Autoimmune Diet – Diets are not only aimed at losing weight but also at regulating eating patterns for people with certain health problems. One of them is a diet for patients with autoimmune diseases.
How is this diet guide? Check out the explanation below.
What is an Autoimmune Diet?
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP Diet) or Autoimmune Diet is a dietary guideline for people with autoimmune diseases. Psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus are several types of autoimmune diseases that attack the immune system and damage healthy tissue in the body.
This dietary arrangement aims to relieve inflammation as well as various symptoms caused by autoimmune conditions. This autoimmune diet can also be called a “paleo autoimmune protocol.” In essence, the AIP diet is much like the Paleo diet, but in a much stricter version.
While the paleo diet emphasizes meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, the AIP diet is a bit different.
The dietary guidelines for the AIP diet require you not to eat foods that are at risk of causing inflammation in the gut. Instead, it is recommended that you increase your consumption of foods that are rich in nutrients.
How Does it Work?
Autoimmune diseases are often associated with problematic intestinal tract conditions due to injuries. This condition can cause leaky gut syndrome, which makes it easier for bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. This autoimmune disease diet aims to cure these intestinal disorders.
A hypothesis in Frontiers In Immunology (2017) states that an autoimmune diet can help heal leaky gut. It also reduces inflammation levels in the body. Increasing the consumption of nutritious foods can help prevent the immune system from attacking healthy tissue and reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
The Benefits of the AIP Diet for People
In general, the AIP diet is believed to help restore the immune system and problematic intestinal conditions. In addition, some of the benefits of the AIP diet for people with immune disorders include:
- prevent the emergence of adverse reactions from autoimmune,
- reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, and
- prevent the possibility of secondary autoimmune disease.
A study in the journal Cureus (2019) reported testing the AIP diet on 17 female participants aged 20–45 years who had Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is a type of autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland.
The researchers reported a reduction in symptoms and an increase in quality of life in participants after they underwent the AIP diet program for ten weeks.
Thus, the AIP diet could be part of the treatment and help people with autoimmune conditions.
Stages of the AIP diet
It’s important to understand that you can’t go on the AIP diet haphazardly.
If you want optimal results, you need to go through two stages in the autoimmune diet, namely the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase, as follows:
1. Elimination phase
The elimination phase involves abstaining from foods and drugs that cause intestinal inflammation, intestinal bacterial imbalance, and immune response. In addition, this phase also encourages eating fresh foods that are rich in nutrients. You are also encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as managing stress, getting enough sleep, and doing regular physical activity.
The duration of the elimination phase can vary from person to person. This will depend on when you experience a decrease in the symptoms of the autoimmune disease you are experiencing. The average time for this stage is 30–90 days, whereas some people may experience improvement in as little as three weeks.
2. The reintroduction phase
After the autoimmune disease symptoms have subsided, the reintroduction phase can begin. This involves reintroducing one food at a previously taboo time. The goal of this phase is to find out which foods trigger an immune response and how well your body can tolerate them.
Meanwhile, the stages of the test that you must do in this phase are as follows:
- Choose a type of food to reintroduce.
- Eat small portions, such as a teaspoon, and wait 15 minutes to see how your body reacts. If symptoms appear, stop the test and avoid these foods.
- However, if there are no symptoms, continue the test by eating a larger portion, such as 1.5 tablespoons, and monitoring it for 2–3 hours. If symptoms appear, stop the test and avoid these foods.
- If symptoms still do not appear, eat normal portions and avoid them for 5–6 days without reintroducing other food restrictions.
- If there are no symptoms after 5–6 days, you can include these foods in your diet.
- Repeat the reintroduction test steps with the other types of food.
Your body’s tolerance for certain foods may change over time. It is important to repeat this test if symptoms of an autoimmune disease reappear.
The AIP diet needs to be followed regularly for several weeks. Then, the reintroduction of food restrictions is done gradually. If a bad reaction appears, avoid consuming these foods in your daily intake.
Food Recommendations During the AIP Diet
While on an autoimmune diet, you are advised to increase your consumption of nutrient-rich foods such as the following:
- Red meat, chicken, and fish are examples of less processed meat.
- Vegetables, except for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes
- Fresh fruit in abundance
- tubers, such as sweet potatoes and taro.
- dairy-free fermented foods, such as kombucha, kimchi, pickles, coconut kefir, and probiotic supplements.
- Natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup and small amounts of honey,
- Herbs and spices, such as basil, mint, and oregano.
- tea drinks, such as black tea, green tea, and seedless herbal tea.
- minimally refined vegetable oils, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Vinegar, such as apple cider and balsamic, without added sugar.
- Bone broth.
Fruits, while allowed in moderation, are foods that are not always permitted to be consumed while on the AIP diet.
Some experts may allow you to eat about two pieces of fruit per day. However, some do not allow it at all.
Food Restrictions During the AIP Diet
Meanwhile, several types of food are not recommended for you to consume while on an autoimmune diet. Here are some examples.
- grains, such as rice, wheat, oats, barley, and rye.
- processed grains, such as pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals.
- legumes, such as peanuts and soybeans.
- Processed nuts, such as tofu, tempeh, and peanut butter,
- Certain types of vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes,
- All dairy products, such as fresh milk, cheese, butter, and milk-based supplements.
- Eggs, including whole eggs, egg whites, and foods containing eggs.
- Sugar and its preparations, such as cane sugar, corn syrup, candy, soda, and chocolate
- Refined vegetable oils, such as palm oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and sunflower seed oil,
- Processed food containing additives, such as artificial sweeteners, food coloring, emulsifiers, and thickeners.
- Certain drinks, such as coffee and alcohol,
In addition to food, autoimmune diet restrictions are also related to the consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium.
Tips on Starting a Diet for People
The AIP diet, or autoimmune diet, does seem very strict. This may be due to restrictions on consuming certain types of food. You may find it difficult to start living it, especially when these restrictions affect your daily lifestyle.
The solution is that you can still do the AIP diet by gradually eliminating the types of foods that are prohibited. Also, make sure you stay away from foods high in fat and cholesterol and processed foods during this phase of the diet.
To get more information about foods that can and cannot be consumed, consult your doctor.