo diet with no cheating. To be clear, this means: no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no refined sugars, no modern vegetable oils, and no processed food chemicals. While other people may be able to enjoy the occasional bowl of rice or corn chips or even ice cream, if you suffer from an autoimmune condition, you are most likely not one of these people. Gluten-containing grains should be banned for life. Other grains and legumes can be very problematic for those with autoimmune conditions. Dairy of any kind (even grass-fed ghee can still have traces of lactose and dairy proteins!) should be avoided initially. This may be true for the rest of your life but some people may be able to reintroduce many foods after their diseases are in remission.
If you have an autoimmune condition, certain foods can be triggers, including: eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, gluten cross-reactive foods, fructose in excess of 20g per day, alcohol, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID’s), non-nutritive sweeteners, and food additives.
These foods are also omitted from the Autoimmune Protocol because they cause:
Gut irritation (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, etc.)
Gut dysbiosis (gut bacteria are the wrong kinds, wrong diversity, wrong numbers, and/or in the wrong part of the gastrointestinal tract)
Molecules to be carried across the gut barrier
that shouldn't be crossed (LPS - toxic chemicals that cause inflammation)
Stimulation to the immune system
Gut permeability (leaky gut)
In addition to the above, it's important to ensure that your blood sugar levels are well managed. This does not mean low carb! It just means not high carb.
Perhaps even more important than removing foods that negatively impact gut health or stimulate the immune system is eating a nutrient-dense diet. Micronutrient deficiencies are the strongest diet-related factors contributing to increased risk of autoimmune diseases. If you have autoimmune disease, it is highly likely that you are deficient in a number of important nutrients. So, just as some foods should be eliminated, there is also a focus on eating more nutrient-dense foods like organ meats, fish and shellfish, colorful vegetables, fruit, cruciferous vegetables, sea vegetables, quality meats and fats, probiotic foods, and bone broth.
However, the Autoimmune Protocol is not a life sentence. Reintroducing some foods after your health has improved can be a big boost to quality of life for many people. Being able to eat eggs for breakfast or bake with almond flour or enjoy a square of dark chocolate can make a huge difference in terms of being able to sustain your healthy new habits. However, don’t be too eager to start reintroducing foods immediately. Generally, the more time you give your body to heal and detox, the greater the likelihood that you will be able to reintroduce certain foods successfully.
Below are the list of foods that can and cannot be eaten on the AIP diet.