The Diet

Hi!

My name is Mikhaila Peterson. I’m a 25 year old student, studying Life Sciences at Queen’s University. I live in Toronto. My schooling was delayed for a while because I was so sick, I couldn’t handle university full time.

Short background on me:

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was 7 years old. My parents think it started when I was around 2 noticing the way I walked. I was the first child in Canada to be put on injections of Enbrel, an immune suppressant. I was also put on injections of Methotrexate. In grade 5, when I was 12, I was diagnosed with severe depression/anxiety. I started taking Cipralex (Celexa), an SSRI. I was on a very high dose for a child, but if I tried to lower it, I couldn’t. That dose increased into my teenage years and early 20’s when my depression worsened. When I was 17 I had a hip and an ankle replacement from the arthritis (that diagnosis was changed from rheumatoid arthritis to idiopathic arthritis). I was prescribed Adderall to keep myself awake because I couldn’t stay awake. Diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia. My skin was itchy, I had mouth ulcers, floaters, and terrible skin problems starting in my early 20’s.

At the peak of my medicated times I was taking:
For Arthritis: Enbrel and Methotrexate, (immune suppressants). Folic Acid because of the Methotrexate. Tylenol 3 so I could sleep at night without as much pain.
For depression: Cipralex and Wellbutrin
For fatigue: Adderall to keep me awake, Gravol and Lorazepam to put me to sleep from the Adderall.
For my skin: Minocycline (antibiotic), and later dapsone (antibiotic)
Other: Birth control (seasonique)

I’ve probably taken antibiotics 2-3 times a year since I was 2. That’s almost 40 rounds of antibiotics.

I’ve been on way more than that too. That was just at one point in time.
Anyways, all in all, I was very sick.

May 2015, I stopped eating gluten. I thought that my skin problems that had slowly been growing worse were probably Celiac related (dermatitis herpetiformis). I never had stomach pain so I had never looked at food before. Cutting out gluten maybe helped a bit… But not nearly enough.

September 2015, I went on an elimination diet. I went on it to see if I could control my arthritic symptoms. I could. 3 weeks into the diet my arthritis and skin issues went away. This was unheard of. I don’t have the type of arthritis that goes away.

3 months later my depression disappeared. My arthritis ate my hip and my ankle but I haven’t experienced anything more debilitating than depression.

A month after that my fatigue lifted.

Everything wrong with me was diet related. Arthritis, depression, anxiety, lower back pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, itchy skin, acne, tiny blisters on my knuckles, floaters, mouth ulcers, twitching at night, night sweats, tooth sensitivity, and the list goes on, but everything was diet related. Every single thing wrong with me was fixable. The following is a list of foods that I can eat without reacting, and my dad and boyfriend is the same way. This is a good list of foods to start with for the elimination diet. In order to do this, you have to be very strict. If you have questions, please comment!

If you can’t manage to do this (it makes eating out almost impossible), at least cut out gluten and dairy. If you’re a “healthy” person, cut out gluten and dairy. All of it. Gluten is hidden in soya sauce, twizzlers, malt vinegar. Cut it all out for 3 weeks and see how you feel. If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disorder or depression or another mental disorder than I would suggest going to my list of safe foods. Cutting out gluten and dairy will help but it might not be enough. You might find that you’re able to reintroduce most foods after the elimination diet.

Meats:

  • turkey
  • beef
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • duck
  • wild game is fine too, elk, moose, etc.
  • wild salmon
  • tunacheck the ingredients! Get stuff that’s just tuna and water and perhaps salt.
  • organ meat – chicken liver tastes the best I find

Veggies:

  • lettuce
  • arugula
  • arugula microgreens (arugula sprouts)
  • cucumber
  • swiss chard
  • seaweed –check the ingredients! this is hard to find without soy and other things. The brand I’ve linked to is safe and really tasty
  • cilantro
  • collard greens
  • broccoli
  • turnips
  • cauliflower
  • parsnips
  • sweet potatoes
  • spinach

Fruit:

  • olives – check the ingredients! see my olive post. be super careful about which brands you buy here too, many have preservatives and flavours and dyes.

Vinegars:

  • apple cider vinegar – try to get the organic stuff so there aren’t dyes and flavours added

Oils:

  • coconut oil – get unrefined. And try to avoid the Nutiva brand. It’s everywhere but it doesn’t taste as good, and I’ve had ones that have gone bad before.
  • olive oil – make sure your olive oil is pure olive oil. Sometimes it’s also soybean oil!

