One of the benefits of the Autoimmune Protocol is that it is based in scientific research, but that foundation means that as we learn more about the intersection of nutrition and autoimmune disease, the recommendations that form the basis of the protocol are likely to change.
We’re writing this post today to give you a heads up that there have been some small but important updates to the protocol, especially the reintroduction process (we’ve also made these updates site-wide, so you can find the full updated reintroduction stages in our post Reintroductions on the Paleo AIP: The Definitive Guide and our AIP Quick-Start Guide).
Changes to the foods to include:
Gut-health superfoods: These include high-fiber and phytonutrient fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, roots, tubers, alliums, extra virgin olive oil, fish, shellfish, honey and bee products, fermented foods, edible insects, tea, and bone broth.
Why this update? Dr. Ballantyne’s research has indicated that the above foods provide extra healing of the gut through various mechanisms, and she decided to give them their own category to give those in the elimination phase some additional encouragement to include them in their dietary template.
In the same vein, we’d encourage you check out Dr. Rob Abbott’s most recent article on the blog, Are You Getting Enough Nutrients on AIP? to learn more about what he is learning about nutrient density and the Autoimmune Protocol during analysis of the AIP Hashimoto’s study that we collaborated on last year.
Changes to the suggested order of reintroductions:
Coffee: Regular coffee consumption has been moved from Stage 3 to Stage 1 (occasional basis) and Stage 2 (daily basis).
Why this update? Although coffee has been shown to be anti-inflammatory for some people and pro-inflammatory in others, it has properties that can improve the gut microbiome composition.
Cocoa: Cocoa has been moved from Stage 2 to Stage 1.
Why this update? Cocoa has an incredibly high polyphenol content, and polyphenols have been shown to have a modulating effect on the microbiome.
Potatoes: These nightshade-family vegetables have been moved from Stage 4 to Stage 3 in peeled form, but remain in Stage 4 unpeeled.
Why this update? White potatoes are an excellent source of resistant starch, which can be supportive of a healthy microbiome.
Cashews and Pistachios: These are not nuts as commonly thought but drupes, and have been moved from Stage 3 to Stage 2 (anyone with an extreme reaction to poison oak or ivy should proceed with caution when reintroducing these foods).
Why this update? Pistachios, specifically, contain fibers that are uniquely beneficial to the microbiome.
Dairy: The most difficult-to-tolerate dairy products (like cheese, cottage cheese, milk, isolates, and ice cream) have been moved from Stage 4 to Stage 3, with a clarification that these products be from grass-fed animals.
Why this update? Grass-fed dairy is a rich source of conjugated linolenic acid, which reduces the risk of chronic disease and inflammation and provides benefits to microbiome composition.
The end goal on the Autoimmune Protocol
These small shifts to the reintroduction stages bring us to an important point about the end goal of a protocol like AIP — to find the least restricted, but most healing diet for each unique individual.
While we do eliminate many inflammatory foods on AIP, some of the eliminated foods are actually nutrient-dense or provide benefits for microbiome health. There is an argument for attempting to include these in the diet, if you find them tolerable.
The comprehensive science of the Autoimmune Protocol can be found in Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s guide, The Paleo Approach, although these newest updates will not be coming until the second edition which is scheduled to be released in 2021. Until then, we promise to keep you posted on any new research or updates!