An autoimmune disease is any condition where a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages its own bodily tissues. Inflammation is a common feature of an autoimmune disease. Examples include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
This article explores what the AIP diet is and what foods a person can and cannot eat if they want to follow the diet. It also considers the scientific evidence available to support the effectiveness of the AIP diet in the management and treatment of autoimmune diseases.
What is the AIP diet?
The AIP diet is a version of the Paleo diet, designed to help treat automimmune diseases.
Also known as the paleo autoimmune protocol, the AIP diet is a much stricter version of the Paleo diet (which is based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds).
It advises eliminating foods that may cause inflammation in the gut and eating nutrient-rich foods.
The AIP diet is based on a belief that autoimmune conditions are caused by something called a “leaky gut”, which is medically now referred to as altered intestinal permeability.
The theory is that small holes in the gut cause food to leak into the body. This is thought to cause the immune system to overreact and start attacking bodily tissues in error.
By eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding inflammatory ones, the AIP diet aims to heal any holes in the gut. This is thought to help:
- reset the immune system
- prevent the autoimmune response
- reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases
- prevent the occurrence of secondary autoimmune diseases
People who do the AIP diet should follow it strictly for a few weeks and then slowly reintroduce foods that they have avoided.
The idea is to see if there is a reaction when the food is reintroduced. If there is a reaction, the suggestion is that a person should exclude this food from their diet long-term.
Foods to eat on the AIP diet
- meat and fish, preferably not factory raised
- vegetables (but not nightshades, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
- sweet potatoes
- fruit (in small quantities)
- coconut milk
- avocado, olive, and coconut oil
- dairy-free fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir made with coconut milk, sauerkraut, and kimchi
- honey or maple syrup (but only to be used occasionally, in small quantities)
- fresh non-seed herbs, such as basil, mint, and oregano
- green tea and non-seed herbal teas
- bone broth
- vinegars, such as apple cider and balsamic
Foods to avoid on the AIP diet
- all grains, such as oats, rice, and wheat
- all dairy
- legumes, such as beans and peanuts
- nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
- all sugars, including sugar replacements (except for occasional use of honey)
- butter and ghee
- all oils (except for avocado, coconut, and olive)
- food additives