What’s Inside: Resources and tips for reintroducing foods after the elimination phase of The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Download your FREE AIP reintroduction journal to use here!
Disclaimer: The content and information in these resources are for educational purposes only. It isn’t intended to replace the advice of a physician or medical practitioner. Please see your healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, health program, or interventions.
Cue the confetti drop! You’re reintroducing foods on AIP! After the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol, which can range anywhere from 1-month up to 3-months depending on your journey… comes the reintroduction phase. This phase is just as important and it should not be missed! If you’re new to AIP, check out my starter guide and free 7-day meal plan.
It’s important to remember that the elimination phase is a wide-swipe attempt at giving your body a break while healing. Some non-AIP foods could work great with your body and alternatively, some AIP foods could be bothersome to you. It all goes back to bio-individuality, but you won’t know until eliminating and reintroducing. So, respect the process!
Healing is a journey, not a one-stop destination. Just as with eliminations, you are working on healing by eating nutrient-dense foods, lifestyle changes like focusing on sleep, stress management, and movement, and possibly more interventions like supplements or medication in the care of a doctor or practitioner.
Now, in the reintroduction phase, the focus is to get more in tune with your body as you challenge bringing these foods back into your diet. This can be such an eye-opening journey!
When is it time to reintroduce foods on AIP?
After at least 30 consecutive days on the elimination phase of AIP, you can start reintroductions. Everyone is unique and if you’re working with a practitioner who recommends otherwise (and you agree), or are feeling like you’re not quite feeling the best yet, you can hold off a little longer. But do not exceed 3 months. In my practice, I tend to recommend no more than 6-weeks especially if it’s a source of stress. Know yourself and what you can handle.
If you’re feeling, like, really good after eliminations and you’re thinking of totally skipping reintroductions… it’s time for Mama Alison to snap you back into reality. That’s not a thing. In fact, it will likely backfire on you and I’ve seen it dozens of times. You could develop more food sensitivities, plateau, or decline due to a lack of diversity of nutrients in the diet causing more dysbiosis, and in general, could dramatically damage your relationship to food and your social life (that’s a big deal). You’re still healing and this is a part of it, even if you only get 1 or 2 foods back this round, you keep going and try again.
On the flip-flop, if it’s been the max amount of time around 3-months on the elimination phase and you still aren’t feeling relief, it’s definitely time to get more help. You can find a Functional/Integrative doctor or Naturopath to help dig deeper into your condition and/or a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Functional Nutritionist, AIP Coach, etc. to help reintroduce with you and look at your overall nutrition. And of course, there are other types of practitioners like Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, etc. to help you depending on what you need. I’d also highly recommend looking at your stress-levels and lifestyle because this is often the easiest to ignore. If you need therapy, a vacation, or something else — it’s time to pay attention and take care of it.
Diet is only one aspect of your health, do your best not to overcorrect with diet alone while ignoring everything else. And you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out for help, this is your health we are talking about, and you deserve support.
You need diversity in your diet
A major component of gut health (and thus your overall health) is largely related to microbiome diversity. A diverse array of gut bacteria is protective to us in many ways, so by providing your microbiome with a variety of food, you’ll promote having many different species of healthy bacteria in the gut.
You may supplement with probiotics for this of course, but as Dr. Datis Kharrazian has observed, one of the most effective ways to truly feed a diverse gut microbiome is by eating plentiful amounts of many different kinds of vegetables and fruits for balance within the microbiome.
Dr. Terry Wahls, a physician who reversed her Multiple Sclerosis using the Paleo template, also emphasizes the importance of vegetables in the diet. Her research showed that vegetables contain 31 micronutrients that our bodies require to heal, and so the focus of quality, variety, and quantity of vegetables in the diet was a linchpin to her healing transformation.
How to track reintroductions on AIP
- Firstly, get organized. Using the food stage chart below, pick which foods you want to reintroduce in each group and schedule them on your calendar, staggering at least 3 days in between each food. For example, if you reintroduce egg yolks on Monday AM, you won’t reintroduce the next item on the list until Thursday AM at the earliest. Also, if you know you’ll have your menstruation or are traveling at a certain time, skip reintroducing those days because it may skew your data.
- Keep a Food and Mood Journal to track reactions, symptoms, changes, etc. This is key! Your body will be communicating with you and it’s important to track it with pen and paper so you can review all the data. You’ll want to track anything physical, mental, or emotional you feel with each food you try and highlight any other variables that might have instead caused a reaction (such as an unexpected “sick day”, menstruation, or generally stressful time). Just write it all down from the day you eat the food and the 3 days after.
