When AIP Becomes A Crutch, Not A Cure

Auto Immune Paleo, Blog


What is AIP these days? In this post, I am going to offer a new way to look at AIP.

Since AIP has been introduced it seems that there is an attempt to define it. That has value because when you go to the grocery store you need to know what food to buy, so I get it. AIP came forward as a diet to reduce inflammation, since autoimmune disease is a disease of inflammation. There are lists, books and pdf’s (including my own) floating around that clearly lay out what AIP is and what it isn’t. Great, awesome, cool. Those are super helpful. But that was over 2 years ago and science has changed since then my friends. There has been an introduction of certain kinds of labs and science that has come forward and from what I can see, the world of treating Autoimmune Disease Naturally is changing and that is good news for you. Not many practitioners were having the discussion about co-infections 2 years ago. Or food antigens causing molecular mimicry. Or that talking about how the current offerings of stress reduction and sleep doesn’t really touch the stress that caused the start of disease. I came to write this post for various reasons. I have a full-time practice as an AIP nutritionist (meaning I see what works and doesn’t work with clients on a daily basis which is vastly different than studying the ‘science’) I work and study in the functional medicine world so I am privy to a large amount of other clinicians on the front lines of autoimmune research and the most updated clinical applications. My crowd is down to 15 foods, have been on AIP for a year or more, and are 5 practitioners in, and still not getting better. In fact, many are still getting diagnosed with more autoimmune diseases. Diet and stress reduction is only ONE PART of getting better if you have an autoimmune disease, and there is a lot more you can do with AIP than what is currently reported. As a Nutritionist, I dedicate quite a bit of time to learning the applicable science that is allowing people to get better faster. It is very exciting, and I am going to share it with you here.

The current list of Do’s and Don’ts of AIP is a vague starting place, not a structured list that must be followed as so many believe. However, 2 years ago that was not the case. I actually don’t refer to that list anymore. I help people to create THEIR OWN. When my clients do that, I notice their bodies heal faster. I am getting WAY more serious about finding the causes of inflammation and utilizing all the tools available to my clients to do so. I find for instance, talking about  nutrient density with clients is helpful, (to heal micronutrient deficiencies) but when you are looking at 3 active, chronic co-infections happening along with 3 autoimmune diseases, nutrient density is not in the first conversations I have with clients. I am having the conversation of how to build a team of healers to help them. More often than not, there are multiple co-infections in those on AIP who have been tirelessly working for over a year on their diet and can’t figure out why they are only 60% better.

1. When you start AIP, a wonderful thing happens. You reduce inflammation. This can make you feel better. I have also noticed clinically that it can actually mask persisting co-infections. So lets say for example you have a chronic, active Epstein Barr virus with your Hashimoto’s, but you don’t know you have EBV, because your doctor has not checked that out. (I URGE you to read this EBV article btw) You decide to go on AIP. You feel 70% better. Did AIP work? Yes and no. Did it help regulate the immune system? A bit. Did it get rid of the EBV? No. So you get a better regulated Hashimoto’s from going on AIP and you also get a false sense of being better because it did not really take care of the chronic virus. And that chronic virus will persist. And the gut will remain leaky (albeit ‘less leaky!’) because chronic infections keep the gut ‘leaky’. Will copious amounts of bone broth cure the EBV infection by healing the gut? Or eradicate a Cytomegalovirus? Perhaps some reading this will argue that curing micronutrient deficiencies with liver pate for example may allow the body to become strong enough to clear co-infections. I am not saying that it can’t, but I am saying that from the reports of my clients, the answer is almost always, no. AIP became a crutch, not a cure.

2. Foods that are AIP “approved” are provoking an immune response for YOU.  Ongoing food sensitivities will persist inflammation in your system. I recommend now that everyone customize AIP from the beginning. I do this with Cyrex Labs Panel 10 only. The science to do this was not available 2 years ago. So I consider the “AIP Lists” to be somewhat outdated now. Those that are on AIP who want to take the test but don’t know if they should because for instance they have not eaten rice for over a year..well that is a good consideration. However, the test has tremendous value because it will look at AIP foods you are currently consuming that are problematic. For this reason I have abandoned Elimination & Challenge diets because I see them consistency not work as well as lab work. If you are eating AIP foods that are provoking an immune response, then AIP becomes a crutch, not a cure.

3. Is bone broth all is is made out to be? Maybe. But what if you have an immune response to gelatin? Or SIBO? Then is it healing your leaky gut? No. Or ginger? Or chicken livers? Without disregarding its value, the very things that are touted as Nutrient Dense may not work for you and your immune system. If you are sensitive to AIP foods that are commonly known as gut healers, but YOU have an immune response to them, then AIP became a crutch, not a cure.

4. You are not looking at what you believe about your life, and the role of your disease in that equation, then AIP will continue to be a crutch, not a cure.

5. You have head trauma somewhere in your timeline (concussion, car accident, skiing accident, sports injury etc) that is perpetuating an immune response in your system.

