My husband and I are so fortunate because we spend our summers in Canada and our winters in Florida every year. It’s something we saved all our working life for and we enjoy it immensely! So in late October or early November we make the drive down I75 to out winter home.
Our family stays north, except they manage to make a trip down each winter for a week or so for a visit to see us and we get a quality visit with them and our grandchildren.
In December 2014 I had read a book about the Paleo Diet and how it helped to alleviate a lot of issues with your health. And, as I hadn’t yet really found that what I was doing was good enough for how I was feeling. I decided it was time to take another look at what I was eating.
I had purchased and read an ebook on the Whole30 program, and decided that it was time to make another change, and hopefully it would help me with how I was feeling.
The Whole30 program is like resetting your diet and your health. It is basically a diet that consists of vegetable, animal/fish protein, and fruit. But once again, it’s an elimination and reintroduction diet.
Now that I’m not eating gluten, soy, or dairy, this should be easy, right! Not really, because there are a lot more restrictions to this diet. No alcohol, no sugar real or artificial, no legumes or beans, no grains, no dairy, no preservatives (MSG, Sulfites), no remakes of desserts or breads. What you can eat though is Ghee (butter that has been clarified), fruit juice as a sweetener, green beans, peas, snap peas, and vinegars.
This was another 30 day program to reset my system so that I could again reintroduce things that may still be causing issues in my digestive system.
More history here – when I was 20 I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer. This little beasty shows up twice a year regardless what I’m eating or drinking. I do not know what has been causing the flare-ups, but they are nasty and I want them to stop. Usually most Decembers is when it shows up, but also in the Spring. Doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, it just knocks on my stomach door and makes me extremely uncomfortable for a few weeks at a time, until I can get it back under control. This is what actually kicked me in the butt to find another dietary solution to my problem.
I thought the Whole30 program would be a good place to start, so embarked once again on another elimination diet.
The 30 days went by pretty quickly this time as I had to learn new recipes to keep me on the straight and narrow. Once again a lot of Google searching for Whole30 recipes and shopping for the right ingredients to keep me on the right path. Even though I had the book, I like variety. I ate well and lost another 10 lbs. WOW, I thought I had lost all I was going to, until then.
Over the next couple of months I learned that this program was actually a very strict Paleo Diet and it seemed it was going to be the way I would eat forever at that point.
I was enjoying the meals and wasn’t really missing bread except when I wanted to have a sandwich. But I learned to make sandwiches out of lettuce leaves and also learned there were lots of other things I could have for lunch that didn’t include bread products, like soups and salads.
Now breakfast was becoming an issue for me. Even though I had originally gone gluten free I was able to have gluten free oatmeal, or hot rice cereal, amaranth cereal, or pancakes made with gluten free flours. But that was all going to change again because Paleo is another beast altogether. I do love my smoothies, but need a break from them once in a while.
Once I finished the 30 days and the reintroduction phase I was still not quite feeling the way I thought I should. I was still finding I didn’t have the energy I should have. I was still recuperating from hip surgery, so my body was still healing, but there was something not quite right. I kept reading and found another Paleo program that wasn’t quite as restrictive as the Whole30 and sounded like something I could handle. It was only 7 days too, which made it much more appealing. Pretty much along the lines of the Whole30, but without all the restrictions and no reintroduction. I’m in!
I did the 7 day diet and lost no more weight, but it got me working with Paleo foods and recipes that I was enjoying. Still not quite feeling the way I thought I should, and started to get some aches and pains I hadn’t had before.
This takes us pretty much into Spring of 2015. We were getting ready to head north back to Canada. Cleaning the house, getting things ready to pack in the car for the trip back, when I had a real problem. The day before we were ready to leave, I guess I had overdone it and I lost the use of my right hand. I had excruciating pain, I couldn’t sleep and of course couldn’t help my husband do anything at all the next day. I had to totally immobilize the hand as it had swollen up on top of the pain. I also had to take Tylenol for the pain (as I cannot tolerate any other pain killers including aspirin).
Our drive home takes about 2-1/2 days, so using my hand was not an issue as my husband drove, thank goodness. By the time we were home, my hand had settled down enough that I could use it and help carry things into the house from the car. That afternoon I went grocery shopping and carried the bags into the house. Well, that wasn’t the smartest thing I had done, because my hand immediately started with the pain once again and swelled up enough that I got quite concerned.
The next morning we were in the doctor’s office. She took one look at the hand and said she thought it was carpel tunnel and to get a hand/wrist brace immediately and she prescribed a short course of Prednisone to help reduce the swelling. It took a couple of days, but the swelling did go down. This turned out to be the beginning of a very rough summer.
