What’s Inside: Resources and tips for starting your journey using The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Download your AIP Shopping List right 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.
What is the AIP Diet?
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) aims to reduce inflammation and can be a powerful tool along your healing journey. It builds on top of the Paleo diet, with further eliminations that can commonly trigger inflammation for those with chronic digestive conditions and autoimmune disease. It starts with a short-term elimination phase of at least 30-days (and up to 3-months), followed by a 4-stage reintroduction phase.
All the while, including nutrient-dense healing foods such as diverse whole foods, broths, and organ meats, to support healing the gut so you may reintroduce some foods back safely based on your bio-individuality (which basically just means, based on your unique physiology and healing stage).
Everyone’s AIP journey will look different because we are all unique and it is subject to change on our never-ending health and healing journeys because there is no magic pill or quick fix, just the messy day-to-day life!
Can I be candid because I care and I’ve been there? Check your perfectionism at the door and approach this with an open mind and optimistic attitude for the best results. If you can’t do that now, come back to it when you can.
Stress management, sleep, movement, and other lifestyle habits are also strongly linked to the diet and all work synergistically.
This diet is ideal for: Anyone with an autoimmune disease, chronic illness/gut issues, or anyone pre-disposed to one, exhibiting symptoms or wanting to take preventative measures.
I myself was on AIP for a few months and found great success with it in helping my Hashimoto’s symptoms. My antibodies reduced greatly, my energy returned, and much of my inflammation was reduced. Once I began reintroducing foods after the elimination phase, I learned so much about my body and am grateful for the experience. I also found out that overcorrecting with diet is a no-no! Diet is one aspect of health, so I always remind those embarking on the journey not to forget that.
My Tips when going AIP:
- Know before you go. Get clear on the guidelines for everything from the eliminations, the healing foods to include, the reintroductions, and the lifestyle components that all work together (resources for this below).
- Have a timeframe in mind. You should try eliminations for at least 30 days but should consider (depending on how bad your symptoms are) to slowly reintroduce some foods after approx. 6-weeks. Certainly not going past 3-months. Don’t be scared if things are going well and you don’t want to “jinx” it, just go slow at your own pace and adapt it to what works for you, everyone is unique. Your gut microbiome needs diversity, so restricting too long can and will backfire, not to mention the mental effects of missing certain foods!
- VARIETY, VARIETY, VARIETY! While this can be a restrictive diet, you can and will find different foods to incorporate safely within the parameters. You may need to get creative, and hopefully, this meal plan will help you with that.
- Nutrient-density is important. When using a healing diet and making eliminations, you want to focus on crowding in colorful, nutrient-dense foods as well as healing foods like broths, organ meats, seafood, and fermented foods like coconut yogurt or homemade sauerkraut.
- Mind-Body, baby. If you approach the diet with a negative attitude, only focusing on what you can’t have, it will be miserable to get through. Instead, my advice is to approach it like an episode of Chopped (Food Network Fans?), where you a dealt a crazy basket of food that you need to do something with. Be creative, have fun, and be optimistic in knowing you are trying something positive to help support your body’s natural healing process. I highly recommend this book, it really set me up for success mentally.
- Know thyself. If you feel you are getting way worse after a couple of weeks of this… either mentally or physically, you may need to pull the plug and that’s okay. There is no failing here, everyone is different and what works for some doesn’t work for all.
- Get help if you need it. You don’t have to do this alone, even if a doctor referred you to this diet, that doesn’t mean they can help you integrate both the dietary and lifestyle changes to be successful on AIP. Work with an experienced nutritionist, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, or certified AIP coach that can support you (We can help you right here)! If you’re not working with any doctor on your health condition, I recommend finding a Functional Medicine doctor or Naturopath to support you (in person or remotely) – always have a good team on your side.
- Lifestyle habits are just as important as the food. This might not be sexy, but it’s the truth! Managing your sleep, stress, movement, and other key aspects of your mental/emotional/physical health will all fit synergistically with diet. A common pitfall I see (and have even succumb to myself) is overcorrecting with diet… please just don’t. Diet is one aspect of your health… try it, and try other things too. Promise, I’m lovingly blunt and want to help you!
- Tell your loved ones (especially the ones you live with). Make sure they understand this is important to you and while they may not be joining you, their support will make it much smoother. If they’ll be eating foods around you that make you feel FOMO, kindly ask them to be respectful. On social occasions, work events, holidays, and travel (likely at least one of those things may occur during AIP!)… be prepared with snacks and scope out menus/grocery stores nearby where you can find food for yourself. Remember, this is temporary, and you will find a balance in the future when you’re feeling better. I have more to say on eating at home with picky eaters as well as tips for travel/holiday right here for you!
