What is the Autoimmune Paleo Diet and How Can It Help You

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet, often referred to as the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP), is a diet that aims to reduce inflammation and relieve other symptoms of autoimmune disorders.

In this article, we are going to dig deep into what is an Autoimmune Paleo Diet, what are its advantages and disadvantages, what foods you can eat and what foods to avoid, and so on.

My goal is that, when you’re done reading this, you will be able to make a decision of whether you should go on this form of diet or not, and if you’re going on it, you will have everything you need to start today.

Enough Chit Chat, let’s get into it.

What is an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

Autoimmune paleo diet apple

The Autoimmune Paleo diet is a relatively new diet that takes a more modern approach to handle more modern health issues. The diet focuses on eliminating unwanted inflammation in the human body.

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet – or AIP – is an elimination-focused diet that is designed around the concept of helping your gut reduce any inflammation created by autoimmune conditions.

The diet cuts off inflammation-causing foods in order to help your body reset its immune system. The new – and better – eating habits should help put your autoimmune condition into remission and help it reset to a healthier state.

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet – or Autoimmune Paleo Protocol – is still a paleo diet but with more restrictions that are specifically designed to help your gut heal. There is this concept of a “leaky gut’ that assumes that autoimmune conditions are caused by small holes in your intestines, and this diet aims to heal these holes by eating only healthy foods.

Although the Autoimmune Paleo Diet is a strict diet, it’s one that you can gradually ease out of and back into your normal paleo diet. You will still need to follow the diet strictly for several weeks, and only after you start seeing real improvements can you start adding some other foods. When adding new foods to your diet, you should do it gradually and take your time doing it.

When adding new foods, you should also start with one food only every few days. Then, once you can see that your body doesn’t have any reactions to them and that everything is going fine to you, you can start adding new foods once a week and them several times a week once everything is going well.

If you start noticing any side effects at this time, you should take this food out of your diet once again and get back to your strict Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP) without any added foods, and then restart the cycle.

Before we get any more in-depth, if this is the first time you’re hearing about the Paleo diet, make sure to take a minute to read everything you need to know about the Paleo Diet here.

How Does the Autoimmune Paleo Diet Work?

Apples and fruits essential for autoimmune paleo diet

We’ve already explained that the main idea of the Autoimmune Paleo Diet is to avoid gut-irritating foods and restricting your menu to only nutrient-rich foods that can reduce inflammation so that your body can reset your immune system.

I’ve also briefly mentioned the leaky gut theory, so let’s dive deeper into that.

The Leaky Gut Theory is one of the most widely-believed hypotheses about how the autoimmune conditions begin.

The basic concept is that when there is a problem with the bacterial composition of a person’s gut, then environmental triggers such as viruses or toxins, can then breach the wall of the gut and gain access to other parts of the body where they can roam freely and do some serious damage.

Supporters of this theory claim that by just eating the right foods, you can prevent symptoms of inflammation. However, experts have long negotiated this theory with no one providing a final proof to whether it’s true or not.

Many proponents of the leaky gut syndrome theory strongly believe that the Autoimmune Paleo Diet or Protocol can be key to preventing the immune system from attacking tissues and reducing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

You can learn more about the Leaky Gut Theory using the links at the “sources” section at the end of the article.

Autoimmune Paleo Diet Food List

Although there is limited research on the subject, there are guidelines for which foods you can eat and which you can avoid.

Here is an Autoimmune Paleo Diet Food List of the foods you can eat while on the AIP.

  • Vegetables
  • Herbs and Spices
  • High-Quality Sea Foods
  • Fermented Foods
  • Some fruits
  • Lean meats and liver
  • Oils

Since this is not really what you’re looking for, let us take a minute to dive deeper into the specific foods you can eat on the autoimmune Paleo diet.

