The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and AIP Food List Updates

aip digestion inflammation itis stress Jan 02, 2024


The Autoimmune Protocol (abbreviate to AIP) is a nutrition and lifestyle plan that is relatively "new" in comparison with other diets out there to support immune health. Since it was formalized by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne in the 2000s, the medical community has taken note, with researchers FINALLY looking at food and lifestyle as medicine for autoimmune.

As an AIP Certified Coach, I've successfully used this nutrition plan with countless clients with IBD, Hashimoto's and other conditions, including women with several combined diagnoses for improved  digestion in less than 30 days, along with better skin, pain, sleep and energy. The plan can help take you out of a terrible digestive flare very quickly.

For this reason, I include AIP as one of our nutrition plans in our Integrative Autoimmune Membership. It's considered the "gold star" elimination diet for helping people identify their unique food triggers for flares. More and more doctors are also recommending AIP for the patients when undergoing treatment for autoimmune or gut health imbalances. They're doing so because it works for many, many people.

As a professional, I know you can absolutely modify the plan and still achieve amazing improvements in energy, pain, digestion and even blood work, with less stress or expense. I know this because I've sen it happen for hundreds of women and even kids. In fact, I used a modified approach to help support my own child when she was first diagnosed with her autoimmune.

For this reason, I'm thrilled that in January 2024, AIP has been formally updated to include some important dietary modifications ... modifications myself and other AIP coaches have been using for years in our private and group courses. 

The reasons for the updates include:

  • Medical studies and professional feedback show people make incredible progress before getting to "full elimination" so a modified approach will work in many occasions
  • Accessibility and affordability of food

As a professional and mom with an autoimmune teen, I also want you to have a good relationship with food and your body at all times. I hope this article will inspire you to look past the "all or northing" mentality and embrace key food principles for healing.

This article explains: 

  • What is AIP and the science behind it
  • What's included or not included
  • Common problems with AIP when doing it on your own
  • 2024 updates to the protocol (modified AIP)
  • How to get started on AIP


What is The Autoimmune Protocol?


AIP roots are in Paleo with additional food restrictions. It has earned recognition as a "gut healing program" because it eliminates foods that are known to trigger inflammation in the gut, which then contributes to food sensitivities (an immune reaction) and leaky gut syndrome (when the cells that line the intestinal tract and/or the spaces between the cells called "tight junctions" become compromised or damaged). Click here to learn more about leaky gut sydrome.

There is also medical support backing the efficacy of AIP for Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s/Colitis and some coming soon on Rheumatic disease and Psoriasis. 

  • In a medical study of 15 people with an IBD (Crohn’s/Colitis), 79% went into remission after following AIP for only 6 weeks. This was huge for the IBD community, where the specific carbohydrate diet and GAPS previously reigned (SCD and GAPS are equally restrictive but with other foods and the process takes months, often leading to emotional burn out).
  • Another medical study of 17 women with Hashimoto’s showed incredible results after only 12 weeks of AIP – reduction in CRP markers, reduced white blood cell count, improved nutritional status and overall symptom reduction.

  • AIP was also the foundation for the Wahl's Protocol for MS and neurological disease, spearheaded by Terry Wahls, MD.

AIP includes three key steps: elimination, reintroduction and maintenance. It is meant to be temporary – 30 to 90 days only, with the intention of adding foods in so you can identify what works best for your body. I have found most of my clients have the best success with three to five months when in an IBD or Hashmoto's flare.

Once symptoms have reduced (but not completely gone), you add foods back into your diet so you can follow a more balanced nutritional plan. The reintroduction phase is incredibly important and often overlooked or ignored. This is the part of the plan that allows you to identify what foods trigger a response that is unique to YOU. The goal is to develop a modified diet that supports your unique biochemistry.


AIP Food List (What to eat on AIP)


Here is a top level list of Core AIP foods to include and Core AIP foods to avoid (modifications explained below).


The CORE AIP Diet:

  • Includes: quality protein (seafood, offal, grassfed beef, poultry), healthy fats, lots of vegetables, fruit, natural sugar, fermented vegetables

  • Excludes: grains, dairy, legumes/peas, eggs, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, certain spices) nuts, seeds, refined sugar


As I said, AIP is not just about food. Nourishment is also about everything we put into our bodies and how we absorb/metabolize life: 

  • Sleep (metabolic, brain, immune, digestive and lymphatic health)
  • Movement (restoring health vs high intensity which zaps you further; metabolic, immune, digestive and lymphatic health)
  • Stress tolerance (supporting your nervous system, which can then improve digestive, immune, hormonal and cellular health)
  • Positive connections with other people (nervous system support)


Common Problems with AIP (overwhelm and restrictive eating)


When you look at that list, you may be scratching your head and thinking to yourself, "That's ridiculous. No one can live that way. What's left to eat?" This is a problem because it stops people in their tracks before they even get started, and they don't receive any benefit from AIP key principles, education and self awareness. AIP is not just about the foods you avoid ... it's about learning how to flood your body with nutrients and improve how your body breaks them down. 