Spices/Seasonings

  • salt
  • pepper
  • marjoram
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • peppermint
  • turmeric
  • basil
  • bay leaf
  • coriander

Other:

  • baking soda (probably won’t eat this but it’s good for toothpaste 🙂 )
  • peppermint tea – check the ingredients. buy loose leaf (David’s sells an organic peppermint which is lovely) or organic. We want to make sure there aren’t preservatives or flavours added. White tea bags or coffee filters are often bleached with sulfites. If you’re super sensitive (dad and I), you’ll react to these. So make sure you get organic tea bags as well!
  • black tea- check the ingredients. buy loose leaf if possible
  • green tea- check the ingredients. buy loose leaf if possible

Alcohol – not for the first month. I can kinda handle it, but lots of people can’t.

  • vodka
  • bourbon and American Whiskey labelled “straight” whiskey
  • silver tequila

Good luck! If you try this for 3 weeks you should be able to see a huge difference. Then reintroduce foods by having a bite of it. I do not recommend reintroducing dairy and gluten ever but do so if need be. It took me 8 months to realize how sensitive I was, it doesn’t seem possible, but I react strongly to half bite of food. Have a bite or two of the new food and then wait 4 days before reintroducing something else. Most of my reactions (but definitely not all) take about 4 days to hit peak terrible – particularly arthritis and definitely the depression. Skin issues take about 7 days to come up after eating an offending food.

I’ve tried to reintroduce the following and I’ve reacted to them terribly (the bolded ones were the worst but they were all bad):

  • almonds
  • rice
  • sulphites
  • dairy – ouchhhh that was not fun to experience
  • gluten
  • kelp noodles… random I know
  • white cabbage
  • bananas – terrible for the arthritis
  • cane sugar
  • food dyes
  • citrus
  • melons
  • grapes
  • onions
  • zucchini
  • soy
  • probiotics – I can’t handle them, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Hopefully, after some healing, I’ll be able to handle them too.

What’s next on the list:

  • tomatoes
  • shrimp
  • lobster
  • coffee

My father and my husband have the same sensitivities, and I’ve been contacted by people who also have extremely similar reactions to the same foods. This is widespread. These are terrible reactions that most people don’t realize until they’re gone. What’s the point of realistically thinking about everything bodily that’s bugging you? Muscle pain, fatigue, digestive issues, minor skin problems, the occasional mouth ulcer – all things people ignore. Don’t. These are signs. Good luck!!

To find out exactly how to go about doing an elimination diet please read this (especially if you suffer from depression/anxiety, there are some things you should know before going on an elimination diet).

33 thoughts on “The Diet

  1. Nick says:

    Hi Mikhaila,
    I follow your father on his channel for quite a while (he’s beyond great, BTW) and stumbled upon the two interview whit you on Steve Paikin. I myself struggle with depression and IBS for some time. Your insights and info are very helpful and enlightening. I have some questions: what I replace rice with? and how about corn meal (like gritty flour)? – in my contry it’s the most accessible bread replacement. I don’t eat bread for quite some time. Also how can I eat without onions? I mean, cooked ones not raw ones, I know that ones are quite hard on digestion.
    And how about seeds and nuts? In my very restrictive and scanty diet they were important. Thank you in advance for your reply!
    Nick

    • Hey Nick, so unfortunately I’ve found the easiest way to do this diet isn’t to replace foods, it’s to stop eating them. I tried finding replacements for the first half a year (especially trying to replace bread, pizza, etc.) It turns out it’s just easier eating meat and veggies without the carb side dish. You don’t need it. Start making yourself bigger portions of meat and more vegetables, and cut out the rice and corn. And remember, try it for a month and see how you feel. If it get’s frustrating, just remember you can go back to what you were eating before. You just need to give your body a chance to see what foods are bugging it. I don’t use onions (and I love onions), but it’s not worth it. I’ll post more recipes over the next couple of days so you can get some ideas. But think BBQ food. Steaks, hamburgers, with roasted vegetables.

    • Jane says:

      Hello Nick and Mikhaila,
      Regarding onions I use leeks or shallot (they must be true shallot – not the ones with a round bulb at the base). They lack the unnamable irritant that offends, sorry I am not highly educated but most of my knowledge comes from experience.
      I recently had a second hip joint replacement and the hospital provided fresh foods (nobody in Australia EVER enjoys hospital food but times are a changing) and after eating the winter vegetable soup I had a major skin reaction, I could taste the onion.
      I try to grow my food and the shallot often grows fat enough to pass for the more expensive leek.

