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What is the Autoimmune Protocol?

what is autoimmune protocol

In my last series, I covered leaky gut syndrome and lots of tips to heal this problem. Leaky gut syndrome is thought to be an underlying contributor to lots of autoimmune diseases and other diseases caused by inflammation in general. After bloodwork to rule out any underlying hormone problems, you can begin to take steps to improve your health by following the Autoimmune Protocol.

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a very restrictive diet that removes foods considered to be gut irritants. It is a stricter version of the Paleo diet, which involves the elimination of grains, legumes, dairy, and processed foods.  AIP can be very difficult to follow for many people, but is sometimes necessary for a period of time to heal leaky gut.

Many elimination diets are not complete enough and often do not remove immune triggers that promote inflammation in the gut. AIP works to calm inflammation in the gut and also calm inflammation in the body. And while autoimmune disease can never be cured, it can be put into remission. The AIP diet is geared toward healing the intestinal mucosa and supporting low inflammation in the body that can temper the fires of an autoimmune flare-up.

Foods eliminated on the AutoImmune Protocol (AIP) Diet:

  • Grains – wheat, rice, corn, and others; and pseudograins (millet, amaranth, teff, etc.)
  • Legumes – all beans including peanuts, black beans, pinto beans, hummus, etc.
  • Dairy – all sources of dairy, even raw or fermented
  • Nuts and seeds  all nuts and seeds including cashews, almonds, quinoa, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, seed-based spices, chocolate, coffee, etc.
  • Eggs – especially the white part of the egg, which contains inflammatory proteins
  • Nightshades  tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, goji berries and several spices
  • Industrial seed oils – pretty much all liquid oils, except for olive and avocado oils
  • Processed foods – basically anything that comes out of a package
  • Alcohol – it is well established that alcohol induces a leaky gut. [1]
  • NSAIDs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, which cause holes to form in the gut and stomach linings.
  • Sugar, starches, fruits, yeasts, FODMAPs – Sweet, starchy, and yeast-containing foods can contribute to imbalances in the gut microflora (dysbiosis) by feeding unfavorable bacteria in the gut. They are best limited or restricted especially at first on the AIP.

When implementing this protocol, your food choices become focused on consuming the foods that provide everything your body needs to stop attacking itself, repair damaged tissues, and get healthy again: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to sustain a normal metabolism, build new tissue, and produce hormones, important proteins, and signaling molecules; and the full range of fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to get rid of inflammation, regulate the immune system, and support the normal functioning of all the body’s systems.

Since AIP is an elimination diet, eventually, you get to reintroduce foods that you’ve been avoiding. Ideally, you’d wait to reintroduce foods until you’re feeling amazing, but as long as you’re seeing improvements with these diet and lifestyle changes, you can try some reintroductions after three to four weeks.

Symptoms of a reaction aren’t always obvious, so keep an eye out for the following:

  • Symptoms of your disease returning or worsening
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: tummy ache, heartburn, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, change in frequency of bowel movements, gas, bloating, undigested or partly digested food particles in stool
  • Reduced energy, fatigue, or energy dips in the afternoon, or a second wind in the late evening that makes it hard to go to bed at a good time
  • Cravings for sugar, fat, or caffeine
  • Pica (craving minerals from nonfood items like clay, chalk, dirt, or sand)
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or just not feeling well rested in the morning
  • Headaches (mild to migraine)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Increased mucus production: phlegm, runny nose, or postnasal drip
  • Coughing or increased need to clear your throat
  • Itchy eyes or mouth
  • Sneezing
  • Aches and pains: muscle, joint, tendon, or ligament
  • Changes in skin: rashes, acne, dry skin, little pink bumps or spots, dry hair or nails
  • Mood issues: mood swings, feeling low or depressed
  • Feeling anxious, less able to handle stress

If your symptoms aren’t improving on a strict AIP diet, or if you’ve gone through the reintroduction protocol and your symptoms start to come back, you may still be eating a food that’s inciting an immune response.

In this case, getting food sensitivity testing is a good option to determine exactly which foods are the culprit.

For a list of recipes and foods you can try during your protocol, read here.

Thank you for reading my blog about the Autoimmune Protocol! I hope you’ve found this info valuable.


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