Can The Autoimmune Paleo Diet Heal Your Thyroid?
Have you heard that the Autoimmune Paleo Diet might be the answer for your thyroid issues? Advocates of the AIP diet state that it can reduce inflammation, heal the gut, control flare-ups and even heal the root causes of autoimmune disease.
But can the Autoimmune Paleo Diet heal your thyroid? Or is it all hype? Let's take a closer look at this popular elimination diet and whether it's the right fit for you.
What is AIP?
AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol or as it’s commonly known, Autoimmune Paleo diet. There is no ‘standard’ AIP protocol – but most do have eliminations and inclusions in common.
An AIP diet will eliminate:
Nightshade vegetables such as eggplant and tomatoes
Nuts and seeds
Processed sugars, oils and food additives
Instead, the diet focuses on plenty of:
Vegetables (excluding nightshades)
Seafood and fish
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
Small amounts of fruit
Minimally processed oils such as olive, coconut and avocado oil
Select spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and garlic (root, bark and bulb based spices)
The theory behind AIP for thyroid issues
Why is AIP recommended for thyroid conditions, particularly those with autoimmune origins? There are two main reasons: inflammation and gut health.
AIP aims to remove the most inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation in the body. It is also rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as seafood, vegetables, herbs and berries.
Gut health is often recognised as the starting point of autoimmune conditions. Many of the foods removed by AIP are common food intolerances or can cause irritation in the gut. Food intolerances can also flare up symptoms.
By removing the foods that are most likely to damage the gut, it aims to heal the gut and therefore address a root cause of autoimmune disease.
The foods that are included in AIP also have gut-healing nutrients or properties. For example, bone broth is rich in glutamine, which is required for a healthy gut barrier. Fermented foods are a source of probiotics, which may help to maintain healthy gut flora.
So the reason that AIP is said to help with autoimmune thyroid problems is that it is designed to reduce inflammation and heal the gut.
What does the research say?
There is limited research to support the recommendation of AIP. However, one small study was done in women with Hashimoto’s using AIP for 10 weeks.
While there were no significant changes in thyroid function or antibodies, the women reported a significant improvement in symptoms. There was also a significant decrease in inflammation, which may explain the improvements seen.
Longer-term use of AIP may be needed to see improvements in thyroid function and antibody levels. Further research is also required to assess its potential in Graves’ diseases.
The downsides of AIP
AIP has a lot to offer in terms of health, reducing inflammation and supporting gut health. But like any approach to food, it does come with downsides.
AIP is quite restrictive. This can make it more difficult in social situations or when eating out.
Following AIP will require a lot of food prep. There aren’t many ‘quick’ options for meals or snacks that are AIP-friendly. If you do decide to follow AIP, you will probably need to stock your freezer up with back-up meals and take snacks with you.
If you’re not eating plenty of variety within AIP, you may develop deficiencies. The foods included in AIP are nutrient-dense. But if you are unable or unwilling to eat any of the included food groups, you might end up with deficiencies. For example, if you are allergic to seafood, you will not get enough omega-3s into your diet.
The restrictive nature may be a trigger for those with disordered eating. If you have a history of eating disorders, this approach may be too restrictive and could trigger a relapse in behaviours.
My thoughts on AIP
Some people do see improvements when using an AIP approach for their thyroid issues. Reducing inflammation and healing the gut is always key when it comes to addressing thyroid conditions.
Although the research into AIP is limited, it is promising. I'd be interested to see what surfaces over the next few years as more studies are completed.
However, AIP is not for everyone. You may not need a strict protocol to see improvements in your thyroid-related symptoms. Even small changes can add up over time!
AIP is not a diet approach that I would recommend long-term if you are doing it solo. If your food choices are out of balance, you could be at risk of nutrient deficiencies that can worsen your symptoms again!
Working with a qualified practitioner while following AIP will help you to reintroduce foods and increase the variety in your diet.
Are you looking to control your thyroid condition with dietary protocols such as AIP?
You don't have to do it alone. Tara is here to guide you through the process of finding the right shifts and tweaks that work for you. To book an appointment, click here.