Episode 26: Beyond Food – Healing Lifestyle

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podcast graphic with photos of 4 guests

Healing is About So Much More Than Food

My website and podcast are dedicated to maximizing autoimmune health through the paleo diet and lifestyle. It’s easy to get so caught up in the diet component that we completely ignore the lifestyle piece, but it’s just as important – maybe even more so. Sarah Ballantyne, author of The Paleo Approach and a leader of the AIP movement says this: “Let me be clear: Dietary changes aren’t effective in isolation. If you don’t address lifestyle factors as well, it won’t matter how ideal your food choices are.” In this podcast, I interview four people about one lifestyle change that has made a big difference in their autoimmune healing journey. Sarah is one of them. For anyone who hasn’t started addressing lifestyle choices yet, I offer this podcast as inspiration to start today.

Listen to the Show

Show Notes

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Sarah Ballantyne on Sleep (1:07)
    • Sarah is reversing Hashimoto’s and lichen planus.
    • She learned at a very young age that if she got less than 9 hours of sleep per night, her health plummeted. She would actually get strep throat after sleepovers. As an adult with autoimmune disease, it’s become even more important, because the negative consequences last longer.
    • Sleep is the linchpin that holds the rest of her healing habits together. If she doesn’t get enough sleep, she starts getting food cravings and overeating, she loses her ability to manage stress well, and she’s much more likely to flare.
    • Even knowing this, it’s an ongoing personal battle to prioritize sleep, because she’s an ambitious person with lots of goals and demands on her time. She doesn’t watch TV – that lets her get her work done and still go to bed at a reasonable hour. She has also learned that she’s more focused and efficient with her work when she gets enough sleep, so she gets more done in less time.
    • Sarah has focused on improving her quality of sleep by entraining her circadian rhythms. She either goes outside for a walk in the morning or uses a light box and her treadmill desk to mimic the effect of a morning walk in the sunshine. Then in the early evening, all of the lights in her house get turned off or turned down, and she uses Phillips Hue light bulbs in certain rooms (set to a dim red), which is a signal to the body that it’s soon time to go to sleep. She also has free f.lux software installed on her computer that has the same lighting effect for her computer screen. And she tries to give herself an hour to wind down in the evening before bed.
    • Sleep Resources: Can Skipping Sleep Cause an Autoimmune Flare? and The Go To Bed Sleep Challenge.
    • Sleep Podcasts: Circadian Rhythms and Troubleshooting Sleep.
    • Sarah is the author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook, co-host of The Paleo View Podcast, and blogger behind The Paleo Mom. To learn more about her healing story and the AIP, listen to our interview in episode 3 of this podcast.
  • Meredith Hutter Chamorro on Yoga (17:12)
    • Meredith is reversing rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and chronic lyme disease.
    • Meditation and yoga made a bigger difference in her health than dietary changes.
    • A mother of 3 children, one with special needs, Meredith spent years in crisis mode, taking care of them and ignoring her own health. She wasn’t managing her hypothyroidism, and when she had a panic attack with her children in the car, it was a wake-up moment for her, and she turned to yoga for balance and self-care. Her anxiety went away altogether. A few years later, she was diagnosed with  RA. This derailed her yoga practice for a while, but she eventually returned to it, adapting her practice according to her body’s abilities. Yoga remains a big part of her life to this day.
    • The challenges of yoga practice when you have autoimmune disease are (1) Not pushing yourself too hard and not comparing yourself to what your body could do before. (2) Finding the right style of yoga, the right teacher, and adapting your practice to your body’s changing needs. Not every pose is right for every body.
    • Meredith recommends restorative yoga for everyone, no matter what their abilities. It has an immediate and cumulative impact of reducing stress and alleviating fatigue.
    • When it comes to yoga classes, look for a teacher who has experience working with people with health challenges. Interview them in advance. Try out a few classes, until you find the one that’s right for you. If you can afford it, start with some 1:1 private yoga sessions. Some yoga styles she thinks are especially beneficial for people with autoimmune disease are yoga tune-up and gentle yoga.
    • Yoga is an opportunity to become a student of your own body and tune in at a new level. And in time, with practice, yoga can improve both your health and your abilities.
    • Restorative Yoga Resources: article, book, and video.
    • Pubmed studies on yoga and autoimmune disease
    • Update 2021: Meredith now specializes in teaching people MindBody Movement. You can connect with her through her website, Live Better Wellness.
  • Jesse St. Jean on Self-Love (34:05)
    • Jesse is reversing Ulcerative Colitis.
    • “When I finally began feeding my body what it needed to heal, I understood the importance of also loving and actually listening to what my body needs. Until this point, I had spent my entire life shaming and ignoring my own body, eventually disowning it completely. The day that I whispered, ‘I want to be your friend,’ I felt a physical sigh of relief and a feeling of wholeness that I had never felt before.”
    • In the beginning, Jesse had to make a conscious choice to love her body every day. It was hard to change a lifetime of disregard. She believes in “Fake it till you make it.” She would tell herself things she didn’t always believe, until they sunk in and now it’s natural to feel love for her body. While she still has some insecure moments, they don’t last. She feels a love and patience and graciousness toward the whole of who she is, and that leaves her with a deep peace, both in body and mind.
    • Resources: My Body Is Not My Enemy and the Self-Love Workbook Podcast.
    • Update: In 2020, Jesse became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and now supports others on their healing journeys. She works for WellTheory.
  • V Capaldi on Self-Myofascial Release (47:07)
    • V is reversing multiple sclerosis.
    • Fascia is a web of tissue that connects everything in our bodies – bones, muscles, skin and organs. Fascia can get stuck to our bones and cause discomfort bodywide. This is especially true when we are sedentary, or have inflammation in our bodies. Self-myofascial release loosens the fascia and releases those restrictions.
    • V uses Yoga Tune Up Balls for this technique, and she was taught by her physical therapist. She started out just using them for her hands and saw such dramatic improvement in her mobility that she expanded to using them on her entire body. She does a 90-minute session six days/week, and she commits this much time because of its dramatic impact on her ability to function.
    • You can start gently in short sessions and control the pressure in a way that’s comfortable for you.
    • Since bodywork can be detoxifying, it’s helpful to support your body’s detox pathways by drinking plenty of water, and doing simple things like Epsom salt baths or bentonite clay masks/foot baths.
    • Yoga Tune Up Resources: Beginner Self-Care Kit, Advanced Self-Care Kit, Book: Roll Model, Sample Videos and Teacher Directory.
    • To learn more about V’s healing story, listen to episode 1 of this podcast.
    • Update 2021: V has retired from blogging.
  • Outro (1:06:25)

