My health and well-being improved greatly after adopting a paleo diet. However, quite suddenly, about a year into the diet I began experiencing major digestive issues related to a very stressful season of life. A standard paleo diet no longer offered me all I needed health-wise. I figured this was as good a time as any to test the effectiveness of the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet, which I’d previously heard about and wanted to try. I took the plunge, and within just a few days my symptoms resolved. I was amazed at how strongly the food we eat (or do not eat) affects us.
The AIP is a temporary elimination diet designed to help identify specific foods that might be contributing to your health problems. As its name implies, individuals with autoimmune conditions often find it especially effective. I’ve read many powerful success stories from people who’ve put their autoimmune disease into remission by following this approach. I don’t have an autoimmune disease (that I know of); I’m using this diet as a way to identify and eliminate foods that don’t agree with me in order to heal my digestive system.
Foods Eliminated on the AIP
To follow the AIP diet, eliminate the following foods for at least thirty days and reintroduce them one at a time (one food every three days) to identify your personal problem causing foods.
- All foods eliminated on a standard paleo diet plus…
- Nightshades (ex: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and spices like paprika)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Certain spices (fruit and seed based spices)
- Foods that cross-react with gluten
- Food additives like emulsifiers, gums, and thickeners
Examples of negative reactions discovered during the reintroduction phase include digestive problems like diarrhea and constipation, headaches, skin issues like acne, sinus congestion, painful joints, sleep disturbances, mood changes, etc.
Currently, I’m slowly reintroducing foods, and I’ve discovered eggs, chocolate, and tapioca all cause acne for me. Black pepper, of all things, causes migraines! I’ve successfully reintroduced some spices, some nuts and seeds, and coffee (yay!) so far.
Foods to Incorporate on the AIP
Removing potential problem foods is only part of the autoimmune paleo diet. It’s just as important to add nutrient-dense foods to help your body heal. While the following foods aren’t necessarily appealing to everyone, they are potent “super-foods” our ancestors traditionally consumed, and they still provide the same benefits for us today.
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha
- Organ meats
- Fish and seafood
- Tons and tons of vegetables
- Bone broth
AIP and Lifestyle
Just like with the standard paleo diet, lifestyle plays a huge role on the AIP. Eating a perfect diet without addressing lifestyle issues negates many of the dietary benefits! Focus on:
- Prioritizing sleep
- Reducing stress
- Spending time outdoors and in the sun
Resources and Support
As you can imagine, following the AIP is not easy. However, as Sarah Ballantyne (AKA “The Paleo Mom”) quoted, “It’s only effort until it’s routine.” I’ve found this to be true in my experience. I definitely experienced a learning curve at first, but in time it’s become second nature. I’ve maintained this diet largely because I feel better and have more energy to keep it up and because I’ve been so inspired and supported by a wonderful online community of AIP bloggers. I’m grateful for my favorites.