The State of AIP 2018

The AIP community has changed… a lot! Since our humble beginnings in approximately 2011, our movement has grown exponentially. This growth has been overwhelmingly positive, but there have been some downsides to it as well. Considering all the growth and change, we’ve decided to start 2018 with a “State of AIP Address” here at Autoimmune Wellness.

We’d like to have a discussion about the roots of AIP, where we are at now, and where we think things are heading. Most importantly, with that longview in mind, we want you, our community, to help us focus our energy.

We believe in the concept of servant leadership and want to find out how we can continue to strengthen and refine the AIP movement from your perspectives. We are poised to see AIP move into the mainstream and we want to make sure it arrives there with your needs out front.

Before we begin…

This is a long post! If you’d rather listen to the content in podcast form, you can do so below. But don’t forget to fill out our survey when you’re done.

 


 

First, a brief history of the AIP movement (2011-2016):

2011

  • 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.

2012

  • 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.

2013

  • 2013 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.

2014

  • 2014 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! At the end of 2014, the very first AIP restaurant, Mission: Heirloom opened its doors in Berkeley, California, and the first AIP podcast, The Phoenix Helix Podcast joined the airwaves!

2015

  • January 2015, 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 overhearing 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!

2016

  • 2016 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 hearing 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.

So, what happened to the AIP movement in 2017?

Let’s take a look at some numbers. We know the AIP movement is large and continues to grow, but this becomes more clear as we look at the stats. Here is some information we’ve gleaned from our website and social media channels that helps depict the size of our movement:

  • Autoimmune Wellness has reached 4 million unique users with 13 million pageviews
  • Over 130,000 people have signed up for our free AIP quick-start guide
  • The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast has been downloaded over 400,000 times
  • 86% of our readers on the site are female (compared to 93% on Facebook)
  • 30% of our readers are 35-44, 25% are between 25-34, 20% are between 45-54, and 12% are between 55-64
  • We have readers from 234 countries, including places like Antarctica, Nepal, South Sudan, and Turkmenistan (yes, really!). Our highest represented international communities are Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, and South Africa
  • We have 42 US-based AIP meetup groups spanning the entire country (almost one for every state!)
  • We have 23 international AIP meetup groups (including Egypt, Croatia, and Finland!)
  • On Instagram, #autoimmunepaleo and #autoimmuneprotocol have been used over 100,000 times each
  • There are over 50 recipe bloggers writing about AIP, over 30 AIP-friendly cookbooks, and literally thousands of recipes available for the elimination phase
  • We think it is safe to say the AIP movement is massive, engaged, continuing to grow, and thriving!

This year, the AIP community got a huge piece of validating news in the results of the first-ever medical study of the diet for those with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). 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. Even though the study was restricted to those with IBD, our anecdotal experience as a community says that we are likely to find similar results with other autoimmune disease types if we are lucky enough to see future studies. Here is a summary of the study results:

  • There were 15 participants, nine with Crohn’s and six with ulcerative colitis.
  • Angie’s group coaching program, SAD to AIP in SIX, was used to transition participants to AIP for the study.
  • By Week 6 (that was full AIP elimination), 11 of the 15 participants were in clinical remission (six with Crohn’s, five with ulcerative). A 73% success rate!
  • All eleven participants maintained clinical remission through the maintenance phase.
  • Seven of the 15 participants were on active biologic therapies but not in clinical remission at baseline, and this suggests that diet can be an important component of successful treatment.
  • The researchers concluded, “We did not hypothesize, a priori, that clinical remission would be achieved so early (week 6). Indeed, this proportion of participants with active IBD achieving clinical remission by week 6 rivals that of most drug therapies for IBD . . . (Konijeti, et al. 2017)” In other words, it works!!

The AIP community showed their collective creative and fundraising capacity through a successful launch of The Complete AIP Resource Library in August and November.

  • 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 through research, advocacy, education, and real-food access.

This year Mickey, Angie and Sarah graduated the first 100 AIP Certified Coaches. In 2016, the three of us recognized the need to train others in this approach and started developing a certification program for those in both the natural and conventional health care systems. This year we enrolled, taught, and graduated our very first class!

  • The first class of AIP Certified Coaches included MDs, NDs, Pharmacists, DCs, RDs, PTs, RNs, PAs, fitness coaches, mental health professionals, NTP/Cs, CHCs, Herbalists, LaCs, and other types of practitioners.
  • We are happy to announce that AIP Certified Coaches are incorporating AIP into their practices around the globe, with many international coaches and others who work virtually over skype. (Looking for a coach? Check out the AIP Certified Coach Directory!
  • These practitioners are now part of an “army” of AIP-trained professionals, able to make an enormous impact on the chronic illness epidemic around the globe.

