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AIP diet to help manage autoimmune diseases

The AIP diet, also known as the “autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet,” is an eating model that has become quite popular in recent years. It consists of avoiding the consumption of certain foods for several weeks in order to observe changes in health.

As stated in an article published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases , its objective is to contribute to the control of inflammation, pain and other symptoms of autoimmune diseases , such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease, among others. What should you know about it?

What is the AIP diet?

The autoimmune protocol (AIP) is an elimination diet that involves not eating certain varieties of food for several weeks to observe the effects it causes on health, especially in the presence of autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis , lupus and inflammatory bowel disease, among others.

These pathologies present with symptoms ranging from joint pain to fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nerve damage, and mental confusion. Although its origin is multifactorial and encompasses genetic and environmental factors, one of the hypotheses associates them with damage to the intestinal barrier. In turn, this is linked to the consumption of some foods.

Precisely, the AIP diet proposes to eliminate and replace these foods with options rich in nutrients that contribute to “repair” the intestine and promote the balance of its microbiota. In addition, it suggests eliminating products such as those that contain gluten or lactose, as they are often the ones that cause abnormal immune responses in sensitive people.

Psoriasis on the scalp.
Autoimmune skin diseases are often linked to “triggers” found in food.

Phases of the AIP diet

The autoimmune protocol (AIP) bears some resemblance to the popular paleo diet ; in fact, some experts classify it as an extension of this feeding model. In any case, the AIP variant is a bit stricter and consists of two main phases.

Elimination phase

In the first phase of the AIP diet, the elimination of foods and medications that may be linked to intestinal inflammation or imbalances in the microbiota is carried out . For this, products that often cause allergies and unwanted reactions are taken into account. For example:

  • Cereals.
  • Vegetables.
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.
  • Solanaceous vegetables.
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products.
  • Vegetable oils.
  • Food Additives.
  • Refined sugars.
  • Coffee.
  • Alcohol.
  • Tobacco.
  • Processed products.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, and high-dose aspirin.

Of course, instead of these, the consumption of fresh and nutrient-dense products is encouraged, without neglecting fermented foods or foods with some probiotic content. Likewise, emphasis is placed on improving the lifestyle through relaxation techniques, physical activity and a better quality of sleep.

The duration of this phase can be extended until the person feels an improvement in their symptoms. This can often take between 30 and 90 days . However, there are those who feel the effects after week 3.

Discover: The most common autoimmune diseases

Reintroduction phase

As soon as an improvement in the symptoms of the autoimmune disease is perceived, the reintroduction phase begins, which consists of gradually incorporating the avoided foods , one at a time, according to the person’s tolerance level.

What is intended to achieve at this stage of the diet is to recognize those foods that can be triggers for the symptoms of the disorder. In addition, it seeks to reintroduce those that do not cause any symptoms, to ensure a more varied and complete diet .

Each food is reintroduced little by little, with a lapse of between 5 and 7 days between one and the other. This period is sufficient to determine if any of the symptoms reappear after consumption. Those that are well tolerated can continue to be incorporated into the diet. The rest must be left out.

Steps for reintroducing food

To reintroduce foods into the AIP diet, it is necessary to follow some steps. Likewise, it is necessary to know how to choose a suitable moment, in circumstances that do not cause inflammation. Therefore, after a bad night’s sleep or in times of stress, it is better to postpone it.

If possible, it is ideal to introduce foods that have lower concentrations of the substance that can trigger the discomfort. For example, in the case of dairy, the ideal is to start with fermented ones such as yogurt . The steps are the following:

  1. Choose the food that you want to reintroduce. Then, consume it several times a day on the day chosen for the test. Once this is done, it is completely avoided again for 5-6 days.
  2.  Eat a small amount of the product and wait about 15 minutes to check for reactions.
  3. If there are any symptoms, the test should end and the food should be avoided. If not, a larger test is consumed, continuing to observe the effects for another 2-3 hours.
  4. If there are no symptoms, you can eat a normal portion of the same food. Then, it is avoided for 5 or 6 days to reintroduce another.
  5. Repeat the procedure. 

Foods allowed and prohibited in the AIP diet

For the AIP diet to work well, it is necessary to follow the recommendations you have about allowed and prohibited foods. Regarding this, it must be borne in mind that there are many restrictions, so the ideal is to consult a professional in nutrition to avoid deficiencies.

Allowed foods

  • Varied vegetables , except those that belong to the nightshade family and algae.
  • High quality fish and shellfish, with abundant omega 3 content.
  • Fresh fruits, in moderate portions.
  • Fermented and probiotic foods (kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and coconut kefir).
  • Lean meats and beef liver.
  • Olive, coconut and avocado oil.
  • Herbs and spices that are not derived from seeds.
  • Natural sweeteners, such as honey, in moderate amounts.
  • Bone broth
  • Green tea and black tea.

Forbidden food

  • Solanaceae, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
  • Grains (rice, wheat, oats, barley, rye and derivatives).
  • Vegetables.
  • Dairy products.
  • Vegetable oils (except those mentioned where possible).
  • Coffee.
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Alcohol.
  • Food additives, such as refined sugars and trans fats.

Does the AIP diet work?

To date, the scientific evidence on the AIP diet remains limited. Despite this, there are studies that suggest that it can reduce inflammation and the clinical manifestations of some autoimmune diseases. Let’s see in detail.

Adjuvant against leaky gut

Those who suffer from autoimmune diseases usually have a leaky gut . According to research, there is a link between inflammation and permeability of the intestine. In this way, the person may suffer an inflammatory disorder.

In this regard, the findings have determined that the AIP diet, by contributing to the relief of leaky gut, reduces the degree of inflammation and its associated symptoms. Still, more research is needed.

Supplement against the symptoms of autoimmune disorders

In addition to the above, it should be noted that this feeding protocol has given positive results against the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis . Even, a reduction in inflammation of between 29% and 68% was observed.

Medical control of the thyroid gland.
The AIP diet has been shown to be effective in thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Be sure to visit: How to treat autoimmune diseases?

What are the downsides of the AIP diet?

The main disadvantage of the AIP diet is that it is a restrictive eating model, especially in its elimination phase. Not only does this situation make it difficult to follow, it may not be suitable for everyone.

On the other hand, the person may go through episodes of anxiety or social isolation due to their own food restrictions. Without proper planning, it can also lead to nutritional deficiencies taken care of.

Among other things, there is no total guarantee that this protocol will reduce the inflammation and symptomatology of autoimmune diseases. Still, many come to experience its positive effects.

Consulting a nutritionist is the best option

From the outset, it seems that adopting the AIP diet is simple if you take into account its rules. However, it is a protocol that must be adopted with great care, as it involves relevant dietary restrictions.

Therefore, it is essential to consult a nutritionist or doctor to receive all the necessary information about this diet. The professional will help determine if this diet is convenient and how to plan it properly to avoid adverse effects. Keep that in mind!

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