Halting the Inflammation Train

It is my two year anniversary of being hive-free. Yes, a strange event to have an anniversary for, but if you’ve ever had a health issue that took months or longer to resolve, you can relate. I had hive flair-ups all over my body, every single day, for one year, and then one day they went away, never to return.

During the year when I experienced the hives, I felt tired and groggy constantly, even when I first awoke in the morning. Life was an uphill battle – just the little things took extreme amounts of will to accomplish. I remember looking at the clock at 9:30 am and thinking I am way too tired to make it through this day. Even though I was only thirty-eight, I felt very old, like the best part of life was behind me. Not a fun, or productive, way to live.

Today, while still aware of the underlying condition that caused the hives, I feel vibrant and alive. The here and now is fulfilling. Exhaustion doesn’t hit me until 10 p.m. when I happily crawl under the covers feeling that a rest has been well earned. I’m actually excited about life – I know that while I have already lead a full life with many awesome memories and experiences, the best is yet to come.

What I now know is that an autoimmune disease was part of the underlying cause of the chronic hives. But I believe that at the root of my problem was chronic inflammation – the inflammation was a precursor to the auto-immunity. Our bodies use inflammation as a mechanism of defense against unwanted intruders or pathogens, but if the wrong factors are present (like poor diet and excessive stress) and the inflammation train gets going, it can accelerate to destructive levels. Once this train is going out of control, it is not easy to calm it down. Inflammation is only meant to be turned on when the body is in real danger, not chronically.

Two years ago I did what is called an ‘elimination diet’. For thirty-one days, I ate only organic bone broth soups with vegetables, cooked vegetables, simple 3-ingredient, blueberry smoothies, and an Indian dish called Kitcharee. On day seventeen of this month, the hives did not show up, and I have not seen them since (celebrate).

After the elimination diet, I slowly added foods in, one at a time and only one every three days – it can take three days for the body to adversely react to a food. My body was fine with all the foods I added – granted, I have stayed with a whole-food, gluten and dairy free diet this entire two years. As hard as this sometimes is, I feel so much better without the inflammation, I refuse to get that train going again.

A lot of us live with low levels of chronic inflammation. This presents as sluggishness, a little extra weight on the body, aches and pains, low libido, bloating, and a general lack of passion. It is interesting to consider ways to calm the inflammation, to care for ourselves in such a way that illnesses such as autoimmunity and other chronic yuckiness do not develop in the first place, or to keep the symptoms calm and dormant if they already have.

One simple practice is deep breathing. Christopher Bergland, author of The Athletes’ way: The Biology of Bliss, writes about deep breathing in his article, The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure. This article is about the Vagus Nerve, a very interesting subject. This nerve wanders from the base of the brain down through the body, touching several key organs along the way – including the heart. He writes, “A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is linked to inflammation, negative moods, loneliness, and heart attacks.”

He also discusses how diaphragmatic breathing increases vagal tone.

So, pull up a cushion, silence the cellphone, and treat yourself to some deep breathing. Even five or ten minutes a day will give results. First simply observe the current rhythm of your breath without judgement. Due to the hectic pace of modern life, most of us function on a jagged breathing rhythm. After noticing this for a minute or two, begin guiding the inhales and the exhales to a smooth, even rhythm. Counting the length of the inhales and the exhales and nudging them to even is one method. Sometimes it is nice to have the exhales be slightly longer and to envision stress being expelled from the body with the breath out.

This simple exercise will tone the vagus nerve, signalling to the brain and heart that all is well. Practicing regularly has huge impacts on soothing inflammation and promoting well-being – I know from experience.

This is a picture  our family out hiking in August. I am grateful to feel well again, so that I can live my life in the fullest way possible!

 

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When Springtime throws you a Wintry Day

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Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is never predictable. Last week my five-year old and I met friends at the beach for a sunny day that satisfied my Vitamin D craving, and more; today, the sky is characteristic grey, a cold wind is making the leaves shimmy, and I think it may rain.

When I saw today in the forecast, I was actually happy. A soup day!

I had been a pescatarian for a very long time – almost twenty-five years – when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This means that the only meat I ate was fish, on occasion. But, after the diagnosis, I quit eating gluten completely and after so many years of being mainly vegetarian, I realized that I just may need some animal products. The healing protocol I designed for myself, based on the amalgamation of many experts, included bone broth soup.

