Mar 27, 2017

Happy Spring and An Update

Happy Spring, Everyone!

After a very long cold snowy winter here in Idaho, I’m so ready for some sunshine and flowers! We broke the record here for the most snow on the ground this winter, and while I truly love the snow, it’s time for getting outdoors without coats, boots, mittens, and hats. Please!


Our cottage with a snowy blanket last December.

Record breaking snow from our front door last winter.
I hibernated most of the winter away inside our cozy cottage, nursing my bum hip while awaiting my February hip surgery. I’m very happy to report that my operation went well, I love my new hip and I’m well on the way to a full recovery. My goal is to be hiking the Boise Front again with Tucker, as soon as the muddy trails are dried out later this spring.

Our kids visiting me in the hospital a few hours after surgery.

Me greeting Tucker after our ten day post-surgery separation.
(BIG DOG = safety gate for my new hip.) We missed each other so much!  

Besides celebrating my new hip and the beginning of a renewed physically active life, I have some other great news to share with my readers today.

Three years ago I wrote a blog post called The Story Behind My Food Allergy Test about the link between autoimmune disease and diet. Many bloggers suffer from autoimmune diseases. Blogging is something relatively doable when you’re suffering from a disease that keeps you less physically active. Like most of you, for various reasons I hesitated to tell my health story, but finally I thought it was important enough to step off the cliff and get up close and personal. It’s a long second half to the story today, and if you’re not interested in autoimmune disease I also have lots of other great posts here at The North End Loft. Perhaps you’d like to take my home or garden tour found at the top of the page. :)

For the rest of you, here we go…

I am not a doctor or any kind of expert other than of my own experiences. You should always read what’s online with the idea that it could be right, and it could be wrong, and what’s right for me might not be right for you. I’m simply telling my story and making one recommendation at the end of the post to those of you who are struggling with autoimmune disease. I received many comments and emails after my first post from readers who were hearing what I had to say for the first time and were encouraged. There has been a lot of solid scientific research into the link between what we eat and autoimmune disease since my first post and tons of information online, but I promised to keep you updated on my own experience. It’s taken me three years to have the happy results for you!



I spent the first two years of this time mostly doing research and experimenting half-heartedly on my own with diet and medication changes that didn’t help me feel much different. Because of possible potential side effects I took myself off of the huge quantities of NSAIDs I’d been taking for my autoimmune arthritis pain and in the resulting fog of pain and suffering over the course of one year I gained an enormous amount of weight while eating vast quantities of unhealthy “comfort food” (which of course did the exact opposite of comforting me and only made me more ill!)

Finally, when I reached the desperate point early last year when I thought I’d surely die any minute from a stroke or heart attack, I got my act together once and for all with the help of three teachers: Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), J. Krishnamurti (The Krishnamurti Reader), Melissa and Dallas Hartwig (Whole Thirty), and my amazing new doctor.


 

Krishnamurti and Tolle taught me how to give up the bonds of time and live in the present, allowing me to escape my mind’s lifelong struggle with emotional eating. The Hartwigs taught me how to break my body’s physical addiction to unhealthy foods, and my doctor helped me to heal the damage done to my body up until I found all this wisdom. It sounds so simple, but believe me, it has taken a lifetime to arrive here!

To Krishnamurti and Tolle I owe thanks for the astounding fact that, after a lifetime of emotional eating, I haven’t even been inclined to overeat in over a year. It just never happens, nor does it even occur to me to do so. That’s the power of living in the Now. That’s not to say I didn’t still have cravings for unhealthy foods, but it made it easier for me to follow the Whole Thirty program for three months and therefore beat an addiction to those unhealthy foods.



However, when my painful joints and muscles were still aching even after eliminating the recommended foods from the Whole Thirty program and losing thirty pounds, I had to admit I needed more help. I finally made an appointment with a medical doctor certified in functional medicine. I say finally because I had been putting off the time commitment it entailed to see this new kind of doctor. I had to fill out 23 pages of forms before my first appointment, describing in detail and great depth my medical history and symptoms. I was asked thoughtful questions about my health no MD had asked before. My first appointment lasted two hours and consisted of a thorough physical exam and blood draws for lab work, but mostly it was unrushed time spent sitting and talking comfortably with the practitioner. It was the first time in my life I felt like my medical concerns were being heard and the right questions were being asked and answered. It was truly a life changing two hours.



After many lab tests (tests no doctor had ever ordered before) it was determined that in addition to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (identified 15 years before) I had widespread inflammation throughout many more body systems. Instead of being prescribed potentially harmful mega doses of NSAIDs for the inflammation, I was given more tests to find out why I had thyroid antibodies along with all of that other inflammation. The most important lab test was a food sensitivity test - it turned out I suffered from many food sensitivities (not allergies, sensitivities.) Most of these I had not identified while on Whole Thirty because I never had the traditional intestinal distress some people have. In fact, I never thought I felt anything bad at all from any food I ate and had proceeded merrily along eating them in not-so blissful ignorance!