The premise: Paleo diet with further restrictions to reduce common digestive and Autoimmune triggers. There is a removal and re-introduction period of at least 30-days of common allergens: eggs, nightshades, nuts, seeds, chocolate, alcohol, legumes, certain spices. Reintroductions are just as important as the eliminations, plan accordingly.
Common benefits of the AIP diet
While everyone’s journey is different, these are common benefits you may notice when trying the AIP diet.
- Reduced inflammation and joint pain
- Better energy and increased focus
- Better digestion
- Weight loss/balance
- Better sleep
- Clearer skin
- Improved blood markers for antibodies
- More clarity on foods that are causing problems in the body
Getting Started with AIP
1. Review the Resources
If you’re new to AIP, be sure you are informed on how to do it. Everyone’s healing journey is unique but there are helpful guidelines that can make or break your experience. Here are key resources you’ll want to bookmark.
- If nothing else, be sure to at least buy this book and absorb it all: The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook >>
- Read up on what to do and not to do so you avoid pitfalls from the creator herself: AIP Do’s and Dont’s by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne >>
- Bookmark this helpful summary from Eileen along with other great resources: What you need to know via Phoenix Helix >>
- Learn more about results from medical studies: AIP Medical Study Results (2017) >>
- Hear about recovery stories here: Stories of Recovery via Autoimmune Wellness >>
- It all goes back to the health of your gut! Know more about your gut health and the importance of microbiome diversity (and why varying up your foods is crucial even on an elimination diet): About Diet & Microbiome Diversity >>
- The mental and emotional aspects to both healing and food are real, these books are a must for digging into healing beyond what’s on your plate with or without AIP: Anatomy of The Spirit by Caroline Myss >> and The Loving Diet by Jessica Flanigan >> and I also love Dr. Keesha Ewers on the topic of resolving trauma on your healing journey and with Autoimmune Disease.
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner tip: Try going Paleo consistently for 30-days before attempting AIP since Paleo is at the base of AIP and it will be a much smoother transition both physically and mentally.
2. Get Organized
Now that you’re briefed and learning more about the AIP diet. It’s time to organize the kitchen and know what you’re avoiding and what you’re eating. Plan a day to toss what you no longer need to free up space for what you’ll be enjoying while on AIP eliminations.
Foods to avoid on AIP
In addition to following the Paleo template which is gluten-, grain-, soy-, legume-, dairy-free, these foods are eliminated during the elimination phase of AIP.
- nightshades (foods and spices), including tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, all peppers, eggplants, goji berries, ashwagandha, tobacco
- certain spices (fruit- and seed-based), including allspice, anise, annatto, canola, caraway, cardamom, celery seed, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, juniper, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, poppy
- certain vegetable oils, including canola, vegetable, corn, soybean, safflower
- nuts and seeds
- food additives, such as refined or added sugars
NOW, Let’s focus on the goodies you CAN HAVE…
Foods to enjoy on AIP
Veggies: Greens, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, leeks, fennel, squash, zucchini, broccoli sprouts and microgreens, cabbage, beets, cucumbers, onions, garlic.
Fruit: Apples, bananas, citrus, berries, pears, kiwifruit, avocado, coconut, plantains, pineapple, mango, pomegranates, cranberries, peaches, plums.
Meat, Fish, & Seafood: Grass-fed red meat like lamb, beef, bison, Organic & free-range/pasture-raised poultry like turkey, chicken, duck. Wild Salmon, cod, sole, tilapia, canned wild salmon, canned Tongol or Skipjack Tuna (lower in mercury), canned sardines, anchovies in water, organic shrimp, scallops, and shellfish, organ meats (and they should be included regularly)
Fresh/Dried Herbs & Seasonings: Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Sage, Cilantro, Oregano, Marjoram, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Sea Salt, Garlic Salt/Powder, Onion Salt/Powder, Ginger, Basil, Dill.
Healing foods to incorporate regularly: Organ meats (such as liver), broths, and fermented foods like coconut yogurt, water/coconut water kefir, or plain saurkraut.
