Heal Thyself

It’s been several months since I have written. Life has been really crazy as it has for most. I was hoping that by now my naturopath doctor and I would have had me back on track and in remission.

Sadly things have only gotten worse. Between the stresses of the pandemic, its effects on the gym/my job, and personal stress, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle.

There’s a few things that have entered the equation that I feel are of great importance and my naturopath agrees. She’s been taking an intensive course on autoimmune diseases and we’re working through some steps to get more answers.

I began feeling symptoms of menopause (fun stuff) and a hormone test confirmed I’m definitely going through it now. I had been researching menopause and rheumatoid arthritis and it can have a profound effect causing disease activity to accelerate and become more aggressive.

We’re not talking hormone replacement therapy just yet. I also just had a bunch of lab work done to verify if there is gut permeability and to check for 29 pathogens that can cause inflammatory responses. Waiting on those results.

In the meantime we’re going back at the diet. I had switched to a plant based diet in the spring. Since I don’t eat any dairy or eggs, plant based or being vegan wasn’t too much of a stretch. And it’s widely recommended for helping keep inflammation down in people with RA. But just like anything else it also depends on the individual.

I do believe that the immense stress I’ve been under is a major factor but at this point foods could be making it worse.

I’m in so much pain constantly and can’t even workout like used to. It’s effecting me mentally and physically and I’m completely drained more often than not.

So because of the severity and length of this flare we’re doing something rather drastic. I had been researching this before my doctor mentioned it. It’s called an Elemental Diet.

It’s physician formulated and some small studies indicate that it could help get me out of this flare.

For 14 days I will drink a powder mixed with water throughout the day. No food, and only water, and I believe tea, to drink. No sweeteners or anything like that. It’s fairly high calorie. The proteins are broken down into amino acids, and the fats and carbohydrates are in a pre-digested form. The idea is to afford me digestive rest and help heal gut permeability.

After 14 days I’ll reintroduce foods very slowly and see how I do.

Working with my naturopath doctor helps me feel not so helpless. I’m hopeful.

Familiar pain

On June 19, 2020 it was one year since I stopped all my meds.

I have managed my disease naturally and as well as if I were on medications for 8 and a half months of that year.

It’s a bit disheartening to feel the amount of pain that I’m experiencing the last few days, but I can’t let that feeling take over.

I managed a workout tonight that was not as great as I’m used to. I’m weak. But as in the past I dug deep and got it done. And as in the past I had a few hours of pain relief.

I believe I’ll be able to get this back under control.

I believe I’m still on the right path. This journey is not linear and never will be.

Don’t ever take your health or ability to move without pain for granted.

Lost some muscle in the past month or so.
Always symmetrical but right hand is typically worse.

Game Changer

Who would have thought we’d be living through a pandemic like this in our lifetime? I surely didn’t.

I am so grateful that I have been off medications since June and managing my disease naturally. Otherwise I would be living in absolute fear.

Last week I had a virtual appointment with my rheumatologist. She’s pleased with my health and disease management. I don’t have to see her for another 5 months or so.

And last week I also watched the documentary called The Game Changers. It’s the story of James Wilks β€” elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner β€” as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance.

All I can say is wow. I’ve read countless articles about plant based “diets” and health benefits, not just relative to RA, but heart health, gut health, and much more. But this documentary, well, it’s a game changer.

Now, the biggest concern for me was changing anything in my diet. Having been on strict AIP for nearly 8 months with 6 months virtually pain and inflammation free, upsetting that balance is frightening. And even more so during the current pandemic because now is not the time to have a major flare that can’t be brought down naturally.

I got out my food allergy and sensitivities results and went back over EVERYTHING. My notes from my visits with my naturopath doctor about AIP and eventually adding foods back, eating a rotational diet, blood test results, bookmarked articles online about plant based diets….and I decided to give it a shot.

So, 4 days in and I’ve had some changes. Some concern me a little, and some are really good.

I have some pain in my hands that hasn’t been present until now. But it’s holding steady. It could be simply due to changing from what I’ve been eating for so long without deviating. I’m watching this closely.

But here’s the really cool change. I am able to breathe better. What I mean by that is I’ve noticed that I am able to breathe deeper. Feels like when I use my inhaler, but even better than that. And when I say “better” I’m talking a significant difference.

I was already dairy and egg free so that’s not the difference. I’m reading about a possible link because this cannot be a sudden coincidence.

