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.
Here you can browse all of the articles I’ve written over the years, starting with the most recent ones. If you’d prefer to browse by topic, just use the menu above. And if you’re an audio learner, be sure to check out the Phoenix Helix Podcast, with over 200 episodes!
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DNS stands for Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization. It’s a fascinating form of exercise that uses positions and movements associated with infant development to help people heal from a variety of physical issues. With autoimmune disease, it can be hard to find forms of exercise that support our body’s changing needs. DNS can be modified for everyone. This article is written by Maggie Rintala, a fellow autoimmune warrior and certified personal trainer who specializes in DNS. She demonstrates three sample exercises, along with resources for learning more.
Have you heard of the Spoon Theory? It’s a way to explain chronic illness to people who don’t understand, and I love that aspect of it. (The spoons represent daily energy). But the Spoon Theory also assumes we can never get more spoons. I don’t believe that’s true. In this article, I share the history of the spoon theory and how we can all get more spoons!
Some people love the holiday season; others approach it with a sense of dread. Either way, it tends to be a busy time with extra stress, obligations, food temptations, and travel. This can be a recipe for an autoimmune flare, but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve made a list of one simple thing to do each day throughout the month of December. At the bottom of the post, there’s a printable PDF that you can post on your fridge. Happy Holidays!
10 years is a long time! Are you curious where I started and what my diet looks like today? In this blog post, I share my whole journey, including how I ate before getting RA, the diets I tried immediately afterward, the diets that minimized my symptoms the most, and the food freedom I enjoy now. Our bodies change over time, and our diets are meant to change too.
Can you go a day without complaining? When I first heard of this challenge, I thought to myself: “Oooh! That sounds really hard!” Yet I don’t see myself as a negative person. I have a daily gratitude practice, and it was born from my darkest days with rheumatoid arthritis. When pain seemed to be my whole world, I needed to find a way to still see beauty. That gratitude practice saved me. But that doesn’t mean I have a perfect mindset. I definitely complain. I think most people do. Complaining feels good in the moment, but research shows it increases stress and harms health long-term. So, how can we break the habit? In this article, I share how.
More than 80,000 new chemicals have been released since the industrial revolution 150 years ago, and most have never been fully tested for their effects on our health. We are asking our bodies to detoxify far more than they were designed to handle. Yet that doesn’t mean we should start doing aggressive detox cleanses that leave us feeling like we have the flu. It’s easy to overwhelm our detoxification systems when we try to speed them up and push them too hard. In this article, I share simple, effective, detoxifying baths that also make you feel good at the same time. Win-win!
Autoimmune disease often causes insomnia, and then poor sleep increases autoimmune flares, creating a vicious cycle. In this article, I tackle some of the biggest sleep challenges: pain, anxiety, restless legs syndrome, snoring, hormones, blood sugar imbalances, new parenthood, and more. I also review sleep trackers, sleep supplements, and a special form of therapy that’s more effective than sleeping pills in resolving insomnia.
Jacqueline’s autoimmune journey began with unexplained abdominal pains as a child, and ended with three autoimmune diagnoses as an adult. When she first developed uveitis, no one told her it was autoimmune. She only discovered that later as she developed two more autoimmune conditions: alopecia and psoriasis. Conventional medical treatment was helpful for the uveitis but had minimal impact on her other diagnoses. A friend finally told her about the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and it was a life-changing discovery. Not only was she able to reverse her autoimmune symptoms and is medication-free today, she also overcame chronic insomnia. Her family also did the AIP alongside her, and their health improved as well.
Most often, if you say the word “treat” people immediately think of sweets. It’s how we reward ourselves for our achievements, and it’s how we soothe ourselves when life is hard. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat. They’re delicious! However, if sweets are the only way we treat ourselves, the excess sugar can increase inflammation and even kick off an autoimmune flare. So, I’ve come up with 101 alternate ways to treat ourselves. Thanks to the mind-body connection, these treats can actually decrease inflammation while simultaneously bringing more joy to our lives. That’s my kind of to-do list! I even included a PDF you can print and put on your fridge, for ongoing inspiration!
