Meet Sascha Alexander, Certified Autoimmune Wellness Coach extraordinaire. In part 1, learn about Sascha’s personal battle with autoimmune disease: her symptoms, diagnosis, and the steep learning curve of treatment for invisible illness. Specifically, Sascha lives with mold toxicity, Interstitial Cystitis, and Hashimoto’s disease. Stay tuned for part 2, where we will hear more about how her journey to wellness turned her onto coaching, and how becoming a coach has changed her life.
**Update: since recording this episode Sascha has discovered that she has Lyme disease. A follow-up episode to come with more information.**
In this episode, Sascha reveals:
- when and how she first realized she was battling invisible chronic illness – and how she suspects it all started with childhood mold exposure
- how her microbiome was wiped by overuse of antibiotics administered for smaller infections as a child, which she believes also contributed to her autoimmune diagnosis
- how her dad’s genetics may be stronger than the rest of her family’s, because he’s the only one who never got sick
- the cost of health – and how she has had no choice but to shell out
- how her Hashimoto’s disease – and the inflammation associated with it – led her into an eating disorder; a common occurrence among autoimmune patients
- how she was lucky to avoid radioactive iodine treatment for her thyroid at the time of her Hashimoto’s diagnosis
- her battle with her doctors, which lasted years and contributed to the long-term trauma of living in an unstable vessel
- that many doctors gaslight women over their symptoms, when women are 7:1 more likely to develop autoimmune disorders than men are
- that if you’re not being tested for all four of the following: reverse T3, free T3, TPO, and TSH – then you’re not seeing a full thyroid panel
- her theory that interstitial cystitis is related to toxic mold and candida, both of which she’s survived
- that if you’re having acid reflux and you have Hashi’s, that doesn’t mean you have an overabundance of stomach acid – but that you don’t have ENOUGH stomach acid
- how you need a practitioner who can treat your root causes, but in the meantime you need to figure out how to be functional
- how a diagnosis is sometimes the Best. News. Ever.
- that for a long time, she took for granted her “steely will to live”…because she felt for years that she was dying
- her discovery of Autoimmune Wellness and AIP
- that as an autoimmune wellness coach, she hopes to give her clients a sense of agency in their treatments
- that getting well is an experiment in determination, and if she can do it – YOU can do it
Lauren: Hey guys, we've got Sascha Alexander on the show today. She is a very vivacious actress and health coach, and also a survivor of multiple illnesses … we’ve got Hashimoto’s, interstitial cystitis, and mold toxicity.
Sascha: It’s a little one-two punch!!
Lauren: It’s just a whole bag of worms. Didn't you get lucky!!
Sascha: It’s such sexy stuff!!
Lauren: Sascha, we wanted to start talking today about your personal experience with health. We’ll get into your coaching later on. But tell us when and how you first realized you were sick with all of these illnesses – how it all manifested.
Sascha: There was a big turning point. I would say there's a part of my life where I didn't think I was a sick person. And then there was a part of my life where I was, like, ‘Oh, I’m a sick person!’ And that change happened when I was 28. But I was sick for a long time. My autoimmune disease symptoms started at age eight, sudden onset. I now think I understand that was when I was first exposed to toxic mold. At the time, we didn't really know what was going on. I was born with Candida — with oral thrush — so literally, I had a gut imbalance at actual birth, and I’ve fought Candida my whole life. I'm still fighting Candida today, and when I’m on anti-fungals, I feel like I don't have an autoimmune disease. When I'm not on anti-fungals, I feel like I do. It’s, like, a really crazy thing. My mom, if she were here [in the studio], would say, ‘Well Sascha always had stomach ache. Sascha always had stuff.’ But I don’t feel like it started until I was eight. I was in daycare and I remember very specifically … I was picked up by my dad at daycare, and he was walking me down this long path in front of the playground. There was this asphalt playground. He was walking me to his car. And I remember having this headache. And then the next day, right around the same time … I guess he picked me up around 5pm, you know, when he was done with work … I had the headache again. And the next day, I had a headache again. And that was the beginning. I had childhood migraines … just like, so unusual.
