Are you ready to feel empowered and back in control of your body again?
Imagine your life if you had less pain, more energy, clearer thinking, and could stop your autoimmune symptoms!
what is AIP?
If you are new to AIP, the Autoimmune Protocol, this will explain what it is, what contributes to autoimmunity, how AIP works, who it benefits from AIP, how reintroductions work and more.
If you struggle with painful symptoms like fatigue, joint or muscle pain, skin issues, dry eyes, brain fog, poor thyroid function - the symptoms go on and on, you are in the right place!
Autoimmunity impacts as many as 50 million Americans and the numbers are growing by leaps and bounds! Hundreds of autoimmune diseases have been identified and more diseases every year are being recognized as having an autoimmune component. Here is a complete list but some of the most common are:
- Alopecia areata
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Crohn’s and other forms of IBD
- Graves’ Disease
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Lyme Disease
- Meniere’s Disease
- Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Raynaud’s Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Systemic Lupus erythematosus (known as SLE or Lupus)
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Ulcerative colitis
"Before coaching my life was an absolute mess and chaotic. I felt overwhelmed. Coaching gave me the accountability and motivation I needed. Dixie was so encouraging in every way possible! She pointed me in the right direction and helped me keep trying. I have learned to take better care of myself so I can take care of my family. I feel I am changing on the outside but even more on the inside. I am at a happier place! Thank you, Dixie!” - Amy V.
what causes autoimmunity?
The immune system is designed to protect the body from outside invaders thus 70-80 percent of the immune system is located in the gut evaluating every morsel we eat. The intestines are designed to be a semi-permeable barrier allowing nutrients in and keeping unwanted particles out.
Unfortunately, our society has changed dramatically in the last 70-80 years. We are taking non-steriodial anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), proton-pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid, are influenced by environmental toxins, are exposed to and are carriers of numerous viruses, bacteria and pathogens. We are under more stress than ever before! Even our food supply has drastically changed.
Contributors to Autoimmunity
- Genetic susceptibility and mutations
- UV light (as seen in Lupus)
- Periodontal disease
- Heavy Metals – water, food, cosmetics, packaging etc
- Pesticides and herbacides
- Excessive antibiotic usage
- Viruses (EBV, Hep B & C, CMV, Strep, Staph, H.pylori, Rubella, Parvo, pneumoniae, Norovirus – stomach flu and more)
- Standard American Diet (SAD)
- Hormonal changes (estrogen plays a role)
- Microbial gut imbalances (SIBO, Candida etc)
- Alcohol consumption
- Leaky gut
- And more
Many of the processed foods we eat have contributed to intestinal permeability, also called leaky gut. The proteins in these foods interact with the gut lining, damage cells and cause the junctions between the gut to malfunction allowing unwanted foods proteins, bacteria, viruses, and pathogens into the blood stream.
This activates the immune system to respond to these foreign particles. Unfortunately, all organic compounds (like the foods we eat, our own tissues and other pathogens) are made up of the same amino acids. Therefore, when the immune system attacks these foreign amino acid sequences, it also attacks anything in the body that looks like a similar pattern of amino acids – joint, hair, skin, nerve tissues in our body! This is called molecular mimicry.
But, in addition to this attack, our modern processed foods do not contain the nutrients the immune system needs in order to regulate itself. Therefore, the attack continues unchecked.
Genes do play a role but only account for one-third the risk of acquiring an autoimmune disease. It is largely the environment (toxins, food, stress, pathogens) that wash over those genes to determine how they express. This means, you have some control over this!
Conventional medicine often tries to use pharmaceuticals to suppress immune function or the systemic inflammation and to offer symptom suppression. However, these mediations come with side-effects and eventually don’t work as well as they did at first. Plus, they do not address the root-cause. If the root cause is not dealt with, additional autoimmune disease will occur.
It would only make sense to remove whatever is causing the immune system to respond in the first place, work on lowering inflammation and giving the body the raw tools it needs to function optimally. This is the intent of AIP.
Background, Purpose and Efficacy of AIP
AIP stands for the Autoimmune Protocol (also referred to as the Autoimmune Paleo protocol). It is a science-based elimination diet that incorporates lifestyle changes with the ultimate goal of discovering and addressing root-causes of inflammation and immune dysregulation. It is a process to identify hidden sources of food-driven inflammation while adding in nutrient-dense foods that support the immune system, repair of tissues and optimal health. Part of the process is looking at how one sleeps, moves, manages stress, connects with others, themselves, God and nature.
