What is the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol?

What Is The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)? | Phoenix Helix
Evolution of the AIP

The paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) is the brainchild of Dr. Loren Cordain, a scientist who discovered that certain primal foods can sometimes trigger inflammation in people with autoimmune disease (dairy, eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds). Robb Wolf outlined the AIP in his book, The Paleo Solution, introducing it as an elimination diet (you eliminate certain foods for 30 days and then reintroduce them one at a time, to test your body for food intolerance.) Then Dr. Sarah Ballantyne came on the scene, aka the Paleo Mom. As a scientist with autoimmunity, she was very interested in the autoimmune protocol. She delved into the research, wrote a series of articles explaining the science behind it, and eventually expanded the AIP to the version detailed in her book, The Paleo Approach, which I’ve outlined in the table below. Sarah is now the leading expert on the autoimmune protocol.

In a Nutshell

Eliminate Permanently

Processed Food
Emulsifiers and Thickeners (guar gum, carrageenan, etc.)
Refined Oils
Refined Sugars
Grains (including corn)
Dried Legumes (including soy and peanuts)
Stevia (and other non-nutritive sweeteners)

Eliminate for 30 Days and Reintroduce

Eggs
Dairy
Nuts (including nut-based oils)
Seeds (including coffee and cocoa and seed-based oils)
Nightshades (both vegetables and spices)
Fresh Legumes (green beans and green peas)
Alcohol
Fruit-based and Seed-based Spices

Opening That Nut

  • Paleo: The items in the first column are permanent restrictions: Here are some links that explain why: Guar Gum ~ Refined Oils ~ Refined Sugar ~ Grains ~ Legumes ~ Soy ~ Stevia.
  • Hidden Sources of Grains: To avoid grains, you need to become a label reader. Packaged foods often contain gluten, so look for gluten-free on the label and also read the ingredient list.
  • Elimination Diet: The items listed in the second column are common food intolerances for people with autoimmune disease. The minimum amount of time to eliminate them is 30 days. You want to wait until you see some clear improvement in your autoimmune condition before doing reintroductions. For some, that will be 30 days. For others it might be a few months. Others might choose to wait a year. It is rare to be intolerant to everything on the list, however, and by safely expanding your diet, you also expand your nutrition. The goal is to create a personalized diet that will help you heal longterm. An elimination diet is not meant to last forever.
  • The AIP: Curious about the reason behind the excluded foods on the autoimmune protocol? Here are some links:  Eggs ~ Dairy ~ Nuts & Seeds ~ Nightshades ~ Alcohol
  • Spices: Since nightshade spices, seedbased spices and fruitbased spices are eliminated on the AIP, you might wonder how you’ll be able to flavor your food. Thankfully, there are safe spices that come from leaves, flowers, roots and barks. Here’s an AIP spice primer.
  • Additional Limitations: Limit fruit to 2-5 servings per day, coconut milk to 1 cup daily, coconut flakes to 1/4 cup and coconut flour to 2 Tbsp. Also, reserve AIP desserts for special occasions.
  • Grocery List: Sometimes it can be hard to see what you can eat on the AIP. I’ve created a grocery list to help. And if you subscribe to my blog, you’ll receive email notification of the weekly AIP Recipe Roundtable, where bloggers share AIP-Friendly recipes.
  • Healing Foods: Healing isn’t just about the foods you avoid; it’s also about the foods you add to your diet. Deep nutrition helps our bodies rebuild on a cellular level, and the following nutrient-dense foods are highly recommended for people with autoimmune disease: organ meats, bone broths, seafood, fermented foods and a wide variety of vegetables.
  • Lifestyle: Remember that success in healing autoimmunity has as much to do with lifestyle as it does with diet. This means managing stress, getting enough sleep, spending time outside, having balance between work and play, and addressing emotional issues as well as physical ones. This isn’t something you can achieve in 30 days, but as you figure out the diet that works best for you, remember to make goals for yourself in the area of lifestyle as well.
  • Medication Awareness: The following medications can exacerbate leaky gut, while the AIP strives to heal it: NSAIDs, Steroids, DMARDs, Oral Contraceptives, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Antibiotics, Acid Reflux Medication, Laxatives and Anti-Diarrheals. Caution: this does NOT mean you should give up your medication when you start the autoimmune protocol. On the contrary, doing so will usually cause an immediate increase in your symptoms, because it takes time for the AIP to heal your body. Instead, work with your healthcare team to find alternatives, and slowly taper off as you heal and your symptoms lessen. The goal is to eliminate the need for these medications, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Wiggle Room: While Sarah Ballantyne believes the full AIP is the quickest path to healing, she understands that some people might find it intimidatingly restrictive. With that in mind, she has identified a list of foods that are least likely to be problematic for people with autoimmune disease. These are the foods she recommends reintroducing first. Or if you need a bridge between regular paleo and strict AIP, these are the foods she feels are safest to continue eating during that transition: fresh legumes (green beans and peas), fruitbased spices, seedbased spices, seed and nut oils, ghee from grass fed dairy, and egg yolks.

