Wondering if the AIP diet is right for you? Sharon weighs in on your top questions on the AIP diet plan.
You might have heard of the AIP diet (autoimmune protocol diet), which has been getting more attention from people interested in managing their autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions in which one’s immune system has attacked their own cells. What is the AIP diet? Advocates of the AIP diet claim that it reduces inflammation by preventing “leaky gut” and lowers the severity of autoimmune symptoms. The diet recommends reducing symptoms by going on an extreme elimination diet, following an AIP food list which cuts out multiple food groups and nutritious foods. The goal of this elimination process is to identify foods that trigger symptoms. But the AIP elimination process may come at an unnecessary cost to your health.
If you have an autoimmune condition, you are likely looking for ways to keep your pain and symptoms to a minimum. You may have run across articles online recommending that you go on AIP. But before you do that, read on to better understand the possible negative effects and gaps in research and knowledge on AIP.
AIP (autoimmune protocol diet) is a diet plan that is meant to lower inflammation, pain, and symptoms related to autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), IBS, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, MS, PCOS, and lupus.
The AIP diet is meant to eliminate foods that promote inflammation and increase the gut’s permeability; it is targeted at reducing the possibility of “leaky gut”—a condition in which damage to the gut barrier triggers the development of autoimmune diseases. However, the research in this area is skimpy, so this is not well understood.
Phase one of the AIP diet for about one month is an elimination phase, which eliminates many foods from the diet, including grains, pulses (beans, lentils, peas), dairy, eggs, refined sugar, sugar substitutes, chemical additives, refined vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, nightshades, nuts, seeds, coffee, and alcohol. What you do eat is animal proteins, vegetables that aren’t nightshades, fruits, and grain-free flours. Basically a Paleo diet with even more restriction.
Phase two of the diet is a reintroduction phase, slowly adding back in foods one at a time to see if you experience symptoms.
Phase three is maintenance, after you’ve identified foods that may pose triggers to symptoms.
People with autoimmune disorders that result in symptoms. However, it is not a proven diet to treat these conditions, and it excludes many foods, such as whole grains, pulses, certain vegetables, and nuts, that we know are healthful.
This diet may help identify unique triggers, such as food intolerances and sensitivities. For example, celiac disease means a lifetime avoidance of gluten-containing grains.
There is not enough evidence to know for sure that these foods are triggers—the whole idea that these foods are “inflammatory” has not been proven by science. For example, the research shows that nuts, seeds, grains, nightshade vegetables like tomatoes and bell peppers, and pulses are anti-inflammatory—they have been linked with lowering inflammation levels. So, eliminating these foods needlessly from the diet may not make sense.
Of course, it does makes sense to focus on nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods in the diet when you suffer from autoimmune disorders, but this diet plan is very restrictive, even if only consumed for one month. In reality, research documents that an anti-inflammatory diet is rich in whole plant foods, including soy foods, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthful fats, dark chocolate, and tea. Read more about anti-inflammatory eating here.
Some small studies have been done that showed improvement, but we need clinical trials to really understand the potential benefit of the AIP diet.
For example, it would be interesting to compare the effects of the AIP diet with a known anti-inflammatory eating pattern, like a healthy Mediterranean diet or Vegetarian/Vegan diet. These diet patterns have been shown to reduce inflammation and RA symptoms, as well as other benefits for autoimmune disorders.
Learn more about top nutrition issues in my Ask Sharon blog:
What Are the Health Benefits and Risks for Nightshades?
Should I Try a Keto Diet?
Why Is it Hard to Lose Weight As I Age?
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
About Ask Sharon
As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month.