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Reversing Autoimmune Disease Naturally


If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease, you’re not the only one, but fortunately, there is hope! Over the last 50 years, autoimmunity has increase threefold, with around 50 million Americans current affected (more than cancer or heart disease), 78% of whom are women. In autoimmune diseases, the body produces antibodies that attack its own cells, tissues and organs. The most common autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Celiac disease, Graves’ disease and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, but there are more than 100 autoimmune diseases that are either systemic or attack individual organs.

This affected me personally when I was diagnosed with three autoimmune diseases around 2014 – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, ITP (an autoimmune platelet disorder) and B12 anemia. Traditional doctors had nothing to recommend other than monitoring the progression of my conditions and waiting until treatment was necessary (except for the B12 anemia which shots and sublingual supplementation helped). I soon realized that there was a lot more I could do, and thanks to the methods I outline below, I have been able to reverse my autoimmune diseases almost completely. And last week was a special celebration when my lab tests showed my platelet count solidly in the normal range for the first time since 2013! And I have yet to have to go on replacement thyroid hormone for my Hashimoto’s and my antibodies were almost down to normal at my blood tests last year.

So what causes autoimmune disease? While twin studies show that about 25% of the cause may be genetic, the other 75% is environmental, which means that changing those environmental factors can help reverse your autoimmune disease and its symptoms. The main environmental contributing factors are diet, intestinal permeability (aka, leaky gut), environmental and dietary toxins, infections and stress. In fact, many autoimmune sufferers can point to a period of high stress when their condition started.
Pharmacological treatments for autoimmunity include immunosuppressive drugs, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), and biologics. Immunosuppressive drugs suppress the immune system, creating vulnerabilities to bacteria, viruses and toxins that your immune system normally can handle, and cause a host of other dangerous side effects. NSAIDs, when used long-term, can cause stomach pain, heartburn, ulcers, headaches, dizziness, liver or kidney problems, high blood pressure, and increased risk of worsening heart failure. Side effects from DMARDs include abdominal pain, anemia, anxiety or depression, easy bruising or bleeding, fatigue, infection, lymphoma, night sweats, skin cancer and tuberculosis. Finally, biologics, which are quite expensive, also have side effects that include cancer, headaches, heart failure, hepatitis B, joint pain, nausea, upper respiratory infections and vision problems.

Given the track record of pharmacological treatments, natural treatments to reverse or improve autoimmune conditions hold great promise for relieving suffering without causing additional problems. Protocols to reverse autoimmunity aim to address the underlying triggers of autoimmunity and heal the root causes. These protocols typically involve 5 steps. They are:

a. Detoxification – A congested liver may be making it hard for your body to remove current toxins, leading to an overload. Gentle supplements that support your body’s own detoxification systems can help clear the backlog of toxins and give your body the chance to reset. Eliminating environmental and food toxins by choosing natural cleaning and personal care products, filtering your water, and eating whole, organic foods will help eliminate a large percentage of toxins entering your system.

b. Identifying food sensitivities – Gluten and other common food sensitivities are often co-factors in autoimmune disease, that when eliminated allow your body to heal. An elimination diet done under the care of a professional will help you identify and replace foods to which your body may be sensitive.

c. Suppressing and/or healing infections – Different infections including small intestine bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth in the gut, Epstein-Barre virus (which causes mononucleosis), HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus), and bacteria such as Yersinia and Klebsiella have been implicated in different autoimmune conditions. Testing for and treating underlying bacterial or fungal infections or overgrowths and suppressing viral infections will help heal your autoimmunity.

d. Healing the gut lining – Stress, antibiotics that alter the balance of your gut microbiome, emulsifiers used in foods, environmental toxins, food sensitivities, a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates and low of fiber and heavy alcohol use can lead to an unhealthy gut lining with large cracks or holes that allow partially digested food, toxins and bacteria, to enter your body, triggering inflammation and autoimmune reactions. Eliminating those foods and toxins, and identifying and removing triggers, as well as including healthy sources of fiber in your diet and using appropriate probiotics and other supplements will help heal your gut lining. Finding effective ways to remove stressors and manage stress is also essential.

e. Fixing nutrient deficiencies – Deficiencies in key nutrients like vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, selenium, zinc and magnesium can also be a factor in autoimmunity. Testing for nutrient deficiencies and supplementing where necessary will give your body the tools it needs to modulate your immune response, fight bacteria and viruses and support an appropriate inflammatory response.

If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease or know someone who is, the good news is that many people have reversed autoimmune conditions even as serious as Multiple Sclerosis and gone on to lead long, healthy lives. Please share this information with people who need it! I coach clients on reversing autoimmune disease using these natural methods. It just takes an open mind and willing spirit! If you’re struggling with an autoimmune disease, you can also join a new local Meetup called “Tucson Reversing Autoimmune Disease Together that I’ve recently started.

Lindsey Parsons, EdD
Certified Health Coach
High Desert Health

Learn More About This Lindsey Parsons

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Forgiveness–A Gift to Yourself, Part II


Whereas forgiveness of others can be difficult, what about forgiving yourself? For a lot of people, that’s a much tougher task.

After all, if someone else offends you, you can potentially remove yourself from their presence by physical distance and never have to see them again, thereby eliminating the biggest reminder of the offense.

But you. How do you forgive yourself?

There is a saying that’s generally offered in jest: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Some people, upon hearing this statement, roll their eyes and think, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”

Think about it, though.

Although you can put physical distance between you and an offender, you can’t do that with yourself. You’re going to see yourself in the mirror every morning. You are in your body day and night. You are always with you. You’re always there to remind yourself of how stupid you are, how clumsy, how thoughtless, how rude, how silly, how ridiculous, how….

Stop. Just stop.

It’s time to explore exactly why you have a hard time forgiving yourself. And to do so, we have to go all the way back to the moment you were born.

Who Are You, Really?

            When you were born, you weren’t stupid, clumsy, thoughtless, rude, silly, ridiculous, or any other descriptive, disparaging adjective that you might apply to yourself today.

You were perfect. You didn’t have the ability to offend anyone. Sure, the lady sitting next to your parents on a plane might have been irritated at your crying, but that’s her problem, not yours. She’s choosing her response. You were communicating the only way newborn babies can.

At that age, you possessed no malice aforethought. You weren’t out to get anyone. You didn’t even have the ability to have malicious, vengeful thoughts. You responded to all the kisses and cuddles and loving murmurings your adoring family whispered into your sweet little ears.

When you were a few weeks old, you began to gaze intently into loving faces with your still-unfocused eyes. You quickly learned to recognize voices, and responded with smiles when you heard those who carefully tended to your every need.

To your parents’ delight, you began to mimic the faces they made. They stuck their tongues out; you stuck out yours. They furrowed their brows; you furrowed yours. They were your first, best teachers. You trusted them, and because you trusted them, you patterned yourself after them in the way you acted and spoke and thought. You adopted their mannerisms, their likes and dislikes. If you heard Mom say she didn’t like spinach, you weren’t about to try it because you knew, from Mom’s words and behavior and facial expressions, that spinach was yucky. You repeated things your parents said, even before you could understand what their words meant.

Your Brain

            In our exploration of self-forgiveness, it’s important that we take a detour here and talk about your brain.

The human brain develops from back to front. At the beginning of the third week of your life in the womb—maybe even before your mom knew she was pregnant with you—your brainstem, at the very base of your skull, was rapidly growing and developing. Early on, your heart began to beat, regulated by your central nervous system (located in the brain stem). Your brain continued to develop in a forward direction until at birth your developing brain enabled you to breathe on your own.
But your brain wasn’t done developing. You couldn’t yet hold your head steady, walk, talk, feed yourself, pick up blocks, or even recognize that you and your mother were two separate people. As your brain continued to grow and develop, you gradually became aware of and learned how do more and more things. And even when you could do all those things, your brain still wasn’t done.

The last part of the brain to develop is the frontal cortex, right behind your forehead. It enables you to think logically, to reason, to figure things out, to control your impulses, and to make wise decisions. This part of your brain doesn’t fully develop until you are in your early to mid-twenties—which partially explains impulsive teenage behavior.

Looking for something to attribute the fact that you’re having a hard time forgiving yourself?

Look no further. The frontal cortex is partially to blame. The other culprit is the negative things you have learned from other people.

The Truth

            Life would be ideal if everyone had loving, caring, positive, emotionally stable, mentally healthy, unselfish parents who provided proper food, shelter, clothing, safety, and strong emotional support.

Sadly, that’s not the reality of life on Earth.

Some of us were born to parents addicted to substances or other harmful behaviors. Some of us were born addicted to drugs, or badly affected by them—often permanently. Some of our parents grew up in unhealthy environments where they were abused verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually. And the sad thing is, lots of times when people in these types of tragic environments have children of their own, they treat their children as badly as they themselves were treated.

            You might ask why anyone who suffered as a child would in turn treat their own children the same way. It’s an excellent question…

How We Learn

Remember, children learn by imitating their parents and those older than themselves. As children, we believe what we are told about religion, politics, other genders and races—and especially about ourselves.

If a little child is constantly told, “You’re a bad boy [or girl]!”, he or she believes it. You see, the frontal cortex isn’t yet developed enough to reason, “Dad didn’t really mean that I am bad. What he means is that I’m a good person who did a bad thing.”

Nope. Dad said I’m bad, so I must be bad. And for years he keeps telling me I’m bad, that I can’t do anything right, that I won’t amount to anything, that it’s no wonder I don’t have any friends. And because Dad is my example, my first teacher, I believe him. Besides, I love him. I trust him. He knows better than I do—he always tells me that, so it must be true.


The Endless Song…

            Since you were a little child, every time you tried something and failed, you could hear Dad’s voice (or Mom’s, or anyone else you looked up to)—“You’re bad!” It’s like your MP3 player is stuck on repeat and you hear the same song over and over and over. The thought that you are bad is always present in your brain, drowning out others’ positive comments about you, and stopping you from hearing, much less believing, the truth.

Even if someone compliments you and tells you that you did a good job, or that you’re a nice person, that voice is right there saying, “Don’t believe it. You’re bad, and you know it.”

So back to the question of why a person who was raised by an abusive parent abuses his or her own children…

It’s simple, and here’s an example: Have you ever said something and then thought in horror, “Oh no! I sounded like my mother just then!”

Unless you purposefully, consciously, mindfully try to raise your kids in a way different from the way you were raised, you’re likely to act and react the way your parents did when you misbehaved. It’s a natural fallback position, because it’s what you know. It’s what is ingrained in you from birth.

But Wait…There’s Hope!

            Whereas it’s natural to pattern yourself after your parents or other primary caregivers, you are not doomed to repeat their mistakes. You can be different, but it will take some effort on your part.

The first thing you need to do is remember who you are. Go back to your birth. You were an innocent little baby. Think about this: take a newborn baby of any race and plop her down in China. She’s going to grow up speaking Chinese and living and believing the Chinese culture, as modeled by her caregivers.

Or take that same newborn baby, and place her in Paraguay, or Russia, or Germany, or the United Kingdom. She will grow up speaking the language and adopting the culture and values of whatever country she is in.

Now, place that newborn baby with abusive parents who tell her she’s no good. She’s going to grow up believing she’s no good. Or place her with parents who are supportive and loving, who applaud her accomplishments and tell her she’s a wonderful person. She’s going to grow up with confidence and a tendency to treat others they way she was treated.

The Bottom Line

            Here’s the crux of the matter: On the day you were born, you were worthy of immeasurable, infinite love.

And that’s who you still are.

Sure, you’ve made mistakes, sometimes some pretty severe ones.

But the bad choices you have made do not in any way make you worth less than you were the day you were born.

Forgive Yourself

            Next time you hear yourself think, “I’m bad! I’m no good! I’m a failure! I don’t deserve anything good to happen!”, stop. Just stop.

Remember who you really are. The choices you have made in your life; the things you may have tried and failed to do; the promises you may have made and not kept; the harsh words that have come out of your mouth; the mean things you may have said or done; or the negative thoughts you have had about yourself and others—these are behaviors you learned along the way. You weren’t born with them. Someone showed you how to think negative thoughts and taught you how to do negative things.

But you have the power to make different choices. You really do. You are a good person. You can put the past behind you and not allow it to affect your future.

After all, that’s what forgiveness of yourself really is—it’s you looking in the mirror, smiling, and saying, “I am a good person who made a bad choice, and I can and will leave that in the past and make better choices in my future—because I’m worth it!”

Question: What has been your experience with forgiving yourself?

Written by: Lisa J. Bjornstad, PsyD., LMFT, CADC

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Forgiveness–A Gift To Yourself



Forgiveness—A Gift To Yourself

Have you ever heard anyone say these words—or have you said them yourself?

“I’ll never forgive him for that!”

Anyone who expresses this sentiment generally doesn’t understand what forgiveness is.

What Forgiveness Isn’t

            It’s just as important to understand what forgiveness isn’t as it is to understand what forgiveness is.

First and foremost, forgiveness never, ever means, “What you did to me is okay.” For example, consider abuse. Abuse is never okay. Neither are a lot of other things that people do to each other.

Furthermore, the person who offended you may never be sorry for hurting you. Does that stop you from forgiving?

Let’s say that all through high school there was a classmate who bullied you relentlessly and used to call you a particularly offensive nickname. Several years after you graduate, you run into her. She greets you with the nickname—loudly, to make sure others can hear her, just like she did in high school. You smile and say you’d hoped that was all in the past. She retorts, “Not on your life! You deserved it then, and you deserve it now!”

Obviously, the bully doesn’t regret her actions—so how can you forgive her?

What Forgiveness Is

Here’s what many people don’t understand: Forgiveness is not for the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is for you.

Forgiving someone doesn’t say, “I don’t care that you hurt me.” Of course you care.

The beauty of forgiveness is what it does say: “What you did to me is not okay, and I refuse to allow what you did to me to affect me the rest of my life!”

It’s a Process

            Forgiveness isn’t always automatic, but it is always a matter of choice.

            Some things are easy to let go of. The person ahead of you in the checkout line at the grocery store steps on your toe, and immediately says they’re sorry. And even if the person doesn’t apologize or otherwise acknowledge what they did, you’ll probably forget all about the incident by the time you get home.

But some things that happen to you take longer to get over. And here’s the secret: How long it takes to get over something is entirely up to you! Moreover, it’s perfectly okay if it takes a while. You’ll get there—if you want to.

The Key to Forgiveness

            You are not responsible for what someone does to you, but you are responsible for how you respond to it.

Imagine for a moment that your partner has left you. You’re going to experience a lot of feelings, such as hurt, anger, resentment, fear, and bitterness, to name just a few. Those are natural, understandable emotional reactions, and there is nothing wrong with any feeling that you feel. As you go through the grieving process and move forward with your life, though, the sting of these uncomfortable emotions will lessen and eventually pass altogether.

But let’s say you choose to hang on to those feelings. You keep reminding yourself how you’ve been victimized, how unfairly you’ve been treated, how hurt you are, and how much you hate your ex-partner. You tell to anyone who will listen the details of how your partner ruined your life. You want people to hate your ex as much as you do, and to extend their sympathy and support to you.

By choosing to hang on to the hatred and anger, you are choosing not to heal and move forward.

You have made yourself into a victim—and the victimizer is you!

Your ex’s treatment of you was wrong and will never, ever be okay—no doubt about it. But you have a life to live, and how you live it is your choice. You can choose to spend it stuck in the muck of bitterness and resentment. Or you can acknowledge that it hurt when your partner left you, you can grieve appropriately, and move on.

Letting go; moving forward; making the best of bad situations; refusing to allow other people’s words or actions to negatively affect your life—that’s forgiveness.

Question: How has forgiveness affected your life?

Written by: Lisa J. Bjornstad, PsyD., LMFT, CADC
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Are You In A Toxic Situation?


“Toxic” has become a cliché in recent years. Toxic relationships. Toxic workplaces. Toxic friendships. Toxic masculinity. In fact, “toxic” was the 2018 Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the year. But despite its overuse, “toxic” is a concept worthy of notice and consideration.

