I get asked a lot of questions about doing the AIP diet, and I’d like to clear up some misconceptions and concerns. I would like to preface all of this by saying three things. First, I’m neither a doctor nor a nutritionist and this isn’t medical advice; I’m speaking from my own research and experience as a patient and offering this info in the hopes that others will research and become empowered. Second, the AIP diet will not heal you. However, by giving the body the right kind of fuel and supporting it correctly, the body will begin to heal itself just like it was designed by God to do! Third, the AIP diet is not enough. You also need to get moving, sleep, have fun, get fresh air, reduce stress … all common sense stuff.
First, a little backstory: I was misdiagnosed years ago with hypothyroidism and then finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
This diagnosis came after a long and dramatic battle with a doctor who refused to consider that something “more” was wrong, even though my thyroid levels were fluctuating wildly. When I asked for a referral to an endocrinologist, this doctor told me that I needed to just take my synthroid and behave (that went over well). Then she refused to see me as a patient because I was “non-compliant”. The endocrinologist that I took myself to said that if I’d continued on that dose of synthroid, it would have had extremely detrimental effects, and could even have killed me.
My life since then has been about finding balance for my thyroid. I went for years being gluten free (I also have a tentative diagnosis of celiac disease) and using essential oils for thyroid support. I was “just fine” for a long time.
Then, over the course of about five months in early 2018, my body went into shut down mode. I was exhausted, gaining weight rapidly, shedding hair, dealing with extreme brain fog, and generally feeling like a salted slug on a sunny summer day. Quite often I’d be in bed by mid-afternoon.
I also developed a pretty extreme form of social anxiety … I went from being my normal happy outgoing self to feeling like I just couldn’t be around people at all.
My husband and I actually had a few talks about my health … along the lines of “Should I go to the ER? Maybe I’ve lost my mind!Could it be cancer?”
One day I had an epiphany break through the brain fog and I thought to myself, “OH YOU DUMMY. It’s your thyroid!” I honestly hadn’t considered it because it was so very much worse than what I’d ever experienced. But what might have triggered all this, after so many years of doing well with it?
I believe God led me to the book, “How To Heal Hashimoto’s”, by Marc Ryan, L.A.C. Ryan is a Chinese Medicine guy and that’s a discipline I’ve never researched before. Parts of the book seem downright weird (talking about the fire element, for example) but I quickly discerned that the vocabulary is different, but the underlying core principles are both sound and familiar.
Reading that book led me to really research diet, which led me to AIP. Within days of starting, I was feeling a difference. Within a couple of weeks, I was awake at dinner time (and now I enjoy a normal bedtime and wake up with energy in the morning!) I also discovered quite early on that cheating and having almonds would land me in bed for a couple of days. Like I said – once you climb in the life raft, you’ll not want to climb back out into shark-infested waters at least for a while.
So what is AIP?
It’s the AutoImmune Protocol, sometimes called the Anti-Inflammatory Protocol. Anyone with an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Psoriasis, etc. should be on this diet. Additionally, many people with chronic tick-borne illnesses, diabetes (regardless of type), digestive trouble, chronic allergies, etc. may also see extreme benefits.
It’s not a “diet” in the sense of losing weight; it’s not a “lifestyle” like Keto where you eventually get to eat cake on cheat days … it’s a life raft that you’ll travel in for the rest of your life. That life raft is somewhat customizable, but trust me – you’re not going to want to get out of the boat.
What foods does AIP eliminate?
The list is pretty extensive and can seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow the plan I’ll be laying out here (and ultimately in AIP Boot Camp), you will transition into the life raft very easily.
Here’s the list of foods to avoid:
- all grains (more than just gluten – you’ll need to eliminate corn, oats, rice, etc. too – as well as flour and starches made with those grains).
- all dairy (including butter)
- eggs and products containing eggs
- legumes, such as beans and peanuts
- all tree nuts (except coconut)
- all soy products
- nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, okra – plus spices that come from peppers)
- all sugars and sugar replacements (take heart, there are some good sweeteners)
- chocolate and coffee
- most oils (because they derive from seeds))
- food additives, preservatives, colours, flavours
- I add tap water and all fluoride/fluorinated chemicals to the list. If you’re serious about reclaiming your health, this needs to be a top priority NOW.
Are you allergic to all of this stuff?
It’s also not about eliminating allergens per se. It’s simply recognizing that our bodies just don’t like certain foods and eliminating them. I might say “I’m allergic to nuts” to a waiter, even though “allergy” is not the correct medical terminology, because it conveys the urgency of the matter without having to go into a lengthy explanation of how I learned that almonds shut my thyroid down and cause me to want to hide under my bed for weeks at a time.
