Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet vs Elimination Diet

Are you struggling with autoimmune disease symptoms that just won't go away? Perhaps you've heard about the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet or an elimination diet, and you're wondering which one is right for you. In this article, we'll dive into the details of both diets, so you can make an informed decision about what to try.

What is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet?

The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is a therapeutic eating plan that focuses on eliminating foods that are known to trigger inflammation and other autoimmune symptoms. This diet removes all grains, legumes, dairy products, processed foods, and refined sugars from your diet. The AIP diet is based on the idea that certain foods can worsen inflammation in the gut and exacerbate autoimmune symptoms. As a result, the AIP diet focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods to support the immune system and promote gut healing.

Additionally, the AIP diet also emphasizes the importance of reducing stress and getting enough sleep to support overall health and well-being. It is recommended to incorporate stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. Getting enough sleep is also crucial for the body to repair and regenerate, which can help reduce inflammation and support the immune system.

What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is a dietary approach that involves removing certain foods that may be responsible for unwanted symptoms. People who have experimented with elimination diets suspect that they may have certain food sensitivities or intolerances that are causing their symptoms. These diets can be short-term or long-term, and the goal is to discover which foods are problematic and remove them from your diet.

Elimination diets are often used to help manage symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, and eczema. By removing certain foods from their diet, individuals may experience a reduction in symptoms and an improvement in their overall quality of life.

It is important to note that elimination diets should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they can be difficult to follow and may result in nutrient deficiencies if not done properly. Additionally, it is important to reintroduce eliminated foods one at a time to determine which specific foods are causing symptoms, rather than assuming that all eliminated foods are problematic.

The Difference Between AIP and Elimination Diets

The primary difference between the AIP diet and an elimination diet is that the AIP diet is specifically designed for people with autoimmune conditions. An elimination diet, on the other hand, can be used by anyone who suspects they may have food sensitivities or intolerances. In general, AIP is a stricter and more comprehensive approach that eliminates more foods than a typical elimination diet, but both diets aim to identify and eliminate problematic foods.

Another key difference between AIP and elimination diets is the length of time they are typically followed. AIP is often recommended for a minimum of 30 days, with some people following it for several months or even years. Elimination diets, on the other hand, may only be followed for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the individual's needs and goals.

It's also worth noting that while both AIP and elimination diets can be effective in identifying problematic foods, they may not work for everyone. Some people may require additional testing or a more individualized approach to determine their food sensitivities or intolerances.

How Does the AIP Diet Work?

The AIP diet works by removing foods that may increase gut inflammation and damage the intestinal lining. By eliminating these foods, the immune system can calm down, and the gut can begin to heal. The protocol's long-term goal is to reintroduce eliminated foods gradually to identify the ones that trigger symptoms.

Additionally, the AIP diet emphasizes nutrient-dense foods that support gut health, such as leafy greens, bone broth, and fermented foods. It also encourages lifestyle changes, such as stress management and quality sleep, to further support the healing process. By addressing the root cause of gut inflammation, the AIP diet can improve not only digestive health but also overall well-being.

How Does an Elimination Diet Work?

An elimination diet works by removing foods suspected to be problematic from an individual's diet. After several weeks of eliminating these foods, the person reintroduces foods, one at a time, to observe whether or not the suspected food is triggering unwanted symptoms.

Elimination diets are often used to identify food intolerances or sensitivities that may be causing symptoms such as bloating, headaches, or skin rashes. By removing the suspected foods, the body has a chance to heal and symptoms may improve.

It is important to work with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian when embarking on an elimination diet, as it can be challenging to ensure that all necessary nutrients are still being consumed. Additionally, it is important to properly reintroduce foods to accurately identify triggers and avoid unnecessary food restrictions.

Foods to Avoid on the AIP Diet

On the AIP diet, it’s essential to eliminate all grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, and refined sugars. Additionally, you should avoid the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.), nuts, seeds, and alcohol. Dairy products must be completely removed, and vegetable oils should be replaced with healthy fats such as avocado, olive, or coconut oil.

It is also recommended to avoid caffeine and chocolate on the AIP diet, as they can cause inflammation in some individuals. Instead, herbal teas and carob can be used as substitutes. It is important to note that some individuals may need to eliminate additional foods, such as eggs or seafood, depending on their specific sensitivities.

