The thyroid gland is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that does a big job. This gland produces and releases hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions.
Sometimes thyroid hormone production drops. This condition, known as hypothyroidism, occurs when the body cannot produce or appropriately respond to thyroid hormones. More than five percent of Americans live with hypothyroidism. Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease, is the most common cause.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning it happens when immune cells mistakenly attack healthy tissue in the body instead of protecting it. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, immune cells mistakenly attack the healthy thyroid tissue, causing chronic inflammation of the thyroid.
If Hashimoto's thyroiditis attacks your thyroid to the degree that the gland can no longer produce enough thyroid hormones for your body to function correctly, then you will develop hypothyroidism.
You've likely heard about the importance of diet and nutrition to support your thyroid--maybe you've even heard about the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP diet, for short. You've decided you want to try it, but the "rules" feel overwhelming. And the most significant hurdle...where will you find the time to learn and make such a big change?
The Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP diet, for short, helps to manage chronic diseases like Hashimoto's. The AIP diet eliminates inflammatory triggers from diet and lifestyle. Instead, it focuses on fueling the body with nutrient-dense foods, quality sleep, stress management, and daily movement for optimal gut, immune, hormone, and tissue health.
The AIP diet is a temporary elimination diet that involves two phases: an elimination phase followed by a slow, purposeful reintroduction phase. This diet is not permanent in design. Instead, it is a tool to learn how your body reacts to dietary and environmental triggers and to better manage your Hashimoto's disease in the long term.
The elimination phase of the AIP diet involves eliminating gluten and grains, dairy, soy and legumes, sugar, eggs, corn, nuts and seeds, nightshade vegetables, caffeine, and alcohol. However, the ultimate goal is not elimination for the sake of elimination but to fuel the body with really delicious, nutrient-dense foods. The list of foods to eliminate is long. However, there is still plenty of variety to enjoy healthy, balanced, and delicious meals on the AIP diet. Load up on meat and fish, most fruits and veggies, coconut products, healthy fats, bone and meat broths, and delicious non-seed herbs!
From primary research, we know that the Autoimmune Protocol diet improves the quality of life and lowers inflammation in people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. In addition, the foods on the "allowed to eat" list are shown in multiple studies to support not only thyroid health but also systemic health.
So, where do you start? For most people, the AIP diet represents a significant dietary and lifestyle shift. If you need support, you're in the right place! This blog will cover five (easy!) ways to simplify the AIP diet for thyroid patients.
5 ways to make the autoimmune protocol more simple
Set a schedule
Get out your calendar and mark your start and end dates for the elimination phase. Create your AIP timeline, including shopping and preparation dates, to visually remind you that AIP is a temporary process—something that can be helpful if you begin to lose focus or become discouraged.
An essential point is that the Autoimmune Protocol is a temporary elimination diet—not a lifetime dietary pattern. This means that you will only follow the guidelines of this protocol for a specified amount of time, approximately 30 to 90 days. After this time, you will slowly and intentionally reintroduce the foods you eliminated to monitor your reaction and ascertain if the food is problematic for you or not.
Make a list and go shopping
More than likely, you'll need to change your dietary and shopping patterns to be successful with the AIP diet. So make a list based on AIP-approved recipes or foods you'd like to try and take it with you on your pre-scheduled shopping dates. Again, this tangible creation allows you to follow directions rather than succumb to getting overwhelmed or over-scheduling. Oh, and don't forget to pick up glass storage containers if you need them!
The Paloma Health mobile app offers a step-by-step guide to following the AIP diet. It includes over 75 self-paced learning modules to help you adopt a thyroid-healthy lifestyle, including modules about kitchen cleanout, grocery shopping, and meal prep.
Fall in love with your freezer
Now you're ready to food prep! Put on your favorite music or make a phone date with a friend and get to cooking. Here's the secret: make more, maybe much more than you'll eat in one sitting. Why? You can freeze it!
Making meals in advance can help to lessen stress and mealtime decision fatigue. Of course, you don't have to plan out every meal and snack, but having a rough plan can help you stay on course.
Some tips for meal planning:
- Start by just planning and prepping dinner meals for the week. Then, as you get comfortable with that level of preparation, add on lunch prep and/or breakfast prep. Write your meals down on a calendar to help you follow through.
- Repurpose ingredients for multiple meals. For example, you can use one type of meat all week long--in tacos, a breakfast hash, or over veggie noodles.
- Try pre-prepared, AIP-compliant meals from Paleo On The Go, who deliver delicious, AIP-compliant entrees, as well as broths, sauces, and desserts, directly to your door.
Prep snack and breakfasts
The most challenging meal to maintain the Autoimmune Protocol is breakfast, with snacks as a close second. These are generally hurried, hungry times that may drive us to grab foods outside of the diet. So, plan ahead. As you're meal prepping, be sure to create yummy snacks, breakfasts, or even drinks such as sun tea or agua fresca to avoid this common pitfall.
Some tips for snack planning:
- Prep what you can ahead of time for easy "grab-n-go" snacks. For instance, wash, cut, and store your fruits and vegetables as soon as you're home from the store.
- Keep a list of your go-to favorites so that if you're not feeling inspired, you have a list of favorite healthy meals and snacks to reference.
- Keep an AIP-staples grocery list on hand, so you can create a meal or snack without second-guessing what is or is not allowed during the elimination phase.
Focus on your favorites
Pleasure is sustainable. Find AIP-based recipes that feature the food you love! Or, experiment with creating these recipes on your own. Here are some of our favorites at Paleo On The Go:
Chicken Burrito Bowl
Cook up the individual ingredients ahead of time to enjoy this AIP-compliant burrito bowl or salad the next day as an easy meal.
Paleo Chicken and Dumplings
This recipe freezes well, so make a big batch to store leftovers for when you don't feel like cooking but still want some AIP-compliant nutritious goodness.
Spinach Salad With Seared Salmon
Earthy roasted beets, crunchy fresh cucumbers, and savory salmon make the perfect combo for a delicious spring or summer meal.