It was about 6 years ago that I first began experiencing symptoms. After having my first baby, this post partum downward spiral hit at about 6 weeks post delivery. I couldn’t even get off the couch, my body lethargic, in pain and I knew that something wasn’t right.
Many doctor visits following that and they couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Finally, a test came back positive for Lyme’s Disease. At the time, I didn’t think much about it because so many people here in Wisconsin end up getting it. There was something that didn’t sit well with me with that diagnosis.
Fast forward almost a year and right around the time of my son’s first birthday, he decided to quit nursing. Within a week my strange symptoms returned but this time with added symptoms like painful, achy joints. I also had numbness in my left side of my body. Fevers and chills. Brain Fog and fatigue. A few weeks of living like this and I returned to the doctor. Many times. and Nothing.
Finally, 3 months later one doctor decided to run what’s called an ANA blood test. Lo and behold, it came back positive.
Cue the google searching.
That’s never a good idea. It sent me into a not great place of anger, denial and self pity. I pretended like I had nothing wrong with me. All while feeling like junk. I would then do a quick search on symptoms or prognosis which led me to anger and questioning, ‘why me?’
After another doctor visit my rheumatologist prescribed me medication and steroids. I remember standing at the counter at the pharmacy listening to the pharmacist rattle off all of the side affects. Weight gain, dizziness, irregular heartbeat.
My head was spinning.
I remember thinking to myself, ‘So, I might feel better from my diseases but a very common side affect is going blind…’
Cue the google searching.
‘Alternative ways to treat autoimmune diseases.’
Anti-inflammatory. Autoimmune Paleo. Gluten. Naturopathic. Holistic. Homeopathic. These are words that I may have heard in the past but never thought twice about. I researched. It. To. Death. I spent so much time reading from naturopathic doctors and nutritionists that have way more knowledge than I ever will.
The very top thing that was suggested was diet change. Cut out gluten. I read it so many times as it seems to be the top inflammatory food.
It wasn’t that hard. I did it more as an ‘I’ll try this and see how it goes thing’ and it’s stuck with me. I’ve cut out a lot more since then and altered the way our entire family eats.
I haven’t had near the joint pain that I had after my first flare up. I have had flare ups since (after baby #2 and baby #3) but nothing I couldn’t manage at home. I do still see my rheumatologist once a year for check ups and blood work as a precaution.
I do not know all of the science behind autoimmune diseases but I do know that my diet and lifestyle changes have DRASTICALLY improved my day-to-day. Do I still experience symptoms- Yes. Would I take medication if it was critical to my health- Yes.
Would I eat bread again if I could- Yes ;)
I am not a doctor or nutritionist but my advice to anyone that is dealing with autoimmune disease or just feeling fatigued or like they can’t eat healthy consistently or just anyone is to treat your body as a vessel. It needs fuel. It needs to be taken care of. You may not see the results right away but what you put in can be critical to how you live.
A few years ago I was so incredibly angry when I would see people at the grocery store checking out their food (Not in a judgy way…stick with me) Loading up the conveyor belt with pure JUNK without a care in the world. Without any health issues. Now, I know that I didn’t know these people or why they were purchasing these items but I was in a state of self-pity myself, angry with my diagnosis. I traveled in this state of anger whenever I’d see anyone not taking care of their bodies.
To be honest, I still feel that way sometimes. Most of the time I am more in a state of wanting to walk up to someone and say ‘BUY BETTER FOOD! YOUR BODY WILL THANK YOU!’ but I’m brought down by my rational side that knows that every person has the right to their own decisions and that is ok.
While my diet and lifestyle has changed, there is still this strange limbo of I look fine but some days, I just can’t. even. do. anything. The thing about autoimmune diseases is that, most of the time, they aren’t visible from the outside. You can’t see what’s happening on the inside where the body is basically attacking itself, wreaking havoc on whatever system it targets.
My autoimmune journey has been one filled with denial, anger and frustration but, to be honest, it has brought me to better health and whole body wellness than before my diagnosis.