What is the Automimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet? Plus AIP Recipes!

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The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet is a therapeutic elimination-style diet used to reduce inflammation in the body, which may help treat symptoms of autoimmune conditions in some people. This extreme diet isn’t for everyone, but if you and your health care professionals are on board, we’ll give you all of our tips, tricks, and recipes so you can succeed on AIP.

Back in the summer of 2017, I became so sick that I couldbarely make it out of bed. For months,  I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices, and no onecould figure out what was wrong with me. 

I was eventually diagnosed with Lyme Disease, but during the journey to get to my diagnosis, I had numerous health care professionals suggest that I do an elimination diet to help identify foods that caused inflammation in my body. While they didn’t know what was going on with me, they did know that if I identified—and removed—the foods that my body was reacting to, I’d start on the path to healing. 

Working with my health care team, we eventually decided to try the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) to help heal my body and help me recover. I am incredibly grateful to the AIP diet to help me get on the path to healing!

Wholefully Protip

The AIP Diet is a therapeutic diet used to treat inflammatory conditions in your body. It is recommended that you do the AIP under the guidance of a dietician or other health care professional.

What does AIP stand for?

AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol. In some places, you’ll also see it listed as Autoimmune Paleo, because it is a diet that is based on paleo principles. 

What is the AIP diet?

The AIP diet is an elimination diet that helps you identify which foods are not tolerated well by your body. It is a short term, therapeutic diet that removes foods that most commonly cause people adverse immune reactions as identified by medical researcher Dr. Sarah Ballantyne in her book The Paleo Approach. These kinds of reactions can range from severe (anaphylaxis after eating peanuts) to relatively minor (bloating after eating bread). 

The AIP Diet is designed to be done short-term to promote healing—with a minimum recommendation of 30 days—and after you feel well again, you slowly start to reintroduce foods and gauge your body’s reaction to them. Because your body has healed for at least 30 days, you’ll have a clean slate to observe food reactions, no matter how minor they may be. And then you have the information to make decisions about what foods can come back into your diet regularly, occasionally, rarely, or never.

Who is the AIP diet for?

As the name implies, the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is designed to help identify the foods that may contribute to making autoimmune conditions worse. Some people (like me!) have had good results using AIP to identify food sensitivities that contribute to non-autoimmune conditions.

The AIP is an extreme dietary change, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. It’s a therapeutic diet, meaning it’s not just something you pick up and do for funsies. The AIP is a treatment for an illness or disorder, and the hope is that once you’ve completed your treatment, you’ll be better and can stop the therapeutic diet.

How does the AIP diet work?

The AIP diet is broken up into phases, each one getting increasingly less restrictive:

  • Full AIP/Elimination: The first part of the AIP diet is the most restrictive. This is the elimination portion of the diet. You are on this at least 30 days, or until your symptoms dramatically improve—whichever comes last. This time allows your body to heal from any inflammation caused by food reactions.
  • Reintroduction: After your body has begun healing, you can start testing the foods that you eliminated one at a time, starting with foods that are least likely to cause a reaction. 
  • Maintenance: You take the information you learned during the reintroduction phase and use it to decide what foods are the most nourishing for your body, and what foods you may want to avoid.

Wholefully Protip

The first phase of AIP Diet is meant to be a short-term, and AIP in general is meant to be an evolving diet. The goal is to identify what foods make your body feel good and which don’t, not to stay on AIP forever. 

For some people, you might have just identified one or two foods that cause you problems, and your diet can go mostly back to normal. For others, you might have long lists of foods that you would like to avoid. The most important part is that now you have the information to make an informed decision about what goes on your plate.

What can you eat on the AIP diet?

A key component of the AIP diet is focusing on nutrient density. The concept is that an unwell body needs a heavy dose of nutrients to help heal. The foods that are allowed during the elimination phase are: 

  • Meat, fish, and seafood
  • All vegetables except for nightshades
  • Fruits (in moderation)
  • Healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, animal fats, etc.)
  • Bone broth
  • Organ meats
  • Grain-free baking flours (cassava, tigernut, tapioca, coconut, etc.)

It is recommended to try to find the highest quality options that will fit within your resource limitations. Free-range meats, organic produce, and fresh foods take preference over other options (but doing the best you can with what you have is always my philosophy).

Clear mug of bone broth held in two hands

What can’t you eat?

