If you are starting to read or research about the AIP diet or AutoImmune Protocol you know it is a diet that is meant to bring down your inflammation. By eliminating food items such as dairy, gluten, sugar, soy, processed foods, nightshades, legumes, nuts and seeds, AIP rebuilds your gut, balances your hormones and gives you a nutrient dense diet to combat inflammation. If you are a vegetarian or vegan that pretty much cuts out half your food options. So the question then is: Is the AIP diet for vegetarians or vegans doable?
Can I follow the AIP Diet for Vegetarians and Vegans…Sure.
The answer is not in its “traditional” form. So, in that case, the AIP diet for a vegetarian or vegan will follow the same principles of healing but will be more specific to the person, which is YOU! I will also provide a video below of someone who healed their alopecia areata with a veggie-based inflammation diet so don’t you worry!
*Guess what else? Vegetarian and Vegan AIP is the same AIP since there is no dairy consuming going on over here:)
The short answer to the long ongoing argument for vegetarian/vegan AIP or traditional AIP is:
Two words folks, Amino acids. The main reason why people think vegetarians or vegans can’t do the AIP diet or AutoImmune Protocol for Alopecia or any other Autoimmune disease comes down to amino acids.
Amino acids are the foreman in building our cells, specifically our white blood cells. If you have alopecia areata or most other autoimmune issues your white blood cells have gone rogue and are all mixed up with the wrong people- themselves!
Amino acids primarily come from meat and seafood sources.
The other arguments concern protein sources (eating too much soy), omega’s, bone broth, and vitamin deficiencies. I have all that covered that follow the principles of autoimmune healing that let you in on the autoimmune healing fun.
There are Two Phases on the AIP Diet for Vegetarians.
Like Traditional AIP there are two phases meant to bring down your inflammation, rebuild your gut, address any food allergies, and balance your hormones. Elimination and Reintroduction. On the elimination phase, you remove foods that could potentially contribute to leaky gut, allergies, and inflammation. After a minimum of a month (for most it’s longer) you slowly and carefully work back in foods to test if they will produce a reaction.
Phase 1 Elimination:
No Nightshade Vegetables or Spices
This is the most important elimination in my opinion. Nightshades can mimic the inflammatory responses you are already having as well as increasing your gut permeability.
This means no tomatoes, potatoes, chilis of any kind, peppers of any kind, tomatillos, Ashwagandha, Gooseberries, Capsicums, Curry Powder, Garam Masala, Goji Berries, Okra, Paprika
Sarah Ballantyne of Paleo Mom explains why cutting nightshades are super important.
This may be a bit harder as this is a frequently enjoyed food item for vegetarians. You may have a lactose intolerance or other allergies to dairy proteins and enzymes you may not even be aware of..yet. Best to cut out initially for the month, you can always work back in small amounts at a later time after your system is more balanced.
I had no issue with Ghee and I noticed a lot of folks do not cut this out of their diet. Also FYI goat or sheep dairy is usually less reactive than cow dairy.
No Gluten or Grains
No gluten, no bread, no wheat, no grains, no oats, no millet. With improper preparation methods, products containing these have been known to upset the gut and interfere with your digestive system balance. It also takes up valuable nutrient space that should be filled with nutrient dense veggies.
*A note on rice- I reintroduced rice after the first month on AIP and had no issues. On my second round, I ate white rice from the start and saw autoimmune improvement and hair growth. Black, wild, and white rice, I personally think are fine in moderation but brown I am not a fan as I notice it is super rough on the digestion. If that’s not the case for you then enjoy!
Added sugars cause inflammation. These means no fake, alternative or manufactured sugars. No alternative sweetness like xylitol, stevia (even though it is made from a leaf), mannitol, aspartame, ace sulfate potassium, erythritol, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, etc.
Caffeine and Alcohol
No Sodas, caffeinated drinks, energy drinks etc. Limit coffee and caffeinated tea’s if possible. The point is to calm your system not send your adrenal glands into action!
