What is AIP Keto and how can a ketogenic diet work with an autoimmune protocol to help manage inflammation? I’m sharing all the details with this AIP Keto Starter Guide.

What is AIP Keto?

While you may have heard of the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP, combining it with Keto is a fairly unique experience. You can read about the difference between AIP, Paleo, and Keto in this blog post.

The autoimmune protocol, autoimmune paleo or AIP for short is an elimination diet designed to heal leaky gut and reduce inflammation with the purpose of reversing symptoms caused by autoimmune disease. While a ketogenic diet was originally intended as a therapeutic diet and has been used to treat epilepsy for decades. As a result, the ketogenic diet has been studied extensively; folks figured out that being in ketosis is not only beneficial for epileptics but great for all of us. Our bodies and especially our brains LOVE using ketones as fuel. There are a lot of emerging studies which show ketogenic diets helping people with a number of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s … and this is only the beginning! 

When you combine the healing properties of AIP with the healing properties of Keto, you get a whole foods diet that is naturally anti-inflammatory, and promotes sustained energy levels, cognitive clarity, and a healthy gut. While no diet is one size fits all, AIP Keto is a great template for starting a healing journey and figuring out what foods help you thrive.

What can I eat on AIP Keto?

The great part about AIP and a whole foods approach to Keto is that the eliminations and allowed foods go so well together. On AIP, you can eat all animal proteins, all vegetables and fruit (except nightshades), coconut, lard, bacon, avocado, olive oil, olives, salt, herbs. 

Alternatively, a ketogenic diet focuses more on the macronutrients of foods; while the macros will vary from person to person, most of your caloric intake will be from fat. It typically breaks down to about 70-80% calories from fat with a moderate protein intake of about 15-20%, and 5-10% from carbs. Again, the macros vary from person to person, but those numbers are a pretty good rule of thumb.

A whole foods keto approach includes all of the AIP options with a few tweaks. First, swap the veggies with non-starchy vegetables (think leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables). Then, focus on fruits with low sugar options like berries. On keto, you can also incorporate eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and alternative sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit, but those are a no-no on AIP keto. It’s best to just omit sweeteners all together or use tiny amounts of honey or yacon syrup. 

An AIP Keto Food Template

Here are a few examples of the foods you can enjoy on AIP Keto:

  • All animal proteins
  • All leafy green vegetables and low sugar fruits
  • Coconut and coconut products (milk, flour)
  • Non-seed-based spices (turmeric, cinnamon, ginger)
  • Rendered animal fats (lard, duck fat, tallow)
  • Bacon
  • Avocados
  • Olives 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Herbs (fresh and dry)

These specific foods should be avoided on AIP Keto:

  • Coffee (I know, it’s brutal)
  • Cacao
  • All grains (even white rice)
  • Legumes (soy, peanuts, green beans)
  • All nuts and seeds
  • Spiced from seeds, nightshades, and berries (cumin, peppercorns, paprika)
  • Eggs
  • All dairy (even ghee and butter)
  • All nightshades (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes)
  • Processed sugars
  • Artificial and non-caloric  sweeteners (even stevia)
  • Processed Foods
  • Starches (tapioca, cassava, arrowroot, sweet potato, plantains)
  • Bananas, mango (high sugar fruits)

How to start AIP Keto

First, you’ll want to start preparing yourself for your AIP Keto journey by deciding your start date and how long you’d like to use this template. An Autoimmune Protocol is an elimination diet and isn’t intended to be a long term way of eating — the purpose is to calm inflammation, then reintroduce foods to identify your food triggers. 

I’ve created the AIP Keto Reset to make it easy. This is a two-week meal plan that you can repeat for a whole month — the mother of all elimination diets will help you suss out trigger foods, reduce inflammation, break a stall, and enjoy delicious foods.

I’ve included 16 recipes, 3 meal plan variations, and shopping lists in this plan to make it as easy as possible.

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? I understand. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to keep it simple. If you work best with a template, you can start with the AIP Keto Restart, and then transition into my AIP Meal Plans. You can also arm yourself with a plethora of free AIP Keto Recipes on the blog. Both of my print cookbooks have over 90 AIP Keto recipes as well.

Once you plan your start date and timeline for reintroductions, you can begin to stock your pantry and fridge with the essentials.

