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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!

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It's My One Year Gluten Free Anniversary!

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It's My One Year Gluten Free Anniversary!

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In honor of my one year anniversary as a gluten-free-mother-fucking-goddess (Sorry, had to. I'm proud!), I'm posting a little hindsight of what I've learned in the last 365 days. So, here we go:

5 Things I've Learned After 365 Days Without Gluten:

1. It's not as hard as you think.
I was terrified. I figured I was putting myself in culinary exhile for the rest of my life (how dramatic). But honestly, I quickly learned to shop and cook differently and I barely notice the gluten is even gone. Instead, I've devoured gluten free bread, rice pasta, copious amounts of quinoa, fancy san-gluten Bisquick, flour, crackers, pretzels, bagel chips, cookies, brownies, muffins, etc. There is not one food that I find myself missing that I cannot find a gluten free replacement. So when you put it that way, what am I really giving up? The way I see it now, not much. 

2. Cheating is acceptable and a must (if you're able).
I have not gone 365 days without gluten. My goal for the upcoming year is to cheat less while remaining sane. This year I probably (and this is a big generalization) had about 8 donuts, a dozen (or more) office cookies, one bowl of regular wheat-y pasta at my favorite italian restaurant, and traces of gluten in things you would not expect like soy sauce, among other things. This seems like a lot of gluten, but if you think about it in the span of a whole year, it's nothing. My rules for cheating are these: 1. "Will you regret it after?" and 2. "Does the occasion warrant it?" If the answers are "No" and "Yes," respectively, then by all means, go for it.

3. When I cheat, I feel it...
But I don't get a stomachache. Instead, my physical reaction may not be what you'd expect. I get a foggy brain, fatigue or drowsiness, tightness between my shoulder blades and a feeling similar to a caffeine withdrawal. When I think about it, I was always experiencing these things when I used to eat gluten all the time, now it's far more apparent how much better I feel without all these symptoms hanging around on a daily basis.

4. My RA flare ups have severely lessened.
In a previous post, I explain gluten and its relation to leaky gut syndrome, and leaky gut syndrome's relation to auto immune diseases. Well, I'll say it again and 100 more times, I fully believe that gluten is a cause (not the only, but a big one) of my RA. Two months ago my doctor did RA blood tests we hadn't done in two years. My RA factor is in the negative range (!!!! - that doesn't mean it's gone, but still! ... !!!!) and my inflammatory markers are weak positive down from moderate positive (again, !!!!). Sure, this could have to do with my medication working, but holy shit, do I notice the swollenness in my hands the morning after I've had gluten? YEP. Remember that cheat criteria, "Will you regret it?" Yeah, the more I see the obvious shift in decreased swelling, the more it is not worth indulging.

5. It's been totally worth it.
A year and a week ago, I rolled my eyes when someone told me they were gluten free by choice. I literally thought it was just a made up, bandwagon fad in food. I understood that those with Celiac do not get that choice and wow, do I admire what those who have it must do to eat safely! Having Celiac requires so much more restraint, attention and caution, when even trace amounts of gluten can cause upheaval in the gut. I am so lucky that I get to choose this diet and that I get to choose to cheat if I wish. But that's a whole other story. Overall, I see the difference. I no longer feel so bloated and tired after a big meal that I just want to sleep (apologies to those who I've made rub my belly after too much pasta — not kidding, wish I was). I no longer wake up with insanely puffy knuckles and inflamed feet. My knees hurt rarely. I don't have afternoon tiredness or brain fog and I feel more productive at work. My skin is clearer and more even. So is it worth the overhaul at the beginning and the extra effort, time, money to upkeep? Yep, every bit.

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Zoodles for Days

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Check out my lunch, you guys. Vegan zucchini bolognese that literally tastes just like a gigantic heap of meaty gluteny spaghetti that is... not. This plate should be famous, it's literally that good. And I think word is getting around Pittsburgh that the zoodles at the Amazing Cafe are to. die. for. I could eat this every day, I think. If you live in PGH, go do yourself a favor and get some (17th & Carson St.).

This vegan delight is a good depiction of how I've been eating recently. I had a freak out about six months ago when I was presented with an onslaught of information about why someone with RA or any other autoimmune disease should absolutely become a vegan. I'm already gluten free so the thought of this kind of threw me into a total tizzy (I mean like, tears at the Whole Foods cafe with my best friend on a Tuesday night kinda thing).

