Viewing entries tagged
auto immune

Comment

I Finally Went To A Naturopath: Part 1

You guys. I don't know where to start. I finally went to a naturopath after many years of considering it. The fact that insurance doesn't cover it put me off and I thought I was managing things pretty well on my own. But the past few months my RA has been feeling pretty crappy, and even though it always feels bad in the fall I always have a desire to rid myself of all of this completely, from the source, instead of just telling the symptoms to chill til they come back. 

So I went! I found this amazing woman who is literally a block away and part of UPMC, Pittsburgh's largest healthcare group, and she actually agreed to talk to me on the phone for ten minutes before I scheduled my appointment. I wanted to make sure I was seeing someone whose diet plan for me would be on par with my own. There's a bit of a fad happening right now called the Autoimmune Paleo (#AIP) diet and I'm just not into it. I know from research and my own experience that meat is an inflammatory. And the whole point of eating to cure an autoimmune disease is to get the body to stop being inflamed. So that just doesn't add up, does it?

Anyway, my first appointment exceeded my expectations. Her office was more like a lounge than a doctors office. She started by asking me to just tell her my entire medical history and took amazing notes. For the sake of me not rambling on forever with all the details, here are the highlights of what we covered in the two hours she spent with me (yes, seriously, two hours) and $175 I spent on the first session:

  • Goal: First she asked me what my goal for being there was. I told her my conventional medicine (Enbrel) is working but I know deep down it's not a good idea longterm. I know the side effects heighten your chances of lymphoma by 3x and being so young, I know that the longer I continue on the medicine, the higher those chances probably are. I told her my goal was to be well enough that I could lessen my medicine intake over time until I possibly don't need it anymore. She was supportive of this and told me she would never ask me to stop taking a medication without having me talk to my rheumatologist about it first. At this point, I knew I liked her. We agreed to not talk about when or if I'd ever be able to stop taking a conventional medicine but just kept the goal in mind to lesson the amount a bit at first.
  • Medical history: I told her all about my RA, family history, other misc. health problems like allergies, UTIs, frequency of colds, etc.
  • Supplements, vitamins and medicine: She had me bring in everything I was taking so she could evaluate it. She tossed my daily vitamin in the trash right in front of me, saying it was literally the crappiest of crap. I loved her for that!
  • Typical diet: She wrote down what I typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In this realm, I think I am a pretty easy patient for her since I'm already gluten and mostly-dairy free. She laughed when I said I made raw beet ravioli with cashew cream cheese for dinner the night before (I'll post on that delicacy soon!).
  • New diet recommendations: I had two options. An elimination diet challenge that would take me months of torture to take about 96 foods out of my diet and slowly add one back in at a time to see if it would cause my symptoms to flare. First of all, NO. Secondly, I told her it would be hard to notice an arthritis flare due to one food because I typically flare for a month and then don't for another. It's not a day-by-day thing. She agreed, so instead, I am going to do option two, a $225 blood test. I will do it at home by pricking a finger until I can fill five circles on a piece of card stock the size of my thumbprint with blood, let it dry and then send the kit back to a lab. The results will come back with 96 foods and graphs for each that measure how much that food causes an immune response in my body. Fabulous. Worth the money. I am waiting until January to do this to spread out the expense and also so I have all the holiday party junk food in my system. My doctor said that in order for the test it work its best I need to "eat all the foods" beforehand. Yes, she really said "eat all the foods." Gluteny-cheesey pasta cheat day, here I come. The test is called the US Biotek Antibody Assessment and you can read about it here
  • Health plan: Two days later she sent me a two page health plan that she typed up and sent to my email directly from her. It had instructions on where to buy the new supplements (I'll do another post on that soon), how to take the blood test, and a summery of the other things we talked about... like how she wants me to eat more fish. 

