The AIP Diet for Fertility and Preconception 

The food we eat daily is information to our body and dramatically impacts all body processes, including fertility.

If you want to improve your health or autoimmunity before conception, the AIP (AutoImmune Protocol) diet may be one strategy to consider.

AIP is an autoimmune version of the Paleo diet that can be used as an elimination diet to identify foods that are inflammatory or not tolerated by an individual.

By removing these triggers, inflammation becomes more balanced, which can improve fertility. 

Keep reading to learn more about:

  • The connections between autoimmunity and fertility
  • What the AIP diet is, and how it supports immunity and fertility
  • How to use the AIP diet as a preconception diet
  • Delicious AIP recipes to get you started

Autoimmunity and Fertility

There is a clear connection between the immune system and fertility.

Supporting immune resilience during the preconception time is a Functional Medicine focus in preparing the body for pregnancy. 

Autoimmune disease affects more women than men and may be a factor for both men and women to explore in those with fertility challenges.

Auto-antibodies, antibodies to your own tissue, are associated with fertility challenges.

In addition, autoimmunity affects egg health, sperm quality, implantation, and pregnancy loss. 

In polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which affects fertility, women have higher rates of autoantibodies, including those to the thyroid gland. 

Autoimmune disease drives inflammation, as does diet, obesity, and other factors. Inflammation affects fertility hormones, as well as egg and sperm quality. 

Diet is one of the most profound tools for supporting immune balance, fertility, and reducing inflammation. 

What is the AIP Diet? 

The Autoimmune Protocol Diet, also sometimes referred to as Autoimmune Paleo or AIP, is a modified Paleo diet.

The Paleo diet is modeled after a traditional ancestral diet. This way of eating supports general health and epigenetic expression and offers many health and immune benefits

AIP is specifically designed for those with autoimmunity. It can also be used to prepare the body for pregnancy and in cases of fertility challenges.

The Every Life Well Paleo Protocol focuses on whole foods, including:

  • Grass-fed and regenerative meat 
  • Pasture-raised poultry and eggs
  • Wild game
  • Wild fish and seafood
  • Diverse and colorful vegetables
  • Organic fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive and coconut oils
  • Minimal natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup

The Paleo diet eliminates:

  • Grains, including gluten-containing grains and corn
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes, including soy
  • Processed foods
  • Refined sugars
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial colors, flavors, and additives

Essentially, the Paleo diet eliminates processed foods in favor of fresh, home-cooked options using quality ingredients. 

The AIP diet is based on these Paleo guidelines and also eliminates:

  • Eggs
  • Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes)
  • Nuts and seeds, this includes spices that are seeds like cumin, fennel, and black pepper

The AIP diet is nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and removes common food allergens and anti-nutrients that impact immunity. 

In research, the AIP diet showed symptom improvement and a 29% decrease in inflammation in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 10 weeks.

Another study using the Wahl’s protocol, which is similar to AIP, showed improved fatigue and other symptoms in those with multiple sclerosis. 

Tips for Using AIP as a Preconception Diet

1. View AIP as an elimination diet, not a forever diet. Follow AIP guidelines for four to six weeks as an opportunity to reset digestion, reduce inflammation, and tune in to how your body feels eating only nutrient-rich whole foods. Some people benefit from continuing AIP for 6-9 months.

2. Focus on AIP-friendly fertility foods. When embarking on a nutrition plan, we get caught up and stuck on all the things we can’t eat. Instead, focus on what you can eat. Many AIP foods are also fertility superfoods. (link to preconception nutrition article) These include:

  • Liver and organ meat
  • Shellfish like oysters and clams
  • Fatty fish like wild salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • Red meat, including grass-fed beef, lamb, and bison
  • Dark leafy green veggies, such as collard greens, spinach, kale, and arugula
  • Healthy fats, including avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil
  • Fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and kimchi 
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts

3. Reintroduce foods one at a time. After the initial four-to-six-week elimination period, you may introduce eggs, nightshade vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Introduce them one at a time and observe any reaction in your body. If well tolerated, include these foods in the diet for fertility support. Eggs are a wonderful source of choline (link to choline article) and seeds offer hormone-supportive essential fats. 