After the migraines, a couple years later, my digestion totally went to trash. I had ongoing diarrhea; I had ongoing sinus infections. Anybody who knows about toxic mold would say at this point, this person has been mold-poisoned. But we didn't know that, of course. I grew up in Seattle, which is like the wettest place in the world. I was kind of used to mildew smells. I didn't think that was odd or strange, but I think it was around fourth grade when we bought the cabin. Then what happened was, I had a mold exposure there. The cabin smelled like mold all day long. But there just wasn't an awareness. I was just, like, Oh, it's old and smells gross, you know? But that was the time when it all began.
Lauren: So you were telling us that the sinus infection started …?
Sascha: Yeah. So my symptoms kind of went: headaches, sinus infections, then diarrhea after the sinus infections — because this was the day and age when they would prescribe antibiotics for, like, a year of your life. This happened to a lot of my clients; a lot of people who now have autoimmune diseases were over-treated with antibiotics. Something I always ask people. So I was on antibiotics for two years. And I was 11. And my microbiome was ostensibly totally wiped by that. We didn't know at the time, right? So then after that, it was like constant diarrhea. But at the same time, I feel for the most part I was taking all this, kind of, on the chin. They would take me to specialists, but nobody ever really found anything. So I really didn't identify as a sick kid.
Lauren: And do you have siblings who may have been sick as well?
Sascha: My sister was not. But my mom was really sick. In her ‘40s, my mom got what we thought was MS, which I now think is toxic mold poisoning, because MS was later ruled out. But she did have a relaxing and remitting autoimmune disease; she was on steroids, on injectable drugs, on interferons. She did the whole MS thing — even to the point of an experimental chemotherapy treatment, which really helped her. So she went into remission for a period of time … and now her stuff is back in her late ‘60s. And I'm like, yeah, it's because we all got toxic molded, I think! You know, the way I see it, it’s sort of like: me first, the family later. That’s kind of my perspective on this, because all of this medicine is so experimental that I think I'm the one most willing to throw myself on that fire and say, ‘I don't want to live this way.’ So I'm willing to do it. And I think that as I improve, my family's perspective on it has opened up. My sister also had some joint-related and orthopedic-related stuff, and chronic pain. But at that time, I was definitely the sick one. Then when I became a teenager, my mom got MS — which we now know wasn't MS — but definitely my mom became the chronically ill person in the house.
Lauren: So your dad is the only person who wasn't affected by illness?
Sascha: That’s right, and I think because his genetics probably are better. I teach the six root causes of chronic illness, and one of them is gene mutations, and I think probably my mom and I both have the gene mutation that makes it difficult to detoxify. Because with toxic mold, only 25 percent of people who are exposed to it will have a reaction; 75 percent of people won’t.
Lauren: That's lucky!
Sascha: Well, thank God, right?? Because the medical community can't afford everybody to be like me. The costs of my care are so high.
Lauren: And so much, I imagine, is out-of-pocket and not covered by insurance. Detoxing your house, for example.
Sascha: I am paying much more for my health than anybody, I’m sure!
Lauren: But then again, it's your health, and if you're going to invest in something …
Sascha: Right. I didn't really have an option; I was not given a choice. So anyway, that was my childhood. When I finally got diagnosed, I would say my weight started to really change when I was around 19, in college. Shortly thereafter, my mom had basically had enough; she was, like, something is up with us!
Lauren: And when you say your weight was changing, were you gaining weight, or losing it?
Sascha: I was gaining weight. I have historically been like a teensy, tiny person, actually very underweight. Which makes sense, too. I think I was probably not getting very much nourishment, honestly, because I also got scoliosis at that time. I can't prove this — the chronic illness world is still pretty theoretical — but I think that most likely my scoliosis happened because of lack of nutritional balance.
Lauren: Because your body couldn't process nutrients.
