Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

How a Nightshade Free Diet Can Change Your Life

How a Nightshade Free Diet Can Change Your Life

Removing Nightshade foods from your diet is an important component of starting AIP (auto-immune protocol) and healing your gut.

Having a chronic, invisible illness is frustrating and isolating. You want to get to the bottom of it; for someone to be able to just tell you what’s wrong. You feel alone and hungry, afraid to eat.

But, there are over 50 million Americans living with an autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 confirmed autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Although these diseases have a genetic component, medical advice is beginning to recognize environment, diet, and lifestyle factors as well. A great first step on your new health journey is to eliminate nightshades as part of the autoimmune paleo diet.


So...what is it?

What the heck is a nightshade? Nightshades are a botanical family of plants, also known as Solanaceae. There are more than 2,000 plant species in the nightshade family! Most of them are highly inedible, and many are even poisonous (such as jimsonweed). Did you know that even tobacco is a nightshade?

Dr. Sarah Ballantyne at The Paleo Mom has done a ton of research on the impact of nightshades on your health and has put together a full list of nightshades.

It’s important to note that many nightshades you’re unlikely to encounter in your daily life. But, there are some heavy hitters that you’ll find in tons of foods and snacks, including bell peppers, eggplant, Goji berries, hot peppers (like chili peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, chili-based sauces, red pepper, or cayenne), paprika, pimentos, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), tomatillos, and tomatoes.

Nightshade vegetables can feel impossible to avoid! There are hundreds of different varieties of nightshades; think of how many varieties of potatoes are at the grocery store! If a product lists “spices” in its ingredients, there’s a good chance paprika will be included.

Avoiding inflammation and leaky gut

Why does eating too many nightshades make you feel bad? It’s all about the science! Nightshades contain lectins and saponins, which cause inflammation. There are certain lectins that can cause an increase in intestinal permeability by resisting digestion, being heat resilient, and negatively interacting with proteins in the membrane of the cells that line the intestine. If that wasn’t enough science for you, saponins also contain adjuvants, chemicals that stimulate and exaggerate an immune response.

They rev up the immune response to proteins leaking out of the gut, which ultimately increases the likelihood of developing an antibody that mistakenly attacks normal proteins. This is how autoimmune diseases begin. Chili peppers, in particular, contain capsaicin, a steroidal stimulant that gives chilis their heat but also can potentially irritate skin, eyes, and mucous membranes and increase intestinal permeability.

If you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms, you might be sensitive to nightshades: irritable bowels, diarrhea, heartburn, nerve problems, joint pain or swelling, arthritis, acid reflux, heartburn, itching, leaky gut, autoimmunity or other chronic conditions. If you’re experiencing trouble breathing or mouth swelling, you should absolutely consult with a medical professional immediately. Working with a medical professional to figure out an individual plan is, of course, always recommended.

AIP Diet (auto-immune protocol)

One of the best ways to eliminate nightshades from your diet is through the autoimmune protocol, or AIP. AIP is a long term elimination diet strategy, which focuses on both food and lifestyle. Eliminating nightshades can help to reduce inflammation for many people.

The autoimmune paleo diet can be divided into 6 primary categories: vegetables (such as arugula, cauliflower, or kale), herbs and spices (like basil, cilantro, or turmeric), fruits (such as apple, mango, or plum), proteins, healthy fats, and pantry staples. The AIP diet recommends up to 9 servings of vegetables a day! It’s best to not overdo fruit, and to stay at about 2 servings per day. Fruit is fiber-rich, and may even contain antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage.

High-quality animal protein is a great vehicle for minerals, healthy fats, and energy! Look for grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild-caught protein when possible to ensure they are compliant. Healthy fats also have a ton of great health benefits, like regulating the inflammation process in your body, acting as a carrier for nutrients, and allowing us to stay satiated. AIP compliant healthy fats can include avocado oil, beef tallow, chicken fat, coconut oil, olive oil, or palm oil.

