Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Exact Autoimmune Healing Plan & Putting Results To The Test

A lot of kind folks have reached out with very sympathetic notes of well-wishes and encouragement, how things have gone.
often telling me "it must be so hard" to go through this. You know what? I'm OK. I'm better than OK! I love life right now and am not resentful or angry about

In a weird way the autoimmunity (AI) has been an unexpected blessing in disguise. The progress I've made in my life this year has made me happier than ever, more at peace than ever, and on track to being healthier than ever. I feel like I understand my body on another level, I have patience with myself, and I'm not using my body as a means to an end. I have made headway with managing my exercise addictions, and I am getting back to the root of what sport/activity really means to me--no secret agenda. I feel like my mind and body are working in synergy rather than being in conflict.

It's like January thru March were just a bad dream as it relates to the havoc that was unfolding in me. I hit some lows during those months and couldn't help but just cry and feel depressed. I was still holding onto a lot of past baggage too--still trying to find myself and break from stressful habits. By April things started getting better quickly, in May it really started coming together... and it just keeps getting better. The bad dream seems like it's over. Although, I don't want to speak too soon and get cocky about it.

For now, let's just talk about this mega healing plan I've undertaken. If you want to jump around this post includes:

1) Healing through lifestyle and mindset
2) Doing the AIP diet with success
3) My exact supplement protocol (3-phase plan)
4) 'Testing' the results and finding balance

It might help to go back and skim over my post covering 10 Causes of My Autoimmunity, which will help the rest of this make more sense.

~~~

Major Lifestyle & Mindset Adjustments

It's hard to label the most important variable in healing. There's not just one thing; there's no magic pill. We could argue that healing via diet and supplementing to fix the gut is most important, but if lifestyle and stress are still out of whack even the best of diets and supplements won't heal you or your gut. This I've learned--old supplements I used to take that didn't work back then are working now. The right lifestyle and mindset is everything. These are 6 things I made priorities...

1. Set Goals: #1: Heal all-naturally, no drugs, reverse the condition. // #2: Be back to a good state of health by my wedding on June 11. Back in March I said by June I want to be off the autoimmune paleo diet (AIP), not swollen and puffy, able to eat anything and not fear the consequences, and drink wine on my wedding night (or maybe a rum drink is more appropriate being that it's in the Caribbean). // #3: Figure out a sustainable lifestyle approach and get off this rollercoaster of "feeling great" followed by epic setbacks and lows.

2. Environment: #1: Make it positive and not stressful. // #2: Don't be a "closet" work-a-holic. I made some minor but important adjustments to my businesses to make my job(s) healthier for me. I quit working at my gym as a trainer (it was taking a toll for years; I now use my basic at-home weights/equipment for local clients). Better utilize my hired help and delegate tasks as much as I could. Let go of needing a "perfect" email inbox," etc. // #3: Moving into a place that overall is a better environment for us, especially for a couple who work from home. No mold or toxins anymore either! // #4: Support. I surround myself with a lot of loving people (friends, family) and my team of experts to help me heal more than ever. I couldn't do this alone; I certainly don't want to be isolated. // #4: I try to avoid anything that could be "toxic" in my life that could bring me down.

3. Acceptance: I took this AI diagnosis as the mother of all red flags. It's as if it were saying to me, "Beware." So, I listened. It was hard, but the more I accepted it the less shitty I felt and the more it became a matter-of-fact thing not a death sentence. I probably could have ignored the signs and let it just get worse with time, continuing with my stubborn ways. And I could have saved $3000+ by keeping those root canals in. I do believe a lot of AI conditions go undiagnosed even when one has symptoms because it's just hard to accept and act. It requires change and....

4. Vulnerability: At first I was terrified of what having autoimmune disease would say about me. I felt like a failure especially given my profession. But then I realized I had it all wrong. It was ok to be vulnerable and imperfect. I think being vulnerable is the ultimate sign of strength.

5. Self-Love: It's something I haven't been great at in my life. It's much easier to be self-critical, strive for perfection, and use and abuse my body. For years I lived to a standard that was not sustainable and would get annoyed with myself or anyone who got in my way (I got good results for a while but it of course didn't last). I've let that shit go as best I can at this point. I'm learning what It's like to fall in love with myself and all the good that comes from it. More self-love has certainly allowed my love for others to grow, as well as my love and appreciation for this world.

6. Routine: "Rush, rush, rush!" "Get in the workout, get the work done, don't stop!" "No pain no gain!" Then: "Just have a glass of wine to chill." Who can relate?! That was me forever, even before the triathlon days. I was born that way. So you can imagine what it's like to undo that way of living. Patience. Baby steps. It started with little things like chillin' on the couch for a day and not worrying about what I wasn't doing. Then it grew into things like going for a mellow sauna session instead of a hard workout or long run. I have learned to not feel guilty about slowing down, doing less and going easier--these are not signs of weakness. It's ok not to be training. It's ok to exercise solely based on listening to my body and respecting its needs and limits.


Finishing Ragnar, and in tears over a lot of shit but in this moment mostly it was tears because of the pain in my body (literal pain) and the pain of the reality I was facing. It's ok to have these dark moments and be vulnerable. It's part of the healing process. "It's during our darkest moments we must focus to see the light."
~~~


