Human beings depend on each other. Sometimes we give help, and sometimes we receive it, but many of us are much more comfortable in the giving role. Autoimmune disease can turn the tables quickly. Suddenly, we’re in a position where we need help more often. If we were the caregivers before, how do we navigate this change in identity? How do we face the fears that may arise – of vulnerability, feeling weak, being seen as a burden, or people saying no? If you took pride in your independence, do you feel shame if you need help? There are gifts that come with learning to receive: a deeper intimacy in relationships, a greater sense of self-compassion, a more expansive sense of identity, and a stronger connection with humanity. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy transformation. My guest is Kalene Khan, a licensed therapist who specializes in self-compassion. She helps people learn to be as kind to themselves as they are to others. She is our guide for this conversation today.
Stress is a common trigger of autoimmune flares, and chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation. Thankfully, there are many techniques that can help us manage stress better. You can also quickly browse this topic by resource type: articles and podcasts. Not sure where to begin? Start here.
One thing I love about the autoimmune community in general and the Phoenix Helix community specifically is that we care deeply about each other. We lift each other up, with the goal of living our healthiest and happiest lives. Health involves both self-care and community care, and today’s podcast is a blend of the two. I’ve talked about the impact of racism in two prior podcasts. Episode 153 focused on racism in healthcare. Episode 178 focused on racial trauma. In both episodes I mentioned that overcoming our own unconscious biases can be a powerful first step in helping overcome racism within our society. There is much beyond our control, but this is something we can change. We’re approaching this conversation with love rather than judgment. My guest is Anu Gupta. He’s developed a compassion-based, scientific approach to overcoming bias and addressing the root causes of racism and other inequalities within our culture. He is a research scientist and educator, and simply a warm, wise and wonderful person.
With an autoimmune diagnosis, we are told that we have a disease for which there is no cure. It can be shocking and immediately change how we see ourselves. It’s not uncommon to feel betrayed by our bodies. Symptoms can also dramatically change our abilities, impacting careers, hobbies, and roles within families. Many of us go through an identity crisis – no longer feeling like the person we were before. Then there’s the impact of having a visible vs. invisible illness. Some autoimmune diseases change our physical appearance and how others interact with us. Whereas others have symptoms that are hidden, often inspiring disbelief in the pain that can’t be seen. Today, four people with autoimmune disease (including myself) share our experiences with how our body image has changed since diagnosis
People with a history of trauma are more likely to develop autoimmune disease and to experience more severe symptoms as well. In today’s podcast, we’re focusing on racial trauma. One of the ways it’s unique is that it’s ongoing. It’s not an event from the past that is now over. It’s something experienced repeatedly in unpredictable ways. Over the past year, a number of listeners have reached out to me to share their experiences. Racial trauma isn’t new, but it has been amplified during the pandemic. Our goal with this episode is to help anyone navigating the double challenge of autoimmune disease and race-based trauma. My guest is Dr. Letitia Browne-James. She’s a mental health counselor and educator with expertise in trauma, multi-cultural counseling, and the intersection of mental and physical health.
We all know that life is uncertain and many things are beyond our control, but that doesn’t mean we like it. The flare-based nature of autoimmune disease embodies uncertainty. When will the next flare come? Can it be prevented? How can I love my body when it’s so unpredictable? That’s health uncertainty, but there are other types of uncertainty as well – economic, political, societal. During the pandemic, we’ve been faced with all of these things at once. Now, it’s 2021, and there’s a new type of uncertainty as we approach the world opening up again. How do we balance enjoying new freedoms while continuing to make safe decisions? How do we move forward in an uncertain world? My guest is Dr. Damon Silas, a psychologist who specializes in anxiety, grief and trauma. He’ll be sharing techniques for staying grounded when the world around us shifts.
Releasing a burden we’ve been carrying too long can lighten both body and soul. Yet this can be one of the hardest things to do, even when we want to do it. Why is letting go so hard? Are there things we can do to make it easier? In this episode, we talk about fostering a letting go mindset, goals for letting go, techniques for doing that successfully, and knowing when NOT to let go. My guest is Courtney Carver, the woman behind the website Be More with Less and the author of the book Soulful Simplicity. She’s one of the leading voices in the minimalist community, but today we’re not talking about letting go of material things. Courtney has a lot of wisdom to share about letting go in general.
As many of you know, trauma increases the risk of developing autoimmune disease, and it can also increase the severity of symptoms. It changes the way your brain is wired and can trap your body in an inflammatory cycle. This online course uses neuroscience, expressive writing, and mind-body techniques to rewire your brain for health. The creator is Donna Jackson Nakazawa, a leading expert on the science of the mind-body connection and its effect on the immune system. She condenses 30 years of expertise into this transformative program.
