Living with an autoimmune disease can feel overwhelming at times, but there is hope! The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet has become increasingly popular among those living with such conditions and is more than worth giving a try. It focuses on healing your gut to reduce systemic inflammation, promote wellness and optimize your overall health – learning about its importance will open up your eyes to why gut health should be high on the list of priorities for managing autoimmune diseases.
The Gut Microbiome and Its Immune System Connection
The gut microbiome is a complex community of microorganisms that reside in the human gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria, viruses, and fungi play a critical role in maintaining your health by protecting against pathogens and toxins plus regulating and training your immune system. The gut microbiota achieves this by producing antimicrobial compounds and outcompeting pathogens for resources, preventing their colonization (5). Your microbiome is so important to your body’s overall health, it is labeled as a supporting organ (2).
Additionally, gut bacteria play a crucial role in training the immune system, particularly the mucosal innate immune system, by interacting directly with intestinal epithelial cells. Exposure to a diverse array of bacteria introduced into the microbiome by your mother early in life is necessary for the development of a well-balanced immune system. Later, in life, your environment and diet expose your unique microbiome to new micro-organisms that leave it strong and beneficial to your health, or a lack of adequate exposure to healthy bacteria leaves it underdeveloped and puts you at greater risk for disease (6). A reduced microbial diversity can lead to an overactive and hyper-aggressive immune system, which is more prone to autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Put simply your underdeveloped & under-supported immune system becomes too aggressive and attacks healthy tissue in your body. But what can be done about this you might ask, that’s where the Autoimmune Protocol Diet comes in.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet and How It Can Help.
Caring for your immune health is vitally important, and that’s why The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet was created. It is a dietary approach designed to help individuals with autoimmune conditions reduce inflammation and improve symptoms by eliminating certain foods that are known to trigger immune reactions (3).
The AIP diet is a more restrictive version of the Paleo diet. This comprehensive approach delicately cuts out common food triggers that are known to cause inflammation, such as grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, refined sugar, and alcohol. It also eliminates foods that may be tolerated on a Paleo diet, such as nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.), nuts, and seeds (3).
Instead, the AIP diet emphasizes nutrient-dense whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, high-quality meats, seafood, and healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado. The diet also emphasizes foods that support gut health, such as fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha.
The AIP diet is not meant to be a long-term solution but rather a short-term elimination diet to identify trigger foods and then gradually reintroduce them to identify the specific foods that cause symptoms. It is recommended to work with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian when starting an AIP diet. Let’s look at some real-world results of the AIP diet in action and get a professional opinion on whether it is even a valid option for you.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet and its effect on Hashimoto’s disease.
A recent study has shown that the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet may offer relief for those suffering from Hashimoto’s disease. Even better news – it only takes 21 days to get results! Prepare to start taking back control of your health – read on for details about this amazing study and tips for starting the AIP diet today.
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet was implemented in a 10-week online health coaching program for middle-aged women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT), an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid gland. The study found that the AIP diet and lifestyle program significantly improved the health-related quality of life (HRQL) and decreased the clinical symptom burden of participants. Although no statistically significant changes were noted in thyroid function or thyroid antibodies, the study’s findings suggest that AIP may decrease systemic inflammation and modulate the immune system, as evidenced by a decrease in mean hs-CRP and changes in white blood cell (WBC) count (1). The results of this pilot study suggest that the AIP diet and lifestyle program may be an effective adjunct treatment for individuals with HT, and further studies in larger populations are warranted.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet and Its Effect On IBD.
Living with an autoimmune disease can be discouraging and overwhelming, yet hope exists. A recent study has revealed something remarkable: following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet has been successful in improving symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Not only does this offer some much-needed relief to those who suffer from these debilitating conditions, but the results may also surprise you! Read on to learn more about the science behind this remarkable new discovery and how it might help give you a better quality of life.
This study suggests that implementing an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet may improve symptoms and reduce inflammation in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients. The study enrolled 15 patients with active IBD and had them undergo a 6-week elimination phase followed by a 5-week maintenance phase. The results showed significant improvements in disease activity scores for both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease at weeks 6 and 11(4).
Furthermore, improvements were noted in endoscopic scores for some patients who underwent follow-up endoscopy. While C-reactive protein did not significantly change during the study, mean fecal calprotectin improved at week 11(4). These findings suggest that dietary modifications, such as the AIP diet, may be a promising approach for managing IBD, and further randomized controlled trials are needed to explore its potential as a treatment option.
What To Do Now?
The gut microbiome is an incredibly fascinating part of the human body, especially in terms of its link to autoimmune diseases. Through popular diets such as the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, we can vastly improve our symptoms in autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s Disease and IBD. Keeping an open mind about how our diet can impact our general health has become increasingly important, so it’s time to take charge of our lives and explore new options for protecting ourselves from illness. Although more research needs to be done on the connection between dietary practices and autoimmune disorders, the potential for lifestyle choices and nutrition to reduce risk is worth exploring.
- 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
- Baquero, F., & Nombela, C. (2012). The microbiome as a human organ. Clinical microbiology and infection : the official publication of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 18 Suppl 4, 2–4. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03916.x
- Chandrasekaran, A., Molparia, B., Akhtar, E., Wang, X., Lewis, J. D., Chang, J. T., Oliveira, G., Torkamani, A., & Konijeti, G. G. (2019). The Autoimmune Protocol Diet Modifies Intestinal RNA Expression in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Crohn’s & colitis 360, 1(3), otz016. https://doi.org/10.1093/crocol/otz016
- Konijeti, G. G., Kim, N., Lewis, J. D., Groven, S., Chandrasekaran, A., Grandhe, S., Diamant, C., Singh, E., Oliveira, G., Wang, X., Molparia, B., & Torkamani, A. (2017). Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel diseases, 23(11), 2054–2060. https://doi.org/10.1097/MIB.0000000000001221
- Sidhu, M., & van der Poorten, D. (2017). The gut microbiome. Australian family physician, 46(4), 206–211.
- Ursell, L. K., Metcalf, J. L., Parfrey, L. W., & Knight, R. (2012). Defining the human microbiome. Nutrition reviews, 70 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S38–S44. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00493.x
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Thanks to EatForLean for helping with this article.