Listen to your Body’s Whispers, Before They Become Screams

As I lie in bed recovering from the virus that is currently making the rounds, I thought perhaps this is a good time to share the things I’m doing to get well. I suspect many others are affected by this crummy virus too.

Let me begin by mentioning that last Thursday was World Arthritis Day. What does that have to do with why I’m sick? In a nutshell, everything. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed two years ago. At the time, I thought life as I knew it was over. I was told to stop running and I was devastated. After my initial pity party, I decided I refused to accept that. I found an amazing support group filled with people who still run. We support one another and cheer each other on through the good days and bad. Most people would have no idea I have RA because I’m as active as I am. What they don’t see are the days I struggle to walk down the stairs, they have no idea the days my feet hurt so bad that it feels like every bone in my feet are broken and walking is excruciatingly painful. I suffer in silence as so many of us affected do. Nobody knows what it takes for me to run a race. How much of a toll it takes on my body. Because I don’t complain – there are so many worse off than me. Those of us who suffer from RA or the myriad of autoimmune diseases are warriors. We are fighters who live with a crippling disease of which there is no cure. We all belong to a club we don’t want to be a member of but we make the best of things and go about life suffering in silence. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Now back to what RA has to do with why I’m sick. I am suffering from an arthritic flair which started this week. This should have been a clue to me my immune system was going haywire but… here I am. I should have listened to my body. Because I didn’t, I am writing this blog from my bed. And now I’ll share what I should have done and what I’m doing now to recover.

Usually when I feel a flare coming on, I step up the turmeric, I take boswelia, ginger and borage, steep astragalus root tea and take ashwaganda. I also make a huge batch of Rebecca Katz’s Magic Mineral Broth (see link to recipe below) drink my healing smoothies (from the Wahl’s Protocol), drink golden milk and rest. Fortunately I did make a huge batch of my broth last week – didn’t start drinking it until yesterday. Life happens, we get busy and complacent. The problem with being complacent, for me, is my health suffers greatly. I cannot afford to slip however I am human and I do. And then I deal with the consequences, get back on track and move on.

Today I am feeling a little better. I am making smart choices and resting my body. Walking down the stairs is painful, my body aches, my throat hurts and I’m tired. But… I’m feeling better. Normally I wouldn’t bounce back as quickly. Through this journey, I’ve discovered how to heal my body by eating the right food, taking the right supplements and staying active. These are the things that work for me. I’m a huge proponent of eating to get and stay well. Of eating with purpose. And it’s not something I do on my own. I am guided by my doctors and then take what I’ve learned and do the research so I can follow what they insist I do to stay healthy or as healthy as I can. If you are struggling with an autoimmune or just can’t seem to get over illness after illness, seek out an integrative medicine doctor. I promise you will be glad you did.

And now for those links I promised:

https://www.rebeccakatz.com/magic-mineral-broth/

https://whole30.com

https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/immune-supporting-astragalus-tea/

http://www.gaiaherbs.com/products/detail/774/Golden-Milk

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The Day the Music Died

While I normally post about food and exercise and dealing with an autoimmune disease, yesterday was such a profound day of loss, I had to switch gears a little just this once and I hope that’s ok.

Yesterday was a sad day. The day the music died. I was trying to put into words why I was hit so hard by Tom Petty’s death or by the shooting in Las Vegas. I mean, I never met Tom but his music was with me most of my life and his music carried me through and defined moments in my life. So many memories… And to see him in concert was pure magic. And I didn’t know anyone at the concert in Vegas. And yet it was a tragedy that hit us as a nation hard. And I mourn. We all mourn. As a nation, and as fans.

I awoke this morning feeling the world off-kilter because life is forever changed. And for me, this is yet one more sad change in a sea of change – one more thing, one more person, one more change to mourn. So last night was one of wine and Tom Petty songs and Las Vegas news as we worked through our grief.

