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5 Herbs That May Support The AIP Diet, According To A Functional Medicine Doctor

Published on May 17, 2023


By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

https://www.holisticwritingconcepts.com
5 Herbs That May Support The AIP Diet, According To A Functional Medicine Doctor
5 Herbs That May Support The AIP Diet, According To A Functional Medicine Doctor

The AIP Diet, also known as the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, can be an incredible tool to help people with autoimmunity identify foods that may trigger unwanted or “mystery” symptoms.

It can also help anyone become more aware of their body and how it responds to different foods.

If you’re considering the AIP Diet, you may wonder which herbs you can take to help complement the process.

In this article, we talk to Dr. Christine Maren, a board-certified physician with a functional medicine practice in Colorado, Michigan, and Texas about the five best herbs to complement the AIP Diet.

What is The AIP Diet?

Although it contains the word “diet,” the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) Diet's objective is not weight loss. 

Its purpose is to observe how common trigger foods may impact the body.

This diet is typically recommended for those with autoimmune conditions, suspected autoimmune conditions, or mystery symptoms.

However, some doctors and healthcare practitioners recommend AIP or a variation to identify food sensitivities and support a healthy inflammatory response.

The Premise Of This Diet Is Similar To An Elimination Diet, Whole 30, Or a Paleo Diet: REF#1697

  • Eliminate certain foods for several weeks, 4-12 weeks is generally standard
  • Observe changes in your body such as digestion, bloating, skin, sleep, congestion, etc.
  • Then, slowly re-introduce those foods, one at a time, and observe what may trigger the symptoms you were trying to alleviate.

Foods to avoid during AIP include:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Gluten
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Refined, processed sugars
  • Refined, pro-inflammatory fats and oils, such as processed seed oils (canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, rapeseed)

What Can You Eat During The AIP Diet?

Although the list of no-foods may look daunting, there is plenty you can eat during the AIP Diet, including:

  • Fruits—typically 1-3 servings per day
  • Cultured foods, such as cultured vegetables, kimchi, sauerkraut, plain and unsweetened coconut yogurt, or kefir
  • Vegetables
  • Herbs and spices (just make sure they’re not in the nightshade family, like chilis)
  • Lean proteins such as meats, poultry, fish, and seafood
  • Liver
  • Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
  • Protein powders that do not include dairy (whey) or legumes (pea protein), such as collagen, gelatin, or meat-based protein powders
  • Raw honey (not every AIP diet expert recommends honey, but some do)

Your doctor or healthcare practitioner may offer a variation of these guidelines based on your health and goals, and/or their clinical experience.

How Long Should You Follow The AIP Diet? 

Dr. Maren recommends following the AIP diet for 30-90 days and emphasizes it is not intended for long-term use. 

“I tell my patients to treat it as a short-term experiment or approach to help understand what food sensitivities they may have.”

“After 30-90 days I start working with patients to re-incorporate healthy foods that are well tolerated. The ultimate goal is dietary diversity; although I’d likely still recommend a low-antigen (gluten-free), low sugar, whole-foods-based diet.”

“I’m not personally a big fan of restrictive diets long-term because it’s too difficult, and people may be missing out on nutrients they need to heal.” 

Who May Benefit From The AIP Diet?

Dr. Maren recommends the AIP Diet for anyone having an autoimmune flare or for those who want to identify food sensitivities without testing. 

Note: It’s important to note that the AIP diet will not definitely diagnose all food sensitivities or any food allergies. Tracking symptoms can help you narrow down foods but work with a doctor to help determine any food allergies or sensitivities.

“If you have a known-autoimmune disease and are in the midst of a flare, it may be a good short-term solution.”

A Functional Medicine Doctor’s Five Favorite Herbs To Support The AIP Diet

Dr. Maren recommends a variety of herbs and other supplements for those doing the AIP diet.

Here are her top five favorite herbs that complement the diet while providing targeted support for energy, elimination, detoxification, inflammatory response, and digestion.

1. Bitters

“I’m a really big fan of bitters during AIP, or any time for digestive, gallbladder, and liver support.”

“Bitters” refer to herbs or vegetables with a remarkably bitter flavor. 