With autoimmune disease, habits have a big impact on our health, yet 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Why is this so? Should we give up? Or are there things we can do to make us more likely to succeed, whether we make a resolution on January 1st or any other day of the year? That’s the topic of our podcast today. My guest is Dr. Shainna Ali, a mental health counselor, educator, and advocate. She’s an expert at helping people make positive changes in their lives, and be compassionate with themselves while they do it.
This is one of the most popular podcast episodes – for good reason! If you’re experiencing symptoms without a diagnosis, or symptoms that remain in spite of all the interventions you’ve tried, this episode is for you. DNRS is a therapy based on neuroplasticity. With chronic illness, symptoms can actually become wired into our brains, even when the triggers for those symptoms are removed. DNRS is a therapy done at home, that rewires the brain (and body) for health. What types of conditions have been helped? Post-COVID syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic Lyme disease, multiple chemical sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, mold toxicity, chronic inflammatory response syndrome, mast cell activation, food sensitivities, chronic pain, mental health issues, and more. In this podcast, I speak with Annie Hopper, the creator of DNRS. She explains what this program is and how it works.
Often, perfectionism is seen as a positive trait. What’s wrong with striving for excellence? Nothing, but there’s a difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. Healthy striving is a self-compassionate mindset that allows for mistakes, learns from them, sets challenging but achievable goals, and adapts as needed. Perfectionism fears failure, despises mistakes, sets unattainable goals, and feels shame and self-judgement when those impossible goals aren’t met. When you apply perfectionism to autoimmune disease, your diagnosis may feel like your fault, and every flare may feel like a failure. You may believe that if you just lived your life perfectly, you could cure yourself. I am a recovering perfectionist, so I have felt all of these things. Don’t judge yourself if you have felt this way, too. In this podcast, we explore the connection between autoimmune disease and perfectionism. My guest is Dr. Judy Tsafrir, a holistic psychiatrist who approaches mental health from a functional medicine perspective. She strives to treat root causes in her practice, rather than just symptoms.
In the research, they call it expressive writing or art therapy. At home, we call it journaling. This simple practice is an amazing stress management and self-awareness tool. It helps release emotions that are difficult to let go, gain clarity to make difficult decisions, uncover hidden parts of yourself, express gratitude, discover playfulness, and simply honor and accept where you are in the moment. You don’t have to be a writer or an artist to keep a journal and gain these benefits. In this podcast, we’ll be focusing on using creative journals for autoimmune health. My guest is Olwen Wilson, a woman with autoimmune disease herself who also teaches the art of journaling.
We hear a lot about the mind-body connection, but what are its uses and what are its limits? Are there techniques we can use to minimize pain and manage it better? How does the stress response increase pain’s intensity? How does guarding against pain add a second layer of tension that can make pain worse? Vidyamala Burch has lived with chronic pain for over 40 years. Learning how to survive and thrive started as a personal goal and later became her professional mission. She’s an author, educator, and cofounder of Breathworks, a non-profit organization that teaches Mindfulness-Based Pain Management to individuals and organizations around the world.
Many people think of the AIP as simply a list of foods you can and can’t eat, so how can intuition play a role? And if your intuition tells you to eat junk food, that derails health goals rather than supports them, right? So, how can these things possibly go together? In this podcast episode, we bust some myths about both of these dietary philosophies and see how they might be blended for autoimmune health.
Many people with autoimmune disease struggle with anxiety as well. In this episode we talk about why that’s true, how anxiety can interfere with our lives, and share practical tips for addressing it in the moment, as well as strategies for reducing it long-term. My guest is Dr. Maureen Pierce, a health psychologist who specializes in working with people with chronic pain and chronic illness, as well as first responders.
Flares are one of the scariest parts of autoimmune disease. They’re unpredictable, often very painful, sometimes disabling, and always disruptive to our plans. In this episode, three autoimmune warriors share their best tips for making it through autoimmune flares with strength and self-compassion. We talk about favorite foods, lifestyle hacks, mindset techniques, and more.
When I think of a healthy holiday, I think of so many things: autoimmune health, celebration, self-compassion, stress resilience, and social connection. Yet the holidays are sometimes the opposite of these things! What is a mantra? It’s simply a statement of intention. How do you want to spend your holiday season? I’ve come up with 5 to inspire us.
If the placebo effect taps into our body’s natural healing capability, and the nocebo effect can turn fear into physical symptoms, these are things we need to understand. In this podcast we dive into the research to try to make sense of one of the human body’s great mysteries. My guest is science journalist Erik Vance, author of the book Suggestible You.