This week is my two-year mark of being 100% gluten free, and I feel so much better that it still feels like a miracle. If you’re interested in exactly why I cut the gluten, check out my earlier post entitled “The Gluten Piece.” Here, I will only say that while some are still skeptical whether leaky gut syndrome  exists, I am convinced that it is quite real, and able to be healed.

In essence, leaky gut is when the wall of our small intestine becomes compromised due to food sensitivities. When the intestinal wall is irritated, it can become more porous than it should be. Small particles escape into the bloodstream and alert our immune systems, leading to inflammation, and if left unchecked, autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s. Modern day gluten causes food sensitivity in some people, due to its difficulty to break down by the digestive system. I say ‘modern day’ because the gluten we eat is not the same product that our grandparent’s ate, but that’s another subject altogether.

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, I invite you to cut gluten out of your diet – 100% – there is absolutely no grey area on this one. Give yourself about a week, and then check in with yourself. Have any digestion issues improved, even somewhat? Have you noticed a difference in your energy levels, even subtle? If so, you may want to continue your gluten fast, and work on repairing your gut.

Bone broth is a powerhouse in this respect. Homemade bone broth contains numerous minerals and amino acids that are readily usable by the body to restore damaged tissue in the small intestine, connective tissues, and other organs. It is a truly healing food – I can attest to this firsthand after healing from the state of total exhaustion and inflammation resulting in daily hives – to a state of wellness I have never experienced in my life. The bone broth has been one component in my healing, and an important one. Using organic ingredients whenever possible is important, to minimize chemicals and toxins. I still eat meat rarely, having been vegetarian for so long. But the broth can be amazing in veggie soups too!

As the Mother of two kids – my little girl is eight and my son is five – and the wife of a big, hungry man, my soups have come in handy. Tonight, my family will enjoy a beef soup that has been simmering in the crock pot all day.

Here is the recipe. If you get handed a Wintry day this Spring, give it a try.

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Bone Broth

4 or 5 Grass-fed beef marrow or neck bones (organic if possible)

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

12 cups filtered water

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 pinches black pepper

To prepare:

Bake the bones in an oven heated to 350 for 30 minutes to improve flavor. Place bones in a large stock pot along with the water and vinegar. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to extract minerals. Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil for three or four minutes and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 12 to 24 hours. Pour broth through a strainer so that only the liquid remains.

 

Wintry Day Beef Soup

2 large red onions

8 peeled cloves garlic

2 tablespoons sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

Lots of fresh thyme

One pound steak cut grass-fed beef chunks

4 large yams

4 large zucchini

2 cups baby carrots

Coconut oil

To prepare:

Cut sweet potatoes and zucchini into large, bit-sized chunks. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. Add carrots and fry on medium heat for fifteen minutes. Pour bone broth into crock pot. Add vegetables, including garlic and and basil. Turn crock pot on high.

Cut onion into long pieces. Warm onions on low in 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. When onions become translucent, add beef and sprigs of thyme, and fry until beef is cooked on the outside, adding a couple pinches of salt. Place meat and onions into soup. Add 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves and stir well.

Cook soup on high heat for six hours. Serve to someone you love, and let the healing begin!

 

Autumn: The Season of Soup and Spice

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I love this time of year in the Northern hemisphere: as the wind grows cooler and the leaves become tinged with the colors of warmth, the Crock pot reappears on my counter, diffusing the scent of spice and delight into the air.

One year ago I was in the middle of my elimination cleanse. After a lifetime of eating a gluten and sugar-rich diet, I constructed my cleanse over the course of a year. Gentle makes sense to me, when dealing with an issue as sensitive as what we eat. Everything we ingest goes through the process by which our cells are built – they regenerate, on average, every seven years. This regeneration process is constant, and the very fabric of our bodies – the cells- are fed by the nutrients extracted from what we eat.

And so, changing our diet, means we are changing ourselves. This metamorphosis requires much support.

In September of 2014 I eliminated practically everything from my diet, including: gluten, sugar, processed foods of any kind- only whole foods were allowed, meaning only ingredient lists of one ingredient.  Recipes such as the one offered here, were allowed, because they were homemade using whole ingredients -no store bought sauces or spice blends.

Soups felt like life-savers.  The healing properties in this soup fortified my weakened small intestine and made me stronger than I have been in many, many years. Allergies, autoimmune conditions, fatigue and thyroid disorders will all be pacified when the gut is strong. Thus, this soup is a powerhouse of healing.

