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How the Autoimmune Paleo Diet Heals the Immune System

The AIP diet is an elimination diet that promotes healing of the immune system and gut lining in people with autoimmune disease. Could it help you?

The autoimmune Paleo diet, also referred to as the autoimmune protocol or AIP diet, is a variation of the Paleo diet that strives to heal the immune system and digestive tract lining in those suffering from autoimmune disease. It requires at least 30 days of elimination of dairy, gluten, grains and pseudo-grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, eggs, modern vegetable oils, alcohol, added sugar or sweeteners, food additives and NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), which are medications like ibuprofen.

How does the autoimmune Paleo diet work?

After the elimination phase of the diet, you reintroduce these foods one at a time and assess your reaction. If a reaction occurs, these foods should be eliminated. The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet helps to uncover a more personalized Paleo-based diet that helps to reduce inflammation, promote gut healing, and diminish autoimmune-related symptoms for the longterm.

Beyond just a diet, the autoimmune protocol also emphasizes a way of life that prioritizes adequate sleep, stress reduction, and regular physical activity, as these lifestyle factors are known to have a direct influence on symptoms of autoimmunity. At Parsley Health, we promote these self-care practices as essential components in achieving optimal health and wellness for all individuals.

Until recently, the success of the autoimmune Paleo diet was only supported through the anecdotal stories of the thousands of people who successfully used the protocol to help treat and even reverse their autoimmune disease. But new research in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disorders examined the effectiveness of AIP for inflammatory bowel disease, a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The researchers found that after 6 weeks of following AIP, 11 of 15 participants became completely symptom-free. These results bring much needed scientific support to the autoimmune protocol and its ability to help those with autoimmune disease.

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Is the AIP Diet right for you? Is it healthy?

If you don’t have an autoimmune disease, it’s unnecessary to follow the autoimmune Paleo diet.There is no need to fear any food groups if you are otherwise healthy and symptom-free, as the healthiest diet is truly the one in which offers the greatest diversity of nutrients from whole food sources.

If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and want to better manage ongoing symptoms, it could be a good option for you. The one exception is those with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune attack on the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, so people with type 1 diabetes would benefit more from a low carbohydrate and low glycemic diet.

Because of the extremely restrictive nature of AIP, it’s also not appropriate if you are at risk of eating disorders, have food aversions, are unwilling to make dietary changes, or have other diet-related medical conditions.

Get started with the autoimmune Paleo diet

For the initial 30-day period, you eliminate dairy, gluten, grains and pseudo-grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, eggs, modern vegetable oils, alcohol, added sugar or sweeteners, food additives and NSAIDs.  With the elimination of these suspected gut irritants, the diet focuses on including more nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables of all kinds and colors (except nightshades), quality organic meat and organ meats, wild-caught fish, fermented foods, bone broths, healthy fats, and small amounts of antioxidant-rich fruits.

How API Diet Works
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage feature heavily in the AIP diet.

While 30 days is a suggested minimum amount of time, it is ideal to wait to see clear improvement in the autoimmune conditions and associated symptoms before starting reintroductions. An elimination diet is not meant to last forever but it could take some people 30 days and others a few months to see marked success with AIP. Once improvement is seen, you reintroduce foods safely and slowly. At Parsley Health, we recommend working with one of our health coaches for guidance and support while challenging and reintroducing foods. The ultimate goal of AIP is to create a personalized diet that will promote healing in the long-term.

Work with a Parsley doctor to help you find the right diet for your body.

How to know if the AIP diet worked for you

For those suffering with symptoms related to autoimmune disease including fatigue, muscle and joint pain, bloating, gas, rashes, hair loss and overall body aches, reduction in these symptoms can often be an obvious indication that AIP is working. In addition to reduction in overt physical symptoms, getting tested by your doctor for changes in inflammatory markers and the health of the gut microbiome is the most objective way to ensure the diet has produced a decrease in inflammation in the body.

At Parsley Health, we have seen success and even complete disease remission in those with autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, eosinophilic esophagitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others!

One member came to us with eosinophilic esophagitis, an autoimmune cause of reflux, and with the AIP diet combined with a gut healing protocol we use at Parsley Health, her disease completely resolved.

Our takeaway

  • AIP can be extremely effective for individuals with a diagnosed autoimmune disease who have tried other dietary changes without a successful change in symptoms.
  • Elimination diets are highly regarded in the medical community as an effective means of identifying dietary triggers.
  • The autoimmune Paleo diet should be thought of as an elimination diet that is focused on analyzing all potentially inflammatory foods for a highly reactive population.
  • The autoimmune protocol is best used as a tool to help personalize the diet to include the foods that help individuals feel their best while keeping inflammation and symptoms to a minimum. It should not be followed longterm.

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