Beat Autoimmune Disease with Palmer Kippola

In this episode of Functional Medicine Research, I interview Palmer Kippola on how to beat autoimmune disease and her new book “Beat Autoimmune: The 6 Keys to Reverse Your Condition and Reclaim Your Health”. We had a great talk walking through her F.I.G.H.T.S. protocol which includes food, infections, gut health, hormones, toxins, and stress.
Our focus in this interview was on practical strategies for those with autoimmune disease to implement right away into their lives. Palmer has dealt with autoimmune disease herself, so she offers a unique perspective.

Beat Autoimmune Disease with Palmer Kippola

Full Transcript on How to Beat Autoimmune Disease with Palmer Kippola

Dr. Hedberg: Greetings everyone, and welcome to “Functional Medicine Research.” I’m Dr. Hedberg, and I’m looking forward to my conversation today with Palmer Kippola. She’s a best-selling author, speaker, and functional medicine certified health coach who specializes in helping people reverse and prevent autoimmune conditions. She developed a framework called F.I.G.H.T.S, which stands for food, infections, gut health, hormone balance, toxins, and stress to help others beat autoimmune conditions based on her two-decade battle to overcome multiple sclerosis. Her book is “Beat Autoimmune: The 6 Keys to Reverse Your Condition and Reclaim Your Health,” with a foreword by Mark Hyman. And as she shares the science stories and strategies to help people heal and thrive, today she provides total health transformation programs for people who seek to heal from any autoimmune condition by addressing the root causes head-on with functional lab testing and comprehensive mind-body strategies. She also serves a growing community of people in a guided online membership program called Beat Autoimmune Academy. Palmer, welcome to the show.

Palmer: Thank you so much, Dr. Hedberg. It’s such a pleasure to be here.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. So, as I mentioned in the bio, you dealt with multiple sclerosis. So, I’m sure there’s a story there. So, why don’t you walk us through your healing journey, what that was like, and that whole process?

Palmer: Sure, sure. I do need to take you back in time a little bit because I was diagnosed at 19. Let me tell you the story. I was a happy, healthy, well-adjusted 19-year-old, by all accounts. I was home for summer after my freshman year of college, and I was working as a hostess in a restaurant. And one day I woke up and the soles of my feet were tingling, like that feeling you have when you’ve slept on a limb too long, when the blood flows back, it gets all tingling. But this particular morning, the blood wasn’t flowing back. But I thought it’ll just go away, so I went off to work. And the tingling just continued to creep up my legs like a vine. It got to my knees and by that time, I knew something was really wrong. So, I called my parents who called the family doctor who said, “Get her over to the neurologist at UCLA today.” And we did. That’s where we were that afternoon. And this particular neurologist had me do really simple heel-toe walking across her floor and tapped my reflexes. And after about five or six minutes, pronounced that she was 99% certain that I had MS, multiple sclerosis. And if she was right, there was nothing I could do except take medication. And we were absolutely shocked. Remember, this was in the mid-80s, so there was no guidebook, there was nothing. We had never heard of MS.

And we just left that office completely confused, devastated, and with very little hope. But I was sent home and that night, my mom lay in bed with me and she was holding me and I was crying and she was crying and it turned out that all of the parts of my body that had been tingling, which by the time I got to the neurologist’s office, it had reached right under my collarbone, so all the way up, full body. And then by the time we got into bed that night, all my body went completely numb from the neck down and I would stay numb for a full six weeks. So, an absolutely terrifying first experience, not having any information, not having any idea how this came on, or what my future was gonna look like. But that summer, the Olympics were on TV and I was really grateful because that’s about all I could do is lie on the couch and watch the Olympics.

And I do have to say that I’m so grateful that my parents were so supportive and rocks and I had friends that came by and brought gifts, like, you know, 19-year-old friends do, books and watch movies with me. But this one family friend who was into things metaphysical came and asked me a question, which at the time I didn’t think was a gift, but it turned out to be the guiding light for the rest of my life because she asked me the question, “Palmer, why do you think you’ve got the MS?” And I was incensed like, “How dare you? What do you mean why do I think I got this? Are you accusing me of doing something that brought this on?”