You might feel nervous about ensuring that you’re still eating enough nutrient dense foods, or getting enough protein. Not to worry! Two foods heralded by many on the AIP, that can be the backstop of an exciting new food life, are bone broth and organ meats. Bone broth is super clean, with collagen and gelatin to support your intestinal lining as it heals. Yes, it sounds incredibly boring, I know!  But, adding bone broth in during the evening when you are winding down can feel really warming and soothing. Plus, the nutrients have the added bonus of encouraging healthy hair growth, skin elasticity, and strong nails.

Bone broth is also incredibly easy to digest for those with gut issues, and has been eaten for thousands of years! It’s real food, made with real ingredients that your grandma would know. Also, anything for glowy skin and gut health, am I right?

Organ meats can encompass a huge range of proteins, like liver, kidney, tripe, heart, or even brain! Organ meats are the most concentrated source of vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K; minerals like iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc; and all 9 essential amino acids your body needs to function effectively. Organ meats also have some of the highest concentrations of naturally occurring vitamin D of any food source!  

It was not that long ago that organ meat was a common dinner across the world, especially liver. Organ meat can be very cheap compared to muscle meat! Liver, in particular, is a very concentrated source of vitamin A. It’s also an important source of vitamin D, B12, copper, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and iron (in an easily absorbable form). If you’re still disgusted by the idea of eating organ meats, you’re not alone! Try liver pills for the benefits of liver in a more conventional form.

Make a plan

When I’m trying to implement a new habit, I need to have a specific, day-by-day plan to ensure my success. Luckily, lots of very smart people have spent a lot of time creating, compiling, and researching best practices on how to eliminate nightshades. You can find full meal plans for your busy life!

Breakfast can be difficult to accommodate on the AIP, without any grains or eggs. Keep it savory must of the time to keep you full and satisfied, and don’t be afraid to incorporate “leftovers” into the most important meal of the day!

Everyone loves sandwiches, and you don’t have to worry about losing those once you’re following the AIP! Try using lettuce instead of buns, or coconut wraps! The final food hole that you need to fill is: what snacks are you going to bring on your next adventure? Is there anything you can throw in your bag, without having to meal prep for hours the night before? Not to worry! The world of AIP snacks has expanded greatly in recent years; I’m partial to our Mediterranean Lamb bars!

Scientists and other researchers are studying whether avoiding nightshades has a measurable health impact. There have been 3 major studies, each expanding on the next to create a fuller picture. A 2012 study found that bacterial growth in the gut might be linked to inflammatory and autoimmune disease. In 2014, a study showed that gut wall inflammation can affect how well the gut wall functions and that food allergies can make the gut wall more porous, causing leaky gut! In 2017, the first major study focused on AIP effectiveness found that eliminating certain foods as part of the AIP diet can improve symptoms of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). There has also been a growing interest in how the AIP can help those with rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re interested, try keeping a food diary for a week to track how often you eat nightshades. This will help you observe trends and connect symptoms to certain foods.  Some of our favorite resources for AIP and nightshade avoidance are Sarah at @thepaleomom, Tracy @wholedailylife, and Michele @thrivingonpaleo.

Give Your Veggies A Glow-Up With These AIP Paleo Recipes

Give Your Veggies A Glow-Up With These AIP Paleo Recipes

Vegetables are the key to nutrient-dense, elimination diets like the Paleo and AIP diet.  Here are some recipes to give more life to our fibrous friends.


Lemon Rosemary Cranberry Brussels Sprout Recipe

Brussels sprouts are a multi-tasking vegetable packed with nutritional benefits! If they aren’t in your diet because you have sour childhood memories of boiled brussels sprouts (me), it’s time to change your tune! This recipe will help you achieve that crispy, restaurant-style sprout at home.

These Lemon Rosemary Cranberry Brussels Sprouts are a perfect spring-time vegetable. They are citrusy and herbaceous with a touch of sweetness from the dried cranberries.  I love to incorporate them into my weekly meal plan routine because they are rich in fiber that regulates gut health and digestion, high in vitamin C which helps your body absorb iron and boost immune function, and are packed with your full daily recommendation of vitamin K, which improves bone health.