Using homemade bone broth for the stock is where you get the deepest healing value. Slow cooking animal bones extracts minerals that are rejuvenating for our digestive system, cells, and connective tissue. The collagen in the broth literally heals us, from the inside out.

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Cooking it on low heat with the ghee releases the healing properties of this amazing spice. Cinnamon, while adding flavor perfect for this season, also has the power to bust through candida, and kill it. (Candida is out-of-control sugar in the gut- a problem many of us in today’s world face.)

So, put your music on, light your scented candle and savor the Autumn season with this healing soup.

Bone Broth

Ingredients:

4 or 5 beef neck bones – make sure the beef is grass fed

9 cups filtered water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 350. Place bones on a glass baking dish and bake them for 30 minutes to extract flavor. Place roasted bones into a large soup pot. Pour water over the bones. Add the apple cider vinegar – this helps extract the minerals from the bones. Bring pot to a boil. After five minutes of boiling, turn the heat to low and add salt. Allow the bones to cook on low for around 20 hours. You can also use a Crock pot for this process.

Autumn Healing Soup

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash

2 organic sweet onions

3 tablespoons organic ghee

1 tablespoon organic turmeric

2 cups homemade beef broth

1 can organic coconut milk

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon organic cinammon

1 tablespoon sea salt

Directions:

Peel and cube the squash. Steam the squash until easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, cut onions into long slices. Warm ghee in a frying pan (cast iron is the best) and add the turmeric. Warm the ghee and turmeric over a low heat, stirring. When they are blended into a paste, add the onions. Cook onions on low until they are translucent and soft. Place the softened squash, the onions and the broth into a food processor or high-powered blender and puree until smooth. Place this puree into a Crock pot. Add coconut milk, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Simmer the soup on low for three or four hours.

Enjoy, and be healed!

When the Light Shines

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After I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I went through a dark time. It was depressing to try to accept that the lack of energy and brain fog I had been experiencing for almost a year would never go away. Not to mention the horrible hives that covered my skin every morning and evening that had not abated, even after being treated for this condition.

As a person who loves yoga, and understands the value of accepting things as they are, I was frustrated because something within my spirit refused to allow me to accept THIS.

I was so tired. I remember looking at the clock to see that it was 9 am, after getting my little girl off to school, and being totally overwhelmed. 9 am? But, I’m ready for bedtime NOW. You mean I have to make it through at least twelve more hours? The thought was daunting.

It was impossible to explain this to the people in my life. As they had nothing to relate it to in their own experience, I held my tongue, not interested in coming off as lazy on top of everything else. I knew I wasn’t lazy – just TIRED. There is a profound difference.

When I decided that I was not going to accept this state of being – NO WAY – I began researching and learning. As I empowered myself with understanding, it became clear what I had to do. I developed a year-long program to heal myself, because the more I learned about autoimmunity, the more I realized that it would take a year to heal. That the layers of complexity involved would take time to unravel, was clear. The body is remarkable and intricate, a puzzle to solve.

As I gained momentum in my year to heal, the darkness parted and the light shined through. It is amazing how when the light shines into a dark place in our lives, it is more beautiful than we have ever seen it: the brightness in such contrast to the denseness that it pierces, its triumph is invigorating.

As I emerged from the cloud of fatigue I was transformed. As I embraced a year to heal – even though it was hard work – my entire being was renewed. And so, the sickness becomes the catalyst for the greatest growth. If you are tired or sick or sorrowful, know this:

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.

The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

   ~Khalil Gabrin

Once I was well past the overwhelming fatigue, the hives and the despair, and the light had shined into my life, I began to realize: this light has come from a place beyond the ordinary. There is more to it than can be understood with the intellect, or comprehended with the brain. This beautiful mystery is captivating, and gives life a feeling of underlying excitement. To discover the nature of this light is motivating, and engages us beyond our usual senses, carrying us into a state of wonder and aliveness.

“Sunlight fell upon the wall; the wall received a borrowed splendor.

Why set your heart on a piece of earth, O simple one?

Seek out the Source which shines forever.”

    ~Rumi

Swimming toward the light

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The past couple of years have been transformational.

In January of 2014 I was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This diagnosis came as quite a shock.