Today my world, OUR world is a little darker. We mourn and we weep. And we wonder why. And there are no answers. No right or wrong way to feel. In this moment of time we must be especially kind to one another. Yesterday there was such love in action. Strangers caring for strangers, sharing grief. Loving one another. We must continue to help each other through. Give blood, give of your time and your treasure. Be there for others. Share stories and remember. Most importantly, we must continue to enjoy and experience and share music with others. To not be afraid to congregate in a large group and do just that. And so, I end this with my favorite Tom Petty song:

Alright for Now
Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love
May God watch over you from above
Tomorrow I’m workin’ what would I do
I’d be lost and lonely if not for you

So close your eyes
We’re alright for now

I’ve spent my life travelin’
Spent my life free
I could not repay all you’ve done for me

So sleep tight baby
Unfurrow your brow
And know I love you
We’re alright for now
We’re alright for now

 

A Happy Anniversary to Me and My Blog!

It has been one year since I started this blog. Amazing how time flies! Because of the health issues I’ve experienced and how I learned to cope and heal, I felt the need to help others. To share what I learned and not only be an inspiration to others but a resource as well. And I hope I have done just that.

I remember being handed information as to what to eat and not eat to manage my illness and I felt lost and overwhelmed. Thankfully I’m ever the planner and did a lot of research on how to eat this way – especially when my diet was very restricted. But I felt so alone on my journey. And it’s not that I didn’t have the support of my family and friends. But unless you’ve been there. Truly been there, you don’t know. You can still eat like a normal person. You can choose to eat the way I do or not. I don’t have that luxury. I mean, I can choose to ignore the plan but the consequences for me are serious.

What have I learned/done this past year?

1 –  I LOVE trying new recipies. I’ve continued to follow Against all Grain but I’ve also discovered resources such as the Whole30, Nom Nom Paleo, Physicalkitchness, Iheartumami and countless others. I follow them religiously and love their recipes and encouragement. I also just finished reading The Wahl’s Protocol and am having fun incorporating what I learned into my diet. Yes, this CAN be done!

2 – I’ve discovered a love for things such as my instant pot and spiralizer and the importance of having the right tools for the job. Unfortunately I have a love for all things kitchen-related. But these tools I’m addicted to are used often and loved. I did NOT blow up my house with the instant pot as I feared last year. Instead it has cut my Sunday prep time in half. And Kitchenaid mixer and all your attachments, where have you been all my life?

3 – Organization is key! Each week I sit down and plan my meals. ALL of my meals for each day of the week. By planning and shopping accordingly, we do not have food waste in our house. One meal turns into the next and last night’s dinner can become tomorrow’s lunch or even breakfast. And when all else fails and I’m tired at the end of the day, we have “clean out the fridge” night and I put an egg on it! Those dinner bowls with a fried egg on top have become some of my favorite meals.

4 – This isn’t always easy but that’s ok. I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. And a minor setback is just that.

5 – I rediscovered my love for running. It keeps my mind clear and my body active. I was told, because of my RA, I needed to stop running. I was devastated and then came across this wonderful support group  of people with RA WHO STILL RUN!! They inspire me. We inspire and support one another. They were one of my lifelines and I’m forever grateful. In this past year I’ve run countless 5k’s, two 10 k’s, a 12k and a half marathon. I mentored a running group and ran through illness, arthritic pain, a cracked rib and a separated shoulder. I ran when I was happy, angry or sad. I always say my integrative doctor saved my life two years ago but this past year it was running that saved me. Find what activity makes you happy and DO IT! Movement is so important. Especially for something as debilitating as RA and fibromyalgia. My body used to be so stiff and it hurt to the touch. I’m not saying I don’t still have those days but they are few and far between because I stay in motion.

6 – I’ve learned patience with myself. And to accept and love myself as I am. This past year I finally learned that what others think doesn’t matter. What counts is how I feel about myself. That I’m strong and capable and can do anything I set my mind to. I’m my own damn superhero! And you can be as well. Positive self talk and a positive attitude are everything!