- Decide on what stays or what needs to be revisited. Review the data in your food/mood journal at the end of the week and determine the next steps before you attempt to reintroduce the next food. If you start overlapping, you’ll feel confused about which food caused which symptom.
How to reintroduce a food on AIP
*Reintroducing foods on AIP is more nuanced than a standard reintroduction protocol I’ve found. Below are specific directions from AutoimmuneWellness.com:
- Select a food to reintroduce from the stages chart.
- Start with half a teaspoon or less and wait 15 minutes. If there are reactions, stop.
- If there are no reactions, eat one full teaspoon and wait 15 more minutes. If there are reactions, stop.
- If there are no reactions, eat one-and-a-half teaspoons and wait two-three hours. If there are reactions, do not go any further.
- If there are no reactions, eat a normal portion of the food and wait 3–7 days. Do not reintroduce any other foods and track reactions during this time. (Many reactions could indicate a potential food sensitivity, but the most obvious is a return of your autoimmune symptoms.)
- If there are no reactions different from your improved baseline after the AIP elimination phase, that food can be brought back into your diet and you can begin another reintroduction.
- Be aware that you may find a food is tolerated when you eat it occasionally, but not when eaten regularly.
You might be wondering if doing a food sensitivity blood draw would be easier at this point. Hey, maybe! But here’s the thing, even with a food sensitivity test… using this reintroduction method is still considered the “gold standard”. There’s no “reintroduction test” aside from manually doing this work at the moment and repeated lab costs can add up. Knowing how to tune into your symptoms is priceless. It may seem confusing at times, but stick with it! You’re not alone!
There are 4-stages to reintroducing foods on AIP
(list as of Jan’21)
You won’t just casually try daily coffee or almond butter on day 31 because you miss it… fight the urge! You’ll want to follow this schedule as outlined by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne and AutoimmuneWellness.com for the best results. You’ve done all the hard work, now it’s time to see it through.
- Egg yolks
- Fruit-, berry-, and seed-based spices
- Seed and nut oils
- Ghee (grass-fed)
- Occasional coffee
- Cocoa or chocolate
- Peas and legumes with edible pods (green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, etc.)
- Legume sprouts
- Chia seeds
- Coffee on a daily basis
- Egg whites
- Grass-fed butter
- Alcohol in small quantities
- Sweet peppers
- Peeled potatoes
- Grass-fed dairy
- Lentils, split peas, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Chili peppers and nightshade spices
- Unpeeled potatoes
- Alcohol in larger quantities
- Gluten-free grains and pseudograins such as quinoa
- Traditionally prepared (soaked/sprouted) or fermented legumes
- White rice
- Specific foods you are sensitive to
Always be rotating… your foods, that is
Whether it’s a reintroduction food or otherwise, both variety in your diet and switching up the frequency is key to avoid further developing food sensitivities. I recommend rotating foods, especially ones that are “maybe” types of foods. So often, the poison is really in the dose. Let’s say having 1 cup of coffee or 1 serving of chocolate is fine at first, but daily… woof, not so much! Simply rotate it and experiment with “the dose”. Have it every other day or once a week… this is a great way to find your bio-individual balance, eat more intuitively, and not feel dependent on a specific food.
Need more recipe ideas? I’ve got tons of Paleo and AIP-friendly recipes you can use at any stage of healing right here.
Reminders and Advice:
Symptoms are messages from your body, not failures. Rather than feeling crushed by a symptom or flare-up, tune into them, read them, listen to your body and take action as best you can.
Your body wants to heal. When we start taking our health into our own hands it can feel like we have to be in control of every bodily function through diet and supplements. That’s a slippery slope to burned-out-ville, friend! Avoid it… have respect for your body, even when you feel confused by it, it’s doing so much more for you daily than you could ever realize.
Healing isn’t linear, it’s messy… so check your perfectionism at the door. Sometimes surrendering control and laughing at ourselves is the best medicine. You’re here so you’re already doing your very best… let it unfold for you.
Attitude makes a difference in your experience. If you’re fearing foods, fearing reactions, or thinking negatively about this part of the journey… recognize it and give yourself some grace. Return to your “why” and get help if you need it.
Wishing you so much luck, love, and grace during this time. I’m cheering you on every step of the way! If you’re looking for more support from me on reintroductions, making this a lifestyle, and a community of like-minded women to grow with… learn more about my coaching and cooking membership right here!