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What is the AIP?

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a template for dietary and lifestyle changes designed to reduce inflammation, maximise nutrient density, and thereby facilitate healing. Positive changes can be made at any stage of the autoimmune spectrum. Perhaps you are keen to take preventative action due to early warning signs of a possible condition, or a particularly strong family history of autoimmune diseases. You may already have one or more confirmed diagnoses[i]. It is also true that the principles of AIP can help to support healing, whether your health issues are clearly autoimmune in origin or not.

The protocol is based on a solid foundation of scientific research. Clinical trials of this and other closely related interventions are showing fantastic results[ii], with further research in progress. There is a thriving AIP community online, including many amazing bloggers and support groups. You can find a wide range of people sharing their personal experiences with the protocol, as well as a huge range of autoimmune friendly recipes and other resources.

The basics are as follows:

Eat!

  • 1

    Nutrient Density

What you eat really matters! A foundational element of the protocol is the focus on maximising nutrient density of the diet. Include as wide a range of health promoting foods as possible, and either add in or increase quantities of particularly nutritious foods. The point of this is to flood your body with the nutrients it needs to heal, as well as to function as well as possible while doing so.

This is not a complete outline of all the foods you CAN eat on AIP (see notes below for great places to find comprehensive lists). However, to give you a flavour – the basics of an AIP meal in very simple terms are as follows:

  • Protein: meat, poultry, fish, seafood

  • Carbohydrates / fibre: starchy vegetables (e.g. sweet potato; all varieties of winter squash; yam; cassava; taro; parsnip; celeriac; swede / rutabaga; green plantain – ok, this one is a fruit, but it belongs here), and don’t fear the fruit – so many delicious options[i].

  • Other vegetables: so many choices! (e.g. kale; watercress; cabbage; collards; pak choi; lettuce; rocket; courgette; cucumber; radish; beetroot; carrot; fennel; avocado; olives; mushrooms; ginger; turmeric; cinnamon; most green leafy herbs)

  • Healthy fats: plant fats (e.g. extra virgin olive oil; avocado oil; coconut oil); animal fats (e.g. lard; tallow; duck fat)

Also consider nutrient dense foods often low in the modern diet (e.g. fermented foods; bone broth; organ meat; shellfish; dark leafy greens; sea vegetables)

Quality is important, but don’t stress if you can’t always afford the organic or grass-fed ideal. Do the best you can. Protein is a good place to focus on quality if you’re on a budget. Sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of upcoming posts if you would like more guidance on how to shop for AIP life.

  • 2

    Eliminations

Eliminate some potentially problematic foods for a period of at least 30-90 days (and definitely not all forever!). The basic point here is to remove things that may be creating barriers to healing. This maximises the benefits to be gained from all the nutrients you are getting. The eliminations are:

  • Grains (including gluten free grains such as oats, corn, rice etc.)
  • Pseudograins (e.g. amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa)
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (including peanuts, soya, peas, green beans, alfalfa, dried beans/pulses)
  • Nuts and seeds (including coffee)
  • Nightshade vegetables (including: tomatoes; sweet and hot peppers; white potatoes*; aubergines; goji berries and others . This category also includes spices derived from vegetables in this family.)
  • Chemical additives, flavours and colours
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes (including stevia)
  • Refined fats and oils
  • Alcohol
  • Processed and refined foods

* Note that sweet potatoes are not nightshades, and make a great AIP compliant substitute for white potatoes.

  • 3

    Reintroductions

Once measurable improvements are seen, there is a process of reintroducing foods and monitoring for reactions in order to identify any that may be causing problems – which of course looks different for every person. The process is designed to give you an in-depth understanding of what makes you feel good, as well as which foods you might be better off limiting, or in some cases avoiding.

Sleep, move, reach out, and unwind…

While what you eat really does matter, as you can see from the images above, diet is only one block in a series that together form the foundations of health. Beyond the dietary work, there are also lifestyle elements of the protocol that are extremely important. The key areas of focus are sleep, movement, social connection and stress management.

If this sounds like a lot, don’t panic! Many people prefer to undertake the protocol in stages, working slowly towards the necessary changes. There is a huge range of helpful resources available online (see links below for some starting points). It is perfectly possible to tackle the protocol independently, as I did myself. However, if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the process alone, this is where I can help. I can work with you to help you to understand the process. I can also provide the support, guidance and accountability that you may find helpful in formulating a personalised approach that will work for you.

Please see links below for more details on the foundations of AIP.

What if I can’t commit / can’t give up / don’t have the time…?

AIP has the greatest potential when done according to the guidelines, which do evolve and change as new scientific evidence becomes available. However, it is important to note that jumping in with both feet straight to 100% elimination is certainly not the only way to get there. You might have concerns about your capacity to implement significant changes right now. Perhaps there are things on the list of eliminations that you feel you really cannot manage without. Whatever your constraints, there will undoubtedly still be some steps that you can take that can have a positive impact on your health. You may find that having the opportunity to discuss your concerns with a coach can be very helpful in clarifying your best course of action.

How an AIP Certified Coach can help.

I have been following the protocol myself for several years, and it has formed the basis of my healing. I have been through the process of discovering the potential power of dietary and lifestyle interventions, apprehension about embarking on something that seemed overwhelming, and taking that eventual leap of faith. I trained as an AIP Certified Coach (in addition to my health coaching certifications) in order to be able to most effectively support clients with the implementation of this hugely powerful set of tools.

The nature of the template means that each individual path will be unique. The aim is not to squash your life into an AIP box. Instead, use the process to empower yourself with the knowledge and skills to identify what your body needs right now. Learn how best to make realistic adjustments to meet those needs, and how to adapt as they change over time. I can coach you through the foundations of the protocol. Together, we can assess how to transition you into the initial phase, whether you are a cold-turkey or a slow and steady kind of person! We will troubleshoot along the way as required, and build a plan for how you want to move forward once your healing has begun.

It is important to clarify that health coaching is not a substitute for medical care, particularly in the case of autoimmune or other chronic disease, but rather a valuable addition. Alongside working to create the best conditions to support optimal health and healing, we can plan to get the most from your appointments with doctors and other medical professionals. I can help you to clarify what you want to gain from a consultation, and prepare with relevant information and questions. I can also work with you to support the implementation of the recommendations given by your medical team, e.g. how to build new habits, or adjust to accommodate treatment plans.

It is also worth noting that I cannot diagnose or treat any condition, or order or interpret any medical testing, as this is beyond the scope of practice of a health coach. My role is to support and partner with you to explore and experiment, while building in whatever form of accountability you need, in order to effectively implement practical and sustainable dietary and lifestyle changes. In addition, I will help you to identify and celebrate your successes – which you will have – as they arise. This can be crucial since progress can be hard to observe and acknowledge when you may still feel a long way from where you want to be. I also have access to a range of helpful resources, which I can offer to you as and when they may be relevant to your specific situation and goals.

If you would like to explore how I might be able to support you on your AIP adventure, please reach out to arrange a free 30-minute video or telephone call.

Wherever you are at, I wish you the best of luck. It is not easy living with chronic disease of any kind. That said, you really do have the power to feel better, and you don’t have to do it all alone.

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