Healing My Gut: AIP Diet and My Supplement Protocol

AIP Diet:

It was a no-brainer to start right away on a strict AIP diet (i.e. the autoimmune paleo diet). I contemplated doing a lower carb version of AIP due to my SIBO and candida issues (I can be so sensitive to carbs) but opted against it because we agreed it would have been worse for me to be too low carb as it relates to HPA axis, thyroid, adrenal and hormonal side of things. And of all things in my life, my hormones have still been rocking (which I talked about here) and I did not want to mess that up again. My carbs of course do not contain gluten, wheat, sugar bombs, etc. I just resorted my fair share of butternut squash, kabocha, spaghetti squash, sweet potato (very small doses to begin; eventually tolerated them normally), and any gluten-free homemade goods. I got real creative with preparing these things; I never got sick of my "squash porridge" mmmm. Who needs oatmeal?!

Tangent: I believe in low-carb high-fat (LCHF) nutrition will recommend LCHF when it's clearly needed and healthy for a person, but I'm not pushing "LCHF dogma" as the one way. Hell no! Carbs have their place, and for most of us, healthy carbs have a vital role! Most the ladies with whom I work can tell you how I am about this. I will still eat LCHF meals or have LCHF days, but I equally don't shy away from carbs, and the right ones are a staple in my diet. I take more of an intuitive approach nowadays as to how much I need, and overall I would call myself a moderate-carb, higher-fat person. Even with less exercise/training I maintain healthy carb intake never below 100g/day I'm guessing. (Have you seen me with a bag of Jackson's sweet potato chips?!) 

For four weeks in March I ate AIP at home for every single meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner. I didn't eat out once--not even on my birthday. I didn't do much at all that month, except a lot of grocery shopping, kitchen time, planning, researching, and ME time. I also got the two root canals removed amidst all this! Thank goodness we didn't have any big commitments; I had the opportunity to just fully invest in this. I was not forced to travel or dine out and risk compromising the goals at hand. It's a bit extreme, but I knew it was temporary and would also be enlightening, so that made it ok.

Within two weeks I noticed positive changes on AIP: a decrease in inflammation, less swelling, gut improvements and better energy/cognitive function. After four weeks most if not all my initial symptoms were gone. By early April (before Boston) I was able to wean off strict AIP. It was a good time to reintroduce with the travel I had coming up, and I started reintroductions spacing them three days apart.

How do you know when to reintroduce? 

... 1) When many/most/all of your symptoms have dissipated/disappeared; for me my big symptoms were the chronic hand swelling, joint soreness, and brain fog. 2) When gut issues start to feel better and digestion improves; for me this meant no more bloating, gas, pain, constipation or loose stools/diarrhea.