Optional Future Experiments

It’s helpful to remember that some people with autoimmune disease go into remission on full paleo, with no need to do the AIP at all. Others go into remission on the “wiggle room” version of the AIP, while others find strict AIP be the best path to healing. It’s perfectly fine to approach healing diets in stages.

If you have tried the AIP and still have issues, explore the topics below with your healthcare team. One of them might be the missing piece to your health. Don’t try to do them all at once; I think that would be impossible and unnecessary. I understand that we all want to feel better now, but doing too much at once can backfire by overwhelming our bodies and also muddying the experiment with too many variables. It can also make it difficult to get enough nutrition. Take a deep breath, have patience, and know that one step at a time is the most stable path to healing. Each of the bullet points listed below is linked to an article with more information:

AIP Series

I’ve written a series of articles to guide you through the autoimmune protocol, step by step. It includes FAQ, mistakes to avoid, book reviews, and more. Click here to see the whole list.

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Photo Credit: I fell in the love with the photo at the top of this post. It’s a sign you’ll find in many parks undergoing preservation. It was taken by the talented Joy Bethune, who gave me permission to use it with this article. Thanks, Joy!
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This post is linked to the following blog carnivals:
Whole Food Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, What Am I Eating?, Sunday School, Make Your Own Monday, Natural Living Monday, Healthy Tuesday, Family Table Tuesday, Tuned In Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Well Fed Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Simple Lives Thursday,

120 thoughts on “What is the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol?

  1. I have Hashimoto’s (treated only with Synthroid) and feel like there is something to be said for gluten sensitivity since my throat tends to be sore after I ingest grain based snacks. Anyway, it is so difficult for me to stick to Paleo or AIP guidelines. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by how weak I am to the power of a junk food. I might need a support group!

  2. Interesting information. I have gone back and forth with trying the Paleo diet vs just a whole food GMO free diet while limiting Wheat and most grains. I may revisit what you have suggested. Thanks for the insight!

    • I know, it’s so confusing! I had to clarify it for myself, when I decided to do the AIP this winter. Hopefully this checklist will save others some time (and trial and error).

  3. Thanks for this detailed informational post. I have wondered about the autoimmune protocol since I have 5 different autoimmune issues. I don’t eat very much meat because it doesn’t do well in my stomach. It is hard to digest. I can eat fish and poultry. I am grain free since I have celiac. I do avoid shade plants ( most of the time ). I am going to have to eliminate something additional as I’m still having lots of issues.
    I am so glad to have found your website today. I will definitely spend some time reading through all the information !!

    • Hi Saundra. One thing I learned on the auotimmune protocol is that I have to avoid nightshades 100%. I was eating a little here and there, and it was keeping my inflammation going (which I didn’t know until I gave them up 100%, including the spices). So, that might be worth trying.

  4. I do think that is right … eliminating nightshades totally. Instead of just “mostly”. Since I have Hashimotos as well I’ve recently been more consistent with eliminating cruciferous vegetables due to goitergens. That one is the hardest of all. I’m in a major flare up right now. My pain never goes away totally but I’m being really affected right now. So I’m really watching it right now. Today I’ve eaten only bananas & bone broth with some celery and carrots cooked in it.

    • Have you heard of the Hashimotos 411 group? They’re 5,000 people strong, focusing on healing through diet, so they’d be a great resource for you. I gave links in my reply to Alicia’s comment above. You might also be inspired by Carrie’s Story (who I interviewed here on my blog).

      • Thanks! No I’m not familiar with that group, but did check it out. I have focused so much on my painful fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue that I haven’t dealt with some of my other autoimmune problems as much. Except celiac I guess because I have to avoid gluten & grains. I think I’m eating healthy & then find something else that is a trigger. Thanks again!

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  6. This diet was recommended to me by someone to help with eliminating my allergies. Do you know of a list of what someone can eat on this diet? It looks like meat, fish, fruit, and certain vegetables are about the extent of it? Thanks for comprising this! :)

    • Hi Lauren. Your summary is pretty accurate. Later this week, I’m posting part 3 in my Autoimmune Protocol Series (The FAQ), and I’ll have lots more information, including links to menu plans, AIP recipe blogs and others who are experts on the protocol. If you check back Thursday, it should be live. In the meantime, I have a page called What Do I Eat that gives sample daily menus for a variety of healing diets, including the AIP. It takes some creativity, but you really can eat some delicious food on the AIP, although I won’t lie: everyone looks forward to the reintroduction phase.

      • Update: I wrote up a grocery list of AIP approved foods. Thanks for the idea, Lauren. To my knowledge, it doesn’t exist elsewhere on the web. Here’s the link.

  7. Interesting info. Again, it would be so difficult having to be on that diet, but so many of the products we consume without thinking are actually harming our bodies. :/
    Thanks for sharing this at A Humble Bumble!

    • Becca, you’re so sweet to try and put yourself in my shoes. Your compassion comes through in every comment.