The frustrating part was that, even after following my doctor’s advice perfectly, by August of 2014, I was still dealing with the daily hives that had plagued my life for over a year. These red welts appeared all over my skin in the morning – every single day. This picture of my shoulder gives you an idea of what they looked like. They would pop up on different places on my skin. The worst was when they covered my neck, those grew the most inflamed and the feeling was most uncomfortable.

The hives would slowly subside after I took a Benadryl, only to make a comeback in the afternoon or evening. And no one had any answers aside from ‘take more Benadryl’. It was like an unsolvable mystery.

This was a very challenging experience. I felt like I had no understanding of my own body, like it was betraying me. Normally in life, if someone betrays us, we leave them. But how do you leave your own body? You don’t.

Prior to all this, I had been a very healthy and happy person. But, red welts all over your skin every day are a sure road to lack of energy (I’m positive the Benadryl was not helping in this department) and depression.

I refused to accept this life. Empowering myself with knowledge about how my body actually works has been a fascinating journey. I had to reach deep into myself to find the energy to continue learning, and believing that I could affect my own health. Even though I was exhausted from the hives, Benadryl and autoimmunity, and at times I felt like I was drowning, I just kept swimming up, toward the light. As I learned how the body works and how it can break down, I added layers of healing into my daily practice. After a year and a half of this swimming upward, I feel as though I have plunged through the surface and the sun shines on my face – finally.

I am not drowning. I am stronger than ever.

And the journey continues – my passion for learning about the body has only grown. Implementing my new knowledge has lead me to a place of true health and vitality. I feel better today, at forty-years old, than I have since I was in my mid-twenties.

It is amazing how life unfolds. I never expected that this would happen to me. This experience has deepened me, and I am grateful for it.

However, for the first eight months after the diagnosis, I did NOT feel grateful! During those months I felt lost and betrayed by my own body. Depression settled over me as I considered the fact that I may be declining into worse and worse health, since doctors say that one autoimmune disorder often leads to others.

But then, in September 2014, a miracle occurred. The culmination of the work I had been doing since I had been diagnosed was reached. I had been sugar and processed food-free for nine months, gluten-free for four, and dairy-free for three. I did a 30 day hiatus from red wine (something I typically drink a couple of times a week). I ate whole, organic foods and drank my bone broth (see previous post for recipe and description). I practiced meditation and positive affirmations.

Halfway through September, my hives disappeared. One morning I woke up with a feeling of freedom. No red welts. Over the next few weeks the feeling of freedom blossomed. The hives were totally gone. I felt healthy – for the first time in over a year.

With all the books and articles I have read, and online seminars on autoimmunity I have attended, I now have a clear understanding of how my healing occurred. The picture has grown clearer and clearer. I will continue to explain this phenomena, and others related to health, on this blog.

I am a pretty private person, and it is somewhat difficult for me to share all of this. It’s just that lately, I have been feeling that through sharing what I went through, I may somehow serve. In a world where many people are suffering, it is time to lift one another up in encouragement. It is time to share our stories and together, move toward healing.

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The Gluten Piece

I know, I know, everyone has heard the term ‘gluten-free’ by now. In fact, some are sick and tired of hearing it, annoyed at how fad-ridden modern health and nutrition has become. But, this is one fad that has serious solidity.

It’s not true for everyone, and some lucky folk can enjoy glutinous products daily. However, I believe there are many more gluten-sensitive individuals than realize it. I was one of them my whole life. When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I dove into books, articles and seminars on human physiology like a hot person diving into a lake on a summer’s day. That’s when I discovered how big a piece of the health puzzle gluten really is.

Hashimoto’s is always seen in conjunction with what has become known as a ‘leaky gut’, which is common for intestinal permeability. Even if you don’t have an auto-immune condition, it is important to understand the concept of intestinal permeability. The symptoms can be subtle, but the health implications can haunt you down the road if this is left unhealed. The small intestine is an important organ, and when it becomes permeable – when it has small holes in it – bad things happen. Particles that are not supposed to escape into the bloodstream, now can.

Out-of-control sugar or yeast can actually poke holes in your intestinal wall. Yeast is a powerful substance that when fed, grows aggressively. I never had typical systems of yeast, but I’m pretty sure I had a systemic yeast that caused havoc. So, even if you don’t have the usual symptoms such as yeast infections, if you have eaten a lot of sugar, bread, pasta etc. in your lifetime, you may want to consider a cleanse. I will be talking in detail about my gentle cleanse and how to do it, in a later post.