Vitamin D is essential to immune system regulation, which is why it’s a commonly recommended supplement for people with autoimmune disease. Can we get all the vitamin D we need from sunshine? What about food? If we need a supplement, how do we choose a high-quality one? What’s the optimal level of vitamin D in our bodies? I dive into the research to answer these questions and more.
Do you remember how it felt to relax in a restaurant? No fear of getting “glutened”? Lots of delicious menu items to choose from, each one packed with flavor? After countless hours searching the internet and double-checking menus, I offer you this list of paleo-friendly restaurants! From Texas to Malaysia, people are operating restaurants based on the belief that food is medicine. If you’re lucky, one of these restaurants is near you. If not, get ready to plan some fun trips!
Are you a fan of American Ninja Warrior? Did you know that Barclay (aka Sparkly Ninja) is an autoimmune warrior as well? She shares her story in this interview. Trauma has a powerful impact on autoimmunity. It increases the likelihood of developing autoimmune disease and can increase disease severity as well. Barclay knows this first-hand. Prior to her diagnosis, she was living a full and active life as a professional athlete. Then in 2019, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Three months later, Barclay started experiencing symptoms herself. It took over a year to get her official diagnosis, and it took two years to get her symptoms under control. Success came through a combination of medication, the support of her fiancée, belief in herself, and personal experimentation to discover what her body needed beyond medicine. Now in 2022, she’s competing in American Ninja Warrior again.
If you feel overwhelmed in the face of suffering, you aren’t weak, you’re human. If you also have autoimmune disease, you have a body that’s more sensitive to stress which means autoimmune flares might arise alongside. If you have a history of trauma (which is common for people with autoimmune disease), world traumas might feel especially intense, layered on top of your own experiences. So, overwhelm is natural, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. Here’s a step-by-side guide to feeling grounded, replenished, and able to support yourself and others again.
Research shows that affirmations can help people cope with life’s challenges, an important skill when living with chronic illness. They boost problem-solving in stressful situations, and they lead to better health choices as well. There is a risk with affirmations, however. Sometimes they backfire. In that circumstance, your brain disagrees so strongly with the affirmation that it strengthens your negative thoughts instead. Has that happened to you? If yes, you’re not alone. In this article, I share tips for quieting your inner critic. I also teach my favorite technique for overcoming the mind’s resistance to affirmations – Iffirmations!
If you’re someone who unplugs air fresheners anytime you see them, this article will resonate with you. If you’re someone who loves air fresheners and didn’t realize they might be harming your health, this article may surprise you. “Fragrance” isn’t a single ingredient. It’s a chemical formula that can contain up to 100 different chemicals. Many of them are harmful to health, and there is no regulation of this industry. In fact, since fragrance is considered a “trade secret”, the chemicals aren’t listed on the ingredient labels. In this article, I dive deeply into the science and share tips for naturally freshening indoor air instead.
It’s not surprising that the mind-body connection can reduce stress, but what about pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms of autoimmune disease? Can it reduce those too? The answer is yes! That’s because stress has a huge impact on autoimmune disease, increasing inflammation and flare activity. When we harness the mind-body connection for our health, we have the potential to soothe our inflamed bodies and calm our overactive immune system. In this blog post, I share 10 science-backed benefits across a wide variety of autoimmune diagnoses. I also feature different mind-body techniques. Meditation is wonderful, but it’s not the only way to tap the mind-body connection.
This is the project I’ve been working on for the past few years, and I’m so excited to share it with you! What is a healing mindset? Simply put, it’s the practice of harnessing the anti-inflammatory power of our minds to support autoimmune health. It’s realizing that some thoughts and behaviors ramp up inflammation and others tone it down. This book is a roadmap to doing less of the former and more of the latter. Inside, you’ll find over 90 mind-body techniques written specifically for people with autoimmune disease. It also includes beginner tips, advanced troubleshooting, and testimonials by fellow autoimmune warriors who have felt the power of the mind-body connection in their own lives (including me)!