Healing Protocols: How to Choose?

How do you choose the right healing protocol?

When I began my healing journey, one of the first things I discovered is how there is so much conflicting information in the world of health today! Deciphering which healing protocol may be right for you can seem overwhelming. This post serves to clarify the muddy waters and explores the different types of elimination diets as they relate to autoimmune and digestive illness.

Below is an overview of the best, in my opinion, elimination diets that may or may not also serve as a treatment for illness: Elimination Diets, Autoimmune Paleo (AIP), low-FODMAP, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), SIBO Specific Food Guide (SSFG), and Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet.

Elimination Diets:

What Are They and Who Are They For?

An elimination diet is used to identify specific foods that trigger inflammation leading to undesired emotional and/or physical symptoms. These symptoms can include depression, anxiety, skin conditions, digestive discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. However, elimination diets are not meant to be restrictive in the long-term, and should only be attempted over a specified and limited amount of time.

The purpose of an elimination diet is not to cure or treat illness. It is designed to help point out aggravators of symptoms but does nothing to address the root cause of disease. To that end, it is important and advisable to complete an elimination diet under the supervision of a medical professional. Avoiding symptoms is great, but getting to the true root of your health concerns will be far more productive in the long run. That being said, the most restrictive phase of an elimination diet is never where you should live long term. The best way to cultivate and maintain optimal health is to eat a whole and varied diet.

The Whole30 is one of the most popular and easy to follow elimination diets in practice and is a great place to start.  https://whole30.com/

After completing the Whole30 and discovering which foods trigger symptoms, you may choose to continue avoiding those foods for an additional three months before attempting to reintroduce them again or choose to permanently eliminate them from your diet for good. However, if while during the first two weeks of the Whole30 diet, you do not achieve complete relief of bothersome symptoms, it could be that there are foods you are still consuming that are triggering an immune response. It is best at this point to consult with a medical professional specializing in integrative medicine. The following additional elimination diets may serve as helpful resources as you work with your practitioner to sort through your individual needs.

For more general information about elimination diets : https://draxe.com/elimination-diet/

Autoimmune Paleo Protocol:

What is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)?

The Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) is a strict protocol, encompassing both diet and lifestyle, with diet based on the Paleo diet, focusing on incorporating the most nutrient dense foods possible while also eliminating foods allowed in the traditional Paleo diet which have the potential for causing inflammation and activating the immune system in certain people. This protocol addresses nutrient density, gut health, hormone regulation, and immune system regulation. It also incorporates attention to the role of sleep in regulating circadian rhythms, stress management and its role in inflammation, meaningful relationships with others, connection to spirituality and/or mindfulness, making time for fun and relaxation, and mild to moderate activity.

Foods to include: organ meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables, herbs and spices, quality meats and fats, fruit, probiotic/fermented foods, glycine-rich foods (such as bone broth made from quality bones, connective tissues, joints, and skin)

Foods to avoid include: emulsifiers and thickeners, alcohol, caffeine, eggs, dairy, sugar and gut-harming sweeteners, grains, seeds, grain-like seeds, nuts, legumes, processed vegetable oils, processed chemicals/ingredients/additives, nightshades, and spices derived from nightshades.

In order for AIP to be effective, 100% compliance must be followed for the duration of the elimination phase–which is a different length for each person–lasting until your symptoms resolve or at least 6-8 weeks.

Who is AIP For?

AIP might be for you if you have a known autoimmune condition and are tired of managing it via medications (which may or may not be working), if you want to reduce inflammation in your body, if other elimination diets have been helpful but have not reduced symptoms as much you would like.

Where Do I Find More Information?

