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Supplementing Healing

11 Jul

Healing from chronic illness can be expensive when you’re trying to do it properly. It may be cheaper to rely on allopathic medicine and Big Pharma, but the ultimate cost will be your life. These jars hold a key component to natural healing and the contents can be whipped up for next to nothing.

 

I have been having an increasingly difficult time maintaining my good progress lately. Foods are starting to bother me again and I’m feeling run-down and exhausted. I tried to back track in my food journal to see what the possible culprit could be and I definitely noticed the change happened after I eliminated the folic acid from my cocktail and added in the Mg Malate. Adding the folic acid back in is not an option since I have the MTHFR mutation, but I could try eliminating the Mg Malate for awhile and see if I improve.

Getting my intestinal permeability under control is top priority and I feel like I should be making way more progress than I am. I have been on 1 tsp of L-Glutamine for nearly 4 months now and attempts to up the dose were unsuccessful. I have a list of supplements that Dr. Guru and Dr. Lynch have recommended I incorporate into my routine and I had to finally stop and ask myself, “Why can’t I get these nutrients from whole foods?” My gut is damaged and digestion is compromised, but is it realistic to assume my body is able to metabolize synthetic supplements? To me, it makes more sense to focus ONLY on the gut right now, and add in the other stuff later. I recalled reading about the healing properties of bone broths and I set out to do some heavy research on making stocks. This led to the discovery of the GAPS diet and further reading on traditional cooking, whole foods, and specialized diets. So much to learn!

I decided that the GAPS diet probably wasn’t going to work for me due to the low carb requirement. My weight has dropped dramatically in the past 6 months and has yet to stabilize, so cutting out fruit and the handful of starchy vegetables I do eat didn’t sound like the best plan. Not to mention, I read this account of a young woman who ended up frighteningly ill and that was enough to scare me away from GAPS!

Many of the Paleo and GAPS-related blogs I have been frequenting talk about the healing power of making stock from the bones of different protein sources. The possibilities are endless: lamb, goat, turkey, chicken, beef, fish; and the benefits are astounding. Bone broths are rich in gelatin, minerals and amino acids that the body needs to heal from the inside out. I tried my hand at my first batch of lamb stock last week and it turned out great! I was nervous that it wouldn’t gel (this is the evidence a perfectionist cook needs to verify that the stock was prepared properly and is chock-full of the gut-healing nutrients), but the next day, I picked up a jar and it was wiggle-city! YAY!

Making bone broth is an easy and cheap way to supplement your healing from chronic illness. Sure, the cost of pastured or grass-fed meat is higher, but you can get more bang for your buck by using every last bit of the leftovers! Not to mention, it’s a LOT cheaper than multiple bottles of supplements with questionable contents! Here is my step-by-step guide to awesome broth:

1)  Reserve bones from pastured or grass-fed animals. Store them in the freezer after you’re done eating. You can also reserve the heads and bones from whole, wild-caught fish.

2)  When you’re ready to make the broth, put the bones in your slow cooker (I use a Hamilton Beach brand because there is no lead in the ceramic. Many slow cookers have lead in them!) and add enough FILTERED water to cover.

3)  Add 3-4TBS of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (DO NOT OMIT THIS!) and let the bones sit for an hour.

4)  Turn the slow cooker on high and cover it. When it starts to simmer you’ll notice foam and “scummy” bits floating to the surface. Skim this off. This step generally takes me about 5 hours total in my 6 Qt cooker. I check on it every hour or so.

5)  Turn the slow cooker to low and leave it to gently bubble. Chicken stock takes 12-36 hours. Lamb, goat, or beef 36-72 hours. Fish takes 6-12 hours. The longer the slow simmer, the more nutrients you extract from the bones.

6)  Strain the stock through a coffee filter, mesh strainer, or cheesecloth and store in glass mason jars. It should gel in about 24 hours with a layer of fat on the top. You can render this for cooking or eat it with the stock.

7)  Consume 2-3 cups daily for optimal healing and use the rest for cooking in place of water or make homemade soups!

8)  For larger bones, you can repeat steps 2-7 for a second (and sometimes third, fourth, or fifth!) batch. The first batch is going to be the most nutrient-laden, but the subsequent batches will still be great for cooking and soups.

TIPS:

– At step 3 you may also add a TBSP of sea salt (NOT table salt), peppercorns, and fresh veggies (carrots, celery, onion, garlic, etc) to increase the mineral content. Don’t add parsley until the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

– With stock, the old saying, “Garbage in = garbage out” holds true. Use the highest quality meats and veggies you can. Locally grown or organic are best. If you use commercially raised and processed meats, you will need to skim a LOT of scum during step 4 and you’ll probably never want to eat commercially raised meat or poultry ever again.

– You can just as easily make the stock on the stove. You can even start the process on the stove, skim, and then transfer the stock to the slow cooker to finish.

– The stock can be boiled down and frozen (use ice cube trays) and then reconstituted for use in order to save space.

– Be sure to boil the stock you store in the fridge every 5 days or so. If you aren’t going to use it in a week, freeze it.

– Keep the layer of fat on the stock! This helps protect it!