I can’t wait to see how I do over the next few weeks and especially during workouts.

I’m hopeful that my hands will settle back down and that I’ll be able to eat a variety of foods and be even healthier than I have been.

Rest

22 weeks symptom free before the world went crazy.

I am starting to feel symptomatic. I’m trying not to go down that rabbit hole. Stress is always a factor in my disease and up until a few days ago I thought I had it under control.

I am doing everything I can to try and return my mind, body, and spirit to one of almost no pain and inflammation.

I’ve restarted the anti viral protocol I did earlier this year before going into remission. I will make sure that I am 100% on point with my diet. I admit to eating gummy bears lately as a “cheat.” I know better. And I am taking some supplements to hopefully reduce my symptoms without having to resort to prednisone.

I’m using the BEMER and practicing my meditation more frequently and with greater intention on healing.

And most importantly I am counting my blessings. I am loved. I still am able to work even though the gym is closed. I’m off the meds that would have put me at greater risk during the COVID 19 pandemic. I’ve rekindled a friendship that meant the world to me.

So amidst all the stress there is good. And as much as I am one to push through, I will allow myself extra time in these days to rest.

Don’t ever take your health for granted and love on each other πŸ’œ

Empowerment

13 weeks. 13 weeks today with virtually no pain and inflammation.

Yesterday I was exhausted from very little sleep, and I ate one of the foods on my restricted list (yes it was delicious!). By evening I was feeling a little off. I battled with a massive headache all day. This morning my hands were stiff a few minutes more than they have been lately, and my headache has returned. What does this mean?

Compared to the last 13 weeks, this was a noticeable difference. So, today I’ll drink even more water and limit my food intake to help my body get through this bump in the road.

Relapse is simply not an option. I’m feeling quite a bit of stress and that is a dangerous trigger for a flare. My focus will continue to be inward and I will not allow anything or anyone to affect my disease state.

Selfish? You may think so, but I think it’s self preservation.

I have no more time or energy in my life for toxic food, people, or energies that can potentially cause my disease to rear its ugly head.

Writing these words is empowering.

Renewed focus and strength will be on my physical, mental and spiritual health. No room for darkness, only love, peace, and light πŸ’œ

Believe

It’s been 8 weeks since my pain and inflammation subsided.

8 weeks.

I still wake up each morning with a bit of trepidation as I open my hands wondering if the all too familiar pain has returned.

When I put my feet on the floor will they hold the weight of my body without the agony that used to ensue?

When you live with chronic pain and illness these are the thoughts that invade your mind and steal your peace.

I always try to remain positive. But in my journey I also want to share the realities of having an invisible illness.

I hear things like you don’t look sick. Or aren’t you too young to have arthritis? Why don’t you just take the medicine and make your life easier?

The reality is that taking meds could make my life easier but also put me on the slippery slope of more meds to treat the unwanted side effects. Or having serious side effects like I did on Humira.

The reality is that taking the path of naturally balancing my immune system is hard. Really hard!

It is a full time job. It requires dedication that is often exhausting.

Right now I must eat with precision or pay the price of my body fighting back.

It’s not a matter of choosing not to eat certain foods because I’m on a “diet” – I wish that were the case.

Meal prep each week takes hours of what is sometimes my only day off. I used to enjoy it. I don’t enjoy it much now, but I cannot just eat on the fly like “normal” people do.

But here’s the thing…

I believe that if I continue to do all the things that I am doing now, eventually I will be able to eat more normally.

I believe that my gut will be healed and that my immune system will be balanced.

I believe that my health will be restored for a long time to come.

So in this holiday season I challenge you to take control of your health and your body.

Health is a true gift and we all take it for granted until it’s taken away.

I believe I can do this and I believe in you too πŸ’œ

Balance

It’s been 4 weeks since my pain and inflammation subsided.

I believe that the combination of supplements, the AIP diet (modified even more to leave out all the foods I’m sensitive to), the antiviral protocol to put the EBV back into dormancy, and the specific probiotics are beginning to work.

I saw my naturopath doctor again today. I’ll be going for another round of blood work soon to see how I’m progressing. I’ll also be getting some x-rays done to compare to the ones I had when first diagnosed.

The goal from the beginning has been to manage my disease without medication. I believe we’re on the right track.

Since my diagnosis I’ve read a ton of information about gut health, food allergies, viruses, bacteria, and genetics all being possible links to the disease.

