Hi everyone. I am so happy to be sharing with you some of the things I have learned about healing autoimmunity and a few of my resources that have helped me most. I am eager to hear from you below in the comments box, so please share some things you have tried while on your personal path to whole wellness.
Throughout this entry I have inserted links to websites that will be helpful in answering your questions as we go along. Because this entry is particularly comprehensive, I will divide it into two entries. You can go from Part I to Part II in one reading, or simply read part II later. Together they are one continuous article to help your body heal.
Let’s begin with a brief review of what we do know about autoimmunity .
NIH (National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) estimates near 23.5 million Americans have an AD. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million. The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, AARDA.org, disagrees with that estimate of 23.5 million. They say that 50 million Americans experience autoimmune diseases and that “The NIH numbers only include 24 diseases for which good epidemiology studies were available.”
Other statistics from their web site report:
• Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening.
• Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.
• A close genetic relationship exists among autoimmune disease, explaining clustering in individuals and families as well as a common pathway of disease.
• Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects.
• The Institute of Medicine reports that the US is behind other countries in research into immune system self recognition, the process involved in autoimmune disease.
The website explains how very difficult it is to diagnose, research and treat the growing number of cases because of the uniqueness of symptoms and the cross specialty areas that exist in each type of autoimmune disease. For more facts about autoimmunity go to http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/autoimmune-statistics/
What is possible for you and me? The web is filled with professionals and lay people speaking out about numerous protocols available to us for under $300.00. This figure does not include the cost of supplements, and organic food. This is such a new field of study (and because of unique presentations of symptoms from one patient to another) there is very little clinical evidence to support these programs for healing. However, there is a wealth of anecdotal testimony. And there are tests to determine autoimmunity, food and environmental sensitivities, and remission of symptoms. The best way of knowing how you are responding to a treatment, whether you’re taking medication, or changing your diet, lifestyle choices, or supplements, is by how you feel.
The process of discovering what “works” is so new the health insurance companies have not caught up. As of now, they do not pay for healing protocols or many of the tests which can confirm your body’s deficiencies. This is one reason (our sense of personal empowerment is another) for all of us with an autoimmune condition to become responsible for our healing process. Honestly, is there anyone else who has your unique symptoms, your desire to get well, or your individual obstacles to wellness? I don’t think so. It only makes sense that you are the only one to choose what to do for you. Ask your doctors, your informed practitioners, to give you options. If you do not hear one you can use, then find a different doctor. In the end, you are the one accountable for your health. Choose the counselors, and the steps along the way, for yourself.
Listen to your body and trust it. When you take a wrong turn, your body will let you know within few days, or as little as fifteen minutes, long before you are able to do any irreversible harm. Practice feeling how your body feels. Locate the discomfort or pain and then ask it, “What is it you want me to know?” Set your intention to listen and honor what ever comes up first. Your mind will want to ignore the first response for the “right” one, or the one you already know. Trust your body and go where that process takes you. In my September 3rd, 2015 entry we’ll consider the mind/body connection and how this practice can help you choose what is good for you.
It took a while to begin to trust my body and myself. I first wandered around in resistance and denial, then anger, and finally mourning. I used up about a year looking for the magic fix that would take it all away. And when I knew I could not get any worse and stay alive, something happened to inspire me to take responsibility and move forward.
My kids and grand kids had come for their annual summer visit. As usual, all the family headed to the lake and an evening boat ride, a swim and picnic before the sunset over the Smokys. But I wasn’t going. I was in bed where I spent most of each day sleeping. At 5’8″ and 103 lb, having lost 50 pounds over three months, I had developed hypothyroidism, double vision, an inability to chew or swallow, a chronic bladder infection, diarrhea, joint pain, swollen glands, fevers and incredible weakness from (at the time) undiagnosed Lyme Disease. That was when I decided I would not live like that. And, as of that evening, seeing my family put-putting off in our pontoon boat, dying was not an option.
I began researching my illness. The Buddhists say to make plans, receive each day as is, and “let go of all hope of fruition.” All I had (and still have) was a hope filled understanding that my body could heal itself if given a chance, with no guarantees. For those of us new to the idea that the body is self-healing (trusting this was like jumping off a cliff for me), I recommend Dr. Mercola’s website and news letter. His articles are well-informed and focus on the latest, researched health issues. Follow this link to a perspective that has been reliable and helpful in my healing process. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/08/23/effortless-healing-guidelines.aspx?e_cid=20150823Z1_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20150823Z1&et_cid=DM85321&et_rid=1085909855
The first thing I learned was that I did not get sick in a month, or a year or even two. Healing was going to take at least that long or more. (I keep forgetting this, but when I am most frustrated and impatient, this core understanding does come back to me.) Finding out what worked and didn’t work for me took a lot of trial and error. So throw out your inclination to want to get it right with the first or second try. You berate yourself and your autoimmunity just gets worse. Stop it. Or rather, change it. Substitute a half hour detox bath in Epsom salts every time you find yourself pushing yourself for the perfect doctor, the perfect book, the perfect protocol. Take one step forward today and see what shows up.
The second thing I learned after trying several protocols is that my body and I are unique. Some protocols worked for me and others did not. I began with Jordan Rubin’s program, The Maker’s Diet, for healing Chron’s Disease. http://www.crohns.net/miva/education/articles/HSO_PrimDef.shtml (My diarrhea began after three months of oral and injected antibiotics for a persistent bladder infection that wiped out my intestinal flora.) After six months of gaining strength on the Rubin protocol, I plateaued. I was only maintaining the progress I had made and a few new symptoms were showing up (I later learned that this is part of the healing process, to have one issue disappear and another develop for a short time and then go away.) I was impatient, my breathing was more labored and I began having panic attacks at night in bed. While the diarrhea was nearly gone, and I’d put on 15 pounds (hooray!), I was still weak and took a pill an hour before meals to swallow food or drink.
One tablet of 60mg Mestinon taken four times a day is a common treatment for Myasthenia Gravis and has its side effects. My high anxiety and shortness of breath developed into asthma, which I hadn’t had since junior high school. Soon my neck became so weak, I couldn’t lift my head off my chest. These symptoms disappeared, gone for good, when my condition improved to where I reduced the number of pills a day to zero and was swallowing food on my own nine months later. The improvement came with the help of several people and practices. http://www.drugs.pro/mestinon.html
To be continued in Healing:The Body is the Last to Know Part II