It’s pretty fascinating how they determined my sensitivities; my blood was sent to a lab in Washington State where a serum made from it was mixed with different carefully controlled foods. After mixing with the food, if antibodies showed up in my serum that would not normally be there, it meant I had sensitivity to that food. Healthy people’s bodies don’t let food particles that can produce these antibodies into their blood through their intestinal walls. Since I had those antibody-producing particles in my blood, it meant there was a problem with my intestines, even though I never had the “traditional” intestinal symptoms of stomachaches or cramps.  

The foods that were leaking into my blood causing that antibody-autoimmune-inflammatory response of muscle and joint aches and fatigue were ones I never would have identified on my own. I was off the chart for eggs (the number one food people have sensitivities to), gluten, and garlic, of all things. I had more moderate sensitivities to other foods, like dairy, beans, bananas, avocados, and nuts. Why were my intestines leaking these foods into my blood stream? The theory is that GMOs not recognized as food by our bodies, fruits and vegetables full of pesticides and fertilizers, and the multitudes of chemicals added to processed foods are irritating our intestines and creating holes through which larger food particles can move into the blood. Our bodies rightly recognize these large particles as invaders. The resulting autoimmune response is now thought to possibly be responsible for everything from type 2 diabetes to high cholesterol and hundreds of other autoimmune diseases. (This is how my not-so scientific self understands how this all works, so please don’t jump all over me if I don’t have the process exactly right.)



The next step was for me to stop eating those foods I tested positive for while eating other healthy foods known to reduce inflammation and taking vitamins and a few supplements, like probiotics, to replenish what was missing from my body based on other lab test results. It is a very healthy diet with no sugar, gluten, dairy, eggs, and garlic, the foods I was most sensitive to. I can eat the foods I was moderately sensitive to, like bananas and avocados a couple times a week. In addition, my caloric needs were carefully calculated and reduced to 1700 very carefully chosen calories daily so I would continue to lose weight.



Three years ago when I wrote my first post about GMOs and unhealthy American food, many people were scoffing and rolling their eyes at the very mention of the word gluten and gluten free diets like the one I’m currently eating. Yet terms like these are today included in our everyday common vocabulary. The healthy diet I’m on, once thought to be unconventional, has now become widely accepted for reducing inflammation of autoimmune diseases.  

Functional medicine is still scoffed at by some, too, so please allow me to tell you a bit about it. My doctor is an MD who graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is certified in the practice of Functional Medicine from the Institute for Functional Medicine, about which you can read more here. Many folks are still calling the practice of Functional Medicine hippie dippy and not real medicine. They are ill informed. Functional medicine came about around fifteen years ago because some medical doctors were tired of putting Band-Aids on symptoms without finding out why the symptoms were occurring. Drugs were coping with symptoms, but people were still sick, and their illnesses would eventually manifest in even worst symptoms requiring bigger Band-Aids or even death. These brave doctors started bucking the system and requiring more from their practice of medicine than what conventional medicine was providing. They weren’t satisfied to simply treat symptoms, they wanted to heal patients. They went beyond their MD’s to study functional medicine and become certified in the field.



I mentioned I’d have one recommendation for those of you who haven’t found the help you want for your autoimmune disease from conventional medical doctors. This is it: run; don’t walk, to an MD in your area who is certified in functional medicine, and please come back and leave me a comment if you do.

I honestly believe that functional medicine didn’t just heal me, it saved my life. Since finding the root cause of my painful muscle and joint aches, changing my diet to fit my personal sensitivities, and replenishing my body with the healthy nourishment it needed, I have had astounding success. I have lost sixty pounds in the past twelve months and am completely pain free without taking potentially dangerous medication for the first time in fifteen years. I went over my most recent lab results with my doctor on Tuesday, which was the inspiration for me finally, after three years, to write this second half of my blog post about my health and share my good news with you in the hope you will have success too.



I’m more than eager to share with you that after only four months on my new nutritional program my lab results for all inflammatory markers are in the normal range for the first time. Every. Single. One. But here’s the most astounding result: my thyroid antibodies are normal. I no longer, after fifteen years, have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis! I will always have to take thyroid replacement because of the damage caused previously, but if not for that previous damage I could even stop taking that. I no longer have autoimmune disease! As my intestinal barrier becomes healed completely, I’ll continue to avoid the unhealthy American processed and modified foods that did the damage, but I’ll eventually be able to once again eat the healthy real foods I’m now sensitive to, like organic whole grain bread and organic free-range eggs.



For today, I have no pain and a brand new hip and some very happy trails waiting for me on the horizon!


And that’s the end of my story! 

Thanks so much for stopping by today and for listening. I hope you have a most wonderful day!

