What the Heck Is the AIP Diet?

Meet the Autoimmune Protocol, the new diet that could help people suffering from autoimmune diseases and avoid the dreaded "leaky gut"!

Green vegetables salad (sweet pea, avocado, arugula, cucumber) in a black bowl on a dark slate, stone or concrete background.Top view.Shutterstock / Liliya Kandrashevich

You may have heard of the Autoimmune Protocol (or AIP), but why do so many people follow it? Originally designed for people with gastrointestinal disorders, the diet is really catching on.

Autoimmune diseases account for more than 80 different types of conditions, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. These health complaints include everything from mild cases of lactose intolerance to more severe illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. These problems are all caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself.

Some experts believe that a simple dietary change could help people suffering from some of the most common autoimmune diseases. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the AIP and the health benefits it may offer.

What is the Autoimmune Protocol?

The list of foods that you need to cut out when following this protocol is long. The diet is a plain one which only includes food groups that are unlikely to irritate your gut and cause you digestive problems. Needless to say, adapting to this particular eating plan is a hard process, but it’s one that could improve your health if you have an autoimmune disease.

Similar to the highly popular paleo diet, the AIP means avoiding gluten, legumes, grains, dairy and alcohol. Yet, there are more restrictions on this diet that you should know about.

To follow it to the letter, you should also quit eating foods that could be bad for your gut. These include eggs, nuts, seeds, peppers, tomatoes and factory-farmed meats. The idea is to avoid foods and additives that can trigger intestinal inflammation, an imbalance in gut bacteria and/or symptoms of food intolerance.

What are the benefits of the diet?

Currently, there’s not a whole lot of research into the effects of the AIP, but that’s starting to change. Last year, new research into how the diet affected those struggling with Irritable Bowel Disease offered some enlightening results.

The data suggested that following the protocol could improve the “clinical responses” of the condition. While the research only delved into one particular disease, it is thought that the diet could have benefits for those struggling from other autoimmune diseases.

Typical AIP meals to get started

When you first look at the list of foods you should not eat, it could all seem a little overwhelming. However, there is no reason that you can’t enjoy a delicious, varied diet so long as you stick to the base rules. Make a note of what you need to avoid and then look for recipes that don’t include them.

To get you started, typical dishes could include a whole host of grilled fish recipes, leafy greens and lean meats. You could also try some fermented side dishes, such as some tasty kimchi and sauerkraut. While the restrictions are certainly plentiful, it’s all about being creative in your culinary skills.

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Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a creative feature writer, with a flair for food, health and lifestyle pieces. Her work has been seen in a number of national publications including Beyond Words Magazine, Reader's Digest and Psychologies. When she’s not typing away, you can find her trying out new recipes or binging Netflix shows— sometimes simultaneously.