Episode 43: Never Too Late! Healing Diets Over Age 60

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podcast graphic with photos of 3 guests

Reclaiming Health At Any Age

One of the tragedies of modern life is the belief that health is meant to decline as we age, and there’s nothing we can do about it. On today’s show, I have 3 guests proving otherwise. They all transitioned to a healing diet after the age of 60 and saw a dramatic improvement in their health. They hope to inspire others in their age group (or any age) to do the same!

Listen to the Show

Show Notes

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Thank You to our Podcast Sponsor – Paleo on the Go (1:11)
    • A frozen meal delivery service, they have a large menu of items for the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP).
    • Use the code PHOENIX for 10% off your first order.
  • Meet Gail Grasso (2:44)
    • Gail is 62 years old and went paleo to address arthritis and asthma. When her health was at its worst, she suffered from pain in her hands constantly, struggled to breathe on a daily basis, and felt exhausted all the time.
    • After 2 weeks on the paleo autoimmune protocol, her hand pain completely disappeared. Her energy slowly returned until she felt she had energy to burn. And her asthma went into remission – she no longer needs medication. She’s also not as sensitive to fragrance as she was in the past. As an added bonus, she lost 67 pounds.
    • Comparing the challenges and the benefits to starting a healing diet later in life: (1) The same stubbornness that makes you set in your ways can also inspire you to change. (2) She’s unaffected by other people’s opinions now. Peer pressure matters less when you’re older. (3) She didn’t have the energy to batch cook in the beginning, so she had to pace herself one meal at a time.
    • Her husband thought she was crazy at first, but when he saw the results he became 100% supportive. She has also inspired one of her friends to go AIP for rheumatoid arthritis. She gave her a copy of my book: A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.
    • Gail was recently in a car accident and she’s temporarily in a wheelchair as her foot heals. She could have used that as an excuse to go off-diet, but she doesn’t want to go back to the pain, asthma and exhaustion she felt before. Here are some of the ways she adapted cooking to the wheelchair: (1) She uses the oven more than the stovetop now because it’s easier to reach. (2) She has a rolling cart where she’s put her appliances and a cutting board, so they are within reach from the wheelchair. (3) She has a small stool in the kitchen that she can sit on for short periods of time when she needs to reach something higher. (4) To make life a little easier, she’s buying her bone broth. Bonafide Provisions is a high-quality AIP-friendly brand.
    • The AIP is about lifestyle as well as diet. Gail focuses on sleep and sets herself a bedtime, getting 1-2 hours more sleep than she has in the past.
  • Meet Margaret Wendell (18:45)
    • Margaret is 69 years old and has suspected celiac disease. At age 22, she got mononucleosis and never fully recovered. For the next 30 years, she suffered from brain fog, chronic fatigue and debilitating migraines. Age age 54, she tried the Eat Right for Your Blood Type Diet with dramatically negative results. Her blood type is AB- , which recommends less meat and more grains (and gluten is allowed). She quickly developed anxiety so severe that she chose to remove all grains from her diet in response. Not only did the anxiety disappear, but so did all of the other symptoms she had suffered from for 30 years. So, while the blood type diet isn’t scientifically sound, the blessing in disguise was that her negative results led her to realize her health problems were food-based. After that, she experimented with a raw vegan diet, and the resulting low nutrient density combined with a high-stress job resulted in new symptoms – peripheral neuropathy in her arms so severe that she was in constant, burning pain. She couldn’t lift her arms above elbow height, couldn’t hug her grandchildren and couldn’t sleep more than an hour at a time. She was also on high doses of painkillers daily. In January 2016, she switched to the paleo autoimmune protocol. The burning sensation in her arms disappeared. She now has full range of motion and strength, with no need for painkillers, and her sleep is much improved. Her success led her to research the wide-ranging symptoms that are associated with celiac disease. She isn’t willing to do a gluten challenge, so can’t confirm she has it, but her body certainly responds very negatively to gluten, and does best on a paleo autoimmune diet. If you’d like to know more about celiac disease diagnosis, listen to Episode 32.
    • Comparing the challenges and benefits to starting a healing diet later in life: (1) You need to have an open mind, no matter what your age. (2) She already had strong home cooking skills, which are more common with her generation. She  just need to find new recipes. (3) As a retiree, she had time to do the research, to learn the protocol and to develop new recipes. Even then, it was overwhelming switching from vegan to paleo, but that’s true at any age. The weekly AIP Recipe Roundtable is very helpful with that transition.
    • Her husband and children have seen the dramatic improvements in her health and are therefore 100% supportive. Some of her friends don’t understand why she doesn’t want to go out to restaurants the way she used to, which can be frustrating. Resource: How To Get the Support of Family and Friends.
    • Margaret is the woman behind the former blog, Food to Heal Ourselves.
  • Meet Sunny Mills  (41:03)
    • Sunny is 76 years old and has Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome, including Hashimoto’s, celiac, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and polymalgia rheumatica (PMR). At her worst, her joints were so sore she couldn’t lift a teacup, take a shower or even comb her hair. She needed a riser chair to get off the toilet, and the IBD was causing diarrhea 18 times daily. She was going to the doctor twice/week, and she was exhausted. This low point occurred after following her naturopath’s advice to go off the paleo diet and follow a vegetarian diet instead. 6 months on a grain and legume-based vegetarian diet resulted in the worst autoimmune flare she ever experienced. After switching doctors and returning to the paleo autoimmune protocol, combined with low-dose naltrexone, her symptoms improved dramatically. Her energy has slowly returned. Her joint pain has disappeared. She only goes to the doctor occasionally now. And her IBD is improving.
    • She keeps a symptom journal to mark her improvements, so if she feels discouraged that she’s not 100% better, she can look back and see her progress.
    • She also focuses on the mindbody piece and was inspired by my podcast interview with Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Sunny has found the following books very helpful: The Last Best Cure, Childhood Disrupted, How to Be Sick, How to Wake Up, and Chronic Resilience.
    • Comparing the challenges and benefits to starting a healing diet later in life: (1) She had 50 years of routine to overcome. (2) She lives in a retirement residence with a dining hall, and unfortunately she’s learned through experience that if she eats there, she always gets gluten-ed. Even though they advertise a gluten-free option and she has tried to educate them, they don’t understand cross-contamination. Therefore, she needs to cook in her apartment instead. (3) She was accustomed to using food as comfort and had to find other ways to comfort herself. Now, she likes adult coloring books, knitting and going for walks. (4) On the plus side, it wasn’t until she was in her 70’s that she felt empowered enough to believe she could change her health and her life. Prior to that, she felt like a victim. She doesn’t feel like a victim any more.
    • Her family is very supportive. Her daughter had ulcerative colitis which she reversed through a combination of SCD/GAPS and Paleo. She was the one who recommended food as medicine to Sunny 5 years ago. Sunny’s other daughter is vegetarian but is supportive of Sunny doing whatever diet makes her feel her best. She also helped Sunny learn about fecal microbiota transplants a few years ago when a C.difficile infection wasn’t responding to antibiotics. And finally, Sunny’s husband is very supportive as well. They’ve been married for 53 years.
    • Her advice to anyone considering a healing diet? It’s never too late, and it’s worth it!
  • Outro (1:01:49)