Sascha: Well, once your gut gets damaged, you get malnourished. So I had actually been very tiny; doctors have been concerned about me being underweight for most of my life. And then I got my period, and all the Hashi[moto’s] stuff started happening. All the water retention. All of a sudden, from my boobs down to right above my vagina was just, like, covered in water! Like I just had like a sack, a chunky stomach sack! And then I still had these skinny arms and legs! That's like the Hashi’s thing; we just start to get puffy and weird-shaped. So that started happening, and of course I was a teenage girl, so I was, like, ‘Oh I'm fat, I need to starve myself and work out.’ Then I got this eating disorder which is also super common…
Lauren: Thanks, autoimmune disease!
Sascha: I was, like, my body is weird so I'm going to take radical action. Super common. So then the eating disorder kind of disguised what was going on for a while because ironically I stopped eating carbs, which for Hashi’s is very, very good. So I had a period of time where I was very sick in my mind, but I actually had a kind of a remission of symptoms. From age 17 to 19, I was really playing with anorexia. For my body, when you put carbs into me, inflammation goes insane. So it was actually kind of a time of stability, which is very interesting.
Sascha: Then, I’ve always been a very intense feminist. I couldn't lie to myself about what I was doing. And I was like, f*ck this. I gotta stop. I was like, I'm not starving myself anymore. So I stopped doing that. And then things just started to get crazy, like bizarre food cravings, crazy fogginess, crazy fatigue. And I was in the middle of [college] — also probably not a coincidence that I was drinking, not eating well, eating dorm food.
Lauren: Oh, no, man.
Sascha: Yeah. So at 20, I actually was diagnosed with Hashi’s. At the time I was not told it was an autoimmune disease. They were basically like: You have a thyroid disease. We're going to kill your thyroid gland and then you'll be on medication and you'll be fine.
Lauren: This was their treatment plan for Hashimoto’s?
Sascha: This was their treatment plan. I'm 32. So this was 10, almost 13 years ago.
Lauren: So they just didn't know how to treat it.
Sascha: They just didn't know what autoimmune diseases really were. And I was just so happy that we found something.
Lauren: And how did they find it? Did they run a basic test?
Sascha: A basic TSH. It was so basic. Now, my Hashi’s looks very different. But when it was discovered at 20, my TSH was really low, and they were like, ‘You’re hyper’ — because when Hashi’s comes on, you often go up before you go down.
Lauren: And that's what's known as a Graves episode.
Sascha: Exactly. So they thought I had Graves. I didn’t.
Lauren: Which is lucky, because Graves is actually a lot harder to treat and often involves removal of the thyroid.
Sascha: Yes, because it's so dangerous to be so high. So I was in this group of people … they said at the time that a third of people will respond this way, where if you're treated with Methimazole or Tapazole, which is the anti-thyroid medication when you're too high … if you're treated with that below the age of 20, you could go into what they called at the time ‘remission’. Which meant that your TSH would stabilize. And that actually happened to me. I didn't do the radioactive iodine treatment. So I'm incredibly lucky.
Lauren: That's crazy lucky because I remember when I was first diagnosed, there was a possibility I'd have to do the radioactive iodine treatment. And I was, like, ‘No, you can't do anything!’
Sascha: I know, it’s terrifying. I really feel for patients who have had that done, because now we know that there's so much hope, to be able to put these diseases into remission. You don't have to kill a gland in your body. But the downside of that, Lauren, is that they told me I was done — and I was not done. They were, like, your TSH is normal. From the moment that they stabilized me, I knew I was hypo and that was not a normal level for me. That was when all the facial puffiness happened. My body looked and felt totally weird. I was in my young ‘20s. From that moment forward, I never felt good in my body.
Lauren: They knew to run a TSH panel on you just from the symptoms? So they already they had a suspicion, just based on your basics that there was something thyroid-related as well?
