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Eileen Laird is a writer, podcast host, and autoimmune warrior. She uses the Paleo AutoImmune Protocol diet and lifestyle to manage rheumatoid arthritis, reducing her symptoms by 95%. Her popular blog, Phoenix Helix, receives 1 million unique visitors annually. She features recipes, research and personal stories about the autoimmune experience. She also writes Autoimmune Answers, a regular column in Paleo Magazine, and is the host of the Phoenix Helix Podcast, the only paleo podcast focused 100% on autoimmune healing. Visit her website at Phoenixhelix.com.
How did you come to write your book on AIP (autoimmune protocol)?
I was very healthy until age 43, when rheumatoid arthritis came along and drastically changed my life. I went from being a massage therapist and hiking in the mountains to not being able to lift a pot off the stove and limping across my living room because of inflammation and pain. Desperately looking for a way out, I did online research and discovered paleo. Within 2 weeks my inflammation started to go down after 6 months of solid increase. After 5 months I plateaued and did the paleo-AIP and it stopped my flare-ups altogether.
Autoimmune diseases are often triggered by a combination of factors. They build up in your body over the years, perhaps with symptoms starting at a level you can’t feel; then come the weird symptoms that are just signs of inflammation but easier to ignore; then the diagnosis hits, which can be based on genetics but also life plays a huge role, (e.g. eating gluten and dairy every day).
Prevention is easier than reversal, so anyone who is ready to make a dietary/lifestyle change should be encouraged to do so sooner rather than later—especially considering autoimmune diseases cannot be completely eliminated once a diagnosis has happened. Symptoms can be minimized and quality of life can be maximized though.
Pain management and AIP:
It’s important to make pain go away before medication necessarily does, because living with severe pain triggers the stress response and it’s not an easy cycle to end. Pain medication should not be taken mindlessly, but do not rule out using NSAIDs, for example, if you are taking them for a reason. Paleo can be dramatically pain-relieving for some people, but it’s not necessarily “either - or” for everyone—it's complicated.
Curcumin is not naturally bioavailable to the body so it must be taken with something to increase its absorption, especially for joint inflammation. BCM-95 and Meriva are both bio-available forms that are effective.
What sweeteners are ok from a paleo-AIP perspective?
Stevia extract is processed and concentrated, and while the leaf is a more moderate choice, both can cause hormonal imbalances, which can really exacerbate symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Maple syrup or honey would be better; artificial sweeteners are not good. Weaning yourself away from your sweet tooth is the best approach; the less sweets you eat the less you crave.
Visit phoenixhelix.com for access to Eileen’s books, podcast, blog series, and a multitude of recipes from the paleo-AIP community.