No sugar-coating this one. AIP is restrictive. During the elimination phase of AIP you need to avoid:

  • Beans and legumes (including peanuts)
  • Eggs
  • Nightshade veggies (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc.)
  • Seeds (including seed-based spices like cumin)
  • Nuts (including nut milk like almond milk)
  • Dairy
  • Grains (both gluten-containing and gluten-free grains)
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Pseudo-grains (quinoa, amaranth, etc.)
  • Processed foods
  • Certain vegetable oils (sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate

Again, you cut out these foods for a minimum of 30 days, and then you can reintroduce them one at a time, and if you do not have a reaction, that food can rejoin your diet regularly without concern for exacerbating your condition.

Wholefully Protip

Since you cannot eat most prepared foods, meal prep is essential on the AIP Diet.

Is the AIP diet safe and healthy?

The AIP diet is very restrictive—cutting out entire groups of foods—which over the long term can be tricky to manage while still getting balanced nutrition. Thankfully, the AIP diet is designed to be a short-term diet. While some people with extreme autoimmune illnesses feel their best doing the full/elimination AIP for the long term, the vast majority of people who AIPers are only visitors on the elimination phase of the diet.

Again, the main goal of the AIP diet is to identify the foods that cause a reaction in your body. Once you have that information, you can relax your dietary restrictions. Most people who do AIP eventually identify a handful of foods that cause them issues, and they can then go back to a full, rich, diverse diet once they’ve done that work. Some people who have had success on AIP land on a paleo or paleo-leaning diet after their time is done on AIP (limiting grains, gluten, sugars, beans, and dairy), but the wonderful thing about doing AIP is that afterwards, you have the knowledge to craft the diet that works best for you and your body.

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Chicken Zoodle Soup

Because you are cutting out huge swaths of food groups on the AIP diet, you do need to pay careful attention to make sure you are getting the correct amount of nutrients. That’s why I highly recommend doing AIP under the guidance of a health care professional who is familiar with the program.

If you have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, please consider whether or not a restrictive diet like AIP is appropriate for your stage of recovery.

Is the AIP diet low carb?

Because the AIP diet removes many carb-heavy foods like grains and beans, it might be easy to assume that AIP is a low carb or keto diet, but it is not. The AIP diet is about the types of foods you eat, not the numbers associated with them. You can eat sweet potatoes, bananas, squash, and other carb-heavy fruits and veggies on AIP. 

Sweet potato fries piled on top of each other on parchment paper.

How long should you do the AIP diet?

It is recommended that you do the first elimination phase of the AIP diet for at least 30 days, or until your symptoms dramatically improve. Once you are feeling better, you can start reintroducing foods and expanding your diet. The speed of the reintroduction process can vary based on your tolerance and your reactions.

Does the AIP diet really work?

Anecdotally, both my husband and I had great results on the AIP diet. We were both able to identify the foods that our bodies were reacting to, heal from that, and eventually feel much better! We now eat a rich, diverse diet that includes many of the “don’t eat” foods from the elimination portion of AIP that we didn’t react to. 

All across the internet, there are lots of testimonials of folks who had great success on AIP. However, it’s impossible to know if the diet will work for you and your particular conditions. That’s where a health care professional comes in! They can be a great resource to determine if AIP is something that might work to help you treat your condition.

Overhead shot of Turkey Florentine Meatballs with Pesto Spaghetti Squash in a bowl

Can you lose weight on the AIP diet?

The AIP diet is not a weight loss diet. While some people may lose weight on AIP, it’s also possible that some people may gain weight, depending on the needs of their bodies. Because the diet restricts so many categories of food, it is highly recommended that you do not restrict any other aspects of your diet like the number of calories, number of carbs, or portion sizes.

Is AIP just about food?

Food is just one aspect of the AIP “diet.” It’s the one that most people focus on because it’s the most dramatic, but living AIP also means doing other stuff like resetting your circadian rhythms, protecting your sleep, relieving stress, getting moderate and regular activity, fostering connections with people you love, and doing activities that bring you joy. Many of the action items we describe the Living Wholefully Starter Guide coincide with the AIP lifestyle recommendations nicely (and it’s free). 

I venture to say that if you just focus on the food aspect of AIP, you’re not really going to get the full benefits of the protocol. Trust me, if you cut out grains but still only get six hours of sleep at night and spend all your day stressed out, your body isn’t going to get a chance to heal.

Pumpkin Coconut Breakfast Porridge

What are some good AIP recipes I should try?