They also wrongly believe they have to be "perfect' in the process ... an all or nothing approach to food. For this reason they "attempt" AIP over and over again and miss out on imperfect progress. The process should be approached with curiosity.

Many people wrongly believe it to be a "forever" way of eating which leads to the next problem. Too many people follow AIP for far too long. It's meant to be temporary. Following AIP long term doesn't serve the body.

Because people don't know how to cook some of the recommended nutrient dense foods in quick and easy ways, they end up eating the same four or five foods day after day after day which is a huge missed opportunity.

Lastly, people ignore the warning signs that the plan is not working for you ... if you don't see an improvement in 30 to 90 days while also accounting for the above suggestions, the plan is not for you. You can not out supplement or restrict the wrong diet for your body and underlying causes for flares.

Which leads to the 2024 AIP updates to include and recognize a modified approach.


New AIP Guidelines -  a modified AIP that is similar to ITIS for rheumatic disease


When I presented in my first AIP summit in 2020, I talked about doing AIP with kids and a family. I shared that we actually did a modified approach and still experienced amazing results for my daughter with a rheumatic condition called CRMO. During the presentation, I emphasized that food should be fun and any diet should be approached with curiosity. There is no "good food" or "bad food" and using AIP should be an experiment at best. I advocate for this approach for all my clients ... kids and adults included.

With 10+ years clinical experience, I know that women with autoimmune can experience profound improvements in their health with even small changes. When I get a person on the right nutrition plan (whether its AIP or another of my signature eating plans), they usually experience a 70% improvement in energy, 90% improvement in digestion and 30-50% improvement in pain.

Science is showing the same thing. Based on new research, feedback from AIP Certified Coaches and advances in gut health treatment plans, a modified AIP has been updated to now include rice and pseudo grains (like rice and quinoa), seeds (ie., ground flax, cocoa and even coffee), legumes (excluding soy), and ghee (dairy).

These updates are similar to an upgraded Mediterranean Diet for North American lifestyles and one that I've been using successfully with my autoimmune clients for years. A similar template is also used to target and correct candida and parasite imbalances like H Pylori, two common triggers for autoimmune disease.

These updates also make AIP a lot more flexible and affordable. It is easier to follow for the long term, with more diversity.  They align with recommendations for rheumatic conditions AND they increase the amount of short chain fatty acids in the digestive tract, which are essential for restoring good gut microflora and balance.

Plus, chocolate is included ... and who doesn't love that?!? 


How to get started on AIP


With two approaches to choose from, how do you know which is best for you? This depends on your symptoms and what you've tried in the past. A first steps or modifiied approach is easier if you have never made any changes. If in a severe flare, especially if you have an IBD, you may be better served by trying AIP's Core recommendations.

With either, the first few weeks are the hardest if you try to go cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms from grains, dairy, sugar and other addictive food chemicals are a real deal. You will feel achy and experience fatigue, headaches and flu-like symptoms.

This is why I don’t recommend going cold turkey, especially if you have autoimmune. Your body is already in an depleted state. After 10 years working with clients and having supported my own child through this process, I know with 100% certainty that is WAY more enjoyable, less stressful and more successful when you focus on what to ADD to your plate instead of a long list of foods to avoid. 

It helps to lay out a transition plan for four to six weeks so you have time to find new meal ideas and products you like. This also helps remove any sort of major withdrawal symptoms, so you can start immediately feeling more energy and in control instead of deprived and hangry. No one likes Hangry.

This is the approach I take with private clients and inside The Integrative Autoimmune Membership, using Reality Based Meal Planning.

It takes time to find substitutions that you like that, are easy to prepare AND nutrient dense (meaning a lot of nutrition with every bite for the best health results). Yes, chicken, salad and cauliflower rice fit under the Paleo model, but if you’re eating this four times a week because you don’t know what else to prepare, you’re only going to progress so far.

And remember, lifestyle changes are also of AIP recommendations ... it's not just about food. Sleep, stress, movement and community are essential to healing ... ignoring these will keep you stuck focusing on bone broth year after year.

If you need help in creating an easy transition plan for your specific health goals, reach out. 

This is my area of expertise. If my child can do this, I know you can too! We can set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your situation and whether or not you’d be best served with private client support or inside our professionally guided membership (access to our membership is invitation only outside of seasonal intakes).

You don’t know unless you ask and I’d love to meet you if you’re serious about moving forward in your health. You can >> book a complimentary call << and we'll talk about your health goals and what's possible for you.




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