Time Required: 1 hour

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40-45 Minutes

Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, AIP Friendly, Paleo Friendly, Nut-Free

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½-¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 medium lemon
  • Sea salt ½ Tbsp + extra to taste
  • Wild Zora Mediterranean Lamb Bar

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. Cut all of your brussels sprout bulbs in half and lay them out on a sheet pan. Press them with a paper towel and sprinkle ½ Tbsp sea salt over them in order to draw out moisture.  Let them rest there for 10 minutes while your oven preheats. This will dry them out and lead to those crispy leaves you are looking for!
  3. Place the sprouts in the oven on the middle-rack and let them bake for 10 minutes.  Open the oven, shake the pan or use a wood spoon to turn over the sprouts. Bake another 5 minutes. The leaves should be browning and the sprouts will develop light golden brown color.
  4. While the sprouts are in the oven, dice the garlic and pull the rosemary needles off of the sprig and chop roughly.
  5. Take the pan out, and turn the oven down to 400°.
  6. Place the sprouts in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil, garlic, and half of the rosemary. Mix everything together, and spread the sprouts back in the pan.
  7. Bake for another 30 minutes. While the sprouts are baking, chop the Mediterranean Lamb Bar into small pieces.
  8. Pull the sprouts out and give the pan a good (and careful) shake so that you can get an even bake.
  9. Sprinkle the chopped lamb bars and the rest of the rosemary over the sprouts and add the juice from half a lemon over the top. Place the sprouts back in the oven for the last 10-15 minutes.
  10. Pull the sprouts out for the last time (phew!) and add the cranberries.  Taste the sprouts and add more lemon and sea salt to your preference!
  11. Enjoy!

I oftentimes pair these with roasted chicken breasts or seared lamb chops! The kids love them and your gut will thank you.


Other AIP recipes to make your veggies delicious…

Michelle from Unbound Wellness provides so many Paleo, AIP and Whole 30 recipes that are highly creative and incredibly easy to achieve! Her Hashimoto's diagnosis has led to such empathetic and practical knowledge that makes her recipe content as educational as it is delicious. She makes me feel like a chef on a regular basis.

My favorite veggie recipe? Her Turmeric Cauliflower Risotto! She walks you through the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and even teaches you to make your own bone broth.  It’s a must-try!

I go to Angie from Autoimmune Wellness (I know I always talk about them, but they’re the experts) for recipes every time I’m in a cooking funk. Her recipes are incredibly well-balanced and thoughtfully put together.  


I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: salads do not generally excite me. A bowl of greens, while great for me, often leaves me wanting more.  This Beet and Blueberry Chop Salad is a very tasty exception! The golden beets prepared in this way are perfect.  They are not overwhelmingly earthy as they sometimes can be in their raw state, and paired with the tart blueberry and slightly sweet balsamic dressing, they are beautiful. I’m gushing, can you tell?

Biohack U puts out tons of innovative AIP and low-fodmap recipes like this Rhubarb Ginger-glazed Bok Choy with Bacon.  They often force me to branch out and try cooking things I haven’t tried before. This bok choy is savory and deeply satisfying, plus it really impresses at a dinner party!


Need more information about the AIP Diet?

In case you are new to the term Autoimmune Paleo Protocol Diet (AIP), it is a slightly more restrictive version of the Paleo diet. Along with the foods you cannot eat on the Paleo diet, AIP eliminates nightshades, alcohol, eggs, nuts, and seeds.  These foods have nutritional benefits and are not harmful to everyone. But for some, eliminating them from their diet reduces inflammation, supports more prosperous gut health (no more leaky gut), and helps combat the frustrating, chronic effects of autoimmune diseases.