  8. Very interesting article. I have found a huge relief in my fibro with the elimination of all artificial sweeteners and processed foods. I only have around 4-5 flares a year and they last only a day or two. Far better than being in pain every single day.

    Thanks for sharing on our Healthy Tuesdays Blog Hop! Kerry from Country Living On A Hill

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  10. I have been on the AIP for 4 months now and I have not only the core protocol but a stricter one with no seeds/spices of any sort as I have found they make me incredibly sick. Bummer curries!!!!! It also means I can not eat berries or anything with edible seeds you might not think of (I blanked one day and ate some figs. What a mistake).

    Anyway, I saw a massive improvement after 2 weeks in that I could move about again and was not bed ridden. Yay. But since then…. no improvement beyond that. Frankly that sucks.

    I’m still in constant pain. Still have huge flare ups 1-2x a month and am still unable to have a real function-able life. (Family is at a BBQ while I’m here in bed.)

    I’m really imaginative with food. Always been a “real food” person and have survived OK on the limited foods. I should post a few recipes for you guys. But I’m frankly a little tired of it on one hand and too scared to reintroduce foods on the other as one slip up puts me in agony for days if not weeks.

    I keep saying “when I stabilize, I can start reintroducing food.” Problem is, I feel like I have not stabilized. Have others experienced the same problem? Any ideas? Suggestions?

  11. Believe it or not, I created my own diet from research into my own issues, nutrition, reading up on science articles, trial and error (oh the errors!), and I thought I had it pretty much tweaked as much as I could in the past year with ever decreasing eliminating of more and more food items.

    I only came across the AIP about a month ago and I was STUNNED to find it almost overlapped my diet and thoughts almost 100%. I found for me personally it did not go far enough. But perhaps for a lot of people it does. The seeds for me was the big kicker. Good and bad. Nuts was another, but that was a natural progression. First the belly aches, the bad taste in my mouth and my body just saying “hey you don’t like these anymore and there is a reason for it”. This also happened with coffee and alcohol.

    This all happening over the last 2 years as I have gradually declined in health.

    I am on a slew of meds that I have managed to cut down thanks to the diet but recently things are getting bad again and the painkillers are increasing, including methadone.

    I do not take NSAIDS due to the effect on the intestine, as when I flare, I flare inside and out. My condition affects hollow organs as well as connective tissue. My primary care understands this and respects this but with new specialists, they don’t quite understand my theory behind it. They have to believe I have done more research on this than they have!

    I am off to a more holistic integrative center on Monday in which I have waited forever to see. I’m hoping they can help me with diet and such. But with all things medical, any hope is a bad thing. Expect nothing and anything is a bonus.

    Without pain killers, lidocaine patches and the TENS unit I would not manage my life with 2 boys under 10. To say I hate pain killers is an understatement. I also hate extreme pain. It is a fine line.

    Finding the right supplements (I thought I was onto something with Chia – Woooh huge mistake, my discovery of the bad seed thing, Hemp, another baddy, vitamins, etc) is key but I’m not sure what those are.

    Thanks for the links!

    Forever researching!

    • Yes, you are definitely the expert on your own body! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you regarding your upcoming appointment. May they be helpful and surpass your expectations.

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    • Thanks, Mickey! It took me a while to be ready for the added restrictions of the AIP, but I’m so glad I finally did it. I keep feeling better & better.

  13. hi Eileen,
    I’ve been on the protocol only about 10 days but already have a huge improvement in my water retention, headaches, joint pain, and fatigue! yay! I plan to do the protocol at least a month before reintroducing anything. Thanks so much for this info.

    My question is; I’ve dealt with these symptoms for a few years, and have tried other elimination diets where they get better, but my consistent symptom that has never gone away is brain fog/lack of mental clarity. I have had 2 moments in the past 3 years where the “fog has lifted” and I felt normal again, but that has only been random and lasted a few hours or so. I don’t feel like myself and its very concerning.
    If I do not see an improvement in the brain fog in the next month, do you recommend I stay on the protocol longer until it goes away? I have read elsewhere that low carb can cause brain fog but I have it no matter if I am low carb or not.

    • I guess I should also note that I believe my symptoms are due to leaky gut, after a few years of drinking wayyy to much while working at a bar. Messed my gut up big time and I am very sensitive to foods as shown through these eliminations. I had lots of tests done and have not yet been diagnosed with any other condition, besides IBS and I was put on 50mcg of Synthroid for my hypothyroid like symptoms, although my thyroid tests have been normal thus far

      • That’s awesome that you are seeing such dramatic change so quickly. Yay, you! As far as when to reintroduce foods, you want to stay on the protocol a minimum of 30 days. It’s possible the brain fog will have lifted by then. If not, some people do choose to stay on the protocol 60-90 days, but it’s not necessary. The elimination/reintroduction of foods helps you isolate your specific food intolerances. You’ve already had enough improvement in your symptoms to have a new baseline; you’ll be able to tell when you react to a reintroduced food. You’ll then keep those out of your diet going forward, and you’ll continue to improve on your personalized version of the diet (with hopefully some foods reintroduced successfully). When you’re ready to introduce, be sure to read my reintroduction article to guide you through the process.

