Moderation doesn’t work when your immune system is bonker balls

We all grew up hearing “everything in moderation” which to me meant the world and all its food are your oyster just don’t reload your plate.  I think this message is fine if not a little ineffective (hello startling national health statistics) but if I took it to heart I wouldn’t be where I am today, remission.

You see the biggest step I’ve taken in my healing was finding out my food sensitivities and eliminating them from my diet. This meant I took out gluten/wheat, eggs, soy, corn, and dairy from my diet for an entire month and then one-at-a-time slowly added each ingredient back in to find out how my body responded. Turns out my body does not do well with dairy, eggs, and gluten aka a breakfast taco.

After the required mourning period, I got real about keeping those things out of my diet. Cooking at home is the best thing I can do because I know what is going in my food but when I go out to eat I have to be that person. You know the person we vilify in pop culture that makes the server swear on his mother’s grave that the food they are contemplating ordering hasn’t even so much as looked at gluten, eggs, or dairy? Yeah, now I get to be that person. At first, I always gave this fast mumbling excuse about my autoimmune diseases which just made things way WAY more awkward. But now I’ve been on this bandwagon so long I can’t be bothered to make anyone else comfortable because the stakes are just too high for me.

When I eat gluten my chest tightens up, my joints ache, and my anxiety increases often followed by depression. When I eat dairy I end up with a bunch of mucous and a migraine. When I eat eggs I look about 4 months pregnant and am not a fun to ride in a car with, if ya know what I mean.  These symptoms suck but they are really just the tip of the iceberg.

These sensitivities are an indication that I have leaky gut which means proteins from these foods leave my digestive track and leak into my body and my body responds-rightly so- by engaging my inflammatory response. One bagel could have by immune system going bonker balls for months.  There is just no room for moderation here.

Diet isn’t the only thing I have to watch, stress and toxins are important too, but if I’m not diligent with what I put into my body I suffer and suffer and suffer. This isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to schlep all the food I can eat across the state every holiday. It’s not easy watching everyone else eat at functions while my stomach growls. It’s not easy having to be on my guard around food all the time. But in the end, my quality of life is worth it.  Being in remission is worth it. And there is nothing moderate about that.

Using delicious fish to fight your inflammation!

 

Have you ever noticed how bears never get autoimmune disease? Okay, I don’t actually know if that’s true, but I’m going to guess that this fella above and his buddies are pretty darn healthy. That’s because they are gorging themselves on some of the earth’s most powerful forms of omega 3 fatty acids.

While I have been a plant eater for the majority of my life, as I’ve gotten more in tune with my body I’ve found that my sweet spot is eating mostly plant-based with the occasional high-quality animal protein. Sometimes this looks like pasture-raised beef, chicken, or pork a few times a month, but mostly, like that bear, my go-to is fish — specifically fish that is high in omega 3 and low in mercury such as wild-caught salmon, Pacific-caught sardines, farmed rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel.

The good news about fish…

I eat these fish because they are delicious but also because the omega 3 fatty acids in them reduce inflammation. For those of us with autoimmune disease, we know that the key to feeling good is to reduce the inflammation in our bodies. Omega 3 fatty acids do that by influencing our inflammatory cells.  When we eat foods with omega 3 fatty acids or take supplements, those fats go into our cells that are causing us so much pain and sickness and say, “You can relax now.” How amazing is that? One study looking at the impact of omega 3 on autoimmune disease reported that:

“[m]any of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefit, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.”

That alone is motivation enough to add in a dose of high omega 3 fish into your diet. Am I right?

Wild-caught salmon have some of the highest levels of omega 3s out there, for one 3-ounce cooked piece you can get upwards of 1,500 milligrams of omega 3s.  Canned sardines can give you up to 1,000 milligrams per a 3-ounce serving.  Check out these recipes for quick ways to add salmon and sardines to your week.

