Living with an autoimmune condition can be an exercise in frustration. Some days you feel great and energetic, some days your symptoms come on full-force and you feel terrible, and sometimes the best way to describe your physical health is just "meh." It's even more frustrating when you're not sure what’s causing your symptoms — you could be following doctor's orders and still not feel like yourself. If you're considering taking on the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet to figure out if a particular food is causing your discomfort, you might know that eggs are on the list of food recommended for elimination. In this article, we'll take a look at eggs and AIP, and what the science says about whether they should stay or go.
What Is the AIP Diet?
The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is a regimen that seeks to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, such as inflammation and pain.The protocol has been used in the treatment of Crohn's, IBS, celiac disease, and other autoimmune conditions. (Source)
A Word About Inflammation
Inflammation is an important term to understand when talking about autoimmune conditions and the AIP diet. Inflammation occurs when your body responds to something like a virus or bacteria that shouldn't be there by sending out inflammatory cells and proteins called cytokines, which generate more inflammatory cells.
If you're healthy, this inflammatory response ends when you're healed. If the inflammation is chronic, and continues to attack tissue even when there's no reason for it, it can result in symptoms such as:
- chest pain
- abdominal pain
- joint pain
- mouth sores
- skin rash
Autoimmune disorders such as lupus can cause chronic inflammation, but there are other causes:
- chronic stress
- excessive alcohol consumption
- excessive exercise or not enough exercise
How Does AIP Work?
The AIP diet doesn't operate according to calories or portion sizes. Rather, it's an elimination diet in which you avoid for a limited time foods that may trigger inflammation and other symptoms. Foods eliminated during the first phase of the diet include:
- nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, spices sourced from peppers, like cayenne and paprika)
- nuts and seeds
- refined and processed sugars
- industrial seed oils (highly processed oils like soybean, canola, and corn)
- eggs (we'll get back to this one shortly)
The AIP Diet Includes Anti-Inflammatory Foods
The AIP diet also emphasizes consumption of anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in antioxidants and fiber, inhibit those signals that are overproducing inflammation, and promote healthy gut microbiota. These foods can help in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown in clinical studies to be beneficial in treating ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease. (Source, Source, Source)
Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
- vegetables (excluding nightshades)
- whole grains (oats, barley, brown rice, millet, spelt, buckwheat, amaranth)
- legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
- monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
- polyunsaturated omega-3 fats (salmon, chia seeds, walnuts)
- dark chocolate
What You Need to Know About Reintroduction and Maintenance Phases
In the second phase of the AIP diet, you begin to systematically reintroduce trigger foods to see if any of them cause or increase symptoms. In the last phase, after your problem foods have been identified, a long-term diet that helps avoid intestinal inflammation and other symptoms can be planned. This final phase is usually called the maintenance phase, but because the diet is tailored to your individual needs, some practitioners refer to it as the “personalization” phase instead.
What About Eggs and AIP?
There's no scientific evidence that eggs impact inflammation, but they remain controversial when it comes to their role in diets. Because they contain cholesterol, eggs have previously been recommended as a protein source primarily for the young and athletic, while folks who have conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes have been advised to avoid them.