We live in a world where weight maintenance and healthy living are all the rage. After years of the United States being designated among the most overweight, unhealthiest nations in the world, people are starting to take control of their own destinies. We want to live longer, feel better and look great as long as we possibly can. A big part of that commitment is exercise, certainly, but another part that’s just as important is what we put into our bodies.
Enter a range of diet plans, from paleo to keto, which are designed to give us that healthy living lifestyle we crave. The key to a successful diet is that it engenders true lifestyle change and isn’t just a “reach your target weight and quit” plan. Among the most popular of these lifestyle diets, which is continuing to gain traction, is the Autoimmune Protocol diet or AIP diet.
This diet is a plan that has the goal of reducing inflammation throughout your body. Its goal is to relieve the symptoms you suffer from autoimmune disorders. Evidence supports that it’s a good, healthy diet that can help your body function better at all levels, regardless of whether or not you have an illness. Learn all about the autoimmune protocol diet, what it entails, how it works and where you can get the best snacks and supplements for your AIP diet efforts.
What Is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?
The autoimmune protocol diet is also sometimes called the paleo autoimmune protocol. It’s a version of the paleo diet, but is much stricter overall. It’s a form of elimination diet and involves getting rid of the foods in your diet that might cause inflammation in your gut or elsewhere in your body and focusing on foods that are nutrient rich.
It’s based on the idea that immunodeficiencies are often caused by what is known as “altered intestinal permeability,” or what is colloquially called a “leaky gut.” That is, small holes in your gut can cause food to seep into your body without fully passing through your digestive system. This, in turn, can cause your immune system to react to the food and begin attacking bodily tissues that it otherwise shouldn’t attack.
The idea behind the AIP diet is that by eating the right foods that are rich in nutrients and by avoiding foods with inflammatory properties, you can heal up these holes, reset your immune system, prevent your body from attacking tissues and thus reduce your symptoms, while preventing secondary conditions.
Fighting Autoimmune Diseases
Over 80 different conditions are classified as autoimmune diseases and disorders. These ailments are characterized by the body’s inability to tell the difference between genuine pathogens and healthy tissue. This causes a hypersensitive immune system reaction to occur.
Put simply, the body starts to attack itself. Such attacks can go on silently without noticeable symptoms for years before a full-blown condition erupts. Many of these illnesses see the body attacking organs like the brain, salivary glands, thyroid glands and other important organs.
The AIP diet starts at the intestines, reducing the inflammation that is often the very beginning of these illnesses. Though it is classified as an elimination diet, it’s far stricter than most elimination diets and goes to the next level. This diet isn’t just designed to discover what foods you’re sensitive to eating; rather, it’s a diet that is focused on healing your body so that you are healthier overall.
AIP Diet vs. Paleo Diet
The AIP diet is often referred to as an offshoot of the Paleo diet. There’s some truth to this, but the AIP approach is far more comprehensive than the paleo one. Paleo is an eating plan that focuses strictly on avoiding processed foods and empty calories, eating foods that are dense in nutrients and are found in nature — those foods that our very early ancestors ate, which is why it’s also sometimes called the “caveman diet.” Foods you’ll eat in Paleo include meats, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, fruit, seafood and the like.
Paleo, on the other hand, while it also focuses on natural, healthy foods, focuses more on removing foods that cause health issues and on healing your gut and immune system. It gets rid of nuts and seeds, as well as everything in the nightshade family, including peppers. A lot more “no” foods are in the AIP approach than in the standard Paleo diet.
Foods Eliminated or Restricted
When you’re on an autoimmune protocol diet, there are a range of foods that you must avoid or severely limit. Those you must avoid include all grains, beans and legumes, dairy products, any processed foods, refined sugars, industrial seed oils like canola or vegetable oil, any foods in the nightshade family, nuts and seeds, gum and chemically-processed foods like diet sweeteners, thickeners and the like.
Beside these foods, it’s important to avoid NSAIDs — these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Finally, alcohol is forbidden for those on this diet plan.
What Can I Eat?
While it may seem incredibly restrictive, when on the AIP diet, a big range of foods are allowed. Many vegetables and herbs are allowed; these are rich in fiber and phytonutrients that will help your body to function at peak performance. In fact, this diet is very plant-focused, and it’s suggested that you eat up to 9 servings per day.
Fruits, as well, are an important aspect of the diet, as they contain fiber and antioxidants which are natural anti-inflammatories and protect your cells from damage. However, because fruit contains a lot of sugar, it’s recommended that you stick to about two servings of fruit per day.
Animal proteins and healthy fats are also very important to this diet. Your muscles need proteins to stay strong and rebuild your body when it suffers wear and tear, and animal proteins work differently in your body than even the most complete plant proteins. Alongside animal proteins, you need healthy fats. Some of these come from animal sources, like beef tallow and chicken fat, but others are plant-based and include coconut, olive, palm and avocado oil.
The Nightshade Issue
The degree to which nightshades are restricted in the autoimmune protocol diet depends on the source. Some versions of this diet completely restrict all nightshades, including tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes; others are far less strict. This is the one aspect of the diet that is not necessarily agreed upon across the board. In the end, since this diet is an elimination protocol, and there are other sources of the nutrients you get from these vegetables and fruits, it probably doesn’t hurt to remove them and then try slowly adding them back in.
How Long to Stay on the Diet
One thing to remember about the autoimmune protocol is that while very restrictive, it’s not intended to be a long-term or lifelong diet. It’s designed to get you back on track for good health through an approach that follows the 4R method: remove, replace, repair, and restore.
First, you get rid of (remove) those things that can irritate your gut or function as toxins. Next, you replace those foods with ones that have gut-healing properties and are all natural. Third, you repair your body using specific vitamin and mineral supplements. Finally, you restore your body by building healthy gut bacteria, pre- and probiotics and soluble fibers.
Generally speaking, the elimination part of your diet lasts for between three and four weeks, at which point you begin a slow reintroduction process. Each eliminated food is brought back into your diet one at a time, a few days apart. This allows you to watch for physical reactions to any of these foods. If you do notice issues, eliminate that food again, permanently.
The Science Behind the Diet
While some people are quick to dismiss this approach as just another fad diet, the truth is, there’s actual science behind it. It’s been shown to help have a positive effect on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, for example. A scientific study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases demonstrated that the AIP diet is effective at treating IBS and Crohn’s disease. A number of medical professionals have recommended the paleo diet and its offshoots like AIP for the treatment of diabetes.
If you’re wondering about the science behind the diet, the answer is yes, there is scientific backing for the efficacy of the AIP diet.
Finding the Right Tools for the Autoimmune Diet
Of course, just like any diet, the autoimmune protocol diet requires having the right tools at your disposal. Snacking is an integral part of keeping your metabolism up and your body running well. It’s difficult, however, to find healthy snack foods you can eat on the go when this diet restricts foods like nuts and seeds.
That’s where Paleo Angel comes into the picture. Our special Paleo Power Balls are 100% in line with the AIP diet and are made from all-natural ingredients. Our snacks are absolutely delicious, and free from nuts, gluten, eggs and nightshades. They’re available in flavors like strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, pumpkin and carob. They keep for up to 30 days unrefrigerated and up to six months when you put them in the fridge!
Learn more about our power balls and get on the path to AIP health. Drop us a line for more information or to place an order today!