It began back with the Paleo movement and Functional Medicine community with Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolfe, Chris Kresser and Datis Kharrazian – all of which are excellent resources. In 2012, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, known as The Paleo Mom, began to research the methodology and science behind how AIP benefits those with autoimmune disease. Her book called The Paleo Approach Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body explains the science more in-depth and is an excellent resource for those who would like to delve into the science a bit more. I also cover a great deal of this in my online, AIP coaching program called, Reboot with AIP.
Today there are numerous medical studies and hundreds of thousands of testimonials to the profound beneficial effects of AIP on various autoimmune diseases. You can read about these medical studies here.
The results are astounding with 73% of participants achieving full clinical remission, 32% discontinuing steroids, hs-CRP inflammatory markers decreasing by 30%, improvements in sleep, energy and digestion, less joint and muscle pain, improvements in nutritional status and quality of life scores – and more!
AIP should be thought of as tool to be used in the healing journey. It can be used alone to manage autoimmune disease or in combination with conventional medical treatments, depending on the individual’s needs. It aids in:
- improving gut health
- rebalancing hormones
- regulating the immune system
- managing blood sugar
- lowering systemic inflammation
- increasing energy
- lessening pain
- increasing focus
- and clearing away many symptoms of autoimmunity.
There are three phases of AIP: elimination/addition, reintroduction and maintenance.
This phase lasts anywhere between 30 days to a whole year! It depends whether a person goes cold-turkey or takes a gradual phased in approach. Once all of these potential food culprits are eliminated the phase begins. The minimum amount of time at 100% compliance is 30 days but it is better to wait closer to 90 days. This gives the immune system and antibodies time to subside, for the inflammation to begin to decrease and for the body to begin using nutrients to build and repair tissues. It takes time. It took a long time for the disease to develop and it takes time for the body to turn it around. Patience, persistence and endurance is needed in this phase.
This is the phase I help most of my clients in. Together we go through the science of why these foods are removed, how they impact different body systems and processes, why we need to increase nutrient density, the impact it has on hormones and weight loss, and numerous other factors.
Information is power and once we have a better understanding of how food really impacts our physiology, we can make different choices. We also address our motivations for wanting to work on our health, our mindset around these changes and we look for and build on our strengths to help us. Find out more about Reboot with AIP and when the next group starts here.
It is critically important that one prepare, mentally and physically, for making large dietary changes with any new way of eating but especially with elimination diets.
Elimination is tough.
The body is used to eating a certain way and when that changes – everything shifts. The body is shifting metabolically, digestively, the microbiome is shifting, chemical signaling the body changes. There are mental barriers, physical and mental cravings, memories around food, and a lot of emotion is stirred up in us. This is part of the healing process. Again, I support clients through this in Reboot with AIP.
The immune system is a huge nutrient and energy hog. It needs certain nutrients to mature and differentiate immune cells and heal tissues. The body is often lacking in certain nutrients – that is how we got into this mess in the first place. We ate our way into disease and we must also eat our way out. But, our choices have to be different. So AIP doesn’t just focus on eliminations. There is huge emphasis on adding in nutrients to support immune function, hormone signaling, repair and detoxification. Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients all play a role in energy production. Foods we eat either lead to inflammation or are anti-inflammatory. We are building health with every bite we take.
When Dr. Ballentyne evaluated all the foods to avoid and those that should be enjoyed more, she evaluated their overall impact on the immune system, how it interacted with the gut lining, how it contributed or inhibited inflammation, and their nutrient value. So the foods on the avoid list were based on this overall information and research.
You can get your list of AIP Foods to Enjoy and Foods to Avoid along with the Ultimate AIP Jumpstart Guide sent directly to your inbox here.
Foods to Avoid on AIP
The foods on the avoid list are temporarily removed from the diet during the elimination phase. They include:
- Grains – including corn, rice, quinoa, amaranth, and gluten like wheat, barley, rye
- Legumes – including soy, peanuts and beans
- Sugars – including non-nutritive sweeteners/sugar substitutes, high-fructose corn syrup, stevia
- Nuts - and nut oils
- Seeds – including spices derived from seeds, coffee, chocolate
- Fruit and Berry Spices – including black pepper
- Nightshades – which includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers of all kinds and their spices, eggplant
- Processed foods, chemicals – think preservatives, dyes, thickeners, emulsifiers like gums
- Processed vegetable oils – like canola, corn
Foods to Enjoy on AIP
SO what is left?
