We've all heard of the Paleo diet - so what's the Autoimmune Protocol?
First things first, I have to say that everything I have learnt about this protocol has come from sources based in the USA. The AIP diet is a phenomenal healing tool for anyone suffering with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions but knowledge of it in the UK is scarce. It really does deserve to be shouted about. Quite simply, it has changed my life and left me feeling the best I've ever felt. EVER.
The autoimmune protocol was devised by the fabulous Sarah Ballantyne, AKA The Paleo Mom. What Sarah doesn't know about diet simply isn't worth knowing. If you haven't checked her out, and you are serious about your health, you must. She's an absolute fountain of knowledge for all things Paleo and autoimmune. Her hours of research and dedication to these subjects means she's done all the legwork for those of us with a misbehaving immune system, so we can just sit back and reap the health benefits of her hard work. The protocol takes all the principles of the standard Paleo diet and adapts it further to help put autoimmune conditions into remission. Don't get me wrong, this is not a 'cure' for autoimmune disease, once a coeliac always a coeliac. But it has the power to permanently alleviate all symptoms and make you feel like yourself again.
The diet aims to eliminate all food sources that are prone to stimulating an autoimmune response in the body, exacerbating symptoms. Because the connection between gut health and autoimmunity is so inextricably linked, the AIP also eliminates all foods that irritate and inflame the gut, allowing it some respite to heal. This is essential as poor gut health and impaired digestion are at the heart of many chronic diseases, and the stress of these conditions on the body only serves to aggravate the gut further, thus a vicious cycle of digestive distress.
When a weakened digestive tract becomes permeable, we are then left with a condition called leaky gut. We are then subject to poorly digested foods and nutrient malabsorption causing a world of problems ranging from hormonal imbalance to autoimmune attacks and systemic inflammation.
A key principle of the AIP is ensuring nutrient density throughout the diet. Impaired digestion leaves us with nutritional deficiencies which can be rebalanced over time naturally by consuming AIP compliant foods. Foods which can also help us to re-establish a healthy gut flora.
What do I need to remove?
In addition to the foods already eliminated on a standard Paleo diet, you MUST also remove the following gut irritants and autoimmune triggers:
Nightshade vegetables - Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, goji berries, paprika, cayenne pepper
Nuts and seeds (including cocoa and coffee)
Once you have eliminated these, there is a strong focus placed on consuming more of the following:
Organ meat (livers, heart etc.) I promise you this isn't as vile as it sounds. They are one of the most nutrient dense food sources on the planet, so hold your nose, close your eyes, do what you need to do, but just eat them. Your body will thank you.
Bone broth - this is so easy to make and rich in gut healing l-glutamine. It's delicious added to soups and stews or even as a drink in its own right.
Fish and seafood
Grass fed meat
Vegetables- in abundance. As wide a variety as possible
Fruit - in moderate portions
Healthy fats - such as coconut oil, olives and avocados
Fermented foods - these are a natural source of friendly bacteria. You may want to go careful on these if your digestion is super sensitive or introduce them in small quantities to start with.
There are a few grey areas which are covered in detail by The Paleo Mom. Coconut for example is recommended in moderation. I for one cannot tolerate any coconut products at all other than coconut oil, so if in doubt, go easy.
Yes, I am aware that I've just told you chips, chocolate and coffee are out and I'm not even sorry. If you are not already on a standard paleo diet, you may want to make the transition to that way of eating first before attempting the AIP. If you are currently eating a regular western diet heavy in gluten, dairy and refined sugar, you may find the leap just too daunting and quite a shock to the system. However if you are 100% compliant with the AIP, I promise you will reap the rewards and any cravings will subside. Take things at your own pace and do what feels right for your body. Better still, if you can find a paleo dietician to work with they can guide you through the transition.
The AIP diet does not have to be forever but the length of time it takes to heal from one person to another will vary greatly, from anywhere between a few months to a few years. When you feel all your symptoms are totally in remission, you may wish to start making some re-introductions of the eliminated foods. Again, there will be those who can successfully reintroduce eliminated foods back into their diets and others who will need to permanently omit them. Some people may find such great relief in their symptoms that they chose to maintain an AIP diet forever, and it is completely safe to do so.
I can personally attribute the AIP to eliminating most of my symptoms and for making me feel human again on a day to day basis. Yes giving up chocolate and potatoes was cruel, but as a result I no longer consider myself to be a person living with a chronic condition, but somebody who is thriving and nourishing my body everyday. The beauty of the AIP, is that it is a lifestyle factoring in every aspect that contributes to health and wellness and does not just stop at diet. To restore vitality and true health it is also vital to prioritise healthy sleep, stress management, appropriate exercise, and build strong, healthy relationships. All these things work in synergy to bring balance and health to your life, if one is weak, it will undoubtedly have a knock on effect. Take one step at a time and don't try to address everything at once, this is also an exercise in patience.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog is purely based on my own thoughts, views and opinions. I am telling these stories to share my experiences with you. The information does not constitute medical advice of any kind and is not intended to substitute the advice of a medical professional. You should consult with a registered GP for guidance on any health related issues and not make any medical decisions based on the information contained within this site. I have no medical training, I am quite simply a coeliac with a story to share.
This blog tells an ongoing story about me and my journey back to health and happiness. A boho soul always looking for my next European adventure. I am a Coeliac, Yogi, paleo advocate, dreamer, Bon jovi connoisseur, sun worshipper, snuggly jumper wearer and wife to my lovely Paulie.