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20 comments on “Episode 43: Never Too Late! Healing Diets Over Age 60”

  1. Eileen, I met Margaret on-line through my new blog about the same things about a month ago – I’m 68. You have been my inspiration from the first post I read of yours about a year ago. Since then my health has mostly improved, but unfortunately not my RA – it’s been an uphill battle, but I am working towards better days and certainly won’t give up all I’ve learned over the past 2 years. Thank you for all you do. Bless you.

    1. Louise, I’m so glad you met each other and that you are both now part of the AIP blogging community. It’s so inspiring how the movement grows and reaches people of all ages. May you continue to feel better and better Louise. I hope the RA symptoms ease soon.

  2. I’m so glad I found this podcast! I was age 59 1/2 when I diagnosed with Hashimoto’s last year and shortly thereafter started on AIP. I turned 60 a couple of months ago and can totally attest to the fact that AIP has put me presently in remission.

  3. Hello Eileen,
    First Thank You so Much for your podcast!! I don’t hear about people with my autoimmune , UC very often on your podcast until Sunny mentioned her daughter. I was hoping to contact her or Sunny to ask how she did ‘cure’ herself. I couldn’t find the part where Sunny mentioned she has a blog. Anyway I have UC and have been dealing with it for 3 years. I have been on AIP. With some success but still suffering a lot. Can you let me know about Sunny’s blog? Also I turned 60 this year!

    1. Hi Joan. Sunny doesn’t have a blog. I think when it comes to autoimmune disease, there’s a wide range of severity. Some people achieve long-lasting remission while others have more ups and downs in their healing journey. I know Sunny’s daughter followed the SCD diet, which was created by a woman whose daughter also had UC. It’s similar to paleo, but it’s low-starch. I myself do best on a low-starch version of paleo. That’s not true for everyone, but it’s something you can experiment with if you haven’t already. Here’s an article I wrote about my experience: The Great Starch Experiment. And here’s a book about the SCD Diet: Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Wishing you healing in every way. And happy birthday!