6. Your practitioner does not know how to address #1-5

If the following considerations are not taken into account, then AIP will turn into a crutch and not a cure. I know that is a big statement, but I have too many people emailing me who are dedicated to AIP, depressed and down to 15 foods because they only changed their diet and their practitioners are missing the bigger issues:

Anemia (over 20 kinds of anemia patterns to consider btw)

Your Belief System is at the TOP of the list. If you examine closely what the top researchers say about healing, every singe one of them says that you cannot heal unless you look at this.  (See my book The Loving Diet)

The H-P Axis & Brain-Gut Axis has not been addressed

Adrenal/Cortisol dysfunction (affects blood sugars, inflammation, thyroid) and almost impossible to fix with persistent co-infections

Co-Infections (viral, parasite, bacterial and yeast)

MMC and Vagal Issues that persist without intervention

Blood Sugar Issues

Your thyroid is not regulated (T4 and T3 are required for the intestinal mucosal integrity)

You Are Eating AIP Foods that you are producing IgG antibodies to (and/or IgA, IgE)

You have Histamine Sensitivities

AIP recipes sites are full of SIBO drivers which is a  big co-infection I see. Coconut flour, cassava flour, tapioca flour, gelatin…I suggest finding and understanding what the drivers of your autoimmune disease is along with changing your diet. This is often the hardest part.

So there you go. I have reoriented my nutrition practice to be more progressive toward inflammation. When I did that, everything changed. I changed. My clients changed. People have found a sense of relief that there is less stabbing in the dark knowing what their body is doing. There is so much more yet to come. I have found the most difficult piece is finding a proficient practitioner and building the foundation inside yourself to strengthen your compass so you get a gut feeling about which direction feels right for you. But, the next few years will be an exciting time for us. As we open our hearts to change, change will open its heart to us.


  1. Zahira

    Hi jess. I am in intrigued by your approach as a nutritionist. I have alopecia areata, but it seems that as my stress increases so does the falling out of my hair.I have had ibs and I have urticaria. I was wondering if you conduct online consultations, seeing as I live in South Africa where there aren’t many AIP nutritionists.


    • Brody

      My son also have Alopecia, not much unformation about it either, sadly. Been on AIP for a year, without any regrowth. Would also love to connect and discuss locating possible co infections.

      • Jessica

        Hi Brody!

        Thank you for reaching out! Alopecia is a tricky autoimmune condition, and can be one of the more discouraging. I would like to encourage you to not lose hope, there ARE answers. Jessica would be happy to see if she can help your son! I will follow up with an email with a link to schedule for you. But you can also contact Jess at: info@aiplifestyle.com 🙂

  2. Chris

    I have Hashi’s. My quality of life has become zero. I’ve also had mono at some point in my life, it came up in blood work. I am financially strapped. There is no way I can afford a nutritionist (not that I could find one in NY that specializes in AIP or hashi’s) or to do all the special testing for everything else mentioned here. I do, however, have health insurance. So, where should I go from here? It’s one thing to gain knowledge, but it’s a horrible thing when you’re limited to what you can do with it.

    • Jessica

      Chris..doctors love published science. If you spend some time on http://www.pubmed.org searching hashimoto’s and epstein barr you can print out studies that link the connection. I have some on my fb page. Ask the doctor to test you. Then ask your doctor to refer you to a doctor with a natural leaning in their network. Even in Kaiser there are needles in the haystack. I would keep looking. Warmly, jessica

  3. Chelsea

    Hi Jessica,

    I’ve read a plethora of blog articles since becoming sick, but reading this, I finally feel optimistic. You obviously thoroughly know your science. My question is kind of like Chris’s from a couple months ago – I need treatment covered by health insurance, but the only diagnosis I have is a bad case of SIBO that I’ve been trying to treat with diet after the Xifaxin. I obviously have some underlying autoimmune issue or series of issues, and my mom’s side of the family is full of comparatively young people withering away and limping with canes from autoimmune diseases of various sorts. Where do I start? What kind of doctor do I see, and how (on earth) do I get the appropriate thorough testing I might need? I had worked with a GI and it was awful. She didn’t care about any of my other symptoms and was pretty patronizing in telling me that things like yeast overgrowth don’t exist. All the practitioners I’ve seen seem really reluctant to order tests because it’s “expensive for them [the hospital].”

    • Jessica

      Hi Chelsea! If you are needing to find someone who works completely under insurance than I would go to the institute of functional medicine website and search the database by zip code. However, I have observed that like regular doctors, nothing assures that the functional doctors there a good one and follows what I outlined in that article. Most don’t. That means you will need to interview doctors and ask them what their approach is, and how they treat someone in your case. I hope that helps a bit! I am glad it helped you feel a bit more optimistic though. Keep going. You will get there. xx-jessica

  4. Tinker Bonugli

    I was just diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis will diet help this disorder? I am having a biopsy 10-31-16 to make sure no cancer. Otherwise treatment is steroid creams. Thanks for any suggestions.

    Tinker Bonugli
    Age 63

    • Jessica

      Hi Tinker! Ask your doctor first, but AIP is an anti-inflammatory diet, so applicable to autoimmune diseases.