Sascha: Well, my mom was brilliant and took me to an endocrinologist. A bunch of general practitioners had missed it at the time. So, I looked like a really standard case at that point. At 20, I was told I really didn't have a thyroid condition anymore. And the same thing happened. I freaked out about the weight I had gained, I stopped eating carbs, and I stabilized from age like 20 to 23. Same thing happened again. I went to a therapist who was like, ‘You have an eating disorder.’ I cleaned that up. And then actually, I started to get sicker again, because I was eating in what, for a healthy person, would be …
Lauren: A more balanced way?
Sascha: A more balanced way. So at that point, I started to go back to my endocrinologist, and be like, ‘I think I'm hypo. Here’s the evidence.’ And he would check my blood and say, ‘You're not. Bye!’ This went on for about four years. I was cold, I was puffy. I was spacey. I was getting yeast infections all the time. I was like, ‘I’m hypo’, and he was like, ‘You aren’t.’
Lauren: And all of this in the midst of starting your career, graduating from college. Finding your feet in your love life, you know, all of that stuff.
Sascha: Can you imagine, as an actress, being completely out of control in the way you look? It was one of the most damaging psychological things. I love the perspective that chronic illness really is long-term trauma, because I think it's what we've experienced. I try to talk to my clients all the time about, ‘Look, what happened to you is actually traumatic’. Like being told for years of your life that you're making up what's happening; just living in a body that isn't safe — for years. Ever since I've been a kid, it's been, like, ‘Oh, I might have a diarrhea attack. I don't live in a safe vessel.’ That's actually psychologically traumatizing.
Lauren: It’s incredibly damaging.
Sascha: I find a ton of freedom in that, especially now that we're talking about able-ism for what feels like the first time as a society. Acknowledging that I have not lived in an able body is such a relief for me. It’s such a relief for so many of my clients.
Lauren: Yeah, and it’s not something that you would look at and hate your body for either. It's that this was my body's experience.
Lauren: So you've learned to love your body despite the setbacks, to know this was the journey that you needed to be on.
Sascha: And Lauren, not only that but I got re-diagnosed with Hashi’s at age 30. From that point on, I really did not have an eating disorder anymore. I was like, ‘Oh, I have a disease.’ This is why I do believe that doctors need to start to be held accountable for what they're doing to women — because it's seven to one, women to men.
Sascha: What doctors are doing to women by gaslighting our symptoms is deeply, psychologically traumatizing. I would not have had an eating disorder if anybody had … I remember the point at which I started to get that Hashimoto’s belly at 15. And my mom took me to nutritionist. Very loving. It wasn't shaming what she did. And the nutritionist was like, ‘Oh, Sascha's just eating a little too much sugar. This is a little extra fluff … basically told me it was my fault, like everybody had, my whole life. That was the point where I was like, I'm f*cking it up. And as an actress, it was horrifying to wake up one day and look in the mirror and I look like I'm 10 pounds heavier because I have an inflammatory disease. And to put myself on camera like that?
Lauren: And there's already so much pressure on women in the industry anyway. And the additional stress of that …
Sascha: I listen to a lot of podcasts by Lindy West, who's actually a friend from high school, but who is also an incredible fat activist and feminist. She now writes for The New York Times, but she started at The Stranger and worked for GQ, and she's incredible. And her perspective is so healing because she also can identify as a fat woman. As a Hashi’s patient, I didn't feel like there was any place for me.
Lauren: Because you were neither the fat person nor the skinny person. I actually had an agent say that to me one time. She told me that I either had to gain weight and be the fat girl, or lose it and be the skinny one. And when you have someone tell you that, who is also a woman, the damage that that does to us psychologically … that's the kind of thing … it's insane.
Sascha: It’s insane. So I feel like it because I had this in front of the camera … And it was so apt, what you said, too, about starting your love life…
Lauren: I mean, like, my God, getting naked in front of people!
