The Autoimmune Protocol Diet can be helpful for certain inflammatory issues in the digestive system and for autoimmune diseases in general. Learn more. 
Grilled Steak with Veggies
Photo by Getty Images

What Is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?

The AIP diet, or Autoimmune Protocol, is a diet designed to offer relief to people suffering from autoimmune diseases. The diet is used to help heal certain inflammatory issues triggered in the digestive system. When the body has an autoimmune response, the body's immune system begins to attack itself because it cannot tell the difference between its own healthy cells and tissue and a foreign or invading body. There are dozens of autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, lupus, and psoriasis to name a few. The AIP diet helps eliminate foods that can aggravate or trigger these disorders.

How Does the AIP Diet Work?

The AIP diet starts with a strict elimination phase, in which foods that are possible irritants to the gut and immune system are removed from the diet. Over time, as autoimmune systems begin to improve, foods are gradually and systematically added back into the diet. That way, dieters can analyze their sensitivity to the reintroduced food, judging whether it's healthful or harmful depending on how the body reacts. The key is to pinpoint which foods are causing trouble – and permanently remove them from the diet. The end goal of the AIP diet is to reset the immune system, reduce inflammation, and return the gut to a healthy state.

Foods To Avoid on the AIP Diet

These are foods that are thought to trigger autoimmune reactions in some people. They are completely eliminated in the initial phase.

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Legumes (including peanuts, soy, hummus)
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts and seeds (including seed-based spices like cumin and fennel)
  • Nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, and eggplant)
  • Spices from capsicums (including cayenne, chili powder, paprika, chili pepper flakes)
  • Vegetable and canola oils
  • Processed foods
  • Refined sugars (and alternative sweeteners)
  • Food additives and chemicals
  • Alcohol

Foods You CAN Eat on the AIP Diet

With the AIP diet, you're eliminating a lot of nutrient sources. So it's important to choose nutrient-rich foods, including a variety of fresh vegetables, wild-caught fish, fermented foods, organ meats, and bone broth. The essence of the AIP diet is meat and vegetables, which makes it similar to the paleo diet, only more severe in its restrictions. For example, people on the paleo diet can eat tomatoes and nuts; foods that are restricted from the autoimmune protocol.

  • Grass-fed meats (including nutrient-dense organ meats)
  • Wild-caught fish and seafood
  • Herbs
  • Leafy green vegetables (spinach, endive, herbs, etc.)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.)
  • Root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, etc.)
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Sea vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Fruit: berries, citrus fruit, apples, cherries, etc.
  • Olive oil and coconut oil
  • Vinegar with no sugar added (balsamic, red wine, cider vinegar)

Before beginning a restrictive diet like AIP, consult your physician or a dietitian. Your doctor or dietitian can help you manage the AIP diet, helping you refine and adapt the diet to meet your individual needs, while addressing concerns about meeting vitamin and mineral requirements, the possibility of elevated levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and so on. Once you're ready to get started, here are some recipes that are AIP friendly:

Autoimmune Protocol Diet Friendly Recipes

Nomato Sauce (Tomato-Free Marinara Sauce)

Here's a faux tomato sauce for people on the AIP diet. It replaces the tomatoes with kabocha squash, carrots, and beets. "Nowadays many people are following the autoimmune paleo protocol (AIP)," states the recipe. "This restricted version of the paleo diet also excludes nightshades (including tomatoes) in an effort to minimize – and in some cases to cure – leaky gut and many autoimmune diseases. But you know how it is, we Italians love our tomato sauce!"

Nomato Sauce Tomato-Free Marinara Sauce
Photo by Little Bites of Beauty

AIP Breakfast Tapioca Porridge (Grain-Free and Paleo)

"This vanilla-maca tapioca porridge with a rhubarb and raspberry sauce is definitely one of my favorite grain-free porridge alternatives," says the recipe creator. "Whether you are following an AIP diet, you're intolerant to grains, or you simply want to switch up the taste of your breakfast porridge with a great and creamy texture, this healthy grain-free recipe is perfect for you. I worked very hard to make it compliant to basically every allergy in the world."

Apple Fennel Casserole with a Coconut-Turmeric Twist

This fennel, apple, and carrot casserole baked with coconut milk and turmeric is a quick and easy vegetarian side that is paleo- and AIP friendly.

Apple Fennel Casserole with a Coconut-Turmeric Twist
Photo by Little Bites of Beauty

Savory Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes replace white potato fries. "Best recipe for baked sweet potato fries for time and temperature," says Angela Boyd. "They cooked beautifully." Enjoy them with the avocado mayo below.

Savory Sweet Potato Fries
Photo by Christina

Coconut Crusted Taro Fries

"To all the AIP eaters, nightshade intolerants, and healthy fries lovers, this recipe is a total game-changer," says Little Bites of Beauty. "Yams are great to replace normal potatoes, but when you get tired of that sweet taste and want something a bit more starchy, taro is a great more exotic alternative!"

Karen's AIP Avocado Mayo

"A delicious Auto Immune Protocol Diet (AIP) alternative to mayo," says recipe author Karen. "Perfect as a dip for sweet potato fries!"

Get the Recipe: Karen's AIP Avocado Mayo

Karen's AIP Avocado Mayo
Photo by Christina

Roast Chicken with Rosemary

A few ingredients are all you need to make a juicy, whole-roasted chicken stuffed with rosemary and onion.

Easy Roasted Broccoli

It doesn't get easier than this! "My favorite part is the roasted sliced stem pieces," says Karen.

Get the Recipe: Easy Roasted Broccoli

closeup of roasted broccoli florets
Photo by LilSnoo

For related recipes, check out our collection of Paleo Diet Recipes – however, if you're following the strict AIP diet, watch for ingredients that are OK for the paleo diet but eliminated in the AIP diet.

For more on the Autoimmune Protocol diet, check out The Paleo Mom. It's the blog by Sarah Ballantyne, who originally popularized the AIP Diet. Ballantyne holds a Ph.D. in medical biophysics from the University of Western Ontario and has written several books and cookbooks on AIP and the paleo diet.

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