So, I lay there like a dog with a bone just chewing on that question. And it did come to me in a flash of insight as I lay on the couch. So, I’m 19, I’m on the couch, and I just need to take you a tiny bit farther back in time because I had been adopted at three days old by very loving parents. But my dad had been a fighter pilot and his way was proverbially the right way and so we butted heads quite a bit. He was verbally abusive, very judgmental. And the earliest memory that I had that came to me in that flash of insight lying on the couch was my dad is calling my mom names, she’s locked herself in the bedroom, and I can’t remember if I’m three or four, but whatever, I’m standing with my little dukes up with words to the effect of you call my mom names and I’ll suck lights out. So, I had become this little child warrior. And that had meant that I wasn’t sleeping through the night, I developed insomnia because I was always scanning the environment for safety. So, that initial hypothesis of why I got the MS of chronic stress still rings true for me today, even though I know there’s much more to the story. So, I’ll pause for a moment and see if you have any particular questions at this point.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. Well, we often see that strong adverse childhood experiences or some kind of ongoing stress or a stressful event as a major player in the triggering event and that could be a single event or like I said, something ongoing. And we’re just so vulnerable as children as our immune systems and central nervous system is developing. And so, I’m sure you see it with the people you work with and we often see something like that that leads up to the development of an autoimmune condition. So, that must have been really scary, especially something like MS because I’ve seen MS patients in wheelchairs and there’s some pretty devastating effects for some individuals who have MS as it progresses. So, did you do anything else other than focusing on nutrition and lifestyle to help you get through that?

Palmer: Sure. Well, I can address that. You’re absolutely right. I do wanna add that after we left the neurologist’s office, the neurologist held my parents back and said to them privately, “You better get ready for her life in a wheelchair because that’s where she’s heading,” which just you know, makes me angry. But that’s the best that some have to offer and that certainly at the time, the best that could be done. So, yeah, I did multiple experiments over the years. I was fortunate that the numbness faded enough for me to go back to my sophomore year of school. So, it didn’t completely go away for a couple of years, but I was functional. I could walk and I had good cognition. So, off I went back to school and there was a period of denial, which is probably normal. But there was also no internet. I was really left to my own to figure out what to eat, you mentioned nutrition. And the only thing I had was the public library, and the only thing available on MS was the Swank diet, which purported that a low-fat vegetarian diet was the best for MS. So, I gave it a try. And that did not help me. In fact, it made my gut symptoms worse.

Now, for my entire life, I had symptoms of constipation. So, I kinda thought that was normal and I always felt a little tummy grumbling after eating, but I also chalked that up to being normal. I didn’t think it was a problem. So, it would take more than two decades for me to address what was really going on. And I wanna really be clear to say this is something that now we have the science, we have the stories and the strategies, it doesn’t need to take nearly the time that it took me because I was really going on my intuition that if stress was the big problem, I needed to figure out how to reduce the stress. So, that led me to meditation, that led me to yoga, started doing those in the late 80s, early 90s. And I did notice almost immediately that when I was able to bring the stress down, and as my yoga teacher would say let it go with this very long go, I would actually have a diminishment of symptoms.

It turned out that I had relapsing-remitting MS. So, that means it comes and goes, it’s not necessarily progressively worsening. But it became really clear that the more stress I had in my life, whether that was conflict at home or exams at school, or whatever I perceived as being stressful, you could almost count on it that I would develop more MS symptoms, whether that was numbness and tingling or tightness or this symptom called Lhermitte’s syndrome where you bend your head down and get this zapping energy down your back. All of these things got worse with stress and better with relaxation. So, that was a big win, but it wasn’t complete.

Nutrition, as I said, I wouldn’t learn for years what I was doing wrong. And finally in 2010, I decided to pay attention to what was going on with my gut after eating and that is when I went to a functional medicine nutritionist who did some tests and found out that I had non-celiac gluten sensitivity. And what’s ironic about this is I was eating gluten virtually with every meal. I have a picture of me as a two-year-old with my entire arm into a box of Cheerios. So, I just laugh because we thought that we were eating a super healthy diet. My mom would pack me off to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat bread, and that was healthy. So, that’s what we did. And little did I know that I was constantly irritating and inflaming my gut. And now we know that leaky gut is the pathway to autoimmunity, I didn’t know that was a problem. So, I’ll just say that from that moment of getting the results back, I did the full elimination diet, removed the gluten dairy, blah, blah, blah. And within a week, I stopped having tummy trouble after eating.

