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Can This Type of Paleo Diet Help You With an Autoimmune Condition?

AIP is a version of Paleo diet which is predominantly based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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AIP is a version of Paleo diet which is predominantly based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
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If you are suffering from an autoimmune condition, there is one diet that can help. AIP or Paleo Autoimmune protocol is a recent food-based diet approach that helps to control and reverse the condition by clearing unwanted inflammation in the body. Doctors cite inflammation as the primary cause of any disease. AIP is a version of Paleo diet which is predominantly based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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What is an Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disease the immune system begins to attack the body mistakenly thinking it to be foreign.
An autoimmune disease the immune system begins to attack the body mistakenly thinking it to be foreign.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The function of immune system is to protect the body from diseases and infection but in an autoimmune disease the immune system begins to attack the body mistakenly thinking it to be foreign. A dysfunction of the immune system starts producing autoantibodies that attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs leading to autoimmune disease. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto and Alopecia areata.

Sadly, there is no cure for autoimmune diseases.

Though the exact cause of autoimmune disease is unknown, doctors believe that it could be the result of genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors.

Conventional treatment involves the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and immune-suppressing drugs that only control the overactive immune response and reduce the symptoms, but don’t heal.

The diagnosis of an autoimmune disease is confusing and stressful for patients. Conventional medicine doesn't offer much hope and mostly the patient has to live with it.

What is Paleo?

A Paleo diet is a diet plan based on the foods eaten during the Palaeolithic age, approximately 2.5 to 10,000 years ago.
A Paleo diet is a diet plan based on the foods eaten during the Palaeolithic age, approximately 2.5 to 10,000 years ago.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

A Paleo diet is a diet plan based on the foods eaten during the Palaeolithic age, approximately 2.5 to 10,000 years ago. It consists of foods that could be obtained by hunters and gatherers like lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Typically, it doesn't include dairy products, grains and legumes which were not available in that period and were only introduced into diets after humans started farming.

The paleo approach is based on the discordance hypothesis that believes modern diet, that evolved after farming emerged is not suitable for human bodies. It blames the contemporary diet as the biggest cause of lifestyle diseases. According to Mayo Clinic, randomized clinical trials suggest that paleo diet may be beneficial when compared to some other diets

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What is an AIP Diet?

The approach believes that a condition called the ‘leaky gut’, causes altered intestinal permeability, the root cause of all autoimmune conditions.
The approach believes that a condition called the ‘leaky gut’, causes altered intestinal permeability, the root cause of all autoimmune conditions.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Paleo Autoimmune Protocol is especially formulated to reduce inflammation in the body caused by an autoimmune disease. A decrease in inflammation helps to relieve the symptoms.

AIP, a stricter version of the Paleo diet, eliminates foods inflammatory foods that irritate the gut and includes nutrient-dense foods. Dr Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Dr Sarah Ballantyne have been associated with the development of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.

The approach believes that a condition called the 'leaky gut' (small holes in the gut cause food to leak into the body), causes altered intestinal permeability, the root cause of all autoimmune conditions. Avoiding inflammatory food and consuming nutrient -rich food heals the gut holes and reduces recurrence. This decreases autoimmune response, eases symptoms and also prevents occurrence of secondary autoimmune diseases.

AIP Diet eliminates inflammatory foods, gut irritants and immune stimulants for a minimum of 30 days. This is known as the elimination phase. After this period the foods are slowly re-introduced one by one to check if the body is able to tolerate them.

AIP is a short-term solution and mostly isn’t a way of life. Many people continue to follow this diet even after the reduction in their autoimmune symptoms as a preventive measure to lessen flares.

The foods listed in the elimination list are common foods and are prevalent in our diets. Eating them for many years and feeling that there are no issues could be an erroneous presumption because the existing inflammation in the body doesn’t allow us to notice any reaction.

The elimination period gives the body a time to heal. After the successful completion of the elimination phase and the slow re-introduction helps in understanding the tolerance levels of the body.

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AIP Diet – Foods Allowed

Dairy products can be included in your diet.
Dairy products can be included in your diet.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

These include, meat and fish, vegetables, fruits in small portions, coconut milk, dairy free fermented food, honey or maple syrup, non-seed herbs like mint, basil and oregano, bone broth, apple cider and balsamic vinegar

AIP Diet - Food to Avoid

Avoids oats, rice and wheat when on a Paleo diet.
Avoids oats, rice and wheat when on a Paleo diet.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The eliminated foods are all grains (oats, rice and wheat), dairy, eggs, legumes, Nightshades eggplants, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes), all sugars (honey is allowed), butter and ghee, all oils except avocado, coconut and olive, food additives and alcohol.

Avni Kaul, nutritionist and wellness coach and founder of Nutri Activania, says, “Both paleo and AIP diet acts differently on different people. So, there is no conclusive evidence which says it is 100 percent effective.”

There are evidences that showed paleo diet has led to weight loss, energetic body, reduced inflammation due to the elimination of grains, legumes, and dairy products.

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However, other factors also contribute towards the effectiveness of any health regime.

“I would say not to solely dependent on a diet for curing autoimmune disease. You need to combine medicines as well as some physical activities to keep them under check,” Avni explains.

Jennifer Dhuri, Consulting Registered Clinical Dietician, Nutritionist and the founder of Jennifer's Health and Diet Solutions, feels that the ultimate aim of Paleo or any diet "is to eat nutritious foods, anti-inflammatory foods and keeping the gut healthy as that's the place where all illnesses erupt and where lies the cure." She advocates following the guidelines while keeping the diet simple and practical to make it sustainable.

Consult the physician before embarking on any diet regime. Discuss your condition to take a conscious decision. Paleo or AIP diets are difficult to follow if you are a vegan or vegetarian. However, eliminating inflammatory, processed and chemical laden food can be a positive step. Just sticking to AIP friendly food that are vegan can be helpful.

“Autoimmune diseases don’t call for an “SOS remedy/diet plan” that you follow today and give up tomorrow. Your diet should become your new and better lifestyle because it’s all about a sustainable lifestyle modification,” Jennifer explains.

Any diet takes time to show results. Try patiently, as this offers a chance to heal, (in some cases) reverse autoimmune disease and improves the quality of life.

(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)

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