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The AIP Diet | Overview and Guidelines

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If you're dealing with an autoimmune disease, you may have heard of the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet. This unique diet is designed to help reduce inflammation and promote healing in individuals with autoimmune diseases. By restricting common food allergens and inflammatory foods, and encouraging the consumption of nutrient-rich foods that may help improve symptoms, the AIP diet may be beneficial for some people with autoimmune diseases. But it's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the AIP diet.

To understand the AIP diet, it's essential to know that it's a stricter version of the Paleo diet. It's especially helpful for those suffering from autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriasis, as well as those with chronic inflammation or gut dysbiosis (bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine). On the AIP diet, you avoid foods that contain potential irritants to sensitive systems. Gluten, dairy, and eggs are the main ones, but other foods are also eliminated for certain periods.

It's essential to note that the AIP is an autoimmune protocol and not a specific diet plan designed for weight loss. However, it can be beneficial for managing inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, and allergies. This diet aims to avoid "tricking" the immune system with foods that most people may tolerate, but not everyone, or that have an exceptionally high amount of a particular polyunsaturated fat, which could irritate the gut lining in some people.

Once you've been following this diet for several months and your symptoms have significantly improved or disappeared, you can experiment with adding back some of these other healthy foods one at a time if desired. However, it's crucial to pay close attention to how you feel after including each new food to see if it's something your body does well with or not. Fruits (excluding citrus fruits), nuts and seeds, vegetables (excluding nightshades), mushrooms, full-fat dairy products, starchy potatoes, and whole grains are all often healthy additions.

Many people continue to follow an AIP template even after their autoimmune symptoms have reduced, either as a preventative measure or because they feel better eating this way. However, it's important to note that the AIP diet is meant to be a short-term healing solution and not a long-term way of life.

Before embarking on the AIP diet, it's critical to consult with a registered dietitian or doctor specializing in autoimmune diseases to see if the AIP diet is right for you. So, if you're dealing with an autoimmune disease, you can try the AIP diet and see if it works for you. It's a unique and intriguing way to help reduce inflammation and promote healing in individuals with autoimmune diseases.

AIP Diet Guidelines

What you can eat on an AIP diet:

  • All animal proteins (excluding eggs)
  • All vegetables (excluding nightshades)
  • Fruits in moderation
  • Healthy fats (like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and animal fats)
  • Bone broth
  • Organ meats
  • Grain-free baking flours (like cassava, tigernut, tapioca, and coconut)

What you should avoid on an AIP diet:

  • All grains (like wheat, oats, rice, and corn)
  • All dairy (of all types)
  • All legumes (like lentils, black beans, chickpeas, and green beans, as well as peanuts)
  • Nightshade vegetables and spices (like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, all peppers, and red spices)
  • All nuts and seeds
  • Seed-based spices (like mustard, cumin, and sesame)
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Thickeners, gums, and food additives
  • Poor-quality seed oils (like sunflower oil, canola oil, and soybean oil)
William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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