Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple~Papaya Salsa (AIP & low-FODMAP)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA How do you navigate a family reunion full of potato chips, beer, pasta (& family) when you’re on the Autoimmune Protocol? Here a couple of ideas & a recipe. ‘Cause we just successfully survived one~.

A Weird Diet called the AIP~?!

One of our strategies was a nightly salad bar with supper. All the ingredients prepped and presented for everyone to make a build-your-own salad with a choice of store-bought & homemade AIP dressings.

Picky children could pick what they liked and it was easy for Matthew to make a low-FODMAP salad without having to explain why he doesn’t eat broccoli or kale, but can eat arugula and cucumber. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another tactic was putting delicious and festive low-FODMAP AIP entrees on the menu, like this one, that had everyone raving (for days) without even knowing a thing about FODMAPs and having only the sketchiest notion that Matthew and I are on a weird diet called the AIP.

Of course, the family infilled their meals with grain and potato-based starches, but we interjected turnips and yams into that rotation occasionally, and added sauerkraut to the offerings at meals, which was mostly politely ignored.

All the more for us~!

Mahi-Mahi is a common fish in Hawai’i, so it only makes sense to pair it with papaya (currently in season) and pineapple in a fresh AIP-friendly salsa for a tropically-themed (low-FODMAP) extended family party meal.

Mahi Mahi with Pineapple~Papaya Salsa (AIP & low-FODMAP)

  • Servings: a dinner party
  • Print

  • 12 portions Mahi Mahi
  • 1 small or ½ a very large fresh Pineapple
  • 1 medium-sized Papaya
  • 1 bunch cilantro, minced
  • ½ cup green onion greens, chopped (use the white ends too, if FODMAPs are not an issue)
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt (or similar)
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled & minced finely

Turn the grill on medium or preheat the oven to 350.

If baking, lay the Mahi Mahi portions on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes an inch until the fish is opaque, moist & just flakes with a fork.If grilling, lay the portions gently on the grill and cook quickly (6-10 minutes, depending on thickness), until it becomes opaque & just begins to flake. Don’t overcook this lean fish~.

Meanwhile, or (perhaps) earlier in the day, remove the rind of the pineapple with a sharp knife and cut the fresh fruit into a dice. If the pineapple is large, you may need to cut the tough centre section of the fruit even smaller, or omit it entirely. Repeat the peeling & dicing with the Papaya, removing the seeds.

Mix the diced fruit with all the remaining ingredients. The salsa can be made ahead or served right away. Serve each portion of the Mahi Mahi with a generous helping of Salsa.

Mahi Mahi is the Hawai’ian name for a fish that is also known as Dorado in Latin America, Shiira in Japan or Dolphinfish in the United States, reflecting it’s international presence. Mahi Mahi can be found in warm oceans around the world; in the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Africa, and throughout the Pacific from the Americas to Asia.

Paleolithic Mahi Mahi

Fresco_Mahi-Mahi,_Akrotiri,_GreeceThis fresco tells us that humans have probably always eaten the distinctive-looking Mahi Mahi, and that they definitely harvested them during the Minoan Bronze Age in Akrotiri on the island of Santorini (then Thera) in ancient Greece. One of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history on Thera in 1627 BCE preserved this and many other artifacts under hundreds of meters of ash.

Human activity in the fishing village of Akrotiri has been traced back to the 5th millennium BCE, when people likely still ate Mahi Mahi. Evidence indicates that humans, and their early hominid ancestors, have lived and fished on the Greek islands since the Middle Paleolithic around 128,000 BCE.  As there were no signs of  agriculture in the islands until recently (7000 years ago), I’m guessing they ate a lot of fish for those intervening millennia.

The Environmental Defense Fund has classified line or pole-caught Mahi Mahi from US waters as ‘Eco-Best’, its top ecological rating. The Natural Resources Defense Council has given it the second lowest of four categories of mercury toxicity, calling it a ‘moderate mercury’ fish.

Depression as a Food Reaction

Matthew & Petra

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.

ABABWhen 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.

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.

The New Astronomy of the Human Gut: Mapping the signature constellations of our microbiome


Constellations: inside & outside~

The Autoimmune Protocol is founded on evidence that gut health is the key to reversing systemic inflammation and autoimmune symptoms.

