Friday, March 08, 2024

17 Tips for Starting the Autoimmune Protocol Elimination Diet: What I've learned after 100 days on AIP

Well, I've finally made it to 100 days on the Autoimmune Protocol Elimination Diet. Honestly after all of this time, I'd call it a commitment, process or lifestyle instead of a diet. You really need to be dedicated to improving your health to dive into this venture and stick with it. The journey of starting AIP can be both empowering and overwhelming. 

17 tips for starting aip

What is AIP?
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a specialized diet designed to help individuals with autoimmune conditions reduce inflammation, heal their gut, and identify food triggers that may exacerbate their symptoms. The Elimination Phase of the AIP is a crucial starting point on this journey towards better health. By eliminating potentially inflammatory foods and focusing on nutrient-dense, healing foods, individuals can support their bodies in healing and regaining balance. This article explores the key aspects of the AIP Elimination Phase, including its purpose, recommended foods to include and avoid, meal planning strategies, symptom management, and the transition to the Reintroduction Phase. Understanding and effectively implementing the Elimination Phase can lay a strong foundation for managing autoimmune conditions and improving overall well-being.

My Tips for Eating AIP
  1. You don't have to completely change your cooking style. If you like batch cooking, continue batch cooking. If you cook on the fly, keep that up, just keep your pantry stocked to anticipate your needs. Initially I tried to adjust my cooking scheduling and it just wouldn't work for our lifestyle.
  2. Instead of immediately trying all new recipes, look at your existing recipes and make easy changes. I've found more success enjoying meals by using recipes I have and making slight changes rather than trying a bunch of new recipes. Over the last 100 days, I've kept less than 1/3 of the recipes I've tried. Those aren't great odds. But by simply adapting my own recipes my success rate has gone up to 90%. Start with recipes you don't have to change and then move on to those that you only have to drop out a few spices and sub in the ones you need. Easy changes are mace for nutmeg; ginger for pepper; coconut aminos for soy sauce (which I think tastes much better anyway); etc.
  3. Check and double check ingredients. There is not much more frustrating than spending all of that money on AIP foods only to realize after you've ordered something online that what you've bought has things in it you can't have. Or even worse, that you bought something that you thought was safe to eat, ate it for weeks, and then realized you have been eating something causing inflammation! Three times now, I've made this discovery. There were eggs in my paleo protein powder, black walnut in a supplement, and rice bran in a different supplement. And those were all things I thought I checked. If I order something online, I check the ingredient list before I buy. Then when it arrives, I recheck the ingredient list again. You are usually safe to use something that is recommended by others on AIP or expert's products in the field: however, 2 of the products I mentioned were from experts and loads of recipes that are supposed to be AIP have things in them that aren't AIP friendly. 
  4. That brings me to my next tip. Really research the AIP restrictions. If you know what you can have and can't have inside out, it will make it so much easier to check labels and recipes to be sure you are covered. Also be sure to find the most updated list. Pepper and nutmeg are two examples of things that were once allowed, but now have been dropped from the list of foods that are okay.
  5. Buy in small quantities initially. If AIP is introducing you to a completely new food, buy it in a small quantity to be sure you really like it. Don't get me started on the salmon bars or the sushi wraps or the seaweed. I'm going to have those in my pantry for many weeks to come and not know quite what to do with them because no one of the 6 of us cares for them! Don't buy a bunch of something new until you are sure you'll like it!
  6. I have found it is easier for me to prep the day ahead for the next day's meals or even prep the meal ahead for the next meal. If I am making a soup, the day before I start my broth in the crockpot. If I'm making brownies in the evening, I bake the sweet potato in the morning. This takes some organization, but I've found on average I spend a half hour to an hour more on meal prep with AIP then I did before.
  7. Stock your freezer with a few extras. If you have an event coming up where you will be eating out of the house, prep ahead with those freezer foods. I usually have grilled pork, steak, or chicken on hand by making a bit extra with another meal. I get some extra packs of frozen veggies that aren't for a particular meal like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or broccoli. I choose a couple of the veggies and a meat and throw them in a glass container and have a quick take with me meal. A lot of times, I have a salad and throw some fruit on top too. Occasionally, I'll grab a dessert I have on hand or a tea, but usually I just stick with water.