And within a month, I stopped having MS symptoms ever again. And I’m really quick to add that it’s not just about removing gluten because there’s so much more to it than that which we’ll get into. But I had been slowly and steadily reducing my body burden while seeking the right diet. So, I had found out that I had high levels of mercury in my body, so I began to whittle those down. I had developed candida overgrowth because of my sweet tooth, and because of all the mercury fillings, I just became loaded with candida. So, I began lowering that in working with this functional medicine nutritionist. And all of this is about clearing out or emptying that toxin bucket. So, that is why I call gut-healing my Eureka experiment in 2010.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. And the gut is really one of the main gateways to detoxification. A lot of people think about the liver when they think about that, but the gut is vital. So, let’s plant a flag and talk about what people can actually do. So, we have our F.I.G.H.T.S that you came up with. So, let’s begin with food. So, you talked a little bit about gluten, which is pretty much par for the course for someone with autoimmunity no matter what autoimmune condition they have. But there’s many more foods out there to avoid and a number of different diets that are popular. There’s paleo, autoimmune paleo, ketogenic, plant-based, and all of those can work for certain individuals at certain times and things like that. So, talk to us a little bit about how you approach food and healing autoimmune.

Palmer: Sure. So, I wanna put a finer point on gluten for a moment because there was a study that came out by Alessio Fasano in 2015 that shows that gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it. Anyone who eats it. And what this says to me, and we want our gut to be selectively leaky, right? That’s how we absorb nutrients through our small intestines. But if gluten is boring bigger holes in people in their gut lining and you have the predisposition or a confirmed autoimmune condition, then you are perpetuating an autoimmune process by continuing to eat it. And so, for people who say, “Well, I’ll take it out for a little while and just add it back because I don’t feel any different,” just have that knowledge that it’s gonna keep whatever is going on until you remove it and help to seal the gut. It’s not the only thing that creates a leaky gut, but I found that fascinating because it is a damaging protein. But beyond gluten, we have a lot of other things that are potentially problematic.

The second in line is dairy. And it turns out that it’s not the lactose in dairy, it’s actually the casein which is the inflammatory protein. Most problematic in cow dairy, but oftentimes people with a sensitivity to gluten, 75% of the time we see a sensitivity to dairy too with the exception of grass-fed ghee, which is clarified butter, and that removes all the allergens of casein and whey. You really wanna be vigilant about dairy, and I’m including cheese and yogurt. I know there are healthy swaps that are fantastic like coconut yogurt. So, that is the second one. And the third one across the board I see personally is eggs. And it just seems that people with autoimmunity are more reactive to eggs. And for this reason with the gluten grains, dairy, and eggs, I’ll even add sugar in there and I’ll speak about that in a minute. But this is why an autoimmune paleo diet or commonly known as AIP seems to be the most therapeutic healing diet for people dealing with autoimmunity.

It’s a short-term food plan, it’s not a forever. I think some people get confused that this is something that I or others advocate as a long-term way of eating. And it’s really not. I mean, there are certain things that need to go for good. I would put gluten in that category, I would put sugar in that category. Sometimes people can land on goat dairy or sheep because cow can be more problematic, but for a period of time, and I call it a 30-day food vacation in my book because it’s a vacation from these habitual foods. It’s taking a little bit of time out, it might be 30 days, might be 60, might be 90, might be you don’t ever wanna add some of these things back in.