Did you know that gluten is actually a protein? Yep, and on a molecular level, it is a strong protein chain that is difficult for some people’s digestive system to break. Proteins are not meant to be released from the small intestine until they are reduced to a single amino acid. If your intestinal wall is compromised, and you are a person who has a hard time breaking down gluten, protein chains that are NOT meant to enter the blood, have an escape route via the weak points.

When the rogue gluten molecules enter the blood, the immune system kicks in, big time. The immune system is like ‘Get those intruders!’. This can show up as an allergic reaction, which is what happened to me in the form of hives. But, there are other, subtle symptoms – like bloating, gas, a feeling of fatigue or heaviness, constipation – to name a few. As the situation worsens over time, more food particles begin escaping, and more allergies are formed, until you feel like you can’t eat anything without a reaction.

This scenario is also a recipe for auto-immunity. An overactive immune system can become confused, until bodily tissue, such as the thyroid gland, starts to be mistaken as an intruder, In fact, the protein chain that comprises the thyroid gland is identical to part of the sequence of the gluten protein. Bizarre, right? Regardless, it is a fact.

I quit eating gluten as the second step in my Year To Heal. I was scared to do it, and I resisted. I am partly Italian, and eating bread and pasta seemed to be a part of me. The emotion before I let go of gluten was huge.

Thankfully, once I actually made the break and totally quit in April of 2014, it was surprisingly easy. The lightness I began to feel only weeks after quitting was so worth it. My stomach felt better all around. I still had hives, but not nearly as bad. Evidently, it can take six months or more for the gluten to clear completely out of your body.

Although the idea of quitting gluten was terrifying, once I understood the gluten/ leaky-gut/ allergy /auto-immune connection, a protective reaction kicked in. I had to protect myself! Health and wellness became my top priority. When you are unwell, you suddenly realize how crucial well-being is – how tied to one’s quality of life. I’ve always wanted to live this life to the fullest, and with a broken down body, living well becomes difficult. I am so grateful that cutting gluten out of my diet has had such a big impact.

There are different levels of gluten sensitivity, from all-out Celiac disease, to mild allergy. If you have bloating or an uncomfortable stomach, you may want to cut it out for a bit and see how you feel.

I have gotten into gluten-free baking, using almond and coconut flours, and it’s amazing the things you can make! I have found some good gluten-free products out there, but you have to be careful not to over-indulge on these because of their density, and always check the ingredient list for sugar or artificial additives, which are not your friends. I like my homemade gluten-free goodies the best, and I will post one of my recipes soon, for you to try.

It is fitting that I am posting this on Valentine’s Day. Taking care of yourself is a form of love. After all, if you don’t nurture and love yourself, from the inside out, it will be hard to truly receive love from someone else. I now think of choosing not to eat gluten, not as a form of sacrifice, but as a form of self-care. I replace gluten with foods that make me feel GOOD. In this way, I let my body know that I love her! You deserve the same, whatever form this takes for you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

I could only quit SUGAR after understanding THIS

So, here I was, faced with the news that I had developed food allergies and autoimmunity, and that I just had to live with these facts and get prepared for a  slow ride into the darkness of ever-worsening disease. Refusing to accept this descent, I dug in and researched. I was suddenly fascinated with the question: How does my body really work?

All my life I had taken for granted that my body worked well –  I had never questioned how. But, now that it seemed to be breaking down, I had to know. I believe life is to be enjoyed and savored. I now realized that to continue this way of living, I better get in touch with the mechanics of this body, because it truly is our vehicle, our vantage point.

One game changing piece of information I discovered is: we don’t actually have one brain, we have two, and if that second brain is unwell, expect chaos.

The second brain is located in the gut, and communicates with the first brain (the one in the head) by a long nerve, called the Vagus Nerve.The Vagus Nerve begins in the brain stem, and wanders throughout the ‘viscera’, or the internal organs, specifically the organs of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. This is where the term ‘visceral reaction’ comes from – referring to a feeling deep in the gut.

What exactly is the gut? The GI (gastrointestinal) Tract is a hollow tube that runs through the body, from the mouth, through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, and out through the rectum. This is the part of our inner body that is exposed to the outside world, by the things we ingest through our mouths. The Vagus Nerve is constantly using its sensors to see what’s going on in the gut, and sending messages back to the main brain about the state of affairs.

