Autoimmune disorders frequently result in debilitating symptoms including extreme fatigue, inhibited cognitive function, and in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, severe thyroid dysfunction.
Many people living in America have grown up with a traditional western diet rife with inflammatory foods such as gluten, processed foods, and sugars. Supplying the body with such foods keep the immune system triggered and stressed, which can exacerbate autoimmune conditions – find out how gluten impacts thyroid function.
Optimizing your nutrition and reestablishing a baseline immune response through an individualized AIP diet can help eliminate or significantly improve Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune disorders.
The Goal of AIP
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) has become a popular method for limiting symptoms associated with or even reversing autoimmune disease. It is unlikely that a person with a significant autoimmune condition will be completely taken off medication but an AIP diet can significantly improve symptoms and increase the quality of life.
The primary goal of AIP dieting is to remove inflammatory substances and let the body reset its immune response. Dieting under the AIP guidelines pushes you to improve nutrition, eliminate inflammatory foods, and identify food sensitivities.
AIP is intended to be tuned to your specifications. Even though there are strict guidelines when first starting the AIP diet, after the immune function has stabilized, you gain more freedom and flexibility in your food consumption.
The difficulty associated with AIP is often worth the effort as many with autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto’s, have reported improvement or resolution of their condition. People often experience reduced symptom intensity in the areas of joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, brain fog, tinnitus, skin rashes and others.
If you are suffering from these symptoms or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, it is worth investigating the AIP diet.
What is the AIP Diet?
The autoimmune protocol begins with a paleo diet, which is central to resetting and restoring the autoimmune response.
An autoimmune supporting diet eliminates inflammatory foods that can induce an undesired immune response and trigger episodes of hyperactive immunity. The following collection of foods should be eliminated from your diet:
- Dried legumes such as peanuts
- Emulsifiers and thickeners
- Processed foods
- Refined oils
- Refined sugars
In addition to the complete removal of the above foods, AIP requires a temporary elimination of other inflammatory substances.
Initially, you must avoid certain foods including grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. This strict elimination of inflammatory foods should be done for a minimum of 30 days. Those with severe autoimmune dysfunction may need to follow the more stringent dietary guideline for at least 60 days before feeling the restorative benefits.
The following foods should be eliminated for a minimum of 30 days (60 for those with severe dysfunction):
- Fresh legumes such as green beans and peas
- Fruit-based and seed-based spices
- High glycemic index foods
- Nightshades, which include vegetables such as potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes etc. and spices including paprika, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper etc.
- Nuts and nut-based oils
- Seeds including coffee, cocoa, and seed based oils
- Sugars such as honey, maple syrup, and agave
The period of removal allows the body time to calm the autoimmune responses, heal the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and repair damaged tissues.
After the initial cleansing period, foods can start being carefully reintroduced into your diet. The best method for doing this while still supporting autoimmune restoration and function is to select the foods most important to you and systemically incorporate them into the diet (those with an autoimmune disease will likely have to continue avoiding gluten, as it is a common contributor to autoimmune dysfunction and inflammation).
Balancing Nutrition While AIP Dieting
Removal of inflammatory substances is an important component of AIP. However, it is equally important to provide the body with the nutrients it needs to support proper bodily function and restoration!
There are many hearty and nourishing foods such as wild-caught seafood, organ meat, fermented foods, bone broth, and a wide range of fresh vegetables that support immunity and wellness.
Even though your focus may be on removing problem foods, it’s critical that they are replaced with nutritious substances such as:
- Bone broth
- Fats & oils
- Fermented foods
- Herbs and spices
- Hydrolyzed beef protein
- Low-glycemic organic fruits
- Organic and grass-fed meats including organ meats
- Organic vegetables excluding nightshades and legumes
- Sweet potatoes
- Wild-caught fish
Paleo and AIP Safe Recipes
The dietary restrictions of AIP may seem daunting at first. Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available that provide tasty and nutritious Paleo recipes that can help ease the transition into an AIP diet.
Bubble and Squeak
Hearty meals are at the core of paleo dieting and the British inspired Bubble and Squeak delivers. This dish utilizes leftover pork or beef roast and a collection of vegetables such as carrots, garlic, and onion.
AIP Paleo Garlic Knots
Removing gluten and wheat is often a challenge for those beginning their AIP journey. Fortunately, these Paleo Garlic Knots can help satisfy the craving for bread. These cheesy salty AIP alternatives to traditional garlic knots can help ease the elimination of bread.
AIP Pumpkin Pie
Some may be concerned about their ability to enjoy desserts or sweet treats when following an AIP diet. Fortunately, the paleo community has created a huge selection of dessert options including this AIP safe Pumpkin Pie. This recipe allows for enjoyment of an after dinner bite while still supporting healing and restoration.
Lifestyle Changes of AIP
Diet is not the only component of AIP. In addition to diet, it is important to balance other areas of your life as well. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and limiting inflammation and autoimmune flares are essential to the success of AIP.
The primary lifestyle goals of AIP are as follows:
- Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night
- Stress relieving activities and limiting stress
- Being exposed to sunlight and being active daily
- Avoid sitting or resting too long (try to move and walk around after every hour spent sitting or reclining)
- Creating an emotional support network with family and friends
- Schedule time for fun and relaxation
Coupling these restorative activities with an AIP diet can significantly improve autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s.
Individual Optimizations with AIP
Those with Hashimoto’s should certainly investigate implementing an AIP diet to support their wellness. The guidelines given in this article provide a framework for AIP dieting, which can help restore a dysfunctional immune system. Every person will experience different results from an AIP diet and require individual tuning to reach optimal health.
If the dietary and lifestyle changes do not meet your expectations it may be worth investigating other possible causes of poor immune function such as imbalanced hormones, gut infections, inhibited nutrient absorption, etc.
The journey to greater immune wellness may be long but the end result of improved energy, reduced pain, and better health is well worth the effort!