Vegetables

autoimmune paleo diet vegetables basket

Vegetables and herbs are rich in fiber and phytonutrients, both of which are essential for your body to thrive. The Autoimmune Paleo Diet is still very much a plant-centric diet. Some experts suggest up to 9 servings of vegetables per day.

There is also an Autoimmune Paleo Diet Vegetarian version where you are only allowed to eat plant-based foods on the paleo diet. There are many followers of this autoimmune paleo diet vegetarian version who boast incredible results with their health and weight loss. I encourage you to do more research about it if you think this is something you would be interested in.

Most if not all vegetables are allowed on the AIP. Here is a list of the veggies you should include in your meals:

  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels
  • Beets
  • Avocado
  • Arugula
  • Artichoke
  • Brocolli
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potato
  • Onion
  • Mushroom
  • Parsnip
  • Rutabaga
  • Jicama

It’s important to note that these are not all the vegetables you are allowed to eat, but since vegetables are pretty friendly when it comes to autoimmune health issues if you find a vegetable that is not on this list and you don’t know if it’s allowed or not, it’s probably allowed. That’s just in case you travel a lot and always discover veggies we don’t have here like I do.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and Spices are pretty wonderful additives to foods. They can make even the blandest foods taste great, so they are pretty important for a whole-food diet like the Autoimmune Paleo diet.

Here is a list of some of the herbs and spices allowed on this diet:

  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Saffron
  • Sage
  • Dill
  • Tumeric
  • Sage

Veggies and herbs and spices are pretty easy to handle on this diet, what is a bit more complicated is the case of fruits. So, let’s see what’s up with that.

Fruits

I know that some of you know that fruits are problematic – sort of. They do cause many allergies and other issues, but fruits are important, and not only because they’re nature candy – although this is an important part of it.

Fruits are rich in fibers and antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. If you eat fruits in moderation, there shouldn’t be any problem. Try to not consume more than two servings of fruit per day.

Here is a list of the fruits you can enjoy while on the AIP diet.

  • Apples
  • Cherry
  • Citrus
  • Coconut
  • Fig
  • Date
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Grape
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Watermelon
  • Pear
  • Persimmon

Now that we’ve got fruits and veggies covered, let’s get to where you will get your animal proteins from.

Proteins

Even though this diet focuses heavily on plant-based foods, animal proteins are still important here, even though they are highly-debated amongst followers of the diet.

High-quality animal proteins are rich in minerals and healthy fats and are a great source of energy, which is why they exist in the autoimmune paleo diet.

The diet advocates animal proteins as healing foods as long as they are high-quality choices. This means you should always seek the grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught options whenever possible. No processed meats are allowed whatsoever, though.

Here is a list of the animal proteins you can have while on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet:

  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Bone broth and Organ meats
  • Pork
  • Venison
  • Turkey

Seafood, besides being a great source of proteins, is also important for your diet because they are rich in micronutrients and fats that your body needs.

Speaking of fats, how do they stand in this diet? Let’s take a minute to discuss this as well…

Fats

Fats have a bad rep for no good reason. Healthy fats are crucial for our health and they are an excellent source of energy. Healthy fats can also regulate the inflammatory process in our bodies and act as a carrier for the nutrients we need.

Here is where you can get fats on the paleo diet food list:

  • Avocado oil
  • Chicken Fat
  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Beef Tallow
  • Palm Oil

In a nutshell, your diet should be rich in vegetables and meats while on the Autoimmune Paleo diet. You can eat fruits in moderation but never eat more than two servings of fruits per day. Herbs and spices are fair game, and healthy fats are essential.

You now know well what you should eat on the autoimmune paleo diet and have a pretty good autoimmune paleo diet food list, but you should also know what you should avoid on this diet, so let’s take a moment to check these out as well.

You should also read: A Comprehensive List of all the Paleo Diet Foods

Foods to Avoid on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet

I have mentioned at the beginning of the article that the AIP diet is a very strict diet. The Autoimmune Paleo Diet has strong limitations on many foods and, unlike with other diets, you can’t cheat and eat them once in a while, because this would simply defeat the whole purpose of this diet.