      • I’m going to add in shallots eventually… I definitely miss onions for taste but I can’t tolerate them either. That’s great about the improvement in hospital food. It’s worse than airplane food here.

  2. Hey, Mikhaila, I (like a lot of people who’ve found your blog, I’m sure) found you through following your dad. I love your blog and it’s funny because I also have a degree in life sci from Queen’s. I went on to be a naturopathic doctor where I actually get to address gut health and inflammation in patients and went on to focus in mental health. Have you thought about being an ND after Queen’s? Haha, food for thought, we could definitely use an avid researcher like you in the profession.

    • I have considered this! I was always VERY anti-naturopath. I think it was because I was told by doctors that they were quacks and I didn’t want to be taken advantage of by fake health professionals. But now my opinion has completely changed and I go to naturopaths instead of doctors! Weird how life works out.

      • Yeah! I think that we’re grouped into “alternative medicine” with reiki, homeopathy, etc. but since research takes about 17 years to become incorporated into medical guidelines, and nutritional research is soooo expensive to do (and very unprofitable, as nothing really gets patented), and MDs are given maybe a few hours of nutrition lecture (I know, because at Queen’s the med school and life scis are grouped into the same nutrition course and it’s horrible, just focuses on deficiencies like scurvy, dismal, and the Food Guide, hopefully it’s better now). But, as you know there’s TONS of evidence for safe interventions on diet and lifestyle and nutritional supplementation that can really help people. I’ve been called a quack for talking about gluten and mental health and sure, it’s not going to be the solution for everyone, but I feel like I have a responsibility to at least present the possibility to my patients, as this could be a key factor in bringing down the neuro-inflammation that is contributing to (or causing) their depression. Anyway, feel free to message me if you have questions about the program, etc. I can provide info in the context of someone who went through life sci at Queen’s as well! Cheers, Mikhaila!

  3. Nick says:

    Thank you so much for your reply! It’s very helpful.
    I wish you easygoing pregnancy, smooth labor and fulfilling motherhood!
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Austin says:

    Very interesting. I’ve had an unhealthy diet my whole life, I’ve considered getting rid of sugar from my diet to see if it alleviates my anxiety and sleep troubles. Thank you for making this list.

  5. Cat says:

    This is a great food blog. I also follow Chris Kesser, who no doubt you know.

    Thanks for this – soon it will be known how much diet is responsible for depression as it is becoming obvious its cause for other ills. It is very difficult to follow with the distribution structure of food items, though. I really takes a commitment and a belief.

    I work with the poor on mental health issues, and this is the most difficult population to reach. Many are weaned on soda. Literally. It’s heartbreaking.

  6. Hello!

    A friend of mine (Serene Desiree) just shared this page with me and I am so glad she did. My husband has a very similar story to yours – diagnosed with JRA (later JIA) when he was 12, all the drugs, pain, treatment for ADD, etc. When I met him at age 24 he was really sick but had just kind of given in to what he thought the realities of his life where. When he was 27 we lost access to his medications due to health insurance issues so I took it upon myself to heal him. The biggest things I have done include changing his diet. We eat a few more things than you do, but less meat. He is all better, no more evidence of his JRA at all, no more meds. I have continued researching beyond the good into gene mutation and why young people are developing “JIA”. I have also found help for him (Thomas) from the right supplements. For example, giving you folic acid wasn’t good enough – you need 5-mthf folate specifically. Anyway, maybe you already know about that stuff too and just didn’t write it here, but I would love to talk with you if you ever have the time. I am glad you are feeling better.

    – Rebecca

    • Thanks! I looked into genetics. I had my whole family do 23andme before I even started with diet.. I couldn’t find anything so if you have any interesting pointers, shoot me an email or comment, I’m definitely interested. I’d also be interested in the supplements you’re using. I’ve read a lot but it’s always good to talk to other people!

  7. André B. says:

    Hi Mikhaila,

    I was wondering what your thoughts are with regards to tryptophan and serotonin, in treating depression. Since you have had a lot of food problems in general, I expect it’s hard to deduce the effectiveness of it in your own case, but perhaps you have stumbled upon its effects and how it has helped people during your research?

    Congratulations on your engagement and your pregnancy,

    Many thanks!