9 comments:

  1. First, congrats on the new hip.

    A enjoyed reading your story. In 2007, I gave up flour (and thus processed sugar) and most starches. I lost 40 pounds and felt fantastic. I kept the weight off for 3 years and then gradually added bread because I love it so much. I gained back 20 pounds and did not feel as good as I did when I was thinner so in January, I once again gave up bread/sugar. I'm feeling great, have lost 12 pounds and do not have the food cravings. I do have the rule that when we are at dinner parties, baby showers, weddings, etc. I eat what I want, but go back to my normal routine. I find that when sugar is out of my system I don't have food cravings.

    What has helped, is that Steve is now on board. We switched to Kaiser insurance in November because we were not happy with our family doctor who is also a family friend. Saving $6000 a year by switching to Kaiser is great, but we feel like we are getting medical care/instruction for the first time. I have had allergies my entire life. I had a skin issue for 1 full year and no doctors could figure it out. The allergist I saw at Kaiser said to go home and buy a humidifier. Literally the first time we used it, we both noticed that we slept like babies and had no more allergies. Both of us were able to stop medications that our doctor kept prescribing.

    Steve was diagnosed as pre-diabetic years ago and our family doctor's advice was - "watch what you eat". The first visit at Kaiser, the doctor told Steve he had to take a 3 session workshop on being pre-diabetic. He now follows a similar diet (a bit more regimented because he is obsessive compulsive) and we both feel great. Of course he lost 20 pounds in half the time it took me to lose 10!

    Eating healthy takes time and effort. Our culture has made eating fast and easy, but not healthy. And, all that sugary food tastes so good.

    Keep up the good work and I hope you're out there climbing that mountain soon.

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  2. Laurel ~
    I'm so glad to hear your surgery went well, and that you are finding answers to your other health-care questions.
    I agree with you ~ I've never been so glad to see spring! Horrible winter, and ACHD ought to be horse-whipped!! We were trapped in the house for days!
    Happy trekking!
    bobbie

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  3. Laurel, I am so happy for you! I suffered for years and years with inflammation and pain with no diagnosis. I was on high dosages of anti-inflammtories for years. Finally, I figured out what foods I am sensitive to and, once I eliminated from my diet, I am pain free. My sensitivities are to citric acid and tannin and eggs and I am off the charts for reaction to MSG which is in so many of our foods. I eat a pretty natural and healthy diet now although I do stray on occasion (dummy that I am). I also found that the only bread I can eat is one made with rye flour.

    Thank you for writing this article, Laurel. I hope it may help some others out there who are struggling. I took me almost 20 years to get it figured out and know what I had to do. I am going to be looking at the two books you mentioned. I also followed the Whole 30 plan last year and felt great while I was on it. xo Diana

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  4. Laurel, I am so happy to read that the surgery went well! I am also so inspired by your story. I am a true believer that diet plays a major role in inflammation and all kinds of diseases. How wonderful that you are feeling so much better because of your new eating habits. As you might remember, I have been against GMOs for years and still cannot believe more people don't seem to pay any attention to GMO vs non-GMO foods. Even some moms that I talk to have no idea - and yes many of these moms have kids with major food allergies. Thanks for helping to bring awareness to healthier eating. I hope you continue to feel good and can enjoy your renewed physically active life! Cheers to that!
    Shelley

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  5. Thank you for writing this inspirational post. So many people prefer to hobble along with pain and discomfort in their lives rather than make the necessary changes or investigate the roots of their problems. You did both and are now reaping the benefits. It must be so exciting for you to think about this summer and all the things you will be able to do. You deserve it!

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  6. Laurel,
    I'd love to hear more about the things you do eat and how you eat them. Growing up in a conventional family you had sandwiches at lunch etc. So what do you cook/eat to avoid all the gluten, bread, eggs etc. I am at a loss for starting this with no idea what to cook.

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  7. I'm so pleased for you!! I never believe that anything is incurable - and now you are proof of it on Hashimoto's. You are an inspiration. Congrats on the new hip, too. I'm glad everything went well.

    Have a wonderful week xoxo

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  8. Hi Laurel! I live in north Idaho and have struggled with similar health issues. After reading The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers, I searched for a doctor who is certified in functional medicine but was unable to find one in our area. Any tips? I did find a couple of doctors of integrative medicine. I'm not sure what the difference is. Cutting out wheat , dairy, and sugar was a game changer for me too. Thanks for sharing your story of inspiration!

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Laurel! I've been eating gluten and dairy free for 3 years, but I'm still having inflammatory symptoms, so my doctor asked me to try the Whole 30 and be diligent about cutting out anything with added sugar. I still don't feel we've found the root of my problems and I think my next step is to be tested for food sensitivities. I've added more eggs and nuts into my diet over the past few years and I've wondered if these foods may be problematic for me. I'm so glad you've had such success and I'm encouraged to keep searching for solutions to my own issues.

    Enjoy a pain free summer!

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Thank you for your comments. I love reading your thoughts! If you would like an answer to a specific question, please email me via the link on my sidebar. Thank you!

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