The Diet

Hi!

My name is Mikhaila Peterson. I’m a 26 year old mother (and loving it!). I live in Toronto.

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.

Then I got pregnant.

Things shifted in my body and the original diet I followed didn’t get rid of my symptoms anymore. My arthritis came back (albeit much less awful than before) and my depression came back (again, much less awful). I lost the ability to tolerate any carbs.

The following is a list of foods that I could originally eat without reacting. 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 the following list doesn’t work for you after a month, you can try even more strict, or you can go zero-carb. If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disorder or you need to get better ASAP (as in you’re dying from what ails you), I’d recommend zero-carb. You can reintroduce vegetables after a month (if you want to).

If you can’t manage to do zero-carb, or the following list of foods, (it makes eating out almost impossible), at least cut-out gluten and dairy and sugar. 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 4 weeks and see how you feel. If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disorder or depression or another mental disorder than I would suggest doing the following diet or doing zero-carb. Cutting out gluten and dairy will help but it might not be enough. You may 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
  • wild herring – check the ingredients!
  • wild sardinescheck the ingredients!

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 labeled “straight” whiskey

Good luck! If you try this for 4 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.

Things to try and reintroduce first after the first month:

  • avocados
  • other leafy greens
  • macademia nuts
  • foods that are listed as okay by the AIP or SCD diets

Foods to always be wary of:

  • grains
  • dairy
  • sugar
  • soy

Foods that I had major issues with when I tried to reintrodue

  • almonds
  • rice
  • sulphites
  • dairy – ouchhhh that was not fun to experience
  • gluten
  • kelp noodles
  • 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.

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).

UPDATE: Zero-carb – for when going down to meat and greens isn’t good enough. Or if you’ve already been on a keto diet or paleo diet and you’re still not better

199 thoughts on “The Diet

  1. Ian says:

    Mikhaila,

    I would love to have a conversation (email or other electronic is fine) with you. I just watched the two youtube videos with you dad (P.S. I love your dad! 🙂 )

    I am 54. Came to Canada from N. Ireland when I was a young child, but after living here for about 6 years, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Pericarditis, and Raynead’s Phenomenon.

    Back then (the disease(s) began about 1973, was told there was no cure and the Rayneauds was really interesting to the medical professionals at Sick Kids; they had never seen a child with it before.

    Basically, I was mostly in a wheelchair and on strict bed rest for 4 years, with some periods where I could go home, but limited physical activity.

    At 14, I had a bit of a “recovery” but I think that was due to disobeying doctor’s orders and getting myself out of bed late at night, when no one was around, and trying to learn to walk again…

    Then, a doctor, who was eventually forced out of the Ontario Medical Association for his unorthodox treatment suggested megadoses of some vitamins and also Niacin for the Rayneaud’s. After about six weeks on this supplementation program, I had very little arthritic pain, had no Rayneaud’s, and was able to do much more physical activity.

    Maybe my own experience and yours, might be helpful to cross-reference some things, if you are interested.

  2. Hi Mikhaila, I really appreciate your candor and your willingness to share, not only your experiences but also your food plan. I am going to give it a try. I feel like I am battling arthritis and just blamed it on my age but I also feel like some foods send me into depression as well. I was wondering if you count calories or use any portion controls or just eat until you feel full. Just curious because I have been battling my weight for quite some time and appreciate your insights, thanks so much!

    • Reed Nystrom says:

      I know I’m not Mikhaila but I have to put my 2 cents into this comment. The best, easiest, and most predictable way to lose weight, hands down, is to cut carbohydrates of any kind from your diet. All carbs end up as glucose which will be stored as fat if you don’t use all the energy (which you won’t unless you’re a professional sprinter). Obviously there’s no need to go ZERO carb to lose weight, but the less carbs you intake, the faster the weight loss will be. Exercise for weight loss is wayyy overrated, and starving yourself is an even worse solution, so please DO eat until you’re satisfied! It’s not healthy to resist food when you’re legitimately hungry — just replace snacky carby food with meat, greens w/ lots of coconut oil, etc.

  3. steven v says:

    I don’t know much about Restless Leg Syndrome but I have read a few articles about muscle tension and imbalances. Massage therapists claim they can feel in the muscle people who eat well and those who don’t. Some massage therapists also claim that people heal much faster on a clean diet than those who don’t. The therapists claim that healthy muscle is much more supple and pliable.
    Think you would be wise to try this diet for a few months and see if your symptoms reduce. Good Luck

  4. Tom says:

    Hi Mikhaila,
    Out of curiosity what would your recommend for breakfast? I’m having a hard time cutting out dairy and I don’t really have a lot of time to cook something.
    Thanks

  5. Zak Radtke says:

    Hi Mikhaila, I’ve been doing your elimination diet of meat and greens for 20 days now. Overall it has been a good experience and I’m finding benefits and feeling better. But the last few days I have had a lot diarrhea out of no where with no change in my eating. I’m wondering if this is normal or if you or people you know on the diet have experienced this? I hope that this is temporary and will improve, my old way of eating never gave me diarrhea so this is unusual and annoying. Otherwise it has been a great 20 days and I’m really enjoying ribeyes!