Eggs, fine. Tomatoes/tomato-based things, fine. Chocolate, fine. Nuts, not a definitive trigger but iffy, and now I keep them to a minimum anyway. Nightshades, fine. Alcohol, fine in low doses. Gluten and dairy, not exactly sure. I've tried gluten and dairy a few times and survived, but knowing my history with these and knowing the nature of most gluten in general I'm not ready to bring them back completely. It's nice to know I can survive a little gluten, but I still feel gluten is evil. And coffee? Well I'll admit I never totally quit it, but I got down to having off days from it or merely 4oz a day. Now I have no more than 8oz a day at home, and when we travel I may sneak in a bit more.

I'm now back to more regular Paleo (if I had to categorize). Have not noticed any setbacks. I don't eat perfect every day (more like 90-10 at the moment), and I'm mentally and physically totally ok with that, which is nice. Meanwhile, the AIP changed my palate in a way that has me more flexible with meals, interestingly. I used to only rotate through a few breakfasts, almost all with eggs, but now I will have things like leftover "big ass" salads with meat, zoodles with sausage, or pretty much any leftover even if it's completely non-traditional breakfast food. Yesterday I had broccoli-mushroom soup with collagen powder stirred in and bacon.

You have no idea how happy I am to be able to eat and tolerate broccoli, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, more FODMAPs again, AND even more "adventurous" foods too like those gluten- and dairy- filled cannolis and Italian pastries in Boston! Never in my dreams in recent years. There was a desperate point when I'd use charcoal just to ease the bloating (not daily, but also more than what was probably good). I haven't brought back fermented foods yet because quite frankly I'm scared due to what was going on with them and me in January, but that's next.

Natural Gut-Healing Supplements:

Aggressive supplementing was just as integral to the diet. I firmly believe that even the best of diets aren't enough in cases of severe gut dysbiosis or other health issues, and supplements come in to do what food nutrients alone can't achieve. In fact I tried NO supplements just to clear my system over most of January and February (logic was if something I had been taking was a trigger to the swelling etc so why not go cold turkey for a bit). Things just got worse....

So first of course there was the testing to avoid guessing. This allowed us to hone in a very specific protocol. My supplement plan was divided into three phases to tackle one main issue at a time along with several subsequent issues; 95% of it was built out by my practitioner and I added a few other things on my own. My plan was built uniquely to what I was presenting with and while we can take some of this and apply to others, it is not a one-size-fits-all supplement protocol so please don't copy and paste and start it yourself without consulting with a health professional who can adjust to your needs.

Phase 1: 1) Kill the bad bacteria/pathogens that had made themselves a comfy home in my gut. This included excess/unhealthy levels of salmonella, enterococcus, pseudomonas, staph, etc., found on the GI MAP test. 2) Get rid of the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) found in breath test. 3) Support general gut health (i.e. fix leaky gut), detoxification, methylation, anti-inflammation, and begin to kill the systemic fungal overgrowth; a lot of markers on my blood pointed to these issues.

Phase 2: 1) Focus on killing the systemic fungal infection--candida! This stupid candida has been around for ages especially now that I understand its symptoms. And it's a bitch to get rid of it. Meanwhile, continue detox and methylation support, gut health, lowering inflammation and general health support. Start to add more re-seeding of the gut with good guys.

Phase 3: 1) Re-seed and rebuild a robust gut. While this was addressed in 1 & 2, it will be the main focus on Phase 3, as well as anything else that wasn't achieved in Phase 1 or 2 I suppose.

I'm through Phase 1, mostly through Phase 2.... Weeding and seeding, as Dr. Grace Liu says.


Phase 1 Supplements:


Gut/Detox/Health Support:


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep


Notes:
Homocysteine Supreme


1



1


Inflammatone


1-2

1-2

1-2
Take away from food by at least 30 minutes.
Vitamin D3/K2

15,000 IU





Thorne brand, want this back in 60-70 range
Readisorb Liposomal Glutathione


1 tsp



1 tsp

Start at ¼ tsp and work up
GI-Revive and/or Restore Liquid


1



1

Gut lining, gut health
IG 26 DF


1 scoop





Same idea as hyperimmune egg

L-Glutamine

5g scoop





Gut support
GTA Forte II (thyroid)