Sascha: I know! And I think I'm so lucky to be a Hashi’s patient in so many ways, because it is one of the least damaging and more easily controlled. But I would say, on the body image spectrum, it's one of the worst. And Hashi’s patients in romance … it’s like a disaster for us. I think when you don't know what's going on … 100 percent, the obsession with getting validation from men … because I felt like something was so wrong with my body. And this is going to be familiar to so many women, period. But I just want to speak for women with Hashi’s out there being, like, ‘Oh, baby girl, I so get it. I so get it.’ Before you know what's going on, it’s terrible.
Lauren: It’s why almost every woman should have their thyroid checked, really. They should be having them checked regularly, and not just the TSH levels.
Sascha: Let's talk about that. Let's say for anybody who thinks they have a thyroid condition, if you aren’t being tested for your reverse T3, they are not testing you. You have to get your TPO, and what's the other …?
Lauren: The Free T3.
Sascha: Yes, the TPO antibodies, the free T3, and the reverse T3.
Lauren: And guys, write that down. And I will put this on the site.
Sascha: Yes, and if there is one thing I would love to gift the world of thyroid disease it’s… if your practitioner is not checking your antibodies and your reverse T3, you could be massively hypothyroid.
Lauren: Yes, it’s that they are looking at too limited a scope.
Sascha: Yes, The TSH worked for me at 20. At 30, my TSH looked normal. I was so sick.
Lauren: But you also had these other symptoms going on, because you weren't just dealing with the Hashimoto’s. You were dealing with this long-term mold toxicity and with the interstitial cystitis, right?
Sascha: Which came directly out of the mold. But I want to make clear that I'm talking about my case. I have a theory that all interstitial cystitis is related to fungus and Candida.
Lauren: Can you tell us what interstitial cystitis is?
Sascha: I'll tell you about it by telling my story, basically. So I already spoke about the fact that I have had Candida off and on my whole life …
Lauren: And Candida is…
Sascha: And Candida is a yeast infection of the whole body. Candida is the thing that causes vaginal yeast infections. It causes toenail fungus often, too. But for people who are chronically ill, Candida goes all over our bodies. So the sinus infections I was having were more likely fungal than bacterial, which is why they kept coming back when I treated them with antibiotics.
Lauren: And by then you'd already put so many antibiotics into your body, that was part of the problem.
Sascha: Oh, a hundred percent. The mold was going crazy. And antibiotics are mold by the way, so if you have a mold issue and you take antibiotics, it’s like putting logs on a bonfire.
Lauren: Well, I think we often tend to forget that we treat illness with illness, right? We often have to use another form of illness to kill the bacteria or the fungus that's causing a problem.
Sascha: That’s so beautifully said.
Lauren: Cancer is a great example, right? Chemo and radiation … not good for you.
Sascha: Perfect example. It weakens the body when it's trying to fight.
Lauren: And some of these experimental treatments, where HIV is being used to fight cancer.
Sascha: I did not hear about that. That’s horrifying.
Lauren: That one is, like, very early stages and I think Vice actually did a thing on it, some time ago. We're using bad things to fight [other] bad things, and we have to remember when we're putting these things in our bodies that we have to be empowered to find out exactly what it is that a doctor is telling us to do.
Sascha: A hundred percent. And this is a perfect dovetail to that, and I'll try to make it quick because my health history is so long I could go on forever! But one of the things that happened as a child was chronic hoarseness of my throat because of acid reflux, which is super common in Hashi’s. And one more thing I would love to clear up while I have this platform is if you're having acid reflux and you have Hashi’s, you don't have enough stomach acid. It's not that you have too much. I was treated with Prilosec for years, which also threw lighter fluid on the fire that was already burning, because at the time we thought that acid reflux was an overabundance of acid. It's not. A lot of people with Hashi’s stop producing enough stomach acid. It's why our guts get so f*cked up because we can't kill bacteria in what we eat; you need a lot of stomach acid.
Lauren: Hearing you talk about this is making me go, ‘Oh yeah, I have acid reflux.’ And I didn’t even make that connection. Of course, it makes total sense.
Sascha: And I would say one of the reasons I'm a coach now is because if I saw my case as a child now, I would be like, ‘Girl, get you to a functional endocrinologist this second! PS: I think you have toxic mold too.’ But at the time, as we discussed, we just did not have an understanding of these diseases.
