The Autoimmune Protocol Diet, or AIP diet, is based on the idea that most people who are carrying extra weight are doing so because of raised cortisol levels in their blood coming from chronic stress. This diet focuses on healing the gut by reducing inflammation in the body to calm the adrenal system and get the hormone levels back in balance. The AIP diet has initially been designed for people with autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but can serve everybody carrying extra weight.
Our athlete and personal trainer Claire has been following this diet for the last 20 years. She gave us her personal tips and advice on how to safely follow an Autoimmune Protocol Diet.
Eat 6 meals a day. Set a timer on your watch to go off every two hours and make sure you eat something until you’ve learnt to recognise when you blood sugar levels need topping up.
Also make sure to eat meat and vegetables for every meal (protein and vegetables if veggie or vegan). Protein and vegetables ensure you get all the building blocks you need to heal and repair your body and it’s important for blood sugar levels to ‘break the fast’. If you are not eating until lunch every day your body will struggle to get out of the ‘starvation mode’ that most dieters have put themselves in through yo-yo dieting.
In terms of product consumption, always choose vegetables over grains and bread. Agricultural practices over hundreds of years have removed almost all nutritional content from the grains we grow and eat today. Additionally, vegetables are higher in nutrients and more nourishing for a depleted system. However make sure to favour green leafy vegetables or salad over root vegetables since they tend to have a lower Glycemic Index. Make sure that you don’t eat more than a fist full of carbohydrate (root vegetables) at any time.
Limit the amount of fruit you eat per day to 1 portion. Once in the body, fruit breaks down into sugar, so think of fruit as sugar. Ideally never eat a full portion of fruit in one sitting. For example if eating an apple have half in the morning and half in the evening.
Empty calories vs Nutrient rich foods
You must remember that calories are not the most useful unit for tracking what you eat. Some foods are high or low in calories, but are also high or low in nutrients. Eliminate all foods that are low in nutritional value. Your goal is to flood your system with as many nutrients as possible so it has the nutritional building blocks it needs to heal and repair.
Once your body has replenished it’s nutrient stores, you will naturally start eating far fewer calories per day as your body will adjust it’s hunger levels to reflect it’s nutritional needs. When you are in starvation mode (low nutrient store levels) the body will be giving you regular signals to provide it with all sorts of stimulants and fuel to address it’s short term energy requirements. Once your body has been flooded with nutrients and replenished it’s stores, it will stop demanding what it doesn’t need. To sum up, don’t try to limit the amount you eat or ignore your body’s hunger signals – they will self regulate once you have build up adequate nutrient stores.
Try an elimination diet?
If you feel inclined, think about trying an elimination diet where you remove certain food groups for a period of time (usually 6-8 weeks) to explore if anything you eat is causing unnecessary irritation to your gut; The food groups include; caffeine, sugar, yeast, dairy, grains and particular fruits and vegetables. After 8 weeks when you begin reintroducing food groups, you’ll notice most clearly how your body reacts to eating particular foods and if you notice any negative effects you can choose to no longer consume the item and construct a personalised eating routine that works for your specific body.
Regulate your sleep. Ensure you get at least 8 -9 hours sleep every night. Also try to get as much sleep before midnight as possible. Essentially going to bed when the sun goes down and get up when the sun comes up allows your body to relearn to regulate the complex system of hormones that control your endocrine system.