  6. Coen says:

    Hi Mikhaila,

    Thanks for putting all this knowledge out there – I’ve been following your blog since you started it and I find your story very inspirational. I’m in my thirties and I’ve been dealing with depression ever since puberty (or even childhood), for which I’ve never found any working medication; well, it caused constipation, mainly. I’m also often very tired, got a ton of anxiety, brain fog, problems concentrating and I’m overly sensitive to sounds/sights/smells etc. from my environment, which can be very hard to handle. Over the years I started telling myself all this is just part of who I am and part of certain factors in life (like unsatisfactory work – which I haven’t been able to change because of depression and lack of energy).

    About 2 years ago I read about the paleo diet and I cut out bread, pasta and most (added) sugar from my diet. That definitely improved things a little bit; however, I still struggle quite a lot.

    Right now I eat a lot of vegetables, some meat and fish, a lot of eggs (love eggs), a whole lot of nuts, quite some bananas, oatmeal for breakfast (with blueberries, nuts, seeds and banana). Oh, and way too much very dark chocolate.

    Just coming out of a heavy bout of depression, I really feel like giving the elimination diet you wrote about a chance. It won’t be easy: I love good tasting meals, I love chocolate, and 2 of my roommates are vegans 😉

    A couple of questions:

    – Would you recommend a zero carb month, just to be sure, or should I start with the above list?
    – Did you compile the above list based purely on your own experiences with these foods? In that case, I could imagine that list could turn out to be quite different for everybody, which might mean a month of zero carb, followed by re-introduction, would be the best idea.
    – For most of my life I’ve believed that, of all the foods, vegetables are the most innocent and most beneficial. Nowadays though, I have no idea anymore. So much is being written, there’s so many opinions (including success stories and scientific references) – it doesn’t get any easier. I know you’re not a nutritional scientist yourself, but do you think meat is the most innocent/beneficial of all foods, for most people? And if so, why? Or is it just your personal experience, since this is cleary the case when it comes to your body specifically?
    – Just out of curiosity: now that you eat meat only, do you still do the breakfast/lunch/dinner thing, or did these patterns change in any way?

    Thanks a lot, wishing you all the best from the Netherlands 🙂

  7. Emily says:

    Hi! Great info, thank you for sharing your experience!
    Have you heard of Somatic Experiencing? It works with healing the autonomic nervous system. I’m seeing alot of people heal from their autoimmune disease with SE, even when diet does not fully help. It seems like the nervous system is where these autoimmune issues stem from.

  8. beth says:

    Did low barometric pressure changes bother you?

    Did you get a lot of colds/flus?

    If so, did the diet help?

    • Reed Nystrom says:

      That’s what a zero-carb diet would entail, yes. Fruits have lots of sugar, which is a carbohydrate. You’re basically just eating meat all day every day on a zero-carb diet. It’s not a bad idea to try one if you have really terrible autoimmune issues, but you could just stick to the list on this page if you want more variety… or just cut out gluten, dairy & soy if you still want your sugar fix.

  9. Eric says:

    So sorry you’ve had to go through all this. I hope you get to help others with your insane journey through the underworld. I have a dairy allergy and food sensitivities. It took me 40+ years to figure out I have a Fructan/ FODMAP sensitivity disguised as a just Gluten sensitivity. Elimination diet and probiotics esp Lactobacillus Rhamnosus have worked wonders for my conditions. IBS, Eczema, bloating, etc. all managed. It’s just wild how much we don’t know about the digestive system and how much it effects us. Here’s what I eliminated, High FODMAP foods:

    WHY IS AN APPLE causing me an upset stomach?! WHY ARE ONIONS destroying me? Turns out…

    https://www.vox.com/2017/11/21/16643816/gluten-bloated-carb-wheat-fructan-problem-fodmaps

  10. Matthew Penny says:

    I’m wondering how do you get enough calories in? I’m not in a position where I want to lose weight, I’ve struggled to gain weight most of my life due to anxiety. I’ve suffered with severe anxiety most of my life. Recently I’ve been having severe chronic fatigue and Ibs (started when I was 16, 22 now) (also I’ve tried the low fodmap died which didn’t help in any significant way) I would love to try your died, however I do not want to lose weight. It’s safe to say I physically can’t eat enough meat and salad to hit 2200kcal a day. Any suggestions?

  11. steven v says:

    I know I can put on weight really fast by eating teaspoons of coconut oil and eating macadamia nuts. The coconut oil is supposedly really healthy for you, your digestive tract and is loaded with calories. Macadamia nuts are really expensive but I buy a 5 lb. bag and put them in the refrigerator. Eat a couple handfuls of nuts a day and they are loaded with healthy calories if you can digest them.
    Good luck, I hope it gives you some ideas.

