Alcohol is one item that is eliminated while following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. Because alcohol is understood to be an immunosuppressant, you may have already given up drinking to help improve your autoimmune symptoms. But with some studies reporting that low to moderate drinking can benefit and protect overall health, it can be confusing to figure out whether to include or exclude alcohol from your diet. (Source)
Understanding the role that alcohol plays while following the AIP diet requires a deeper look into the recent evidence and recommendations surrounding alcohol consumption. There are solid reasons behind removing alcohol during the elimination phase of AIP. But if low to moderate drinking is an important part of your social life and contributes to your highest level of well-being, you may be able to reintroduce your favorite alcoholic beverage once healing has occurred.
In this article, we’ll discuss why alcohol and AIP don’t mix and how to decide if drinking is the right choice for you. Read on to discover 5 important tips to help guide you through the basics as we dive deep into the topic of alcohol and AIP.
Tip #1: Why Alcohol Is Eliminated on AIP
Scientific literature that has filtered down into mainstream media sources previously touted low to moderate consumption of alcohol as a protective factor against different negative health outcomes, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. (Source, Source).
But these claims are not widely agreed upon, and inconsistent study results contribute to the subject being controversial and a topic of debate. More recent scientific research questions the overarching claims of alcohol as health-boosting. Generalized recommendations on consumption don’t necessarily provide sound guidance on how much to consume, because they don’t take into account underlying risk for disease or injury among different groups of people. (Source, Source)
Despite the controversy, alcohol is unquestionably eliminated on the autoimmune protocol due to the myriad downsides of drinking. Consumption of alcohol can have negative effects including suppression of the immune system, promotion of inflammation, and aggravation of chronic health conditions. General risks associated with consuming alcohol include high blood pressure, greater risk of developing certain cancers, and some forms of cardiovascular disease. From a global standpoint, alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths and social problems. (Source, Source, Source)
People with autoimmune diseases are already prone to systemic inflammation, and because existing inflammation can be further exaggerated by alcohol’s effects, autoimmune symptoms and flare-ups may be exacerbated or triggered through alcohol use. Knowing this, it’s easier to see the “why” behind total elimination of alcohol while sticking to AIP. (Source)
However, just because a certain food is eliminated for a time does not mean it has to stay out of your life forever. Taking a brief recess from grains and seeds, for example, gives your system time to heal, but you will most likely reintroduce these items later in a controlled and sustainable manner. The same goes for alcohol consumption: You don’t have to actively avoid it forever — elimination is simply an important step in understanding what triggers your autoimmune symptoms and gaining knowledge to inform your individualized diet in the future.
AIP’s purpose is to help you support your immune system so that it is healing, high-functioning, and working to lessen the symptoms of your autoimmune condition(s). You’ll be able to help your body through the healing process most effectively by refraining from imbibing entirely for a set amount of time during the elimination phase of AIP. And the most encouraging part is that you are not alone. With Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and Health Coaches, WellTheory has created a supportive Care Team so you can receive the autoimmune care you deserve.
Tip #2: Understanding Where Alcohol Comes From
Different types of alcohol come from various plant-based sources. Tequila, wine, and rum are derived from agave, grapes, and sugarcane, respectively. These alcohol types are typically gluten free, but grain-based alcohols such as vodka, gin, bourbon, beer, and ale may have wheat, barley, or corn at their core. (Source)
Should you decide to mindfully reintroduce alcohol back into your diet, identifying your sensitivities and understanding how different kinds of alcohol are made will help you make the most informed choices for your health. Keep in mind that mixed drinks and pre-made cocktails will have additional ingredients you’ll need to take into consideration.
Tip #3: What Can I Drink on AIP?
The exciting news is, water is not your only option! There are many ways to get creative and fill your cup with a gut-healthy drink on AIP. Juices with no added sugars or flavors, water infused with fruits and herbs, tea with honey, and a sprig of fresh mint in your water bottle are all vibrant and satisfying drinks to add to your repertoire.
And yes, kombucha is a welcome addition to AIP-friendly drinks! Sip on this immunity-boosting brew, listed on our Ultimate AIP Food List under the fermented foods section. It is AIP-complaint, chock-full of probiotics, and a flavorful, fizzy alternative to other carbonated beverages you’ve had to say goodbye to.
Even though AIP requires the elimination of different drinks that may be familiar and convenient, reframing the journey as an opportunity to explore new beverages that taste good and make you feel good puts a positive spin on the challenge of change. Be sure to check out our list of drink ideas that are easy to make at home for more inspiration. (Bonus: they’re anti-inflammatory!)
Once you’ve perfected your non-alcoholic bartending skills, consider hosting an AIP-compliant happy hour to show off your new favorite concoctions. You'll be able to share with friends that a healthy social life doesn't have to rely on a round of beer or a shot of liquor.
Tip #4: Cooking with Alcohol on AIP
While prepping dinner, you may be tempted to pour that half-empty bottle of wine into your sauce to simmer, thinking the alcohol will evaporate out and all you’ll be left with is the flavor. However, you would have to cook that sauce for almost 3 hours if you wanted to be left with minimal alcohol content. Chances are, you won’t want to wait those 3 hours for dinner — or be left to consume the unevaporated alcohol left in your sauce — if you lose patience!
The best bet here is to leave recipes that call for alcohol, whether in a savory sauce or a sweet and fruity syrup, out of the protocol. The general assumption that alcohol’s low boiling point compared to water allows it to evaporate during cooking is not trustworthy. Cooking without alcohol on AIP will help you strictly adhere to the immune-boosting guidelines for your highest chance at symptom reduction and improved well-being. (Source, Source)
Tip #5: After AIP, Alcohol Is an Option
Once you’ve had time to heal and you’ve entered the reintroduction phase of the AIP diet, trying alcohol again may be an option, depending on your preferences and needs. Many people decide abstaining from drinking is best for them, but for many others an alcoholic drink every once in a while plays an important role in socializing and celebrating.
Exploring your relationship with alcohol while on AIP makes room for positive outcomes and new perspectives. So whatever your choice, understand that you are creating an individualized and sustainable eating plan that works for you and your body in the long run. Keep in mind, though, that the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women who choose to drink alcohol should consume 1 drink or less per day. (Source)
And Finally: Raise a Glass to Wellbeing!
Although alcohol is initially eliminated for AIP, it doesn’t have to stay that way. After you’ve learned what types of alcohol (if any) best suit your dietary preferences, you’ll be able to make informed decisions when it's time to have (or not have!) a drink.
And don’t feel guilty about that occasional glass of wine! The polyphenols found in red wine have many powerful effects on your health. If you need more convincing, dig deeper into the science of polyphenols and reasons why they should be part of your diet.
Regardless of where you are on AIP, our NTPs are here to further guide and support you through managing your symptoms.
The Bottom Line on Alcohol and AIP
Research is ongoing regarding the debate over whether or not any level of alcohol consumption is beneficial for your immune system and overall health. Recent articles point to the nuances of drinking, suggesting even low doses can have negative effects. Therefore, it’s not a subject that should be oversimplified with rules about number of drinks per week according to gender. AIP removes alcohol completely as part of the elimination phase of the diet, and the choice is yours whether to reintroduce alcohol into your diet or leave it in the past. Cheers to living your healthiest life!