Long Road to Health

I guess I should specify that I am not a medical professional, just someone who has spent countless hours looking for answers to my own health problems.  I waded through a lot of scams and wackiness and found helpful tidbits here and there until I pieced them together into a more complete picture.  I have tried a gazillion different supplements.  I am basically a guinea pig. 🙂

I wish I had found very clear answers early on, without a sales pitch.  I also realize that everybody is different but basic health advice applies to everyone.

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Me at 22 (on the right)

 

 

I personally have a strong family history of auto-immune disease.  My paternal grandma died of cancer and lupus.  Many of my aunts and uncles from that side have auto-immune issues.  My sister has celiac’s disease and lupus.

When I started feeling awful in my early 20’s I had no idea why.  With a stressful pregnancy at 22 I believe my celiacs got into full swing.  But it started before that.  As a young child I had recurrent ear infections and was on dose after dose of antibiotics.  Antibiotics, especially when given heavily to a young child, greatly damage that gut bacteria which in turn affects all areas of health and development.  I remember getting a lot of stomach aches.  I was rail thin.  I had a major sweet tooth (candida, anyone?) and started dealing with some anxiety and depression early on.

So it took many years of searching to find out why I felt so awful all the time.  I thought I might have chronic fatigue syndrome because I felt bone-crushing fatigue almost every day.  On top of that I had insomnia.

Let me preface to say that all foods are inflammatory to some degree.  Even breathing causes aging through oxidation!  But some foods are more inflammatory than others.  If you have a weakened gut through family history, stress, antibiotics, etc. you are more likely to develop digestion problems like leaky gut or full blown celiacs.  If you are eating inflammatory foods with a weakened gut you are going to crash and burn, health wise.

With a compromised gut wall; certain proteins from food can leach through the gut lining and cause auto-immune problems when your immune system decides that say, gluten, is a threat to be attacked.  Then your own immune system is attacking your own gut.  Obviously problematic!

This was going on with me for years.  I eventually realized that it wasn’t just gluten but also soy lecithin, carrageenan, preservatives, and nitrates that were causing my gut inflammation and misery.  All grains also tend to be inflammatory to people who already have damaged guts.  So out with the gluten free pasta and bread.  Gut inflammation caused my nutritional deficiencies and exhaustion.  I felt like an old lady and much of my hair fell out.

I found out through some blood testing that I was anemic and deficient in vitamin D.  I wasn’t making vitamin D through sunlight.  It must be a lupus thing- a lot of sunlight just caused more inflammation and exhaustion.

There are a lot of good blogs out there with good info but the lifestyle they advocate is so extreme it can be overwhelming.  Like- I need to live on organic free-range bone broth and kale?  Just shoot me now!

I don’t think most people need such an extreme lifestyle.  Just some tweaks here and there.  I am on a pretty restricted diet cause I have to or I will feel awful.  But I am seeing big improvements in my gut and general health and hopefully will be able to successfully incorporate more foods.

Supplements that really helped me are turmeric (great anti-inflammatory), probiotics, iron, and of course vitamin D.  I was taking 2,000 IU’s a day and that wasn’t making a dent in my deficiency.  I’ve upped it to 10,000 IU’s and that has made a big difference.

People with auto-immune issues tend to be Vitamin D deficient.  Whether the deficiency causes the problem or the problem drains the body’s resources, I don’t know.  But in either cases getting those levels up is crucial.

Symptoms are clues to an underlying problem.  I tried to treat my hair loss for years with topical stuff with limited success.  Addressing my gut health and vitamin deficiencies made my hair finally stop falling out.

Limiting caffeine is also helpful.  It is a vicious cycle when you are so exhausted you become more and more caffeine dependent and that caffeine disrupts your sleep at night and you become more tired and caffeine dependent.  At one point I was drinking up to five cups of coffee a day.  Not healthy!  Now I try to stick to two cups of half-caff coffee in the morning.  I sleep so much better.  Too much caffeine also messes up your hormones.  My cycle gets messed up when I have too much caffeine.  (Hello psycho P.M.S!)

Most of us are deficient in magnesium too.  I take magnesium citrate every night before bed for good sleep.

I also most shop the parameter of the grocery store- fresh produce, meat and dairy.  I make most things from scratch to avoid icky ingredients.  It takes awhile to adapt but every thing tastes so much better.  You get used to good homemade food and everything else is subpar.  I do make bone broth and make some crazy good soups that are also super healthy.  I stock up on staples like kerrygold butter, organic cream, leafy greens, regular old chicken breasts, and of course coconut oil at Costco.  We probably spend less on groceries than an average family of five.

I don’t always buy organic because it can be ridiculously expensive.  But I do when I find deals or comparable pricing.  We usually don’t eat canned food either because it is super high in BPA and is not as nutritious.  Plus, canned food just tastes icky.

Also, exercising is very important too.  Especially strength training for bone health.  My ankles used to crack whenever I tried to run and feel like they were giving out on me.  Yikes!  I’ve been building up my strength with weights and plyometrics and I feel strong and healthy, and no more cracking ankles.  Heavy impacts and weight loads don’t just affect your muscles but your bones as well.  You can build up bone strength, no matter your age.  Weight lifting is also great for metabolism and even brain health!

I really feel better than I have in years.  I hope that others who are in the same hard place with their health that I was find hope in that you can feel better, that there is hope.

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Me Now (29)

God Bless, Sierra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Long Road to Health

  1. I’m anorexic so my parents won’t let me go on holiday with them. It was my only reason to try and get better. How do I convince them to let me go?

    *sigh* that sounds really tough. ((hugs)) If your goal is to go on this holiday (or vacation, as we say it!) you need to show your parents that you are stable and improving. Please consider longer term health goals as well though. I wrote a blog about…

    Like

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