This year the SAD to AIP in SIX program graduates neared the 2,000-member mark. In addition to being successfully used in the first medical study to evaluate the effectiveness of AIP, it has become recognized as the most affordable, gentle, and sustainable way to transition to the protocol and achieve wellness.

Phew! No wonder we are a little tired this season ;).

How has the AIP community changed over the years?

If you are just joining our movement now, it might not be readily apparent how much has changed. Here are some of the biggest things we notice:

  • More resources. We’ve gone from a few blogs to countless print and digital resources to help folks cook, meal plan, and navigate their health journeys.
  • Doctor recommendations. We never used to hear “my doctor told me to try AIP.” Now, we hear it all the time!
  • A shift from virtual to real connections. The hub of our community has changed from primarily virtual connection on social media, to deeper connections via in-person meetup groups.
  • The community is huge. We regularly overhear folks talking about AIP in the grocery store, while traveling, and in other public places.
  • It is global. There are now AIP bloggers and groups in many different languages and countries.
  • More convenient AIP foods. We now have a plethora of options for ready-made meals, snacks, and ingredients to make compliant dishes.
  • More accessibility for real foods. We are finding “real food” staples like broth, turmeric root, and pastured meat in regular grocery stores, and easier access through online shopping.
  • More focus on troubleshooting. We know a lot more now about the different areas and ways to troubleshoot that go beyond simply what is on our plates.
  • Reintroduction support. As more folks move on from the elimination phase, there has been more discussion and resources about support through reintroductions and a conversation about long-term healing.
  • A shift to incorporate patient advocacy and lifestyle changes. We as a community have embraced the concept that healing is not just about food!
  • More open-mindedness about blending conventional treatment options. In the beginning, going without medication or surgery seemed like a badge of honor, but now the community has opened up to the idea of using the best of both worlds to live our healthiest despite autoimmune disease.
  • Haters gonna hate. Our movement is big enough that there are folks out there actively trying to discredit it. This may seem like a downside, but it is actually a testament to the fact that we are now a part of a bigger shift in both the food system and healthcare (those outdated systems feel the threat!).

So, what is next for the AIP community in 2018 and beyond?

  • A real focused effort to get AIP mainstream. We are poised to take AIP even further and firmly establish its viability as a healing option for those with autoimmune disease.
  • More doctors will jump on board to recommending AIP as they hear positive experiences from their patients and as they see the results of past and future research on the protocol. The obstacle here is showing the doctors that there is an emerging field of health coaches and nutritional therapists who are capable and willing to bridge the gap between their recommendations and how a patient implements it in their own lives.
  • Expansion of real-life AIP resources like restaurants, retreats, and centers. There is a growing demand for this niche market and we are excited to see it take off.
  • Bridging the accessibility gap and making AIP more affordable and practical for those on a low income or with limited access.
  • Further research on the use of AIP for other autoimmune conditions. The first study has awakened interest from researchers in other areas and we are hopeful to see more money allocated to this research.
  • An expansion of community events like meetups, workshops, and classes both in the US and around the world.
  • More stories. We anticipate more members of the community both blogging and sharing their stories on social media (including those with “rare” conditions – we might find out that these conditions aren’t as uncommon as we think they are!).
  • More AIP Certified Coaches who are trained to specifically implement this approach in a 1:1 setting.
  • A more rapid global expansion. We look forward to translated resources and even practitioners in other countries incorporating AIP into their approaches.
  • Tens of thousands more folks will find healing and tell their friends – leading to even greater exponential growth of our movement! It’s all pretty exciting, isn’t it?

Now that you have the longview, you can see how far AIP has come and its potential to impact even more people in the future. In order to fulfill our mission here at Autoimmune Wellness, we need to be strategic.

 

Can you help us decide where to focus our energy?

We would love your input on how we’ve been doing as leaders in the AIP movement and what we can do next. We are taking feedback in the form of a reader survey during the month of January.

Take me to the survey!

 


 

Thank you!

We always strive to keep our core concepts close to our work. We believe that the key ideas we outlined at the beginning of 2016 for reclaiming wellness are still the same. You can find these 20 simple statements by reading our Autoimmune Wellness Manifesto, or listening to episodes #17 or #18 of the Autoimmune Wellness Podcast where we interview members of the AIP blogging community about each tenet. We hope these will continue to serve as touchstones for you too.