–  If you’re following a rotation diet, cook up a few different stocks to fit into your rotation. Snapper heads work great for fish stock. Omit the veggies and herbs so as not to develop an intolerance.

–  You’ll know when the bones are no longer good when they start to break down and are soft. Some people reserve the marrow and some like to eat the softened bones for an excellent source of calcium.

–  For extra gelling-power and even MORE nutrition when making chicken stock, add a few chicken feet or a head to the pot. If you live in Western New York, Freeman Homestead sells a bag of feet and heads for $3 each.

– Be aware that adjusting to consumption of bone broth may take time. It is very nutrient-dense and some people have trouble with large quantities at first. Try skimming the fat if you have trouble digesting it, dilute the broth with a bit of filtered water, or start with small amounts and work your way up. I overdid it the first day I made my lamb broth and my body went into a mini state of broth-shock!

 

 

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Immunology 101

29 Apr

What if you could have more energy, less pain, fewer headaches, or even reverse the effects of your chronic illness just by changing the way you ate? Would you do it? Most people find the idea a bit far-fetched and wonder how something like diet could possibly impact such a variety of symptoms and so dramatically, but when you think about how our ancestors ate and how we currently eat, well, it starts to become a bit less hazy.

Our bodies are equipped with various antibodies that may mount defenses based on our exposure to things that we ingest or are exposed to in our environment. When you think about all of the things you’re exposed to on a daily basis, you have to really give your immune system a lot of credit. Pesticides, molds, toxins, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and the list goes on and on. A true allergy to a food or substance is indicated by an elevated level of the IgE antibody for the protein in that substance, but there is another antibody that has been receiving more attention as of late. The IgG antibody is believed to be directly related to what we’ve come to label as “delayed reactions” or “sensitivities”. IgG levels fluctuate based on exposure, and over-exposure combined with a semi-permeable and sick gastrointestinal lining can lead to a state of inflammation in the body as a result of partially digested or whole proteins leaking into the boodstream. Suddenly, you’re run down all the time, experiencing headaches, mood swings, joint pain, stomachaches, depression, and anxiety. Yes, the food you are eating can cause all of these symptoms and more.

A research study conducted by Dr. Drisko et al in 2005 evaluated 20 patients who had been diagnosed with IBS and had been unsuccessfully able to control their symptoms. Every single patient had abnormalities in their IgG levels, particularly to: brewer’s yeast, corn, pork, wheat, and soy. While there is some controversy over what the elevated levels actually mean, many doctors are at least willing to admit that an abnormally high IgG level to a substance is a good indicator that the body needs help fighting something.

Shortly after I started waking up feeling as if I’d been starring in the movie Run Lola Run all night long (good movie, by the way), my GI symptoms got completely out of hand. I was experiencing everything from excruciating pain to cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and because I doubt you want to read about all the details, I’ll stop there. Anyway, my GI doctor suggested a workup for Celiac disease because as crazy as I thought it sounded at the time, I told her that I felt like everything I was eating was making me ill. The clincher came when I began having cyclic panic attacks, so for those of you struggling with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or other chronic mental illnesses, I am living proof that changing your diet can play an integral role in alleviating your symptoms. I felt like I was on an adrenaline rollercoaster 24/7 and it became so excruciatingly unbearable that I checked myself into the hospital for a 72 hour hold where they doped me up on Klonopin. The Klonopin caused its own issues over the three short months I was on it, but I was desperate to “beat the panic trick” and worked through Dr. David Carbonell’s book. It was immensely helpful at taking the edge off after the Klonopin was finally out of my system (which was a nightmarish experience that I absolutely never, ever want to relive), but the constant feeling of being “on edge” still lingered.

When my Celiac workup came back negative, my GI doctor suggested a gluten free diet anyway. I spent hours over the next two weeks researching everything I could get my hands on, and I started noticing that a lot of the neurological symptoms of Celiac seemed to fit the ones I had been experiencing. I eliminated gluten from my diet and followed a very, very strict gluten free regimen. For two weeks I felt like I had been hit by not 1 – but 2 – semis. I thought I was dying. I stuck it out, and after about 3 weeks sans gluten, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My anxiety dissipated, I was less tired, in less pain, and my GI symptoms? Vanished. My GI doctor was so thrilled that she paraded no fewer than 3 residents into my exam room at my follow up appointment because she couldn’t believe the transformation. In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to how drastically my body responded to diet therapy, especially when many of my symptoms began creeping back up about 6 months later…

The incidence of gluten intolerance, and even Celiac disease, is growing in the United States and it really comes as no surprise since our commercially

Your standard loaf of bread contains more than 20 ingredients and is highly processed. Many patients with autoimmune diseases, chronic illness, and mental illness consume diets heavily ladened with sugar, preservatives, and mainstay ingredients that may be damaging the GI tract and resulting in food and environmental sensitivities.

