aip for beginners

AIP seeks to utilize diet to help manage the symptoms associated with various autoimmune disorders.

The Autoimmune Protocol is a specialized anti-inflammatory diet that seeks to decrease the pain and symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions. While it is very restrictive, it shows promise in improving the quality of life.

What is AIP?

AIP stands for the Autoimmune Protocol. It is a dietary approach designed to reduce inflammation and help patients better manage their autoimmune conditions. Autoimmunity is when the body starts to attack itself. The immune system falsely labels different body tissues as “foreign” and assaults or destroys them. This can affect just about any organ or body part, and autoimmune conditions can lead to severe pain, depression, anxiety, and disability. 

AIP is similar to many “anti-inflammatory diets,” which aim to reduce the consumption of inflammatory or highly processed foods and increase fresh, nutrient-dense foods. AIP starts with an elimination phase where certain foods are eliminated – this phase can last from 1-3 months, depending on how long it takes a person to notice a difference. During the reintroduction phase, one food is reintroduced to identify possible food triggers for autoimmune symptoms. AIP recommends waiting 5-7 days before adding the next food. AIP is far more restrictive than a general anti-inflammatory diet, and it can be difficult to maintain the protocol. However, if you are experiencing severe symptoms from an autoimmune disorder, this may be a way to manage your condition naturally. 

Food to avoid includes grains like wheat, oats, barley, pasta, bread, rye, and cereal. Dairy such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and protein powder from cows, goats, or sheep. Nightshade vegetables like eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, paprika, and potatoes. Legumes like peas, beans, lentils, soy, and peanuts. Eggs and all egg products, including whites and yolks. Nuts and seeds, including nut butter, nut oil, nut flour, cocoa, and seed-based spices like anise, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, and nutmeg. AIP also recommends avoiding coffee, alcohol, food additives, artificial sweeteners, processed food, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol, aspirin, etc., Ibuprofen).

When avoiding “processed foods,” this includes a wide variety of ingredients: refined sugars from cane, beet, corn, barley, or brown rice. Processed vegetable oils like corn, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, palm kernel, and rapeseed. Food additives include trans fat, fast food, food coloring, and artificial sweeteners – stevia, sucralose, aspartame, mannitol, and xylitol. Basically, do not eat anything that comes from a box. Some AIP proponents recommend avoiding all fruit during the elimination phase, while others say 1-2 servings of fruit is okay. Some AIP recommendations include avoiding algae such as chlorella and spirulina.

What does AIP help with?

According to the AARDA, there are over 100 autoimmune conditions. Some common autoimmune disorders are type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, Addison’s, scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), reactive arthritis, celiac, PANDAS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, Raynaud’s, eczema, psoriasis, and Guillain-Barre.  While the AIP diet has limited formal research, there are some promising findings. Many autoimmune conditions are poorly understood, but they generally result in inflammation, joint pain, fatigue, and impaired ability to function. The AIP diet helps optimize gut health and decrease the possibility of leaky gut. The GI tract is closely related to the immune system, so there has long been a hypothesized connection between gut dysfunction and autoimmunity. Even if the AIP diet only decreases the body’s inflammation levels, this will generally lead to an improvement in symptoms. Many prescriptions for autoimmune conditions center around decreasing inflammation in the body.

How to get started?

As with any major health issue, speak to your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes. Not every dietary intervention is appropriate for each patient. Generally speaking, I recommend some preparation to make the transition to a new diet/lifestyle easier. But if you are a person who gets paralyzed by over-preparing, I would recommend you just jump in. Starting imperfectly now is better than waiting indefinitely for perfect conditions that will never materialize. There will always be a birthday, vacation, holiday, or another excuse to wait. There is no time like the present – just get started! 

However, if you want to prepare, you can start by reviewing the attached food list, collecting some new AIP recipes to try, and cleaning out your fridge and pantry. One of my favorite things to tell patients is that willpower is a limited thing. When you shop, stick to your list and never shop hungry. Rely on your willpower to prevent bringing home foods you are trying to avoid. Do not expect your willpower to work 100% if you have “cheat foods” in the house. It is much easier not to buy a tempting food item than to resist eating it if it is already in your pantry.

So what can you eat with AIP? Healthy, fresh foods that you have prepared yourself with minimal ingredients. Eat lots of fresh veggies – except the nightshade family. Eat 1-2 servings of fresh fruit. Tubers are also okay – sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, taro, and yam. Grass-fed and pasture-raised meat or wild game meat such as poultry, beef, bison, elk, venison, fish, seafood, and organ meat. Fermented and probiotic-rich foods like coconut kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and kimchi. Bone broth, honey, maple syrup, green and black tea (3-4 cups daily), vinegar, and healthy oils like olive, avocado, and coconut are also acceptable.

AIP is a very restrictive diet and hard to stick to. No one goes on the AIP diet for fun; they do it because they struggle with pain and physical dysfunction. It can be hard to maintain the diet and basically impossible to eat at restaurants or friends’ houses. But the elimination phase does not last forever, and the information you can gain about your body and possible food triggers for your condition is invaluable. Reintroducing foods is crucial to resume a more normal diet, and this step will give you personalized information about how different foods affect you. I will leave you with a great quote from @realworldaip on Instagram “Nothing tastes better than being healthy feels.”

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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