Everything else. This is the way God intended us to eat. In general, if it is a plant that grows in the ground (except nightshades or nut/seed) and wasn’t made in a man-made plant, then eat it!
- Colorful fruits and vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Root vegetables, including sweet potatoes
- Clean meats like grassfed meat, wild caught fish, free-range poultry, bison etc
- Fish and Shellfish
- Healthy fats and oils like avocado, coconut, olive
Grab your free copy of AIP Foods to Enjoy and Avoid with the Ultimate AIP Jumpstart Guide here because it contains much more detail!
“I was overwhelmed with all the information I had researched and tried to implement about AIP. I was stuck and didn't know which step to take next. I was thrilled to find out an AIP certified coach existed! Through this program, I gained more knowledge and tools, like how to batch cook, easy recipes & tips for traveling. In Reboot with AIP, you get tons of information and someone to hold your hand and guide you through. You don't have to do this alone. I'm a big do-it-yourself researcher, but I came to a point where I knew I needed help. Dixie's knowledgeable. She has gone through her own journey with autoimmune disease and gets it. She's kind, honest, non-judgmental, and personable. I'm very glad to have met her.” Mandy S.
The immune system needs a break
One caveat to AIP, there are no cheat days! The immune system needs a break. One hundred percent compliance assures that it gets the break it desperately needs. The tiniest bit of non-AIP compliant food can set one back weeks. Gluten even longer!
But, the good news is that this is not a forever way of eating – reintroductions are coming! And, there are not calorie restrictions during this phase. Eat until you are satisfied! All the fresh veggies, meat and healthy fats you can! The body is working hard and needs nutrients!
During the elimination phase, we don’t just focus on what we can’t eat! We instead focus on what we CAN eat and on other things that support immune function like nutrients, sleep and stress management.
When someone is sick, they sleep more because the immune system is working hard. Babies and kids need more sleep and more nutrients because they are growing and laying down new tissue and bone. When those with autoimmunity are in this healing phase, they need more nutrients and more sleep to support the immune system and the healing process too. These are areas we focus on with AIP.
Stress is often the very thing that kicks off autoimmunity. And, acute or chronic stress increases autoimmune flares and their severity. Stress contributes to leaky gut – which is one thing all autoimmune diseases have in common! This is an area that AIP focuses on and that participants must work on in order to achieve good results!
During this phase, most clients experience significant symptom improvement and are amazed at what a difference AIP makes! Ideally, it is easier on the body if one transitions to a more whole foods way of eating then to a paleo-style way of eating before going all in on AIP.
In Reboot with AIP, I help clients slowly transition to the full elimination phase over several weeks. This enables their body to adapt slowly and causes less digestive shifts. My experience shows me most people who go cold-turkey on AIP, feel terrible the first several weeks because it is such a dramatically different way of eating than they are accustomed to eating.
Finally, if significant symptom improvement is not achieved with AIP alone, then we must dig deeper. Often there is another root-cause that is preventing the body from lowering inflammation. Additional testing for thyroid function, microbiome imbalances, latent viruses, heavy metals, hormone imbalances or nutritional deficiencies need to be addressed with the help of a Functional Medicine practitioner. After those issues are treated, reintroductions are not only more successful but clients feel so much better!
However, efforts spent investing in AIP and finding an optimal way of eating for your particular body is NOT wasted! In fact, AIP lays the ground work for significant progress on your healing journey and is a GREAT place to start!
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone! As an AIP Certified Health Coach, I can help you navigate this process so you feel more confident and progress through it more efficiently than you would on your own! Schedule a free call to learn more about how I can support you through implementing AIP.
"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:5
The ultimate goal is to reintroduce as many nutrient dense foods that the body will receive without having an immune response and to support ones bioindividual nutrient needs. It is not to have the most restricted diet for the longest period of time – that is not healthy. We need diversity of colors and foods to get adequate nutrients to support our health.
However, non-AIP foods should remain excluded for a minimum of 30 days but the longer these problematic foods are excluded, the better the chances of successful reintroduction. Often this looks more like two to six months depending on the individual’s circumstances and attention to nutrients. This gives the antibodies created against them time to subside, inflammation time to calm and the gut lining to be restored. Ideally, there should be:
- Significant symptom improvement prior to reintroductions.
