The autoimmune protocol is a diet model that has gained significant popularity in recent years. It avoids eating certain foods for several weeks to improve health.
As stated in an article in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases , it aims to help control inflammation, pain, and other symptoms of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease.
What should you know about it? We will tell you in this article!
What is the autoimmune protocol?
The autoimmune protocol is an avoidance diet that does not eat certain foods for several weeks to monitor how it affects health. It is a particularly important diet for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, rubella and inflammatory bowel disease.
Symptoms of these conditions range from joint pain to fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nerve damage, and confusion. Their origin is multifactorial and includes heritage and environmental factors. However, one hypothesis associates them with intestinal barrier damage, which in turn is associated with the consumption of certain foods.
The autoimmune protocol basically calls for the elimination and replacement of those foods with nutrient alternatives that help “repair” the gut and promote the balance of its microbiome. It also recommends the elimination of products containing gluten and lactose, as these often cause abnormal immune reactions in sensitive people.
Autoimmune protocol steps
The autoimmune protocol is somewhat reminiscent of the popular paleo diet. In fact, some experts call it an extension of it. However, the autoimmune protocol has a slightly stricter diet and consists of two main stages.
The first step in the autoimmune protocol involves avoiding foods and medications that may be associated with inflammation of the gut or imbalance of its microbiome. This takes into account foods that often cause allergies or side effects.
- Kois plants
- Dairy products
- Vegetable oils
- Refined sugars
- Processed foods
- NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and high-dose aspirin.
Instead , of course, it is recommended to eat fresh and nutritious foods instead . In addition, products fermented or containing probiotics should be remembered. It is also important to strive to improve lifestyles through relaxation techniques, exercise and better sleep quality.
This stage can last until the person feels that their symptoms have improved. Often this takes 30-90 days. However, some will notice its effects as early as the third week.
As soon as a person notices an improvement in the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, the recovery phase begins. The foods avoided in it are gradually added back to the diet one at a time, of course according to the person’s tolerance.
At this stage, the aim is to identify the foods that trigger the symptoms of the disease. It also aims to return to the diet those foods that do not cause any symptoms in order to make the diet more varied and fuller.
Foods are returned one at a time with 5-7 days in between. This period is sufficient to determine if symptoms recur after eating food. Tolerable foods can be included in the diet in the future, while others should be completely excluded.
Steps to return food
Avoided foods are returned to the AIP diet following a few steps. This is important to do with the guidance of a health professional and at the right time in non-inflammatory conditions. Therefore, returning foods to the diet should be avoided after a poorly slept night or during stressful times.
If possible, it is ideal to first return foods with a lower concentration of a potentially symptomatic ingredient. For dairy products, for example, it’s best to start with fermented options like yogurt.
The steps are as follows:
- Choose the food you want to return to the diet. Eat it several times a day on the selected test day. Then avoid it completely for the next 5-6 days.
- Eat a small amount of that food and wait about 15 minutes to see if there are any reactions.
- If symptoms occur, the test should be stopped and the person should continue to avoid food. If symptoms do not occur instead, the person should try a higher dose, observing its effects for 2-3 hours.
- If no symptoms occur at this stage, the person can eat the normal dose of that food. It should then be avoided again for 5-6 days before another food is returned to the diet.
- The same procedure is repeated.
Allowed and forbidden foods in the AIP diet
For the AIP diet to succeed, it is important to follow the recommendations for permitted and prohibited foods. Here, it should be remembered that there are many limitations. It is best to seek the advice of a nutritionist to avoid deficiencies.
- Several plants and algae
- High quality fish and Seafood high in Omega-3
- Fresh fruit in moderation
- Fermented and probiotic foods (kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and coconut kefir)
- Lean meats and beef liver
- Olive, coconut and avocado oil
- Herbs and spices not derived from seeds
- Natural sweeteners, such as honey, in moderate amounts
- Bone broth
- Green and black tea
- Large plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines
- Cereals (rice, wheat, oats, barley, rye and their derivatives)
- Dairy products
- Vegetable oils (other than those mentioned in authorized foods)
- Nuts and seeds
- Food additives such as bleached sugar and trans fat
How does the autoimmune protocol work?
Currently, the evidence from studies on the efficacy of the AIP diet is still limited. However, some studies show that it may reduce inflammation and the symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
Let’s take a closer look at this.
Autoimmune protocol and permeable bowel
People with autoimmune diseases usually have a permeable bowel (leaky bowel). Studies show that intestinal permeability has been linked to inflammation. Thus, a person may suffer from an inflammatory disease.
The findings have found that by relieving bleeding bowel syndrome , the AIP diet reduces inflammation and associated symptoms. However, more research is needed on this.
Treatment of symptoms of autoimmune diseases
In addition to the above, it is important to note that the autoimmune protocol has had positive effects on the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In fact, in some cases, inflammation has dropped by 29-68%.
What are the disadvantages of the AIP diet?
The biggest disadvantage of the autoimmune protocol is that it is a very restrictive diet, especially in the avoidance phase. As a result, it is not only difficult to follow, but may not be suitable for everyone.
A person may feel anxious or experience social isolation due to food restrictions themselves. Without good planning, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies.
On the other hand, there is also no guarantee that the autoimmune protocol will certainly reduce inflammation and the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Nevertheless, many get to experience its positive effects when followed.
You should ask a nutritionist
At first glance, it seems that adopting the AIP diet is easy as long as you follow the rules that come with it. However, it is a protocol that should be taken with extreme caution as it involves significant dietary restrictions.
It is therefore very important to consult a nutritionist or doctor to get all the relevant information about this diet. A professional will help determine if the autoimmune protocol is the right diet for you and plan it correctly to avoid side effects.