  8. There are a few things that I've found best to make at the beginning of the week, so I will have them on hand when I need them. Usually, I plan to make bone broth, coconut milk, and basic condiments (bbq, dressings) weekly.
  9. I have always planned my meals out a week in advance. But I also have a basic outline of types of meals assigned for different days of the week. For example, my breakfast rotation looks like: cereal or parfait, smoothie, pancakes or waffles, porridge, sausage patties and sweet potatoes, hash, and muffins or bread. It makes it easier to plan and gives a good rotation, so I don't feel like I'm eating the same thing all of the time.
  10. Start simple. In the beginning especially, don't try to get super complicated with your meals, even if that's what you normally do. I've found its best to start with simple marinades for meats or meatballs or burgers and roasted veggies. Grill it or put it in the oven. 
  11. Eat leftovers for lunch. If you can, that is. Lunch has been the hardest meal for me because we don't have a lot of leftovers! There are six of us, seven sometimes and one of them is a 14-year-old boy that doesn't stop eating ever. Another issue is lunch is such a busy time. This is really what I'm focusing on improving right now.
  12. Start collecting recipes that you think you will like. There are a lot of AIP recipes floating around out there that don't taste good at all. Slowly start integrating the recipes that look appealing into your simpler plan. We have some recipe recommendations you can try on our autoimmune page.
  13. Be prepared for not enjoying all of the food. You may not really like some of the ingredients you can use. I don't like plantains in "breads" at all. There are other options, so if one food isn't palatable for you, don't worry. Just try another option. 
  14. Refine your tastes: really focus on what you like or what new foods you've found you like. Find lots of ways to use them.
  15. My autoimmune disorder has begun to affect my blood sugar. It is important for me to have regular meals and snacks on hand. The last thing I want is to have a drop in blood sugar and have to spend an hour making something that I'm allowed to eat. Staying stocked up on snacks is important. You can make your own snacks (protein balls, muffins, etc.), buy them (this takes some planning because most AIP friendly snacks are only available through online retailers), or a combination of both (which is what works best for me).
  16. Have some car snacks ready for when you are out. You never know when you will be out stuck somewhere longer then you intend to be. Car snacks are ideal for just such an event. You could keep stocked tuna packets, EPIC bars or chomps, freeze dried fruit, or sweet potato chips. 
  17. Do not be afraid to share your food restrictions when you are invited to eat with friends. Ask what they are planning to make. Explain what you can't have and an easy way to fix yours or what you can bring instead. Sometimes it is easier for me just to bring my own food altogether. Or switch it up and invite them to your house and you prepare the meal. You don't have to give up with the fellowship of eating with people.
Meatloaf muffins

Has it been worth it?
I haven't had any lab blood testing yet, so I don't know how it is affecting my blood levels, but my pain levels and inflammation is so much better. I have days without any pain in my joints at all. As I've double and triple checked labels and refined what I've been eating, I've found less and less pain.  

Going Forward
The plan from here is to continue on the elimination phase until I get to a standstill in my improvement. At that point, I will gradually try reintroducing foods in the 4 phases of reintroduction. In the end, I'd really love to settle on the paleo diet. That is honestly my end goal. With my blood sugar issues, processed sugar is not really on the table and since gluten, grains, and psudo-grains are some of the biggest culprits for autoimmune, paleo seems the most reasonable. 

aip cherry pie bars

What tips can you share for starting AIP?

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is not to offer medical advice. I am not in the medical field. My purpose is to share what decisions I’ve made in an attempt to improve my health and try to put my autoimmune disease into remission. Remember everyone’s body reacts differently to foods and supplements and you have to make the decisions that are best for you. Consult a trusted practitioner for medical advice. Our resource page details the books, articles, journals, and websites we've researched to put together our autoimmune articles. You can access our Autoimmune Research Resources by clicking.  

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