Earlier this year, in the initial post about My Healthy Lifestyle Journey, I briefly outlined how I came to embrace a Paleo lifestyle. Since writing this post, and as the year progressed, I continued to meet and interact with others who face similar issues. I discovered there are many struggling with health concerns, and that we all benefit from supporting one another.
As the year comes to a close, I take the opportunity to reflect on my own personal development, and plan for the future. Today I want to share more detail about my journey, and how I am managing and overcoming these obstacles. By doing so, I hope this provides comfort and hope to others.
I would love to hear from you, please share your personal story either in the comments below, or by sending me a private message.
Update: learn more about my autoimmune diagnosis in late 2017 and more of my personal health updates in our Health Fix section.
2016 IN REVIEW: HOW I TOOK CONTROL OF MY HEALTH
IN THE BEGINNING
Before we dig into the here and now, I think it is important to share where I began.
Like most American children, I grew up following a diet laden with starchy carbs, industrialized meat, and processed dairy. The food pyramid was shared throughout all levels of school, fat and cholesterol were the devil, and sugary treats were acceptable every day of the week.
When I hit my teen years, I began reading mainstream magazines and getting concerned with my looks. I longed for the “perfect” Barbie Doll figure, and barely ate. I quickly developed an unhealthy relationship with food and a negative body image.
Next, came college. I worked past most of my fears of eating and swung strongly in the other direction. Fast food was my best friend, I ate large meals irregularly, avoided physical activity, and gained weight.
Then, I moved home and settled into my early 20’s. For the next 10 years I would fall into another unhealthy cycle. During this time, I got myself in shape and fixated on working out. I regained a svelte figure, ate zero fat, lots of carbs, only lean protein, and loads of sugar. Garett and I met, and we encouraged each other’s love of food. We cooked at home sometimes, ate out more often, and enjoyed life.
To negate all our incredible eats, I was convinced I could work it all off by spending hours in the gym. When we ate more, I worked out even harder. I was addicted to the high I received from intense sessions. I continued to avoid sleep, keeping the 5 hour average I sustained during college, and figured I would catch up later in life once things slowed down. Following all the government and mainstream media recommendations would ensure I was healthy, right?
WHEN REALIZATION HIT
It was during my 20’s that my body started sending signals. Adult acne reared its ugly head, indistinguishable rashes appeared on my hands and arms monthly, I was moody, sometimes depressed, and had stomach aches weekly. Despite all this, I pushed it away, stuffed it deep down to deal with another time. I was convinced I was completely healthy, and was according to my primary care physician.
They say when you turn 30 everything changes, and this is absolutely true. Your body starts to change, really change. You become a real adult, accept more responsibility, and deal with real world problems. You also are forced to pay attention to your health, even if it is against your own will. Realizing something wasn’t right, and things were getting worse, I began to question if my “healthy” lifestyle wasn’t so healthy after all.
In the fall of 2015, when I was 33 years old, Garett and I took a long overdue trip to New York City. As with all our trips, we planned everything around food. By this time I was having massive digestive distress almost daily, and took Pepto Bismol with every meal. I refused to let this ruin our trip, so I loaded up on over the counter aids, and forged through. Halfway into our weekend, I broke out in an intense rash that covered both arms and hands. I was so ill it took me several days to recover.
It was also around this time that I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts, and told it would be difficult for us to get pregnant. I was getting chronic and recurrent infectious, always tired, stressed, and sick most days. All of this made me felt like a failure, a reject, and at a complete loss for how to move forward.
TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS GONE WRONG
After my down fall, I began practicing a Paleo lifestyle. I spent months learning, adjusting, and tracking my food and health via a diary. I was able to pinpoint trigger foods, and maintain a manageable intake that allowed me to function. At the same time, I stopped taking birth control and attempted to rebalance my system.
Of course, things usually get worse before they get better. Once the birth control left my system, I had no monthly cycle and wasn’t ovulating. My adult acne hit an all time high, my hormones were raging, I was constantly fatigued, and caught every bug I came in contact with. Not to mention I was still having some digestive issues.
To address all these complications, I began visiting a long list of doctors. I spent the first half of the year hitting dead ends. Being told that I had IBS and it could be managed with over the counter medications. That I would just have to deal with adult acne. I could go back on the pill to balance my hormones and manage ovarian cysts, or take hormone supplements to become fertile and bring on a period.
All of these roadblocks pointed me in the same direction, I was not getting the treatment I needed from mainstream medicine.
THE ROAD TO HEALING
This summer, I finally found a local Integrative Medicine doctor. Dr Schultz was a traditional family physician for years, and transitioned to alternative treatments when he became frustrated with mainstream options.
In working with him for the last 6 months, we uncovered the root cause of my issues, and are treating them one by one. We found I have Leaky Gut and inflammation, nutrient deficiency, Hypothyroidism, a TBD hormonal disorder, a high immune marker, and Raynaud’s.
My treatment has included the following components:
- Natural thyroid hormones to bring back optimal levels.
- The 4R healing plan for digestive distress.
- Supplements to support digestive health, and rebalance my gut bacteria.
- Vitamins and minerals to replenish vital nutrients.
- Supplements to aid in detoxification and support my body’s elimination processes.
- Gentle exercise and movement.
- Stress management and improving sleep.
I am happy to say that with these treatments, which are still ongoing, I am finally on the road to healing. I now feel better than I have in years. My periods also returned, my digestive distress is largely gone, and I feel happy and positive about the future.
WHAT 2016 TAUGHT ME & HOW IT CAN HELP YOU
Above all else, what I learned this year is that I need to care for myself. That my physical and mental well-being depends on it.
These are my biggest takeaways from the year, and those that I believe will help others manage their health concerns:
- If you are not getting results from your current doctor, find another.
- Do your research, ask friends and family for recommendations, and do not give up.
- Sleep is essential.
- Get at least 8 hours of solid rest each night to assist your body in healing and recovery.
- Determine any food intolerances or allergies, and remove them.
- Gluten and dairy are my biggest food triggers. I am actually gluten intolerant, having the same symptoms as those with Celiac, and react badly to diary. Dairy specifically also triggers my acne.
- Once you transition to eating whole clean foods, and while you are healing, avoid lengthy intense workouts.
- Instead use yoga, Pilates, walking, and other low impact fitness to support physical activity.
- Focus on avoiding stress, in every facet of your life.
- High stress means high cortisol, and contributes to hormone & adrenal imbalance, impaired digestion, sleep, and numerous other factors.
Now that I have shared my personal journey, I would love to hear from you. Do you have any similar issues? What did you learn and reflect on this year? Let me know in the comments below.