Once your body has adjusted to the much more limited food selection and you feel better, you can slowly reintroduce foods. The process will give you a greater understanding of what triggers your own immune system. For more information on this, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne from The Paleo Mom provides detailed, step-by-step information about the AIP diet (like the graphic to the right).

So whether you follow the AIP or Paleo diet, these recipes are safe for you.

8 Easy AIP Snacks to Fight Food Boredom

8 Easy AIP Snacks to Fight Food Boredom

The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP diet) has proven to be healing for those dealing with serious inflammation and gut irritation. The hardest part: finding delicious, AIP friendly snacks that can keep you on the right track towards relief. Here is our curated list of AIP snack ideas we tested and loved.

When you're craving snacks...

Having autoimmune disease can really shift your perspective on snacking.  It was easy for me to feel negatively towards all snacking food because of the way that conventional snacks used to make me feel, which was terrible.  However, you can enjoy homemade treats on AIP while still promoting gut healing. Plus, snacks are good for the soul.

It wouldn’t be right to give you snack ideas and not include something wrapped in bacon.  These Bacon Wrapped Peaches are perfectly sweet and savory, and only last about five minutes in my house.  If it is warm enough outside, I like to throw these on the grill for a little extra smokiness. They make the best brunch appetizer for everyone; even kids love them!

This Sweet Potato Chip Recipe recipe is incredibly simple and delicious. There are only three ingredients! Just make sure that you use extra-virgin olive oil (preferably organic) to make a more savory chip or use coconut butter to give them a little extra sweetness.

If you have made sweet potato chips a million times (me) and are looking to be a little bit more adventurous, find out if your grocery store has plantains.  Once you make these addicting Baked Plantain Chips, you will be hooked. I like to toss them with diced garlic or turmeric before I bake them to add slightly more spice and nutritional value.

Where there’s chips, there should be dip! Louise at Healing Autoimmune created this Cauliflower Dip that I made for our most recent office party and it was a huge crowd pleaser.  Cauliflower is such a versatile ingredient that can be blended into a wonderful, creamy consistency that seems too good to be AIP.  


When you have a sweet tooth...

Anytime you are following a restrictive diet, you run the risk of feeling deprived. Ultimately, this can lead to a late-night binge. The best thing you can do to combat that: be prepared. That "I'm superwoman and I am stronger than any craving" mentality will not exist in every moment. You're human. These are sweet snack ideas that mimic that creamy, deeply satisfying dessert taste while being dairy free and compliant.

This Blackberry Collagen Popsicles Recipe was created by the trustworthy AIP experts at Autoimmune Wellness. If you are seeking an amazing AIP podcast to follow, theirs is THE best.

Ok, so I know what you’re going to say: these are supposed to be easy recipes and now I have to go buy popsicle molds? Of course not. Unless you are trying to create pinterest worthy pictures, just throw the mixture into a normal ice cube tray, cover it with plastic wrap, and poke some toothpicks through to act as your popsicle stick. They are tart and sweet without any of the added sugar.

You guys! I’ve been looking for a good AIP pie crust recipe for so long.  It seemed like my days of enjoying a good flaky crust were over, until now! The Perfect AIP Pie Crust Recipe was developed by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. at The Paleo Mom.  She uses Otto’s Cassava Flour, which is my AIP gluten-free, grain-free go-to product for baking.

I wouldn’t blame you for eating this pie crust on its own, but if you are looking for a tart, low sugar filling, this strawberry rhubarb filling is just right. The coconut oil really adds a depth of flavor that keeps you going back for more (and more).