        • one more question, is it safe to assume that if after the 30 days the brain fog is not yet gone then it is not caused by any of the eliminated foods, as they are out of my system?

          • The foods don’t cause your symptoms. Your autoimmune disease does. The foods exaggerate those symptoms by increasing the inflammation in your body. So, when you remove intolerant foods from your diet, the inflammation can start to recede, and you can begin to heal. It can take a long time to heal completely, especially when you’ve been sick for years. So the food plays a role, but so does your autoimmunity. Does that make sense?

          • yes that makes perfect sense, I just never thought of it that way! thanks again =)

      • There is a test for leaky gut. It has to do with drinking a solution of a digestible and an indigestible sugar. The theory being if there is the indigestible sugar in your urine, it has “leaked” into your blood stream via your gut. The digestible sugar is there to calculate the ratio of the sugars in your urine and thus calculate the % leaked.

        • I have heard this. Do you know if I need to see a gastroenterologist in particular to get this test? I am currently only seeing an endocrinologist

  14. I assume any doctor who knows about this test can order it. I am going to take a pic the kit to send to a friend. If anyone here is interested in the photo for reference? My doctor is for integrative medicine if that is any help?

  15. I just stumbled upon your site and wow – what a great resource! After struggling with the AIP for months to see if the usual suspects affect my RA, I feel I’m finally in the right place to make it stick this time. Thanks so much!

    • Timing is everything. I started my healing diet with GAPS (similar to full paleo) because I wasn’t yet ready for the added restrictions of AIP. 6 months later, I hit a healing plateau and was ready for the AIP. Both diets helped me a lot, and I don’t regret doing it in a 2-step process. Pacing ourselves is wise. It gives us time to get ready to do it right!

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  17. Hi,
    I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve put a link to your site on my blog “Hashimoto’s Mum”. I’ve only just started it, but it is going to be our journey looking after a child with Hashi. Our 8yo daughter was just diagnosed last week so I am madly trying to get my head around it all. Love your site!
    Best wishes,
    Cindy

    • Of course I don’t mind. I think your blog will be a wonderful resource, because there is limited information about that diagnosis with children. Blessings to you and your daughter on this journey, Cindy.

  18. Hi Eileen
    I’ve had RA for 12 years. Mostly contolled by diet and meditation. Yoga. Have been off all legumes sugar dairy wheat and nightshades for years. And all but a litttle wild rice (no more now though). Was on antibiotics but let them go a year ago. Was doing well for 6 months then I reacted to some emotional family issues and went into a flare. Tried the Paleo full on for a week and I got way worse. I have had really bad irritable bowel and reflux which had been absent. Too much meat! I eat a lot of veg but I felt terrible. Any advice?

    • Hi Nancy. Thanks so much for writing. Since I’m not a doctor, I can’t give personalized advice, but I can tell you that the GAPS diet is very helpful in restoring the body’s ability to digest meat, especially if you go through the introduction diet first. Usually, this is a stomach acid/digestive enzyme problem, and the GAPS diet addresses that directly. Also, since you were on the antibiotic protocol for years, my guess is that you are deficient in beneficial gut flora, and they play a critical role in digestion as well, and the GAPS diet addresses that, too. A healthy gut seems to be the key to everything. I hope you feel better soon!

      • P.S. Nancy, I’m currently doing research for an in-depth article on seafood choices and learned that fish is a special form of protein that’s easier to digest than any other. While your digestive system heals, it might be a really good choice for you.

  19. Eileen,

    Thank you for this post. I am still navigating my way through all the information. We discovered four months ago, that I have Hashimoto’s and gluten sensititivy. I had suffered a long time with my hypothyroid. I am also hypoglycemic. At first going gluten free worked, then I went Paleo-now I am doing the Whole 30, and eliminating additional foods-eggs, nightshades, etc. I am ok with the food elimination. However, I will have a tough time physically if I eliminate small snacks when needed. Am I really doing harm to myself with the program if I add snacks (small-protein) if needed?

    Thank you for sharing and caring about other’s well being and healing.

    Susan

    • I don’t see any problem with snacks. By all means, you need to eat, especially when your diet is limited. Where did you read advice against snacking?

  20. Hi Eileen,

    Thank you for the response. The Whole 30 plan suggests Meal 1, 2 and 3. The book advises (unless I am wrong) against snacking.

    • OK, that makes sense. The Whole 30 has a different goal than the AIP, and honestly, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing them together. The Whole 30 is for people who want to break their addiction to overeating and to certain SAD foods. That’s why it doesn’t allow any treats at all, nor any paleo replacement foods (like paleo breads, pastas, etc.), nor any snacking. After 30 days, most people who do the Whole 30 move into an 80/20 or 90/10 paleo lifestyle, with much less restriction. That’s not an option for people with autoimmune disease. Not only do we need to be 100% compliant, our food list is much smaller than those who can do full paleo. So, for AIP, the Whole 30 rules don’t apply. I recommend eating as much as you need to satisfy your needs, as long as it’s AIP foods. The more nutrient-dense your diet, the better. Does that make sense?

