The History of the AIP Movement (2011 to Present)
Welcome! If you’ve landed here we assume you are relatively new to the AIP community and our website. If so, you might be wondering about the history of the Autoimmune Protocol: how it was developed, who is behind it, and how it caught your attention in the first place.
The purpose of this article is to help you quickly learn a little of our history, how AIP has grown, and who is helping to drive it into the mainstream in order to help the millions with autoimmune disease have an even greater chance of achieving lasting health and wellness.
The earliest threads of AIP began to take form in 2011 when some early-adopters (us!) were introduced to the idea of eating an autoimmune-specific elimination diet through the work of Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Loren Cordain, and Datis Kharrazian.
In 2012, Sarah Ballantyne started blogging about her experience with Paleo and began to research and refine the elimination diet, providing the first comprehensive guidance on elimination and reintroduction of foods.
Later in 2012, a few early-adopters started blogging about their personal experiences on the elimination diet and connected to form the beginnings of the AIP community. The first year or so, there were six of us: Mickey (Autoimmune Paleo), Angie (Alt-Ternative Autoimmune), Eileen (Phoenix Helix), Sarah (The Paleo Mom), Whitney (Nutrisclerosis), and Christina (A Clean Plate). At the time we were all very much in the middle of our healing journeys with diverse autoimmune diseases, but we connected on the idea that diet was key.
This was a time of grassroots growth for AIP. In April, Mickey released the first ebook about AIP, The Autoimmune Paleo E-Cookbook. This was the year Sarah Ballantyne was heavily researching the protocol and publishing more in-depth articles about the “why’s,” nutrient density, and reintroductions. It was also the year that we started to consider the lifestyle piece in managing our conditions. Our group was still small, but this year another dozen or so bloggers started sharing their stories and recipes with the burgeoning community.
This was the breakout year for AIP. In January, Sarah Ballantyne’s complete guide to AIP was released, The Paleo Approach, and went on to become a New York Times Bestseller later that summer. In March, the print version of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook came out. And later on in the year we got The Paleo Approach Cookbook, a second offering from Sarah Ballantyne, and Angie Alt’s The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook, along with a few other fantastic AIP ebooks. SAD to AIP in SIX had its first enrollment guiding 25 members through a phased transition to AIP. In these early days, the community was looking for recipes and support, and the offerings this year definitely answered that call!
January of this year, Angie and Mickey announced that they would be joining forces and blogging together, along with community voices, at autoimmune-paleo.com. At this point, the community had grown to tens of thousands of people, as evidenced by the movement’s exponential growth, engagement, and connection on our site and across all social media platforms (especially Instagram!).
The movement was now large enough to support big in-person gatherings, with many meetup groups springing up, authors holding book tours, classes being given, and speaking at conferences about the protocol. This was the year that we started over-hearing folks in the grocery store talking about AIP, and we had a large enough base of people who had experience with the protocol to start featuring success stories other than our own on our site. By the end of 2015, there were over 15 books and programs for people following AIP!
This was the year AIP started infiltrating progressive doctors’ offices and went global. In the early days, people found out about AIP from reading online or picking up a copy of our books. This year, the functional and alternative medicine communities started learning about AIP and we heard more and more from both our followers and clients that their doctors were recommending this approach. A GI doctor reached out to us about the positive results one of her IBD patients had with AIP, and that discussion turned into a full-blown medical study using AIP, later that year.
Also in 2016, it became clear to us that our movement was no longer US-based, as both international readership and membership in the blogging community grew exponentially. The AIP movement began to grow in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, Europe, and even the Middle East. Our discussions also shifted to encompass the lifestyle changes, implementation, and patient advocacy.We released our co-authored book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook and started The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast as guides to those who were not only looking for dietary information, but a well-rounded guide to all of the areas important to living well with autoimmune disease.
The AIP movement reached some incredible milestones related to size and reach. In 2017 the Autoimmune Wellness website reached 4 million unique users with 13 million pageviews. Over 130,000 people signed up for our quick-start guide, and The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast had been downloaded 400,000 times. This was the year it became abundantly clear to us that the AIP community is massive, engaged, and thriving!
The efficacy of AIP was shown in the results of the first-ever medical study on patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While tens of thousands of us already knew that the protocol works, having the data legitimize the efforts we’d been putting in for years and helped us open new conversations with healthcare teams. The study found a 73% rate of clinical remission achieved at week 5 of the study that was maintained during the elimination phase (you can read the full study results here).
The first 100 AIP Certified Coaches graduated and became a part of the worldwide revolution to make an impact on chronic illness. This class included MDs, NDs, Pharmacists, DCs, RDs, PTs, RNs, PAs, fitness coaches, mental health professionals, NTP/Cs, CHCs, Herbalists, LaCs, and other types of practitioners.