It started out Mother’s Day – I got up, made my smoothie for breakfast and sat down at the table, when I noticed I had a cloud over my left eye. No pain, could talk, was able to communicate without any difficulty, no facial drooping, and no paralysis anywhere – so no stroke symptoms. After about 20 minutes the eye cleared and all was OK. Went to see our Ophthalmologist in Toronto about 3 weeks later and he immediately called our family physician and started all kinds of tests and wanted me on Plavax! Well, every test he had ordered came back AOK – no sign of any problems in blood word, CT scan, Ecco Cardiogram, Carotid Doppler, plus a 72 hour heart monitor. There were no signs of any problem anywhere. So talking to the doctor, they still wanted me on Plavax – I said NO because one of the known side effects of that drug was stomach bleeding and I have an ulcer! I finally asked for an MRI – which came out there were no signs of Stroke and apparently no signs of anything else!
During the course of all these tests, my hands were giving me no end of grief with constant pain. I started increasing my intake of Tylenol Arthritis to help, but often to no avail. Finally, a friend of mine who is a retired nurse suggested I be tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Two weeks later my blood work came back positive for Rheumatoid Factor and I was referred to a Rheumatologist. I couldn’t get to see her until the end of September – and we leave for Florida in mid to late October.
In the meantime, we had visited a friend whose husband also has RA. He allowed me to use a tool he had found that helped him with his pain. A wax-bath. Yes, just like the ones used in nail salons. While the pain in my hands increased, my husband decided to order me one. Thank goodness, because it really did help to get my hands moving in the mornings. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite help enough to allow me to use my hands much. I lost a lot of the strength in them over the course of about a month.
Next step was to go on to the computer once again (never really stopped) to research RA and how to alleviate symptoms naturally, and found Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Sarah is The Paleo Mom who wrote the book: The Paleo Approach–Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, which I read cover to cover and learned a whole lot about Autoimmune Disease and how to help heal/reverse the symptoms. Now I didn’t know for sure if it would actually reverse the disease, but I was sure willing to try due to the amount of pain I was experiencing.
I also began to read Eileen Laird – author of the blog Phoenix Helix and the book: A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. I just love her site with articles, podcasts, and recipes. They have been so very helpful over the past year and I am so very grateful for having found her on-line.
Then, I came across a book by Dr. Amy Myers – Autoimmune specialist out of Austin, TX. Her book: The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases. I started reading this book and it was the information that resonated most with me and my conditions and her approach to the Autoimmune Protocol was what I decided to follow.
Upon going to see my Rheumatologist the end of September, I took all my blood tests, the printout of my medical history, surgeries, medications and supplements, so she had nothing to guess about. Once in her office, the doctor did a thorough examination. She already had an idea of what I was facing and had thoughts about what treatment protocol she wanted me to embark on. However, although I had taken my most recent blood work, she wanted her own – rightly so, plus a chest X-ray. I was not aware at that time that RA had a serious effect on the lungs.
Because she knew I was leaving in about 3 weeks for Florida, she expedited the blood work and x-ray results so that she could have them the following Monday. I decided to let the doctor know about the diet I wanted to explore. She told me to do whatever I thought I should for my diet to help. I started the Myers Way the next day and in about 3 days, my pain had reduced on a scale of 1-10 from an 8 to about a 3! When I went back to see her, she was amazed with the level of pain I was experiencing, but she already had a prescription form made out for Methotrexate. For those of you who do not know this drug – it is used for chemotherapy and is also the go-to drug for RA. Because she knew I had stomach issues, she decided to use the direct method of injection and not in pill form.
The injections were to be done once a week – same time each week. The first shot I took the following evening. The next day I woke up scratching the roof of my mouth and did so all day – by the end of the day it was raw! I called the pharmacist to see if this was a “normal” reaction and was told to just take Benadryl. I did and it settled down. The following week we had company the night I was to take my injection, as I thought I would give it another try. I injected myself in private while my husband entertained in our Family room. Well, the reaction didn’t take any more than about an hour and my mouth was driving me crazy. I called the pharmacist and she told me I was allergic to the medication. Next morning I called the Rheumatologist and informed her that I would be stopping the injections. She suggested I take a three week break from it and start again once I was in Florida. I told her there was no way I was going to risk winding up in ER in Florida with an anaphylactic shock and told her I was stopping the medication altogether. She asked what I wanted to do and I told her that I would follow the Myers Way protocol to see how it worked out.
The Myers Way protocol is referred to as AIP. Read my next post to find out about AIP – what it is and how it worked.
To be continued …