    • Some people do go into remission on full paleo, with no need to do the AIP. If that’s you, enjoy it! If you still have lingering symptoms, the AIP is a good way to see if you have some extra food intolerances that are exacerbating/causing those symptoms.

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  28. Hi. I was wondering if this food approach could be used to help with Lichen Sclerosis – an autoimmune skin disease. My daughter (age 17)has it, along with a vitamin B 12 deficiency. She also can’t tolerate dairy – never has, even as a child, which was when she was diagnoses (age 4). I see a lot written about celiacs, thyroid issues and arthritis, as well as eczema and psoriasis, but was wondering about LS too! Thanks

    • Hi Michelle. The protocol is potentially effective for all sorts of autoimmune diseases, including lichen sclerosis, so I definitely recommend trying it.

  29. Like digging for diamonds in the earth — I have MS and Lupus, and the info on your website is so helpful, it makes sense and I understand what to do now — God bless your willingness to share your knowledge.

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  31. Thank you for your website. I have had severe allergies for my entire life and have experienced bouts of chronic fatigue for nearly 20 years. At first I related the fatigue to breast cancer that I aggressively treated with surgery and chemo in my early thirties. But the fatigue continued and medical tests showed no cause. I found that low carb diets with dietary supplements helped with the fatigue and brain fog and I followed this diet off an on for a number of years. Over the last several years, I have developed total body inflammation along with the fatigue and brain fog and none of my doctors had any suggestions for treating. Over the past year, I have heard about leaky gut syndrome and how it can cause total body inflammation. I kept reading about the Paleo diet and began to restrict gluten, GMO and processed foods, while adding probiotics, with about 50% decrease in the inflammation. I then had an incidental finding on an MRI of an enlarged thyroid, that was confirmed by an ultrasound exam. I was told I had Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and there was nothing I could do to relieve the condition. I was not satisfied with the answer and read that nightshade plants may be triggers, so I have cut all nightshades out of my diet for the past month and have seen even greater reduction in my inflammation. I had my first visit to an endocrinologist this week. I told him I was following a Paleo diet and had cut out gluten and nightshades and had begun supplementing with iodine (Lugols Soultion – 2%) He said I could follow Paleo if I wanted, but he did not expect it to help. He recommended 200 mcg of Selenium daily, which I have not tried yet. He took a blood sample to determine his recommendation and called the next day to tell me to keep up whatever I was doing because it had brought my antibodies back to almost normal values. Anyway, I still have a way to go, but feel I am heading in the right direction with over 50% inflammation reduction and better energy.

    I am very grateful for you organizing the wealth of Paleo info out there to make it easier for us. I will definitely incorporate more of the ideas from your website and links and hopefully put my illness into remission. By the way, since committing to Paleo and probiotics, my allergies have been greatly reduced and I have a lot less colds. I am also looking into a good water filtration system for my house and food and chemical sensitivity blood testing. A coworker recommended ALCAT blood tests. Do you have any recommendations for either?

    • Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your story, and I love that you’re teaching your doctor that diet does indeed affect Hashimoto’s. If you’re on facebook, I recommend joining this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/hashimotos411/#sthash.kSmswwbO.dpuf . It has 14,000 members, and they’re all treating Hashi’s with diet. To answer your question, I don’t really believe in food intolerance tests, including ALCAT. They are notorious for false positives and false negatives, and in the end, I think they just make life more difficult. The autoimmune protocol itself is an elimination diet, and with the second step of reintroductions, you test your body for food intolerances. It’s 100% accurate. Even allergists agree!

  32. What an excellent resource! Thank you so much for putting all of this together. My autoimmune diseases have quickly taken over my life and I am looking to get it back. I have been looking into the AIP approach and already tell I will be referring back to your site A LOT :)

  33. I have severe chronic pain, leaky gut, inflammation and many food intolerances. Most problems started once I had my spine fused with Harrington rods to correct curvature from scoliosis. what is the best place to start the healing of gut. Would it be the GAPS introductory diet?

    • Hi Shainy. I like the GAPS intro diet’s focus on homemade broths and soups, to give the gut the building blocks it needs to heal. However, it introduces common food intolerances very quickly (nuts and eggs), which can be a healing road block for many, and certainly was for me. Now, I do a combination of GAPS and AIP, and find that the best personal path to healing. Where are you starting from – what’s your current diet now?

  34. Eileen:
    I have two auto-immune diseases… rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. It has been an uphill battle since 1995 (when my ANA’s were indicative of Lupus), the in-between years and when it was finally, positively diagnosed in 2007. I have been to several physicians and none of them suggested changing my diet to help fight the auto-immune issues I have been facing. They probably prefer me to use the medicines they have always pushed on me instead of making positive changes in my life to help control my diseases. I didn’t realize that there were support groups “out there” to give moral and enlightening encouragement concerning these issues. I stumbled over this by accident… glad I did.