7 – Real food, HEALTHY food tastes good. Paleo, along with my other food limitations doesn’t mean eating styrofoam. We eat a balanced, healthy diet that was created for me to remove inflammation from my body and keep my immune system intact. Everything tastes AMAZING! And most of the time, my family doesn’t realize they are eating “healthy.”

8 – Thanks to three very special people in my life (all colleagues and dear friends), I rediscovered my faith. I spent so much time being angry. I kept saying Why me,  It’s not fair. And then one day it all clicked. I realized I wasn’t being punished. That there maybe was a reason to all of this and I was meant to help people. I went from being unable to pray to being so incredibly thankful for the many gifts in my life, including my life. It was in that moment of clarity I decided to create this blog. That my purpose was to help others struggling with their health. To provide the love and support that was shown me.

Life is this crazy journey of ups and downs and even sideways. And it’s what we learn from those moments that count. There will be failures but so many more gifts and successes than not. I’ve discovered my voice and that people want to hear what I have to say. That you CAN change the course of your health by eating deliberately. I’m living proof. I’m alive because of those changes.

I thank all of you for your love and support of my blog. This year has been a journey and a HUGE learning curve for me, and it continues to be. But it has been a gift and a joy to share my life with you. I don’t know what’s next but I do know I want to continue to teach and inspire people. The how and what I haven’t yet quite figured out. So until I do, I will continue to write and share and encourage because eating to change your health is something I feel strongly about. And a happy anniversary to me and my blog. And remember, if I CAN do it, so CAN you!

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To the Finish Line and Beyond

My doctor suggested I read a book called “The Wahls Protocol” and I’m already fascinated and I’m just on chapter one! As most who know me know, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and something called ABPA. I am lucky in that I’ve been able to manage both through what I eat – a strict paleo diet and after a very difficult year am now off all meds. A miracle? Sure. But also a lot of hard work. A passage that spoke to me from her book: “You are made of cells…Cells come in different sizes and shapes and they all do different things, but they are, essentially, the building blocks that make up our bodies… They need certain nutrients in order to do the work of keeping you alive and healthy. Without those nutrients, the cells begin to malfunction, even die. Where do those nutrients come from? They come from the food you eat, nowhere else… Your genetics may determine WHAT goes wrong but when the cells aren’t getting what they need, the body doesn’t work right and something (usually many something’s) will go wrong somewhere.”

“People often wonder whether health is mostly a matter of genetics. Do your cells work well or poorly depending on your DNA? If it were up to your genes, then what you eat and how you live wouldn’t matter very much. However, we know this isn’t the case.”

Wow! Just wow! I’m living proof of this. I went from being very ill two years ago to sitting in the car traveling to run a half marathon in three days. I was once so ill that, at the rate I was declining and had someone very dear to me not stepped in, I would not be here today. I’m certain of it. I was then referred to a Functional Medicine doctor who saved my life through diet and supplements. Of this I am sure. I went from being bedridden and weak with such bad thrush I couldn’t eat. The oral thrush then moved into my esophagus; a testament to how very sick I was. The very medications I was being given to cure me were slowly poisoning me.

I’ve written about the struggle to be weaned off prednisone. It was hell. There were days I didn’t want to continue but I knew deep down I had no choice so each taper I fought through the extreme pain -my body hurt to the touch, every joint hurt terribly. The mood swings were awful, I couldn’t sleep or eat. By the time things settled down, it was time for the next taper. And so it went for a year until I was finally free of all meds and, to this day almost eight months later, still am.

I’ve been training for this run for months. I’ve trained through minor health setbacks, including a cracked rib and a separated shoulder. I’ve trained through sinus infections and asthma attacks. And through it all I’ve managed to push through and move forward, one mile at a time.

