How to start the AIP diet

When you’re suffering from digestive health issues, meal time can be a fearful experience. Will this food trigger symptoms? Is this food free from all ingredients that may cause pain or discomfort? It can lead to avoidance of foods that may be nutritious for you. Fortunately, there are several diets out there, such as the low FODMAP diet that have been able to relieve digestive symptoms in those with conditions like irritable bowl syndrome (IBS). Another diet that may be helpful to those in gastrointestinal (GI) distress is known as the autoimmune protocol (AIP). Read below for tips on how to start this diet and learn how it may help you.

About AIP

The AIP eating regimen is an extension of the paleolithic eating regimen that has been shown to help those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Its name, the autoimmune protocol, is suggestive if what it is meant to do, which is to aid those dealing with autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions are those in which a person’s immune system mistakenly starts attacking and damaging its own organs and tissues. Such conditions include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, as well as inflammatory bowel disease I(IBD).

IBD includes those with Crohn’s or colitis, which are severe GI disorders that involve inflammation of the digestive tract. Many different factors such as gut microbiome imbalance, genetics, and immune health issues can contribute to one’s risk of developing these disorders. However, along with primary treatments that a physician may provide, modifying the diet may also help reduce severity of symptoms in some people.

The theory behind this regimen is that such autoimmune conditions may be caused by altered intestinal permeability. In simpler terms, small holes in the intestinal wall may leak food into the bloodstream. In turn, this could trigger an immune response that may lead to the body attacking its own tissues. The AIP regimen works to provide an anti-inflammatory regimen that could help heal these openings, reset the immune system, and help prevent or reduce autoimmune symptoms.

How to start the AIP

The main facets of the AIP regimen involve avoiding gluten and refined sugar, which is similar to the paleolithic diet. The AIP diet starts with an elimination phase that typically lasts about 6 weeks, or a bit longer if needed to see improvement in symptoms. This phase eliminates foods such as grains, legumes, nightshades, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils, and food additives.

After this elimination phase, a reintroduction would slowly add in foods that were avoided to see what specific food and drink items trigger symptoms. If you start to feel any of the following symptoms in the day or so after consuming a certain new food, then it may be necessary to eliminate that food from your diet long-term.

  • lethargy
  • brain fog
  • rash
  • stomach ache
  • aching in the joints
  • bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • memory loss

It may be helpful during your AIP journey to keep a food diary. That way if you feel any symptoms after eating any specific food or drink items, then you can more easily pinpoint the symptom trigger. Starting this regimen can be challenging for a person to do on their own. Therefore, it may be helpful to have a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian who specializes in therapeutic GI diets, to assist you along the way.

Take home message

If you are suffering with IBD, and primary treatments are not quite resolving symptoms, then a change in your diet may be helpful. In this case, you should talk to your healthcare provider about whether starting a diet regimen like the AIP could work for you. For more information, resources and products for the AIP diet and other therapeutic diets that may help with your digestive symptoms, visit the Casa de Sante website.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MED, RD of

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