This is one of those posts that I start to write and I decide to stop and hit Delete Delete Delete! I am veering from my usual DIY or design post today and I am talking about PALEO.
To some, those five letters are a dirty word and to others it has been a real lifesaver. I fall into the lifesaver crowd. I am going to share my disease with you today and why Paleo has saved my life. This is a post that is hard for me to write, but I do get questions from others suffering auto-immune illnesses on a regular basis. I am going to shed some light on what is working for me and hopefully give some hope to those of you who are suffering and not sure what to do.
After the birth of my first son, I was not happy with my appearance. I felt heavy and being a tall girl– heavy just isn’t that flattering. I discovered Weight Watchers and became a work out and health nut…or what I thought was healthy at the time. The results were pretty amazing and I lost 40 pounds. I was wearing a size 4 and a size 2 dress. I was almost too skinny when I look at pictures now.
A few years later I had my second child and I went on the Weight Watchers/work out train again and was back to my slender active self.
Things changed pretty rapidly though.
In 2009, at the age of 29, I started having some major issues. I wasn’t able to keep on any weight. It got so bad that I purposefully dressed in baggy tops to hide the bones that were sticking out everywhere. I was having chest pains all the time and major fatigue. I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with stress-induced depression and put me on a drug that made me lose even more weight. I was tired, blacking out and had 2 boys to take care of all day long.
After a year of this, I started having gastro-intestinal issues. I was having severe pain, inflammation, my fatigue at times lead me to not being able to get out of bed, and I had other symptoms that scared me to my core.
At the age of 30, after a colonoscopy and a CT-scan I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an auto-immune disease that attacks your intestines and can progress to other organs or cause Colon Cancer. I was quickly started on a regimen of drugs. Steroids and commonly prescribed medications for my disease were stopping some symptoms and adding new terrible ones. My energy was at an all-time low, and I was feeling like a slave to my disease. I had asked my doctors what kind of diet to have and got no help, except for them to say go on a “soft food diet” when I have a flare-up. They recommended Cream of Wheat, Ensure drinks, milkshakes, bananas, and broths.
After a year of this up and down roller-coaster, my husband started his own business and we had to shop for private health insurance. No one would insure me because of my chronic pre-existing condition. I only went to the doctor, usually the ER, when it was really bad and they would send me home with my steroids and pain killers.
I tried to follow what I was told was a healthy diet for someone with my condition and found minimal success with it. My frustration with Crohn’s was at an all-time high. I prayed all the time for God to take this from me. I cried a lot, especially when I was alone. It was ruling my life. I had to cancel plans all the time and didn’t leave the house much. My whole body was in pain every single day and my hair was falling out. I always felt like I had a severe flu. I would go a couple of weeks feeling what my “new normal” was and then have a major flare that would put me completely out. I was getting migraines on a regular basis and at a loss thinking of what else I could do.
Little did I know, that losing my health insurance was a blessing in disguise. I was frustrated with the care I was receiving anyways. Doctors just wanted to prescribe me the next drug on the ladder of Crohn’s medications and they were no help with diet. One refused to see me anymore because I stopped taking one of the medications she prescribed. It wasn’t that big of a deal because the medications weren’t doing me any favors and were expensive. I really didn’t want to pay out-of-pocket for things that weren’t beneficial anyways.
I felt like a desperate woman though. I had two little boys depending on me and needed to find something to give me some healing.
I started going to online Crohn’s and Colitis support groups and reading up on alternative supplements and diets. One thing I learned is that everyone hated the medications. All of them said they felt worse and never got any better. It was a constant sharing of medication side effects. Can we say red flag anyone? My first step into taking control of this disease was to get off all the medications.
Next, I experimented with elimination diets and gluten-free diets and found a little relief, but I was still suffering. I started a daily regimen of supplements to try to help replenish what I had lost. I highly recommend Isontonix (the iron-free version).
Some days were really hard still. I kept a smile on my face when I had to be out in social situations but I was feeling weak, exhausted and not myself. When I was having a flare, my stomach would stick out like I was pregnant. I had spent the past couple years not having enough energy to properly exercise. I felt unattractive and out of shape. Dave always told me I was beautiful, but I was tired of my weight fluctuating 10 -20 pounds up and down all the time and still had some side effects that were upsetting. I always had size 4-size 8 jeans on hand just because it changed all the time.