2

2



Started in February




Salmonella/Enterococcus/SIBO—6 weeks


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep



Hyperimmune Egg 


1 scoop



1 scoop

Started after IG 26 DF finished
Lactobaccilus

1

1

1


Andrographis

1

1

1


Oil of oregano

2

2

2


Grape Seed Extract (GSE)

1-2

1-2

1-2


Allimax Pro (garlic)


2

2

2


NAC (have tab and pill version)

1

1

1

Glutathione/ antioxidant precursor

Additional

arising

with breakfast

mid
morning

with
lunch

mid
afternoon

with dinner

before sleep



Prescript Assist Probiotic

1







Boswellia

1





used briefly after root canal extraction to fight inflammation further
Allergy Research Group CoQ10


1






Natural Calm Mg






1 scoop




Digestion Aids


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep



Dipan 9

1-2

1-2

1-2

Digestive enzyme by Thorne

Thorne's Betaine HCL W/pepsin


1-2

1-2

1-2

 Help stomach acid production
Iberogast

20-30 drops





 Quit by April--didn't need!



I know what you are thinking: That's a shit-ton of stuff!!! I know, right?! And it didn't end there.... I started getting B12/folate injections and a Meyer's Cocktail IV for even more support (I started these more late April ish and still have a few more). I was also taking fish oil too, but not really daily since I eat a lot of fish like salmon, sardines, etc. Brie had me doing some heavier fish oil dosing around my period to decrease all the PMS symptoms I was getting. I think it helped? But too many variables to be sure it was the fish oil; bottom line is that my periods are "easier" the past couple times.

Graduated from that successfully, and moved on to Phase 2 by later April.


Phase 2 Supplements:



6-Week Candida Protocol:


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep



Candicid Forte

2

2

2



Interfase Plus
3



3


Take 20 minutes prior to meals/herbs
Candibactin-AR

1

1

1

1 month only
S. Boulardii

1

1

1


Lactobacillus

1

1

1






Continued Health Plan:


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep

updates to program:

Homocysteine Supreme

1



1

Active B12/folate/methylation support

Inflammatone

1-2

1-2

1-2

Take away from food by at least 30 minutes. This has turmeric, boswellia, and other things that lower inflammation and help balance the immune system in AI conditions.
Vitamin D3/K2

15000 daily





Aim for D3 levels of 60-80. Retest in 6-8 weeks.
Readisorb Liposomal Glutathione

1 tsp



1 tsp

Start with ¼ tsp and work up gradually. Addresses AI, metals, detox, and inflammation/oxidative stress.
Restore Liquid/GI Revive








As directed. These are potent leaky gut support. Good used before, during, and after GI infection clearing protocols.
GTA Forte II







Same dose as previous
EXOS AM/PM Multivitamin


2-3



2-3


Selenium

1






Prescript Assist Probiotic

1








Digestion Aids


upon
arising


with breakfast


mid
morning


with
lunch


mid
afternoon


with dinner


before sleep



Dipan 9

1

1

1

Digestive enzyme by Thorne

Thorne's Betaine HCL W/pepsin


1-2

1-2

1-2

 Help stomach acid production
...and/or ACV drink before meals










Still finishing this up, and it feels like I'm barely taking anything compared with Phase 1, haha! The goal is to get to needing next to nothing supplement-wise; minimal is best. Brie also wanted a brief anti-candida diet but I haven't done it entirely yet due to a lot going on--events, travel, etc., and she agreed now's not the time to restrict more especially with the progress I've made already. So, we're going to see how things are after my wedding when life calms down a bit more and see if we need to extend Phase 2 to work on the fungal/candida if it's still there.

Of course, that means sometime this month it's time to RE-TEST!

Test don't guess.

After our wedding, I'll do a full blood chemistry, stool test (another GI MAP, also going to do a GDA GI Effects Stool Panel just for good measure), and a Great Plains Organic Acids because it looks awesome. If all is clear then we can move onto Phase 3, which will really work on rebuilding the gut microbiome, as well as more detox support/heavy metals (if it is an issue), and further immune/AI support.

