While I’m not about to delve deep into the science behind the AIP or attempt to re-write some exceptionally well presented and well researched material that’s already available online and in print, I will give you a quick synapses here and send you on your way with links to what the experts have to say.
AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol, or as some call it, the Autoimmune Paleo diet. This diet however, differs considerably from the standard Paleo diet, so this is where we need to start. Let’s dispel any myths and give you a good foundational understanding of the AIP, the whats and whys.
The AIP is a modified version of the Paleo Diet that focuses on nutrient density (more heavily weighted in veggies than meat, which is more Paleo-style) and lifestyle changes that support your immune system and remove inflammatory stimuli from both diet and lifestyle. I quote Dr. Ballantyne, who had a founding role in the AIP, below:
” The AIP is a complementary approach to chronic disease management focused on providing the body with the nutritional resources required for immune regulation, gut health (which includes gut barrier, microbiome, gut-relevant hormones, digestion, and detoxification), hormone regulation and tissue healing while removing inflammatory stimuli from both diet and lifestyle.”
The approach simplifies foods into two categories, either they promote health (nutrients) or they undermine health (because they have inflammatory compounds). That said, the protocol calls for stricter guidelines for which foods should be eliminated from our diet (as compared to the Paleo diet) to help us begin healing from the inside out.
“The AIP diet is designed to be balanced, complete and nutrient-sufficient, meaning that it supplies ample and synergistic quantities of all essential and non-essential nutrients. As such, the Autoimmune Protocol places greater emphasis on the most nutrient-dense foods in our food supply, including organ meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit and mushrooms, rounding out with other quality meats, fresh herbs, safe spices, and healthy fats.”
Done properly, the AIP should provide you with a well-round and balanced diet of healthy, satisfying foods. There are THREE phases to the protocol – elimination, reintroduction and maintenance.
The elimination stage of this diet is used as a template that is to be personalized and then built on, depending on each person’s own health condition, diagnosis and circumstances – it is NOT a one-size fits all approach – and it is NOT overly restrictive, as some may believe.
“While the stronger focus is on what to eat, rather than what to avoid, the AIP is simultaneously an elimination diet strategy, cutting out the foods that are most likely to be holding back our health.”
“The AIP respects bioindividuality and strongly encourages self-discovery through 3-phases: elimination, reintroduction and maintenance. The AIP is a toolbox full of strategies for understanding how your body reacts to foods, lifestyle and your environment and methodologies for healing given your individual health challenges.”
And finally, I must mention that to be truly successful on your journey to autoimmune wellness you will also need to consider lifestyle changes beyond just what goes into your body. Your environment, stress, emotions, products you use daily in your home and on your body can also have significant impact on your healing journey.
“The AIP lifestyle encourages sufficient sleep, stress management, plenty of activity, nature time, and healthy connection as these are important immune modulators and influence both gut health and hormone health.”
Where to Begin?
It’s important not to get stuck in the rut of research, but you should understand the fundamental principles of what you’re about to embark on so you get off on the best foot.
First and foremost, get your hands on the best resource going! The Autoimmune Protocol as written by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is the best resource you can own. The investment is small and more than worthwhile, complete with essential food lists, meal plans, the basics of the protocol, how to get started (a slow transition or cold turkey), how to reintroduce foods correctly when you get to that stage and more! Get your copy and read it as soon as you can – everything else is really just extra.
Is the AIP For Everyone?
If you’re here and find yourself asking whether the AIP is really for you, or if it’s something everyone should try, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s post on her website addresses this perfectly. The following is a brief summary, but you can read the full post here if you wish – Should Everyone Follow the AIP.
“It (the AIP) isn’t just for people with autoimmune disease! Inflammation is a factor in all chronic illnesses, and this is one area where the foods we eat can make a huge difference. Reducing inflammation and giving the immune system the resources it needs, as well as the opportunity, to regulate itself, can help in every single chronic illness, not just autoimmune disease.
The AIP is not a substitute for your doctor, but instead is compatible with informed and judicious use of conventional medicine interventions, pharmaceuticals, and supplements, and fully embraces functional medicine.
In short, the AIP is a collection of best practices related to diet and lifestyle, not to the exclusion of additional treatments or interventions, that can be individualized to address specific circumstances and goals, framed in the context of a person whose health challenges imply a lower resilience to suboptimal choices.”
Online Resources & Reading:
If you’re unable to purchase the above reference book, this would be your next best place to begin … or … you might suggest these links to family and friends who are trying to grasp what it is that you’re doing to help improve your health.
What is the AIP? (click here for the full article) by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (the creator of the protocol) is a more scientific approach to explaining the healing journey you’re about to embark upon, and it goes into greater detail than the article below by Angie Alt. (NOTE: Updates to the Autoimmune Protocol were announced in the Spring of 2019 when Dr. Ballantyne’s updated, The Autoimmune Protocol book was released. With that came several new posts online to help folks clarify and get a brief overview of the whats and whys of the changes. You can read more online about them here on her website Updates to the Autoimmune Protocol, but for the most part, updates are applicable to the reintroduction phase of the protocol.)
The 3 Phases of the Autoimmune Protocol (click here for the article) by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is a little different – her description of the three phases is more what I think to be appropriate (and she is after all one of the pioneers of the protocol), but both have merit. You’ll always find that Dr. Ballantyne’s approach is more scientific and clinical than that you’ll see on the Autoimmune Wellness website. Both have their own approach and both are amazing in their own ways.
Looking for a more abbreviated version? What is AIP? – The Definitive Guide (click here for the article) by Angie Alt of Autoimmune Wellness is a fantastic resource if you’re just starting out and need to know more about the AIP (including the lifestyle factors) or if you’ve been on the AIP a while but feel you really don’t have a grasp of it. It contains the what’s, why’s and how’s in a “brief” (considering the magnitude of the subject) overview.
If you’re struggling to explain the AIP to friends and family, I have to tell you I love the “Elevator Speech” portion of this guide – just awesome!
This is simply a WONDERFUL all-round article for EVERYONE on the AIP, considering the AIP or trying to support a loved one faced with autoimmune issues and the AIP
20 Keys to Success on The AIP (click here for the article) by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is a great post of exceptional advice. A lot of this information is included in her book but this is a great read and reminder.
Quick Start Guide (click here for the guide) from Autoimmune Wellness is a series of emails that include food lists, meal plans, videos, tips and e-guides that you can sign up for. Great, reliable information from one of my top resources.
Need a Helping Hand?
If you know you’re likely going to face challenges transitioning and sticking to the AIP, please check out my Coaching Page – this is where you’ll find more resources for getting the helping hand you need.
Looking for MORE?
For the sake of brevity and to keep this post simple and concentrated to the very basics of getting started on the AIP, I’ll save the “more” for another post that you can find here – Beginner Resources – Start Here Part 2.