Looking for some recommended reading about the AIP, autoimmune disease or maybe an AIP cookbook? You can find my recommendations on the Resources Page, be sure to check them out! – Click here.
Goodness knows you’ve been working hard at taking good care of yourself now that you’re on the AIP, there’s a lot of cooking and prepping and learning to be done and you’re probably exhausted. That said, now’s a good time to consider some of the self-care aspects of the protocol we need to address.
Jump over to the Self-Care page – click here – for some additional information and resources on self-care, support, community, exercise, sleep and stress management.
“Healing is a journey … not a destination.”
Along the way we all need some encouragement and motivation. From time to time we all get incredibly frustrated, fed up cooking every meal, reading every label, completely ready to throw in the towel and start eating a bag of cookies! I get it, I’ve been there too!
Visit the Motivation page – click here – for advice and encouragement that will help you keep moving forward on your autoimmune healing journey. You’re not alone … you’ve got this!
So, you’re ready to start the AIP, you’ve read the information but aren’t quite sure you’re comfortable to go it alone. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one!
If you’re trying to determine the best route to take, be sure to read more on our Coaching page – click here for lots more information and resources.
Looking for resources beyond what you’re finding in the FAQ section?
I’ve created this post so you don’t miss out on the valuable information on our Resources Page – click here to be redirected.
“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
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.
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 to help us begin healing from the inside out.
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.
And finally, I must mention that to be truly successful on your journey to autoimmune wellness you will also need to consider additional 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.
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.
If you’re here and find yourself asking whether the AIP is really for you, or if it’s something everyone should try, you should read this post – Should Everyone Follow the AIP.
Online Resources & Reading:
If you aren’t able 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 article) by The Paleo Mom, 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 the creator 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 or if you’ve been on the AIP a while but feel you really don’t have a grasp of it. It contains the whats, whys and hows 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.
Now that we’ve covered what the AIP is and the basics of where to get started (that’s found in Start Here Part 1 if you missed it) and you’re feeling a little more comfortable with the concept, we can move on and dig in to some additional resources you may find helpful and enjoyable (watch for the links in the paragraphs below and click).
Food Lists – If you haven’t read up on this yet, be sure to check out the details on my Food Lists page. This is pretty essential, so be sure to concentrate your efforts here next.
Mental Preparation – While it’s logical, it may not be obvious that we need to take a moment and prepare mentally for the AIP. You deserve a moment to be angry, (because like I’ve said elsewhere on this site, Grieving Over Illness is a real part of your healing journey) but this is about more than that. You need to establish your baseline, pump yourself up with a few positive affirmations (I know it sounds corny but it really helps throughout your challenging times and sends positive messages to your brain and body for healing), be sure to give yourself permission not to be perfect (it’s next to impossible to be PERFECTLY AIP all the time), be thankful and then put on our big girl/boy pants and get on with it! Check out Angie Alt’s post on Autoimmune Wellness, 6 Ways to Mentally Prep for the AIP (click here for the article).
Keep It Simple – This is probably my TOP tip! I talk about it in my motivational post, but I also recommend this post by Autoimmune Wellness, 5 Ways to Keep It Simple on the AIP (click here for the article), which talks about keeping your focus on nutrient density, a few good kitchen tools, using a basic approach to meals instead of complicated recipes, keeping convenience products in their place and avoiding trying to make too many changes all at once.
Kitchen Tools – I get asked a LOT what kitchen tools are essential for the AIP, so I’ll quickly refer you to a couple of great references: #1 Go to the Autoimmune Wellness website Resources page and click on Our Favorite Kitchen Tools (click here for the page) for a list of suggestions, #2 Check out the Kitchen Tour (click here for the page) feature on their website where average AIP-ers share their kitchen set ups so you can be inspired to get into your kitchen (these features include suggestions for kitchen tools and gadgets too and people are featured by the autoimmune disease that they’re coping with). I’m flattered to have been included back in July of 2018, and you can check out my kitchen tour here.
Digging Deeper – If you’ve made it this far and you’re still hungry for more information or maybe you’re trying to do some diagnostics on your AIP efforts, check out my next post of recommendations where you can dig deeper into do’s and don’ts, troubleshooting and more – click here for Digging Deeper & Troubleshooting – Start Here Part 3.