- Autoimmune disease is no longer getting worse.
- Autoimmune symptoms are managed without DMARDs, steroids or NSAIDs.
- No negative digestive symptoms and one is able to completely digest food well, even if that means supplementing with enzymes or hydrochloric acid.
Now that I’ve said that, I don’t want you to go running off and say, “Forget it.” It is not as bad as it sounds! And remember, this is a very individualized process. Your progress could be faster or slower.
However, I often see with my clients that underlying issues that have contributed to their autoimmune diagnosis also need to be addressed with the help of a Functional Medicine practitioner prior to reintroductions. Although reintroductions could be done earlier, once underlying contributing factors are addressed, reintroductions go much smoother and they feel significantly better!
Reintroduction foods are divided into four progressing categories based on what has been seen to be more easily tolerated. The key is only reintroduce one food at a time and then wait to hear how the body responds over the course of that week.
Yes, I said that week. It can take up to 72 hours for a food sensitivity to manifest. In Reboot with AIP, I provide a complete lesson on proper reintroductions so they are no-fail!
How long does healing take?
It takes as long as it takes. Much of this depends on whether or not you address other underlying contributing factors, are eating a nutrient dense diet and perhaps supplementing for gut support or for your specific condition and needs.
I have also had clients who feel a difference with in a few days of eliminating some of the ‘no’ foods on AIP.
We take a baseline reading before starting AIP, before starting reintroductions and before each new reintroduction. This gives you a gauge as to how you are doing in an objective way. Usually by the time we get to reintroductions, the majority of clients notice a dramatic improvement in their symptoms from their baseline score!
Patience is needed. It took you a long time to develop autoimmunity and it will take time for the body to reverse this and begin the healing process.
The good news is that after reintroductions you will be armed with the knowledge to know which foods you should avoid and how to support your body with nutrients so it can regulate itself optimally.
AIP really helps you create a foundation of health moving forward!
Here is what a few clients had to say about Reboot with AIP:
"I learned how much food was impacting me negatively. As we slowly eliminated groups, I could feel the improvement within a few days. I learned my body wasn't failing me but reacting the way it was designed. It was the food I was eating that was failing me. Having a support system is the success to implementing AIP. It can make a huge impact very quickly when you have someone to guide you through it. I felt empowered instead of self-pity. I am taking control of my health in a way that I never knew was possible." Nikki H.
"I was diagnosed with celiac and inflammatory arthritis. I used to have to take the stairs one at a time. I couldn't do normal things like clean the house or yard work. I couldn't get through the day without needing a nap and even had a low grade fever for a year. I really thought I would just get worse and worse. I went through Dixie's AIP group program and figured out what I was eating that was contributing to inflammation. Now I feel so much better and can do things I couldn't before and more. It really helped me to have accountability with Dixie and I keep listening to her modules to keep it fresh in my mind. Now, for the first time in seven years, my inflammation markers are normal. My doctor said no one is doing as good as me! He even lowered my Plaquenil and said he would keep lowering it. This has been a turning point for me. I really thought I'd be on medication for the rest of my life." Talleri B.
"Doctors tell you to eat better, but they don't have the time to help you. You really need someone, like Dixie, to help you, support you through the process and tell you how to do that. Health coaching was an important part of helping me make the changes I needed to make. The AIP program was organized, helped me more than anything else had, the videos were the best." Carol F.
“I really appreciated how Dixie keyed in on how our bodies all work together with body, mind and soul. It is not just one part alone. God is the key part to everything and he makes it all work together! Thank you Dixie!” Cindy T.
“My mindset has changed, and I'm viewing food as nutrition that fuels all the intricately synergistic functions of my body instead of a source of comfort. I learned I can do this.” Mandy S.
“The videos were very informative. Dixie does a great job explaining everything and putting it in practical terms.” Cindy T.
“I would encourage anyone considering this program to participate. It exceeded all of my expectations.” Ann B.
How to Get started
Sign up to get the Ultimate AIP Jumpstart Guide sent to your inbox. You'll also receive the AIP Foods to Enjoy and Foods to Avoid lists. This gives you tips and things to consider before transitioning to AIP if you want to do it on your own.
You can learn more about my 8-week online, health coaching program called Reboot with AIP here.
Or, if you would like some help, I would be happy to come along side you and be your mentor through AIP. I've done it and I've lead many women through it successfully! Now it is your turn! Schedule a free call today!