For many patients with an autoimmune condition, they feel as though their condition controls their life. That was certainly my fear when I developed Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus). Patients who suffer from an autoimmune disease can end up having to take a myriad of prescription medications in an attempt to manage their symptoms. It can be both expensive and overwhelming, but there are options to reduce the number of medications you have to take while still alleviating symptoms. Many patients (myself included) have found significant or total symptom relief by following the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP).
The AIP diet is an evidence-based elimination and reintroduction diet designed to manage the symptoms of autoimmune conditions. The premise for AIP is simple: certain foods trigger the body's inflammatory response, and this increased inflammation worsens the symptoms of autoimmune conditions. Additionally, following the AIP diet helps you to repair your gut health and restore your body’s nutrient density. This is key as poor gut health has been linked to increased severity of autoimmune symptoms.
I first learned about AIP thanks to Dr. Sage, who helped diagnose me with Lupus. Autoimmune conditions run in my family, so while it wasn’t a complete surprise, I still felt incredibly overwhelmed, afraid that Lupus would limit my ability to do the things I love. Dr. Sage went above and beyond in helping me navigate this condition and teach me how to effectively manage my symptoms.
Getting started with the AIP diet can seem overwhelming, but there’s a wealth of guides online to make it easy. The AIP diet is conducted in three phases: transition, maintenance, and reintroduction.
Transition: During the transition to elimination, you can choose if you want to gradually eliminate the necessary foods, or if you want to eliminate them cold-turkey. You can find a list of the foods that must be eliminated here.
Maintenance: The maintenance phase begins once all of the foods on the list have been eliminated from your diet. You need to keep following the elimination diet for at least 30 days, but patients report the best outcomes when the elimination is maintained for 60-90 days.
Reintroduction: Once a patient has maintained the elimination diet for the required time and has experienced noticeable, symptom improvement they may start gradually re-introducing foods from the elimination diet. It’s important to reintroduce one food at a time, so you are aware which foods cause autoimmune flares or aggravate your symptoms. Some patients see symptom relief in as little as 30 days, while for others it can take 6 months. It’s entirely based on how your body responds to the diet and the severity of your condition prior to beginning the AIP protocol. A guide to reintroduction can be found here.
AIP is a lifestyle change as well as a diet. In order to continue to reap the benefits, you will have to permanently avoid the foods that trigger your inflammatory response. The challenge of giving up foods that might have been your favorite before you developed your autoimmune condition is difficult, but so worth it.
I started the AIP diet after I was first diagnosed with Lupus in Spring 2018. While I have reintroduced many foods and do follow it less strictly now, following the AIP protocol was honestly the most effective tool I have used in my quest to not let my condition limit my life. It allowed me to better understand how to manage my symptoms and learn how to use food as medicine. I chose to do AIP in conjunction with two prescription medications, which has proven to be the right balance for me. Thanks to AIP and the treatment I receive from Dr. Sage, Lupus doesn’t control my life - it just motivates me to adapt the way I live it, so I can continue to do the things I love. I’m continuing to explore new passions, from hiking to rock climbing, and my life has never been better.
The AIP diet isn’t the golden solution for everyone, and for many it is most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies. For me, the AIP diet is an essential part of my toolbox as I strive to effectively manage my Lupus. If your or someone you know has an autoimmune condition, I encourage you to educate yourself on AIP and see if it’s right for you!
For more information on the AIP diet, including recipe ideas and a complete start-to-finish guide on how to integrate AIP into your life, I recommend checking out autoimmunewellnes.com.