This is not my first half marathon. My first was four years ago – right before all of this began. But this one is most important to me. Because, you see, I’m me again. I’m strong and healthy. I’m a little battle worn but isn’t anyone who has fought such a battle and won? I’m proud of how very far I’ve come in such a relatively short amount of time. I am a fighter. And I believe with all my heart and soul where I am is because of how and what I eat. And this is why I write this blog. Why I passionately share with anyone who will listen.

To come to terms with what I’ve been through I had to believe there was a purpose to all of this. And my purpose is to pay it forward. To be that person to someone in need. To share what I’ve learned and perhaps make it easier for others. So that even if just one person knows they are not alone and can do this, then all of this will not have been in vain.

And as I cross that finish line on Sunday, I know there will be tears but they will be tears of joy. Of triumph. I’m not just running this race for me but for the many who have been there with and for me the last two years. Those of you reading this know who you are. The ones who prayed with me, cried with me, made me laugh, helped me with my workload, just simply loved me… you will all be with me on Sunday.

I am ever grateful to you all.

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I’ve Lost the Will to Live…

I’ve lost the will to live… that’s what I told myself at mile 7 of my 9 mile run last week. I was so wiped out, I pondered Ubering home but then my inner stubbornness kicked in and I finished my run.  Today was mile 10 day. I felt great the ENTIRE run. No willing myself to die this time. Why the huge difference, I asked myself.  The difference is routine,  consistency and discipline. I allowed myself to fall out of routine and THAT was the game changer.

When training for a big race or just eating Paleo in general, routine and discipline is key.  It’s important you eat right – natural, healthy food that will fuel your body. You must stay hydrated. And I’m not talking the night before your big workout. Daily Hydration helps your body function properly, it flushes the toxins out of your body, it also gives you good skin. For those of you looking for the fountain of youth or who ask why I have such a nice complextion, I’ll tell ya that fountain of youth is no further than the water on your refrigerator door, faucet, etc. Limit your alcohol consumption or cut it completely. I promise you will survive; a glass of sparkling water with lime is just as refreshing. Lastly, make sure you are getting enough sleep and also allow your body time to rest. Rest days are built into a training program for a reason. And if you are injured, for Pete’s sake, allow your body to heal (yes I hear your groans friends and family…). I don’t always follow this. I’m recovering from a cracked rib and separated shoulder and am currently only allowed to walk/run until I’m fully rehabbed. And you know what? My pace has decreased because I’m allowing my body to heal!! Allow your body to heal. It will thank you.

Every run/workout is different. You will have good days and bad ones. But you can increase your odds of good workouts by taking care of your body. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.

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Paleo and traveling

This time of year, we all have trips on the mind. Hopefully not the trip I had a couple of weeks ago. Right down the stairs. Cracked a rib, had a mild concussion and a HUGE contusion on my leg. But back to trips of the fun kind. If you are like me and on a special diet, there is an element of planning you must do. Long gone are the days of just hopping in a car or a plane and just grabbing a bite. I can’t trust I will find what I need so here is what I do. Yup, more planning:

Whether traveling by car or plane, bring food with you. The length of the trip determines what I bring. If I’m traveling by car, I like to bring a cooler with some already prepped food: eggs, compliant lunch meat, lettuce, bacon, my ranch dressing, chopped or roasted veggies. I also bring nuts, Lara Bars, beef jerkey, plantain chips and almond butter. This way, no matter where I am, if I’m in a pinch I can make a meal. Here’s an example of what I take with me. I fill a larger container with some of my provisions. It goes from my fridge to the cooler back to the fridge – everything contained in one spot.

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In that container I have things like salad dressing, guacamole, apples, eggs, etc. you get the idea.

If I’m going by plane I make lettuce wraps ahead of time.  Or I may make paleo breakfast cookies or bars. I also know I can hit up a Starbucks for fresh fruit or grab a salad someplace if I need to. But I try to not count on that because if there is some sort or delay, I don’t want to be stuck without food.

Whether I’m traveling or not, I ALWAYS have food with me whether it be nuts, a Larabar, dried fruit or an apple. ALWAYS! Better to prepared, I say.