So you asked about interstitial cystitis … so what happened was, all through my ‘20s I was starting to get sicker once I stopped having an eating disorder, essentially. And then at 28, I had a boyfriend at the time, and about once a month I was getting UTIs. I was like, am I just having sex in a weird way? What's happening? After nine UTIs in 10 months, I stopped getting UTIs. I just constantly felt like I had a UTI — and that’s interstitial cystitis.
Sascha: It’s a nightmare.
Lauren: You're making the connection that was all caused because of the toxic mold?
Sascha: A hundred percent.
Lauren: And if you had been treating the root cause …
Sascha: … I don't think I would have a second autoimmune disease today. The thing about interstitial cystitis is, it happens when there's been a degradation of the mucosal layer inside your bladder. So the problem now is, even though most of my symptoms are resolving beautifully since I've been treating the mold, which I finally found at age 32 — and I got sick at 8, right — my bladder is still the most inflamed part of me because it has to rebuild that mucosal layer. I believe that I will be well some day, but I need to figure out how to rebuild that layer inside my bladder. Because even if it's not being as impacted by the fungus as it was, there's been damage as a result. So at 28, I got my second autoimmune disease. And that was the point where I was starting to identify that I was actually a sick person. Because also then, I got the classic autoimmune stuff of crippling fatigue, like, in bed at 7:30pm …
Lauren: Which tends to be really like the last symptom, doesn't it? Our bodies are breaking down, and we may or may not be acknowledging that that's happening. And I think that's what happened to me. There was stuff happening, but it was so little over time that I didn't pay attention. So it wasn't until I crashed and burned and got crazy fatigue, that I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. I've been like that for a really long time.’ So it's interesting that that's what happened to you; eventually you're like, ‘Well, now I can't even get out of bed.’
Sascha: It was very clear. It just became abundantly clear that there was something really the matter. And also my migraines that I've had since being a kid went from once a month on my period, which is typical of migraines, to three a week. They didn't stop.
Lauren: And did they try to put you on migraine medication as well?
Sascha: Thankfully, yes, but I’m on, not the preventative, but Zolmitriptan; I take it when I have a headache. And this is why I will never be, like: ‘F*ck you, Western medicine’ … because the pain medications that I have for my bladder and my migraines literally allowed me to get well. I could not have been doing the research that I was doing. I could not have been running a business if I was in pain like that. It's debilitating. So I tell my clients all the time, I think most of us really do need both. You need somebody who's going to treat your root causes. But in the meantime, what do you need to be functional?
Lauren: And you became a coach because of this. Did you go see a coach?
Sascha: I did. Big shout-out to Dr. Lalezar in Brentwood who ran the best blood work than anybody had ever run on me. She was my first functional practitioner, and I actually went to her for heavy metal treatment because that's her specialty. And we had found that I had that. I didn't have a name yet. But we had found some stuff like heavy metals, some parasites, but nothing big. And she was the one who said, ‘Hashimoto’s … it's right here.’
Lauren: And let's just talk about that because it's huge when you get a diagnosis. When you have a name to put on something, it’s like these years of symptoms, these years of feeling like you are under par — and not fully understanding why. And when you have a name that you can put on that, it enables you to change your perspective mentally on so many levels.
Sascha: Oh my God, I cried and cried with joy. It was an enormous deal.
Lauren: I remember going into work and being like, ‘I have Hashimoto’s!!’ Telling people like it was really good news! That I had finally figured it out!
Sascha: I was spending $7,000 to $13,000 cash a year, and nothing was working – when I was given a name. I was, like, ‘Oh my God, it's going to start to work.’ It was unbelievable that I was going to start to actually be able to make headway. And by the way, that also happened when we found the mold thing. I was, like, YES!! Mold can be treated!!
Lauren: And also, mold is a diagnosis. Which I think a lot of people don't fully understand, either. Because it can be its own diagnosis, it can be related to Lyme disease as a root cause. It runs the gamut.
