We explore healing protocols and healing experiences with people from around the globe, with a new episode each month.
Dr Sarah Ballantyne
Sarah is the originator of the protocol that finally enabled Matthew to get traction on his healing, starting in 2013.
She is also the reason Jo, Rory and I met.
Episode 10: Creating a worldwide healing movement through n=1 experimentation with Sarah Ballantyne
Sarah talks to us about how she used her fascination with science (i.e. geekiness) to turn her Hashimotos, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, obesity, IBS and autoimmune skin conditions into a worldwide movement for healing autoimmune disease.
She explains what is different about the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and assures us that even though she experimented on herself relentlessly while she was developing it, she didn’t become a comic book super villain.
0.00 Introduction to the Healing Protocols: the global edition
1.29 Jo: Welcome
2.19 Petra: We’d like to learn more about you and your history. What was the catalyst to start using nutrition lifestyle and mindset for healing?
- 2.39: I have understoond my diseases after I have made changes to address them. For me, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis started in puberty but I just thought I was obese and needed to lose weight. It wasn’t until my 30s that I started to think about food as a nutrition. It took finding paleo and Functional Medicine to start addressing the symptoms. It wasn’t until I started healing that I started understanding.
4.38 Rory: You were the reason Jo, Petra and I met!
- 4.58: Everything I do is motivated by my own health journey as well as my passion for health literacy. I love giving people actionable information. Now there’s an entire community of people who are dedicating their lives to sharing this information.
6.18 Rory: Why do you think your health issues originally occurred?
- 6.55: I can look at my life now and see it in terms of flares. I can see the pattern of Hashimotos, Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had mono when I was seven. There are gene variants associated with celiac disease in my family. I ate gluten as a kid. Now I can see that every flare I had was related to stress. For me, extreme stress is always paired with deadlines, which also leads to not getting enough sleep, poor diet and less activity. It’s my ‘trifecta of doom’.
11.11 Jo: What is your health like now?
- 11.13: Stress is still my biggest challenge. I have improved my stress management skills: mindfulness, physical activity, a non-negotiable bedtime. I still take thyroid hormone replacement. When I’m facing a deadline, I have more Fibromyalgia pain. I’m constantly balancing between the things I want to do in life and doing what I need to do to preserve my health. I don’t have it mastered. I have been very ill after all three of my books went to print. We’ll see how it goes with this next book. Stress is still my big hurdle.
13.08 Jo: Could you talk us through the process you went through to develop the Autoimmune Protocol? And tell us how it compare to other autoimmune protocols?
- 13.36: I didn’t invent the Autoimmune Protocol. It existed when I found the paleo diet. What I did do is lend it scientific validity and popularized it. I went paleo in 2011. I had just lost 30lbs but both of my autoimmune skin conditions were flaring and I realized that weight loss didn’t make me healthy. Within weeks of starting the paleo diet, my migraine went away, my IBS went away, I went off all of my medications including asthma medication, I lost 20 more lbs. It felt like a miracle. I had gone gluten free and dairy free before but I had never done both at the same time. I had begrudgingly decided to do it for 3 months. My skin started to get better, but it plateaued again. So I started to tinker. I started diving into the science. That was where I came upon the autoimmune protocol. There were two sources at that time, purely focused on eliminations. In January 2012, I started the autoimmune protocol. That was when Terry Wahls Tedx talk went viral. That talk that got me focused on nutrient density. I was reading about the immune system and writing about it on my blog. After 10 months, I got my first book offer. It was the process of writing The Paleo Approach that allowed me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. I figured out how implement nutrient density and lifestyle as I went.
20.31 Petra: It sounds like it was a very iterative process. Experimenting on yourself and then using the literature as scaffolding to experiment further.
- 20.54: But I didn’t turn myself into a comic book super villain!
21.15 Jo: Your version of the Autoimmune Protocol is the most comprehensive. Is that because you delved so deeply into into the science?
- 22.15: Nothing in my version of the AIP is arbitrary. Everything comes from compelling science evidence. Some more recent versions are based on the idea that if you make it too hard, people won’t do it. Which I think is really disrespectful. It assumes that we’re not dedicated enough to tackle a thorough healing protocol. I believe in empowering people with the scientific information.
26.11 Rory: One of the reason I was attracted to the AIP is because of the scientific basis and the depth. The AIP stopped the progression of my symptoms. Why would you recommended the AIP over another healing protocol?
- 27.04: It has a nutrient density focus. Adding more vegetables, organ meat and seafood. Those are most nutrient dense foods on the planet. The Wahls Protocol also focuses on nutrient density. The AIP has a detailed understanding of inflammatory compounds in food. It has a gut health perspective. It’s not just about food. It’s also about all the lifestyle factors. There are so many different ways it gets at immune regulation.
31.24 Petra: The AIP is a lot of work. What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out?
- 32.47: More aggressive autoimmune diseases take longer to respond. There is a wide range in the amount of time it takes to experience healing. Knowing that is important. This is a lifelong health journey. I always recommend to start with sleep. Sleep has an impact on stress responses, motivation and food choices. Being well-rested makes the changes easier. It improves our mood and our physical and mental performance. I would recommend taking a week and work on sleep first.
36.29 Rory: Who has been the most influential person as you have pursued your healing protocol lifestyle?
- 36.51: Professionally: Terry Wahls. Her work that first got me thinking about nutrient density. Personally: my mum. She never let hardships change her life priorities.
39.41 Where to find Sarah online.
SAD to AIP in SIX
Get help with getting started on the Autoimmune Protocol.
SAD to AIP in SIX is a an online program, facilitated by trained, certified coaches, that supports the process of transitioning to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) over 6 weeks. All the diet and lifestyle changes required for the AIP are covered in this step-by-step program.
Enrollment for SAD to AIP in SIX is open 5 times a year.