manufactured food is satiated with wheat and other gluten-based fillers. By the time the wheat has been harvested and turned into a blue box of mac n cheese or a loaf of Wonder Bread, it’s not even wheat, it’s more like a stripped down synthetic form of the grain with little nutritional value. Unless of course it’s enriched. Because you know, it makes a hell of a lot of sense to strip a whole food of its nutrients and then spray synthetic versions of them back on later (insert eye roll here). Our country’s commercial food system is causing a lot of problems for a lot of people and most of them don’t even realize it. Our bodies were not made to eat the way most of us currently eat and we have not evolved enough to handle most of the processed crap that has become our mainstay

What can you take away from this very much abbreviated immunology lesson? If you have been diagnosed with any sort of “catch-all” syndrome, mental illness, neurological impairment, or you just plain feel like crap all the time, there is a strong possibility that part of your problem is one or many dietary sensitivities. Sometimes the answer is not to throw a pill at a symptom and hope for the best. Sometimes the patient has to do a little (or in my case, a lot) of leg work to get to the bottom of obtaining a better quality of life and wellness. It makes sense to start with the fuel you’re putting into your body. Step back and analyze what sort of “gas” you’re pumping in. This week, I challenge you to take an extra minute to read the packaging on the foods that you’re purchasing and consuming and think about where the ingredients came from. A loaf of bread isn’t what it used to be anymore.

The hypothesis behind MS, FMS, CRPS, CFS, IBS, IBD and all the other syndromes we abbreviate

24 Apr

I noticed recently that many of the autoimmune disorders are identified not by their names, but by their corresponding abbreviations. Maybe we’re just lazy, or maybe we don’t think half these “syndromes” are worthy of much else. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve been labeled with a few of these myself over the years. In fact, if I were given the opportunity to sign my full name, most would assume I am quite highly esteemed with a wall full of certificates. Dare to dream…

I have been inundated by emails and private messages on Facebook lately asking “What are you doing??” The reason? I essentially went from functioning at a level 2 on a scale of 1-10 to a level 7. My energy has improved and many of my chronic symptoms have decreased – in less than 2 months. Before I get to what I’m doing, I want to cover a few basics on anatomy and the gastrointestinal tract. This might take a post. Or two. Or three. So hang on because you’ll be super well-educated about your GUT soon!

The gastrointestinal tract is the largest lymphoid organ in the body. What does this mean? Over 60% of your immune system is contained there. Think about it. Your gut is the gateway to all things nutritional, helpful, and harmful internally. When you ingest food, enzymes are already hard at work breaking your food down into proteins. The protein-making-process continues as the grub travels into your stomach before ultimately ending up in the small intestine. The goal of digestion is to convert the food first into proteins and finally into amino acids, which are the usable forms of energy that the body needs to do what it’s gotta do. The lining of the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for absorbing nutrients. It’s precisely for this reason why the mucosal lining in the gut needs to be protected. Worshiped, even. Think of it as an awesome border patrol guy who lets the good guys through and keeps out the derelicts (unless of course we’re talking about the US/Canadian border where it’s really rather hit or miss, but I digress…)

This lining is tough, has an outstanding surface area, and fully regenerates itself every 3-5 days. Now THAT is impressive! But what happens if something internally, or something you’re inadvertently putting into your body, causes the lining to become inflamed? If the lining of the GI tract is compromised, over time, small gaps begin to form in it. The lining weakens and the border patrol starts to slack off (hmmmmm….) permitting partially digested proteins, by-products and toxins from bacteria, fungi, and other normal inhabitants of the GI tract to leak into the bloodstream. Recognizing these proteins as foreigners, your immune system launches the attack, continuing to mount more and more defenses against the invader until it finally can’t take it anymore because the crisis has led to a state of constant inflammation. “Must. Let. The. Human. Know,” it whispers weakly as it crawls away for cover…

Allergies, dietary and chemical intolerances, dysbiosis (bacterial and fungal imbalances), stress, antibiotics, aspirin, and other medications can weaken the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

So how DOES your gut let you know it needs help?

  • headaches
  • migraines
  • acne
  • rashes
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • fatigue
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • joint pain
  • fevers
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • mood swings
  • muscle aches/pain
  • memory problems

Pretty much EVERYTHING, right? Well, aren’t those many of the things that the “catch-all” diagnoses of exclusion include too? Except allopathic medicine tends to label them according to which symptoms may be manifesting. For example, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and heartburn may earn you the honorary “IBS”, while depression, anxiety, chronic pain, fatigue, and mental fogginess earn you “CFS” or “FMS”.

The American population collectively has the poorest dietary habits in the world. It is impossible to eat the Standard American Diet without health-related consequences. Is it any wonder that the incidence of autoimmune disease continues to skyrocket? Researchers are pouring money and resources into finding “cures” for complex autoimmune diseases instead of looking for and understanding the causes (remember the GI PA from last time?) Evolutionarily speaking our bodies have not yet evolved enough to handle all the chemicals, processed foods, and environmental toxins that we are exposed to day in and day out. So why does it come as any shock that our poor GI tracts can’t take anymore?! Look at that little guy in the picture above. See how sad he is? Restoring the GI tract completely may not be possible, but with a little understanding of how the system works and a LOT of patience, you can get some relief from some of your symptoms. Over and out, little guy! More to come…

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