The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) is a new type of diet regimen designed to help reduce inflammation in the body to alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks and unintentionally damages their body tissues. Inflammation is a common feature of any autoimmune disease, including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Also known as the paleo autoimmune protocol, the AIP diet is a much more rigorous version of the Paleo diet (based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds), and recommends eliminating foods that can cause inflammation in the intestine, by eating types rich in nutrients. The AIP diet is based on the belief that autoimmune conditions are caused by the phenomenon of “intestinal permeability”, which is now called “impaired intestinal permeability”. The theory is that, due to chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall, in competition with dysbiosis of the local microbiota, there is the passage of digestive molecules into the bloodstream. This is thought to cause excessive reactions of the immune system, which begins to attack the body tissues by mistake.
But what can you eat with this diet and what evidence are there any benefits? People who follow the AIP diet should follow it strictly for a few weeks and then slowly reintroduce the foods they have avoided. The idea is to see if there is a reaction when food is reintroduced. If there is a reaction, the suggestion is that a person should exclude this food from his long-term diet. By eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding inflammatory foods, the AIP diet aims to cure any permeability in the intestine. Among the suggested mechanisms are:
– reset the immune system
– prevent the autoimmune response
– reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases
– prevent the occurrence of secondary autoimmune reactions.
Foods to eat in the AIP diet include:
– meat and fish, preferably not from intensive farms
– all vegetables (excluding tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and potatoes)
– fruit (but in small quantities)
– coconut milk and also its oil
– fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi
– honey (but only for occasional use, in small quantities)
– condiments such as basil, mint and oregano
– green tea and herbal tea without seeds
– balsamic vinegar and apple cider.
Foods to avoid in the AIP diet include:
– all cereals, such as oats, rice and wheat
– any dairy product
– eggs of any origin
– legumes, such as beans and peanuts
– all sugars, including substitutes (except for occasional honey use)
– clarified butter and butter
– all oils (except avocado, coconut and olive)
– alcohol of all origins and gradation.
One of the mottoes of the Paleo diet, in fact, is: “Did the man do it? Do not eat it”. The logic behind the AIP diet is that avoiding processed foods for the intestine and eating nutrient-rich foods will reduce inflammation and heal any intestinal permeability, preventing the immune system from attacking body tissues. In this way, the AIP diet aims to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Intestinal health can affect inflammatory diseases. Nothing to be wondered about the possible involvement of specific nutrient found in the admitted types of food. Since they are enriched with potential anti-inflammatory molecules (e.g. polyphenols, flavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids, some antioxidant vitamines), there is no doubt that these could exert a beneficial effct in the context of autoimmunity. fermented food moreover, are among the top list items: probiotic bacteria and their metabolic network could help regulate bodily inflammation at multiple levels. The extensive literature on the microbiota and the possible origins of all today’s degenerative disorders is growing larger and larger. For further information, see the archive of the month of November 2017 on www.salutesicilia.it, with the special on microbiota and health.
But what evidence is there that the AIP diet works?
There is some scientific evidence to support the link between bowel health and inflammatory diseases. Several studies of the last five years suggest that bacterial growth in the gut may be linked to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. A study in 2014 found that the intestinal wall is managed by protein networks. Explain that inflammation affects the functioning of the intestinal wall, and that food allergies can make the gut wall more permeable. The study concludes that problems with the intestinal wall are associated with autoimmune diseases. This goes some way to support the idea of the permeable gut proposed by the supporters of the AIP diet. However, the study adds that further research is needed to confirm that intestinal wall dysfunction is a primary risk factor in the development of inflammatory diseases. A 2017 study found that the elimination of certain foods as part of the AIP diet may improve the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which finds its main example in Chron’s disease. This is one of the first clinical studies on the efficacy of the AIP diet.
Further research is needed to support claims that the AIP dietary protocol can reduce the symptoms of other autoimmune diseases.
- edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.
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