Autoimmune diseases can damage the lining of the small intestines and cause leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability. When this happens, the intestine lets the food and wastes enter the bloodstream, thereby resulting in inflammation.
An autoimmune diet is an approach to alleviate the undesirable inflammation in a person’s body with a structured food consumption pattern. The AIP diet heals the gut and reduces inflammation. Research has found that an AIP diet can improve the quality of life in as early as 3 weeks(1).
Around 1 in 5 Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases.
Benefits of AIP Diet
The AIP diet is a life-changing diet for those with autoimmune diseases. Here are some of the benefits of following this diet.
- The diet reduces inflammation in the gut while also healing the gut. This works towards reducing the symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome.
- Foods recommended in AIP Diet are dense in nutrients that can remedy the effects of inflammation. Even those without autoimmune diseases can benefit greatly from consuming nutrient-rich food.
- Your gut has bacteria that are actually beneficial to your overall health. The AIP diet helps these bacteria thrive.
- The AIP diet is a great way to discover which foods trigger certain symptoms. Once you have narrowed down the foods that impact you negatively, you can make sure to avoid them.
Foods to Include in AIP Diet
AIP diet involves a range of good fats and proteins. The following are the food items that can be consumed when you are in the AIP Diet.
- Vegetables: Beet, cauliflower, cucumber, carrots, cabbage, kale, asparagus, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, sweet potato, spinach
- Proteins: Fish, beef, chicken, lamb, duck, shellfish, turkey, pork, bison, bone broth, and organ meat
- Fruits: Kiwis, apples, coconuts, avocado, berries, cherries, figs, dates, grapes, citrus, bananas, apricots, mangoes, watermelon, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, pears, peaches
- Fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, palm oil, chicken fat, beef tallow
- Herbs and Spices: Turmeric, garlic, ginger, basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, mint, saffron, parsley, peppermint, thyme, cilantro, sage
Other foods allowed in the AIP diet entail honey, coconut milk, and apple cider vinegar.
Foods to Avoid in AIP Diet
It is necessary to avoid foods that can trigger autoimmune diseases when you are following the AIP diet. The following are the foods to be strictly avoided.
- Grains and Gluten: Rice, oats, wheat, millet, quinoa
- Dairy: Butter, cream, cheese, yogurt, ghee, milk
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, kidney beans, soybeans, black beans
- Nightshade vegetables: Tomato, potato, eggplant, bell peppers, spicy peppers, ground cherries
- Nuts and Seeds: Almond, cashews, Brazil nuts, flax, cocoa, canola, coffee chia, pistachio, pumpkin, hazelnut
- Spices: Fennel, cumin, nutmeg, poppy seeds, black pepper, anise, mustard
- Food dyes
- Processed sugar
A Day in AIP Diet
You can start with the classic AIP breakfast. Take ground meat of your choice (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) and season it with your choice of herbs. Then cook the meat properly and add chopped veggies (kale and cabbage) and stir the mix for a few minutes. Don’t overcook the veggies. Season more according to your taste and serve. It can also be stored in the fridge, up to a week.
Another sweet AIP breakfast dish is Tigernut Waffles. This is an egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free and nut-free recipe. Serve these crispy, fluffy, and delicious waffles with bananas. This can also be stored in the freezer for later use.
For snacks, you can munch on fruits and fruit-based dishes which are AIP friendly, like banana bread protein balls and pineapple guacamole.
Grilled chicken breast with olives, cucumber, red onions, and greens and simple dressing and herbs gives an easy, tasty Mediterranean lunch. Collard green wraps can be made with chicken, tuna, or other meats with green leafy vegetables.
If you feel like eating light salads for dinner, Thai lettuce wraps or Pomegranate chicken salad is the best. Roasted chicken with lemon and herbs and one pan-baked chicken wings are some easy dinners to include in the AIP diet.
Drawbacks of AIP Diet
- The AIP diet can be expensive.
- Elimination of grains can lead to less intake of fiber and other essential nutrients.
- Similarly, eliminating dairy can lower the levels of Calcium and Vitamin D.
- Micronutrient deficiencies can occur if you are on the AIP diet for a long time.
- AIP diet can have side effects like fatigue, joint pain, and swelling
How to Tackle Autoimmune Diseases?
It is important to evaluate what you are eating and adjust accordingly before starting the AIP diet. People with autoimmune diseases who notice that the food they consume is affecting them can follow the AIP diet to keep the symptoms under control.
The AIP diet cuts out the foods that promote inflammation and includes nutrient-dense foods and foods rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Factors like sleep, lifestyle changes, stress reduction, movement addressing infections and imbalances along with the diet can help in healing autoimmune diseases.
Research(2) shows that specific foods can worsen the effects of autoimmune diseases, as they can cause inflammation. These include highly processed foods and foods that contain unhealthy fats, added sugar, or added salt. These need to be taken in restrictive portions.
Anybody beginning a severe diet change should be careful, as removing vegetables, grains, and dairy, for instance, can prompt deficiencies of various nutrients. Hence, it is essential to consult a dietician before making any drastic changes.
1. How Different Is the AIP Diet From the Paleo Diet?
The AIP diet is considered a stricter version of the paleo diet, as it eliminates dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds, which are normally included in a paleo diet.
2. How Long Should You Follow an AIP Diet?
This diet should be planned for a short term, lasting at least a month and not more than a few months.
3. Can Autoimmune Diseases Be Detected by Blood Tests?
There is no single test to detect autoimmune diseases. Certain symptoms, along with specific blood markers and even a tissue biopsy, are required to detect autoimmune diseases.
4. Can Rice Be Included in the AIP Diet?
No, rice and all grains should be avoided in the AIP diet.