Unfortunately there may come a time when you feel it’s one step forward and two steps back. In cases like this you might want to dig a bit deeper into the do’s and don’ts and do a little troubleshooting.
I’m going to get on my soapbox here for a moment here,
so brace yourselves!
TRACKING – There is a REAL need for proper tracking and monitoring to know what’s working and what’s not. By tracking, I mean everything we consume, what we do daily (work, sleep, exercise, relaxation, self-care), our stress levels, reactions to food, medications and more – this can be more than just an upset tummy so if you’re not sure what else this may include, read up on reintroductions (even though you may not be to that stage yet), things to watch for include itching, skin problems, dizziness, pain, congestion etc. I call this type of tracking a food/mood/poop journal, and yes, it is a real thing! If you’re not doing it, I highly recommend you look into it (one of these days I’m going to write a post about it), but for now you should know a few things: 1) Reactions to foods, supplements, etc. can happen up to 72 hours later (trust me – you’re not going to remember this type of detail 3 days later unless you journal it!), 2) While the AIP is NOT about weight loss I highly recommend you weigh yourself every morning and keep track of it – reactions can come by way of subtle inflammation, and weight fluctuations can help you pin-point your triggers, 3) You don’t need to buy anything fancy or find some special app for this – I used an Excel spreadsheet and kept it in the cloud so I could update it on the go. The best part about a spreadsheet is it’s searchable, so I could easily look back when exploring problems and reactions.
GIVE IT AN HONEST SHOT – It’s only by truly giving the Autoimmune Protocol your full attention that you’ll really know what’s working and what’s not. The Elimination Stage is 30 days minimum, but 60 – 90 days is not uncommon before most see marked improvement in symptoms. Don’t expect miracles … slow and steady wins the AIP race. IF after giving it a REAL and HONEST shot you’re not seeing seeing the improvement you expected it is time to start the troubleshooting process as you may be dealing with underlying issues that you may need professional help to get to the bottom of and start treating.
DID YOU REALLY? – I hate to be a nag, but did you REALLY give it an honest shot? Did you really follow the protocol properly? First and foremost, if you’re struggling but have never considered The Autoimmune Protocol book by Dr. Ballantyne, I will again suggest it to you. Not only does she include information about the basics and reintroductions, but she includes troubleshooting as well. If you’re honestly ready to start troubleshooting, keep reading.
Do’s & Don’ts
I’ve saved this until part three because I really want you to keep it simple starting out, and because, let’s face it, nobody wants to be faced with an even LONGER list of restrictions and directions after trying to adjust to the foods allowed and omitted. This article by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, AIP Do’s and Don’ts (click for article), is an amazing compilation of issues she’s helped people like us work through on their healing journeys. There are almost literally a bazillion links to other articles shared in her post, so if you’re not feeling up to digging really deep at this point, be careful to look at this with a more high-level or basic approach – read the introduction and them simply consider each numbered headline and assess whether it’s something you think might be one of your pitfalls, something you’re skipping or not giving enough attention to on your journey. Once you determine your weaknesses, look further at those as a starting point – don’t read items that don’t apply to you, this will only cause yourself overwhelm and confusion.
Progress & Patience
So, you think the AIP isn’t working or your healing journey has stalled? Read what Mickey Trescott of Autoimmune Wellness has to say about this in her article here – How to Gauge Success on the AIP When Progress Isn’t Obvious. Another common pitfall is our own impatience, and who can blame us, we just want to feel better! check out Eileen Baird’s article here – Is Your Impatience An Obstacle to Healing?
Probably the best article I’ve read on this topic is written by Mickey Trescott of Autoimmune Wellness. She delves into when you do and when you don’t need to troubleshoot, first steps to troubleshooting, three areas to explore and her own personal experience troubleshooting the AIP. Click here to read the full article – Troubleshooting the Autoimmune Protocol – A Guide.
If you’ve comet this far and still don’t know where you’re going wrong, please check out my Coaching Page – this is where you’ll find more resources for getting the helping hand you need.