My naturopath has helped put together the pieces of the puzzle and is going to help me have a plan in place should my disease flare up.

I’m so grateful that for now, for this day, I’m still virtually pain free and that my immune system appears to be balanced.

Just a dream?

This past week I had a very vivid dream. I dreamt that I woke up and when I opened my hands I wasn’t greeted with the familiar pain and stiffness that makes me wince. I got up and walked across the bedroom without feeling like I was walking on broken glass. I remember thinking that I was “better,” that healing or at least remission had finally happened!

Then my alarm went off. And I winced as I opened my hands. Quiet tears streamed down my cheeks.

I struggled with the vivid images that morning while getting ready for work.

Later that morning the thought occurred that maybe the meaning behind the dream was that healing was coming. The message was to stay the course. To stay strong.

I do know that food is a major factor in my disease. Since inducing a flare by eating trigger foods in order to do the food testing, I’ve not been able to settle my body back down.

I went back on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) this past week. It’s super strict but I know that it’s necessary. Five days into it and inflammation began to subside.

Six days in and my hands and feet aren’t weren’t as stiff or hurting as much.

Seven days in, and I have almost no stiffness in my hands or pain in my feet.

This morning as I write I’m grateful for a reprieve. Despite the cold and the rain, I am feeling good!

I saw the naturopath doctor Friday and the visit was a good one. Three hours going over my symptoms and current treatment plan.

She tweaked the supplements that I’m on. Reducing some. Adding others.

She’s ordered some x-rays, and will be repeating what my rheumatologist had ordered over two years ago when I was diagnosed. She wants to see how much damage has been done to my joints to gauge the disease progression.

I’m still completely impressed with her thorough approach to my health.

And this morning I’m encouraged that it wasn’t just a dream. Rather a vision of what’s coming. And where I’ll eventually be…for good.

Mind, body and spirit

Spent most of the afternoon Friday with my naturopath doctor going over all the labs and test results to date, and coming up with a plan.

I believe I’m on the path to healing, long term remission, or whatever you want to call it. She is beyond thorough looking at my health history since childhood, all labs from both my rheumatologist and primary care physician going back several years, running a combination of non-conventional and conventional tests and seeing me as a whole, not just bits and pieces.

The gut health issue is huge and we’re attacking that aggressively with probiotics and even more strict dietary changes to heal my gut, and balance the bacterial overgrowths.

The lab tests have been extensive. Some “normal” tests and others that traditional medicine does not give credence to.

But if you look at everything together it makes sense that the immune response in my body can be put back into balance with a series of treatments to reduce the viral load in my body, get my vitamin and mineral deficiencies taken care of, and in turn get my RA to go into “remission.”

This is a long process and sometimes the pain is so bad that I wish I could just take a pill and make it go away. But in the long run I feel that this is the best choice for me and my body.

In the long run I won’t be caught in the cycle of “finding the right cocktail” of pharmaceuticals creating more issues that require more drugs to treat them.

I’m grateful that I found my naturopath. I will continue to see my rheumatologist and keep her informed of my progress.

My focus will remain on a mind, body, and spirit approach to my health and healing. I’m excited for the journey!

Progress. Knowledge. Power. Hope.

Part of this natural journey to balance my immune system is looking for anything creating an immune or inflammatory response.

I have the results of the food allergy and sensitivities tests back.

I’m amazed at the results. No surprise that cow’s milk and egg whites showed as allergies. This was found back in December. So they will never be reintroduced into my diet.

The sensitivities are a little more complicated. If we are able to heal my gut then the foods that are creating an immuneresponse should be able to be reintroduced in moderation in time.

A rotation diet will be necessary so that I’m never consuming too many at one time.

I already ate “clean” but these results show a large number of foods that I consume regularly that are not good for me right now.

So as of 9/9/19 I’ve eliminated all of these from my diet in hopes that I’ll see a reduction in inflammation.

Here’s the list of things causing an immune response. Some higher response than others, but I’m willing to be very cautious right now and temporarily eliminate them all. Even if pumpkin spice season is gone for me this year.

vanilla

curry powder

coriander

basil

cantaloupe

banana

oat

black tea

artichoke

peanut

cabbage

pumpkin

spinach

cinnamon

clove

peppermint

The good news is there’s a lot of other foods that are not creating an inflammatory response. And, knowledge is a powerful thing.

I have more labs coming back soon and a follow up on September 20th.

Progress. Knowledge. Power. Hope.