According to recent research, it turns out that particular microbiome ‘signatures’ in the human gut can be linked to specific autoimmune conditions.

Stick with me: this stuff is important. And medically, it’s paradigm-altering.

What follows are selected quotes from a paper that was published in the January 2015 issue of Arthitis & Rheumatology, called Decreased Bacterial Diversity Characterizes the Altered Gut Microbiota in Patients with Psoriatic Arthritis, Resembling Dysbiosis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Dr Jose Scher and 13 other researchers.

This study adds additional scientific research to the mounting anecdotal evidence that Autoimmune Protocol pioneers have been amassing, regarding the connection between gut health and autoimmune. It begins to explore the unique constellations of intestinal bacteria that are associated with different forms of autoimmune disease.

This particular paper focuses on Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) and Psoriasis, two of the interrelated autoimmune conditions that Matthew lives with.

In our ongoing quest to hack Matthew’s health, we constantly seek new information to inform, confirm or disconfirm our observations, hunches & hypotheses. This paper confirms everything we’ve learned through our biohacking to date. It has raised some new research questions for us & could potentially revolutionize standard medical practice for treating autoimmune.

The Findings

In summary:

  • People with Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) have less diversity in the population of organisms in their gut than healthy people, and they lack particular types of of bacteria:  specifically, Akkermansia and Ruminococcus.
  • People with psoriasis also have reduced diversity in their intestinal microbiome, and the reduction follows a pattern, with maximum variety in healthy people, reduced flora in people with psoriasis alone, and even further reduced diversity in people who, like Matthew, have psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.

In the words of Dr Scher et al:

“In this study…we have shown, for the first time, that patients with PsA and patients with psoriasis of the skin have decreased diversity in their gut microbiota, mainly due to the lower relative abundance of several taxa.”

Internal constellations~

Internal constellations~

In addition to less diverse intestinal flora, researchers have identified a “common gut microbiota signature in patients with psoriasis and patients with PsA.”

“Our studies constitute a novel and comprehensive approach to investigate the symbiotic relationship between gut microbiota and PsA. We have identified several organisms that are virtually absent from PsA patients (i.e., Akkermansia and Ruminococcus).”

“The gut microbiota profile in patients with psoriasis appears to be intermediate, between that of PsA patients and that of healthy subjects, suggesting that there exists a possible continuum in disappearing intestinal taxa through the natural history of the disease.”

A “key question left unanswered by our study is whether patients with current psoriasis of the skin alone will lose certain potentially protective taxa, such as Akkermansia and Ruminococcus, at the time of, or prior to, transition into PsA. This is crucial because, although it is established that 25-30% of patients with psoriasis will develop arthritis over time, there is currently no possible way to predict progression.”

Similar research has previously focused on the constellations of gut flora in people with rheumatoid arthritis. A comparable lack of diversity was found, but with a different signature. “We have previously utilized this same approach to examine the intestinal microbiome in treatment-naive patients with new-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and found that expansion of Prevotella copri was associated with enhanced susceptibility  to as yet untreated human RA. This is contrast with our present findings in PsA patients and suggests that there is a distinctive pattern associated with each condition.”

Potential Treatment & Further Study

“These investigations may ultimately lead to novel diagnostic tests and interventions, in the form of probiotics, prebiotics, specific microbiome-derived metabolites or molecular targets, and even bacterial transplant techniques.”

“The role of the gut microbiome in the continuum of psoriasis-PsA parthenogenesis and the associated immune response merits further study.”

We agree~!

What if replacing the missing Akkermansia and Ruminococcus could assist in reversing Psoriatic Arthritis? This would likely not be as simple as repopulating the gut with these bacteria. Favorable gut conditions would probably need to be cultivated to allow these extinct organisms to thrive. And re-population might need to be done through ‘bacterial transplant techniques’ including, perhaps, fecal transplants.

We think these findings could revolutionize medical treatment for autoimmune arthritis (and autoimmune conditions generally).

Find the full Decreased Bacterial Diversity Characterizes the Altered Gut Microbiota in Patients with Psoriatic Arthritis paper here.


Fully-loaded Avocado Chicken Salad

Loaded Avocado

But first, some ruminations from those moments when I hate cooking~

Hating cooking is a first world problem.