    • Oh, I’ll write a post on this. I’m not using 5HTP currently (mainly due to the pregnancy), but I find it helps immensely. Before the pregnancy and a number of rounds of antibiotics I was able to get my mood stable enough that I didn’t need anything, but if I ever triggered something by reintroducing a food I’d take 5HTP. A fairly high dose. It’s great, I didn’t get any side effects either. I’ll make this into a short post, thanks!

    • I honestly have no idea. My mom has brought it up, and that’s a really scary idea. I don’t know what to think about that. My symptoms did show up about the same time, but there were other factors (C-section birth, etc.) Who knows. It has crossed my mind though.

  8. Mr Guy says:

    Love this. I’ve done pretty strict diets but never probably strict enough, for long enough, to be sure whether they helped. I have a number of issues similar to the ones you had yourself.
    One question, did you also avoid diet sodas? In order to do this properly I’ll have to quit caffeine, but it would be nice to at least drink diet decaf sodas.
    Anyway, good stuff. Thanks!

    • Yeah, diet sodas are out unfortunately. I used to live off of diet coke in university too. I can drink organic black tea. I know that doesn’t have as much caffeine as something you’re used to but once you cut out the things making you sleepy, it should be enough. I don’t need any caffeine anymore. Hell, caffeine wasn’t even good enough, I used to be on adderall. For some people (like my dad and I), in order to see the difference, you need to stick with it strictly for a month. My fatigue didn’t subside for 3 months. But it’s been gone for a couple of years now. It doesn’t even come back when I react now. Same with dad.

      • Mr Guy says:

        Thanks. Yeah, I have a number of issues which relate to cognition and fatigue, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. I know well that cutting out caffeine is overall good in my case.
        I also noticed that nuts aren’t mentioned in your post. They’re often used as a good source of fatty calories for the sort of diet you’re doing. Do you also eliminate them to identify sensitivities and have you added them back in at all?

        • I can’t do nuts. Those are one of the first things I tried to add back in just because they’re so easy (almonds). They flared my autoimmune problems and brought back the depression. I tried them 3 times to be sure too. I’m so sensitive to almonds that I reacted to gin that (turns out) had almonds added. Beefeaters and Bombay Sapphire. I’d remove nuts if you have issues, and test them out when you’re feeling better but almonds are a common IgG issue.

  9. Filip Bengtegård Book says:

    Hi Mikhaila, this Wednesday I am going to do a 30 day elimination diet, I just have a few questions before I start.

    I am from and currently live in Sweden so I have a few specific questions regarding staple food in Sweden that might not be the same in Canada, specifically certain type of root vegetables and a few other things. Thank you in advance.

    On your vegetables list I only see a few and I was wondering if potatoes has had a negative effect on you, it is technically a vegetable anyways. I see that you have put sweet potatoes, that’s good to see there.

    What about carrots?

    What about rapeseed oil/canola oil? If it’s cold pressed and it’s local? 😀

    What about gluten free soy sauce? (brand: Kikkoman) Perhaps I should quit it anyways but I really enjoy the taste of soy sauce.

    I can imagine one of your tip is to start with your list of safe foods and then continue after 30 days to one at a time introduce food you’ve eaten before.

    I do know gluten and dairy affects me in ways I’ve looked the other way since the last couple of months when I discovered your blog and your father. This is the first time in my life I will be cutting it completely out of my diet.

    I am extremely excited because since I was (at least what I can remember)16 years old I’ve had long periods of depression and fatigue and I recently quit smoking after 6 years and it feels as if a cloud has been cleared from my mind and now I’m looking at my diet.

    I know my issues are not as grave as yours in terms of skin problems and other physical issues, it has been very mental for me with the exception of an extremely bloated stomach since I can’t even remember, perhaps it has to do with the gluten/dairy/sugar diet I have partaken in for the majority of my life, because my body in general is very thin but my stomach is always bloated.

    Thank you for reading, you’re an inspiration and a really good source of information.

    ps: If I can live off of chicken with salt+pepper in the oven I think I’m super fine because I looove roasted chicken :D, I assume there’s no issue with eating chicken skin?

    Best wishes from Sweden.

    • Definitely no issues with chicken skin… that’s pretty much the best part of chicken anyways so that’s good. Any part of the chicken is fine. I haven’t tried feathers obviously (: You definitely need to get rid of the soya sauce. Gluten free is better, but soy was a HUGE problem for me. And I added soya sauce to everything. That was probably my favourite food. Get rid of the canola oil too, use coconut or olive oil… I do recommend starting with that list of foods if you’re able, no potatoes either (sorry), and if you get really bad cravings and you cant solve them with chicken wings, buy some honey and eat that. It’s better to mess up and eat honey than mess up and eat pizza. Good luck! Sorry for the late reply, keep me updated.

      • Filip Bengtegård Book says:

        Thank you, good to know that no soy sauce, I’ve been very good at not using it. Thought I would miss it more!

        Ok no canola oil and no potatoes, I will have to try to do mashed potatoes with sweet potatoes. Probably works just as fine! It is such a big staple in Sweden, regular potatoes that is.

        I bought honey and dark chocolate (70%) just to battle the sugar cravings at least for the first month.

        It’s been about 5 weeks since I wrote that post, my diet is definitely improved but not to the extent of a 30 day elimination diet. It is kind of weird at the moment, it’s been going from two extremes, from sweet potatoes and chicken to crisps and candy. I think I’ve started to realise I rely on candy and crisps as a comfort food (and not in a good way, the illusion of safety that any thing you might over consume makes you temporarily feel or the idea that you’re missing something, this void you’d like to fill, I can recall feeling this compulsive need to buy candy because I’ve felt the need to fill something that is missing). I think I’ve been trying to combat my low moments by making poor food choices.

        If I can face that issue I think this diet is highly motivating, but it comes down to that, whether the motivation is there, the cause or the reason has to exist, at least for me.

        Hope this is adequate of an update for you. Would love to hear your thoughts whenever possible.

        • Cutting out sugar is extremely difficult, and the cravings are intense. I’ve messed up before. When I first started cutting it out I would go through jars of honey. Kind of gross, but it was at least a step in the right direction.

          • Filip Bengtegård Book says:

            It’s nice to hear that when you started out it wasn’t just going from zero to hero but a challenging and arduous process, I think for me just going from candy to honey and dark chocolate is a hard process in itself so that’s my first big step.

            Thank you for replying so quickly and it’s wonderful to been able to have gotten help from across the globe!

  10. Luise Konradi says:

    Dear Mikhaila,
    Congratulations on your beautiful healthy baby.
    I’ve seen the videos of you and your father and have been wanting to do the elimination diet for a while. My diet is rather healthy most of the time, but every couple of days I lash out, eat the bad stuff and feel terrible until it subsides. I was recently diagnosed with IBS and am confident trying out this diet would be helpful. What did you do to get over the initial cravings? Did you ever have a setback? In those moments, I even eat the stuff with full awareness of what it will do to my body and how it will make me feel, which causes me to never actually detox. I know how addictive especially sugary things and grains are, and that they incapacitate my free will.
    How did you manage to stick with it, and deal with temptation, in certain situations and in the long run?
    Thanks for writing this blog!
    Best wishes from Germany

    • If you’re having a seriously hard time getting off sugar… switch to honey. Instead of going full out elimination, keep fruits and honey and literally eat honey when you feel a sugar craving. Eventually you won’t want to. This isn’t an ideal long term solution but it’s better than not cutting out processed foods. Once you’ve managed to get your cravings down to manageable with fruit and honey, you can cut down on the honey and fruit. I’ll write a blog this week on how to stick with the diet when you’re not feeling well, or in social situations, or when you get cravings. It takes an incredible amount of will power but even cutting down is good for you.

  11. Hi ! First i wanted to say thank you for your work and the one of your father =) You both helped me greatly lately. I tried multiple high fat diet low carb diet, supplements and all that stuff to fix my depression and fatigue with really low success. Im slowly cutting on some food to get close to your list. Coffee and Avocado are gonna be extremely hard since i ended up developping the MCT oil in coffee + and the whole Bulletproof frenzy that comes with it. I’d like to know whats your take on Eggs tough ? I know most elimintation diet adviced to not even reintroduce it but have you tried Pastured Eggs ?

    • I can’t handle eggs. Neither can other people I know doing this diet. Although I have an easier time with egg yolks. They showed up on my whole family’s IgG test. I’d definitely eliminate them at the beginning unfortunately. Coffee I haven’t tried yet but there doesn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong with it… if you can’t live without it, it might not be the end of the world if you don’t eliminate it. But if you can, I know that black tea is fine. If you haven’t had success but you’ve tried different high fat low carb diets, I would really recommend getting a food sensitivity test (IgG). You might just have kept in one food that’s still bothering you. Avocados would definitely be enough for me to trigger the depression. If you can’t fork out the dough though, definitely try what dad’s doing, that should eliminate the major allergens. But yeah, no eggs, sorry. Good luck!

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