Does the Autoimmune Protocol Diet Work? My Personal Experience
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This is Part 2 of our Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet series. The other posts in this series include:
Part 1: What is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet? & Does It Actually Work?
Part 3: 7 Major Mistakes I Made on the AIP Diet (& the 3 Things I Did Right)
Okay, I’ll admit it… I was a lurker.
I watched from the sidelines as all these people tried the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet to reverse their autoimmune disease symptoms. But not me. Noooo thank you. Gluten and dairy-free was the farthest I was willing to go.
“Man, they must be desperate.”
Because who in their right mind would ever do this diet for FUN? Seriously. It just sounds so… exhausting.
Well, maybe not everyone is desperate when they start the diet, but I sure was. My desperation moment didn’t come because of my symptoms, though, but rather – my daughter’s. Our wee-tiny 6-week old baby girl, covered in hives, eczema, and a beet-red blistering diaper rash. Head to toe. The poor girl.
I really didn’t know much back then, but I did know from our own personal experience that skin issues like eczema are usually an indicator of something going wrong in the gut / food allergies & sensitivities.
Given that our daughter’s only source of food was me (breast milk), I knew that the only way to figure this out was to remove every highly allergenic/inflammatory food and add it all back in… 1 by 1.
Sounds a lot like the Autoimmune Protocol diet.
I figured… “Ehh, what the heck, maybe it will do something for me too since I actually have an autoimmune disease.”
So, I hopped on Amazon and grabbed the only cookbook I knew about at the time, The Healing Kitchen, and spent a few days planning our meals for the next month. Frank is super supportive (and curious), so he committed to the diet with me.
While I’m happy I didn’t jump right in without planning (because that would have been a 1-day long diet), I have to admit – I was nervous.
Does the Autoimmune Protocol Diet Work? A Deep Dive into My Personal Experience
My Diet Before AIP – Take 1
My diet consisted of… chocolate protein shakes, peanut butter chocolate chip Go-Macro bars (usually in the middle of the night when I was nursing), lots of meat and sauce to put on top, store-bought coconut milk ice cream and yogurt (primarily ice cream), gluten-free cereal with almond milk, eggs and gluten-free toast, gluten-free pasta, and one measily “green” smoothie that was mostly just fruit if I’m being honest. Oh, and almond-flour muffins. With maybe a small salad thrown in there somewhere.
So… basically, aside from the meat and tiny amount of fruit/vegetables, my entire diet went out the window. And so did my sanity.
My Symptoms Before AIP – Take 1
Of course, our daughter was the driving force behind my decision to “go AIP,” but that’s not to say I didn’t have any issues. Remember, I was a lurker… and I lurked for a reason. I felt okay in comparison to my early years of Hashimoto’s, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy and happiness.
I still experienced a plethora of symptoms, especially once I hit one-month post-partum.
- Vertigo – room spinning all day long
- Edema (swelling) in my legs
I ignored the majority of these symptoms, thinking they were just part of being a first-time mom… but, I’m pretty sure I was wrong to make that assumption.
Our First Time Following the AIP Diet
I planned out every single meal for every day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts, and even beverages. I was terrified we were going to starve and not be satisfied with any of the foods we were allowed to eat.
The majority of our main meals consisted of: starch, meat, sugar in some form (honey, maple syrup, or bananas), and maybe a small serving of veggies. During the first two weeks, we devoured a full 1-pound jar of raw honey and ate it by the spoonful. I bought another one to help us get through the next two weeks. I also added in a high-dose probiotic and fish oil.
All of our meals were technically compliant… but we felt so deprived by the end of the 3rd week, that we broke the diet and reintroduced foods one by one. (So much for our 4-week plan.)
List of Symptoms Resolved from Following the AIP Diet – Take 1
Despite our massive sugar addiction and complete lack of vegetable intake, the diet worked. Our daughter’s skin cleared up within 2 weeks and so did my personal skin issues. My fatigue and sleep issues also improved.
My vertigo dissipated but returned once we broke the diet and began reintroducing foods. Luckily, just one visit to the acupuncturist took care of it for good.
Honestly, it was the best I had felt in a long time.
The Foods We Could & Couldn’t Reintroduce
Oatmeal. Oatmeal was like death-meal. Frank and I both felt so awful. Corn failed as well. Peanut butter made us itchy. We never tried gluten, dairy, or soy because we don’t ever plan on eating them again anyways (for many reasons).
Everything else seemed to fare well at least for me personally (assuming it was a whole food, prepared properly, and nothing processed). Our daughter had some strange sensitivities that I could easily pinpoint while nursing so my diet followed what she could and couldn’t eat.
Overall – a success! And a ton of mistakes… seriously… so many. Can you pinpoint any? I talk about them in more detail in this post.
Moving on to round 2.