  12. Krista says:

    Thanks so much for the blog. What are your thoughts on coffee? Does it negatively affect you? Or auto immune? Also stevia?
    Thanks so much!

    • Reed Nystrom says:

      It’s very common for people to be sensitive (in terms of IgG response) to eggs, especially the whites. A lot of people do elimination diets w/ eggs and have fantastic results, and obviously the decision is yours to make. However, if you need to see results quickly, this diet (or the carnivore diet that she’s now on) would be your best bet. The more foods you eliminate, the less likely you are to react to something.

  13. Dmitry says:

    I’m very inspired by all this. My depression is a lifetime struggle, but I find it very hard to afford this kind of diet financially. I live in Ukraine and we neither have antidepressants here nor affordable greens in winter, and meet is also kinda expensive to be honest… and depression kills my personality in a way that I cannot succeed to such a degree so that I could afford all this. I guess it’s a trap and I’ll just go be depressed further on, eating cheap beans and wheats…

  14. FRASER says:

    Hi Mikhaila, being from Scotland I’m a big fan of single malt whiskey, would that be okay do you think ??

    • Ian says:

      Och Fraser, being an Ulsterman myself, I’m sure Bushmills Black Bush would be the best and can highly recommend it! Having a steak and a wee dram as I write 🙂

  15. Collin says:

    I don’t think I have any diet sensitivities but I am really bad at finding things to eat. I have trouble spending the time to shop and cook them–I don’t know what to get! This diet seems appealing because it’s simple!

    I’ve had consistent lower back pain and stomach discomfort for about five years. Perhaps this diet will fix it. I think I’ll try it out.

    What do you eat for breakfast? I saw you said avocados are no good. Those things wreck my stomach! But I love ’em. What about avocados trigger your depression?

  16. I wonder if bad food combining plays a role in any of these problems.
    Some say not to mix certain foods, like potatoes and meat.
    No carbs mixed with proteins. Fruits eaten alone. Etc.
    They say the carb ferments in the stomach while the body is working on the protein, etc.
    There’s a lot to it, in a way, but if it is true and a person is eating sweet potatoes with steak and having problems, it is possible it is because of the fermentation and digestion problems this combination is causing.
    I am not saying I do not believe in food sensitivities, or even that in someone’s case like Mikhaila’s it would make a difference, but I wonder, if Mikhaila ate a plate of just sweet potatoes, waited an hour and then ate a steak, would she find the sweet potatoes still mess her up? Probably, but it’s a another factor to consider.

  17. Steven Lacrete says:

    Mikhaila,
    Just starting to explore your site and I can’t say how much I appreciate it. I found you through following your dad. I started the Paleo diet about a year ago to help with my long term psoriatic arthritis and gastrointestinal problems. Lost over 20 pounds and see lots of other improvements especially in gastrointestinal problems. Humera lessens the arthritis but not to a great extent. Don’t understand why you eliminated fruit though. Hoping to learn more from you. Although at my age (52) results may differ. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Caila says:

    I did an elimination diet for a while, and I wasn’t feeling better, until I ate super plain. I was eating very soupy potato soup for almost two weeks, and more solids and then I really felt better, but I ate gluten and felt bad again. It didn’t really hurt me badly until I ate gluten cookies. Sugar and gluten kill me. Well, I did the elimination diet again, and my severe constipation went away and I wasn’t feeling back to normal, I had anxiety but better managed. Well, I reintroduced gluten, like an idiot, and today I’ve been fighting not to have a massive panic attack and also have severe burning seeking pain in my stomach. Very hypersensitive to sounds, bleeding sores in my head, itching all over, joint pains etc etc. The anxiety is the freaking worst of it all. I would be ok with everything else but this panic feeling is awful. I know exactly what it is, too. It’s pressure on the recum area, after I had constipated bowel movements again for a week, it irritated me, and now, any pressure or gas on that area, probably a nerve (vagus nerve more then likely) causes me straight into panic. When I was eating super strict, all of these symptoms went away.

    • steven v says:

      Hey Caila,

      I have had a number of decades with food intolerances but not as extreme as yours. Definitely one of the hardest things for me was to stay committed to the strict diet. So many times when I would start to feel better I thought I could start going back to my old eating habits, just a little bit. But eventually, if not immediately, I would get knocked down numerous times. Then when I was starting to feel poorly I would say “screw it” I feel sick already and don’t care if I get more sick and I would eat more harmful food to my body. A very difficult cycle to deal with.
      Keep trying to stay with your intention of good health, proper eating and the process will get better and easier. I hope you have read all of Mikhaila’s posts. There is a lot of helpful information in there to keep you from making more painful mistakes on your own.
      Good Luck

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