There seems to be more all the time. How to choose?
First, know this: they're all based on the same science.
So they're similar.
Food-wise, they are anti-inflammatory diets, most of which also include lifestyle components.
But interpretations of the science vary. As do the purposes of the protocols.
Choosing the right protocol is an important step for your healing. So I've created this primer outlining some of the similarities & differences of 12 of them.
12 Healing Protocols
To begin, here's an overview of some core nutritional elements:
Find a pdf of this chart here: Healing Protocols.
As noted in the fine print, this chart includes only some of the dietary components (& none of the lifestyle elements) of these various protocols. It's offered as as a guide, not a definitive source of information.
But now I'll share a quick overview of each of these 12 protocols, including the experiences Matthew or I have had with each one.
First, the Autoimmune Protocol, the Wahls Protocols & the Bulletproof Diet:
The Autoimmune Protocol
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) focuses on eliminating all potentially inflammatory foods as well as introducing lifestyle factors that support healing.
Dr Sarah Ballantyne is the authority on the AIP, and codified the protocol in her 2013 book The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.
There is a large AIP community online. Thought leaders include Eileen Laird at Phoenix Helix and Mickey Trescott & Angie Alt at Autoimmune Paleo. As well, all the recipes on this blog have been AIP-friendly since late 2013~.
The nutritional elements of the AIP are intended to be an elimination diet, with the assumption that once healing has progressed, some non-AIP foods can be reintroduced.
Matthew and I have been on the AIP continuously for almost 2 years. I have reintroduced nuts, eggs, cocoa and coffee. Matthew hasn't reintroduced anything yet.
All of Matthew's autoimmune symptoms are reversing on this diet.
The Wahls Protocols
Dr Terry Wahls describes the Wahls Protocols in her 2014 book The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.
Originally designed to treat Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune condition that affects the brain, the Wahls Protocols are now being offered as an approach for reversing all autoimmune conditions.
The Wahls Protocols include 3 levels:
- The least restrictive level, the Wahls Diet, is gluten-free and dairy-free and allows many of the foods that are omitted in other healing protocols.
- Level two is called Wahls Paleo. It permits limited quantities of gluten-free grains and legumes.
- The most restrictive is the Wahls Paleo Plus, which is similar to a ketogenic version of the AIP, except that it allows nightshades, coffee, nuts and seeds. This level restricts fruit (except berries) and carbohydrates generally. It uses daily intermittent fasting (up 18 hours per day) and coconut oil to encourage ketosis.
The Wahls Protocols are unique in that they specify the quantity and type of vegetables to be eaten each day as a way to improve cellular health. Because of these requirements, it makes sense to track your food consumption on any of the Wahls Protocols. I developed tracking sheets for that!
The Autoimmune Protocol is slightly more restrictive than the Wahls Paleo Plus, as it excludes nightshades, coffee, nuts & seeds, but the AIP is not ketogenic.
Despite these variations, the two diets are quite compatible. If you exclude nightshades, coffee, nuts, seeds and ketosis, the Wahls Paelo Plus becomes the AIP. Likewise, a ketogenic AIP is aligned with the Wahls Paleo Plus.
I was on the Wahls Paleo Plus for 3½ months and loved it (though I used MCT oil, not just coconut oil, to get me into ketosis). After this positive experience, I tried a couple of other ancestral ketogenic diets and came to the conclusion that being in ketosis in the long-term is not appropriate for me.
I also learned that I thrive when I follow the Wahls Protocol vegetable recommendations (9 cups of vegetables a day, distributed across the 3 categories), so this is something I continue to aim for.
The Bulletproof Diet
The Bulletproof Diet is designed for optimization, rather than specifically for healing. It's the only 'semi-ketogenic' diet on this list, and uses Bulletproof-brand 'Brain Octane' MCT oil (usually in Bulletproof Coffee) & daily 'Bulletproof intermittent fasting' to move in & out of ketosis each day.
Dave Asprey explains in The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life (2014). You can also download the free Bulletproof Roadmap.
Rather than a strict protocol, Dave offers a sliding scale of foods in each category (ranging from 'Bulletproof' to 'Kryptonite') allowing people to make their own informed food choices.
Interestingly, unlike most other healing protocols, Dave suggests we avoid mushrooms.
The Bulletproof Diet allows for more flexibility than either the Autoimmune Protocol or the Wahls Paleo Plus. Nevertheless, if you stick to the 'Bulletproof' end of the spectrum of food options, it is actually the most restrictive of the three. As a 'semi-ketogenic' diet, it offers an interesting middle-ground on the question of ketosis.
These three diets are quite compatible.
I consume Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil daily. Not always in coffee, as I take regular breaks from coffee as part of my caffeine cycling regime.
We stopped eating mushrooms after reading the Bulletproof Diet, and in addition to following the vegetable recommendations from the Wahls Protocol, I try to stick to the vegetables that are at the top of the Bulletproof list.
We have also adjusted how we cook our food after reading Dave's book. We no longer use our BBQ and avoid overcooking generally.
This post is part 1 of 3~
- Part 2 offers an overview of 6 more healing protocols including Jacob's Gut Healing protocol (which saved Matthew earlier this year); The Brainmaker Diet; Your Personal Paleo Code; as well as Paleo, Primal & the Whole 30.
- Part 3 will outline the N=1 Protocol and explain how to use the wisdom of these protocols to customize your own patterns of eating & living for healing & optimization.
The Autoimmune Protocol
SAD to AIP in SIX is a an online program created by Angie Alt and facilitated by trained, certified coaches that supports a gradual transition to the AIP over 6 weeks. Every detail of the diet and lifestyle changes required for the AIP is covered.
Enrollment for SAD to AIP in SIX is open 5 times a year.
Through my own n=1 experimentation, I've learned which foods I want to include in my protocol. Bulletproof Foods are some of my staples.
Most people associate Bulletproof with coffee, but (though I adore it) my adrenals can't handle it very often. Instead, I eat: