My goal with the Phoenix Helix Podcast is to help people with autoimmune disease thrive. Today’s episode is dedicated to our transgender listeners and the healthcare practitioners who serve them. We’ll be talking about the medical complexities that might arise from the intersection of gender-affirming treatment and autoimmune treatment. We’ll discuss the challenges transgender patients face when seeking medical help and not knowing if you will face medical discrimination. We’ll share tips for creating safe spaces within healthcare practices. We’re also going to talk about the stress-autoimmune connection and the special challenges facing transgender people, with advice for self-care and self-advocacy. I’m honored to have a panel of guests with me today. Mitch Hankins is a transgender man living with autoimmune disease and will be sharing his experience and advice with us. Dr. Aly Cohen is an integrative rheumatologist who will be sharing the medical perspective. And Dr. Shainna Ali is a mental health counselor, educator, and advocate. She’ll be sharing the psychological perspective.
For Sandy Swanson, symptoms began subtly and progressed slowly. At first, she thought it might simply be a sign of aging, even though she was only in her 30’s at the time. Like many people with Hashimoto’s, it took years to discover the cause. By that time, her symptoms had worsened, and doctors routinely dismissed them as “all in her head.” She experienced a lot of medical gaslighting. I know many of you can relate! In this interview, she shares her journey back to health, and the interventions that made the biggest difference.
I believe in being an empowered patient, and that means understanding the care we receive. Sometimes tests are ordered and interpreted by our doctors, but it feels like a foreign language that we don’t speak. Today’s podcast is part of my testing series. Prior episodes have covered thyroid tests, rheumatology tests, GI tests, and more. Today, we’re doing a deep dive into MRI’s and neurological antibodies. My guest is Dr. Ken Sharlin, an integrative neurologist who believes in a holistic approach to patient care. He is a licensed MD who is board certified in neurology. He’s also certified in functional medicine.
There are many science-backed benefits into the positive power of dance for autoimmune disease: improved mobility, reduced pain, reduced anxiety and depression, improved body image, and better quality of life. That said, if you’re living with chronic illness and chronic pain, dance poses challenges. If your body has changed with autoimmune disease, can you still dance? On hard days, can dancing make your day better? The eight people featured in this article answer a resounding yes to both of those questions. They each share what dancing means to them, and how they adapt dance around their autoimmune symptoms. They also share videos showing their joy in dancing.
When our mind convinces us something is impossible before we’ve even tried, that’s a self-limiting belief. It’s common for autoimmune disease to trigger them. Googling your diagnosis can lead to scary visions of the future. Symptoms can dramatically change our lives, taking away activities we used to love. With the flare-based, unpredictable nature of autoimmunity, life becomes more uncertain. The brain feels safer with certainty, so when it’s possible you might fail, your brain may convince you not to try. The problem is that this keeps your life smaller than it needs to be, not only cutting you off from failure but also success. We don’t need perfect health to live a fuller life. We can expand our skills, activities, accomplishments, and relationships, and we can start with small steps. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do some things. The key to overcoming self-limiting beliefs is to focus on progress and possibilities, not perfection. Life isn’t an all-or-nothing game. In today’s mindset minisode, I share a simple technique from my book, Healing Mindset, to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, and take the first steps to overcoming them.
Ayurvedic Medicine is an ancient medical tradition with roots in India, which contains wisdom that still applies to our health in modern day. Today, we’re going to learn how it may help people with autoimmune disease. My guest is Dr. Akil Palanisamy. Ayurveda changed his life both personally and professionally. As a young man he developed a mystery illness that modern medicine couldn’t solve. His fatigue was so intense, he couldn’t sit up in a chair and had to drop out of medical school. It was Ayurvedic medicine that put him on the path to healing. Now, he is a Harvard-trained physician who practices integrative medicine, blending conventional medical expertise with the holistic approaches of functional medicine and Ayurveda. His latest book is called, The TIGER Protocol: An Integrative, 5-Step Program to Treat and Heal Your Autoimmunity.
Lymph is essential to our body’s ability to detoxify, reduce inflammation, and fight infection. Supporting the lymphatic system can benefit anyone’s health, but it’s especially important for those of us with autoimmune disease. Chronic inflammation puts an extra burden on this system and can even damage it long-term, reducing its efficiency. In a prior career, I was a lymph drainage therapist for 15 years. Most of my clients were people with chronic illness. As someone with rheumatoid arthritis myself, it’s one of my favorite self-care techniques.
One of the fastest ways to tap the relaxation response is to tune into our senses. It immerses us in the present moment, offering a break from our worries, and gives us the space to simply be. It’s available to us anywhere, anytime, and it only takes a minute. You can do it for longer, but even a brief pause is beneficial. In this 9 minute episode, I share some of my favorite ways to tune into the senses.
We are more than our genes! Epigenetics is a field of science that studies what influences our genetic expression. These are the things that turn our genes on and off. Our body is dynamic and it’s changing all the time in response to our environment and daily choices. Epinutrients are the nutritional compounds that alter genetic expression in a positive direction. My guest, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, is a naturopathic doctor and clinical researcher, whose research focuses on the epigenetics of diet and lifestyle. Her book, Younger You, is a deep dive into the science of Epinutrients.
When Emma Chu Farnsworth was 18 years old, she was an athlete and a freshman in college. Over the course of three weeks, her life changed forever. What started as an unexplained rash on her face ended with a diagnosis of Lupus Nephritis Class IV. It was a shocking, overwhelming, and lonely time in her life. She’s incredibly grateful to conventional medicine for saving her life. Now nine years later, Emma is experimenting with diet and lifestyle changes to improve her life even more. With Emma, we celebrate the baby step approach to autoimmune health. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Each positive choice can reap rewards that you actually feel. For Emma, those rewards are less digestive bloating, increased energy, more mental clarity, and hope for what comes next.
We spend a lot of time on social media without necessarily noticing how it’s impacting our mental, emotional, and physical health. Social media has both benefits and potential risks. Many people with autoimmune disease find like-minded souls on social media who may understand their experience better than nearby family and friends. However, social media is also linked to increases in anxiety, depression, eating disorders, loneliness, insomnia, brain fog, and more. So, what do we do? In this short podcast, learn a simple technique that allows you to see how social media is impacting you, and curate your experience accordingly.
If you’re eating well but still have digestive issues, what do you do? Are there simple foods and drinks that can support digestion? When should you try a digestive enzyme supplement? And how do you choose a high-quality one? Can enzyme supplements expand food tolerance? Can they help digest gluten? I answer these questions and more in this blog post.
When it comes to chronic illness, Western Medicine can be very helpful, but it’s rarely enough on its own to restore a high quality of life. People with autoimmune disease do a lot of self-care, and we also seek help from other branches of medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient medical tradition that is still helping people today. Acupuncture is its most famous component, but TCM is a holistic approach to health that goes beyond the needles. Today, we’re going to learn how Traditional Chinese Medicine may help people with autoimmune disease. My guest is Dr. Tanya Lee. She is a naturopathic doctor who specializes in helping people with chronic illness, and TCM is one of her medical specialties.
When it comes to MS, muscle weakness isn’t the cause of weak muscles or difficulty walking. The cause is weakness in the neural pathways from demyelination. The MSing Link is an online exercise program created by Dr. Gretchen Hawley, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and MS Certified Specialist. Every exercise in her program is designed to strengthen your muscles AND your neural pathways at the same time. In this article, Dr. Gretchen shares three sample exercises that you can try today!
Our brains have a negativity bias – paying more attention to what’s wrong than what’s right. It’s not uncommon to have a silent soundtrack in the back of our minds, playing our worries and grievances on repeat. This is especially true when we have a chronic illness. Learning to recognize and question negative thoughts is a powerful skill to have. In today’s mindset minisode, I teach how to overcome negative thoughts during autoimmune flares, and replace them with helpful thoughts instead.
Sound Healing is a therapy that uses sound and vibration to balance the mind, body, and spirit. I know that might sound woo-woo to some listeners, but as long as there have been people, music has been used for both expression and healing. There’s also some modern scientific research into its benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, reduced pain, improved mood, and an overall sense of wellbeing. I personally fell in love with sound therapy after developing rheumatoid arthritis. The first time I received a 1:1 sound healing session was transformational. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a relaxation so deep, or my body so perfectly balanced. So, today, we’re doing a deep dive into sound healing, including different types, different instruments, and we’ll be demonstrating some sounds for you as well. It’s going to be a fun episode! My guests are two autoimmune warriors who are also sound healing practitioners: Jo-Anne Suriel and Jennifer Roseman.
With autoimmune disease, many of us choose healing diets to reduce inflammation and live healthier lives. When we first make this change, we’re very focused on the foods we’re no longer eating, and it’s common to say “I can’t eat that” when those foods are offered. Have you ever heard the saying: “Be careful what you say because your body is listening?” It’s true! And our hearts and minds are listening too. Words matter – whether we say them out loud or in our thoughts – and there’s a big difference between the phrase “I can’t” and “I choose”. One is negative and one is positive. That may seem like a small thing, but it can actually have a big impact. I dive into the details in this article.
