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. It is too early for results, but we are greatly looking forward to seeing the published studies next year! (And yes, we are pestering Dr. Abbott to hurry!)
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.
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!