Sascha: Totally. And I love that you bring that forward. Because I wasn't just a Hashi’s patient. I know a lot of people with Hashi’s who went on T4, and then were ‘We’re better now.’ And I was like, ‘I am f*cked-up still.’
Lauren: Most of the people I know were fine on just T4. And I was like, ‘Did you win the genetic lottery?’
Sascha: And I was like, ‘And is your bladder fucked up?’
Lauren: And they were like, ‘Why are you asking me about my bladder?’
Sascha: And I’d ask, ‘Do you breathe well?’ Because respiratory air hunger was a huge part of my toxic mold story. There was mold in all my airways. So I had this asthma experience and steroids couldn't help. It was a nightmare.
Lauren: But that can also be related to Hashi’s directly because issues like sleep apnea, which I have, is directly related.
Sascha: Or if you're under-treated, you can have air hunger sometimes. So I love that you say that. You're right. Because for some people, it's just one thing. For me, it was a lot of things.
Lauren: And I think we need to give ourselves credit because sometimes, when there are a lot of issues involved, sometimes the psychological element is one thing in and of itself. And these diseases cause psychological problems. They manifest themselves in so many different ways. So even if you had just the one thing, just Hashimoto’s, it also gave you an eating disorder. And that had to be treated. And acknowledging these things with love, and seeking treatment for them, and being able to love ourselves enough … and this is where I think the line divides between men and women a little bit … where you have to learn to love yourself enough to empower yourself to seek help. Because [women are] really good at flying under the radar. Think about your period alone. Every month when you go through that pain, if you have pain or discomfort with it, we're taught to get on with it. So I think as women we're kind of conditioned that way, and you're so lucky that you had an advocate in someone like your mom, right?
Sascha: I did, early on, have an advocate in her. And it's so interesting that you say that, because my boyfriend has often acknowledged my steely will to live through this. And it's something I really took for granted because I was, like, ‘Well, I'm dying and I'm 28, and I’m not going to die.' Because I'm a coach, I do meet a lot of people who are not able to do that for themselves. I do think for me it was so much of what my parents taught me. My mom was very curious about what was going on, and my dad was just, ‘You can do anything.’ I do think that when it came down to it, I was willing to do whatever it took to not live in the amount of pain that I was in.
So you asked me about coaching… what happened is when Dr. Lalezar told me, ‘You have an autoimmune disease,' it was, like, ‘Oh my God, I have a place to start’. And one of the things she mentioned in that first appointment where she diagnosed me was, ‘You might want to consider a Paleo diet — it helps some of my clients.’ And so I went home and Googled “autoimmune paleo diet” and I found Angie Alt and Mickey Trescott’s website, AutoimmunePaleo, which is now called AutoimmuneWellness because they've opened it up wider.
Unbelievable resource for me. That's when I was introduced to the Autoimmune Protocol [AIP], which is a specific elimination diet for autoimmune patients that removes every inflammatory food; it is basically a leaky gut healing protocol. So you add healing foods like sauerkraut and bone broth, and you take out everything inflammatory potentially, which is; eggs, sugar, nightshades, dairy, all grains, legumes, coffee, alcohol, processed oils. It’s all gone.
Lauren: Let's touch on that for a minute, too … we live in a country where your average person goes to the supermarket and everything's a packaged food. So when you think that you've got something going on in your body, packaged foods are not going to help you. You’ve got to go whole foods, you need to go fresh, and you need to start cooking.
Sascha: You have to start cooking.
Lauren: I've been through, ‘I don't have time to cook!’ We all have that, especially when we're working hard. But it's one of those things that becomes even more clear as you go on with these illnesses; even just a little bit of preparedness is important. You have to think, ‘Well, I have to be home on Sunday at six because I’ve got to cook for the week’. Or, if every night you're like, ‘I've got to get home and I've got to cook because I want it fresh.’ But either way, you shouldn't be eating packaged foods. Period. None of us should. They're not helping anyone.