But we also know that people with pain and joint pain and those kinds of aches do well to remove nightshade vegetables, which include…I know it’s coming on summer and you’ve got tomatoes and peppers and some of those foods that people just love. But those particular foods, I don’t know how to say this properly, Solanaceae family seem to be very triggering for people with autoimmunity, in particular, that includes aches and pains. And the last thing I’ll mention is sugar, which doesn’t get a lot of discussion from an immune system problem. But remember that autoimmunity is not a body part problem, it’s an immune system problem and it’s mediated through the gut where most of your immune system resides. So, my weak link happened to be for MS, but others could be for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or Hashimoto’s, or whatever it is. Those are all immune system problems, they’re not body part problems. So, sugar blocks the immune system from functioning or it can for up to five hours after eating it. And that study was done back in 1973. So, just worthwhile to be really mindful of what you’re choosing to eat because sometimes what you don’t know can really harm you.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. And I usually start just with gluten, dairy, and sugar for a lot of people really just depending on where they are for the first few weeks. A lot of times it’s just a lot to take on. Some people it’s been very difficult just to start with gluten. And so, just depending on the individual, sometimes I’ll do something a little bit less restrictive to get them rolling, and then we progress into the more restrictive diet. So, I think that’s good advice. And then the next letter is “I,” stands for infections. So, this is my real area of interest. So, I’m interested to hear what you have to say about infections that we know infections can either trigger or continue to drive autoimmunity. So, what can you tell us about infections?

Palmer: Yeah. This is really an unsung contributor to the autoimmune problem. From my perspective and my research, I see and I hear and I read that about 90% of the time, there’s an infection that’s hidden or somehow rather present that you may not know about because maybe you don’t feel anything. And so, at the end of the day, we are supposed to be living in harmony with our environment. And that means with viruses, with parasites, with fungi, etc. But the way that we have been living with these high sugar diets and just out of balance with our nature, we have become more hospitable to these infections. So, for example, most of us have herpes viruses in us, Epstein-Barr, HHV-1, or two or six or kazillion, I have no idea. There are a ton of them. But it’s not the virus per se, it’s when the body is out of balance that these infections can take hold. And autoimmunity is a hypometabolic state, meaning that the metabolisms of people with autoimmunity are typically low and slow. So, in part, healing can be about working to raise your metabolism in ways that are really pretty therapeutic, easy to do. There are various different types of breathwork that you can do to help to raise your metabolism. There’s a good book by Pam Grout that I like on this. And I think breathing is getting more press and more books about oxygen and how we breathe and so forth. So, I think that’s huge. And I know that you talk about sleep apnea and not getting enough oxygen as part of the problem. So, something to really pay attention to is how you’re breathing, making sure that you’re doing proper belly breathing for starters. That would be one thing to do.

Another thing that is really therapeutic is to introduce cold therapy, just adding cold water at the end of your shower or doing intermittent warm water, cold water, warm water, cold water can create this hormetic effect where a little bit of stress is actually very beneficial. And that helps to fire up your metabolism. And just like that intermittent water, intermittent fasting is another great way of working to take a burden off your digestion, but also to stimulate your metabolism and help turn you into a more metabolically flexible person. And the last one I’ll add is that I really like is weightlifting. And it’s something that I don’t see enough women doing, in particular, maybe because, well, energy for sure, especially if you’re sick, you don’t wanna do any kind of exercise. But if you feel able to do a little exercise, lifting heavy things can actually be really helpful in raising your resting metabolism. So, I would just add that to the mix if you’re able to do it.

Dr. Hedberg: Excellent. And so, the third letter is G for gut health. And the gut is just really key in not just autoimmunity, but so many disorders. And this is really one of the most important things to focus on looking at intestinal barrier integrity, dysbiosis infections in the gut, and things like that. So, can you give us some tips on how to improve gut health?

Palmer: Absolutely. And in my book, F.I.G.H.T.S isn’t in the same order that it’s spelled because gut-healing naturally follows food. And the reason I say that is when we remove foods that are typical autoimmune triggers and then we look at gut health, the first thing in gut health, the first rule is remove. Remove the bad stuff. I mean, really to make this as simple as possible, healing involves removing the bad stuff and adding the good stuff. It’s knowing which ones to do and what time. But in particular, these SAD foods, a standard American diet, it goes without saying that the processed foods, processed oils, conventionally raised animal products that are…you have to think about you’re not just what you eat, you’re whatever you ate. So, if you’re eating animal products, animals tend to concentrate toxins.

And if they’re feasting on corn, soy, and wheat, those crops have either been sprayed with glyphosate or they’ve been engineered as genetically modified organisms to include this roundup-ready product that helps them withstand dying before harvesting, but you have to think about what that’s doing to you because we have studies that show that glyphosate is one of the biggest baddies when it comes to harming our gut linings. So, super important to really be vigilant about what you’re eating, in particular, animal products and oils I would say.

And another category of things that are harmful to the gut are medications. So, this is not just heavy-hitting medications, it can also be Tylenol and Advil. And I don’t mean to single them out. But anything that you take for a long period of time. Sleeping meds can create bigger holes in the lining of your gut than you want and antibiotics, as we know, you know, wipes out our microbiome. And I’ve heard that even a five-day course of antibiotics can make your microbiome imbalanced for more than a year. So, you’re already dealing with imbalances in your gut. You wanna save those antibiotics for life-threatening situations, if at all possible. So, those are probably the biggest thing to do with the gut is what you remove. And another category just to quickly finish this out would be to address any kind of gut infections that are going on like blastocystis hominis and others that I know you talk about quite a bit, H. pylori, Cryptosporidium. t

Those are all potentially bad actors. So, a comprehensive stool test can be super helpful in identifying what’s going on in there because, without the data, you really don’t know what you’re dealing with. And last but not least, is the most insidious because I learned fairly recently that stress creates and perpetuates a leaky gut. So, even if you’re doing everything else right, taking out the bad stuff, adding the good stuff in, and if you’re still stressed out, that stress can perpetuate a leaky gut just as it can raise your blood sugar, which many people don’t realize that blood sugar imbalances are a huge factor in this equation. But it’s not just about the food, it’s about stress.

Dr. Hedberg: Exactly. And the fourth letter is H for hormones. And so, we’re thinking estrogen as a driver of autoimmunity imbalances and sex hormones, testosterone, progesterone, adrenal hormones, and things like that. So, any tips on good hormone balance?

Palmer: Sure. Well, thank you for addressing all of those, those are all super important. I would say the easiest thing for people to do is to raise their vitamin D levels. You may not know most people that vitamin D is a prohormone and it’s probably the easiest thing that you can do for hormone balancing, but immune system support, especially now. So, that is huge. Something else that is sometimes missing or lowered in people with chronic illness is melatonin. So, we typically see that people aren’t sleeping well, falling asleep, staying asleep at night, especially if you’re not feeling well. And as we age, melatonin naturally drops. But in people with chronic illness, you know, it can pretty well plummet. So, one thing that I often recommend is for people to get outside in the morning within an hour of waking and get some morning sun in your eyes.

Not like a lunatic staring at the sun. But having the sun come into your retina is actually really helpful to restoring your circadian rhythm and helping you with that cortisol melatonin balance, which can be really out of balance in people with autoimmunity. And speaking of cortisol, which is often high or an improper cortisol line with people with autoimmunity, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is find some sort of stress reduction practice during the day. And it seems like, “Oh, yeah, that’s nice to do. And yeah, I just don’t have time. I don’t have time.” Well, no one else is gonna relax for you. And we know that healing only happens in the relaxation response.

So, prioritizing one thing that you can do to reduce stress proactively during your day is huge in lowering cortisol and really helping the healing process. And the last thing that I would add under hormones is find ways to increase joy in your life because this is gonna boost oxytocin, which is the bonding, love hormone. So, it can be as simple as, you know, if you’re living alone and you don’t have somebody to get hugs from, you can actually hug yourself and it helps. But there are other ways to boost your oxytocin levels, and one is by having a pet. Not just to pet, your animal, but there’s science that shows that if you look into the pet’s eyes and they look into yours, it not only boosts oxytocin in you, in the human, but it also boosts oxytocin in the pet. So, a super big, great benefit to having an animal.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. I make sure I look in my dog’s and my cat’s eyes a lot throughout the day to get that oxytocin. So, those are some good tips. And then the next letter is T, and this is for toxins. And obviously, we have just growing volume of toxins in our environment. There’s only so much we can deal with and some people’s loads are greater than others based on where they’ve lived and what they’re exposed to. And these are, of course, going to drive inflammation and cause immune system imbalances. So, a lot of times it’s just getting people to remove what’s in their environment. Do you have any additional tips for reducing or eliminating toxins?