Fats and cooking oils: Coconut butter (sometimes called “manna”), Canned Coconut cream, Canned Full-fat coconut milk, Extra-virgin olive oil, Avocado oil, Lard, schmaltz, tallow, Virgin coconut oil
Pantry items: Cassava flour, Coconut flour, Pumpkin purée, Sweet potato purée, Medjool dates, Applesauce (unsweetened), Balsamic vinegar, Red wine vinegar, Apple cider vinegar, Capers, Olives, Nutritional Yeast
3. Use Meal Plans
Having some guidance and time-saving, delicious recipes organized for you will keep you flowing! The fewer decisions you have to make means less stress for you and that’s key to your success.
Grab my FREE 7-day Meal Plan right here filled with my popular, tasty AIP recipes. (family-friendly, too!)
4. Have the right tools
You don’t need to be McGuiver or a formerly-trained chef, but making sure your kitchen is stocked and that you have the tools you need to make this as brainless as possible is exactly what you want. Fumbling and stumbling in the kitchen or wasting several hours cooking and cleaning when you’re already tired and busy isn’t going to help you stay consistent. Don’t throw in the towel because of that! Check out this list for kitchen tools and shopping resources.
- InstantPot, or Electric Pressure Cooker (to save time on comforting, hearty meals)
- Slow Cooker (for homemade bone broth)
- Glass Storage Containers (for meal prep and leftovers, ditch the BPA as a part of your healing, too)
- Spiralizer (for veggie noodles)
- Cast Iron Cookware (ditch Teflon or PFOA-filled cookware and upgrade to something healthier that will last a lifetime) and if you are in need of a healthier non-stick replacement, my favorite is right here!
Find ethically, sustainably-sourced meat and fish to stock your freezer with locally or online right here:
- GrassRoots Coop (regenerative agriculture farmers, grass-fed and pastured)
- U.S. Wellness Meats (grass-fed and pastured)
- Sizzlefish (Wild-caught seafood)
- VitalChoice (Wild-caught seafood)
Here are some great one-stop shops for you to find AIP-compliant convenience foods and staples like sauces, condiments, travel snacks, baking mixes, and more!
My thoughts on the accessibility of these types of foods. Luckily, these types of foods and products are becoming more available thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, but that doesn’t always mean it’s attainable based on your budget or where you live.
Do your best with sourcing food and remember it’s always progress over perfection. By crowding your plates with more whole foods, staying well hydrated, and cutting out the processed junk… you’re already making immense progress. When trying AIP, just know that you are committing to upping the anty on that (so-to-speak), but part of healing means being prepared while minimizing your stress. So if it’s stressing you out, do what you can.
Adding stress to your life over trying to find the best organic kale or grass-fed, grass-finished beef can cause inflammation too… let’s be real! Do your best, and don’t sweat the rest. You got this!
5. Reintroduce Foods & Find Your Balance
Remember to mark your calendar to start reintroductions after your elimination phase (which is at least 30-days and up to 3-months).
6. Embrace the Lifestyle
Once you reintroduce foods and find your groove on your healing journey, you’ll want to surround yourself with like-minded people to cheer you on and support you. Finding an accountability partner, a friend, or building a network of other “spoonies” (chronic illness peeps) or generally health-conscious people is how you normalize this and stay consistent. And when I say, “stay consistent”, I don’t mean by constantly eliminating or restricting yourself… I simply mean with taking care of yourself and progressing on your healing journey because it’s just not a one-and-done type of situation!
Personally, networking, making friends, having a strong health team of doctors/practitioners, and filling my cup with good resources and tools I can leverage at anytime keeps this stress-free and even fun because I can see the growth and progress I’ve made!
If you’re in need of a community of like-minded women, I have an amazing group coaching and cooking community called Nourishing You! We learn together, uplift one another, and share in our experience so we aren’t feeling alone or like it’s an impossible task. You’re welcome to learn more about that right here!
You can also subscribe to some great podcasts, and follow some tasty, knowledgeable food accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. The more this stuff is accessible to you and in your face, the more it sticks.
Check out these accounts for more inspiration:
- Michelle at Unbound Wellness: Blog | Instagram
- Annika at 50 Shades of Avocado (and our AIP/Nourishing You Coach!): Blog | Instagram
- Kate at Healing Family Eats: Blog | Instagram
- Eileen at Phoenix Helix: Blog | Podcast
- Nicole at Heal Me Delicious: Instagram | Blog
- Cristina at Castaway Kitchen: Blog | Instagram
- Ambra at Little Bites of Beauty: Blog | Instagram
- Mickey and Angie at Autoimmune Wellness: Blog | Instagram
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