    • For some reason, doctors often refuse to acknowledge the very obvious connection that diet and lifestyle has to our health. I’m very thankful for the internet! It’s how I found this path as well. LuWanda, if you’re eating a standard american diet right now, I recommend starting with full paleo as the first step. Some people achieve remission without needing to take it further. One of those people is Robyn Latimer, who shared her story here on my blog about healing lupus. If after 3-6 months, you haven’t healed to the level you like, then try the autoimmune protocol. If you have any questions along the way, please let me know! And if you’re on Facebook, there’s a group called the Paleo Approach with over 5,000 members. It’s a great community of information and support. Welcome!

  35. Eileen, thanks so much for the info… I am strictly paleo with three vices left. I drink a cup of coffee or two each morning and I have fruit with half and half and splenda at night. I’m 50 years old with stiff fingers and inflamed knees. Any suggestions…

  36. Thanks for the info. My 6 mos old is breaking out in rashes and subsequently eczema. I have found my diet to be the key. I’m almost through the elimination with only soy and nightstands to eliminate. It is helping a lot for elimination of his symptoms. How can I do the reintroduction for breastfeeding? Obviously, I can’t have an immediate reaction. Any suggestions?

    • I recommend pumping enough milk that you can bottle feed during the 72 hour reintroduction period. I realize that’s a hassle, but I think it’s the safest way to go.

      • I’m not sure I understand. What would bottle feeding do? Since it’s not my food intolerances that are affecting him, how can I introduce the foods to him to see if he reacts to a food? I can’t do the teaspoon thing because my milk wouldn’t have it or be so minimal that he might not react yet. Do I just eat a full portion of something and monitor him for a reaction? And complete the reintroduction from that point on?

        • I’m sorry, I was thinking they were your shared intolerances. Skip the teaspoon steps and follow the reintroduction protocol from there – eat a normal sized portion and monitor him 72 hours for a reaction. If no reaction, eat a little bit every day for a week and monitor for reaction. If still no reaction, that should be a safe food. Look for symptoms outside the rashes too – more crying than usual or sleep disturbances. Sometimes there are hints of intolerance before the major symptom appears.

  37. Eileen I’ve been Splenda free and nightshade free for about a month… still have stiff finger joints. Any other suggestions?? See my previous comment for context…. thanks for your help

    • Four thoughts: (1) Patience. A month isn’t very long, and it take longer to see results. (2) Are any nightshades slipping through? A little bit of paprika can cause inflammation. It doesn’t just have to be a plate of potatoes or tomatoes. If you eat any spice blends, check their ingredient list carefully. All storebought curry (and restaurant curry) contains nightshades, so do 99% of bottled sauces, deli meats, storebought sausage, rotisserie chickens, etc. If you see “spices” on a label, assume it’s nightshades. It takes a lot of effort to go 100% nightshade-free, so look around your kitchen and think through your eating over the past month to see if any have slipped through unnoticed. (3) If you’re taking any supplements, see if any of them have non-paleo ingredients. (Most do. You have to search for allergen-free ones). (4) If you’re not taking any supplements, you might try Life Extension’s Super Bio-Curcumin. It’s a bioavailable form of turmeric and has helped my joint pain. (Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor and can’t prescribe anything for you. I’m just sharing my experience.)

  38. hello, great site!! what do you think of soaked chia seeds or peeled hempseeds? and another question about sprouts:do in your opinion sprouted mungbeans count as beans? what do you think about other sprouts would they be ok in small amounts? do i.e. sunflowersprouts (only the leafs) still contain some negative food chemicals and bad omega 3 ratio? and another short question: would organic meat still be ok (probably grain fed, but no “supermarket organic”) if grass fed is too expensive or not always available?

    • Hi Dominic. No seeds of any kind are allowed on the autoimmune protocol, and that includes chia and hemp. Sprouted beans still count as beans, so they are excluded as well. However, you’re welcome to eat the sprouts themselves, just not the bean portion. As for omega 3:6, the best way to insure a good ratio is to eat lots of wildcaught seafood for the omega 3′s, and the autoimmune protocol automatically excludes all of the high omega 6 foods. Lastly, when it comes to meat, work within your budget and availability. While grassfed is ideal, not everyone can afford it, and you can absolutely still heal with meat from the grocery store.

      • thank you,
        I will see how I’ll feel and limit them (sprouted mungbeans) probably anyway in the beginning.
        as for the foods:I’ll try my best to eat many organ meats,since they are cheaper and I found local huntsman who sells wild meat for an affordable price.

        regards

  39. Thank you for taking the time to boil things down to everyday language and simplifying the topic. Many times I go on a site or read a book and it feels like people over complicate something that doesn’t need to be complicated. Your blog will help me navigate my next step and aid me in deciding which way to start. Thanks again.
    Pat

    • Thanks, Patrick. That’s exactly what I strive to do – condense information to the essentials and make it easy to understand.

