We explore healing protocols and healing experiences with people from around the globe, with a new episode each month.
Eileen became a leader in the grassroots autoimmune healing community through her blog and podcast Phoenix Helix.
She was one of the first people to provide reliable and accessible information about the Autoimmune Protocol online and has continued to support this growing worldwide community with high-quality content evr since.
Eileen has her own compelling healing story, and is well-known for her honesty about the healing process.
Episode 12: New science + ancestral health practices + medication = remission with Eileen Laird
Eileen's story is a sweeping odyssey (seriously) that begins with diet drinks and fluffernutter sandwiches, includes early adoption of the Autoimmune Protocol, her decision to add medication to her toolkit, and her eventual remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis.
In this episode, Eileen is just as smart and engaging as she is on her popular blog and podcast at Phoenix Helix.
0.00 Introduction to the Healing Protocols: the global edition
1.28 Jo: Welcome to Episode 12: Interview with Eileen Laird
2.36 Petra: Let’s learn more about you and your history. What healing protocols you’ve tried and when you first started your healing protocol lifestyle?
- 2.53: I need something as severe as Rheumatoid Arthritis to inspire me to a diet change. I ate gluten and dairy every day. I drank diet pop and eat twinkies. When I got Rheumatoid Arthritis I was willing to try anything. I went gluten free and sugar free first. That helped for three days. I tried vegetarian and vegan and got worse. Then I tried the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The idea is to remove the carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. I heard about GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Diet which is similar to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet but with an increased emphasis on nutrient density. GAPS was the first thing that worked. I plateaued after 5 months. When I started I was quite disabled. Everything hurt. It was terrifying. It was the first time I could understand how people with chronic pain end up contemplating suicide. After 5 months on GAPS I was able to go back to work part-time. Then I added the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) to the GAPS. The AIP intimidated me at first. I was hoping a less restricted diet would work for me.
10.19 Petra: When did you start the AIP? Where did you get your information from?
- 10.30: There wasn’t much available online. You could find the quick lists. Sarah Ballantyne and Mickey Trescott were coming online at the same time. I was diagnosed in 2012 and started the AIP on January 1, 2013. My flares stopped as soon as I started the AIP. I was able to start hiking again. I have a low tolerance for starch. When I reintroduced more starchy foods, my flares started again.
13.22 Rory: Why do you think that some people are starch intolerant?
- 13.29: I think there are a lot of factors at play. Microbiome is a factor. Some bacteria feed on starch. Some people can digest starch better than others.
15.04 Rory: Why do you think your health issues originally occurred? Were genetics, life choices, environment or a combination drivers in your ill health?
- 15.28: I didn’t have a traumatic event before my autoimmune diagnosis. I was a picky eater as a child and I was allowed to pick my food. I didn’t eat any vegetables. My mother baked every day. There was no limit on what I could have. Sugar was my main food group. I could make peanut butter and jelly sandwich any time I didn’t like meals. As an adult I started to eat a healthier diet. I wish I could have found will power sooner.
18.53 Jo: When the pain of the illness is greater than what you have to give up…
- 19.20: Your body puts up with a lot before it ‘breaks’. Before I got Rheumatoid Arthritis I had intermittent symptoms that I can identify now.
20.27 Jo: What is your health like now?
- 21.02: It’s excellent now. I decided to take medication. I had been on a healing diet for 4 years when I made that choice. I was managing my Rheumatoid Arthritis with the AIP for a couple of year and then perimenopause kicked off some flares and joint changes. That inspired me to try medication, which was an emotionally wrenching decision that I wrote about my blog. That was a year ago and now I’m in remission. I don’t think the medication would be as helpful if I wasn’t on the AIP. I have reintroduced more foods since I have been in remission. That lets me travel without fear, but it doesn’t make me want to include those food every day.
23.57 Jo: Do you find that there’s a threshold with some foods?
- 24.24: This is the first time I’ve been in remission. I was so sensitive to nightshades before I was in remission. Now I can have them. I think when we are in remission we can tolerate more things. I won’t try gluten or processed foods. I love myself enough to want to support my health. Medication is just part of my protocol.
26.45 Petra: Could you share what your goal is with all of the resources that you provide to the community?
- 27.04: All of you have been on my podcast. Petra’s husband Matthew about medication decisions, Petra about marriage and autoimmune disease; Rory on self-sabotage; Jo on autoimmune skin conditions. Community is the biggest reason I started my blog. I wanted to connect with people on a similar journey. When you are tied into the community, you know what people are looking for. The breakfast cookbook was for people who struggle with breakfast on the AIP.
30.09 Rory: How have you incorporated spirituality into your healing protocol?
- 30.36: I think that anything that happens to our body happens to our spirit too. Mind-body techniques have been big for me. Having Rheumatoid Arthritis has deepened my empathy. I can’t say that it’s a blessing but it has brought gifts to my life. I like who I am now.
33.17 Rory: What would be your best advice to someone who is just starting a healing protocol?
- 33.31: Find your motivation. What do you want to achieve that is more important than any temptation. Believe you can do it. And have a plan. Take the time you need to prepare.
34.43 Rory: Check out Eileen’s video tour of her fridge!
35.32 Jo: Who has been the most inspirational to you in your healing protocol lifestyle?
- 35.42: My husband. He supported me from day one.
39.00 Where to find Eileen online.
The Autoimmune Healing n=1 Workbook Kit
The Autoimmune Healing n=1 Workbook Kit helps you personalize your strategy.
It lets you customize your protocol based on your goals and your unique situation. The Autoimmune Healing n=1 Workbook Kit is fully compatible with the Autoimmune Protocol and any other strategies you might be considering, including medication.
Find more information here.