What’s the line between a healing diet and a harmful one? Orthorexia is a term that was first coined in the late 1990’s by Dr. Steven Bratman. It refers to an obsessive focus on healthy eating that becomes clinically impairing. This idea has become controversial in the paleo autoimmune community. Does a healing diet automatically set you up for orthorexia? What does it mean to eat in a way that supports your health? And what does it look like when this goal becomes unhealthy? My guest is Imei Hsu. She’s a registered nurse and clinical psychotherapist, and eating disorders are one of her specialties. She also has autoimmune disease herself as well as food allergies.
This is one of my favorite podcast episodes! How does mindset impact nutrition and food tolerance? At its most basic level, food is sustenance. It fuels us for life. But food is more than just a source of energy. Emotions surround the experience of eating as well. Food can comfort and bring joy, yet it can also inspire feelings of guilt. People also connect with each other over food, building memories, traditions, and even identities. And when you’re following a healing diet, there’s gratitude for food being medicine, often combined with feelings of deprivation, rebellion and grief. It’s complex! Here’s the fascinating part you might not realize: Not only does food inspire emotion, but emotions impact our ability to digest our food, including how well we tolerate foods. That’s the subject of our podcast today.
There’s some compelling research that suggests the inability to forgive leads to negative health consequences, and the practice of forgiveness can have health benefits. When it comes to small injustices, this seems relatively easy to do. But what if you have experienced something that you find unforgivable? Is forgiveness a requirement for healing? The pressure to forgive can feel like getting re-victimized all over again. In this podcast, we take a deep look at this topic. My guest is clinical psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Harriet Lerner.
Autoimmune flares can fill us with strong emotions alongside our physical symptoms, but did you also know that strong emotions can cause autoimmune flares? Mood boosts can be a wonderful daily practice. Not only do they help us through our darkest moments, but they also harness the anti-inflammatory power of the mind-body connection. Our goal isn’t to eliminate challenging emotions altogether; they’re part of the human experience. These techniques simply help us ride those waves with less suffering and greater health overall.
Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you were nervous? Or lost your appetite when deeply grieving? We’ve all felt emotions in our gut – there’s even the common saying “gut feeling.” In fact, the more relaxed and content we feel when we eat, the better we digest our food. But did you know the gut-brain connection also goes the other way? That the food we eat can impact how our brain functions? Inflammation in the gut can result in brain fog, mood swings, and even mental health disorders. In this podcast, we talk about the science behind this connection, and how we can harness it for our health – both mental and physical. My guest is Dr. Lili Wagner, a psychologist who specializes in this intersection between diet, lifestyle, digestion, and mental health.
When I was at rock bottom with rheumatoid arthritis and experiencing excruciating pain on a daily basis, I started keeping a gratitude journal. That might seem like a strange time do this, but I deeply needed to focus on something beyond the pain and suffering that had become my entire world. And it helped! It didn’t alleviate my pain, but it did reduce my suffering, because it helped me remember there were still good things in my life. It turns out I’m not alone in feeling these benefits. Research is showing that gratitude can improve both mental and physical health. In this podcast, my guest is Dr. Fuschia Sirois, an expert in the field of gratitude and chronic illness. We discuss the research, alongside practical steps for making gratitude part of our daily lives.
There’s a strong link between trauma and autoimmunity. People who are diagnosed with a stress-related disorder like PTSD are 30-40% more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune disease. Childhood trauma has an even bigger impact. And the shock of an autoimmune diagnosis combined with life-changing symptoms can qualify as a trauma itself. When it comes to maximizing our health, being aware of this connection is important. Thankfully, there are trauma therapies that can help rebuild our health resilience. My guest is Dr. Maureen Pierce, a health psychologist who specializes in working with people with chronic pain and chronic illness. Not surprisingly, she’s a trauma specialist as well.
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, it felt like a personal failure – not just to me, but also to many people who knew me. “But you’re so health-conscious! How did this happen?” The unspoken words I heard were, “What did you do to cause this?” And that question has popped into my head at each step of this journey that I couldn’t control. In case you’ve ever felt the same, I want you to know this.
We all find ourselves in victim mode once in a while, especially when life is hard. There is a time and place for throwing ourselves a pity party. The key is not getting stuck in that pattern. How do we identify signs that we are in a victim mindset, and how can we shift to feeling empowered, strong and hopeful again? My guest today is Sarah Kolman, an expert in psychoneuroimmunology, the science of how our thoughts and emotions affect immune and autoimmune health.