Recently I tried reintroducing Macadamia Nuts into my Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and I learned something about my mental health.

Organic raw dehydrated Macadamias were a go: I noticed no untoward effects.

But the supermarket non-organic kind in a tin were not. My stomach felt mildly inflamed, my energy plummeted and most interestingly, I felt quite depressed for several hours.

I could easily have ignored the stomach thing, but the depression was untenable.

I'd been upbeat & happy, then suddenly, about an hour after cracking the mac nut tin, all the joy and potential bled out of the world. I was no longer able to do my day. All I could do was steep in gloom, deep under the covers, with the woe of the world crashing down on me.

The first time it happened, the experience was so real and consuming it took awhile before I realized I was having a food reaction. That put things in perspective, and I made myself go outside for a walk, where I could begin analyzing my reaction rather than just getting lost in it.

Testing, Testing...

Over the next few weeks I tested my reaction several times, using an ABAB time series:

  • Organic raw dehydrated Macadamias: fine!;
  • Non-organic supermarket Macadamias in a tin: feeling of mild inflammation in my digestive system, low energy and depression;
  • Recovery time;
  • Repeat~.

The more un-organic mac nuts I had, the worse the reactions was.

Depression as a Food Reaction

Depression is a primary food reaction Matthew experiences when he tries to reintroduce foods, only his effects last longer (24-48 hours compared to my 4-6) and are more severe.

Even now that we know that this is a reaction he is likely to have, we still get bowled over by his feelings of absolute futility.


When he's in it, the reaction is so strong and deep, he loses the ability to remember that the reaction is caused by food.

That is a dangerous time.

The last time it happened, his feelings led him to question whether he even wanted to be here anymore.

It reminds me of the scene in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, when Professor Dumbledore consumes the Drink of Despair, a potion that causes him to re-live all his worst memories and fears. Matthew gets like that.

His despair results in very negative (short-term) attitudes about the severity of the restrictions he lives with on a low-FODMAP version of the AIP and a sense of hopelessness about the slow progress he is making, among other things.

This often results in a impulsive decision to reintroduce a bunch of other non-compliant comfort foods, because nothing matters anyway.

BE proactive

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Take the Assessment

This unintended cascading reintroduction of non-AIP foods occurred for Matthew a year ago, after 3 months on the AIP, though we didn't fully understand the phenomenon at the time. Once he recovered his ability to think clearly and got back on track, it took months to recover the progress he had made before that first derailed reintroduction experiment.

During an attempt at reintroduction, we now know that I have to be present and available to remind Matthew that he is having a food reaction, and that it is not a good time to make the decision to abandon his 15-month commitment to the AIP.

When he's deep in despair, he's not appreciative of my ministrations. But after, when he is able to look back and comprehend what just happened, he is.

So, We're Careful With Reintroductions

We don't do a lot of reintroduction experiments.

So far, Matthew has successfully reintroduced coffee and organic full-fat yogurt. They don't cause a depression reaction, but he is only 70% confident that he actually tolerates them, so he's still experimenting (ABAB~).

Chocolate & Mac Nuts? Not good. No matter how organic.

These observations have led me to reflect on the potential relationship between food and mental health issues in the general population.

People who are on a strict, clean dietary protocol are able to directly track the effects of reintroduced foods, but those who are consuming potentially problematic foods (or food additives or chemicals) all the time aren't able to tease out the impacts of particular triggers on their well-being, including on their mental health.

Food & Mental Health

It is now widely accepted that gut health=mental health.

I experienced an alleviation of my decades-long battle with depression and anxiety after 6 months of paleo eating. Since then, I've surmised that perhaps gut health=psyche health, too.

What if certain foods (or fungicides, pesticides, or other chemicals) are also directly contributing to mental health problems? How would people know?

Only by adhering to a strict, clean dietary protocol for a significant period of time and then reintroducing foods (or additives or chemicals) to test their reactions.

Use of antidepressants are increasing all the time. More than 10% of Americans are now using them in an attempt to manage their depression. This number increases to 23% for women in their 40s & 50s (also the age group with the highest prevalence of autoimmune).

More research into the phenomenon of depression as a food (or chemical) reaction is warranted.

Featured Resource

Biohack U 1:1 Coaching

Experts in personalized (n=1) experimentation methods, Biohack U Coaches can help you get started with your own n=1 and can assist you with troubleshooting your healing process.

Joanna is a Certified Health Coach living in Australia. She focuses on helping people effect positive behavioral change through the personalization of their healing protocol lifestyle. 

Petra brings 25-years of experience in research and evaluation to her coaching practice. Her area of expertise is personalized experimentation (n=1) for healing & optimization.

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