Once you arrive to your location, what do you do? I try to look up menus before hand so we don’t end up in a place I can’t eat. And never be afraid to ask to alter a meal to suit your needs. Most restaurants are happy to comply. Last night I ordered a grass fed burger without the bun, cheese or condiments. It had bacon and a fried egg on top and I swapped out the fries for broccoli and had a fantastic dinner!!

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Traveling while on a paleo diet is totally doable. You just have to do your homework and plan ahead. Organization is the key. It’s still work but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Now my family is used to it and knows it’s just what mom has to do to keep healthy.  You can do it too. Honest. Happy traveling!

 

 

 

Now what?

Perhaps you have been dealing with an autoimmune disease for some time and are tired of all the meds. Or your doctor suggested you follow an autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) or paleo or Whole30 and you don’t know where to begin. Here are some tips to get you on your way.

  1. If you have not already done so, seek out or asked to be referred to an Integrative or Functional Medicine doctor. There are lots of certificated specialists and that is probably just fine, however I’m more comfortable knowing who I see is also an MD. At your first visit you will be assessed and odds are they will run a bunch of tests, including a food allergy panel. This is to give them a baseline to see where you are. For me, I was then put on a very restrictive Elimination Diet for three months. I was also told to start eating as much fermented food as possible to start healing my gut.  All of this was so that we could bring down the inflammation levels and calm my body down so I could heal. After my first visit, I left with tons of notes and handouts and even more questions. This is where my inquisitive nature kicked in as I pondered “Now what?”
  2. “Now What” – Fortunately there is now so much information available. Unfortunately there is now so much information available.  How do you know where to turn and which information is correct? Some people claim things are AIP or Whole30 compliant and yet those things are not.  First of all, your doctor should have given you a list of compliant foods.  Keep that.  You will be referencing that often.  In my searches, I found that Against All Grain has been my go to for everything.  She keeps all the different food allergies and diets in mind when creating recipes and her cookbooks also delineate which recipes are nut free, AIP, etc.  She’s a great resource! http://againstallgrain.com/  Through her blog, I was introduced to the Whole30 and Melissa Hartwig.  Melissa’s tough love and humor caught my attention and I’ve followed her ever since.  https://whole30.com/ And I’m now also stalking Chrissa from Physical Kitchness because she cooks like I do! Simple, easy meals. http://physicalkitchness.com/
  3. The next step is to go through your pantry and refrigerator. Remove any foods which are not compliant. And I don’t mean by eating them. Throw them away and then restock your pantry with the following to begin with.  Almond flour, coconut flour, coconut milk, arrowroot powder, compliant spices, nut butters… you can also go to my previous blog for a complete list.
  4. Meal plan. They key to staying “on the wagon” is planning ahead and staying organized. Once you get he hang of it, it becomes a habit and you get better at it. I sit down on Saturday and plan what I’m going to cook all week for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then shop accordingly. I always keep my pantry and fridge stocked with the basics and fill in with fresh produce and protein. I also play meals so that tonight’s dinner can become tomorrow’s lunch or even breakfast. Learn to change your mindset of what breakfast should be. I also take leftovers and turn them into other things. Tonight’s tri tip will become tomorrow’s steak salad. Or mixed with scrambled eggs and sweet potatoes. We don’t waste food in this house. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Blueberries and eggs are good honest! I would have never discovered this if I wasn’t open to trying different recipes. I’ve also discovered plantain chips. Where have these been my whole life?

Some days will be easier than others. Be kind to yourself and embrace the journey.  Know that knowledge is power and arm yourself with as much information as you can. I didn’t have anyone to walk me through this. I had to discover all of this alone.  And because of this I hope that what I’ve been through will be of help to others.

Becasue it is now summer and vacations are upon us I’m sure you are wondering how to deal with travel and eating out. Tomorrow I will share my tips and hacks on how to survive both.

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