Lastly, thank you for being a part of our community, whether you’ve been one of the original members of our healing crew or are a new follower. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to this movement, and hope to serve you even better in 2018. Happy New Year!

About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a cook and one of the bloggers behind Autoimmune Wellness. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol, and AIP Batch Cook, a video-based batch cooking program. You also can find her on Instagram.

18 comments

  • This is such a powerful post! It brought tears to my eyes. Look how far we’ve come! And I love your vision for where we’re going. I’m so honored to be part of this movement with you, both personally and professionally.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      We are excited to be in this with you, lady!

  • Toni says

    Simply amazing post and podcast. Thank you for putting so much effort into this and all you have done these past years. If you read my survey you will know that I had not heard the full podcast before completing it. I have no excuse for falling off the wagon or whining about obstacles. Here’s to 2018 and better habits and health!

  • Amanda says

    This post makes me feel so much more confident in my choice to do AIP! Thank you for all of your hard work!

  • Gita says

    Hi Mickey & Angie
    Great article! Is the survey the same that I got in my email subscription which I have already filled?
    Thanks for all that you do for the AIP. Community🙏🏽

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Gita! Yes, it is the same one we sent by email. Thanks for participating!

  • sheila says

    How do you pursue a Paleo protocol when you don’t eat meat or fish? I can’t figure this out.
    All the low histamine diets assume you can. Also, what happens when you have no sense of taste, and texture is the only thing appealing about food?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Shelia! We don’t recommend doing AIP without meat, as there aren’t enough sources of nutrients while also excluding legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. I would suggest working with a nutritionist to come up with an elimination diet tailored to your needs. Hope it helps!

  • Marnie says

    A few comments about your survey and contest:
    1. I didn’t see a mention in this post of what date the survey and contest would close. In the post/article, there was one mention of “this month” (i.e., January 2018), but nothing specific.
    …I was worried that I’d spend 10 minutes doing the survey only to be told at the end, “sorry, the contest is over”. That has happened plenty of times before on other sites!
    I decided to forge on with it here, because it’s only the middle of January now, and I figured that the survey wouldn’t be closed yet.
    I have now filled out the survey and entered my details for the contest, and at the very end, in the spot where the person puts his/her name and email address, it says “4 days left”. Since it is now Jan 18th, that would mean that your contest will close on Jan 22nd.
    It might be helpful to your readers for you to make that deadline clear in this blogpost/article.
    2. I am a new visitor to your page and I am unfamiliar with your work. I came here via a recommended link at a different AIP website where I had spent about an hour reading a number of pages there, and I had come across that site via a recommended link to it from a different AIP site where I’ve actually spent all my free time (many hours) of the last 7 days reading it!
    So I am interested in this subject matter, it’s just that I am not yet familiar with your website.
    I first looked at your “Our Story” page, then I clicked on the “blog” tab. I chose to first read this recent blog article about the “state of AIP in 2018”, because I thought that would be a great way to get an overview of the subject (from your perspective). It also happens to invite readers to take a survey. Although some of the provided answers to the questions in your survey allow for a person to say that she/he is in my situation (not familiar with your site), for other questions, the available answers to choose from all presume that the survey-taker is very familiar with your site and is additionally connected to it in various ways. There are questions where I needed a “none of the above” option, but it wasn’t there.
    This way of formulating the possible answers will make your resulting data less reliable and more staticky, because you are forcing people whose honest answer would be “none of the above” to pick an answer that they don’t really mean just to get through to the next question.
    For example, there is a question about “how do you follow us on social media” and the available answers are things like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. There is no option of, “I do not do social media” or “I do not follow you on any social media platform.” I do not follow you on social media (nor do I use social media), so I wanted to answer “none of the above” or “I do not use social media”, but these were not options. Leaving every provided answer unchecked and moving to the next question, which I tried, was not an option because the survey required a choice to be ticked. So I just randomly chose the name of a social media platform, even though I don’t even have an account there.
    Another example is the question about the quality of the products you promote. There is no option to say, “I am a new visitor to your site and/or I do not have any experience with or opinion about the quality of products that you promote.” I had to choose either that I loved them, didn’t mind them, or hated them (so to speak), so I chose the middle option, but that’s not really true, because I do not even have an opinion of them yet.
    Another example is the question about the frequency of your newsletter – there is no available answer of “I am not signed up for your newsletter” — the person has to say that it’s too frequent, just right, or not frequent enough. Therefore in the data results for that question, you will have a skewed view of what the people who get your newsletter think about its frequency, because all the people who took your survey but do not subscribe to your newsletter (and I’m sure that you have many readers who visit your site and/or buy your books but who just don’t want to get a newsletter via email) are forced to put an untruthful answer in there in order to be able to complete the survey.
    3. For one of the questions, it was a little hard to understand what the meaning of it was — it went something like “what is your biggest frustration with the autoimmune process” or something along those lines — and I didn’t know if that was asking about the physical, mental, and emotional experience of personally having and coping with one or more autoimmune health issues, or if it was asking about the experience of trying to follow an “autoimmune” type of nutritional/food/treatment plan, or what.
    4. I think I may have missed clicking on a link that would have explained it, but I didn’t see it clearly stated what you plan to do with the names and email addresses of people who filled in the survey. (I think there was a “terms and conditions” link which I didn’t think to click on until I had already finished the survey and had come back this page.) I would have appreciated a brief explanation, in an obvious place, at the start of the survey such as, “Taking this survey will automatically sign you up to receive our newsletter” or “Taking this survey will automatically sign you up to receive our promotional emails once a week”, or whatever you intend to do with the contact details that you are capturing.
    I didn’t worry about it in this case because your site, at first glance, “feels” relatively genuine and trustworthy (and I figured there would be a way to unsubscribe one’s email address later, if too many promotional emails were received).
    5. Thank you for offering such nice bundles of prizes. I’m sure the winners will be thrilled with them!
    6. This is a great way to sum up your topic area / movement, not only for those who have been following along for years, but for those like me who are unfamiliar with it. I think it would be a great “Are you new to this entire topic? Here’s an overview of its history and growth!” sort of page on your site, which you could update as desired, and every January, with the latest info and retrospective/prospective highlights.
    7. I would have appreciated more explanation (in or just prior to the “2011” part of your article) of what the wider Paleo movement/idea is about, and how it got started (just briefly; obviously there have been a number of different approaches to it). Also, how “Paleo” has evolved over the years since, and if the AIP group of folks participate much in the broader Paleo community’s big forums/gatherings (and/or hold their own conferences/symposiums).
    8. You mentioned that in 2017 “The Complete AIP Resource Library” and “a high-value, low-cost resource” were created by the AIP community, but there is no further explanation nor hyperlink to it/them – is this something that is accessible online? It’s not mentioned on your “Resources” page.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Wow! Thanks for your thorough comment. As you figured out, the contest is still open and we’ll be unlinking it the day it closes, so that nobody can click though. About your survey feedback, we intended to survey our regular readers and not folks who found our site right away, so we apologize some of those questions didn’t work for you. About the bundle, unfortunately it was a short-term promotion and we don’t have a plan to bring it back in the near future.