I spent three months on the elimination portion of AIP, and an additional six months reintroducing foods—trust me, I have tried my fair share of AIP meals. Here are some of the best AIP recipes I created:

  • Swedish Meatballs. Drop the fennel seed and black pepper, and use mace instead of nutmeg, to make these AIP-compliant.
  • Bone Broth. Just leave out the black pepper, and you’ll be all set!
  • Grilled Blackened Tuna Steaks. Just skip the paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in the seasoning for this tuna steak recipe.
  • Bacon Wrapped Dates. With AIP-compliant bacon, these make a great appetizer or snack.
  • Breakfast Porridge. You won’t feel restricted at all with this Pumpkin Spice Coconut Breakfast Porridge.
  • Sweet Potato Toast. The topping options for this meal prep breakfast are endless—just make sure the toppings are AIP-compliant!
  • Sweet Potato Fries. No need to miss fries on AIP! Be sure to use arrowroot flour when making these.
  • No-Bake Macaroons. While you are supposed to eat desserts in moderation on AIP, that doesn’t mean you have to skip them entirely!
  • How to Make Sauerkraut. Fermented foods are important when you are on AIP, and this is one of my favorites.
  • 109+ Easy and Healthy Meal Prep Ideas. Learn all our best tips and tricks for meal prep, which is key to helping AIP go smoothly.
  • Don’t forget, we have literally hundreds of healthy recipes right in our recipe index (which is sortable by dietary needs)!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

29 Responses
  1. Random thoughts while reading:

    After reading the list of restrictions, I’m impressed by how inviting you made your meals look!

    I would probably like literally die without beans.

    Definitely reintroduce flax seeds posthaste! They’ve been shown to be so protective against breast cancer, and I feel like so many women our age are getting diagnosed these days. :'(

    Did Craig’s health annoyances get any better?

    So cool that this protocol focuses on other aspects of lifestyle too!

    1. Cassie

      Yup, flaxseeds are on the list to bring back early (after I get cumin and eggs back in!).

      And the AIP didn’t help Craig much. Which is just further proof (to me) that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. We all gotta figure out what works for each of us!

  2. Melissa

    They’d have to drag me kicking & screaming to follow that diet===but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. If it’ll make you feel yourself again–then it;s worth the sacrifice & effort! Hope you are both feeling better!

  3. deb c

    Really interesting read!!! My sis-in-law was put on the diet….she couldn’t explain it because she didn’t understand it. I gotta show her your post…it all makes sense now! Its nice hearing the perkiness in your written voice once again! Happy day to ya!

  4. Alex

    Thanks for sharing the details of the AIP! I heard you talk about it on Instagram and was really curious! After suffering from severe migraines for years, I’ve recently started eliminating potential trigger foods and was just diagnosed with sensitivities to dairy, egg, nuts, yeast and most carbs (oats, barley, buckwheat, rice, corn, potatoes) so I’m really excited to see some AIP friendly recipes on your blog! I’m glad it’s been working for you and that you’re feeling more like yourself!

    1. Cassie

      I’ve had migraines all my adult life, and figuring out the triggers has almost completely eliminated them from my life! I hope you find that info soon. 🙂

    1. Cassie

      When most folks say/think they are allergic/sensitive to “eggs” it’s actually the egg white that most people react to. Egg yolks are apparently not nearly as allergenic for folks, so the AIP has you introduce egg yolks first, and then try the whites later.

  5. Erica Ridge

    Thanks for the update! So glad to hear it’s been helping.

    This is the best summary of the AIP I’ve read. Not that I’ve gone looking but a few people I follow online have been on it. Focussing on the non-food side is interesting also.

  6. Julia

    I’ve been following the AIP protocol off and on for a year now. It has helped heal & manage my long list of mysterious symptoms. I also have an autoimmune-related disorder. The amount of energy I have now is incredible! I actually am sad when I can’t make protein & veggies for breakfast because I run out of time. I feel so good, it’s easy to stick with it. I also came from a mostly plant-based grain/bean diet. I know everyone is different but dairy & beans have been my major trigger foods. I’m a long time reader of your blog. Proud of you for making this transition & making your health a priority! It feels like such a huge change but it’s amazing how good it feels. Mindfulness, sleep & meaningful connections have made a big difference for me as well.

  7. Pearl

    Really informative and nice to hear you’re improving!
    I see you referenced having an instant pot now. They seem to be all the rage lately and I know you’re not one to add more gadgets in your kitchen if they’re not amazing, so I’d love to hear if it’s something you’d recommend etc… thanks!