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  41. Started the AIP protocol on Friday. It’s Sunday now and I have a massive headache all day. Probably partially due to detoxing, but if I can’t take anything for it, am I supposed to just suffer through it?

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  44. Do you have to eliminate lentils completely, this might be difficult for me as it forms part of our weekly diet? Are lentils considered more as seeds for the protocol or legumes in the way they react with the body?

    • Lentils are legumes and must be eliminated 100%. You can try reintroducing them after you’ve done a lot of healing, but they’re one of the most difficult foods to digest and aren’t recommended for people with autoimmune disease. Sorry! We’ve all had to make changes to our menu when switching to this diet, but the healing that can happen makes it worth it.

  45. I commented on this article many moons ago when I was up to 6 months on the AIP. I had seen an improvement after 3 months. Plateaued until 6 months and then saw another improvement. But nothing since. And honestly I was still really sick. I introduced back a few foods as I was desperate for variety. Eggs, tea, yogurt being the main ones. No change. Not worse, not better. I was stuck.

    Ultimately I was on the AIP for 18 months with a few things added in extra. Still sick. Ugh.

    Soooo with the help if my intergrative medicine specialist I started a full on elimination diet. So far I’ve been on it 2 months. It’s full of surprises! After 3 weeks I felt really good!! Still getting tired a lot but starting to feel like the old me. Greatly reduced (not eliminated) pain and the brain fog cleared up like a bad dream. I could think! I could remember things! Fantastic!

    What has surprised me most though is that my freshly detoxed body knew so clearly when I tried to introduce something my body didn’t like.

    I ate 1/4 of a green zebra tomato freshly pulled from our own vines. I was struck down with a full on flare, pain, brain fog, extreme lethargy for 3 days. Hello? Don’t eat tomatoes! (Not that I have since I started the AIP but it was worth a shot to see if I could get tomatoes back!)

    Cherries? Not a problem. Ate soooo many over the cherry season. Delicious.

    Tea? Very bad. Eggs bad, lemon bad, mint bad, any attempt to try and season my food beyond olive oil and salt just failing.

    Now even handling a wheat based dough brings a rash up on my hands. That’s what the FBI would call a clue.

    I went out to prune and the up our crazy gone wild tomato plants and I broke out with rashes and hives on all my inner arms and throat. My lungs feel sore and inflamed. I slid quickly into a full on flare for 6 days. I was in agony. Truly horrible.

    Anyway the monotony of this very restricted diet is killing me. I can’t introduce a new food until I recover from each flare completely. I’m scared to introduce a new food incase I react a d its back to flaresville. I agonize for days over which food to introduce next. Things I think are safe I find out are not safe at all. :-( Seems I’m reacting to everything!

    But it’s a path. And one I hope to navigate through with improved health and life quality.

    I didn’t want to take it to this extreme but the AIP just wasn’t doing enough for me. I stuck with it so long for fear of losing any progress I had made. Staying away from tomatoes this entire time turned out to be a very good thing!

    Anyway, I just wanted to share for those starting down this path. You will make progress, and everything is tweakable depending on your body’s responses.

    • Hi Aedmar. When you’re sensitive to that many foods, there’s definitely an underlying issue that needs to be found and resolved. I’m glad you’re working with a practitioner, and hope that together you can find the answers. I know it is a multi-layered and sometimes slow journey, but step by step, we get there! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Aedmar, I too am glad you are seeing a specialist who can hopefully help you fine tune and make progress toward greater healing. Your story sounds a bit like mine, and I am curious what you are now doing that brought on some improvement. You said you started a full on elimination diet. Can you describe that to me? I think I’ll need to do that type of protocol. My health bass been diminished for so long and feel so terrible all the time and for so long now (34 yrs) nothing I do seems to change anything. It is hard to discern any change, and really hard to think or organize enough to evaluate myself. If you could let me know how you did this elimination diet, and any adjuncts your practitioner added, I would appreciate it. Thanks so much.

  46. Hi, I’m so happy to have stumbled on this website. I’ve had Graves’ disease and the accompanying eye disease, for 6 months now. Have been trying to treat it completely naturally via herbs, supplements, diet and holistic therapies. But I have yet to see real improvement, so I figure my diet needs some more changes.

    I was advised by my Naturopath to follow the Anti-Inflammatory diet, which is not quite as strict as the AIP. I also did the IgE/IgG testing, which showed that in addition to eggs, dairy, and almonds, I am apparently highly sensitive to beef, lamb, and moderately to pork. Also a high sensitivity to garlic, ginger, turmeric! (Aren’t those things anti-inflammatory?) However it also showed no problem with things like lentils, corn, rice, potato, which are not allowed on AIP. I am wondering which protocol to follow! I prefer to eat vegetarian, but am ok with chicken and fish. Can I do the AIP on just those proteins?

    Also, it is hard for me to accept that eating so much meat is healthy long term, having believed for so long that it is hard on your liver, kidneys, and heart, due to the breaking down of protein. And hearing that it is hard on your digestive system, taking so long to pass through and basically putrefying in there. Besides the ethics involved with killing animals, I’ve heard meat/fish is not beneficial because it is a ‘cadaver’ food, with no life force in it like plants retain from the sun. It’s so counterintuitive for me, especially having been exposed to things like the China Study and Forks Over Knives and other research on plant-based diets.

