Happy day 4 of IBD Awareness week! In case you missed it, last year, a group of researchers at Scripps University in San Diego studied the impact of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet on Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients with a small clinical trial. By week 6, 73% of the patients (11/15) achieved clinical remission, and they remained in remission for the 11 remaining weeks of the study (Konijeti et al 2017). To read more about the first AIP and IBD study, click here.
What is the Autoimmune Protocol?
The Autoimmune Protocol is a diet free of processed, inflammatory foods that focuses on nutrient density. In addition, the AIP lifestyle encourages focusing on sleep, exercise, stress management, relationships, and mindfulness.
What to avoid?
- Processed meats/food additives (added sugars, carrageenan, guar gum, nitrates)
- Refined sugars
- Grains (gluten-containing grains, corn, quinoa, rice,…)
- Legumes (peanuts, all beans)
- Nightshades (eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes)
- Alcohol, NSAIDs (ibuprofen,…)
What to eat?
- Well sourced meats (grass fed beef/bison, wild caught fish, antibiotic/hormone free chicken, turkey, ect. when possible)
- All fruits
- Most vegetables (besides nightshades)
- Complex carbs to stay full: rutabaga, sweet potato, squash, yuca (cassava), turnips,…
- Fermented foods: kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut
- Fats/oils: avocado, coconut oil, lard, olive oil, palm oil
- Natural sugars: coconut sugar, fruit, honey, maple syrup
- Flours: cassava, coconut, tigernut
- “Dairy”: coconut milk
My Experience with AIP and IBD
Before my Crohn’s disease diagnosis, I had a myriad of GI symptoms and was placed on a gluten and dairy free diet. This diet improved my symptoms, likely delayed my diagnosis, and kept my disease milder, but I was still symptomatic. My mom started the AIP diet to help manage her scleritis, uveitis, and colitis. She was completely prednisone (steroid) dependent. If my mom tried to taper her prednisone, her eye inflammation would come right back with vengeance. After reading a book on the Autoimmune Protocol, my mom started the AIP diet and hasn’t looked back. In three years, my mom has managed her autoimmune conditions essentially steroid and medication free, lost a significant amount of weight (and kept it off), and she feels better than she has in years.
My mom encouraged me to try the AIP diet to help manage my Crohn’s symptoms. I will admit that I have taken medications to help manage my Crohn’s. I am thankful for modern medicine, as it saves lives every single day, but many of us Crohn’s and colitis patients still suffer symptoms despite taking strong medications. Diet is what gives many of us much symptom relief and a sense of control over our disease. The results I list below are likely a combination of diet plus medication.
- Improved quality of life: I can go out with my friends more and travel with less of a fear of getting sick, plus I have more energy.
- Starting my day with a glass of warm lemon water almost always settles my stomach and helps with digestion
- Drastically improved GI symptoms & joint pain (yes, medication helped control the inflammation, but if I stray away from my diet, my GI symptoms and joint pain come creeping back)
- Gastroparesis is essentially gone, besides very minor flare ups every now and then
- Rash I had on my face for over a year completely disappeared
- Resolved SIBO (24 months SIBO free w/out antibiotics, used to take rifaximin every few months)
- GERD is completely gone
- Thyroid antibodies decreased to normal levels
- No syncopal episodes in 18 months
- Reversed blood sugar problems I was having after taking steroids for 6 months
- Rekindled my love for food
- Gained healthy weight back
- Enabled me to immerse myself in a wonderful, supporting community of other autoimmune warriors fighting disease with nutrition
My story is only just beginning. I am so thankful to have found the Autoimmune Protocol, regained my health, and met so many wonderful people fighting similar battles. About two years into my AIP journey, I have reintroduced many foods and now follow more of a paleo diet. With the help of the AIP diet and lifestyle, I am almost two years into medical school and thriving with autoimmune disease. Crohn’s disease may be a huge part of my life, but changing my diet has given me so much freedom, improved my quality of life, and given my life so much more purpose.
Have you tried any special diet for your IBD, and how has it affected your health?
Konijeti, Gauree G., et al. “Efficacy and Tolerability of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Gastroenterology 152.5 (2017): S401-S402.