Monday, September 21, 2015

the road to recovery

Back in July, I wrote about finding out that I have Crohn's Disease and thought I would post a little update. 

After a couple weeks of feeling really good, I started feeling pretty bad again, which did nothing good for my state of mind and left me with a feeling of taking one step forward and two steps back. I spent the rest of the summer doing only the things that had to be done and living mostly inside my own head where I went back and forth between thinking that I was going to be totally fine and that the medications the doctors wanted me to take were going to make me even more sick. 

 Quinoa pasta with peas, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes

I had blood taken several times, a CT scan, a chest x-ray, and a couple other appointments with my doctor who, based on the test results, said that I had become "steroid dependent" and wanted to put me on Humira, a biologic drug that you inject into your leg or stomach (maybe you've seen the commercials.) I had already had a blood test to check for some marker that could potentially give me really bad side effects from a different immune-suppressing drug that is often taken in conjunction with Humira, and found that I did have that marker so couldn't take that drug. Knowing that made me really nervous about taking the, I take that back. I wasn't nervous about it, I was scared. 

 Almond-blueberry muffins

If you have heard the commercials, you've listened to the laundry list of terrible things that can happen to you when you take Humira. And as a couple people pointed out to me, the drug companies have to list every possible side effect and the chances of most of those things happening to me were probably slim. But I couldn't shake the feeling that there just had to be a better way. There had to be a way for me to feel better without risking a whole host of other problems. 

 Guacamole with homemade flaxseed "tortilla chips"

But the doctor was pretty insistent that I needed the Humira and so on a Thursday night, when the pharmacy called to schedule my Humira delivery, I said ok, send it tomorrow. The woman that I talked to said that they hesitate to mail on Friday's because someone has to be home to sign for the package since it has to go directly into the refrigerator, and that people usually weren't home on Saturday's to do all of that. But I assured her that we would be home all day and that a Saturday delivery would be fine. I wasn't feeling great about it, but had resigned myself to dealing with this new lifestyle with a smile on my face. I went to bed that night trying to psyche myself up for having to give myself a shot every two weeks, possibly for the rest of my life. 

 Warm quinoa with homemade granola, blueberries and coconut milk

The next day, Friday, I got up and picked up Susan Blum's "The Immune System Recovery Plan" that my mom had given me in July, and started reading. I had read a bit here and there over the summer but never enough to really process what the book was about. But that Friday, I started at the beginning and read half of it without looking up (the kids played together really well that day!). It's basically a four-step process - using food as medicine, learning how to deal with stress, healing your gut, and detoxifying your system - that has given a lot of autoimmune disease patients really good results towards tapering off of medications and feeling better. As she says in the book, biologic drugs really only mask the symptoms of the disease - they don't do anything towards healing the body and getting rid of the underlying cause of disease. I'm not interested in just covering up symptoms. I want to heal my body. But I already had the Humira delivery scheduled and at that point thought that there was nothing I could do. 

 Garlicky greens in coconut oil, mung bean kitchari and kombucha
And then the phone rang. 

It was a different woman from the pharmacy telling me that she was very uncomfortable with a Saturday delivery and would it be ok with me if we rescheduled the shipment for Monday with a Tuesday delivery? 

Um, YES.

 Coconut chai smoothie 

I spent the rest of the weekend reading through the book, taking the assessments, learning more about autoimmune disease and deciding that I definitely wanted to wait on taking the Humira and try this approach first. I talked it over with Will who said he would support whatever decision I made, and on Monday morning, the minute the pharmacy opened, I called and cancelled the shipment. 

 Oatmeal with raisins, apples, almonds, unsweetened coconut, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and chia seeds

That was about three weeks ago now and I've been following the diet (some recipes shown in photos) and lifestyle plan from Dr. Blum's book ever since. And let me tell you, I have more energy, almost no pain, and my foggy head symptoms have improved dramatically. The diet took some getting used to and is actually the exact opposite of what the doctor told me to eat (doc: low-fiber, well-cooked veggies, white bread, white potatoes, white rice, etc. vs. Dr. Blum: high-fiber, tons of raw or slightly cooked veggies, whole grain gluten-free bread, sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc.) but it's totally worth it to me if I can heal up my gut and go back to feeling like a normal person.  

 Almond milk with coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon

At this point, I've given up gluten, corn, soy, dairy, tomatoes, white sugar, caffeine, chocolate and coffee. They say that if you give something up for 21 days your body doesn't crave it like it may have before. I'm here to tell you that 21 days later, I still want cheese, coffee, sugar and chocolate.  :)  But I'm slowly finding other foods to substitute and honestly, if it means feeling good vs. feeling like I did before, I'm good with leaving it all out forever. But I'm hopeful that if I can heal my gut over the next couple of years with this diet and learning how to better deal with stress and adding in some supplements, that maybe I can add back a little chocolate, cheese pizza, a cup of full-caffeine coffee per day and the occasional bit of white sugar. We'll see. 

Special thanks to my mom for sending me Dr. Blum's book (aka my new best friend - I've been cooking recipes from it and referring back to it every single day)! I'm so thankful to be feeling better and more like myself. For more info on the book or to learn more about Susan Blum, check out her website here. If you have an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's, MS, Graves Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) I highly recommend at least reading the book. It made so much sense to me and is already helping me feel better without harsh drugs. 

Just a little update on my road to recovery! We've been enjoying some cooler temps (the highest temp this week is going to be 78!), the return of fall baseball, and Annabel's first ballet lesson. Wishing you a lovely and healthy start to your week!

1 comment:

  1. Chelsey...the recipes look delicious...keeping you in my thoughts and going to buy the book as well...think this would be good for all of us...I think she also wrote a book on a healthy no drug way to get through menopause that a jan gave me and was very helpful