A step forward from going gluten-free: The Autoimmune Protocol system

Ambra Torelli answers our questions about the AIP diet…

Autoimmune Protocol system

While looking for a natural alternative to improve the autoimmune symptoms she’s struggled with for years, Ambra Torelli came across the Autoimmune Protocol, also known as AIP. And after personally experiencing the incredible healing power of this protocol, she was inspired to tell others and encourage them to give it a try.

She now shares AIP recipes, guides and tricks on her website www.littlebitesofbeauty.com and, as a native Italian, she published The AIP Italian Cookbook for all the pasta and pizza food lovers. The guide on the following pages was created by Ambra to match the guidelines of the AIP.

We asked her the most common questions she receives about the AIP:

What Is the Autoimmune Protocol?

The AIP is a protocol designed around a diet and lifestyle program that’s used to address autoimmune conditions (Hashimoto, Chrone’s, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, IBS and more) by reducing chronic inflammation, heal the digestive tract and ultimately help reverse autoimmune disease, or at least halt its progression.

On the diet front, the Autoimmune Protocol follows a specific version of the paleo regime with special adaptations. For an initial period called ‘elimination stage’, you avoid specific inflammatory foods, consume lots of nutrient-dense foods and, when your symptoms are lessened or gone, you start the reintroduction process to understand what specific foods trigger an autoimmune response in your body.

Autoimmune Protocol system

Why Is Autoimmunity Connected To Gut Health?

80% of our immune system is located in the gut and, without a healthy gut, it’s hard to have a healthy immune system. Dr. Alessio Fasano’s research has shown leaky gut to be one of the preconditions for developing an autoimmune disease (together with genetic predisposition and a specific trigger that the immune system recognises like a threat).

When the normally tightly knit cells of the intestines are weakened and ‘leaky’, our gut lining becomes permeable and allows large compounds, such as proteins from food, toxins or bacteria, to enter into our bloodstream.

In order to protect us, our immune system starts making antibodies against them. But because many of these foreign invaders look very similar to our own body’s cells (molecular mimicry), the immune system can get confused and accidentally attack our own tissues.

What Are the Gut Healing Foods Recommended On the AIP?

The AIP focuses a lot on enriching your eating regiment with nutrient dense foods that can repair damaged tissues, modulate the immune system, and heal the gut lining.

On the AIP you’ll be nourishing your body with large amounts of leafy and cruciferous vegetables, organ meats (some of the most nutrient-dense foods there are), fatty fish and shellfish (rich in vitamin A and D, zinc and various B-vitamins essential for modulating the immune response), bone broth, high quality meats, fats and fermented foods which provide beneficial probiotics.

cruciferous vegetables

What Are the Foods To Eliminate During the AIP?

While on a standard paleo diet you are suggested to avoid all grains (even the gluten-free ones), dairy, legumes, industrial seed oils, alcohol and sugar. The Autoimmune Protocol requires you to step forward and also avoid eggs, nightshades (e.g potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers), coffee, chocolate, nuts and seeds during the initial elimination phase.

How Long Is the Elimination Phase of the AIP?

While some people start seeing improvements in their symptoms after the first 30 days, many people need to follow a strict AIP diet for at least two to three months (or more, depending on their level of inflammation) before they are ready to reintroduce foods. Once you are ready to reintroduce, you’ll follow a step-by-step process that will allow you to scout foods that are triggering an autoimmune response and create a personalised healing diet that’s healthy for you.

How Important Is It To Be Strict During the Elimination Phase of the AIP?

Every time you eat inflammatory foods, your body will produce antibodies that can ignite an attack on your immune system for days, weeks and even months. Cheating means that you have to start your reset all over. That’s why committing 100% to avoiding certain foods during the elimination phase is crucial to see improvements and get to that symptom-free (or lessened symptoms) stage that you need to achieve before you start reintroducing.

What Results Can I Expect From the AIP?

While there are many success stories of people (including myself), who achieved remission of their autoimmune symptoms, it’s important to acknowledge that the AIP is not a cure, but a lifestyle that, if followed religiously, allows you to keep inflammation under control. Depending on the stage and gravity of your autoimmune disease, you might still need to match the AIP with further support from medication or a personalised supplement plan.

For more information on Ambra’s book, visit www.littlebitesofbeauty.com