When you don’t have time to cook…

In the elimination phase of AIP, it can feel like all you’re doing is cooking.  While it is important to be able to cook yourself healthy AIP recipes, it is equally important that the diet doesn’t take over your life and make you miserable.  Therefore, I’ve added some AIP snacks that you can buy and LIVE YOUR LIFE!

wild zora aip bars mediterranean lamb apple pork

Wild Zora has created a whole line of interesting and compliant snacks and meals for the AIP community.  Their Apple Pork and Mediterranean Lamb meat and veggie bars are both AIP and they are really good to take on the go.  These bars are sort of like jerky, but they have a full serving of fruits and veggies in them, so they are more tender and complex in flavor.  

rhythm superfoods carrot sticks

Rhythm Superfoods makes a bunch of vegetable-based snacks that are simple and so tasty. Their Organic Carrot Sticks are crunchy, salty and aren’t oily like many of the other dried veggie snack companies. While they are my favorite, I have to give an honorable mention to their pickled beet chips, which are unlike any other AIP chip I have tried.

We double check all of our ingredients with Autoimmune Wellness' pantry stocking tool. They make it simple to assure you are prioritizing the ingredients that will make you as successful as possible.

AIP Sampler Pack Is Here!

AIP Sampler Pack Is Here!-Wild Zora

Have you always wanted to try the Wild Zora AIP compliant bars but you weren't ready to commit to 10 bars of single flavor? We hear you.

You can now get 5 of each delicious AIP compliant bars at a great price.


 Your Hiking Buddy



The new sampler pack is perfect for your summer adventures.  The bars are small enough to fit in your pocket or backpack, so you can take them biking or hiking. The Wild Zora bars have no added sugar and they will provide the long-lasting energy you need.


Best Snack for Flying

Make sure you get your AIP Wild Zora bars before your next flight - you won't be at mercy of airlines and their "understanding" of your dietary needs any more!  All ten bars will easily fit in your carry on. Because the Wild Zora bars are not sticky or crumbly, they are a great travel snack that's not messy.


What will you get?

Mediterranean Lamb

 Free of nightshades, but full of flavor, these bars are our bestseller. Delicate local lamb, rosemary, and turmeric make them feel like a treat.

Ingredients:  Natural Lamb, Organic Vegetables & Fruit (Spinach, Apricots, Dates, Garlic, Onion, Celery), Sea Salt, Oregano, Rosemary, Turmeric.


Apple Pork

We went little further with this new recipe - not only is it nightshade-free but we also didn't add any onions or garlic to it. Instead, we chose a familiar herb combination of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The result is an irresistibly tasty snack bar. 

Ingredients: 100% Natural Pork, Organic Vegetables & Fruit (Kale, Apple, Apricots, Dates, Kale, Celery, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme), Sea Salt, Cinnamon.



The new AIP sampler pack is already highly popular. Order yours today!




For more information, special discounts and $6 off your next order, sign up for our newsletter!


Why Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme?

Why Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme?-Wild Zora

Admit it. You can't just say "parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme", you have to sing it!  

But have you actually used this famous herb combo in your cooking?  We have.  It's one of the things that makes our new Apple Pork bar so tasty.


When we set out to create the new flavor, we faced several challenges.  We knew we wanted to create a snack that's AIP compliant and allium-free, meaning it had no onions or garlic.  It's important to us to accommodate our friends with food sensitivities.  But if you ever tried to cook without onions and garlic, you know that the resulting dish isn't often bursting with flavor.  Even more challenging: the new flavor was going to be made with pork.  Onions and garlic are natural companions of pork meat and without them, it tastes bland.  We are Wild Zora, not Bland Zora!  We experimented with a variety of seasonings, but in the end decided to go with the herb combo immortalized in Scarborough Fair: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.


Why these four?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme have been used for centuries both as remedies and as seasoning. 

Although we associate the four herbs with the "Scarborough Fair", the herby refrain is a relatively new addition to the old song; it's believed to originate in the 19th century. 

It's entirely possible that the names of herbs simply made it into the song because they sound nice.  But the herbs also carry symbolic meaning.  The language of flowers was highly popular in the 19th century; it was a way to send cryptic messages through flower arrangement.  Could parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme serve as a way to send a secret message to the "true love of mine"?


Meaning of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme


That's all very interesting, but what does it have to with you?  You can try to send a bouquet to your ex and hope she is well versed in Victorian ways.  Maybe she will let go of her bitter feelings, find strength and wisdom to remember the love you shared, and have the courage to be happy with you again.  Or not.  In that case, you can use the herbs for cooking.

