Apologies in advance; I’m hopefully not offending anyone with that title – and almost certainly dating myself a bit. LOL For those unfamiliar, the “____ Book for Dummies was a thing when I was growing up – and into adulthood. I haven’t seen them around so much lately, but also we have the interwebz now. Short version is, I’m doing my best to “dumb down” the AIP diet a little for those new to the concept or struggling with the implementation.
What is the AIP Diet?
AIP is short for Autoimmune Protocol. In short, the AIP diet is an anti-inflammatory elimination diet using the concept of the Paleo diet (also known as the caveman diet) as a base. It’s a diet based on what humans might have eaten millions of years ago – things like lean meats, fish, eggs, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. Grains, legumes, dairy products and processed foods are avoided. It’s really pretty tasty, and a lot of people feel much healthier on it. The protocol also includes strategies like reducing stress and improving sleep health. I won’t go into all the reasons for those choices in this blog, but you can read more about it here.
The AIP diet takes things a step further. The goal, in short, is to reduce pain, inflammation and other symptoms often experienced by those with autoimmune diseases – and repair the gut lining and immune system. You can read more about the science and nitty-gritty details of it here. It’s pretty restrictive, but not intended to be permanent. An elimination diet helps identify what your individual triggers and sensitivities are, so you can avoid the things that actually bother you and enjoy the things that don’t (while feeling a whole heck of a lot better)! Studies have shown it to be VERY effective, and I can tell you from personal experience that it has made whole worlds of difference for me. I’ve discovered there are definitely things not on the list that I tolerate just fine, some things I can eat but only infrequently, and some things I can NEVER, EVER TOUCH AGAIN. Rest in peace, nightshades – I will love you forever.
What Can and Can’t You Eat?
YOU CAN EAT NOTHING!!
Just kidding. It might feel that way at first, but I quickly discovered that I can replicate a whole lot of stuff using AIP-friendly ingredients. And for what it’s worth, I have 3 teenage daughters and a husband who are DEFINITELY NOT eating AIP; recipes are required to be approved by them before they are added to the rotation. AIP Clam Chowder? I’ve gotchu. AIP Singapore Noodles and Yakisoba? Family favorites. AIP Bagels? Ehhhh… those ones aren’t terrible, but also not as good as “regular” bagels. Still good enough to make occasionally, though!
I will warn you – as you have likely already discovered (or at least suspected), cooking on the AIP diet is a bit more labor-intensive. And it’s SUPER easy to cheat if you don’t have ready-made food or snacky things on hand. I highly, highly advise setting aside a day to shop and do weekly meal prep. It can make all the difference, especially if you have kids. Or work. Or hobbies. Really, anything that prevents you from spending all your life cooking. I am exaggerating a little, and you CAN do AIP in very little time – if you’re willing and able to spend money on expensive lunchmeats and pre-prepped veggies and such. Alas, I cannot, so I am constantly working to improve my batch-cooking and meal-prep expertise. It helps that we all like leftovers. But I digress.
Also? It is ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT. If you have chronic pain or inflammation, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, Hashimoto’s, or just general “I’m no spring chicken any more and kind of feel several years older than I should” syndrome – this is worth trying. Limit yourself to the super restrictive diet for at least 30 days, longer if you can stand it, and follow the reintroduction guidelines super carefully. Again, I’ll point you to The Paleo Mom’s site for this – she’s the lady with a PhD who kind of came up with all this. Her books are excellent, and what got me started on all this.
Things You Cannot Eat
These things are not allowed because they are inflammatory, or impact the gut lining, or stimulate allergies and inflammation, or are just… not very good for you. This is the summarized list; for a truly thorough list in an easy-to-print format, visit Unbound Wellness’ post on exactly this. They also have some awesome recipes and tips.
- Grains (yes, ALL grains, including wheat, rice, corn, oats, and all the other weird ones)
- Dairy (none, not even goat)
- Legumes (all beans, chickpeas, peanuts, soy, lentils)
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers)
- Someday, I will write an ode to nightshades. I miss potatoes and tomatoes in all forms. Eggplant was always terrible, though.
- Nuts & Seeds (sadly, this includes cocoa, coffee, flax and chia, in addition to “normal” nuts)
- Seed & berry spices
- All alcohol
- All eggs
- All additives & sugar (preservatives, food dyes, gums)
- Bonus – you can have honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar in moderation!
Things You Can and Should Eat
- Veggies (up to 9 servings a day is suggested, and you can eat almost any veggie not listed above)
- Herbs & Spices (anything that’s not a nut, seed, or nightshade)
- Fruits (limit these because of natural sugars, but most are alright)
- Proteins (generally high-quality animal protein of any kind, with organic/wild/pasture-raised being preferable)
- Fats (animal fats, avocado, coconut, olive, palm)
- Other random stuff, like apple cider vinegar, arrowroot and tapioca, cassava flour, coconut everything, and tigernuts
Great, So Now What?
Now that I’ve destroyed any hope of normalcy for you (or at least any hope of eating out – seriously, you’re limited to like salad with no dressing and sashimi), let’s get into some of the details of the how-to! In our next post, we’ll talk about basic shopping and meal planning suggestions to help keep your time and expenses to a minimum, and I’ll share with you a couple of our go-to recipes.