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The Autoimmune Protocol: Beyond Diet

Autoimmune Protocol - Beyond Diet


Autoimmune Protocol - Beyond Diet

I bang on about the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) an awful lot here in my wee corner of the interweb. With good reason, too. It’s been pretty life-changing for me and a whole lot of clients, too.

And, at its heart, AIP is a nutrient-rich dietary approach that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system.

AIP is about much more than just diet, though

And, you don’t need to be suffering from an autoimmune disease to benefit from adopting the core principles.

Lately, I’ve had a few peeps asking me for the low down on what to expect when following AIP. And, while it’s now become almost second-nature to me, for many it can be an extremely Big Hairy-Arsed Goal (B.H.A.G.) to achieve.

So, I’ve put together this handy info graph that you can print out and pop on your fridge*…

Autoimmune Protocol - Beyond Diet

Click here for your downloadable version.

But, in the immortal words of the delectable Cilla Black – “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Here’s the low down…

Elimination Diet

Of course, the elimination diet matters. And, it’s all about removing the potentially harmful stuff and adding in the good stuff.

It feels like we’re learning more every day about just how vital looking after your ‘good’ gut bacteria is for optimal health. So, – at the very least – taking more notice of what you eat (and where it comes from), not to mention cutting back on processed foods and sugar is a no brainer. Isn’t it?

You can read about just what gets eliminated on the protocol here.


90% of Australians will suffer from a sleep disorder in their lifetime. 30% of those will be severe (i)

Here’s an alarming statistic: someone with 18 hours of sleep deprivation has the same driving performance as someone with a 0.05 blood-alcohol reading.

And in a recent ‘real-life’ example of just how this can affect you, a truck driver’s fatigue – exacerbated by his decision to drive 12 hours to work before he even started his 14-hour shift – likely caused the June 2014 crash that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan in New Jersey (ii).

Ensuring you get enough sleep is important. Really important. Sleep regulates your hormones, helps minimise inflammation and keeps your immune system in check. Here’s what I did to improve my sleep patterns in my early stages of the protocol.


We all experience stress. It is how we manage that stress that matters.

Chronic stress is stress that never goes away. It is experienced at different levels – from low to high, but it is never over. And, if we don’t manage our stress effectively it can be disastrous for our health.

If you suffer from chronic stress, you dramatically increase your risk of getting sick. To learn more about the physiological effects of stress, check out this article by Sarah Ballantyne on How Stress Undermines Health.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think stress is perhaps the biggest challenge that many of us face in this health roller-coaster. And, it’s particularly problematic because we can’t see it. Worse still, if you’ve suffered from chronic stress for years, you’re probably unaware of the effect it is having on your health – physical, mental and emotional. I know this from personal experience.

Establishing a mindfulness practice that works for you is key here. For some, meditation is the way. For others, it is yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong.

And, it is as simple as setting aside time to do this every day.

Simple, perhaps. But, not easy

Physical Activity

Human beans are designed to move. And, we all know we don’t move enough.

AIP is not about extreme exercise. Rather, it’s about moving more. Finding – often low intensity – activities that you enjoy and increasing the amount of time you spend moving.

And, if you are someone who is really resistant to moving, get sneaky about it! Get off the bus a couple of stops early or park a few streets further away from your destination. Get a dog (which has the added benefit of improving your mental health. Dog owners are happier!) What did you love doing when you were a kid? – If swimming was your thing, why not give it a go and see if you still love it.

Making sure you move – every day – will benefit you in ways your health will thank you for in the years to come.

Get Outdoors

There are a number of reasons to make a habit of getting outside. Daily.

The first is sun exposure. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that controls the expression of more than two hundred genes. It is possible that Vitamin D deficiency is a factor in the increase in some autoimmune diseases. And, the best way to increase your Vitamin D absorption naturally is to get outside. (iii)

Next, walking barefoot in the grass or at the beach (known as ‘grounding’) has been shown to improve sleep, normalise the day-night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity. (iv)

Getting outside in natural light has the added benefit of just making you feel good!

Support Network

Did you know that human connection is just as important for your health as not smoking, being a healthy weight, and being active? It’s even more important if you suffer from an autoimmune disease. Often autoimmune diseases are ‘invisible’ to the casual observer. Because they can’t be seen, they are often forgotten, or not talked about.

Our social relationships and support networks – both in terms of their quantity and quality – can affect our mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and even our risk of mortality. (v)

Take some time this week to nurture your relationships and feel connected with the people you love. 

Keep a ‘Food and Mood Diary’

Back in late 2014, I attended a course on gut health. Part of the program was to keep a food journal. Since then, I’ve expanded my food journal to what I affectionately refer to as my ‘food and mood diary’. This is the best way I know to identify patterns. Things like foods that agree with me (or not). Hormonal changes. Symptoms.

Sure, it takes a little effort. But, you’d be amazed at how helpful it can be. Especially when it comes time to reintroduce foods.

Autoimmune Protocol - Beyond Diet

Make It Yours

Finally, the elimination phase of AIP is not designed to last forever. The principles of the protocol – including understanding what foods make you feel good – are personal and unique to you. Everybody has a slightly different road map…

If you’d like some help in personalising your health caper, why not come and join the next AIP Reset? It’s a great way to meet fellow AIPers and get some support.

* thanks for the suggestion, Rachel!

(i) ‘Too Wired for Sleep – The Age

(ii) Tracy Morgan Crash Called Product of Trucker’s Fatigue – CNN

(iii) ‘The Paleo Approach – Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body’ by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (Page 75)

(iv) The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease

(v) Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy

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Comments (6)

Oooh! I love LOVE love your infographic. How clever! It won’t be long before we see it all over the web, I bet~.

Now that would be a fine thing, Ms Petra!

Thank you so much for your blog posts on AIP. I am gearing up to restart it again; I am hoping to get into Angie Alt’s January 4 SAD to AIP in 6 to have some extra support. I am wondering if you would be willing to share your Excel tracking sheet. On top of my physical and mental struggles is a sometimes crippling perfectionism that has made it really hard for me to maintain a food diary in the past. I end up tracking too many things in too much detail and it seems to take all my time. I swear I have given up sometimes just so I don’t feel I have to track anything anymore. But, I love Excel and I know tracking will help me to pinpoint my triggers. If you aren’t comfortable sharing it, can you point me in the direction of another one? I sincerely cannot fathom creating my own at this point. Thanks!

Hi Theresa – I’m more than happy to share my – very simple – tracking sheet with you. I’m currently in NZ (& without access to my files) but return in time for SAD to AIP in 6 on the 4th. I look forward to seeing you there, and sending you my template.

I can relate to the ‘perfectionist’ gene, too – we can talk about this more on the program!

Wonderful! I didn’t realize that you were one of the coaches, although I probably should have when I read something about coaches in opposite time zones.
Ah, perfectionism. Many think it is a good thing, to which I would say, “Then you obviously don’t suffer from it.” 🙂 It is one of the many things I find improves, or is perhaps just easier to manage, when I am on track with my eating. Thanks for all that you do!

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