Interesting!! The term ‘gut reaction’ has a scientific basis. Does this have any connection to autoimmunity and allergies? Oh, yeah. I had stumbled across gold with this knowledge. Let me explain.

There is a section of the GI tract that has a whole lot to do with autoimmunity and that is the small intestine. The small intestine is a tubular structure that winds back and forth, so although it is called ‘small’ it is actually quite long. This very important organ has a wall that is not very thick, and that can be delicate. Large particles are not meant to escape this wall, they are meant to be broken down into tiny molecules that our body can use as energy. Anything we can’t use, is supposed to pass into the colon from here, and be expelled.

The problem arises when the wall of our small intestine becomes compromised, because when this happens, large molecules – usually protein chains – escape the intestinal wall and are released into our bloodstream. Now our second brain is shouting out, ‘Call in the troops!’ The troops – the immune system – rev up to annihilate these intruders. When this continues to happen over time, the immune system becomes overactive. In a later post I will go into more detail about how this eventually develops into autoimmunity and food allergies.

In this post, I am shining the spotlight on an unwanted visitor in the GI tract, one that I picture like an evil octopus –  actually, a team of evil octopi – that once introduced, will hold onto the inside of your gut, happy to have found such an awesome home. This evil octopi team is called yeast – once it’s out of control, the term is candida. And quite simply, the culprit is SUGAR. Sugar will destroy the intestinal wall and cause great havoc. That’s right, yeast will destroy the intestinal wall, making it permeable so that large molecules go where they are not supposed to go. Talk about a bad gut feeling.

In my year to heal, the first thing I did in January, was to totally eliminate processed sugar in any form from my diet. Was this hard? At first, yes. And let me tell you, candida is a real bugger to defeat. It took me 9 months to finally kill this invader, and only when I was victorious in this battle, did my hives finally stop.

Step one in your year to heal: Take your sugar bowl, tell it thank you for the good times, and throw out the window. And don’t look back.

Become the Captain of Your Destiny

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I talked about how horrible I was feeling in 2013. I haven’t yet mentioned that I actually ended up in the emergency room five times. Each time, my face and/or throat were so puffy and swollen, that my husband and I thought I was going to suffocate. Once in the emergency room, they always pumped me full of Benedryl and a steroid, and the puffiness went down. They sent me away with the advice to take Benedryl, and the diagnoses of an ‘allergic reaction’. We walked out of the emergency room – usually hours later- with the knowledge that I had experienced some sort of allergic reaction, with absolutely no idea what triggered it. This left me in constant, mild state of panic.

My doctor ordered allergy testing, and a couple of things showed up, like oatmeal (are you kidding me?? I have been eating oatmeal my whole life with no reaction, until recently, I was thinking.) Upon doing tons of research, I discovered that our immune systems are like the armed forces, and we actually have four different teams. When conventional medicine does allergy testing, they typically only test one of the teams. So, mine showed that I was just fine with gluten, but I now understand that my body was strongly reacting to gluten with an immune system team, other than the one they tested for.

Keep in mind, that I have never had a problem with food allergies. Well, they tell you that allergies can develop at any time in your life, but they don’t explain why or how. They simply arm you with an epi-pen and tell you to have it on hand at all times, and that you can always call 911. That’s great that I am equipped to handle an emergency, but I was not okay with living my life on the edge like this. I needed to know why and how this change in my body had occurred. The answer surprised me. I will share it all on this blog, over time. I will also discuss how all of this relates to auto-immunity.

The result of my year to heal, is that I no longer experience hives, and I no longer live in fear of a horrible allergic reaction. It feels like a miracle.

Even if you aren’t experiencing full blown allergic reactions, like I was, your body may be having internal issues, and sending you subtle signs, that will later degenerate into disease. Not good. Where does this leave the average person?

I believe that a steady, slow healing program is in order for many of us. We don’t need fad diets that melt the pounds away quickly, or short-term solutions to looking or feeling better. A year is a good amount of time to give yourself for the healing journey, and then the new ways will be deeply ingrained, changing your life forever – and changing the last third of your life profoundly. I believe a total body, multi-system year of healing accompanied by lifestyle changes, can eliminate future calamities such as cancer, lupus, MS and even Alzheimer’s. In this way, we become captains of our own destinies.