  4. This was such a lovely episode! I finally got my 78 year old dad to go gluten free a little over a year ago, and his health has improved dramatically. Wish I could get him to take the extra steps to try AIP, I’m quite sure he would get even better – but I am proud of him for being willing to make any dietary changes at all. The biggest challenge for him was modifying his daily lunch at the Senior Center – it’s the center of his social life. He still goes, but sometimes just to visit, not to eat, if there is nothing safe on the menu. 🙂

    One other thought – I still advocate that people look into helminthic therapy for any immune dysfunction/autoimmune/bowel issues that don’t respond to other treatment. The ick factor isn’t any greater than for fecal transplants, and it can be just as life changing. Looking forward to a podcast on the subject someday. 😉

    1. I’m totally impressed with your Dad, too! Thanks for sharing, Kelly. And as to the helminth topic, it’s on my list, but I have 100+ topics on my list so it might take me a while to get to it! Refresh my memory – have you used that therapy yourself? If yes, for what illness and with what results? The healing journey is so fascinating, with many different paths.

      1. So good to hear that we can look forward to at least a hundred more awesome episodes of your podcast! And I’m glad to hear you have some interest in helminths. Sorry for the delay in answering – the international community of helminthic users recently received the sad news that New Zealand has begun cracking down on imports of helminths and are prosecuting the recipients, all because of an interview one woman did that drew the attention of government regulators. Imports are also illegal in the US, but customs doesn’t intercept very many shipments and so far they haven’t tried to prosecute the suppliers or the recipients. However that could change, and recently they did start targeted searches for the shipments, so fewer are making it through. So…in light of all that I am going to withdraw my request for more exposure for this amazing treatment. We have to go underground a bit deeper and a bit longer, which is heartbreaking.

        I have been using the therapy myself for about a year. I have celiac, Addison’s and multiple sclerosis. (It is one of the best known treatments for relapsing/remitting MS, with a 90+% rate of remission. Combined with diet and lifestyle changes, I think we could nearly eliminate the tragic consequences of MS and many other autoimmune illnesses.)

        I had good results for awhile, with about 80% reduction in MS symptoms, but then took a third dose and lost all benefit – which happens if you exceed your personal ideal colony size. Unfortunately there is so little research that we have to figure out all the details by personal trial and error. I wiped out my colony and reinoculated with 6 hookworms (considered a very small dose) three weeks ago. I expect the benefits to return over the next 6 months or so. Below are links to the NZ article that caused such a fuss, and the FB page of the William Parker Lab, which among other things is promoting the study of helminths.



        1. P.S. Before starting to hookworms, I did a 100% AIP diet for 3 months and derived some benefit from that as well (I had already been gluten free and sugar free for many years, and grain free for two years.) I have since added in white rice and some nuts which seem ok, but haven’t been able to reintroduce most other non AIP foods. Hoping my little buddies can help broaden my horizons – not that I want to go back to anything resembling a SAD diet, but there are many healthy foods that my body still can’t handle… 🙂

        2. Kelly, thank you so much for sharing the details of your experience. I’ll take it off my podcast list for the reasons you stated. I hope you achieve remission with your new, smaller colony. Wishing you wellness in every way!

  5. I just started this journey, at age 58. I was surprised and thrilled to come across this podcast! Just exactly what I needed. Thank you!

  6. Absolutely it is never too late!!! I just started at age 74. For so many years I have tried and tried with various diets, often following them to the letter for 6 months or more. Often it was to my detriment as it was always “a healing crisis” that I could blame for getting worse. It’s hard to read a body that is constantly screaming about something or other.
    Some diets helped but never to a state approaching real health, no matter how meticulous I was. Even if some symptoms were better, the pain was still extreme.
    I am as confident as one can be, not knowing the future, that the AIP component to Paleo is going to be the key, or at the very least, point to other hidden irritants. Already, after about three weeks, I am seeing that all kinds of things are really “reactions” and not just the way my life and my strange body are. I am now suspicious of chicken and bananas though the reactions were very different and in the past I would have been written them off as just another crazy thing about my body. In order to get on with living, I would have ignored them.
    AIP plus FODMAP are really limiting so I hate to lose any allowed food, but the glimpses of being better that come between the tough times make it worthwhile to proceed.
    Yay, Eileen and your wonderful style of education and hope!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Barbara! You are all inspiring so many people with your positive attitude, strength and wisdom. If you ever feel like your diet is getting too restricted, reach out to The Paleo Mom Consulting for some guidance. They work with people 1:1 and are great at troubleshooting while still ensuring you are getting the vital nutrition that’s also necessary to healing. Wishing you wellness in every way.

  7. I loved this one Eileen! I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as I was approaching 60, about three years ago. Yours was actually one of the first sites I found and was greatly encouraged by your story. I have been AIP for about a year and a half and have managed to stay off the big drugs and generally feel pretty good! I was given an opportunity to write for Paleo Magazine and our goal with that column has been to write for the “more mature” audience, giving hope, encouragement and perspective on the Paleo lifestyle journey. There are challenges and general principles that apply to all of us, but I love writing about specific challenges that we face as we get older. It was refreshing to read from those who dispel some myths about this process! Thank you for all that you do to help us on Phoenix Helix. I, for one, have benefited greatly!

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