    1. Cassie

      I fought getting an Instant Pot for years (even though people have been asking me to develop IP recipes for just as long), but I finally bit the bullet for one reason—broth! The IP can take a 3-4 hour (or even more for bone broth) process and condense it into under an hour. And then, once I had the thing in my house, I started using it for EVERYTHING—yogurt, roast chicken, steaming vegetables, soups.. It now is the only appliance that has a spot on my countertop. Not even my blender or food processor has that distinction!

  8. Laura

    So glad this diet is helping you! Thanks for sharing! And I find what Anthony WIlliam has to share about auto-immune disease and food as medicine is very empowering and I love the way I’m eating now. I love his books Medical Medium & Life Changing Foods and new one coming out is Thyroid Healing.

  9. Teri Pastorino

    Thanks for the post – glad that the AIP diet helped you. I have been struggling with my migraines coming back lately and need to reset. Do you have some recommendations for good resources for recipes and additional information?

    1. Cassie

      If you’re interested in the AIP diet, I first recommend talking to your healthcare professional—it’s a big change and you need to really be doing it under the supervision of a medical provider.

      Beyond that, I recommend checking out The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne, and her website, thepaleomom.com.

  10. Sasha Cannon

    Soooo happy you explored into the ancestral school of thought and are successful on your AIP effotts. You make everything so appetizing and your passion for food is contagious, I have no doubt you will rock this new protocol and continue inspiring your readers. Wishing you get a whole lot better!!

  11. Melissa K

    Do you find AIP manageable while cooking for your family? Are you finding that you end up cooking two separate meals? With working full-time and having two under the age of 4 in the house (one of whom is in a picky phase), I’ve been hesitant to make such a drastic change, although all signs point to it being something that would be beneficial for my current health.

    1. Cassie

      I’m actually surprised by how well AIP has been working for everyone. For most meals, we eat the same thing or slight variations. So like, for example, for breakfast, I’d have a stuffed sweet potato with spinach, and ham. My husband would the same thing, but top it with an egg. And for Juni, she’d have sweet potato chunks, ham, and a separate egg (plus some fruit).

      At first, it felt like I was always going to have to cook two meals (less so for my husband, more so for the picky three year old), but we’ve figured out the meals that we can make with small changes (or no changes at all) that work for her, too.

  12. Cris

    AIP sounds intense…. Literally 3 years in with elimination diet and re introduction of foods with medical support. Months of set backs because I miss my toast and I give up! I had 47 food allergies blood tested 3 years ago….but my system has calmed So much over time that some foods aren’t as reactive in my body, if at all and even my emotions are more balanced… So worth the effort if you find relief… it’s definetly a Lifestyle that’s achievable with support, acceptance and creativity ! ?? Lots of us out there… feeling reassured I’m not the only one … Love the recipes ?

  13. Meg

    I can’t even tell you how happy I am to read this article that a friend sent to me. I have been experiencing the same symptoms as you did (blood tests, extreme nausea, rapid and intense weight loss) over the course of 3 months and doctors just look at me with blank stares. I’m starting AIP in January with the help from a nutritionist. Doing some independent research and finding people like you give me more peace of mind knowing that other people are going through the same thing!! Thanks for the great read. And now I’ll subscribe 🙂

  14. Lili

    I’m totally with you. It seems extreme until you are out of luck and desperate enough to do it. A few years ago, back when I was a low fat vegan, I started getting sick and having ridiculous anaphylactic food reactions. I started out an elimination diet and by the time I was half way thru, I was out of almost everything I ate regularly and sadly had to start eating meat. Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, legumes and grains right out the window. Already blood test allergic to eggs, dairy, coconut, sweet potatoes squash fish seafood and now chicken and a host of miscellaneous items. I’m in recovery on bone broth, fermented veggies and supplements and am finally able to start eating other AIP compliant foods to rebuild. It only seems ridiculous when you are out of touch with your body or not desperate enough for health. Good luck to you. We are on the right path together.

  15. Maegan

    The protocol seems to keep shifting in peoples’ write-up, yet up to 15 almonds daily were allowed post-elimination phase according to an earlier version of AIP guidelines. I’ve been able to reintroduce those, yet can’t seem to incorporate most of the other allowable items, like pastured eggs, rice, yellow onions, garlic, etc. even after nearly 2 years of the strict elimination phase. And, I eliminate most produce varieties according to FODMAPS and high glycemic foods, too. Lots-o-seafood, grass fed beef, zucchini, and citrus in this belly. Although, Diet Coke is a near victory, finally. That was some painful. Good luck to you and your readers.

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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