AIP Keto Essentials

Keeping your pantry and fridge stocked up and ready is key for a successful elimination protocol. Keep them simple and stocked, then you’ll be able to refresh as needed. The fresh ingredients are simple: plants and animals.  Some of the pantry staples can be a little harder to find, but they can make the process much easier and delicious. Things like nutritional yeast (for cheesy flavor), coconut aminos, lots of dried herbs, full fat canned coconut milk (unsweetened), red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, duck fat, grass fed collagen and/or gelatin. 

I’ve put together AIP Keto Shopping Guides for Target and Costco:

Modifications on AIP

  • Swap soy sauce with coconut aminos and a little fish sauce
  • Instead of tomato sauce, use pumpkin puree
  • Try coconut cream instead of heavy cream
  • For a cheesy flavor, use nutritional yeast or make one of my AIP cheese recipes
  • Instead of nuts and seeds, you will use coconut flour and coconut flakes
  • For bread crumbs, you can use pork panko
  • A decent egg replacement for AIP/Keto is gelatin or gelatin egg
  • Instead of butter or ghee, use coconut oil, lard, duck fat, tallow, or bacon fat
  • For spice or heat in recipes, you can use horseradish, raw garlic/garlic powder, and ginger

How to do reintroductions after AIP

The whole point of doing an autoimmune protocol is to reintroduce foods and identify food triggers. The reintroduction phase gives you real data so that you can better understand what makes you flare, but also what makes you thrive.

I recommend figuring out how you’d like to keep track of your reintroductions — either using a physical journal or the Notes app on your phone to track patterns and reactions if needed.

Reactions may look like: increased mucus production, a post nasal drip, coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose or mouth. Headaches, lightheadedness, anxiety, mood wings, aches and pains and changes in your skin. They could be symptoms of your autoimmune disease worsening. They could also be digestive, like heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, undigested food particles in your stool. 

You should reintroduce foods in stages, you can choose the stages by what you feel (use your intuition) you will tolerate or you can use this guide outlined by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom:

Stage 1 Foods:

  • egg yolks
  • fruit-, berry- and seed-based spices
  • seed and nut oils
  • ghee (from grass-fed dairy)
  • occasional coffee
  • cocoa or chocolate
  • peas and legumes with edible pods (green beans, scarlet runner beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, etc)
  • legume sprouts

Stage 2 Foods:

  • seeds
  • nuts
  • chia seeds
  • coffee on a daily basis
  • egg whites
  • grass-fed butter
  • alcohol in small quantities

Stage 3 Foods:

  • eggplant
  • sweet peppers
  • paprika
  • peeled potatoes
  • grass-fed dairy
  • lentils, split peas, and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)

Stage 4 Foods:

  • chili peppers and nightshade spices
  • tomatoes
  • unpeeled potatoes
  • alcohol in larger quantities
  • gluten-free grains and pseudograins
  • traditionally prepared or fermented legumes
  • white rice
  • foods you are allergic or have a history of strong reactions to

Choose a food to try out. Eat a little bit of it and wait 24 hours. The next day eat a normal portion of it, wait 24 hours. The next day or a few hours later, eat a lot of it. Wait 3 days. If you didn’t have any reaction, you can count that food safe. Try another food, follow the same protocol. If you did react to the food, wait until symptoms subside before trying something else. 

Ultimately, I believe that AIP saved my life — before I found healing, I was alive, but I didn’t feel like I was living. I was in chronic pain, felt stifled by inflammation, and I was angry that I felt robbed of so many experiences.

For more information about why I’ve used AIP keto as a tool in my healing journey, check out this blog post about My Hidradenitis Suppurativa Story: How The Autoimmune Protocol Changed My Life, My AIP Journey, and Life After the AIP Elimination Protocol.

My favorite AIP Keto Recipes

In closing, I’m leaving you with a virtual hug from me to you in the form of my favorite AIP Keto recipes, found on the blog. All of my recipes are created with love, but the AIP Keto stuff has just a little bit more written between the lines. I know what it’s like to be where you are. Now that I’m on the other side, I feel I have a duty to help build a bridge for others. You deserve to feel healed and to eat some delicious food along the way.

Enjoy these recipes, and cheers to your health!

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