It wasn’t until this year that I found something that has changed my life for the better. 2014 came and I just had enough of this disease!
After reading and studying foods and diets endlessly, I felt it necessary to begin the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. It is a very restrictive diet. Basically, just lean meat, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats. I found Mickey Trescott’s Auto-immune Paleo Cookbook and got started. That got me through and gave me lots of recipes to use and information to read about how the body heals and how to improve your immune system through food.
After 1-month on the diet, I was almost symptom free!!! I could not believe it!!!
After almost 4 years of battling this disease and feeling like it was winning, I had a glimmer of hope again. At the 6 week mark, I started re-introducing foods I had went without. My first trigger was dairy. Next, gluten. I also learned that some meats, especially beef that was grain-fed was a big no-no.
I have learned a lot on my journey with food. I have embraced a Paleo lifestyle because it works for me. My body heals on this diet. I don’t do grains, most nuts, dairy, or gluten. By eliminating those foods I have energy and can live symptom free. I buy organic and only grass-fed meats which are a little heavier on the pocket-book, but worth every penny.
If you would have asked me a year ago if I thought this was possible I would have said NO WAY. It is a night and day difference.
Stress does play a role in my disease, but I am learning to find more balance in my life.
I have energy to work out! I have recently been able to run again and I am working out almost everyday…something I could not do just a few months ago.
I was so happy today, when I went to the bookstore and saw Danielle Walker’s new book on the shelf. I grabbed Against All Grain with the enthusiasm of a child reaching for an ice cream cone! Against All Grain is a great blog full of Paleo recipes created by Danielle who has had a battle with Ulcerative Colitis. She is winning that battle with her Paleo recipes. All the recipes in her new book are gluten, grain, and dairy-free too which is perfect for my diet. I cannot wait to dig in!
I really believe that modern medical practices are missing the root of the problem for these auto-immune intestinal disorders. I am proof that diet and where our foods come from make a difference. It will not be the same for everyone. I do encourage you to take charge and work on discovering what works for you. A Paleo diet has been found to be beneficial for all sorts of conditions; some being auto-immune intestinal diseases, other auto-immune diseases, and allergies.
I have to say that being grounded in Christ has gotten me through the really dark times. Even when I was begging with the Lord to take this from me, I was reminded of his love and the fact that maybe there is a reason I am supposed to have this. I have also been blessed to have the most supportive husband in the world to care for me and love me even when I was not that loveable.
I have had others not understand my disease and it has been at times cruel, but it has been an education. Not everyone is going to want to understand your disease.
It is hard sometimes, when everyone around me is eating foods that I once loved. I have let myself indulge from time to time. On Mother’s Day, I had a couple non-Paleo meals but I think that will be the extent of it. I just am feeling too good on Paleo to mess that up!
Thanks for letting me share with you today! If you are considering a Paleo lifestyle or suffering from a chronic disease, there are things you can try besides your prescribed medications. You have the power to decide what is right for you and your body. I hope you can pass this along to someone who would find it beneficial.
Paleo has really been a lifesaver for me and has given me the ablility to live a full and active life. I ran 3 miles today and still had energy to burn!! That is something that I could not do that long ago.
I would encourage you to check out these resources if you are considering Paleo for auto-immune diseases:
Against All Grain
The Whole 30
I would also encourage you to read Danielle Walker’s story. It does show the reality of Colitis and Crohns disease. It is all too familiar to me. My mom suffered most of her adult life with Ulcerative Colitis and now I have experienced first hand with Crohn’s what these diseases can do.
I am so thankful to Danielle for sharing her story and being transparent enough to bring that public and create recipes for people who share the same problems.
I am not Paleo or the highway, but I would encourage you to try it if you want to explore a natural approach to healing your body.
Thanks for letting me share a bit of my struggles with you today. I am happy to say that Paleo is working for me!! Who knows, maybe I’ll get crazy up in here and start sharing some of my go-to Paleo creations!