They taste great together

Don't take our word for it, try it for yourself.  Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme add fresh herby flavor to any dish.  Try it in stews, or with poultry.  Stuff your Thanksgiving turkey with a big bunch of those flavorful herbs.  Here is an everyday recipe using these wonderful herbs:


We found that parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme taste wonderful with pork.  Next time you are making pork roast or pork chops, try this flavorful foursome.   Or, order some Apple Pork Wild Zora bars today!


 They are good for you

Like many culinary herbs, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme have strong medicinal properties. 



This humble herb often used only as garnish and discarded is a nutritional powerhouse. Parsley is rich in vitamins A, K, B, and C; in fact, it contains more vitamin C than oranges.  It's also a great source of calcium and iron.  To boost your immune system, add fresh chopped parsley on top of your favorite savory dishes.  It's a  mild diuretic, so it supports kidney health.  Like many green plants, it's rich in chlorophyl which helps fight off bad breath.  If you enjoy foods heavily seasoned with garlic, try chewing a few sprigs of fresh parsley after the meal to combat garlic breath. 

It's a mild diuretic, so it supports kidney health.  Like many green plants, it's rich in chlorophyll which helps fight off bad breath.  If you enjoy foods heavily seasoned with garlic, try chewing a few sprigs of fresh parsley after the meal to combat garlic breath. 

Parsley is readily available in most grocery stores, but it's very easy to grow.  It's best to start it from seed since the plant has deep roots that might make transplanting difficult.  It grows well in containers and requires well-drained soil.



The Latin name for sage, Salvia (Salvia Officinalis), is related to the word salvus, which means "healthy", or salvare, "to save".  It has been used for centuries to ease indigestion from heavy meals.  Sage has many benefits and deserves to be a regular part of your diet.

Because of its antibacterial properties, sage infusion makes a wonderful mouthwash or face wash, if you struggle with acne.  It's also a great gargle for a sore throat.

Many people are hesitant to use sage as a culinary herb because of its strong, somewhat medicinal taste.  It works well paired with other herbs - in our Scarborough Fair combo, the bitterness of sage is balanced out by the mild sweetness of parsley.  It works really well in our Apple Pork bar - it tames the sweet apple and complements the succulent pork. 

When grown outdoors, sage forms an attractive low shrub with silvery leaves and purple blossoms.  It does well in dry,  sunny spots.  If you grow it indoors it stays fairly small and likely won't bloom.



Because rosemary is the main flavor in our bestselling Mediterranean Lamb bar, we wrote another blog post about its many health benefits.

Rosemary brings bright, slightly woodsy flavor to our combination.  You will barely taste it in the Apple Pork bar, but it helps bring out the mild flavor of the all-natural pork and balances out the sweet notes of apples and cinnamon.



 Thyme has been highly regarded by herbalists for centuries.  It has been used as an antiseptic and room deodorizer.  To this day, thyme is used to help ease symptoms of respiratory illnesses; it eases coughing and fever and also alleviates headaches.  It was used to relieve asthma symptoms in medieval times.  

As a culinary herb, thyme is indispensable.  It's used in many herb mixes, including bouquet garni, and it is a staple in Italian cuisine.  Its bright, comforting flavor goes really well with fish and seafood.  If you would like to eat more fish for its health benefits but find the fishy taste off-putting, try seasoning it with thyme and lemon.

If you want to enjoy fresh thyme, you can grow it both outdoors and indoors.  As an outdoors plant, thyme is a beautiful addition to a rock garden. It is an easy plant to grow;  it doesn't need really rich soil and prefers dry, sunny spots.  When you grow thyme in a container, make sure you don't overwater it.


Make parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme your kitchen staple.  Not only do they bring a comforting herby flavor to many dishes, they also have many health benefits.  That's why we added them to our new AIP compliant Apple Pork bar. Have you tried it yet?





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