For more information: https://www.thepaleomom.com/start-here/the-autoimmune-protocol/

Unbound Healing Podcast – Interview with Dr. Sarah Ballantyne: What is AIP? https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/unbound-healing-podcast/id1253479733?mt=2&i=1000393403574

Blog Post Interview with Dr. Sarah Ballantyne & her personal experience with AIP: http://paleononpaleo.com/autoimmune-protocol-paleo-mom/

How to Find An AIP Practitioner: http://asquirrelinthekitchen.com/aip-doctor/


SAD to AIP in Six is a six week group oriented program designed to help with the transition to the AIP lifestyle. For more information:  http://sadtoaip.com/

Have you tried AIP–that is, 100% compliance for 6-8 weeks–and still have not seen any significant improvement in your autoimmune or digestive symptoms? Then this article is for you:  https://aiplifestyle.com/when-aip-becomes-a-crutch-not-a-cure/

The Paleo Approach – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

The Paleo Approach Cookbook – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

Paleo Principles – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne


What is a FODMAP anyway?

FODMAP is an acronym which stands for Fermentable Oligos-Disaccharides-Monosaccharides and Polyols. Carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules of differing lengths and names. Some take longer to digest than others. The longer it takes for carbohydrate to be digested the greater the chance the bacteria in the small intestine have to ferment that carbohydrate. When excess fermentation occurs, this can result in uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Excess fermentation occurs when there is either an overwhelming amount of foods high in FODMAPs consumed at one time or when there is an excess of bacteria in the small intestine (see What is SIBO? under SSFG). 

Who is the Low-FODMAP Diet For?

The low-FODMAP diet might be for you if your symptoms increase when you eat garlic, onions, beets, tapioca starch, stone fruit, or pistachios or if your symptoms significantly improve while following the low-FODMAP diet. It might also be for you if you have SIBO. The low-FODMAP diet is used most often to alleviate the symptoms of SIBO during SIBO treatments and is not necessarily intended to treat SIBO.

Where Do I Find More Information?

List of high, moderate, and low FODMAP foods:  https://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/

For more general information:  https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/low-fodmap-diet

App for smart phones: Monash University FODMAP diet

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD):

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a diet developed by Dr. Elaine Gottschall which limits most carbohydrates and allows only specific limited carbohydrates based on their chemical structure.  It includes meats, eggs, vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and nuts.

Who is SCD For?

SCD might be for you if you have a known diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis, or chronic diarrhea.(http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/p/about-the-diet/) It can be used long term and/or in combination with other treatment regimens for these diagnosis.

Where Do I Find More Information?


Breaking the Vicious Cycle – by Dr. Elaine Gottschall

SIBO Specific Food Guide (SSFG):

What is SIBO? 

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.

What is the SSFG?

The SIBO Specific Food Guide is a combination of the low-FODMAP diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet developed by Dr. Allison Siebecker.

Who is the SSFG For?

The SSFG might be for you if you have a known diagnosis of SIBO or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or have abdominal bloating and gas, abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea, and/or constipation. There is also a growing list of associated illnesses that often precede or accompany SIBO (see: http://www.siboinfo.com/associated-diseases.html) that may benefit from trying the SSFG diet. The SSFG is meant to serve as symptom management during SIBO treatment and should not be followed exclusively as a treatment.

Where Do I Find More Information?


App for smart phones: SIBO

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet:

What is the GAPS Diet?

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, is an adjustment of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to specifically fit the needs of those “suffering from a variety of intestinal and neurological conditions as a result of an imbalanced ecosystem within the GI tract. The GAPS Diet focuses on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal.” (http://www.gapsdiet.com/)

The GAPS Diet includes an Introduction Phase and the Full GAPS Phase. The Introduction Phase serves as an elimination phase with segmented reintroductions and is divided into six stages, usually taking 3-6 weeks to complete. The Full GAPS Phase involves incorporating all allowed foods into the diet and is to be maintained long term.

Who is the GAPS Diet For?

The GAPS Diet might be for you if you have a digestive or neurologic condition such as chronic diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s, gastritis, Ulcerative Colitis, autism, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Where Do I Find More Information?


Gut and Psychology Syndrome – by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride


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