The AIP community showed their collective creative and fundraising capacity through a successful launch of The Complete AIP Resource Library in August and November of 2017. Over 40 recipe authors and contributors collaborated to bring a high-value, low-cost resource to the community. Together, we were able to raise over $30,000 for charities that support the autoimmune community in research, advocacy, education, and real-food access.
We got more research funded and executed! We partnered with Dr. Rob Abbott to collaborate on a medical study focusing on the impact of AIP on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. As a community, we raised over $12,000 and connected with Genova Diagnostics to make the study happen. The study participants enrolled in July and began in August.
We addressed affordability and accessibility concerns through the third season of The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast! We decided to create a whole podcast series, Real Food on a Budget to take a hard look at this issue and give you as many solutions as possible.
We graduated another group of 100 AIP Certified Coaches. These practitioners are now part of an “army” of over 200 (and growing!) AIP-trained professionals, able to make an enormous impact on the chronic illness epidemic around the globe.
The results of our 2018 AIP Hashimoto’s Study were published. In record breaking time (just 10 months from idea to publication!), the results of the second-ever medical study of the Autoimmune Protocol were published by the journal, Cureus. 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.)
The results of our 2018 AIP IBD Survey Study were published. Dr. Konijeti and her team wanted to find out how using AIP had impacted patients with IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) over a longer time frame than we had studied originally. To learn in-depth about the study methods, measures, analysis, and results, you can access the full article here.
We got EVEN more research funded and executed! In the 2018 we met Lucy Mailing, PhD at the Ancestral Health Symposium and she asked us if we could do a study in 2019. As soon as the year began, we started to put plans in place to collaborate on a medical study focusing on the impact of AIP on eczema and psoriasis. We needed to crowdfund the remaining $8,000 to pull off our study for $20,000 total (which is lean for medical research!). Results will be published in 2020!
Mickey released her newest cookbook, The Nutrient Dense Kitchen and we graduated over 100 more AIP Certified Coaches. We’ve now trained over 350 practitioners across the healthcare spectrum about how to use AIP in their practices. WOW!
The AIP community flexed its fundraising capacity! Through a successful launch of The Essential AIP Resource Library in May and November, we were able to raise over $13,000 for organizations that support the autoimmune community through research, advocacy, education, and real-food access. Over 30 recipe authors, bloggers, and contributors collaborated to bring this high-value, low-cost resource to the community and all of you helped us donate this money with your purchases.
Our favorite rock star doctor landed a huge research grant. Our friend, Dr. Terry Wahls, who has been an absolutely astounding leader in the autoimmune community both in sharing her personal story battling multiple sclerosis and in conducting research on autoimmune disease, received a $2 million gift from Dr. Howard Urnovitz to support the Wahls Therapeutic Lifestyle fund. Dr. Wahls will be using the money in her current longitudinal study using diet and lifestyle versus medication to help treat multiple sclerosis. We could not be happier for her or more grateful for her work.
We learned how to live and lead during a pandemic. It meant adapting our content and delivery to responsibly share rapidly changing science and public health practices as we learn more about the virus. It meant being very conscious of the example we set for truly practicing community care and putting the needs of the group before individuals.
For many (including ourselves!), this was a year where healing took a backseat to the challenge of living through the massive shifts resulting from the pandemic. If you didn’t cover any new ground (as was our experience both personally and professionally), you aren’t alone! So much comfort has been sacrificed this year, but in time we may see the resulting growth as an advantage.
The AIP community responded to a call for racial justice. A much-needed global antiracism uprising followed the murder of George Floyd in late May. It was a shamefully late wake up call for every white person in the AIP community and meant very vocally acknowledging that not being murdered is absolutely fundamental to the health and wellness of every human being.
At Autoimmune Wellness we acknowledge that dismantling racism and the systems of oppression that characterize our world is our collective responsibility toward community care and well-being. This year we started this work with our anti-racist business plan and public committment to equity.
We stand with those continuing to express outrage, pain, and calls for a more equitable future in health and wellness. We are willing to publicly get it wrong on our way to getting it right for everyone and hope our example encourages other white people in our space to do the same.
We graduated 200 more AIP Certified Coaches. This year we taught not one, but two classes of AIP Certified Coach, which included MDs, NDs, Pharmacists, DCs, RDs, PTs, RNs, PAs, fitness coaches, mental health professionals, FNTPs, CHCs, Herbalists, LaCs, and other types of practitioners.
We’ll keep updating this page annually to help give a sense of where we’ve been and ideas about where we’re headed. We hope having a quick overview of this history helps orient you to this community and make you feel an even greater sense of belonging here. Our personal commitment at Autoimmune Wellness to the AIP movement has grown from a desire to make the healing path more easy to travel for our fellow autoimmune friends. Now you have some signposts along that road!