  5. maartje

    how do I know whats best for me to eat/heal?
    Some people say a bloodtest is not everything, that you have to heal your gut but I also hear different wasy for that…so its hard.
    Im 33, have osteoporosis and stomach/gut issues and…Im afraid

    • Jessica

      Hi Maartje! There are a lot of opinions out there. My personal belief is that there is not one diet that works for everyone. I work with my clients to personalize their AIP diet along with blood work, stool testing, genetic testing etc. to create a program that is good for them. -jessica

  6. Debbie


    I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2014, and I stopped my treatment a few months later. I started a paleo diet, and I did an elimination diet. I stayed in remission, but a year later I started to have eczema. I knew that there was something else going on since I have never had eczema in my life. I also have an itchy scalp with dandruffs, poor memory, and poor libido. I had a colonoscopy last week, and it turns out that my colon is not fully healed, so my gastroenterologist prescribed me an anti-inflammatory drug (Pentasa). I am really confused because I do not know where to start. I thought about doing another elimination diet, but what if there is something else going on? I do not know where to find a doctor that could help me find what is going on inside instead of giving me drugs to hide the underlying problem. I am also a student, so I cannot afford expensive testing.


    • Jessica

      Hi Debbie! I would ask your GI dr. if they know of an integrative doctor. Then it may be covered by your insurance. Sounds like something is going on and may be worth it to see if you can find someone in your network. warmly, jessica

  7. Jillian Harrison

    I have been trying the AIP and things have actually gotten worse, not better. I have tried eliminating coconut and onions and garlic due to possible SIBO but I haven’t seen much change from that. When I started AIP my eliminations were pretty healthy but now they are way too loose and have not improved. Seems like the times I strayed from the AIP I felt better, including risotto with cheese, coffee with cream, and French fries. I am not sure what to do. I don’t know what to eat and pretty much have gas all of the time. I wonder if my system is having trouble with all of the meat or meat fat? Or if it just needs more starchy carbs?

    • Martha

      You have probably moved on since this post was two months ago, but I could relate to what you shared. I started the specific carbohydrate diet 3/9/17 because I believed I had SIBO. For two weeks I felt worse but at the end of two weeks I did feel better. I continued on for four more weeks, but reached a plateau and was constantly dealing with acid which I had not had before. I wondered if it was the increase in meat and fats. Did my body just need more carbohydrates. I decided to do the GAPS diet intro. which didn’t have more carbs but did have a lot of soups which were easier on my stomach but then I discovered that the glutamine in the soups was making me sick – fluey, headache – I was reacting as those who are bothered by MSG react. In the meantime SIBO was diagnosed with the lactulose breath test and I decided to take two weeks of Xifaxan, 550, 3x per day. At this point I shifted to the low FODMAP diet because it seemed to be more specific to my issue and I had actually created a few days of IBS eating high FODMAP foods on the SCD diet. I came to this site to see if this diet might be even more specific to SIBO, but like you I think I need more carbs. I lost about 7 lbs on the SCD and GAPS diets and am now underweight for the first time in my life: 5’8″ 116 lbs. I believe I am going to settle on the Fast Tract Diet because it is basically the same as the low FODMAP diet but he has quantified the fermentation potential of the foods, which is key when dealing with SIBO and he has geared his diet to SIBO and GERD, my two main problems now. He also emphasizes root causes. I got here due to a C diff infection that was both long term and then critical and recurrent. I finally had a fecal transplant that ended the C diff, after 5 months of antibiotics. I believe the c diff and colon bacteria migrated into my small intestine and is causing problems. I was also diagnosed with possible gluten sensitivity – I had one of the two genes and an endoscopy did reveal flattened microvilli that could be consistent with celiac. My antibodies were not elevated, however, but then again I had not been eating a lot of gluten for quite some time due to the c diff. I was also diagnosed on 12/12/16 with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – always out of energy but not many other symptoms and an only slightly elevated TSH. My antibodies were quite elevated, however. I guess what I’m saying is keep at it, listen to your body, seek out root causes for your symptoms, pray and see where you are led. I hope you feel better or are already feeling better. Be well.

  8. Daniela


    If I had a food sensitivity test (not the one you recommended) – would it be safe to assume that those are the ONLY foods I should eliminate from my diet, or should I also eliminate the foods on the AVOID list?


  9. Jessica

    Hi Jessica, my name is also Jess! I have psoriatic arthritis and take Humira biological injections, my joints are better but only with steroids to work alongside at the moment, I was wondering if it would be worth me moving towards an API diet to help keep join inflammation down?

  10. Linnea van den Toorn

    Hi there!

    Thank you for an informative article! I am a TYPE 1.5 Diabetic and just started the AIP diet a week and have noticed a significant drop in insulin use (only using 2 units of long acting insulin/day) and also normal blood sugar levels. NORMAL! Incredible. Still, however, after reading your article, I am concerned that there is an underlining co-infection. What tests and procedures and nutrition do you recommend to better understand what is triggering my Diabetes?


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