In traditional herbalism, they are used to stimulate digestion by encouraging healthy bile flow. They’re also used to support liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, and skin health.*

Various bitters tonics were also patented in the 1800s and sold as digestifs to help with common digestive complaints.*

Examples of herbal bitters include:

Gaia Herbs sells various bitters within herbal blends or single extracts, including:

2. Rhodiola

Rhodiola, also known as Rhodiola Rosea, Golden Root, or Rosenroot, is an adaptogenic, rose-scented herb native to eastern Europe and Asia. REF#1698

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that support stamina and a healthy stress response.*

Rhodiola is rumored to have been a favorite among the Vikings for imparting strength and endurance.

It’s been traditionally used for energy, fertility, immunity, mood, cognitive health, and low libido.*

Per Dr. Maren, “I love recommending Rhodiola during AIP to help with energy, mental focus, and adrenal health.* I tend to recommend this instead of Ashwagandha during AIP, because Ashwagandha is a nightshade (which is supposed to be avoided on AIP) and therefore may not be ideal for everyone.”

Rhodiola has also demonstrated supportive effects on: REF#1699 REF#1700 REF#1701 

  • Cardiovascular function
  • Cognitive and mental health
  • Endurance
  • Physical performance
  • Stress

Rhodiola can be found in the following Gaia Herbs Products:

3. Astragalus

Astragalus, also known as Milk Vetch, Huang-qi, or Astragalus membranaceus, is another adaptogenic herb used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Like Rhodiola, it’s traditionally been used for stress-related conditions and immunity, as well as skin health, circulation, kidney health, and more.*

Dr. Maren likes it for its adaptogenic, immune- and liver-supportive benefits.*

Researchers have found Astragalus contains a specific polysaccharide known as Astraglus Polysaccharide or APS. REF#1702

APS (astragalus polysaccharide) has been shown to have numerous properties that may support the heart, the aging process, the immune system, inflammatory response, the liver, and blood sugar. REF#1703 REF#1704 REF#1705 REF#1706 

Learn more in 7 Surprising Astragalus Benefits.

4. Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle is one of the most popular herbs traditionally used for liver support.*

“Milk thistle is one of my go-to herbs to support the liver and glutathione production, which is important when someone is dealing with any type of symptoms.* And since the liver is involved in digestion through the production of bile and other enzymes, it lends some added support there too,” says Dr. Maren.*

Milk Thistle’s mixture of active plant compounds, known as silymarin, has demonstrated liver-supportive and protective properties via their antioxidant activity.* REF#1707

Learn more in Potential Health Benefits Of Milk Thistle.

5. Curcumin

Curcumin, the main active plant compound in the spice Turmeric, is one of the most-studied herbal compounds on the planet. REF#1708

Turmeric/Curcumin are also staples in Ayurveda, the traditional wellness practice of India. The whole spice is used for various health issues, as a beauty aid, and in traditional recipes like Golden Milk. REF#1709

Says Dr. Maren, “Curcumin is a great one because it provides liver, gut, and digestive support, plus it’s a powerful antioxidant, which is amazing for inflammatory response.* It’s also been shown to help with skin health, which is a common reason people try the AIP diet.*”

Curcumin has over 2,100 studies and references on the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Database. REF#1708

Much of this research points to its potent antioxidant properties as the source of its historical and modern success.

The antioxidant properties of Turmeric and Curcumin have been shown to support: REF#1710 REF#1711 REF#1710 REF#1712 REF#1713 REF#1714

  • Balanced inflammation
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Cellular health
  • Immunity
  • Gut microbiome health
  • Liver function
  • Skin health
  • Normal sugar metabolism
  • Healthy aging

To learn more about Curcumin, check out: Curcumin versus Turmeric: What’s The Difference? 

Herbs To Avoid On The AIP Diet

There is a school of thought that certain herbs should be avoided on the AIP diet.

Theres insufficient research to confirm which herbs could be a potential issue for different types of autoimmunity or other conditions.

Ultimately, which herbs to avoid likely depends on the individual and their unique health concerns. 

Check with your healthcare practitioner if you’re unsure which herbs to take during the AIP Diet.

How to Start Using Herbs With The AIP Diet

Interested in trying some of these herbs while following the AIP diet?

With what you’ve learned, you have the information to choose an herb that may offer you valuable support.

However, if you have an existing health condition, always check with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

To learn more about how herbs may help support specific diet and nutrition programs, check out:

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