Can we befriend a body in pain? With autoimmune disease, we’ve been told that our body is attacking us which sets up war imagery in our minds. Yet our bodies are our home. So, when we get furious with our bodies, and hate our bodies, all of the furious energy gets directed toward ourselves. It’s understandable to feel this way when we are suffering, but there’s a parallel here that’s interesting to consider. We want our body to stop attacking itself. Are we willing to do the same, mentally and emotionally? In today’s mindset minisode, I share a simple but powerful technique that can be a first step to befriending your body.
Spring is a visually beautiful season. The earth comes alive, the trees start to bud, and flowers pop up everywhere. After a hard winter, that can be lovely to see. But it’s hard to enjoy if that same season brings sneezes, runny nose, watery eyes, and other uncomfortable symptoms. And while this episode is airing in the Spring, seasonal allergies can happen anytime of year. What makes someone prone to seasonal allergies? Is autoimmune disease a risk factor? How can we build a resilient immune system that’s less susceptible to allergies? And what are some tips if we’re suffering right now? We’ll be answering these questions and more in today’s episode. My guest is Dr. Heather Zwickey, an integrative immunologist and microbiologist. She loves teaching about the intersection between nutrition, immunology, the gut microbiome, and the gut-brain-immune axis.
It took 16 years and multiple hospital visits before Jenny received her diagnosis of autoimmune pancreatitis. Once she realized her condition was autoimmune, she decided to try the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). After doing the elimination phase for 2.5 months, she returned to the gastroenterologist for follow-up testing. Her tests came back healthy and showed that the damage to her pancreas had healed. Simultaneously, the AIP also eliminated the asthma and eczema she had suffered from for years. Her doctor told her to keep doing what she was doing. That was six years ago. Since then, she’s reintroduced many foods successfully back into her diet, and has a personalized diet and lifestyle that supports her wellbeing. She shares the details in this interview.
Emotions are part of the human experience, and when life is hard, challenging emotions often arise alongside – feelings like grief, anger, anxiety, resentment, guilt, and shame. They’re not fun to feel, and sometimes they can be overwhelming. Many of us try to ignore or run away from these emotions, but research shows that suppressed emotions don’t go away. They get stronger. They can also come out sideways in the form of physical symptoms, addictive behaviors, or lashing out at others. If we want to live a healthy life with autoimmune disease, we need to find a way to feel all of our emotions, including the challenging ones. In this 10 minute podcast, I share a technique designed to do just that. It can take you from overwhelm to calm in just a few minutes.
Dr. Emily Kiberd is a chiropractor with Hashimoto’s who created a strength training program for her fellow Hashi warriors. Joint pain, extreme fatigue, and weight gain are common symptoms, which can make exercise challenging. Many people choose gentle forms of exercise that don’t strain the body further, but this can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Muscle is the body’s metabolic engine. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Muscle is also the largest endocrine organ in the body, so contracting muscle tissue has been shown to help with the turnover of thyroid hormones. This is why Dr. Kiberd created Thyroid Strong, a special exercise program designed to help women with Hashimoto’s safely regain strength, boost their energy, and alleviate pain at the same time.
Food sensitivities are a common and frustrating side effect of autoimmune disease. What’s happening in our immune systems when our body reacts negatively to a food? Do food sensitivity tests work? Can food sensitivities be healed? These are the questions we’ll be answering today. My guest is Dr. Alison Danby, a naturopath and functional medicine practitioner who specializes in helping people with autoimmune disease. She’s also an autoimmune warrior herself.
Many people with autoimmune disease struggle with constipation. It might be a result of physical changes to the body, a side effect of medication, or a shift in diet. In my prior career, I was a massage therapist for 15 years. I fell in love with abdominal massage back then, and it’s been part of my self-care ever since. In this article, you’ll find videos demonstrating three different styles of abdominal massage. Experiment to find the technique that works best for you.
With autoimmune disease, we often have a complex relationship with our bodies. When we hear that our immune system is attacking us, it can feel like a war within. It’s common to feel angry with our bodies and disassociate from our bodies, and yet our bodies are our home. We cannot leave them behind. So, today I’m sharing a special body scan meditation, led by me! It’s designed to help us reconnect with our bodies in a gentle and loving way. This is one my favorite forms of meditation and is incredibly soothing to me on a daily basis, but especially during an autoimmune flare.
Like many people with celiac disease, Neil went undiagnosed for years, and that led to a lot of damage to his small intestine. His symptoms were debilitating and impacted every aspect of his daily life. One of the hardest parts was not being able to make plans without fear that he would have to cancel. Now, after following a healing diet and lifestyle for five years, he’s starting to see some regrowth in his small intestine villi for the first time. His symptoms have also reduced enough that he’s able to enjoy the things he loves again, like skiing, motorcycling, and time with his friends and family. It’s been a long road, and there have been ups and downs along the way. He shares the details in this interview.