      Thanks again for your feedback, we’ll be taking these points to heart the next time we design a survey. Wishing you the best!

  • Laura says

    Thank you for this great and informative post! I really enjoyed reading the history of AIP, as well as where it is headed. I had never heard of AIP before this past summer when I started researching the symptoms that I was experiencing, including joint pain, stiffness, and tingling in my ankles, feet, hands, and wrists. After doctors could not pinpoint the source of my pain and inflammation, by chiropractor recommended AIP. I noticed a huge reduction in pain at 3.5 weeks, and now at 4 weeks I have very few symptoms at all. Your website is one of my favorites for delicious and relatively simple recipes, as well as great information. Thank you for being pioneers for the rest of us, and thank you so much for all that you continue to do to support this community!

    • Angie Alt says

      You are so welcome Laura! Thanks for reading & congrats on your wellness journey!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Thanks so much for your feedback Laura, and congrats on your success!

  • Charlotte Nourrigat says

    Thank you for this thorough post. I started on AIP in June 2017, following a recommendation from my naturopath and encouraged by my GP (they work in the same practice). It’s been a transformational journey for me. My obvious symptoms started to fade away and symptoms that I didn’t even realise were symptoms, started to also fade (such as memory loss, brain fog etc). Your site has been a source of inspiration and information throughout this journey. Thank you for all the energy, talent and dedication you put into it. In October, I’ve started a project to also bring my contribution to the community. With 2 other friends, we are designing and developing a mobile app to help people starting/on the AIP journey to track their dietary intake as well as other factors affecting their autoimmune reactions (sleep, stress etc); and be able to get to know themselves better as well. Thank you for your daily inspiration.

    • Angie Alt says

      Thanks so much for sharing your journey & awesome ideas Charlotte!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Charlotte, thanks for your comment and we can’t wait to see what you are cooking up with that app!

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