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18 comments on “Episode 26: Beyond Food – Healing Lifestyle”

  1. Eileen,
    Thank you for your podcasts and blog. I’m intigued about exploring yoga now both for my general health and also to help with my MS.

  2. Thank you for another amazing podcast, Eileen! I learn so much for your interviews. And, as always, your show notes are incredible. You are the BEST!!!

  3. Eileen, You are correct that the people in the ‘Blue Zone’ areas have many lifestyle differences too and they do include all those things in their study. I’m sure it’s mostly wishful thinking on my part in wanting to widen my diet and I need to recognize that I already have an autoimmune condition that I’m trying to control. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experience.

  4. Thank you for all you do to support learning about diet and lifestyle for healing. I have learned so much from your blog, podcasts, etc. I’ve been following the AIP diet for 18 months and have successfully reintroduced a few things. Recently I read the Blue Zone Solution by Dan Buettner. Are you familiar with his research? I am curious about the difference between the Paleo diet and the way people in the ‘Blue Zones’ eat. The biggest differences, that I see, are that they eat very little meat and they eat a lot of beans. These people live not only long lives but healthy lives with little heart disease or cancer. I would love to add beans, quinoa and wild rice to my diet while perhaps cutting back on meat. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Donna. You can certainly try to do that, but that’s the opposite of a paleo diet. Many of us (myself included) get autoimmune flares when we try to reintroduce beans and grains (other than white rice). A lot of studies like the Blue Zones, they draw conclusions based on 1 or 2 factors, when often something completely different is at play. For example, my guess is the Blue Zones have very health lifestyle habits – lots of time outside, lots of movement, lots of relaxation and rest, and strong social networks. It might have nothing to do with the food at all, or the simple fact that they don’t eat modern, processed foods. I don’t believe eating grains or beans leads to better health. If you do try to reintroduce them, I recommend soaking or sprouting them first, to make them a little more digestible. Follow the same reintroduction steps I outline in my guide, paying careful attention to your body’s response. We’re all unique. Maybe your body will do fine with them.

  5. There is such an abundance of information in this post and all the links, it may take me a month to get through it all – but I will, because so much of it speaks to me and my own health issues. Thank you for shining a light on lifestyle as well as diet!

  6. I’m so happy that V talked extensively about Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls! They are amazing! And even for those who don’t do well going for massages, the great thing about self-massage is that you can go as lightly or deeply as you need, wherever on your that you need it. There are also different sizes of balls to choose from. Generally speaking, the smaller the balls, the deeper they go. There is one ball, called the Coregeous ball, that is larger and squishy, like a child’s ball (the others are smaller, rubber balls that are grippy and pliable). It is designed for use on the core, but I use it for some students on other parts of their bodies that are very sensitive. Also, when used on the abdomen, it stimulates the vagus nerve, which can help to reduce general inflammation, and the lymphatic system. If anyone has specific questions, I would be happy to answer them.

    1. Can you go into detail on using the ball on your abs for vagus nerve stimulation? Where and how exactly do you do it and how do you know you’re doing it right? Thanks.

      1. Hi, Ann. That’s a great question, but one that is hard to get into enough detail right here. I’ve decided to write a blog post about it, so I can explain thoroughly. I should have that up on my blog by the end of the week, and I can add a link here, as long as Eileen says that is okay.

          1. Meredith, I finally had time to read your article in full. It’s wonderful! For anyone else reading this, she gives a thorough description of the vagus nerve, it’s potential role in autoimmune disease treatment, and instructions for using the Coregeous Ball to stimulate the vagus nerve. Click the link above to read it.

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