But even so, it’s real.

I know because I hate cooking.

Less than I used to, but still, it’s one of the last things I’d do if I had a choice & one of the first functions I’d outsource if I got a zillion dollars.

Nevertheless, I have this food blog. Full of recipes.

My grandma Naomi hated cooking, too.

Did it ever occur to her that life was not going to involve cooking every single day until she died? Not once. She cooked every day, because in her generation, preference was irrelevant.

Obviously, lots of people love cooking. My #1 kid has devoted her career to it.

Cooking, like gardening, is a leisure activity for some & a vile chore for others.

What’s the difference?

Leisure vs Work

Levitt & Dubner, the guys who wrote the Freakonomics books, say “it’s work if someone tells you to do it and leisure if you choose to do it yourself.”

I’m not sure that’s true, as almost nobody ever tells me to do anything (I’ve pretty much constructed my life that way). But nevertheless there are things I consider to be work.

Like work.

I wouldn’t quibble with their statement if it was rephrased: it’s work if you have to do it and leisure if you choose to do it.

But then, choice is an interesting concept.

Is choice about doing what we prefer? Or choosing how we respond?


Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl had a profound revelation about the nature of choice during the three years he spent living in German concentration camps.

The only member of his family who entered the camps to survive, his realization was: “The last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

It is in our power to choose how to respond.

So, though I might cavil a bit with Levitt & Dubner, I agree with the spirit of their assertion: perhaps it’s work if you have to do it and leisure if you choose to. You can choose, therefore to make your work your leisure.

Which loops us back to cooking. Choice or necessity?

If you find, as I have, that cooking is a necessity, you can choose to find ways to hate it less.

Including using cooking as a practice for choice.

And, because we have choice, by employing strategies for cooking less. Like making extra, so you have cooked chicken thighs (for example) on hand to make this this fully-loaded avocado chicken salad.

No cooking (just assembly) required.

My choice~.


Fully-loaded Avocado Chicken Salad (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleoLoaded Avocado 2

  • 1 large or 2 small ripe Avocados
  • 2 cooked chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons additive-free coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt (or similar)

Cut the Avocado(s) in half & remove the pit(s).

Dice the chicken. Chop the cilantro.

Mix them together with the coconut milk, lime juice and salt. Divide this mixture between each avocado half & enjoy immediately.

Ginger~Turmeric Yams

Yams 3I went through a long yam-free period when I was experimenting with a super low-carb variation of the Autoimmune Protocol. But I’m back~!

And having taken roots &  squashes out, I am now about to discern exactly what high-quality carbohydrates do for me.

Every 3-4 days I need some root foods or my vitality plummets. Which is exactly the level that Dr Terry Wahls recommends on her ketogenic (Wahls Paleo Plus) protocol.

I could have just taken her word for it, but I had to find out for myself. I triangulated her recommendation!

And now I understand the value of carbs for my peak performance.

Previously, we always made yam fries in the oven, which are heavenly, but when they get crispy they blacken, which isn’t at all healthful. So this is our new super-simple extremely delicious way to optimize life with yams~.

Ginger~Turmeric Yams (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleoYams

Preheat the oven to 320 (or preheat the BBQ on low)

  • 2 small yams
  • 1 finger turmeric root
  • 1 finger ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt (or similar)

Peel and dice the yams. Place them in a small dutch oven with a lid or on a square of (heavy duty) tin foil of sufficient size to wrap them up.

Peel and finely dice the turmeric and ginger.

Place the turmeric, ginger, coconut oil and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt the coconut oil & let the spices sizzle. Pour this mixture over the yams. Wrap the foil, if using, around them to create a plump package.

Bake (or BBQ) for 40-50 minutes, or until soft.

Biohacking Tip 4: Qualitative Methods

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative Tools

Qualitative methods enable deep and detailed exploration.

When you are aiming for lasting transformative change through your biohacking experiments, that might be just what you need.

Traditionally, qualitative research involved scribing zillions of pages of field notes. And then analyzing them, painstakingly, in the wee hours by candlelight while perched on a rickety, uncomfortable chair.

Who has time?

Biohackers need a do-able system. One that is useful, convenient & enjoyable.

