“Strict” AIP is NOT a Life-Sentence
The AIP is meant to be approached in stages – elimination, reintroduction and maintenance. Unfortunately, reintroducing foods often intimidates people because they fear either the process or the potential reactions, and they get STUCK … stuck on the STRICT AIP elimination stage for too long, which is not healthy for body or mind. On the flip side some are too impatient and try to add foods back in too quickly making their efforts futile.
By now I hope you’ve read up on the AIP and understand the three stages to the dietary process. If not, please go back to step #1 and be sure to get a good grasp of it all.
To re-cap, the reintroduction stage is where the real food-trials come in. You’ve removed the most commonly reactive foods from your diet, and now you’ll be adding them back in, sloooooowly, in a specific order (most nutrient dense options first) one at a time to determine if you are reactive to any of them.
So … when can you get started?
I know I’ve said this a few times but the AIP is meant to be a template, it’s a very personal protocol and eating plan and so too goes the topic of reintroductions. For some, a minimum 30 day of elimination stage is fine, for others it might take 60 or 90 days or much longer (months or years in some cases – but it’s really not as bad as it sounds). Bottom line, there’s no one right answer for everyone … it’s personal!!
My Functional Medicine Practitioner recommends not starting the reintroduction phase until you’re “symptom free” (or have seen some significant improvements) … and obviously this varies by person and condition.
Your body needs time to “rest and digest” … “recover and repair” … basically, you need to be in an un-inflamed state before you try reintroducing foods, otherwise you may never really know what you’re sensitivities are.
To put timing in perspective, because I know you REALLY want to know how long you’re into this for, think of it this way … you didn’t get sick over night, your digestive and immune system didn’t take one hit that caused them to fritz! For many, it’s likely that your body has been taking some abuse in the form of poor eating and drinking habits for a while and it’s just been a long slippery slope into your current state of dis-ease. Realistically then it’s going to take some time to un-do those things, bring inflammation down and improve your gut function. Thankfully our bodies are miraculous and can heal if we give them the tools for the job.
If you’re struggling after 30, 60 or 90 days and feel you should be ready, step back and look at your situation honestly. Have you addressed all of the other areas of the AIP as well? Stress, exercise/gentle movement and environmental toxins are a couple that can play a huge role in your recovery, and if you’ve been avoiding addressing these, they may well be what’s stalling your progress. Beyond this there are other factors to consider too and you may want to consider this article on Troubleshooting the AIP.
Some may want to rush into reintros, but remember … slow and steady wins the AIP Race!
Resist the urge to start too soon and resist the urge to wing it when it comes to reintroductions. You’ve put in 30-90 days (or maybe even more) on the elimination stage, don’t waste that effort by throwing in the towel or choosing to decide for yourself how best to reintroduce foods.
The elimination stage was meant to heal your body, and if you’ve been patient and are really feel quite well, reintroductions will likely be an easy process for you. Starting with a “clean slate” so to speak will allow your body to speak to you when you’ve reintroduced something that is not agreeing with you.
That said, be sure to follow a systematic plan of reintroduction when the time comes, including keeping a food and symptom journal (more about that in the resources below).
So, how do you get started? Following are the guides and resources I recommend you consider for best results.
Reintroduction Guides & Resources:
This is my number one, go-to resource for ALL stages of the AIP, so I’m recommending it again in case you still don’t have it – The Autoimmune Protocol ebook – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne