April 20, 2023

How to Thrive through Diet and Lifestyle Changes with Michele Spring

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If you're curious about how to improve your health status and your energy level, I suggest you tune in to this episode with Michele Spring. Listen in as we discuss the physical symptoms of autoimmune disease, how stress and the foods we digest can cause inflammation in our bodies and how understanding what is going on in your body as well as your options for diet and lifestyle can help you get relief from your symptoms, feel great, and thrive.

Michele Spring is an autoimmune health coach who helps people live a full life and feel great despite autoimmune disease. Through her 8+ years of coaching clients and her own experience with Hashimoto's and Celiac diseases, she has distilled what works and shares that with you to find relief from symptoms and have control over your disease.

• [8:15] Michele discusses the physical symptoms of autoimmune disease.
• [12:02] Michele shares her own symptoms and indications of inflammation and how it affects her.
• [17:08] “Stress is a constant thing, especially in our society. But learning the tools to manage it successfully so that it's not always putting you in that fight or flight, immune system response… can be a huge help.”
• [20:39] Michele explains: “The grain part of our diet only came about 10,000 years ago… not everybody has adapted to being able to actually digest these seeds, and not have it wreak havoc on their bodies.”

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Connect with Us!
Dr. Christine Li -
Website: https://www.procrastinationcoach.com
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Michele Spring -
Website: http://www.thrivingonpaleo.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thrivingonpaleo/
Facebook: https://facebook.com/thrivingonpaleo/

Michele's FREE 5-Day Self-Paced Challenge: https://thrivingonpaleo.lpages.co/qigong-challenge/  


Christine Li  0:01  
Welcome back to the Make Time for Success podcast. This is episode number 123. If you're curious about what ways there are for you to improve your health status and or your energy level, I suggest you stick around for this great episode with Michele Spring. Michele is an auto immune health coach who helps people to live a full life and feel great, despite having autoimmune disease. Through her eight plus years of coaching clients and her own experience with having Hashimotos and Celiac Diseases. She's distilled what works and shares what she knows, so that her clients can find relief from symptoms and have control over their disease. I want to thank Michele for coming on to this episode and sharing her story. I asked her so many different personal questions. And she was so open and honest with me in the interview, I'm excited for you to hear her story and to hear this episode now.

Hi, I'm Dr. Christine Li, and I'm a psychologist and a procrastination coach. I've helped 1000s of people move past procrastination and overwhelm so they can begin working to their potential. In this podcast, you're going to learn a powerful strategies for getting your mind, body and energy to work together so that you can focus on what's really important and accomplish the goals you want to achieve. When you start living within your full power, you're going to see how being productive can be easy, and how you can create success on demand. Welcome to the Make Time for Success podcast. 

Hello, my friends today we have another spectacular guest, her name is Michele spring, and she is an auto immune health coach. And she's here to talk about a lot of things including her health journey, and how she's come to heal herself and her clients. And I'm really looking forward to getting to know her better and to learning a lot from her this episode. Thank you for being here. Michele.

Michele Spring  2:12  
Thank you so much for having me.

Christine Li  2:14  
So let us know where we should begin. What do we need to know about you so that we know how to make sense of what you're teaching and how we can apply this material that you're going to teach us to our own lives.

Michele Spring  2:29  
Let me start back where I kind of grew up as a type A overachiever always got the straight A's. You know, I did Ironman triathlons, because I really wanted to see how far I can push my body was really, really interested in advancing my career as a computer programmer, all that typical stuff as a type A person. And then after I had my second son, things kind of fell apart. And I really just crash. I thought it was burnout at first. And let me back up a little bit to when I had done my second Ironman Triathlon, I had a really, really hard time of recovering. And at that point in time, my doctor had told me that it was hypothyroidism. And I use that with quotes because it actually turned out to be Hashimotos thyroiditis, but he didn't know at the time, or he didn't tell me at the time that it was an autoimmune condition. He just said it was just a glandular thing. And all I could do was take medication. So I went on my life, taking medication, I did another Ironman Triathlon had two kids, all of this. But then, in about late 2014, I like I had this complete crash, I could not get off the couch in the afternoon, I couldn't make dinner, I could barely function at my job. I had such terrible brain fog. It was like I would get specs for my computer programming job and have to read them three, four or five times to even understand what the main point of the whole entire thing was not even just what I had to do. And it was just so frustrating. And I didn't know what was going on with me. I like I just, it was probably the scariest time of my life, because I had these two little babies. And my mom had died of skin cancer several years before that. And I didn't want to abandon my kids. Like she had left me she never got to meet their like my kids. And so I was like, I don't know what's going on. And am I dying? Like do I have some, like cancer or something? And so I finally saw a functional medicine practitioner who was the one who diagnosed me with this Hashimotos thyroiditis as well as celiac disease, and told me that the medication that I had been taking was only producing thyroid hormone, but not actually stopping the autoimmune attack on my thyroid. Which was news to me because I was like, Wait, this like stuff was still going on in the background. And he said, Yeah, so what he told me to do I changed my diet to remove things that were actually triggering this autoimmune attack. And then we had to also adjust some lifestyle, things like my sleep, and stress levels and exercise. At this point, I was barely even exercising because I had no energy whatsoever. But it was just one of those things where it completely changed my life because I was like, wait, I can actually do something about it. You know, all those time, I just been taking a pill. And that doctor had kept telling me over and over, even when I came back to him telling him I had all these symptoms, there's nothing else we can do, I'm sorry, the symptoms are all in your head, or there's just nothing we can do. And it was so frustrating. So to be able to be told that there was something I could do was amazing. And so from that point, like I changed my diet, I removed gluten, I ended up pretty restrictive diet called the autoimmune paleo or AIP diet, which is an elimination diet and removes a lot of trigger foods for people with autoimmune disease. And then you reintroduce foods one by one to see what you really can tolerate and what doesn't cause inflammation in your body. And after a while, I got back to like, I call it like a paleo style diet. It's paleo with some things like rice, and some lagoons and beans, and a couple other things. And that's really what works for me right now. So

Christine Li  6:27  
that's wonderful to hear. I'm so glad you survived that whole journey. When you were in the middle of that story. I was thinking to myself, that must have been absolutely terrifying. Yeah. Because you were such a high level performer in all elements, Brain Body lifestyle, work, and then you went to almost a nonfunctioning states, it sounds like,

Michele Spring  6:52  
yeah, and I was only 36. Yeah, so it wasn't like I was 17. And experiencing a lot of these things. I felt like I was 70. There was only 36. I was in the prime of my life.

Christine Li  7:01  
Yeah. may ask, what were the physical symptoms? You mentioned the brain fog, which I think if people listening don't understand that, could you describe that as well, I know what brain fog feels like, I think from my own history, but if you could explain what was happening to your cognitive functions, and then also what was going on in your body? Sure. So

Michele Spring  7:25  
brain fog, you can imagine, if you've ever had a cold, and you're trying to come out of that cold, and you just feel like it's like your head is weighs 100 pounds, and you just are waiting through what I call like a marshmallow. That's kind of what it feels like. Everything is slowed down, you read things, you hear things, and you just don't compute. You walk into a room, and you're like, what did I come in here for? And just thing, you're just not clear on your thinking and your comprehension, and even responding to things? Like I was in meetings, and people would ask me a question. And I'd have to take a minute or two to clearly like, understand what they were asking me and then a formulated response. Whereas before, it used to be to do that quickly, and not have to go through all of that inner workings of my brain. Yeah, so it just slows everything down by a lot. Yes, in terms of physical symptoms, I had a lot of the classic thyroid symptoms like cold hands, cold feet, I was cold all the time, I would the joke in my family, we were in Hawaii, and it was 80 degrees, and I was wearing a sweater. So things obviously weren't normal in that regard. I also had, like, I had very, very heavy periods, and that were coming very close together, I would wake up in the middle of the night all the time, I was tired every day at three o'clock, just so just crash. And one of the things that I still have to this day is exercise intolerance, which is an interesting thing that a lot of people don't talk about. But I can't do a lot of exercise without having a lot of these symptoms come on. And so that is something. It's just like a symptom that's kind of ongoing for a lot of people with autoimmune disease. So then also like heart palpitations, my heart would race or go up, up, up, up, up, up up really fast, and then it would stop. And I got checked by cardiologist and nobody could figure out what that was. So there's a lot of just ambiguous, weird symptoms that come with this, like my jaw hurts when I have a flare, like, you don't think a thyroid condition would cause your child to hurt. But my Dennis, thanks, yeah, it's probably from inflammation. Because if you have inflammation in your sinuses, or in any area around here that would cause pain, and it's just like all of these random symptoms that you would never put together. Turn into this autoimmune condition.

Christine Li  9:54  
Gotcha. All right. So you're dealing with all of these physical symptoms. See me mainly random, and causing you to feel disabled from activities of daily living. I'm wondering if you don't mind sharing what happened to your psyche? What What were you starting to think was going on? And how are you keeping yourself strong throughout that period?

Michele Spring  10:20  
Oh, man. Yeah, I had that fear that I had something worse. Until I found out what it was. And then it was, it was a life change for me, because I had always thought I was healthy. You know, I had been doing these Ironman triathlons and always, oh, I mean, I didn't eat well, I ate lucky charms and a lot of the the food, the standard American diet, but I never really got colds never really got the flu or anything. So I thought I was healthy, and then to be told that I have this lifelong chronic disease that would never go away. There's a lot of grief that comes along with that. And then when I did change my diet and learn that I could not have gluten anymore. I mean, I can choose to have gluten. But trust me, I don't want to because I've tried that once. And that was most as bad as childbirth. It just things like that. There's definitely grief that comes with it. You can't have the same life that you used to, and still have the quality of life that you want. There's a trade off. And I had to learn that early on. And I chose to have the quality of life and to be able to be there for my kids and participate in their lives and have the energy and everything that I want. And so I had to give up a lot of the foods that I did love and a lot of the lifestyle habits that I had lived for a long time.

Christine Li  11:49  
And have you been able to see maybe how the symptoms may not be random or that your body was trying to protect you in some way. I'm just going with my own curiosity. I don't have any deeper knowledge of what's going on.

Michele Spring  12:07  
Yeah, I mean, I think right now, having gone through many different flares, after I initially got rid of that first flare in 2014, I go through several like mini little flares, or bigger ones, depending on how I've lived my life. Like if I eat things that are off of what my usual diet plan happens to be. Or if I have a lot of stress or do too much exercise, I will flare. And so I have usually the same kind of symptoms pop up every time. And I think they usually indicate inflammation at first, just bodily inflammation. And then from there, then it goes on like, well, I'm actually in the midst of a mini flare right now, because I did a little too much exercise earlier this week. And I keep trying to see if I can do more. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But I have jaw pain, which I think is the inflammation. I have heart palpitations, which I think's the thyroid hormone, because that can cause the heart palpitations. And then I just have that exhaustion happening in the afternoon. Again, that's more like adrenal fatigue or adrenal HPA axis. But adrenal hormones cortisol also plays with the hormones from thyroid as well. So those are my first three symptoms, usually. And so I can usually tell that I'm about to have something much bigger if I get any of those. And so I usually have to balance out all of the aspects of my life to make sure that it doesn't turn into anything worse.

Christine Li  13:36  
Okay, wonderful. So could you speak about what inflammation means from a cellular level? Because I know auto immune, that label is now a familiar term to people. But I'm wondering how much people really understand what's going on in terms of how the body's reacting to certain foods or certain intrusions in the body.

Michele Spring  14:04  
Yeah, sure. So if you think of, if you get a cut, usually, the body will send a whole bunch of cells to that cut, so that it can help repair it and make it better and new again. And that's essentially what is happening in your entire body. Your body's a little confused at this point, because there's so many things going on, that it doesn't know where to send help, it just kind of goes everywhere. And especially in autoimmune attacks, you're attacking your own tissue, because the body's gotten confused and thinks that your own tissue in my case, my thyroid is a threat. And so when it's attacking your tissue, and it's just all over the body, it's just doesn't know oh, I need to not do that. I need to not worry about all of these other things going on in your body. And especially in the case of autoimmune disease. There's a phenomenon called leaky gut, where food can get through, into the bloodstream. And it's not supposed to get in the bloodstream, it's supposed to go safely through your whole entire digestive system, and then come out. And I mean, the body will take what it needs along the way, but it's not supposed to actually directly touch your blood. And when it does, that's when the body like alarm alarm. So it starts sending out more of these inflammatory cells to try to heal the body or to attack the intruder. And it's just, it's like a gigantic fire, I always liken it to a wildfire where maybe it starts in one house. And so all the firefighters are over there trying to save that house, and then it jumps over the next neighborhood and all the firefighters like, you know, have to split into two to try to save those houses. And it just keeps multiplying and multiplying, multiplying. And then if you add in things like stress, or a little sleep, or too much exercise or you know, an in these things, and there's just this wildfire has now turned to this gigantic statewide thing that is not going to be good news for you. Yes,

Christine Li  16:07  
I'm so grateful you went to the functional medicine doctor and got that piece of information that was so critical that you actually had an avenue in to start the healing process and that you had more options than just taking medication as much as medication can be so helpful to our bodies as well. Can you describe for us how you help other people now, with auto immune disorders and conditions and what that has done for you personally, too?

Michele Spring  16:38  
Sure. So usually, it kind of depends on how severe somebody is symptoms and disease it like happens to be, because if they're not that severe, usually removing something like gluten, and maybe dairy can be a huge help, just to see if that will help with the symptoms. And then maybe changing some lifestyle, like stress is such a huge stress trigger for many people. So helping to, like you're never gonna get rid of stress. Stress is a constant thing, especially in our society. But learning the tools to manage it successfully so that it's not always putting you in that fight or flight, immune system response. And especially like, if you're trying to heal being in that fight or flight response, you're not going to ever get better because your body is constantly worrying about the proverbial Tiger and not worrying about healing, repairing tissue, like giving you back energy or anything like that. So you have to get out of that at least multiple times a day. So having the tools to learn how to manage that, I think very, very important. And then if people come to me, in like a worst state, like I have people coming to me that are in bed, they can't get out of bed or in their wheelchairs, because they are so bad off in their symptoms. And that's when I recommend the autoimmune paleo diet, that elimination diet that I started off with, because then you can really kind of stop the whole entire inflammatory response. And really just get out of that survival mode. And then slowly reintroduce foods, and see what your ideal personalized diet happens to be for you. And then from there, then you can work on all of the other lifestyle aspects like sleep, making sure you're getting plenty of sleep, the stress management that I talked about, and like just working on the exercise that works best for people. Because some people can go out and do ultra marathons, I have clients who have done that. And then I also have clients who can barely walk around the block, and it's just, and then that may change throughout their journey as well. But learning and getting rid of that ego that you are, like me an Ironman triathlete or whatever it was just going back to whatever really works for you, and can support your body in the best way. So that's usually where I start off with people. Some people wind up in the middle, doing the Paleo Diet straight from them, like start. And usually those are the people that are not there. They're kind of in the middle. They're not the ones with the least amount of symptoms, and they're not the worst ones that are worse off. But all of these diets really can help get people out of that survival mode, and then start feeling better.

Christine Li  19:24  
Yes, wonderful. It's amazing what food can do in terms of how we're feeling right. And I think we can get into the habit of mindlessly eating all sorts of foods, right? Not just a particular category of food. And I think it sounds like you're helping people to be just much more mindful about their choices and how the body feels in response to particular foods. Just for me may ask what is a paleo diet? Could you be more specific about that? Because there's so many different types of diets now.

Michele Spring  19:57  
There are for sure, so paleo removes mainly grains, and legumes, beans, refined sugars, like regular white sugar, all of those kind of things, a lot of the preservatives, dairy typically. And just a lot of these foods, they can be inflammatory in certain people. It's not necessarily true for everybody. But it's it's a kind of a, it's templated on what people used to eat back in the caveman days, right in the Paleolithic, lithic error. And so it's just kind of a thing where we haven't really adapted to eating grains, because we've been on this earth for so long. And the grain part of our diet only came about 10,000 years ago, and some people may have adapted, but not everybody has adapted to being able to actually digest these seeds, essentially, and not have it wreaks havoc on their bodies.

Christine Li  20:57  
Yes, my own understanding of the grains part is that certain bodies may process those types of foods as intruders, and then the emergency crew that you discussed before gets sent out all the time, right? Every time there's a bagel around, uh, your body's going into this fight and flight mode, wherever all the emergency crews are out, and then you don't have any reserve and you've lost your sense of bodily calm, as well. And your your whole system's out of sorts. So I think that mindful eating can really help to restore a sense of my body's at peace, my body's working well, which is so critical for things like thinking, well, sleeping well. Relating to the world in a in a confident way. It's so critical. Exactly, yes. And where have you come in terms of your own journey with all of this and being able to set up a, a coaching business to help people to recover from something that can be so devastating to people's self esteem and their lifestyle?

Michele Spring  22:15  
I'd say I live my life mainly now I don't even notice that I have an autoimmune disease because I've fine tuned my life so much. I've experimented so much. It's been ridiculous. You know, I, I constantly press against the barriers to see what may work for me. So I will eat corn. And sometimes it'll work for me sometimes it won't sometimes off corn several times, I go to Mexico and habit and then like just trying to see what may work for me. I don't take no for an answer. Gluten is off the table for forever. But because of how painful it was the one time I had. But it's also just like the exercise trying to see exactly what worked for me. And I've really dialed in all of the different aspects of diet lifestyle. And then also mindset, I've had to do like dig deep into my mindset, because I had a lot of self sabotaging behaviors, emotional eating all of these different things that I kept on going back to wanting to eat sugar or wanting to eat these carbs that I knew were just not serving me very well, like corn, for instance. And trying to figure out why why did I have to keep going back to them? Like why couldn't I just want broccoli over corn. And, you know, it's so I had to learn a lot of this stuff. And I've really figured out the things that have worked for me. And then I over the years, I've tried this with many of my clients, and it's worked for them as well. And sometimes it's not the same. Sometimes they have to experiment with different stress relief techniques, because what works for me doesn't work for them, and vice versa. But I think once everybody has figured out their own particular formula, if you will, of what works, then they can also live a life almost as if they don't have an autoimmune disease. I do have to manage my energy every day, though. It's not something like I have boundless energy forever, like I used to when I was younger, I do have to pay attention to that because it is something that is a finite resource for me. So for things like work, I have to do a lot of the tasks that involve my brain and stuff in the morning, and not in the afternoon. And then I have to like I mentioned before, not do too much exercise, but I do more gentle things like walking, Qigong, yoga, pilates, things like that instead. And if I ever do any harder exercises, and I have to back off for the rest of the week to make sure I Don't overextend myself, things like that. But yeah, it's just learning all of the different things that work and then helping other people discover that for themselves as well.

Christine Li  24:51  
That's beautiful. May I ask how do people get started with you in terms of their they're aware that there's now something that They can do because of everything that you've said on this episode. And they're really curious and they're excited, and they're hopeful. What's the first step to connecting with you?

Michele Spring  25:10  
Probably going to my website thriving on paleo.com. Because on there, I have several resources, I have a whole entire autoimmune disease 101 mini course that you can take totally for free, it's just, you go through and you learn what like what your doctor told you versus what may be really true. And it's this is not to say anything against doctors in any means. There's, a lot of times they're just not taught this. But so just understanding what's going on in your body, understanding that this is not contagious in any way, so that you can tell other people, and just understanding your options for diet and lifestyle and all that different kind of thing. And then on there, I also have recipes and other resources. And then you can point you in many different directions. Choose your own adventure from there. Okay, wonderful.

Christine Li  25:55  
And I believe you have a free resource for our listeners as well. Could you talk about that?

Michele Spring  26:01  
Yeah, it's my freebie resource library. And in there I have, it's very targeted for people that want to use either the diet or and lifestyle components. But there's a lot of guides and like cheat sheets in there and some like meal plans. So that way you can get started trying out any of these diets, and seeing if maybe they would work for you. And you just try it. Because that's how I started, I tried doing a diet similar to AIP first for a couple of days. And I was like, okay, I can do that. Let's try it. And so just some meals to try like that. And just other resources to really kind of help get you started on your journey. And you can find that at thriving on paleo.com. Forward slash freebie.

Christine Li  26:46  
That's wonderful freebie, I'm gonna assume as fr EBIE. And thank you so much for offering that to our listeners. I want to add to what Michelle just said that she's noticed that she's been an avid experimenter to try to see, you know, where are the limits, where the bounds, what are the good things. And I just want to encourage everyone who's listening, wherever you are on your journey, I want to encourage you to experiment and to be patient with whatever comes because it can take four or five days for any diet change, to take effect for you to be able to see what the options are. And I think when you've been ill, or when you've been stuck, since I deal with the procrastination habit, that we have to believe in ourselves enough to go through the experiment, right to believe that there might be something that works better than what I've been stuck with. And then just see what happens. And you can always do another experiment. If that experiment doesn't work for you like the corn or the gluten, it's okay. And we're human. We're in this together. And thank you, Michelle, for being such a lovely guest. And congratulations for for being a victor in this journey that you found yourself on and for being a victor for other people as well.

Michele Spring  28:06  
Thank you so much.

Christine Li  28:08  
All right. Any last words, before we sign off? Michelle?

Michele Spring  28:12  
I just want to just echo what you just said like I love experimentation. I think it's I mean, in my my group program, I have a thing called the lifestyle lab where I want to encourage people to try different stress relief and different exercise modalities and everything. And that's exactly how you're gonna find out what works for you. Don't ever listen to one person. I think you know, there's so many different options out there. And if you don't find something that works for you just keep searching because there's probably something out there for you. Yeah.

Christine Li  28:38  
And definitely listen to yourself. Listen to all the people and then really go back to what is your intuition telling you so important? Exactly. Thank you, Michele. It was a lovely episode. I wish you all the best as you continue your health journey and your work. And everyone. Thank you for listening to me and Michele, I hope you got a lot of wisdom and a lot more information from our conversation. I know I did. I thank you for being here. And I will see you next week when the next episode drops by. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Make Time for Success podcast. If you enjoyed what you've heard, you can subscribe to make sure you get notified of upcoming episodes. You can also visit our website maketimeforsuccesspodcast.com for past episodes, show notes and all the resources we mentioned on the show. Feel free to connect with me over on Instagram too. You can find me there under the name procrastination coach. Send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about the episodes you've been listening to. And let me know any topics that you might like me to talk about on the show. I'd love to hear all about how you're making time for success. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Michele SpringProfile Photo

Michele Spring

Michele Spring is an autoimmune health coach who helps people live a full life and feel great despite autoimmune disease. Through her 8+ years of coaching clients and her own experience with Hashimoto's and Celiac diseases, she has distilled what works and shares that with you to find relief from symptoms and have control over your disease.