But

The bad news about fish…

Omega 3s are the good news, but when it comes to fish, there is also some bad news. Due to humans dirtying up the planet, high levels of mercury have made their way into the ocean and into the bodies of marine life.  This is a problem because when we eat the fish we are being exposed to that mercury. And mercury exposure can cause inflammation and may even be the culprit behind some people’s autoimmune disease. On top of all that, it can cause neurological problems, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, etc., etc.

So before you go to town eating fish every day to reduce your inflammation, remember that you have to balance the two. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent tool to help you do just that. This calculator will tell you which fish you can safely eat and how much you can eat each week to avoid getting too much mercury.

What do you think? Is fish your thing? Do you think about the mercury in your food? Do you think about getting omega 3 on a daily basis? Let me know in the comments below.

A few of my favorite (free) things

I’m ramping up to do a blog series on alternative healing modalities like massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy and how those therapies can contribute to our healing. But before I started all that, I wanted to acknowledge the costly elephant in the room of autoimmune disease: being chronically ill can be pricey. From missed time at work to out-of-pocket medical expenses, the price tag for the autoimmune disease can get expensive, depending on your type of insurance and access to medical care. When you add alternative methods of healing to the traditional medical model, the money adds up fast.

While I deeply believe that every dollar I’ve ever spent on my healing was well worth it, I also want to control that cost as much as possible. Over the years I’ve discovered how I could give myself the best care while saving some money along the way. I’ve written several posts on how to reduce your spending while striving to clean up your eating and environment, but today I want to share those things that are free. We are lucky to live in a time when a wifi connection and a device of some kind can open up a world of quality teachers to assist you in your healing.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the best things out there to reduce pain, detoxify, and help heal our broken relationship with our bodies. And for my money…um…time, Yoga with Adriene is the best way to get all those benefits without having to go to a studio. She offers a variety of videos for free from yoga for weight loss to yoga when you are angry and several yoga challenges.  But the best thing is that you get an authentic teacher who is clearly passionate about bringing the healing power of yoga to everyone while having fun. I don’t know about you, but fun isn’t something I think of when I think yoga. But Adriene Mishler makes it happen.  So even if you think you hate yoga, give Yoga with Adriene a try. I promise you will find something useful.

Meditation

There have been hundreds of studies that have found that meditation does many positive things for us, from increasing our compassion to improving our health. For those of us with autoimmune disease, meditation can help to reduce our stress, inflammation, and decrease our fears. For beginners to meditation, the Headspace app is a great tool. Each guided meditation is 10 minutes long. The app is technically not free, but it offers 10 days of free meditation and you can take those 10 free days over and over again. The Calm app is also another great guided meditation tool with some free features. Like Headspace, it is a paid service with free guided meditations, but what they offer for free is quality guided meditations full of useful information.

Workouts

Working out is extremely important for those of us with autoimmune disease because it helps to reduce inflammation and to increase our levels of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?  Gyms are often a good place to go to get your workout on, but they can be expensive. And if you take classes, you have to work around their schedule.  This is why I really like Fitness Blender. This free, online resource has a plethora of fitness videos in a variety of styles and times. The search feature should be the poster child for all searches. Only have a 20 minutes to do a full body workout for beginners? No problem. Just input your requirements and find a workout that’s right for you.

 

Chronic illness can be so expensive, but supporting your body doesn’t have to be. I would love to know what you think of these resources. Have you tried any? Have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Four tips for preventing sun-induced flairs

Does the image above scare you a bit? Then, friend, you and I have something in common. The sun can be a real jerk for those of us with an autoimmune disease. This is what the doctors refer to as photosensitive, i.e. sun exposure causes you to flare up and/or get a lovely rash.

At the peak of my illness, the sun took me down more times than I can remember. If I stood in full sun during a warm day for just a few minutes, I would start to feel sick and then be down for a while. The problem is that I like to be outside and sometimes I have to be outside because my small children need more things to destroy and they have already finished with the house. I’ve tried sun protective clothing, but it made me super hot, completely defeating the point.