Palmer: Sure. Well, this is, as you noted, possibly the big driver for why autoimmunity is on the rise. And it seems like there’s not much we can do about what’s out there. We also have to look at what’s in here, meaning in our bodies, in our homes and there is so much that you can do. So, I wanna provide some hope because we have to follow the precautionary principle. In Europe, they don’t let chemicals on the market unless they are tested safe, whereas in this country and maybe things are changing, but it has been that things are put on the market and then not taken off the market until they’re proven unsafe. So, we need to be responsible for our own toxic load. And a couple of the areas that I just wanna point to that can really make a big difference in people. I already mentioned one, and that is choosing to eat organic or beyond organic food, especially animal products and oils because there are reportedly 25% more pesticides and herbicides in these conventional products and there are inorganic or biodynamic products.

So, there’s been studies showing that an organic diet can really quickly reduce a body burden in children. So, just a few days of following an organic food plan. And people who are cost-conscious, I’m really mindful of that, the Environmental Working Group provides resources like the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list so you can decide which to prioritize, and even Costco has got a lot more organic food. But it matters and that’s why I mention it because sometimes people are like, “Yeah. It doesn’t really matter.” Well, it all adds up. And the whole point of healing is removing things from your toxin bucket. So, knowing what the big levers are is really important. And I would say that as Dr. Joseph Pizzorno who wrote “The Toxin Solution” said 70% of your toxin load is non-persistent and comes from food. Meaning it’s not persistent chemicals that can stay in the body a super long time, this is something that we can really do something about. So, that’s number one.

The air we breathe, we spend about 90% of our time indoors, but indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air depending, of course, on where you live. So, if you’re able to open the windows and you live in a place where that makes sense, do that. I have heard from environmental home engineers talking about ban the broom, don’t use a broom to just shuffle around dust and other particles like mycotoxins, get a HEPA vacuum. And those have really come down in price. So, there’s good ones available that really can help to remove those fine particles. And for people that are even more sensitive, they might consider an air filter for where you spend the most time. Could be your office if you have a home office or bedroom while you’re sleeping. That’s huge.

And last but not least, is water filters. And it doesn’t have to be a big deal, whole house water filter. But figuring out what you can do to get rid of the fluoride and the chlorine, and other things with a good countertop water filter or refrigerator filter, just make sure that your filter gets out the bad stuff so that you’re not ingesting chemicals every time you have water. You can find really good, easy-to-install water filters for your showers and baths. And those are just really simple things that you can do that can make a big, big difference.

Dr. Hedberg: Excellent. And the final category is stress. And this may arguably be number one. I think that stress is misunderstood. Some people probably see stress as some work stress or stressed out about a deal or car repairs and things like that. That’s all stressful, but there are other bigger stresses like feeling lonely in a relationship or lonely in general, a lack of physical affection, not having a meaningful purpose in life is a major stress to the body. So, so many psychological, psychosocial aspects of our lives drive stress. And so, can you talk a little bit about that and any tips that you like to give to help people deal with stress and manage it?

Palmer: Sure. Well, I wish we had a whole other hour because you’re absolutely right. This may be you know, just the most insidious and the biggest problem that people have. And it’s frankly, the most overlooked when it comes to things like functional medicine and other holistic medicine practices because it is hard to measure in the perspective of what each of those things that you mentioned, like loneliness can actually be a bigger stress than smoking to the system. It’s probably the biggest stressor there is. And there’s really not a test for loneliness, like only you know if this is a problem. So, I think it helps to have kind of a definition of stress as what you feel when the demands on you exceed your capacity to cope. So, it’s what you feel. It may not be real, but you perceive that this is a bigger deal than I have the capacity to handle.

And so, another way of looking at it is in these categories of stress because not all stress is bad. There are three categories of stress that I think it’s helpful to look at. One is called tame stress. And that’s the kind of stress that you might feel, for example, right now getting on your podcast with you. It’s kind of stressful, you know, getting ready to do an interview or getting the courage to ask somebody out on a date. That we could consider as a tame stressor. It’s actually good for you because when you do that thing, it helps to build courage and confidence in what you do the next time. And then the next category would be tolerable stress, and this is where we’re all going to experience tolerable stress in life. Could be the death of a loved one, it could be the loss of a job. You know, name that category, a health diagnosis, you know, ongoing health problems. And what makes tolerable stress, something that you can overcome is when you have the resources to be able to deal with it, to go through a grieving process, which is normal, natural, and healthy, and vital, but you get out the other side and you’ve actually grown from it. That is what would be considered tolerable stress, right?