Alcohol also produces acidity, causes leaky gut, and inflammation. You can cook with wine but take a break for now.
No NSAIDs or Preservatives
Preservatives you guys probably don’t eat a bunch of, but definitely stay away from those as they will mess with your digestive areas. Check the label for carrageenan and guar gum, they are a no go ingredient.
Common everyday types of NSAIDs are Naproxen Sodium, Aspirin, Celebrex, Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc. Here’s where depending on the severity of your autoimmune outbreak or health status I tell you I am not a Doctor and to contact accordingly.
*Also if you are taking these for pain management, by all means, do what is right for you.
NO Processed or Fried Foods
Unlikely if you are a vegetarian or vegan! Good job people!
Grey Areas of the AIP Diet for Vegetarians.
Here is where the traditional AIP diet starts to look a little grey as we modify for Vegetarians and Vegans. On traditional AIP during the Elimination phase nuts, seeds, and legumes aren’t allowed.
However, this is where we focus on common sense, the principles of healing and what’s best for YOU!
The parts of the world with the longest and most healthy lifestyles all have diets rich in seeds, nuts, and legumes, so that’s interesting. Initially, I would, and did, limit legumes, seeds, and nuts so my body had access to more vegetables. BUT if that’s not an option here’s what I think you could do:
Make sure it is high-quality NON GMO and Organic. Eat in moderation and NOT at every meal. Soy can be known to throw off your hormones and AIP is meant to balance them.
I would definitely limit if not temporarily avoid lentils. I know vegetarians and vegans LOVE them but they can be rough on the digestive areas. If there is no way around them then make sure they are thoroughly cooked, like any other legume going forward.
Beans are where I start to go grey as well because after my reintroducing on my first round of AIP I had no issues, and on my second round of AIP I also ate them here and there. Some people talk about the phytic acids, the lectins, being an antinutrient, etc.
Here’s my take- cultures all over the world have survived and flourished eating legumes so in my opinion, they are a okay. What I would do though is eat them before or after you are eating you nutrient dense veggies to make sure your body has adequate time to absorb the good stuff.
I eat them but I do limit to small quantities and make sure my plate is vegetable-centric.
Seeds and Nuts
Quinoa is a seed that I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans enjoy for its protein content, but I personally think quinoa is too tough on your digestion. It can actually scratch your digestive lining because it’s so rough and tough. If you must eat this- limited quantities.
If you rely on seeds and nuts make sure you are getting the most out of them! Almonds, cashews, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, are better options than peanuts. Use moderation with these as well, but for some, they may have no negative effect. (Remember the point of eliminating or limiting is to discover what does affect your system.)
What CAN I Eat On Vegetarian AIP?
Okay, here we go! Tos of nutrient-dense foods. Really it is about loading up on the vegetables and for vegetarians temporarily modifying or limiting seeds, nuts, and legumes. When grocery shopping, stick to a color guide. Buy green, orange and purple and you will surely be eating your nutrient-dense vegetables.
Salad Greens, spinach, kale, lettuce, asparagus…
Beets, carrots, olives….
Mushrooms, parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash, yucca, root vegetables…
Sulphuric veggies -onions, garlic, cauliflower…
Apples, bananas, plantains, avocado, grapes, lemons, limes, watermelon, mango, pineapple, guava, mamey, tamarind, dates etc.
Fruit should be consumed in moderation so you aren’t flooding your system with sugar (albeit natural) and thereby increasing inflammation.
*Although bananas and plantains are the exceptions as they provide good starches and have beneficial probiotics. Many cultures eat bananas with every meal to aid digestion.
Coconut, Olive, Avocado oils are the best. Limit seed oils or use in moderation initially.
Herbs and Spices
This is a great way to add flavor and nutritious goodies. Parsley, oregano, thyme, Himalayan sea salt, saffron, sage, etc. Stay away from nightshade based spices. Black pepper is okay though.