Here is a simplified autoimmune paleo diet food list of foods you must avoid.

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Processed Foods
  • Dairy Products
  • Refined Sugars
  • Eggs
  • Gum
  • Alternative sweeteners
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Nightshade Vegetables
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Some Vegetable Oils

Okay, let’s get into a bit more detail regarding each of these so you can have a better idea of what foods you must avoid:

Grains

Grains and Gluten may promote intestinal permeability (another name for the leaky gut syndrome) and can be especially problematic for those suffering from autoimmunity and some level of intestinal permeability.

It’s better to avoid these grains when following an anti-inflammatory autoimmune paleo diet:

  • Wheat
  • Oat
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Bulgar
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Corn
  • Millet

Dairy

Dairy is very controversial in the paleo diet community. While some ban it altogether from their diet, others say that you can make some dairy product paleo-compatible. However, in the case of the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, it’s better to completely avoid dairy products altogether since they can seriously impact the integrity of the gut lining.

Dairy products can also simulate allergies and inflammation. If you just can’t quit dairy, you may consume high-quality dairy products in moderation after some weeks on the diet, but you shouldn’t include it in day one.

Here is a simple list of the dairy products you should avoid:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Yogurt
  • Ghee
  • Butter

Legumes

Legumes can cause damage to the gut’s lining, so they are best avoided when you’re trying to heal your gut’s holes and restore your immune system.

Here is a simple list of the legumes you should avoid while on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet:

  • Black Beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Fava beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans

Nightshade vegetables

The autoimmune paleo diet focuses heavily on vegetables, but nightshade vegetables are the exception here. Nightshade vegetables can trigger inflammation and can be harmful to those with joint issues.

Here is a simple list of nightshades you should avoid:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillo
  • All peppers (bell peppers, spicy peppers, etc)
  • Ground cherries
  • Goji Berries
  • All red spices

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds should be avoided on the autoimmune paleo diet because they can be inflammatory to the gut lining. However, they can be reintroduced to your diet when they’re properly soaked and sprouted.

Here is a list of the nuts and seeds you should avoid on the autoimmune paleo diet:

  • Almond
  • Brazil nut
  • Cashew
  • Chia
  • Cocoa
  • Hazelnut
  • Flax
  • Pumpkin
  • Hemp
  • Pecan
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame
  • Safflower
  • Walnut

Coffee and Alcohol

Coffee and Alcohol are definitely not allowed on the anti-inflammatory autoimmune paleo diet.

Alcohol doesn’t promote healing, but you are not going sober forever. You can still enjoy alcohol in moderation after your healing is done.

Seed and Berry Spices

Seed and Berry spices are not allowed on this diet. Here is a simple list of what t avoid:

  • Allspice
  • Mustard
  • Poppy seeds
  • Black Pepper
  • Fennel seed
  • Cumin
  • Celery seed
  • Caraway
  • Anise

Eggs

All eggs are not allowed on this diet, of course. Eggs are one of the most common allergens and they may irritate your gut. Egg whites are more irritating than egg yolks, so you may be able to reintroduce egg yolks sooner than you can reintroduce the whole eggs.

Does the Autoimmune Paleo Diet Actually work?

There have been a few clinical studies that studied the effectiveness of the AIP diet in general and as a means of managing specific autoimmune diseases, and they have concluded with some interesting results that are often referenced when talking about how an anti-inflammatory autoimmune paleo diet can make a difference in your life.

In a study conducted in 2017 where scientists aimed to discuss the results of dietary elimination on the symptoms of inflammation in patients, they discovered that the elimination done in the AIP diet can improve the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. This was a randomized trial.

Another study conducted in 2019 that studied 17 female participants aged 20-45 that had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The participants followed the Autoimmune Paleo diet for 10 weeks as part of their health coaching program.