When we are captains of our own destinies, life takes on a whole new level of intrigue. With elevated energy levels, we can pursue the things that make life exciting. We can learn to play an instrument or plan an adventure trip, for example. If we’re just struggling to get through the day, the bonuses of life seem overwhelming, like who has energy for that? When our systems are healed, and our bodies are working properly, even our way of thinking is changed in a positive way. We actually see the world differently. What once may have made us feel uncomfortable, or even anxious, now seems exciting and doable. We are truly driving our own ship, instead of simply holding on for dear life, and letting it drive us.

In the next post, I will explain the first step I took, in my Year To Heal.

The Beginning

2013 was a very difficult year. It started off with a stressful trip to Hawaii in January, in which I thought I was moving home to Kauai, but the deal my husband had worked out for our living situation fell through. And so, I had to pack up my two little children and leave Hawaii. This was hard on me in many ways. It wasn’t until a year later that I began to understand the physical components of what the stress did to my body – how the mechanics of stress work, and the toll it actually takes on us.

Oh, we hear all the time how bad stress is for our health. But, how many of us understand how stress can cause an avalanche reaction within our bodies, leading to all sorts of issues? It is my intention, on this blog, to share not only my story of sickness and my journey into true health, but what I learned along the way, and how I accomplished the transformation from very sick to very well.

I am a reader by nature, it is an intrinsic part of who I am, and always has been. So, when my health crumbled around me, I dove in and researched. I read everything I could, I attended various summits on auto-immunity and health, in general. I now have so much information in my head, and I am ready to share, to shine a light for someone who may be stumbling through the darkness, as far as their health and wellness goes.

I will take the first few posts on this blog to talk about my own journey from disease to wellness, and how it all went down. 2013 was a rough year in which my health went downhill, and then 2014 was my year to heal. And let me tell you right now, one of the most important things I learned – our bodies desire wellness, they were built to heal themselves. If we take the time to understand what is happening in our bodies, and then give them the right tools, they WILL heal.

After I returned to California from that stressful trip to Hawaii, it was like I was standing on a hill in the rain, and the rain turned the ground under my feet to mud, until I lost my footing, and slowly slipped – on a physical level. I was tired, fatigued. There were ten pounds around my middle that would not go away. And then, in August the hives started. Oh how wonderful that was. I’m talking about swollen red welts all over my body – waking up like this every morning. They would go down during midday, then in the evening they were back – even worse. There were times that my face and neck were covered with them, and I felt that surely my throat was about to close up completely – a terrifying feeling.

I lived like this all year. At some point during the year I went to a doctor who said my thyroid hormone was low, and gave me a thyroid hormone replacement. I felt a tiny bit more energy after this, but otherwise my symptoms did not budge one bit.

In January of 2014 I went to a different doctor, she was actually a nurse practitioner. She tested not only my thyroid hormone levels, but my thyroid antibodies. Sure enough, the antibodies were elevated, and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This essentially means that my own immune system had turned on me, and was attacking my thyroid gland. Oh joy.

It took nine months after this diagnosis for my daily hives to go away. And let me say that if I had listened to the doctors, who said the only treatment for Hashimoto’s is to take thryroid hormone replacement, I would still be having daily hives. But, after my diagnosis in January, and after I had been taking their ‘cure’ for four months, and my hives were still in full force, I knew it was time to take my health into my own hands. Yes, the hormone replacement they prescribed helped, and I still take it. But it was definitely NOT the whole picture, as it did not address the underlying mechanisms had gone awry for me, I began researching with a vengeance, searching for the answer – I always believed that there was one, and that my body could be healthy again.

And it is. And now I am empowered with knowledge, and you can be, too.

After digging in and doing my research, I discovered that auto-immune conditions can be put into a state of remission. In other words, it is possible to stop the attacks in their tracks, and come completely out of all symptoms. It feels like you no longer have the condition. I believe I had a Hashimoto attack eleven years ago. It was awful, and I never did understand it. But, at that time, I unknowingly put it into remission through stress reduction and lifestyle changes. My Hashimoto’s was in a state of remission, until January of 2013 when stress triggered it again, and it flared up. This is an important understanding for anyone with an auto-immune condition, and I will delve into further in later posts.

For now, I will leave you with this thought – your health is your greatest asset, and knowledge is power. Empower yourself and know freedom, inside and out.