Since I live in Central Texas and most days fall under the “sunny day” category, I thought that I had lost my outside forever. But over time I’ve found a few things that make it possible for me to get outside time while keeping my symptoms at bay.

  1. Shade is your friend. Shade allows you to be outside without the full brunt of the sun, and it’s way cooler. We have cultivated some nice shady places to hang out in the backyard, and I have a mental map of all the parks and pools in town and how they rank on my shade-o-meter. In fact, I just got back from a hiking vacation where we decided our hikes based on the amount of shade. Look for it, love it, and totally be that person that waits or drives around the parking lot for that one shady space in the parking lot. You can tell anyone that complains to take it up with me.
  2. Embrace the old southern lady look. You need to run out today and buy a gardening hat al la Ouiser and wear it when you are moving between shady areas. A wide brim helps to protect some of your sensitive skin will creating some shade.
  3. Protect yourself in the car. Tint your car windows to their legal limit. One year my husband got all my window tinted as a Christmas present, and I couldn’t have been happier. It has made all the difference in the world. I may look like a mob boss driving around, but the relief is well worth it. Also, use a windshield shade to reduce the heat in your car.
  4. Be strategic about your sun. Don’t go outside during the hottest part of the day unless you have to. I make plans for the morning and for the evening. And if I do have to go outside any other time I a.) plan for shade (see #1); b.) wear my hat (see #2) and maybe even long sleeves; and c.) limit my time significantly, i.e. when I start to feel uncomfortable, I’m out of there.

Living with autoimmune disease can be challenging, and not just in that chronic- pain-and-illness-frequent-trips-to-the-doctor kind of way. It can also be limiting in that I-just-want-to-feel-like-a-normal-person-way. Being holed up in the house all the time can definitely make you feel less than normal. But being prepared and smart about your sun exposure can help you to protect yourself and make it possible to be amongst the living.

Let me know what you think and what your biggest sun challenges are in the comments below.

 

 

 

Five tips for elimination diet success!

An elimination diet changed my life, and I’m not even being dramatic here. After struggling to find out what diet worked best for me, I took the time to do what amount to a two-month experiment to find out what was harming my body. This has lead to so much freedom and healing.

What is an elimination diet? It’s is simply removing certain types of food from your diet completely for a certain period of time and then adding those foods back to your diet one at a time to figure out which foods are problematic for you.

“Could you be more vague?” you might ask. And the answer is yes, but I won’t.

You see there are tons of elimination diets out there. The popular Whole30 is essentially an elimination diet. It allows some foods other programs restrict and restricts foods others leave in.  I did an elimination diet that removed five foods — wheat, soy, eggs, corn, and dairy — recommended by Dr. Blum in her book the Immune System Recovery Plan. 

Dr. Blum’s is just one of many elimination diets created to help people with autoimmune disease. The most popular is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet which removes several foods like nightshades, grains, legumes. It can be followed for several months to help heal the gut, but the ultimate goal is to reintroducing foods to see what triggers you and what does not.

So which one is right for me — or you? It really is what resonates with you and what you feel you can be successful at. I think part of the beauty of most elimination diets is that it gets you cooking and eating whole foods.  I chose to do the program I did because, at the time, I knew that that was what I had the energy for and could stick to it. Luckily, it out really well for me and is one of the main reasons my gut is healing and I’m in remission. One day I may do the Autoimmune Protocol Diet just to see if I can’t crank up this energy even more.

No matter what you chose here are some tips to make sure you are successful.