Our Experience with the AIP Diet – Take 2
Our first time following the diet was back in 2016 shortly after our daughter was born. In 2018, I revisited it due to an unfortunate unspecified autoimmune situation which I detail more in the following posts:
I Traded My Hashimoto’s for a Big Fat Autoimmune Mess!
My Big Fat Autoimmune Mess! My Symptoms & Test Results
At this point, I was in a true autoimmune flare… something I never experienced with Hashimoto’s (and if I ever did, I didn’t know it because I always felt awful).
My Symptoms Before AIP – Take 2
Pain. Pain everywhere.
In my joints, my muscles, nerves, and deep down into my bones. Every part of me ached from morning ‘til night.
I also had a rash all over my hands (similar to a Lupus Discoid Rash). It cracked, bled, and burned every time I touched water, soap… pretty much any liquid, so I wore gloves all day to keep them clean and dry.
Naturally, brain fog and fatigue accompanied these symptoms. Surely, if you’ve ever experienced chronic pain, you know that the pain in itself is mentally exhausting.
This was my true desperation moment. And a true test to see if the AIP diet was going to work its magic.
My Diet Before AIP – Take 2
My diet at this point was predominantly Paleo, except for eggs which I tested highly sensitive to. I added in a few properly prepared beans (soaked overnight and then boiled), rice, and buckwheat once or twice a week. My veggie intake was probably around 3-4 cups a day. Fruit was 2 cups a day. Lots and lots of meat, but not a lot of fish. Everything was roasted, sautéed, or fried.
Our Second Time Following the AIP Diet
I wasn’t nearly as nervous this time around. I was in so much pain that I was willing to go to great lengths for relief. I also made a (small) effort to educate myself more about the diet, including how to optimize it for the greatest healing.
Life was so hectic at the time, with a newborn and a toddler, that I didn’t meal plan. I kept it as simple as possible. Our meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisted of a roasted/grilled/broiled/slow-cooked meat, a starch, and a vegetable. Snacks were fruit, plantain chips, AIP cookie dough, or hodgepodge energy bars made with dates, tigernut, and coconut (still didn’t have a grasp on my sugar addiction…).
How long did I stick with this?
With the exception of reintroducing chocolate and cashews, I stuck with the diet (strictly, no cheating) for over 6 months! Frank didn’t join me during this time because I felt I didn’t need the extra support.
List of Symptoms Resolved Following the AIP Diet – Take 2
The diet resolved all of the symptoms I listed above. At least all the big ones. But, this wasn’t overnight. It took about 2 months for my pain to lessen (it did not go away completely from diet alone, but I did end up reversing it all through other interventions) and 2-3 months for the rash on my hands to clear up by about 80%.
I tested my wide-range of autoimmune antibodies to see if I made a dent in my levels, but nothing changed significantly. They didn’t go up or down. I didn’t see this as a negative though, because… hey, at least they didn’t get worse. 🤷♀️
The Foods I Could & Couldn’t Reintroduce
The only problem? I couldn’t reintroduce any other foods! I chose to try the chocolate and cashews only because I wanted apples with cashew butter and chocolate chips lol. I am lucky and surprised I didn’t react to those foods.
Every other food gave me a reaction and it was always the same – immediate muscle/bone pain. I’m talking within minutes, sometimes even seconds.
Beans and seeds were the worst offenders. Followed by nuts and all grains. Eggs sent me into a 3-week flare.
Eventually, I stopped trying to reintroduce foods because I was so exhausted by the process. Plus, this is a major red flag that something isn’t right. This diet isn’t meant to be a life-time diet.
I decided to pause and troubleshoot by investigating other issues that were preventing me from expanding my diet – possible gut infections and viruses, mold exposure, nutritional deficiencies, etc. During this time, I worked with a functional medicine practitioner to find out what was going on, and eventually reintroduced foods with great success! You can read more about how I did in my post:
How I Healed My Leaky Gut and Finally Reintroduced Foods Without Flaring
Where I’m at Now
Since troubleshooting and finally reaching a point where I could introduce foods, I nestled into my own little version of the AIP diet, customized to fit what my body needs and responds well to.
I do not eat:
Grains, with the exception of white rice on occasion
Tomatoes (but I tolerate hot peppers just fine)
Some nuts and seeds
I’ve also realized that I cannot tolerate fried foods, which is a bummer because I love me some AIP fried tostones!
Will I continue to expand my food choices?
At this moment, I’m good. I feel my symptom are under control. In no way do I feel deprived of food options. Maybe someday I can have eggs again, but I’ll be just fine if not.
What’s important is that I DO have different foods to eat… plenty of them. And it’s only the AIP diet that allowed me to find exactly what my body needed to start reversing my autoimmune symptoms. I hope my experience inspires you to give it a try for yourself, and if so… then read the next post in the series so you can avoid the same mistakes I made and streamline your healing:
Part 3: 7 Major Mistakes I Made on the AIP Diet (& the 3 Things I Did Right)
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits, so you can find the healing you deserve.