Everything You Need to Know about the Autoimmune Paleo Diet
What is an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?
Food is essential to life, but it can also be used to heal the damage that has been done by autoimmune disease. The autoimmune paleo diet, also known as the autoimmune protocol or AIP, is a diet that uses food as medicine by cutting out inflammatory foods and focusing on the most nutrient-dense foods. If you’re familiar with the paleo diet, this diet follows the same basic rules while focusing on the benefits to gastrointestinal health. These rules include avoiding:
- Beans and legumes
- Grains and seeds
- Nightshade vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and a few others)
- All processed foods (at first)
Many people are mistaken that a typical paleo diet is focused on meat, but in a paleo diet, the focus is on natural and nutrient-dense foods. Specifically, the majority of food should be vegetables together with pastured meats and a little bit of fruit if you so desire. The AIP diet is basically a stricter version of a paleo diet where you also eliminate the foods listed above.
Eliminating inflammatory foods is only the first part of the autoimmune paleo diet. This stage focuses on cleansing your gut and immune system of harmful substances that lead to autoimmunity and to also allow the body a chance to calm down by way of reducing inflammation.
Many people do not do the autoimmune protocol forever, rather just long enough to get rid of the inflammation – kind of like a reset. On the other hand, many people feel so much better doing the diet, that they choose to stick to it forever. Once your body has adjusted, after about six to eight weeks, you may feel well enough to start reintroducing certain foods back into your diet to see if they are the cause of symptoms…or not. With a clean gut, your body is better able to recognize between harmful substances and healthy tissues, allowing you to stay healthy.
6 Benefits of the Autoimmune Paleo Diet
While any diet that eliminates harmful foods has its benefits, there are several to consider with an autoimmune paleo diet. Here are six reasons you might want to consider giving it a try, and why you might not want to go back to your old eating habits.
1. Heal the Gut
The main benefit of the AIP diet is that it heals the gut. We now know that most, if not all, autoimmune diseases have a gut component – specifically a damaged gut that is often caused by food. This is true even if there are no apparent gut symptoms.
2. Reduce and Reverse Damage from Autoimmune Diseases
People who already have an autoimmune disease can reverse some of the internal damages done through a change in diet. Many people with a variety of autoimmune diseases ranging from Celiac Disease to Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease to Multiple Sclerosis to Crohn’s Disease to Ulcerative Colitis and many others, have found marked improvement in, and even cessation, of all symptoms.
3. Reduce Internal Inflammation
One of the unpleasant side effects of irritating foods is internal inflammation, which leads to all kind of symptoms including digestive issues, skin issues, chronic fatigue, and brain fog (to name just a few). Eliminating harmful foods reduces this inflammation, giving your body a chance to heal while you experience a time of healing.
4. Give Your Immune System a Rest
If you keep eating foods that illicit an autoimmune response, your body’s immune system is always on overdrive. By eliminating these foods, you give it a chance to rest and build its strength back up so it can work on keeping you well against other illnesses.
5. Discover Which Foods are Making You Sick
This diet has an elimination and reintroduction phase, which allows you to discover if there are foods that are okay for you to eat. You may discover that a suspected food is totally fine and another not so much. Knowledge goes a long way towards staying well, and this diet provides you with that information.
6. A Diet that is Nutrient Dense
Since the autoimmune paleo diet follows a paleo diet standard, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll be healing yourself eating wholesome foods and avoiding processed meals, needless medications, and other substances that can interfere with your body’s natural healing process.
How to Do an Autoimmune Paleo Diet for Better Health
Like any diet, following the autoimmune paleo diet can seem like resorting to extremes. However, once you have immersed yourself in it, you will likely find it to be an excellent experience because you will begin to see and feel the health benefits you are looking for. Before you begin, there are a few things you will need to do to prepare. Make sue you know what foods you should and shouldn’t eat. Stocking your kitchen and keeping in mind what you can eat helps you when you’re eating out.
Your Food Journal
Before beginning any new diet, consider starting a food journal. (Read: The Elimination Diet for the Gluten Intolerant) Here you can record any new symptoms, how certain foods made you feel, new recipes, or anything about your diet. It’s a good idea to keep one handy during your autoimmune paleo diet so you can keep track of what you ate and how your symptoms are, especially during the reintroduction phase.
Phase 1: Eliminate Foods Based on the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol
The first part of this diet may seem like the most intense. It’s time to commit to the diet. It may feel hard. It may feel really really hard, but remember – most people who have done it will tell you it is worth it! Stock your kitchen appropriately and try out new recipes that sound interesting. Instead of asking “What can’t I eat?” think about what you can. Instead of focusing on what’s missing focus on how much better you’ll feel and what you can do with the autoimmune paleo diet.
Phase 2: Keep at it!
The autoimmune paleo diet usually runs between 6-8 weeks. This can seem like a long time but this is when your body begins to clear itself of all the harmful foods and substances that have caused it damage and given rise to autoimmune disease. Likewise, the inflammation begins to subside. You may begin to feel noticeably better during this time. Remember, even if you begin to feel better, don’t stop. Keep eating the right foods and keep notes in your journal. The healing has begun, and you’re body is starting to thank you.
*Note, many people may think that the diet is not working only to look back in their food journal and see that many of the symptoms they were experiencing are no longer there!
Phase 3: Reintroduction
After you’ve completed the diet, it’s time to reintroduce the foods you’re used to eating back into your diet. This process isn’t as easy as starting to eat your old favorites right away. This phase involves taking a controlled approach to the reintroduction so that you will know exactly what you can and can’t eat – what you need to continue to avoid and what you can start eating again.
- Choose one food to introduce for every five days.
- Give it 72 hours to produce an immune response. If it doesn’t produce one, you may consider eating this food again. If it does, note this in your journal and avoid it in the future.
Many people get to phase 3 and decide they have no desire to reintroduce old foods back into their diet because they feel so well without them. The autoimmune paleo diet can be maintained indefinitely.
If you have a serious condition, such as MS, you may want to stay on the AIP diet forever in order to keep your symptoms at bay.