4. Read labels. Eating foods without labels is ideal; however, there are growing Paleo and AIP options on supermarket shelves. Be sure to read labels to make sure each choice fits your plan. For example, a store-bought bone broth may contain tomatoes or seed spices like black pepper. You might need to find a plain broth or make your own during the initial AIP phase. 

5. Make sure you are eating enough food and enough carbs. It may be easier to undereat on an AIP plan compared to a more expansive diet because you aren’t sure what to eat or haven’t planned. 

Undereating creates stress that affects fertility. In addition, going too low in carbohydrates could affect your cycle and ovulation. With grains and beans off the table, turn to starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, winter squash, cassava, and plantains as well as fruit as carb sources. Include these several times each day. 

6. Get personalized care. If you are having trouble with fertility or desire to optimize fertility before trying to conceive, AIP may be one tool in the toolkit for support. However, there are many other areas to explore, including hormone levels, nutrient deficiencies, and hidden infections. Work with a Functional Medicine provider for individual guidance.

AIP Recipes

Having a plan about what you will eat, meal ideas and quick options will take you far, especially when you are hungry. Make AIP options ahead of time so you always have a meal ready to go.

Here are some Dr. Shippy-approved Paleo recipes that work on the AIP plan. Note that some of these recipes require minor tweaks to be AIP-compliant.

Main Dishes

Tilapia Fish Taco Bowls (omit paprika and black pepper)

Paleo Meatballs with Carrot Puree (omit black pepper)

Chimichurri Steak (omit red and black pepper)

Paleo Chicken Salad (use an egg-free mayo made with avocado or olive oil, or substitute mashed avocado)

Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (omit sesame seeds)

Ginger Garlic Baked Salmon (omit sesame seeds)

Garlic Lemon Salmon (omit black pepper)

Steak and Mushroom Soup (omit black pepper)

Paleo Ramen with Zucchini Noodles (omit black pepper and eggs, add extra protein)

Baked Cauliflower and Chicken (omit paprika and black pepper)

Paleo Broccoli and Beef (omit red and black pepper)

Cranberry Roasted Chicken (omit black pepper)

Perfect Roasted Pork Tenderloin (omit black pepper)

Salmon Lettuce Wraps (omit black pepper)

Bison Butternut Dinner 

Creamy Cauliflower and Ham Soup (omit black pepper)

 

Veggies and Sides 

Broccoli Butternut Squash Soup (omit black pepper)

Dill Cucumber Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (omit black pepper)

Creamy Cauliflower Soup (omit black pepper)

Mushroom Cauliflower Side Dish (omit black pepper)

Cruciferous Coleslaw (omit mustard and black pepper)

Stuffed Mushrooms with Avocado and Bacon (omit red pepper flakes)

Wild Mushroom Caramelized Onion and Kale Soup

Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower Steaks (omit black pepper and paprika)

Autumn Harvest Salad (omit poppy seeds)

Pan Fried Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Paleo Bacon 

Asparagus Cauliflower Soup (omit black pepper)

Carrot Ginger Soup (omit black pepper)

 

Smoothies and Beverages

Antioxidant Berry Smoothie (make with coconut milk or water instead of nut milk)

Green Apple Detox Smoothie

Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie (use coconut milk)

Blended Cucumber Watermelon Lemonade

Watermelon Lime Slush

AIP Desserts

Dairy-Free Peach Ice Cream

Carrot Turmeric Citrus Chews (omit black pepper)

Homemade Applesauce 

 

The AIP diet is an anti-inflammatory approach to autoimmune disease and fertility.

It’s a low-risk tool that can be used before pregnancy along with other preconception lifestyle interventions and supplements. It does take some careful planning to implement the AIP diet, so be sure to make a plan and get support. 

 

References

  1. Infertility in women with systemic autoimmune diseases
  2. The autoimmune bases of infertility and pregnancy loss
  3. The relationship between thyroiditis and polycystic ovary syndrome: a meta-analysis – PMC
  4. Obesity induces ovarian inflammation and reduces oocyte quality
  5. Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet as Part of a Multi-disciplinary, Supported Lifestyle Intervention for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  6. Impact of the Swank and Wahls elimination dietary interventions on fatigue and quality of life in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: The WAVES randomized parallel-arm clinical trial – PMC