Sascha: Totally, and it's it's so doable. There's a resource that I can send you … I’m not gonna remember her name off the top of my head … but her YouTube channel is called Real World AIP and she – I think she's in Australia? – I'm not gonna remember because I only saw her video once … But she’s crushing it. She makes videos on how to actually do this and have a life. Anyway, I saw that diet, and, especially coming from an eating disorder background, I was like, ‘There's no way.’ But I was also like, ‘Yeah!’ because I was so pumped to have a place to go. Angie Alt was my first health coach. I had already been coached … my life coach was Amber Krzys but I'd never been health coached. Angie is incredible. She does a six-week program called “SAD [Standard American Diet] to AIP in 6”, where she takes people from a standard American diet to the autoimmune protocol in six weeks. And I signed up for this coaching program, and it was just incredible. I just did it. And I did it easily. I was like, ‘Wait, I can eat this way?!’
Lauren: And so it didn't bring up the old issues related to your eating disorder. And the control issues there?
Sascha: No. I would say I still have some of the rebellion issues. I would say to this day, there are things where I'm like, ‘I want to do what I want from time to time!’ But I don't even know that I would call that an eating disorder issue. At this point, I think I would call that a healthy wanting to have a wide variety of experiences in my human life. And I think sometimes as an autoimmune patient, I take back my will because I need to, even if it's going to put me in pain for a couple days. I need to be able to do the ‘thing’.
Lauren: You have to be able to have the ice cream or whatever …
Sascha: A hundred percent. So being coached by Angie was a total turning point in my recovery because it was the moment that I became the doctor. I feel like I help my clients discover a lot of things, but if there's one thing I hope they all leave with, it's a sense of they are now in charge of their case. And with Angie — and none of my doctors put this on my radar — it totally changed my life. I want to be clear it was not the end for me, and I want to say that, because for a lot of people AIP is like, ‘I'm done!’ And for a lot of us, that is not the case. So I want to be clear. AIP made me functional when I was debilitated, but it did not make me well.
Lauren: It’s the way people look at Keto, and say it's the magic pill. Nothing's a magic pill, guys. Your whole lifestyle is the magic pill.
Sascha: Right, and for some of us, we have to treat microbial infections and toxicity before we're going to get better anyway. And that was me. But Angie helped me understand what's going on in my body in a totally different way. And then I started this massive research effort. I listened to their entire podcast. I watched Dr. Tom O'Bryan's entire mini-series called “Betrayal”, on autoimmune disease and what's going on in the medical system. I read Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book, I read Dr. Amy Myers’ book, I read Dr. Mark Hyman’s books. And I was seeing trends — people with diseases like I have. We have heavy metal and chemical poisoning. We have infections that nobody's treating. We have allergies nobody has found. And we have emotional trauma that needs to be dealt with.
Lauren: And so how have you been working toward treating these symptoms? I know we talked about coffee enemas before we got on the air, and I know you’re a big fan!
Sascha: I love a coffee enema!
Lauren: I know you've had your living areas tested for mold and treated. Tell us all the different things that you've done that have worked for you. Because I know that there's a lot of trial and error in this process.
Sascha: I love that you say that because had I known that, I would have been so much more sane. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, it's gonna be the next thing.’ And then I would go through these periods. My poor boyfriend would just hold me when I was wailing in pain that I hadn't gotten it yet. And now when I go back over and look over the scope, I'm like, ‘Oh, it's because that's what we do to get well. You run experiments.’ So the amount of experiments that I have run over – I would say it's been five years now. I was 28 when I really became debilitated, and I'm 33 in a month, and I'm like, 90 percent well.
Lauren: That’s amazing.
Sascha: It’s incredible. And I also want to say that, because I really am one of the worst cases that I've ever seen. Because I was untreated for so many years, and I had so much going on. So if I can do it, you can do it. Seriously. I found the money when I was working as an actor. I was determined.
Lauren: You made it happen.
Sascha: I made it happen.