A HOLISTIC APPRAOCH TO CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
EASTERN MEETS WESTERN
This is the story of a friend and brave woman who, through a series of unfortunate events found herself battling a sudden and onset diseased state. It happened in the blink of an eye. She had to rely heavily on western medicine for short-term relief and I am so impressed by her tenacity and eager unwillingness to accept the fate laid out by her doctors.
She did her own research. She changed her diet. She sought new perspectives and modalities and through this, found reprieve from pain in both western and eastern medicine.
I’m grateful she’s sharing her story today and hope it can inspire you or someone you know to take your health in your own hands and utilize the various healing modalities available to us. It’s my hope that one day something as obvious as diet, nutrition and lifestyle are not reserved for naturopaths and alternative practitioners but something that is taught, understood and advised by medical doctors as well. This is a generalization. Some medical doctors do understand this connection however in my own experience and that of many others I’ve spoken to, majority do not. The onus is on us to explore and understand this connection.
A truly holistic approach is looking at the spectrum. It is accepting that sometimes we need medical intervention, that it can save us. However this does not mean we blindly follow the system. It will always be easier to pop a pill. Out of sight out of mind. However that which happens out of sight for decades and decades is what leads us to chronic disease.
This case is a little different. Give the story a read, share it with someone and know that whatever you’re going through, know that you are not alone.
On January 25, 2016, I went in for a regular checkup with my GP to make sure I was healthy. My goal was to get as healthy as possible that year. During the visit with my doctor, she recommended I get my tetanus shot, she’d noticed I was due for it. It wasn’t necessary for me to get it in hindsight but I just followed her suggestion and got the shot that day.
That night, I went on one of my regular Nike runs, it was about 5K. I noticed that I couldn’t keep up with my group, the other runners. I just figured I had an off day. The day after the shot, I woke up and it felt like a truck hit me. My first thought was that I overworked myself with the run, that it was too intense but it didn’t feel that way. It felt different and something that I had never experienced. The following day it was worse. Then I noticed this pulsating feeling going through all my joints. From my wrist to my elbow and up to my shoulder. And from my hip downward – it was the same throbbing, pulsating feeling. It continued to get worse and worse so I called my doctor and made an another appointment. When I got into the office I felt awful and knew something was very wrong. I told my doctor that I felt something might have gone wrong with the shot because I couldn’t think of anything else I had done in that week. She checked me out and was concerned. She went on the computer and was typing away and eventually looked back at me and agreed that it was something caused by the shot and that it could be poly-arthritic. I really had no idea what it meant or implied but I asked when it would go away, to which she replied that she hoped it would go away. That’s when I became really concerned.
My doctor told me the process would start with getting some blood work done. She would give me some steroids and the I’d start on Vimovo, an immune suppressant drug.
When I got home I just started crying. I didn’t understand how any of this could have happened. The year had started off great and suddenly took a dive. I was devastated. I started doing research because the doctor had mentioned the possibility of it being Rheumatoid Arthritis. I read and found a bunch of depressing videos about the debilitating effects of the disease, it basically breaks down the synovial tissue in your joints. The underlying mechanism involves the body’s immune system attacking the joints, and it can cause permanent disabling of the joints if it is not corrected.
The meds I was taking began having side-effects. The Vimovo wasn’t working for me. So instead I was put on a high dose of Prednisone. That caused my cheeks and lower abdomen to swell and also caused some numbness. Another side-effect was depression, so on top of it all, I also was going through deep sadness. I went in for more blood work and we found out I was anemic because of the huge imbalance in my body from the shot. At that point, I was majorly fatigued as well as feeling the constant pain of arthritis in all of my joints. I couldn’t sleep anymore and would lay awake until I could finally snooze off. I would wake without any real REM and the cycle of fatigue and pain would continue. While eating, I was getting a constant pulsation in my jaw so even eating became difficult. Then I noticed my walking and running taking a turn. I couldn’t do either anymore. I started to limp because of the inflammation in my hip which then moved to my spine. All of this happened within four weeks.
Soon after it became difficult to move at all. I was getting nodules on my hands so the simplest tasks like opening a door or sitting down became extremely painful. Sitting on the toilet was almost impossible because of how inflamed my knees were. I stopped wearing certain clothes that were too difficult to put on. I would go straight from work right into my bed. That was my day. My life changed so quickly. The side effects from the meds and the inflammation, which continued even on the medications, made it extremely difficult to work. I was sensitive to light, I would get nausea and dizzy spells. I got to a point where I had to call in sick because I physically couldn’t go to work anymore and eventually I had to take a sick leave. No one really understood what was going on with me, which was the hardest part. It’s an invisible disease, like many other autoimmune diseases. It made me feel even more alone and confused because even my friends and co-workers couldn’t really understand how painful my situations was, or how to treat me.