The tests conducted at the end of this study showed no significant changes, however, the participants had another say in the subject. They reported that they have indeed felt a reduction in symptoms and an overall improvement in the quality of life.

The scientists that conducted this study concluded that the AIP diet could help people with this condition when it’s a part of a wider health program, which shows that the diet can indeed work.

There is scientific evidence that suggests that a link does exist between gut health and inflammatory disease, even if more research is still needed on the subject to explain exactly why and how.

There are also peer-reviewed studies that connect the bacterial growth in the gut and the inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Other studies have suggested that the composition of gut bacteria can trigger immune and inflammatory reactions in other parts of the human body.

Researchers have also noted that inflammation affects how well our guts functions. They have also noted that food allergies can have an effect on it and can make it more porous. This also suggests a link between problems with the gut wall or gut lining and autoimmune diseases. This is an area that needs more studies and research to not only confirm but to also study the causes behind it and why food allergies can have such an effect on the gut wall.

In a nutshell, many of the studies point to the conclusion that the AIP diet can indeed reduce the symptoms of certain autoimmune diseases.

Who should go on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

The Autoimmune Diet can be helpful for individuals with autoimmune conditions. The diet can help them by resetting their immune system through eliminating foods can cause inflammation in the body – at least that’s the main theory of the diet.

This means that the diet can help the 50 million people in the United States that are suffering from autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, autoimmune conditions by their nature can’t be cured. However, the diet can still be helpful since these conditions can go into remission.

Does this mean anyone with an autoimmune condition should try it? No, of course not. But if you’re reading this and you are suffering from something like Crohn’s disease or Lupus, you should indeed give it some serious consideration. Maybe have a small talk with your doctor about it? Your doctor can help you figure out if you should go on the diet or how you can approach it in a way that’s more suitable to you.

Even if the diet isn’t suitable for you, your doctor or dietitian can probably help you make some modifications to your lifestyle to help you become healthier and reduce the symptoms of your autoimmune conditions by using some of the guidelines provided by the AIP.

Related Questions

Is there a difference between the anti-inflammatory diet and the Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

Yes, there is a difference, but at the end, both aim to reduce inflammation in the body. The AIP diet aims to reduce and alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune diseases by eliminating problematic foods that can make the symptoms and autoimmune diseases worse.

The anti-inflammatory diet, on the other hand, focuses on reducing the overall inflammation in the body. The AIP diet is used by many as an anti-inflammatory diet, which is why I have referred to the diet throughout the article as the Anti-inflammatory autoimmune paleo diet.

What is the Ketogenic autoimmune Paleo Diet?

The Ketogenic Autoimmune paleo diet is basically a ketogenic diet that follows the principles of the autoimmune paleo diet. It eliminates all grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and nightshades – the same as the autoimmune paleo diet.

The meal plan in the Ketogenic autoimmune paleo diet is still a ketogenic diet in essence and limits your carbs to 25 grams or less. The ketogenic autoimmune paleo diet is often used with intermittent fasting.

Sources:

Leaky Gut Syndrome – The NHS UK.

Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseGauree G. Konijeti, MD, MPH,*†NaMee Kim, MD,James D. Lewis, MD, MSCE,§Shauna Groven, BS,Anita Chandrasekaran, MD, MPH,*Sirisha Grandhe, MD,*Caroline Diamant, MD,*Emily Singh, MD,*Glenn Oliveira, BS,†¶Xiaoyun Wang, MS,Bhuvan Molparia, MS,¶† and Ali Torkamani, PhD¶†

Mostafa
I'm a health and fitness enthusiast. I have been an athlete and a fat kid, so I know what it's like to be on both sides. My weight is constantly changing and I've tried all kinds of diets (and played many sports). I know what works and what doesn't from experiences - not just my own. I have done a lot of research on the topics of diets and health, and I'm here to help guide you through this world. It's a long journey, and it's not gonna be easy, but it sure as hell will be fun!

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