While the AIP diet can be challenging to follow, it has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and improving symptoms in individuals with autoimmune conditions. It is important to work with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ensure that you are meeting your nutrient needs while following this diet.

Foods to Avoid on an Elimination Diet

An Elimination diet can be tailored according to individual needs. However, the most commonly eliminated foods are dairy, gluten, soy, certain nuts, and seeds, egg, fish, and shellfish. Foods that contain high levels of histamine, such as fermented food and aged cheese, are also avoided.

It is important to note that an elimination diet should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as it can be difficult to ensure that all necessary nutrients are being consumed. Additionally, it is important to reintroduce eliminated foods one at a time to determine which foods may be causing symptoms.

Some people may also choose to eliminate other foods, such as nightshade vegetables or certain fruits, depending on their individual sensitivities. Keeping a food diary and tracking symptoms can be helpful in identifying trigger foods.

Foods Allowed on the AIP Diet

On the AIP diet, you are permitted to consume specific nutrient-dense foods that help support and heal the body. These foods include animal proteins (such as grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, and organic poultry), non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and healthy fats (such as avocado, olive, or coconut oil).

Foods Allowed on an Elimination Diet

On an elimination diet, you can consume foods that do not contain suspected food allergens or intolerances. Some of the foods that are allowed include non-gluten grains (such as brown rice, quinoa), non-soy proteins, root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and healthy fats.

Benefits of the AIP Diet

The AIP diet is known for its potential to improve gut health, treat inflammation and improve auto-immune symptoms. People have reported improvements in their overall health, energy levels, and fewer autoimmune symptoms such as joint pain, weight gain, and migraines. The AIP diet is designed to nourish the body with nutrient-dense foods and remove inflammatory foods that cause inflammation and exacerbate autoimmune symptoms.

Benefits of an Elimination Diet

An elimination diet can help people identify their individual food sensitivities or intolerances. Once these foods are identified and removed from their diet, individuals can experience symptoms reduction, improved digestion, and overall health. An elimination diet can also help people break bad eating habits, learn how to cook new meals, and discover nutritious foods that support their health.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Each Diet

There are potential risks and side effects associated with the AIP and elimination diets. In the AIP diet, removing entire food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies, particularly in vitamins D, B12, and calcium. The elimination diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies if the person is not careful in choosing nutrient-dense food groups. Both diets may not meet the individual's calorie needs and can lead to weight loss or malnourishment.

Who Can Benefit from the AIP or Elimination Diets?

The AIP and elimination diets are useful for anyone who is seeking to improve their health and well-being. People with autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and food sensitivities/intolerances particularly benefit from these diets.

Which Diet Is Right for You?

The choice between an elimination diet and the AIP diet depends on individual needs. If you suspect gluten, dairy, or certain allergens are causing your symptoms, you may benefit from the elimination diet. If you have autoimmune symptoms, the AIP diet may be your best bet. A healthcare professional or Registered Dietitian can help you choose which diet is best for you.

Can You Combine the AIP and Elimination Diets?

Yes, you can combine AIP and elimination diets. However, it is essential to work with a healthcare professional to ensure you are not unnecessarily removing healthy food groups and developing any nutritional deficiencies.

Success Stories from Those Who Have Tried Each Diet

Many people report significant improvements in their health after following the AIP and elimination diets. Those who have tried the AIP diet have experienced relief from autoimmune symptoms such as joint pain, weight gain, and migraines. Those who have tried the elimination diet report reduced digestive issues and an overall feeling of increased wellness.

Tips for Starting and Sticking to an AIP or Elimination Diet

Starting and sticking to the AIP or elimination diets can be a challenge, but it is possible. Here are some tips: 1) Work with an experienced healthcare professional to ensure the diet is right for you. 2) Plan your meals ahead of time. 3) Stock your fridge with nutrient-dense foods. 4) Associates yourself with a support group or friend to keep motivated.


The AIP diet and elimination diet are both useful dietary approaches to help identify food sensitivities, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health. Whether you decide on an elimination diet or AIP diet, it is essential to work with a healthcare professional to ensure you do not overlook vital nutrient groups and develop nutritional deficiencies.

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