All of this was affecting my singing as well which was heartbreaking. It hurt my chest to sing and the nausea wasn’t helping either. I was so depressed: I couldn’t eat well, sleep well, I was tired, in pain, cold sweats, I couldn’t sing and the rheumatoid flare ups were excruciating.
Around this time, I wanted to get off the Prednisone. Really, I wanted to get off everything, but my RA specialist suggested in order to keep the inflammation down, that I should start taking Methotrexate (DMARD drug), which is a drug mainly used on cancer patients and now used to treat RA patients. She told me it could cause hair loss, stomach ulcers, increased sensitivity, low blood count, kidney/liver damage or failure and you cannot get pregnant on this drug, because of it’s toxicity. I thought if it’s can cause serious harm to a fetus than what is this drug doing to my body right now?
The cycle of trying to suppress my condition through prescription medication was a vicious one and seemed never-ending. When all of my tests came back negative for Lupus, Lime Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hepatitis B I was confused. What we did know was that my inflammation was 100+ over normal. I knew I couldn’t go on feeling this way and I didn’t want to accept my doctors answer that they didn’t know how long it would last or if it would ever go away.
Online I came across a TEDx talk by Clint Paddison, a rheumatoid arthritis expert who spoke to the diet, importance of gut health and how fast we can regenerate the layer and lining of the gut. Using the diet to heal his gut was essentially how he overcame rheumatoid arthritis. He explains the detox, juicing and foods that helped him. It’s a really intense diet but it helped him get rid of the inflammation and waste in his body. In this TEDx talk I also learned about the importance of enzymes and probiotics. This was a turning point.
Cucumber, celery water juice (link to recipe coming soon).
With this new information and perspective, I changed my diet, began detoxing and eating only plant-based foods. I also found support through an online community on Clint Paddison’s website, and also by researching more and hearing a few stories from other friends who have autoimmune diseases.
ALTERNATIVE HEALING, STEP BY STEP
Detox: this was the first step I took. When I noticed my inflammation getting worse I would do an elimination diet, only consuming juices and clean soups for about a week, with great results, and slowly add more solid foods back in
Plant-based diet: removed all animal products, dairy, gluten and pro-inflammatory foods, no salt or seasoning, it was not so easy at first but it definitely helped and I also noticed my skin responded very well to it
Support: from my family, friends and an online community helped me feel less lost and alone and helped me stay strong while fighting to reverse my imbalanced immune system.
Responsibility: to find alternative healing options and not taking my doctors word as gospel
Alternative healers: Naturopath, Chinese medicine, acupuncture – I found a Chinese practitioner in Berlin (where I was spending half my time) I would do an hour session of acupuncture every day, cupping every other day. It was very, very intense but I really began to feel the benefits
Apitherapy: also known as “bee therapy” is the medicinal use of products made by honeybees. It uses honey as a source of ridding the body of toxins. I tried honey massaging and using bee pollen on all of my joints. I found this to be really helpful as well
Chinese medicine: pills for kidney and gut. The Chinese doctor believed I had been poisoned by the shot and that my body needed to rebalance itself. She suggested eating only warm foods and to completely eliminate cold foods/drinks. Blood/urine tests and markers confirmed that my kidneys were indeed effected
Vitamins: vitamin D, Folic Acid, curcumin, vitamin B12, enzymes, probiotics, magnesium, omega 3, iron
Collagen and glutamate: essential for gut healing and something I’m looking into now
Epsom salt baths: I would do this daily when I had major swelling in my joints and it helped provide some relief and relaxation
Throughout all the alternative efforts, I started being able to go for walks, the aching joints started to decrease, the inflammation was going down and I was starting to see the light. My mood was lifting and life was beginning to feel a bit more normal.
It wasn’t strictly the alternative therapies, the drugs were definitely helping. But it was the marriage of western and alternative where I saw results and that’s really my what I am focusing on at this moment.
Throughout all of this, I have learned so much about health, my body, disease, depression. It’s unfortunate that I had to learn this way but there is such value I’ve taken from understanding my immune system and body as a whole. I didn’t fully realize the involvement of food and how it correlates to a person and their wellness. I’ve learned how much responsibility is required with the onset of disease and that western doctors don’t actually have training in nutrition or diet. It made me more empowered to find and research things on my own instead of handing the power over to doctors. I learned that you can actually get tests before getting tetanus or flu shots to find out if you have high inflammatory markers. Your doctors don’t usually tell you this because it costs money. It’s the big business of pharma. Most doctors get bonuses for immunizations and they’re not providing information to patients regarding the possible side-effects, some of them don’t even know them.
This year for me is about tapering off the drugs slowly. I’m still on the Methotrexate and I’m almost off of my Apo-leflunomide pills. This will definitely be a process and something I continue to follow up with blood work and advice from my doctor but I’m hopeful and I’m forever grateful for the alternative therapies that helped me on this journey, and also taking my health into my own hands was key to finding the successful balance that I need to continue fighting this until I can say I am 100% free from medications and inflammation.