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The Paleo Elimination Diet (That “Cured” Me Before the Lion Diet)

By Mikhaila


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/lion diet. 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.


  • 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!


  • 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


  • 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.



  • 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!


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


  • 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 reintroduce

  • 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

Join the Conversation


  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. Did low barometric pressure changes bother you?

    Did you get a lot of colds/flus?

    If so, did the diet help?

  4. Hello. When you say no-carb, does this means that all fruit need to be eliminated as well?

    1. 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.

    2. what if your immune system is under active (opposite of autoimmune)… Is zero carb or low carb better?

    3. I would think it’d be different for everyone. You’ll probably have to experiment a bit.

  5. 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…


  6. Question for Mikhaila or anyone who has suggestions: is there an at-home IgG test you would recommend?

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