What is AIP? Part 2: Lifestyle

In Part 1 of “What is AIP?” we covered the dietary aspects of the AutoImmune Protocol, but this “diet” is more than a diet—it’s a lifestyle. However, the four lifestyle factors and habits described below can benefit anyone—whether you have an autoimmune disease or not.

A diet without corresponding changes in lifestyle is usually doomed to failure. We don’t live our lives in a vacuum, so no matter how meticulously we watch what goes into our mouth, there are other factors that affect how our bodies operate—whether that be at peak performance or rock bottom.

1. Mealtime

A diet is more than what you eat. You also have to think about how you eat. You already know that it’s important to eat when hungry and not out of boredom. In that same vein, eating should be done mindfully—sitting down, chewing thoroughly, without rushing—rather than hurriedly eating on the go, standing up, or mindlessly snacking in front of a screen. Eating should be deliberate and enjoyable!

2. Sleep

We’ve all heard the statistics that most adults in America do not get adequate sleep each night. If you have little ones (especially those that aren’t sleeping through the night yet), you probably are part of that statistic. If you have an autoimmune disease that you are trying to heal from, it is likely that you need even more than the standard “8 hours of sleep” per night.

If falling asleep and staying asleep are problems for you, then you need to focus on re-aligning your circadian rhythms. This is usually accomplished by proper light exposure.

  • During the Day—Light in the morning is more blue, and it’s that blue light that helps wake your body up. Getting some sun exposure in the morning can get your circadian rhythm off to a good start. Although, any sun exposure that you can get during the day will be beneficial to aligning your body’s circadian rhythm.
  • In the Evening—As night comes, the color of the light from the sun shifts away from the blue end of the spectrum to the red/orange side. This change signals your body to feel tired and fall asleep. However, with the advent of indoor lights, our bodies can be exposed to blue lights 24 hours a day. To remedy this, dim your lights in the evening, and/or install blue-blocking filters on your computer, android systems, or jailbroken iOS systems. You can also get amber glasses that block the blue light. You may look a little silly, but you won’t be laughing when your sleep length and quality increases.
  • At Night—When you sleep, be sure that your room is as dark as possible—no blue lights from any night lights or that flashing smartphone on your nightstand. Maintain a comfortable, slightly cool room temperature; wear what is comfortable to sleep in, and turn on a fan or buy a white noise simulator to help you sleep better.

3. Activity

Exercise releases endorphins, improving mood and reducing stress. There is no specific type of exercise that a person must do. Low to moderate intensity exercise that you find enjoyable is the way to go—whether that be calisthenics, yoga, swimming, dancing, or sports. If you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to stick with it, and have fun along the way. (Why You May Need to Exercise Less applies even more to those of us trying to heal from autoimmune damage or disease.)

4. Stress

There are probably very few people in today’s world who do NOT live with excess stress. Pulled in a thousand different directions in a fast-paced, high-pressure society, reducing stress can be difficult, requiring persistent efforts and re-prioritizing to keep stress levels manageable. Here are a few tips to get you started on reducing your stress level.


Meditation, whether active (like yoga or tai chi) or still, mindful breathing dramatically reduces stress levels. Even just five to fifteen minutes of meditation can be helpful. Still too much time? A few deep breaths while clearing your head can be a great re-start when stress levels climb.


As mentioned above, exercise is a great stress reliever. A quick walk around the office floor, at a nearby park, or on your street will do wonders to decrease stress.

Connect with Nature

Whether you live near water, forests, mountains, or prairies, exposure to nature has positive effects on our psyche. There is quiet and serenity in nature. The white noise of whirring computers and clicking keyboards transforms to peaceful chirping birds or rhythmic rolling waves. Just looking at, watching, or listening to nature can bring about feelings of awe and calm.

Have Fun

Laughter is the best medicine. Break out of the daily grind by doing something fun! Whether that is exploring nature, reading a book, being silly with your kids, or watching a funny show, laughing and smiling not only improves your mood, but also reduces stress. A win-win!

Ask for Help

Admit it. You can’t do it all. When life is stressful and overwhelming, find a person (or several) to help share the burden. Especially if you have an autoimmune disease that already leaves you fatigued, asking for help while implementing dietary changes and lifestyle changes is a must. Once your body starts healing, you’ll be able to do more for yourself as you feel better and have more energy, health, and vitality.

Implementing these changes for the Autoimmune Protocol makes a world of difference for someone diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, but provides benefits to anyone who applies them. If you want more of the nitty-gritty science details behind the AIP diet and lifestyle, be sure to check out The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne.

Have an autoimmune disease? Learn more about the Autoimmune Protocol in What is AIP? Part 1: Diet.

Photo Credits: Dani and Stefani

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Stefani was raised in California; with her husband hailing from South Carolina, they've settled in the middle and are now raising three Texans. She loves classical homeschooling, great books, period dramas, modifying recipes, simple living, deep thinking, and cuddling up with her family to watch silly YouTube videos.

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