Hi, my name is Louise Gagne and I’m just starting out with this blog at the ripe old age of 68! I’ve never done this before, and am hoping this works for me and you. I think it’s pretty late in life for me to be doing this, but it seems far too many people are suffering with their own health (as I have) and they need help too!
I wish I had known at a much earlier age that my issues were as serious as they are, but back then, according to the doctors, you mostly were told that you were only “imagining” a lot of symptoms and weren’t taken seriously when you had problems. Modern science and medical professionals are now starting to think twice about “imagination” diagnosis and we are starting to find out just how much food has to do with how you feel and how healthy you actually are. Unfortunately, doctors are not given nearly enough education on nutrition (unless they broaden their horizons) and this is where their advice falls short for us all.
I would like to help anyone struggling with autoimmune diseases to manage some of their symptoms by telling them how I manage mine. Please note that I am not a medical practitioner and anything you read here is strictly my opinion. I ask that you talk to your medical team before you try anything “different”. If you don’t get the answers you need, find another practitioner. Do keep them in the loop though.
After doing a LOT of research over the past couple of years, it has become apparent to me that there’s a tremendous amount of information out on the internet that is accessible, but many don’t know how to sift through it. Perhaps I can help somewhat by telling you what I have researched and done that could also help you. I will put links to other sites that I follow including doctors, other bloggers, recipes, etc. so you don’t have to search too far. I’ll also include recipes here along with comments about how my day is going and tell you how I have overcome some of my autoimmune issues/flare-ups.
To give you a bit of my health history, over my lifetime I have been diagnosed with:
- asthma and allergies
- duodenal ulcers
- hypothyroid disease
- Essential tremor (same as Parkinson’s but different in that the tremors occur when you are in motion) – mine is Familial (in the family)
- Meniere’s disease (vertigo, ringing in ears, nausea)
- slight COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- ongoing tinnitus
While I knew I had all of these ailments, I wasn’t aware that my diet contributed to most of them! I just assumed that either it was hereditary or I was just unlucky! I soon learned that this was not necessarily the case.
As a young child I had a lot of asthma attacks. Every time I had one, the doctor would give me a shot of Penicillin. I guess my body didn’t like it, because now I cannot take it at all. Eventually I was sent to an allergist who decided I should be on allergy shots to help build my system up to tolerate the different allergens I had problems with – everything that grows (trees, weeds, some flowers, grass), animals, dust, molds, corn, and barley. They didn’t work, so I continued to have asthma attacks until my mid-teens, early twenties. I had learned what to avoid, especially animals.
In the 1960’s I watched my mother lay on a couch for about 8 weeks, while the doctors tried to find out what was the matter with her. It took them way too long, because she almost died! As it turned out she had hypothyroidism and was failing very quickly. Once diagnosed, it took them almost a year before they could get her hormones back into line and she regained her health. Way too long, but that was then.
When I was 16, I had an ear infection and the doctor put me on Sulfa drugs. I spiked a very high fever along with a tremendous headache. She told me to stop taking the drug and just let the infection take its course. Later in the mid 70’s I had strep throat. The doctor put me on Sulfa drugs which I finished. I went back to work after a few days with red hives all over my body. The throat infection had not cleared up, so he gave me another dose of Sulfa drugs. One pill and I ended up in the hospital with an anaphylatic shock that almost killed me. I will never be able to take Sulfa again. Along with the other normal antibiotics that have also become issues for me.
Again in the late 60’s I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer. The doctor put me on a bread and milk diet – WOW – that really didn’t do me much good. Then they put me on tranquilizers to help with the anxiety it was causing me. Now they know that ulcers are actually a bacterial infection (H Pylori) and can be treated with antibiotics. I have since found another way to deal with them.
In the late 80’s I was diagnosed with hypothyroid. Thinking back to my mother’s experience, mine was handled very quickly (20 years later) and I was put on medication to get the hormones back in line.
As a teenager, I always thought I had an issue with nerves, in that any time I would try to do anything, I would shake uncontrollably. In the mid-90’s I discovered why that was – I have a condition called Essential Tremor. It is an uncontrollable tremor of the hands, arms and head (usually doesn’t affect the lower limbs). The neurologist jokingly referred to it as Gunfighters Disease! I’m not sure that this disease is diet related, but it does run in families. My younger sister has it (we share the same mother and my paternal grandfather was the first I know of). I see a neurologist that specializes in Movement Disorders at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto once a year to keep an eye on its progression. I am on a medication for it called Propranolol that was first prescribed in 2006 that helps somewhat with the tremors. The specialist increases the dosage as required. There is no known cause or cure for this particular ailment. Some recent studies are being done on procedures that can help with the tremors, but they are fairly invasive (brain stimulation), and they won’t do anything until the symptoms become extremely bad. Neither my sister or myself qualify yet for this treatment (fortunately). However, my concern is my 2 sons and 4 granddaughters and their possible future with this disease.
About the same time I was diagnosed with ET, I also started having issues with my middle ear, along with vertigo, nausea and ringing in the ear – I was then diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. The Ear, Nose and Throat specialist wanted to put me on diuretics, but I found out through my Pharmacist that they all contain Sulfa, so that’s a definite NO. I resorted to taking an allergy medication that contained a decongestant to help with the fluid in my ear. It seemed to help. Fortunately, I haven’t had many of these attacks, because they literally put me out of commission for at least 24-48 hours each time due to the vertigo.
I don’t know if it may be the reason why I now have Tinnitus, but I do know that the Propranolol could probably be contributing to that issue.
In 2013, I had a serious anaphylatic reaction to something I ate or drank at our anniversary dinner (Not a way to spend the evening). I wound up in Emergency, where they took good care of me. This time, they prescribed an Epi Pen and Ventolin to be carried with me now forever! We think we now know what caused it, but weren’t sure at the time. However, another appointment was made with an allergist for Spring 2014 to help determine what might have been the issue. (Short history – we live in a community, quite a distance from Toronto, so when we have to make appointments with specialists, it usually takes anywhere from 6 months to a year – or more – to get in!) Well, he decided it was a good idea to put me on an Elimination diet. Unfortunately, he neglected to inform me on how to reintroduce foods back into my diet after the elimination phase.
I found out by searching on-line and discovered an author – JJ Virgin and her book, The Virgin Diet. She goes into the reintroduction of all the categories of foods that you should “try” to reintroduce. Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, and for me Corn, and of course Sugar. Her book also covers the Elimination of foods, so if you are just getting started, this might be a good place to begin. It turned out that all but the eggs seemed to be issues for me.
Later in the summer of 2014 I had a total hip joint replacement that I believe contributed to the onset of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. Prior to surgery, I had to see an internist who kindly informed me that I had some COPD! Wow, that wasn’t something I wanted to hear. Also, while in the hospital after surgery, I noticed my finger had swollen up double it’s size and questioned my GP about it at my follow-up appointment. She simply said that it was just arthritis and told me to start knitting or crocheting to help with the stiffness. As it turned out in 2015, after putting in a miserable winter in Florida with stiffness in the hands, and on the advice of a dear friend of mine, I asked for a blood test to determine if it might just be RA. The results came back positive and I was referred to a Rheumatologist. When I finally was able to see her, it had been over a year – she was very disappointed. Apparently, the most damage is done in the beginning stages of this disease and to get onto something to help reduce the risk of deformity was essential to the treatment of the disease.
So, I think that catches you up on my health issues. Now on to what I’ve done about it all!