What diet is best for autoimmune disease is a question that I started asking myself after getting diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and sjögren's syndrome at the beginning of 2020. After going undiagnosed for almost eight years, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulder when I finally had a name to put to all the strange symptoms that I've been experiencing over the years.
Now that I had a diagnosis I had a whole new problem - what could I do to manage my autoimmune diseases?
That's where the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet comes in.
After doing extensive research I discovered the AIP diet, which is an elimination diet that focuses primarily on reducing inflammation, pain, and other symptoms that are often associated with autoimmune disease (1).
The AIP diet consists of a three-phase process of elimination, maintenance, and reintroduction (2):
- The Elimination Phase: This is where you're focusing on eating more nutrient-dense foods and slowly removing the most common inflammatory foods from your diet.
- The Maintenance Phase: Once you've removed the inflammatory foods from your diet the goal is then to maintain those food eliminations between 30-90 days.
- The Reintroduction Phase: After 30-90 days of being fully compliant in maintaining those food eliminations you can start slowly reintroducing those foods a bite at a time.
Each of these phases is essential as the elimination phase is key to reducing inflammation, the maintenance phase is vital to identify which foods are inflammatory to you, and the reintroduction phase is necessary for you to remain sane. Not kidding!
For those who are just beginning the AIP diet, it can feel a bit overwhelming. To be honest there are a few things that I wish I had known before making the transition that I know would have made the experience a little less overwhelming.
Needless to say as excited as I have been to heal from autoimmune disease, transitioning to the AIP diet has definitely been a journey. That's why in this post I'm sharing with you my life before, during, and after transitioning to the AIP diet so that you can decide if this is the right next step for you.
My Life Before Transitioning to the AIP Diet
Prior to making the transition to the AIP diet, I followed what I would consider a healthy diet consisting of grains, nuts, seeds, nightshades, and moderate alcohol. As a nutrition coach, I knew what I "should" be eating and made it a point to fill my plate with whole foods.
Of course, I allowed myself the pleasure of eating healthy indulgences from time to time. Even though I didn't cook every single thing that I ate, I did prepare about 70-80% of my meals.
What I didn't realize then that I know now is that some of the foods that I was eating were causing inflammation, such as:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Trans fats
- Vegetable oils
- Seed oils
This means that my body was mistaking the foods that I was eating as an invader. By constantly eating these foods I was setting off an immune response that was weakening my immune system (3).
After doing research on the best diets for autoimmune diseases, I found so much compelling evidence for the AIP diet. So I took the leap and made the decision in May of 2020 to transition to the AIP diet!
My Life During Transitioning to the AIP Diet
I have tried A LOT of diets, but in full disclosure transitioning to the AIP diet was by far the hardest. Even though I am a nutrition coach, I do not think there is any amount of training that can prepare you for what you will experience making this transition.
From moments of excitement when I woke up feeling amazing to days of frustration when all I wanted to eat was Chinese food, there were times when I honestly wanted to quit.
Despite the struggles that I experienced there were three key factors that made adopting the AIP diet so much easier:
- Having a plan: I enrolled in Angie Alt's program, SAD to AIP in SIX which guided me step-by-step through the process of the elimination phase and mentally prepared me for the maintenance and reintroduction phases. Without knowing what lied ahead for me, I do not think I would have had the confidence to stick with the AIP diet.
- Having a support system: In addition to the SAD to AIP in SIX program materials, I had a team of AIP Certified Coaches, Nutritional Therapy Consultants, and Nutritional Therapy Practitioners who supported me throughout the program. Their coaching and guidance gave me the tools that I needed to navigate through the challenges and come out on top.
- Having a strong why: Being diagnosed with RA and Sjögren's coupled with learning that the program was used in a medical study in 2019 for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, convinced me that I needed to give the program a try (4). Being able to see the difference that the AIP Diet program has done for others gave me hope that it could do the same for me.
While the transition to the AIP diet did present some challenges, I know that having a plan, a support system, and a strong why made the experience a whole lot more bearable.
My Life After Transitioning to the AIP Diet
Since making the transition to the AIP I have had the opportunity to try new foods that I never would have eaten before! From sardine dip, which actually tastes way better than it sounds to berry drinking vinegar, which is a fun take on flavored water, I've really expanded my palate.
Even though I was initially concerned that I would have to give up a lot of my favorite foods, I've been pleasantly surprised that I've learned how to adapt a lot of recipes to be AIP compliant. It's definitely helped that I've found some amazing websites like, Autoimmune Wellness, Meatified, and Thriving on Paleo which have some delicious AIP compliant recipes.
Now that I prepare most if not all of my meals, it makes it so much easier to fill my plate with anti-inflammatory foods, such as:
- Fatty fish
So, if you're looking to transition to the AIP diet, I promise you that it will be a journey worth taking!
Whether you're excited to transition to the AIP Diet or looking for the right next step in your health journey, book your complimentary Clarity Call today!
- Petre, A. (2020). AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet: Overview, food list, and guide. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/aip-diet-autoimmune-protocol-diet.
- Alt, A. (2018) What is AIP? The definitive guide. https://autoimmunewellness.com/what-is-aip-the-definitive-guide/
- Harvard Women's Health Watch. (2020). Foods that fight inflammation. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
- Abbott, R. D., Sadowski, A., & Alt, A. G. (2019). Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet as Part of a Multi-disciplinary, Supported Lifestyle Intervention for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Cureus, 11(4), e4556. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.4556
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