How do you know if you’re in a toxic situation? Consider the word: Toxic means poisonous or, at the very least, harmful. A toxic situation is one that’s detrimental to your mental, physical, and spiritual health.

The Toxic Friendship or Relationship

Here are some signs to watch out for if you think you may be in a toxic friendship or relationship.

  • You lie about your feelings
  • The other person lies to you
  • The other person calls you names, like “insane”
  • You are constantly being corrected by the other person
  • You are afraid to do something that the other person might disagree with
  • The other person drains your energy
  • You make excuses for the other person’s behavior
  • You apologize often; the other person never apologizes
  • You feel guilt and accept blame that doesn’t belong to you
  • You are always on your guard
  • You and the other person don’t trust each other
  • The other person wants to control everything about you
  • The other person doesn’t see you, your needs, or your values and beliefs as important or relevant

The Toxic Workplace
What about a toxic work environment? Watch out for these signs:

  • Negative communication patterns
  • Non-existent or poorly implemented policies and procedures
  • Constant office drama
  • Tyrannical boss
  • Gossip
  • Cliques
  • An obvious office “pet”
  • Mistrust of boss or co-workers
  • People who are fond of saying, “That’s not my job!”

It goes without saying that we will each experience stress in day-to-day life. A bump in the road doesn’t automatically indicate that you need a new job or a new relationship. Working through tough times builds character and is just a part of life. But if you’ve tried your best to change address the dysfunction and you’re unable to change it, it just might be time to look for greener pastures.

Question: Have you ever experienced a toxic situation? How did you resolve it?

Written by Lisa J. Bjornstad, PsyD., LMFT





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A Tiny, Life-changing Word


Timmy dreaded what was about to happen.

The children in Mrs. Bennet’s third-grade class were taking turns reading aloud short paragraphs from a story. As it came closer to his turn, Timmy’s stomach was in knots and he could feel tears stinging his eyes.

Suddenly, he was on.

He took a deep breath, looked at the first word of the paragraph, and slowly sounded it out.

He heard the snickers of his classmates. His face grew hot as he struggled to pronounce the word.

Just then, Sam blurted out, “Timmy can’t read!”

The class started laughing, and Timmy started crying.

After school, when Timmy’s dad came to pick him up, Mrs. Bennett took dad aside. “Are you aware that Timmy can’t read?”

Dad saw Timmy’s face and realized that, despite her whisper, Timmy had heard every word she said.

Dad responded to Mrs. Bennett, “It’s true; Timmy can’t read–yet.”

A Life Changer

Yet. A tiny three-letter, one-syllable word that can make all the difference in the world to the way a child sees himself.

“Yet” gives hope. “Yet” says I’m not a failure.” Yet” says there’s more to come; I’m not done; I can get there.

Children are not born with a specific mindset, or way of looking at the world. Their mindsets are formed after birth by what they hear from their parents; by the way others treat them; by the names they are called; by the sincere praise—or sincere criticism—they receive.

Dad’s utterance of “yet” had a more profound effect on Timmy than Dad realized. Timmy stood a little taller and walked out of Mrs. Bennett’s classroom that day a changed little boy.

Even though Timmy had not, up to that point, believed in himself, he sure did now. Dad believed in him, so Timmy believed, too.

It’s Not Too Late

“Yet” is not a word that helps only children. It’s never too late to incorporate hope into your life, to start believing in yourself. Just add “yet” to any sentence that begins, “I can’t…” and see what a difference it makes in your mindset.

Adding “yet” to your vocabulary suddenly changes what you thought was a lost cause into a real possibility. It dissolves that impenetrable brick wall of “Stop—you can go no further!” into a pile of dust that is easily kicked aside as you stride forward. The impossibility is on its way to being a capability.

Add “yet” to your vocabulary and see how it changes the way you look at yourself. Add “yet” and see the hope it gives to others.

Question: How have you experienced the power of “yet” in your life?

Let us know what you think. Leave your questions or comments below.

Written by: Lisa Bjornstad, PsyD., LMFT, CADC  | LinkedIn