I was also advised to test for Lyme's Disease throughout all this as Lyme's can mimic AI conditions, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I have ordered the test forms and kit and will do this month as well just to rule it out.

And so with all this mega supplementing, the results?

PHENOMENAL!!! My gut and digestion haven't felt this great in years. TMI, but for the first time in ages I have normal, daily and complete bowel movements. This is huge for me to not be plagued with all that horrible stuff. I feel less like I have less inflammation and better vibes in my body too--things don't feel out of whack. Most of all, I feel like I have freedom with food and I can handle eating nearly anything (nearly). As such, I don't find myself getting stressed/worried about how a food may react in me with my gut feeling robust again--and thus those dark ages seem to be over, lol.

~~~

Testing the Waters

You still with me? ;)

Before my wedding, I've had other big trips/benchmarks to hit that would be test runs because I'll be damed if I live in a cave because of all this. Trips to Boston (for the marathon), Big Sur (for my backpacking bachelorette party) and Belize (for a friend's wedding) all within weeks in April and May. Just the travel alone is a lot on the body, right? But I was up for all of it. Feeling good again and excited to adventure and step away from "strict living" mode.

All trips were a success. My body responded well, and each trip showed me how I'm improving on so many levels. I was able to run a marathon (at a "safe" pace not getting all ego'd out), backpack coastal mountains accumulating 20 miles in 2.5 days, and SCUBA dive multiple times in the Belize Barrier Reef.... these are probably not the typical things you hear of with someone who just got diagnosed with autoimmune disease. But you know me ;) I believe I could do these thing because a) I wanted to so badly and b) I do not neglect the recovery and respect for my body in the process. In between all the adventures I don't continue to push and push like I used to. After Big Sur I rested for days, and in Belize when my triathlete friends got up early to workout, I chose to hang out in my hotel room sipping coffee, enjoying breakfast and catching up on work (not caring about calorie burn and miles).
 


It was also so nice to pass these tests in the food-gut department! I let loose, a little more on each successive trip, and never felt restricted like I had to be in March. These trips were a chance to test all kinds of food in different environments, and I did not get screwed over for once. Even in a place like Belize where it was a lot of Caribbean/Mexican food and a fair amount of rum drinks I was thriving and feeling awesome. Of course, i'm not going to take this as a sign to go off the deep-end with my diet. But, having flexibility and 80-20 living--or 90-10; whatever I'm not counting--is so important to me; I do not want to live an overly strict life. I'll be strict when I have to, but I don't think that needs to be 365 for the rest of my life at all. Granted, it's no secret I have a sensitive body which makes this harder, but I think if I can find the right balance--which it seems like I'm getting there--I'll be ok in any situation. It's all about building that badass gut health.

Next up? OUR wedding, and it looks like I achieved that aggressive goal I set back in March :)



Where I haven't yet tested the waters is training and/or exercise like I once knew it. Which I don't mind. At all. The routine I have going on now is awesome (next blog post will cover this). I can feel deep down that if I were to try and push it, that'd be bad. That would probably be the thing that would lead to a setback. After all, it has only been 6 months or so since I first noticed my symptoms. Patience! Training/racing isn't out of my life forever, but right now I don't miss it and don't need it. That stuff doesn't define me, but I am starting to understand why it was so important to me. For now, I'll stick to the wide variety of other things I'm doing that fill my craving for a good challenge and stepping outside my comfort zone--SCUBA, backpacking, practicing yoga, and whatnot.


Oh and btw, without all that hardcore training my body composition is better than ever. You don't need extreme exercise to look and feel your best.

~~~

If I hadn't been told I have lupus/RA this year, I'm not sure I would have been so fast and diligent to do a lot of these things. It's been a heavy heavy undertaking, and I can seriously understand why many people go the drug route vs. healing with intent to put in remission. Not that I support the prescription drug approach, but it looks "easier" in ways (but also a different outcome). I'm stoked to have some traits I've channeled for the good of my well-being this time--like my relentless nature. Nothing or no one can stand in my way of my goals and this challenge to heal naturally.