A Story of Hope for the New Year
It is a New Year. Many of you will ring it in with a toast and a wish for a year filled with good health and happiness. You will once more set those resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier and do all it takes to reach your wellness goals-maybe even the same ones you set last year that have slipped away from you as life got in the way.
It can be frustrating and overwhelming when you are following the latest diet, exercising more and still not seeing results, especially if you are dealing with a debilitating disease. Many of you will just give up after the first couple of weeks or months.
You are not alone!
I hear the same story repeatedly from the clients that I work with. They call me in tears. They have tried everything with limited success. They are struggling with their weight, feeling depressed and lethargic- they don’t sleep well and have chronic pain and brain fog. They may even be diagnosed with a vague condition like chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia or have a life threatening disease such as cancer or autoimmune disease. They are told they just have to live with it and manage the symptoms with a powerful drug or surgery which can leave them feeling worse and lead to more debilitating symptoms.
Can you relate?
The following is an email I received from a client, Brandi, before we started working together. Brandi is a 35 year old mom from Minnesota. She gave me permission to share her story in the hopes that others suffering from similar health challenges might find hope and inspiration. Brandi had been diagnosed with Lupus, a year prior to working with me, and was desperate for help. She was referred to me by a friend who knew of my practice.
“In March of 2015, I woke up from a nap feeling like I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and they rushed me in for a CT scan. Everything seemed ok. Next thing you know, I’m having terrible and unexplainable sore throats. Rounds and rounds of antibiotics weren’t helping and I soon started developing hives, low grade fevers and joint pain. I thought I would lose my mind! I was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It took 5 minutes for the Rheumatologist to look at my chart and determine I had Lupus.
I’ve been put on multiple medications that have suppressed some of my symptoms, with the exception of the hives. I itch all day, all over, all the time. It makes me crazy! Worst of all, the only thing that takes the edge off is the Prednisone. I went from 124lbs to 158lbs. I’ve about given up on my Rheumatologist and Allergist. I can never get in touch with them and I am on 4-5 antihistamines a day and still not feeling better.
At this point, I’m feeling helpless and hopeless. I am not normally a pessimistic person, really, but this is beginning to take a toll on me and my family. I don’t want to continue on this path and I am sick of taking medications. I want to find a more holistic approach and I know my diet could use some changing, but it is all so overwhelming. I hate to admit it, but I am feeling so defeated.
I am 35 yrs. old, work full time and have 2 small boys. I don’t have time to be sick or the option to get sicker. I want to be as healthy as I can and stick around to drive these guys crazy for as long as I can!!”
Brandi and I worked together for several weeks, focusing on getting the inflammatory foods out of her diet that were causing her body to attack itself. We looked at how stress and sleep deprivation also contributed to the disease process and implemented strategies for slowing down and prioritizing the healing process.
Below is a recent email from Brandi, as she continues to integrate a healthier diet and more mindful approach to healing her body.
“My Lupus inflammation marker (hs-CRP, which is what my doctors have monitored closely) went from 136 in March of 2015 down to 1 in May of 2016. This has calmed many of the problems that were cropping up because of the Lupus/inflammation. My hair has started to come back and I have had little to no joint pain. My low grade fevers have also ceased. The digestive issues I was having such an awful time with have stopped! There’s no more bloating and gassiness. The constant swings between constipation and loose stools has stopped. I have lost (and kept off) 18 lbs. I very quickly lost 3 inches off my waist soon after changing my diet alone.
There simply aren’t words to say just how much this has impacted and changed my life completely. I feel better than I felt BEFORE I was diagnosed with lupus.
I’m not afraid to wake up in the morning and guess what new ache or pain I was going to have to deal with that day. Because I don’t have them! I’m confident that as long as I continue down this path I will be able to play and keep up with my boys, be able to work full time and just plain feel good. I had hit rock bottom both mentally and physically. I didn’t feel like things were ever going to get better. The Lupus was going to continue to flare. I was going to continue to gain weight. I was in a very negative state of mind.”
Brandi suffered from an autoimmune disease that affects more than one body system. It can involve your nervous system, joints, skin, and internal organs. All autoimmune diseases are similar in that they involve an immune response to inflammation that ultimately leads to your body attacking itself. These systemic immune responses are triggered when your body is trying to defend itself from a foreign invader such as an allergen, infections, toxins, or even food. The problem occurs when your body doesn’t successfully differentiate this invader from your own body tissue and turns on itself.
Brandi’s story is just one of many. We all have the power to completely turn our health around and don’t have to be sentenced to a life of pain and suffering. We just aren’t given the right information and tools to get there.
Below is a list of areas we addressed to help Brandi feel better and reverse the inflammatory fires that where triggering her disease. As with any medical condition, always work with your medical provider before making any changes and never discontinue medications or prescribed treatments on your own.
- Leaky Gut: Most people experiencing autoimmune disease have what we call leaky gut. This means that there has been damage to the gut lining and it becomes more permeable. This allows undigested food and toxins to seep directly into your blood stream which ultimately can trigger an inflammatory response that can lead to autoimmunity. With most chronic disease conditions, you must first heal your gut to heal yourself.
- Eat organic, real foods and remove the processed “fake” foods that your body doesn’t recognize as food. Focus on whole foods with fiber, good fats and protein.
- Eat Your Vegetables! We need at least 8 to 10 servings a day or more if you are on a healing diet. Cruciferous vegetables especially have been identified as having potent detoxifying and healing properties.
- Decrease Your Bodies Toxic Load: We are exposed to hundreds of toxins on a daily basis that are absorbed into our bodies and increase the risk of an autoimmune condition. If you are suffering from an autoimmune condition, it is important to find a practitioner who can test you for heavy metals and toxic substances that could be contributing to your symptoms. Also eat organic foods and avoid plastics and chemicals, i.e. don’t drink from plastic bottles; use only organic, non-toxic body care products and cleaning supplies.
- Get your Vitamin D level checked. The research on vitamin D is indisputable that people with vitamin D deficiency have a much higher risk of autoimmune disease and cancer. The optimal level is 50-70ng/ml and even higher for treatment of serious disease. The best way to elevate your level is through safe sun exposure and supplementing. The recommended dose has been substantially increased depending on your current levels, but can be as high as 10,000 IU’s a day if deficient. Ask your Doctor to check your D level so they can instruct you on how to safely supplement as needed.
- Get adequate sleep, ideally 7-9 hours a night in a dark room. Lack of sleep is associated with weight gain and an increased risk of disease. Sleeping in a dark room ensures adequate production of the hormone melatonin, which reduces the risk of disease. Quality sleep gives your body the time it needs to repair, rest and heal.
- De-stress! Chronic stress can take a serious toll on your body and has been known to trigger and intensify autoimmune disease. Treat yourself to a relaxing massage or yoga class. Learn to meditate. In fact, yoga and meditation improve mood and decrease stress by increasing the levels of GABA, an antidepressant neurotransmitter, in the brain.
If you or a friend need extra support in overcoming a health challenge, contact Mary Moskowitz MS CHC, an Integrative Health Coach. Mary works at the Integrative Health Center of Maine and specializes in thyroid, digestive issues and cancer. Sign up for a 90 minute Health Breakthrough Session at www.mainelyhealthandnutrition.com to learn how you can “get your life back” and have a healthy, happy New Year like Brandi!