I am so excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with Rob Abbott and Angie Alt to perform a small pilot study of the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet in eczema and psoriasis! This has truly been my dream study for the past four years, ever since I used AIP to heal my own chronic eczema of nineteen years.
The study is entitled “Effects of an anti-inflammatory diet on the gut microbiome and gut barrier function in eczema and psoriasis.” Not only will we be able to see how AIP impacts skin symptoms and quality of life, but we will also be measuring the impact of AIP on the gut microbiome, short-chain fatty acids, and gut permeability!
Below are some details about the study, but you can also find more information on our Indiegogo page. We’d be incredibly grateful if you would consider being a part of our grassroots effort to fund this study and make it a reality.
What is the autoimmune protocol?
The autoimmune protocol diet is an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense elimination diet that has been used for a wide range of autoimmune diseases. While it initially eliminates grains, legumes, dairy, nightshades, eggs, nuts and seeds, caffeine, and alcohol, these foods are not meant to be eliminated forever, but instead reintroduced systematically to aid in the identification of individual food intolerances that may be contributing to symptoms. AIP also emphasizes the inclusion of a number of healing foods, including organ meats, bone broth, seafood, vegetables, and fermented foods.
To read more about the evidence behind AIP, the rationale for eliminating these foods in the short term, and the role of the gut microbiome and intestinal permeability in autoimmune disease, check out the article I wrote last year.
How did this study come about?
I personally struggled with eczema for many years, seeing countless allergists, dermatologists, and family physicians who only prescribed me stronger and stronger steroid creams that never seemed to work. It wasn’t until about five years ago, when I turned my focus to my gut health and found AIP that I started to see my skin begin to heal.
Ever since then, I’ve wanted to bring this diet and lifestyle approach to treating chronic skin conditions into the mainstream. It was one of the main reasons that I decided to pursue an MD/PhD and the reason that I started this blog, so that I could bring these types of interventions into the conversation and eventually the standard of care in conventional medicine.
Thankfully, my graduate advisor has always been supportive of my research ideas and was open-minded when I proposed a study of AIP in eczema and psoriasis. A few months later, I reached out to Angie Alt, a certified health coach and nutritional therapy consultant, to see if we could team up and use her online health coaching program “SAD to AIP in Six” to onboard a research group of eczema and psoriasis participants through the program. Since then, we’ve been working hard on all of the logistics involved in planning the study and are so close to getting it started together!
What other research on AIP has been done?
There have been two other small pilot studies for AIP, both of which successfully used Angie’s “SAD to AIP in Six” program:
AIP for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: In a 2017 pilot study to assess the effects of AIP on inflammatory bowel disease led by Dr. Gauree Konijeti, a Gastroenterologist at Scripps Research Institute, 11 out of 15 (73 percent) participants achieved clinical remission by week 6, and all 11 maintained clinical remission during the maintenance phase of the study.
AIP for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: In a 2019 pilot study to study the effects of AIP on Hashimoto’s disease led by Dr. Rob Abbott, 6 out of the 13 women on thyroid medication were able to reduce their dosage of hormone therapy. There was also a significant improvement in inflammation and quality of life measures.
Now, we want to try to duplicate these results with eczema and psoriasis patients and also determine how AIP is affecting the gut microbiome and gut barrier function!
What will this new study entail?
A small group of participants with a confirmed diagnosis of eczema or psoriasis will go through a 6-week phased elimination phase to transition to full AIP, followed by a 4-week maintenance phase on the AIP diet. Participants will receive weekly educational resources through Angie’s online program to guide them through the daily action steps to implement the AIP diet. Angie’s team of nutritional therapists will also provide daily accountability, motivation, and support to the participants.
Meanwhile, I will be heading up the medical side of the study, using laboratory testing, dietary assessments, and validated clinical questionnaires to gather data from the small group of participants before, during, and after the intervention. Specifically, we will be performing 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the fecal microbiome, analysis of fecal short-chain fatty acids, and the lactulose-mannitol test to assess intestinal permeability. We will also be asking participants about the status of their skin condition, their disease-related quality of life, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Our hypothesis is that the six-week phased elimination diet and four-week maintenance period will beneficially alter the gut microbiome, improve gut barrier function, and reduce skin symptoms in patients with eczema and psoriasis!
Why do you need my support?
Right now, we are trying to fund this study, and we still need $8,000 to make it happen. I was fortunate to receive an internal grant through my graduate program to provide some seed funding for the study, and we have also secured a partnership with Doctor’s Data, who is generously providing discounted testing for short-chain fatty acids and gut barrier function. However, there are still a number of costs associated with the study, including microbiome analysis, sample processing, and subject compensation, and we’d be incredibly grateful if you would be a part of our grassroots effort!
I probably don’t need to remind anyone that this kind of research does not happen easily, and it’s incredibly difficult to get funding for diet and lifestyle interventions, particularly if they lie outside of the mainstream dietary recommendations. We hope that this crowdfund allows you to support the kind of research that you want to see done and helps set the tone for more research in this area!
Please check out our Indiegogo page for more info, consider making a donation, and share this far and wide with those who might want to support this research too. Thanks so much for your support!