So I just ignored the issue and pushed it off. But sure enough, within a few months I was kind of slowly just adapting vegan recipes into my week without even putting that much energy or recognition into what I was doing.

I asked a friend the other day if she was vegan and her response was, "You know I don't like labels." I love that answer! It's now my new answer. I eat what I eat. Rules and regulations and labels are the worst when it comes to this kind thing. I want to feel free to do what I want to do. But I'm pretty proud that right now I'm having vegetarian or vegan breakfast and lunch everyday while dinner is mostly a win but let's be real. I still like a hot dog, piece of chicken or shrimp on the grill, and steak on my Chipotle burrito bowl every now and then. I'm not planning to cut that out entirely.

So go be whatever you want to be, diet-wise. Pescatarian one day, vegan the next? Fine. Eat what makes your body feel good. 

 

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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.

 

 

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Go Gluten Free

Flash back to the first day I went grocery shopping with a gluten free diet in mind. I spent the 5 hour flight from Pittsburgh to San Francisco last Labor Day reading the book, It Starts With Food. Their approach to diet is strict paleo. No grains, no processed foods, no white sugar, I can go on... I was crazy overwhelmed by such a drastic diet change that just removing the gluten and dairy seemed easy in comparison. But their message was important — I could heal my body of disease by changing my diet. 

It was a scary idea. It would be the biggest change I'd make since being diagnosed but looking back, it's the best and easiest decision I've ever made.

I did paleo for about a week (failed on no grains!), added the dairy back in after about a month (I missed cheese!) but I've kept the gluten free going ever since. I eat plenty of quinoa, rice and even the occasional gluten free bread to make up for what I've given up. I noticed a huge difference in my body without it. I've been tested for allergies to wheat and not even an intolerance comes back, but it still changes everything. 

When you first start, the trick is to learn to eat properly without gluten free products first. They are typically higher in sugar and other junk that replace the gluten in their recipes. Once you've got the diet figured out without them, then you can add those products in as treats without being dependent.

Trust me, I am known to get local gluten free pizza from the local pizzeria once a week, eat a whole loaf of gluten free toast when I'm sick, or cook up quinoa or brown rice pasta for dinner often.

I also cheat on my GF diet altogether sometimes (office donuts are literally the worst temptation!) when the occasion calls for it but I can definitely feel it! Instead of getting a stomach ache like those with Celiac do, I feel brain fog, fatigue and heaviness in my shoulders and upper spine similar to feeling a caffeine withdrawal. The next morning my fingers are usually puffier and creakier. It all subsides but it's enough to keep me from cheating often or with big portions.

I could go on and on about the success I've had with removing gluten from my diet and what I've learned along the way but I'll break it up into future posts. For now, check out my Resources page for resources to get you inspired!

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Blood Type O+

just found out I’m blood type o+ and based on the beginning of my research this does not make me overly happy, seeing as i really love olives and avocados. i’ve seen multiple lists from different sources though, and can’t wait to talk to my aunt this weekend about her in depth knowledge on eating for your blood type. more to come… 

 

Type O

Type O is the oldest blood type in human history. Those with type O digest meat better than any other blood type. Unlike type A, type O people produce a lot of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. However, Type Os have a hard time digesting dairy products and food containing gluten. The best diet for a type O is a greater ratio of proteins and less dairy and gluten. It would be best to exclude all dairy and include gluten-free foods in your diet. Foods that will benefit a type O person include sea kelp, cod, bluefish, halibut, mackerel, pike, rainbow trout, red snapper, salmon, sardines, sole, striped bass, sturgeon, swordfish, tilefish, white perch, yellow perch, yellowtail, beef, buffalo, heart, lamb, liver, mutton, veal, venison, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Foods to avoid include wheat gluten, corn, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, sugar, white flout, bacon, goose, ham, pork, barracuda, catfish, caviar, conch, herring, lox, octopus, Brazil nuts, cashews, litchi, peanuts, peanut butter, pistachios, poppy seeds, bulgur wheat flour, couscous flour, durum wheat flour, graham flour, soba noodles, semolina pasta, sprouted wheat flour, white flour, whole wheat flour, avocado, cabbage, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, olives, potatoes and alfalfa sprouts.

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