And then the third category is toxic stress. And this is the unrelenting always on whether or not there’s something bad happening. So, I’ll go back to my own childhood, which by the way, my dad ended up being a hero of the story. So, I don’t mean to paint an all bad picture here. He was the one that told me, “Honey, you can beat this thing.” So, I just wanted to get a plug-in for my dad. But as a child, I perceived that my mom was in danger, that I was in danger. So, I had to be always on. Do you see the difference? It’s like I’m always on, so I’m not sleeping. It has this downward spiral impact on your body and you know, everything else.

So, that’s the kind of stress that has the most harm when it comes to setting up the autoimmune problem, which those adverse childhood experiences absolutely do it’s when you don’t feel you have the capacity to cope and you don’t do anything to address the trauma that we all face at some time in our life. So, that’s just a way of framing it because I think it’s really important that people have an understanding of stress isn’t always bad. In fact, it can be quite beneficial, like taking those cold showers and doing the weightlifting. And those things are all stress, but it’s when we can’t get a handle on it. So, the two things that I’ll just simply say that I like to do with clients and recommend for people is like a two-part strategy.

And one is to create a stress action plan, I call it a give-to-list to take inventory of all the things that are stressing you out. You literally, and I had to do this, I did it on an airplane you know, about 15 years ago coming back from visiting a friend and I was completely stressed out, both of my parents were in hospital beds, I was sitting on boards, I was running a sales team. All of this stuff was…like the stress was written, by the way, I had MS, so those symptoms. So, I sat down and I got out a sheet of paper and on the left-hand side, you write a list of all the things that are stressing you out. And on the right-hand side, you come up with what are you gonna do about each one. Do something about it. Like if there’s a guy on my sales team not carrying his weight, instead of me sitting there and worrying about it and ruminating about it, my plan is to go talk to the VP of HR and make a plan for this guy. What can you do about each one? And in some cases when there’s nothing to do, like the health of my parents beyond you know, their medications and visiting, and so forth, you know, give to God or whomever. But the point is to do whatever you can to give that stress to somebody else or the universe.

And then on the other side of the ledger is what can you do to bring yourself joy each and every day? And I call that a fill me up list and write all the things down that bring you joy. And it can be the simplest things, sitting outside in the sun you know, if you’re in an environment that allows you to do that. Talking to a good friend, taking a bath. But when you have a list of things that you write down in advance, you can then decide much more easily what you’re going to do not once in a blue moon and you don’t have to go on a vacation to feel joy. But you know, once a day, watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to get some laughter in. So, those two things. One, reduce the stress, and two, add joy would be how I would respond to the stress.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. Finding joy. That’s really well said. A lot of people don’t really have that you know, when you really talk to them, and that’s such a key point. So, this has been a really great overview of how to approach autoimmunity. So, I really appreciate you coming on, Palmer. And so, your book is called “Beat Autoimmune: The 6 Keys to Reverse Your Condition and Reclaim Your Health,” and that’s available on, I would assume?

Palmer: Yep. That’s the best place, especially now. That would be what I would recommend. It’s also available in audio format for people that prefer to listen to books, that is available.

Dr. Hedberg: All right. And tell us your websites and where people can find you online.

Palmer: Sure. So, people can find me at I’ve actually created a free gift for your listeners because the biggest question I get about what to eat to beat an autoimmune condition. I think people like you believe Dr. Hedberg that people are in the best position to figure that out for themselves. So, I put together a little e-book to help guide people through that process of figuring it out. And they can go to to download that guide, and that that would be a great place to start. And I’m on the social channels, you know, Facebook is Palmer Kippola.

Dr. Hedberg: Excellent. Well, I really appreciate the work you’re doing. And everyone listening, there is a full transcript of this interview if you’d like to read that, go to and search for Palmer Kippola. And you’ll see the full transcript and this interview. And I have links to Palmer’s information if you wanna check that out and read her book, which I highly recommend. So, thanks for tuning in everyone. This is Dr. Hedberg, and I will talk to you next time.

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