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.
This biweekly podcast features interviews with experts in the fields of nutrition, lifestyle, mindset, integrative medicine, and autoimmune disease. It also highlights personal stories of the autoimmune experience. To quickly see all the topics covered, here’s a Text List of Episodes. You can also subscribe through your favorite podcast app: iTunes, Stitcher, Google, TuneIn, Spotify, Amazon, etc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to autoimmune disease, inflammation plays a big role. The higher our inflammation, the higher our symptoms and disease activity. Doctors know this, which is why bloodwork for autoimmune patients usually includes inflammation markers. When it comes to self-care and living well with autoimmune disease, learning how to reduce our inflammation naturally can be very helpful, and our food choices are a big part of that. Which foods have the greatest anti-inflammatory properties? That’s the focus of our discussion today. My guest is VJ Hamilton. She’s a nutritionist who has also studied immunology, and she has autoimmune disease herself. Her specialty is helping people with autoimmune disease thrive.
Something new is coming to the Phoenix Helix Podcast. Mindset Minisodes! The long-form interviews you know and love will continue every 4 weeks. In between, I’ll be sharing practical techniques from my book, Healing Mindset – A Guide to the Mind-Body Connection for People With Autoimmune Disease. Today, we’re starting with gratitude. I know that’s an emotion that’s hard to feel when we’re suffering, yet it’s on our toughest days that we need gratitude the most. It can shine a light into our darkness like a lifeline. In this episode, I teach a simple technique with powerful results.
If you’re a regular listener of my podcast, you know that I start every year with a Healing Stories episode. It features back-to-back interviews with autoimmune warriors just like you! I ask them to share their journey from rock bottom to reclaiming a vital life. In this episode, we talk about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Susac Syndrome. and also autoimmunity in general. Everyone’s story is unique, but we also have so much in common. Whatever your diagnosis, I hope these stories resonate and inspire.
This is one of the most popular podcast episodes – for good reason! Why does exercise feel so different after an autoimmune diagnosis? Activities that our bodies loved in the past can now cause an autoimmune flare. Yet, not moving at all isn’t healthy either. So, what do we do? In this podcast, we get professional insight into this topic. My guest, Andrea Wool, is a fellow autoimmune warrior, certified personal trainer, and founder of Autoimmune Strong – a fitness website designed specifically for people with autoimmune disease. She’ll be sharing her personal story, as well as scientific insight into the unique challenges and benefits of exercise for people with autoimmune disease.
This is one of the most popular podcast episodes – for good reason! There’s a community of 38 trillion microorganisms living in and on our bodies, and most of them reside in our gut. That’s very close to the number of cells in the human body. By this definition, we are only 50% human. This is why gut health has such a huge impact on human health, and research in this area is exploding. What does the science say about the intersection between the gut microbiome and autoimmune health? Where can we apply that knowledge in our own lives? And what are some common myths and misconceptions that new research is starting to dispel? My guest is Dr. Lucy Mailing, a microbiome researcher and scholar of integrative gut health.
Life with chronic illness can inspire strong emotions that trigger emotional eating. If the foods chosen are inflammatory, autoimmune flares may follow, turning short-term comfort into longer-lasting pain. This often leads to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-judgment, which can drive more emotional eating, creating a vicious cycle. If you find yourself caught in this pattern, you aren’t alone. Today’s podcast is designed to help. My guest is Tomesha Campbell. She is a fellow autoimmune warrior, as well as an AIP certified coach who specializes in Intuitive Eating. She’ll be sharing her personal experience and professional advice.
We tend to notice boundaries most when they’re getting crossed – by other people, or by ourselves. We also notice when we struggle to set them at all. Today, we’re focusing on the holiday season. If you have autoimmune disease, there’s a powerful intersection between your ability to set boundaries and your ability to protect your health. So, we are here to help! In this podcast, we share tips for setting healthy boundaries around food, time, energy, and money. My guest is Dr. Ellen Vora. She is a psychiatrist who takes a functional medicine approach to mental health. I love the way she educates around boundaries, which is why I asked her to be my guest today. She is also the author of the book, Anatomy of Anxiety.
Morning and bedtime routines are a wonderful way to bookend your day, starting and ending it with some joy and self-care. They can also make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. So in today’s podcast, we do a deep dive into the science of circadian rhythms and learn how to create morning and bedtime routines that support autoimmune health. My guest is Dr. Sybil Cooper. She is both an autoimmune warrior and an immunologist. She has a deep understanding of the immune system both personally and professionally. She’s also a health and nutrition coach who helps people create new habits to thrive.
The modern scientific approach to medicine focuses on disease rather than wellness, it focuses on parts of the body instead of the whole, and tends to look at the patient separate from their life and the world in which they live. Traditional Indigenous medicine approaches health very differently, and that’s true for Indigenous traditions worldwide. They tend to embrace a holistic perspective, knowing that we are more than the sum of our parts, and that health is impacted by so much more than physiology. That said, modern medicine still has much to offer, but so does Indigenous medicine. Today, we’re going to focus on some of the Indigenous wisdom that might be missing from your own healthcare. My guest is Dr. Nicole Redvers, a naturopathic doctor, author, and Indigenous health scholar. She is a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation and has traveled the globe, studying and working with Indigenous communities around the world.
If you have an autoimmune disease that attacks the GI tract, these procedures are important for diagnosis and monitoring your health. They’re also used as screening tools for certain types of cancer and have become an important part of medical care. One of the goals of this podcast is to empower us as patients, helping us better understand the medical care we receive. In this episode, we discuss what these procedures are, how to prepare ourselves mentally and physically beforehand, and how best to recover afterward. My guest today is Dr. Marvin Singh. He’s an MD who is board certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and integrative medicine. In addition to performing conventional medical procedures like the ones we’ll be discussing today, he’s also a strong believer in the power of diet and lifestyle to optimize health.
With autoimmune disease, flares are part of the experience, and we cannot prevent every single one. However, that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. Discovering our own flare triggers is a powerful piece of self-knowledge. It can help minimize how often we flare and how severe those flares are. That’s the focus of our discussion today. I’ve invited two other autoimmune warriors to join me. We’ll be sharing our personal flare triggers and how we manage them to live our healthiest lives.