  1. Time it well. Pick a good time to do the diet, starting with the main period you will be eliminating and the period you will be testing. While you certainly can do any diet over the holiday season it’s hard not to feel resentful of everyone around you.
  2. Get your people on board. Tell your partner, kids, roommates, and BFF what’s going on and ask them for their support. They may want to join in too. This is also a good time to ask them, very politely, not to bring any crap (especially crap you love) into the house/office for a period of time.
  3. Approach this with your glass half full. One thing that really sustained me was not to think about what I couldn’t eat but rather what I could. I took the ingredients I had to work with and made some masterpieces. It may have been my most creative period to date.
  4. Distribute the work. While you are in your planning phase, make sure to keep a list of meal ideas that you can refer to when meal planning or looking for something to eat.
  5. Remember the why! This goes for any challenge. Before you begin, write down exactly why you are doing this “crazy thing” and put it in your face. Tape it to your computer, to the bathroom mirror, over your bed, on your kid’s forehead…or not. You get it, right? Keep that intention in the forefront of your mind to get you through when it’s hard.

If you have an autoimmune disease, an elimination diet is essential to improving the quality of your life. If you think you may need extra support, contact me for a free consult to see if I’m the lady you are looking for to help you reach your health goals.

Lupus Awareness Month: My Life with Lupus

This month is Lupus Awareness month which, as the Lupus foundation of America puts it, is meant to “increase public understanding of this cruel and mysterious disease that ravages different part of the body.”  It’s a noble cause, but it will always come up short when trying to explain what it means to live with the disease.  Even those of us with a Lupus diagnosis can’t have a complete grasp of what the disease means for someone else because it’s as individual as it is cruel. However different our experiences with the disease are, I imagine we all share that invisible line –the line that separates our lives before the diagnosis and our new life after we discover what has been wreaking havoc. For me, that line was formed after what felt like

For me, that line was formed after what felt like millionth visit to a specialist when I was told that it was Lupus. This was the reason my body was attacking itself. This was the reason I was sick all the time. This was the reason I slept for hours on the weekend and felt like I was walking through a fog. My world quickly became about finding the right drugs, many prescriptions of prednisone, supplements that caused flairs, and a general disdain for all “magic bullets” that everyone felt so compelled to share with me. Plaquinel caused unbelievable itching, but low-dose naltrexone worked despite the month or two of super weird dreams. Things were manageable.

But I knew I needed to do more. Having just worked with my health coach on thyroid disease, I had learned that food was medicine, that health was far more than just food and exercise, and that a solution was out there. I just had to honor my intuition and find it.

Today I’m in remission, but I would be lying if I said that Lupus didn’t still play a major role in my life. It is, in many ways, my main motivator. It keeps me listening to my body and eating and living in a way that supports my health.  It’s also the reason I do what I do — why I gave up a career I worked so hard for to become a practitioner in the little know field of health coaching.

While I shy away from completely calling this diagnosis a blessing, I do know that it has molded my life into something I would have never imagined. And for that, I’m pretty grateful.

I would love to hear your story. Let me know what that line was like for you in the comments below.

I’m in remission and it feels so good

20170215_134731I am in remission! This is a happy, happy day for me, as you can tell from the above reenactment picture.

I knew I was in remission: I hadn’t had a flare in years, I am not moving through the world as if I’m underwater, I don’t spend my weekends sleeping, and I’ve not dealt with crippling depression brought on my feeling that my body was breaking down. But now — now I have the proof.  My ANA, the antinuclear antibody test that allows doctors to see the body’s autoimmune response, showed no indication of my body attacking itself.

This isn’t the first time my ANA came out clean, but at that time my doctor (who thought my diet and lifestyle changes were silly) basically said it was a fluke. But it’s not a fluke. It is the results of changing the way I eat, the way I move, and the way I process the world. It is the result of loving myself enough to do the work.  Also, I triple checked with my new, wonderful doctor and she told me it wasn’t a fluke. So there you go!

When I compare my health now to my health a few years ago, I am amazed at how far I have come.  I’m grateful that I didn’t listen to my doctor when he said it was a fluke, that I worked with an amazing health coach that set me on my path, and that I did the work I had to do to heal my body.

How about you? Are you ready to do the work you need to do to find healing? Contact me today for a free consultation.