All in all, I cannot say enough. I ordered my first round of supplements and received them today. They were a bit pricey but I know she's going to get me back on track. I'm most excited about a strong anti-fungal with oil of oregano, garlic and caprylic acid that will rid my body of any bacteria or candida that could be lingering. Bacteria (from UTIs) and candida overgrowth can actually cause autoimmune diseases. I'm starting to think there's a chance that could be what's happening to me. Check out this article I found tonight that talks all about that and how to cure autoimmune diseases by curing the cause instead of putting a band-aid on symptoms. Its author is totally in line with what I'm planning to do with the help of my awesome new naturopath. Updates soon!

Comment

Comment

Leaky Freakin' Gut: Explained

Alright, time for me to break it down. I've mentioned leaky gut before and the concept of it is pretty simple once you can visualize it. When I first read about it in It Starts With Food, I realized right away I probably had it. I am (was) a bagel, pasta, fresh crunchy baguette loving woman, especially in college, so grain was pretty much my number one food group. I asked a doctor friend of mine if real MDs acknowledge leaky gut as a real thing or if it's just some crazy holistic idea and I was surprised by the answer. Doctors definitely acknowledge that leaky gut (also commonly know as intestinal hyper-permeability) is a problem, but they are just now learning more about how it relates to disease and auto-immune disorders.

The best and shortest way to describe leaky gut is this: 

70% of your immune system is located in your belly, which is hard to imagine since we typically think of our immune system as being, well, everywhere. But think about it, you bring in food, toxins, germs and more through your mouth and into your gut every day, so the immune system is there to fight off those invaders at the front door. If you think of your intestinal lining as a brick wall there are cells and mortar. In a normally functioning gut, the mortar is strong and nothing can pass through the wall, but if a gut in attacked over and over again by things like yeast, parasites, bad bacteria, viruses, alcohol, antibiotics, NSAIDS (Advil / ibuprofen) the mortar starts to weaken and gets leaky causing these invaders and other non-digested particles of food into the bloodstream where they are not supposed to be. 

Think of your intestine like you think of the outside of your body. You put unprocessed food in it to be broken down. So anything that starts on the outside of our body that goes through your mouth and into your intestines is technically still on the outside of your body until digested properly. When the lining of your gut is permeated, those things that belong on the outside seep to the inside.

Let's take gluten as an example since removing it from my diet is what confirmed to me that I had leaky gut. When undigested gluten leaks into your bloodstream over and over again, your immune system recognizes it as bad and attacks it. What happens next is crazy. The gluten DNA looks a whole lot like human joint DNA and overtime, your exhausted immune system confuses the two and starts attacking your joints. In my case, this is why when I eat gluten, my RA symptoms flare up. My immune system thinks my joints are bad foreign invaders. For me, those are the only symptoms of leaky gut I had so removing the gluten improved my joint pain and helped me realize my gut was leaky.

For many though, there are no signs or symptoms of leaky gut. A recent study mentioned in Dr. Blum's book The Immune System Recovery Plan says that the majority of people with an auto-immune diseases also have leaky gut. This is a huge statement that would be basically impossible to prove, but I think it sheds light on how many people are most likely sick because of leaky gut and don't even know it.

The reason why functional doctors like Dr. Blum say they can reverse auto-immune disorders is that once you remove the gluten and heal the gut lining, your immune system should restore itself and stop attacking your body in whatever way it has manifested. It's a long process that I'm working on over time, but I've noticed that the absence of gluten in my diet is helping me more than any other medicine I've taken. That is enough to believe food has a major impact on our health.

