As research progresses, researchers make more discoveries about autoimmune diseases. From lupus to multiple sclerosis (MS) to Type 1 diabetes, doctors continue the effort to understand variables involved in each. One approach to reducing autoimmune side effects is the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP). If you’re interested in trying this approach yourself, let’s learn what it really means first.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease signifies cases where your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. While the immune system is designed to attack foreign cells, in this case it attacks healthy cells located in areas like joints and skin instead.
As you can imagine, these diseases can be very painful and debilitating. While some diseases attack only one part of the body, others attack and affect multiple areas of the body.
Symptoms of an autoimmune disease could be:
- Aches and swelling
- Hair loss
Obviously, many of these symptoms are consistent with other diseases, as well. Be sure to consult with your doctor before deciding to diagnose yourself.
Causes of Autoimmune Diseases
Specific causes of autoimmune diseases are unknown. However, researchers have found several consistencies in their studies.
Some of these diseases, like lupus, are more prevalent in certain ethnic groups. Alternatively, MS, for example, can run in families.
Other additional suspected contributors to autoimmune diseases include:
- Environmental factors
- Gut inflammation, sometimes attributed to “Western” diets high in fat, sugar and processed foods
- Exposure to chemical agents
Researchers are hopeful that they will be able to pinpoint specific factors as studies continue.
Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
In an effort to combat autoimmune disorders, AIP aims to use diet strategies to regulate the immune system. But in addition to nutritional changes, it also emphasizes sufficient sleep, lower stress levels and exercise to help manage attacks to the body.
A large portion of the approach aims to heal what’s called “leaky gut,” otherwise referred to as intestinal permeability. This is thought to be the source of inflammation.
Because the plan closely resembles the paleo diet, it’s also viewed as an extension of the paleo eating plan. Albeit stricter than the paleo diet, it has many of the same principles. Additionally, clinical trial evidence confirms its validity.
The AIP has two big steps: first up is elimination and the second is reintroduction. Here’s how they work:
It may seem brutal at first, but this step is crucial. You may find yourself yearning for your favorite things like:
- Coffee and alcohol
- Eggs and dairy
- Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
- Processed foods
- Nuts and seeds
- NSAIDs like ibuprofen or high-dose aspirin
Initally, these all must be eliminated. Thus, the elimination period should be at lesat 30 days, but most people average 30-90 days. Once you start seeing major improvements in how you feel and a reduction in symptoms, you may begin step two. Or, you may find that you choose to keep this eating style as a way of life and not risk reintroducing anything you’ve eliminated.
On the other hand, you should focus on foods like quality meats, vegetables, fruit and fish. If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of cooking proper paleo meals, consider a paleo meal delivery service.
Once you’ve noticed a significant difference in your symptoms, you may reintroduce the eliminated foods one at a time in very small portions. You should allow approximately one week between the reintroduction of each food type.
If you begin to notice symptoms with any food, you’ll know that food is a trigger for you. Note that a body’s food tolerance can change over time. So, if you notice a negative reaction, you could try waiting about six months to a year and try it again.
In closing, the paleo autoimmune protocol has proven to be a valuable approach to resolving symptoms of autoimmune diseases. While it likely won’t “cure” the condition, it definitely can reduce side effects. To learn even more about AIP, check out the book The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. Here’s to autoimmune healing!