Just like we were with the last AIP medical study, we are once again absolutely beside ourselves at Autoimmune Wellness. About 10 months after starting to hatch our research plans, the results of the second-ever medical study of the Autoimmune Protocol are out, published by the journal, Cureus, and available for everyone to read for free! If you’d like to read the full article now, you can find it here. (It’s best read on a desktop vs. your phone.)
How Did We Get Involved in Another Medical Study?
Well, basically, you, our Autoimmune Wellness community, told us you want more research and you’re willing to help fund it. We started a conversation about that opportunity with our resident Medical Advisor, Rob Abbott, M.D., and hatched a plan to conduct a study on the use of AIP for those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the most common autoimmune disease in our community. He also believed this was a worthwhile investigation, so with your help we raised $12,000, partnered with the generous folks at Genova Diagnostics, and began recruitment. In the end of August, 2018 we began the study using Angie’s SAD to AIP in SIX online health coaching program. Read on for Dr. Abbott’s clinical summary!
What was studied?
We studied the effects of AIP as part of Angie’s SAD to AIP in SIX health coaching and lifestyle program for middle aged women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (HT). We wanted to specifically see if AIP and Angie’s program could to improve quality of life, symptom burden, thyroid function and inflammatory and autoimmune markers associated with HT. We hypothesized that a dietary and lifestyle approach in conjunction with multi-disciplinary functional medicine care would improve quality of life, decrease symptom burden, improve thyroid function and decrease inflammatory and autoimmune markers of HT.
Who was studied?
17 women between the ages of 20-45 with a diagnosis of HT. 14 of the 17 women were taking thyroid replacement medications before the study. 3 women had elevated thyroid antibodies (TPO and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies), but were not on replacement medication. The women were either normal weight or overweight (BMI <29.9). The women had no other active autoimmune conditions or chronic organ disease, such as kidney disease.
What was measured?
We measured quality of life and symptom burden using specialized questionnaires before and after the 10-week program. We took blood samples including thyroid function and antibodies, as well as inflammatory markers (hs-CRP) before and after the 10-week study. Participants also provided food journals throughout the study. Participants also completed organic acid nutritional tests and comprehensive stool analysis with testing kits generously donated by Genova Diagnostics Laboratory.
What were the results?
- 16 of the 17 women finished the study. 1 woman got pregnant (her goal!) and could not finish the study.
- All 8 subscales of the SF-36 Quality of Life questionnaire improved dramatically over the 10-week program. The biggest improvements were seen in physical functioning, energy, mental health and even bodily pain!
- Symptom burden decreased dramatically over the 10-week study with major improvements seen in energy, joint and muscle pain, digestive symptoms such as constipation/diarrhea, and bloating as well as improvements in mood and cognition. Many individuals reported improvement in skin conditions such as eczema, acne, hives and dry skin.
- Many of the individuals reported improvements in sleep and ability to exercise/increase movement. Many began formal meditation and stress reduction practices.
- Inflammation as measured by the marker hs-CRP decreased by 30% over the 10-week study! There was also a notable decrease in white blood cells, which likely indicated improvements and balance to the immune response.
- 6 out of the 13 women on thyroid medication decreased their medication by the end of the 10-week program. The 3 women who began the study without the use of hormone replacement continued without the use of medication at the end of the study.
- Many individuals saw improvements in nutritional status as measured by markers on the organic acid test. This included improvements in vitamins such as B6, B12, and riboflavin.
- There was some indication that certain individuals needed to consume more folate as part of the elimination phase of AIP. We believe this emphasizes the importance and need to consume organ meat beyond leafy greens and other sources of folate during the elimination phase of AIP, when certain folate dense food sources are removed.
- There were no changes in thyroid hormone or thyroid antibody markers when evaluated across the group, however, some individuals saw decreases in TSH values that necessitated the use of less medication and some individuals did see decreases in thyroid antibodies over the 10-week study.
- An online community, involving both functional health coaches and a functional physician, as well as the gradual nature of the AIP eliminations improved collective adherence to the strict AIP diet dramatically.
To learn in-depth about the study methods, measures, analysis, results, and read individual case studies, you can access the full article here. (It’s best read on a desktop vs. your phone.)
What does this mean?
Our study suggests that an online diet and lifestyle program facilitated by a multi-disciplinary team can significantly improve health related quality of life and symptom burden in middle-aged female subjects with HT. While there were no statistically significant changes noted in thyroid function or thyroid antibodies, the study’s findings suggest that AIP may decrease systemic inflammation and modulate the immune system as evidenced by a decrease in mean hs-CRP and changes in white blood cell (WBC) counts. Given the improvements seen in quality of life and participants’ symptom burden as well as markers of immune activity and inflammation, further studies in larger populations implementing AIP as part of a multi-disciplinary diet and lifestyle program are warranted. You can help ensure further research by sharing and rating the published study. Find it here.
And for those of you wondering, yes, there will another AIP study this year. In fact, it’s right around the corner so stay tuned!