While you are working on giving your gut and digestive areas a little extra love, stewed and cooked veggies are the way to go. They are easier to digest and will give your body a little break from digestively working over time.
AIP Diet for Vegetarian Must-Haves
It’s important to make sure you are getting the most out of your food. Certain vitamins are super important to your overall healing and while you may not want or be able to get them from meat or dairy sources, we can surely find you an adequate replacement and vegetable based source.
As discussed above these are a game changer while following AIP. Luckily you can find amino acids in plant sources as well. Watercress tops the list with spirulina following but I would temporarily avoid spirulina so we can keep your system nice and relaxed. Pumpkin, leafy greens, hemp and chia seeds are also good sources.
Braggs also makes a coconut aminos all-purpose seasoning. You can definitely get at Whole Foods and some health food stores, or you can order online.
Omega 3 fatty acids
These are incredibly important to your gut healing! I get mine from fish sources, which you obviously won’t so here is where we enter another grey area when following the AIP diet for vegetarians. Even though traditional AIP says no seeds, we say seeds limit seeds initially, and then enjoy in moderation- you need your omega 3’s.
We want to focus on Omega 3’s and not 6’s. Omega 6’s can cause inflammation. The best vegetarian resource will be flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, mango (has more 3 than 6), and leafy greens.
*Seaweed has a substantial amount of omega’s but in my opinion, I would take a break from consuming because seaweed interacts with the glands. Normally this can be good for thyroid health. However, right now while you are calming and rebalance your system and glands I would make sure to monitor your intake so you don’t get yourself out of whack by consuming too much.
Yes, there are vegetarian probiotics and they do the job! Any sort of fermented vegetable will work but if you want (and should) stay consistent go ahead and pick up probiotics at your local health food store. I use MegaFood Mega Flora plus………………………….and I’m an immune system balancing fan.
I mean can I buy stock in Slippery Elm Bark? Slippery Elm Bark has a number of benefits and favorable effects but mostly in coating your digestive lining to prevent toxins from leaking out. I take this every day!
For alopecia, I drank a ton of dandelion tea to help flush my system and aid my digestive health. My mother who had Psoriasis drank a lot of saffron tea which is great for any sort of skin health issues. It’s great for cleansing the digestion as well and support intestinal lining.
I did this diet the traditional AIP way, see my journey in pictures here.
I found a few folks online who went the plant-based way and had success.
This wonderful guy, Nicolas Huart healed is alopecia areata on a plant based diet.
Venus Williams went vegan to assist healing her autoimmune condition as well. She’s not AIP based, but just to give you more info about the success of nonmeat autoimmune dieting options.
If you are thinking about eating meat again here are some community perspectives about folks who went back to meat for health reasons of their own. Again darlings, you have to do what’s right for you, your body, and your beliefs. No judgement coming from GreenBananaGirl:)
Follow What Makes Sense for YOU.
*Again please note this is not the traditional AIP diet but a way for vegetarians and vegans to use the principles of AIP to hopefully aid in their healing success. This post is about making something accessible to you for your lifestyle choice. It’s about what works for you. I have not tried this specific variation ( I ate all the meats) so I cannot confirm nor deny the success rate, but I did find the gentleman above who had his own success (not necessarily following this exact modification).
When you understand the point of this diet is to calm the body and put it back in balance by giving it access to higher nutritious foods, it’s good news for vegetarians and vegans because that means a large part of this is centered around veggies.
Of course, you still need your protein sources so as I said pay very close attention to your body. Best to limit for the first month and then take stock going forward.
Keep me posted on your success in the comment section below so we can help other vegetarians and vegans who were looking for the same information you were looking for before you found GreenBananaGirl!
To read more about how you can be successful check out My No-Fail Tips for Being Successful On the AIP Diet.
Need a vegetarian AIP recipe to get you inspired? Check out Purple Nomato Cabbage Rolls. *Scroll to the bottom of the recipe post for the vegetarian option.