    Do you think people with autoimmune disease are kind of unique in needing this high-meat diet?

    Thank you so much. I am willing to give it a try and to let my beliefs evolve!

    • Hi Annika. Thank you so much for writing. Transitioning from Vegetarianism to Paleo is a shift in thinking, for sure. My first recommendation is to understand that much of what you (and all of us have been taught in the past) simply isn’t true. My second recommendation is that you do a bunch of reading, and form your own opinions (which may or may not match my own). Here are the articles I recommend to start:

      Eating Meat: A Primer for the Meat Challenged
      The Truth About Red Meat
      A Scientific Critique of the China Study
      Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? A Digestion Tutorial
      Doubts Cast on Food Intolerance Testing

      To answer some of your more specific questions, I recommend ignoring you IgE/IgG tst (the last article listed above will explain why) and do the AIP instead. An elimination diet is the only accurate test for food intolerance (and the AIP is an elimination diet). Feel free to start with chicken and fish, and expand into other meats as you feel comfortable. Fish especially is highly recommended on the AIP, because it’s high in omega 3 fatty acids (which are anti-inflammatory), and it’s the most easily digested form of protein.

      Wishing you health on every level!

      • Thanks for your kind reply! I will definitely check out those articles. Met with my Naturopath yesterday and she is in full support of me trying the AIP. Think I will take a couple weeks to transition and then go full on at the next new moon (Sept 24)! :)

  47. So glad to find your website which is very informative. I was diagnosed with RA on March. Still on Methothrexate and Prednisone but I tried the Gaps diet for 2 months. I felt some improvement so my doctor lowered my dose of prednisone but after a while the joint pain is creeping back in. I saw your site and read about the AIP protocol. I remove eggs and dairy from my diet (no nightshades too even while on Gaps) but i can feel that my pain is slightly increase everyday. Do you have any suggestions?

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  49. I just found the book “The Paleo Approach” and I finally have some hope that something will help me. The last 4 years I’ve had severe adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalance (causing debilitating depression and anxiety ) as well as extreme abdominal bloating and huge weight gain. I’m hypo thyroid, have gluten sensitivity, but I’ve tried paleo in the past with no improvement. I’m positive I have other food allergies because I get wheezing after lots of foods I eat and red puffy bloodshot eyes- haven’t been able to find a doctor that can help me. Anyway- my question is this- through all these years of health issues I was finally able to have a baby! He is now 4 months old and I’m wanting to get started on this AIP way of eating… I can’t find any information about eating this way and breastfeeding. When I was eating just paleo, I was having a really hard time keeping my blood sugar up, so I’m expecting it to be even worse on AIP. I am not sure if my baby has food allergies as well, but he does spit up a LOT, he is like a little fountain, and he is fussy. I need someone’s opinion about whether I should wait until he’s weaned to try this AIP, or start it now so I can begin the healing instead of continuing the damage. Also, do you have any advice on eating this way with hypoglycemia? Will it gradually get easier?

    PS One of my other children is having some food sensitivities- he is 11 and has had hives after eating and complains that some foods hurt his throat and stomach. His doctor did some blood testing and is recommending we see an allergist. I can’t imagine doing an elimination diet with an 11 year old- do you think the skin testing would be helpful or a waste of time?

    • Hi Kristy. I’m so glad you’re feeling hopeful. There are indeed people nursing on the AIP, and also feeding their children AIP in an effort to help them heal. So, it’s absolutely a path you can take. I recommend getting some support, though. You have a lot of health issues in your family, that adds a level of complexity. There are support groups online: here’s a website community and here’s a support group on Facebook. There, you can get advice from other families doing the AIP. It also might be helpful to work 1:1 with a health coach, and I have two that I recommend highly: Angie Alt and Katy Haldiman. Angie also offers on-line group classes.

      I’m not a doctor or nutritionist myself, so the advice that follows is just thoughts from a friend walking a similar path. If you do the AIP while nursing, you’ll want to make sure you eat enough food for both you and the baby. You’ll want enough fat and protein to stabilize your blood sugar, and enough carbs to maintain healthy flow of breast milk. Cronometer.com is a great website for setting daily nutrition goals and tracking to be sure you meet them. There’s also an AIP meal plan that can be really helpful, because it incorporates healing foods like bone broth, fermented food, seafood and organ meats, all of which are nutrient-filled recommendations on the AIP, that would be great for you and your baby. As for your symptoms of wheezing and puffy eyes, have you ever heard of histamine intolerance? I don’t know if it applies to you, but your symptoms are mentioned in that article. Lastly, you asked about the skin test – it’s only effective for allergies, not food sensitivities. An elimination diet like the AIP is the only accurate way to test for sensitivities.

      I hope that helps. Best wishes to you and your family, Kristy!

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