I know that being gluten free is seen as very trendy right now. A year ago, I too thought it was a stupid fad that everyone was jumping on, but now I see the benefits. There are a lot of books out there that talk about why wheat and other sources of gluten are not native to human bodies and why they're suddenly making our bodies go nuts. If you want more info and don't want to read the books I've listed above, check out these articles that I think illustrate leaky gut pretty well:

New Research Shows Poorly Understood Leaky Gut Syndrome May Be The Cause Of Several Diseases | The Daily Beast

9 Signs You Have Leaky Gut | Mind Body Green

5 Symptoms Of Gluten Sensitivity You Probably Don't Know About | Mind Body Green

 

Comment

Comment

Read This: The Immune System Recovery Plan

This book has become my bible in just two short months. I finally moved it from my Amazon wishlist to my shopping cart out of the desire to see what Dr. Susan Blum had to say about the immune system that I hadn't already read. 

Well, let me tell you. You says a lot. The book is divided into four parts: adopting a detox diet, fixing stress & adrenal fatigue, healing a leaking gut and cleansing heavy metals from the system. She claims that many of her patients were cured or mostly cured from their auto-immune diseases after following her plan. I was skeptical at first, but I had nothing but some money to lose. She writes a totally relevant and understandable way, including recipes as she goes, while making you understand the root cause of your problems with just enough scientific detail.

The detox diet requires you remove corn, gluten, soy and diary for three weeks, then add each back in separately and keep the foods that irritate you out for good. I skipped this step since I had already been gluten free for a year, tested the effects of dairy on my system (zits and chest congestion... fun), and knew I didn't have issues with corn or soy (except again, zits come with the soy territory too due to the elevated estrogen in it). She also requires the removal of white grain (rice, quinoa, etc) and white sugar. I cut back drastically there but completely is really impossible. I also removed diary from my diet again. For a lot of people, this chapter alone could be overwhelming but power through... it's worth it! 

Next came healing my leaky gut. It just so happened that leading up to reading this book, I had been suffering from major bloating and lower stomach heaviness on and off for about three months. Some days, I literally looked four months pregnant and felt like I had a box of stones in my belly weighing my down (FUPA in yoga pants, my god!). My back even hurt. One day I thought I had ovarian cancer I was so swollen and achy down there. My gynecologist insisted I was fine, of course, and suggested I see a gastroenterologist, but I'm glad I waited. Everything Dr. Blum described as symptoms of leaky gut, I had. Her book has little tests you take that help you determine if you have severe issues and then she gives you remedies for each level of severity. For me, I need to heal my intestines with supplements and glutamine. I followed her steps (I'll go into detail about that in a another post soon) and sure enough, within days of starting her supplement plan and being more vigorous with my diet, I had no swelling or pain. In two months, I have kept it up and had no issues, not even once!

I've moved on to the adrenal fatigue portion of the book now and will get into the heavy metal removal later. It's a lot of information to digest in one sitting. I find myself reading parts of the book over and over again picking up new insight as I get further into the plan. She says it can take up to a year to really heal, but I'm definitely feeling less swelling in my joints and much, much better in my stomach. 

Dr. Blum knows what she's talking about. She was a traditional doctor who was diagnosed with hashimoto's thyroiditis. She healed herself with this plan and now she heals others. If you have fatigue, digestive or auto-immune issues at all, I suggest you get this book and hear what she has to say. I'm only half way through the journey, but it's been worth every second.

 

 

Comment

Comment

The Symptoms & The Swirl

originally posted may 9, 2012

this past fall i started noticing a tightness in my right foot when i got out of bed in the morning, something i was aware of and then would forget about until the next day. over christmas, i went to tampa to visit family and found relief by putting my foot in front of the jet in their hot tub but the next morning my foot was so tight i was limping on it. 

i made an appointment with a new foot doctor and he did x-rays but didn’t see anything out of the norm (i was expecting stress fracture from yoga or something). he did suggest i probably had a morton’s neuroma in between my 3rd and 4th bones but that i should go on my upcoming yoga teacher training in mexico as i wouldn’t do any damage to it and we’d take care of it when i returned.

in the following months, i started noticing tightness in my right pointer finger knuckle. this is the finger i used to mouse with heavily (graphic designer) until switching to a wacom pen last year. but it hurt! not always, but enough that i was noticing. 

Comment