Usually when I go over that list with people, they gasp audibly and say something like
OH MY GAWD WHAT DO YOU EAT THEN, AIR?
Nope. As my three year old grandson knows, eating air gives you farts.
I actually eat remarkably well in terms of nutrition and volume.
- meat – preferably grass fed/pastured/free range/wild
- vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, onion, kale, chard, spinach, avocados, zucchini and summer squash, etc.
- starch substitutes like sweet potatoes, squash, spaghetti squash, “zoodles”, etc.
- coconut (flour, milk, meat, water, and aminos (like soy sauce but better))
- fruit (except tomatoes)
- avocado, olive, and coconut oil
- fermented food and drink like tepache, coconut kefir, water kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi
- honey or maple syrup (some people say AIP allows molasses too)
- herbs and spices like basil, mint, thyme, turmeric, and oregano
- matcha and many herbal teas
- bone broth
- vinegars, such as apple cider and balsamic
I decided early on that my three non-negotiables to avoid (other than gluten which I would avoid like the plague anyway) are tomatoes, dairy, and nuts; and my three non-negotiables that I would hang onto as I transition are rice, coffee, and dry red wine. As of this week, I’m giving up the rice too. Eventually perhaps the coffee and wine. We’ll see. I’ll share more about these “non negotiables” as we go … I’m convinced it’s why I’ve been able to transition so easily.
What is a typical meal like?
Breakfast is often either a sweet potato & bacon hash or spaghetti squash and dates stewed into a porridge.
Lunch on the go tends to be my version of He Won’t Know It’s Paleo’s Pigs in a Pillow coupled with some fruit and raw veggies. Lunch at home is often a big salad paired with fish or shrimp.
Dinners vary widely, but include things like Pork Roast with Pineapple & Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Coconut Curry over Spaghetti Squash, Lamb or Turkey Burgers with Veggie Chips (like Yuca, Sweet Potato, Turnip), or whatever seafood we’ve happened to catch (we do live near the beach so that’s a fairly regular occurrence).
Desserts include another variation on the Pigs in a Pillow – I make the dough and stuff it with blueberries and a touch of maple syrup, Avocado/Banana/Carob (best chocolate mousse ever), tapioca pudding, date/coconut balls … believe me you won’t miss out. There’s even some great cake recipes.
Aren’t you afraid of nutritional deficiencies?
No … and this question puzzles me so much. Partly because the person who is asking almost always eats at McDonalds, guzzles Mountain Dew, and thinks that Doritos are a food product. And partly because what’s really missing from that list?
I get protein, carbohydrates, fats, veggies, vitamins, minerals from all of that. Sure, I’m not getting synthetic hormones like “Vitamin D” from milk, but I don’t need that because I make a point to go out in the sun a lot. I’m not getting B vitamins that “fortify” (God help us) things like grain-based bread and cereals, because meats, green leafy’s, and fruit have plenty. Greens and figs have tons of calcium. (and the list goes on). Plus, I take Lifelong Vitality. I have no nutritional worries.
What about eating out?
We eat out a lot less, but I can usually find something to eat at a restaurant. A salad with plain meat, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar is doable at most places.
I also go without eating frequently and feel no guilt about doing so.
Isn’t it hard to cook all of your own food at home?
No, it’s incredibly easy. I have two Instant Pots and I like to experiment. Google, Pinterest, and my mother are my best friends for learning. I’ll be sharing the fruits of those labours with you soon!
It’s hard to wrap your mind around this until you do it, but I usually prep cook for the entire week. In 2-3 hours (very little of that being actual hands on work) I will have 2-3 meats, sweet potato, spaghetti squash, veggies, and more cooked and in the fridge, ready to incorporate into full meals as the mood strikes.
Is AIP forever?
Yes and no. I started this article with an analogy about a life raft and shark infested waters – once you start on AIP you won’t want to cheat. However, it is permissible to do challenges to your diet, one item at a time. Many people start with eggs – have a tiny speck of egg white. Wait 2-3 days. Have an actual bite. Wait 2-3 days. Have several bites. Wait. Have a yolk. Wait. Eat eggs once a week for a month. See if any measurable results change – weight, skin, mood, energy level, digestion. If all is well, you can safely incorporate eggs into your diet.
In this way, AIP is fairly customizable. It takes a long time to evaluate each and every food, but it’s worth it.
I see nothing wrong with having a couple of foods that you don’t give up right away. If you can’t live without your chocolate, by golly, don’t give it up (just buy the absolute best quality cocoa powder you can find). I think you’ll find, as I have, that after a few weeks it’s easier to wrap your mind around taking a break from that food.
What questions do you have about AIP? Post in the comments or on Facebook, and I’ll answer!