But let’s start with a brief introduction to:

Qualitative Methods

I introduced quantitative methods in my post: Biohacking Tip 1: Gather Data.

There I mention that data comes in 2 flavours: quantitative & qualitative. Quantitative data quantifies; qualitative data describes.

In Biohacking Tip 3: n=1 I touched on both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

A qualitative approach to biohacking will enable you to approach your experiments with open-mindedness and curiosity, whether or not you have a predetermined hypothesis.

According to Michael Quinn Patton, “qualitative inquiry documents the stuff that happens among real people in the real world in their own words, from their own perspectives, and within their own contexts.”

The most current and comprehensive resource on qualitative methods is Michael Quinn Patton’s 2015 book Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. It’s 806 pages of good times! (At least it is for me).

I have been a big fan of MQP for a long time. I have all his books and I owe pretty much everything I know about qualitative inquiry to him.

Including most what I offer in this post.


Anecdotes are the origin of hypotheses.

They elicit questions.

Exploring the questions inspired by anecdotes leads to new and deeper understanding.

Michael Quinn Patton notes that saying ‘that’s just anecdotal’ is an easy way to dismiss data that is generated qualitatively. And there are a lot of people who love to dismiss the qualitative.

However, as MQP points out, scientific knowledge starts with anecdotes. Like Isaac Newton’s apple, which fell, according to the anecdote, and thereby provoked the theory of gravity.

Anecdotes also enable the identification of patterns. A series of anecdotes that support a theme become evidence. As Raymond Wolfinger notes: “the plural of anecdote is data.”

NietzcheSo don’t be shy about getting anecdotal:

  • Gather anecdotes: ask questions;
  • Ask questions: look for patterns;
  • Use patterns to create hypotheses;
  • Test your hypotheses.

That’s the anecdotal route to the scientific method.

Anecdotes are freely available. You can find them everywhere~!

All you need to do is construct a net to catch them.

Which leads us back to your do-able system. One that is useful, convenient & enjoyable.


Consider joy.

That might be a bit of a stretch. At first.

But when choosing research methods for your biohacking experiments, consider:

  • Which approaches you enjoy the most; or
  • Those you hate the least.

Do those~.

Above any other consideration, choose the methods that will bring you maximum joy. Because the more you enjoy the activities that support your biohacking, the more consistently you will do them.

If quantitative methods bring you joy: use them. If collecting anecdotes is what you hate less: do that instead.

Once your healing & optimization have progressed, you might find that your joy increases. That you have more joy. And enjoy more things, including other methods.

Useful & Convenient

I you have an autoimmune disease, you already know about inconvenience.

And documenting a bunch of dietary and lifestyle changes while living with an autoimmune disease raises the inconvenience quotient to a whole other level.

So a discussion of convenience in this context is relative.

What you are aiming for in selecting qualitative methods is something that is more convenient.

The written word is the traditional method for documentation: either pen to paper or typing on a computer (or mobile).

But video might be more convenient. Or audio recording.



Maybe you have someone who would be willing interview you, using open-ended questions you develop, at predetermined intervals. Or you could use the Experience-Sampling Method (I’ll write more on that soon), with your smartphone as interviewer, as in this study titled How Do You Feel?


As well as ease of documentation, consider how convenient it might be to return to your data later to divine themes and generate further research questions.

If you plan to take that step.

In an n=1, sometimes the qualitative documentation process is sufficient. You might find you can learn enough through the process of articulating (or otherwise expressing) your observations.

Unlike researchers who are working in an unfamiliar context, you don’t have to try to understand another worldview.

Even if you don’t plan to return to your field notes (or images) for a rigorous qualitative analysis process, keeping an archive will preserve your primary data so that you can return to it in the future, if you wish to.

To track themes during future experiments. Or triangulate with other biohackers.

Once you have one or more methods you like, all you need to do is consider what you want to document.


Document whatever will be useful for you based on the purposes of your biohacking experiment.

Eileen Laird, Autoimmune Protocol blogger at Phoenix Helix offers this list.

Decide whether you want to make your documentation public or private.

Do you want to place your observations in the bosom of blogosphere? Or keep them to yourself? Both are valid.

If you decide to blog, you are in good company.