This is it! My first step into the big, wide world of blogging! It’s kind of exciting, kind of scary, and kind of exhilarating. I hope that you will find something valuable, helpful, maybe even inspirational, in my ramblings and musings. I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while before being diagnosed with autoimmune-related hypothyroidism and thrust into the crazy, complex world of autoimmune disease. My journey has introduced me to some very admirable and inspirational ladies and gentlemen out there in the blogosphere who planted the seeds for me to share my own story of faith, health, food, love, and life. Thank you for paving the way!
Now that the nerves are (mostly) out of the way, let’s get on with the very first post here at Where the Wild Rose Grows. I thought it only fitting that it be dedicated to what pushed me to take this step in the first place. But don’t worry, there is far more to my life (and my blog) than just autoimmune disease!
Autoimmune diseases have become an epidemic, often difficult to define and diagnose. My grandmother suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for years. It wasn’t until shortly before her passing that we learned it was an autoimmune disease! Knowing what I know now about autoimmune diseases and what can be done for them, I can only imagine what could have been done for her. My mother has had her own struggles with often debilitating hypothyroidism in connection with long-term Hashimoto’s Disease.
After an unbelievably stressful engagement, house purchase and move, wedding, and first six months of marriage (that’s a whole other post, or series!), I was experiencing terrible muscle pain and stiffness through my neck, shoulders, chest, and back. It felt like my muscles were tearing and my spine was made of glass shards every time I moved. It was to the point where it was interfering with my vision, physical activity, and social life. I was getting awful headaches, blurred or double vision, could hardly do anything around the house, and had a hard time forcing myself to leave the house when not absolutely necessary. To this day, I am so thankful for the man God gave me. Scott picked up the slack and gave me the best back rubs he could every.single.night for months with (almost) no complaints. Since we had moved, we hadn’t been able to find a family doctor yet (incredibly hard in this city) and my symptoms weren’t consistent or “severe” enough for the doctors at the local walk-in clinic to do anything. The only marginal relief I found was in pain killers and muscle relaxants. My massage therapist was concerned I was developing fibromyalgia. I was in pain and getting seriously worried. I didn’t know my own body anymore. What was happening to this temple with which God had blessed me? I could not imagine living like this indefinitely. Every day was a battle.
I’d always had some minor food sensitivities, but my digestion just hadn’t been right since before the wedding, so we explored the possibility of this being some new food sensitivity. We’d already been gluten and soy free for over a year due to Scott’s celiac-like sensitivity. In February, we both started an “elimination diet” for food allergies/sensitivities. For those who don’t know what an elimination diet is, it is a short-term diet used to test for food sensitivities. You eliminate all commonly-problematic foods from your diet for a period of time (not less than three weeks), and then slowly add each eliminated food back in and see how your body reacts. If you learn to listen to your body, it’s an incredibly effective tool.
Within weeks, the pain and stiffness were a fraction of what they had been. I started to feel human again. I started to have hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. This experiment revealed a whole host of new food sensitivities I’d never had before. Some of them even went back to foods I was allergic to as a child but thought I had “grown out of”. Things like beef, dairy, black beans, lemons, peppers (sweet and spicy, and all associated products), corn, and rice could no longer be a part of my diet. If I ate them, even the tiniest bit, I suffered the awful consequences for a week or more afterward!
In the spring, we finally found a good family doctor we both felt comfortable with and trusted. I didn’t really think anything could be that wrong with me. I mean, I was feeling better, right? Routine blood work revealed that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was more than double the normal levels! Because of this, our doctor took the initiative to test for antibodies. After my mother’s battle with hypothyroidism, I was aware of the hypothyroidism-autoimmune connection and that I ran a genetic risk. Sure enough, the results came back with antibodies almost 10x higher than normal. In July, I was diagnosed with subclinical autoimmune-related hypothyroidism.
According to my doctor, I wasn’t yet at the point where I needed medication, but I would eventually get there as my body continued its destructive attack on my thyroid. I was not prepared to stand by and just let my body destroy itself into needing permanent medication! I took to the online world to find anything and everything I could about this condition. If there was anything I could do to stop this now, before it got further and did permanent damage, I was going to do it. It didn’t take me long to come across the autoimmune protocol (AIP).
I had always been a supporter of organic and unprocessed foods and had what I considered to be a pretty “clean” diet. Oh for those care-free days! Extreme, regimented diets have never appealed to me. My brother-in-law is a dyed-in-the-wool vegan on a crusade against all meat-eaters and animal-killers (yeah, holiday dinners with my in-laws are a blast!). My own mother is a compulsive fad dieter, always one diet after another. That next diet was always “the one” that had all the answers. Her latest kick was “paleo”. I had listened obligingly as she regaled me on all the wonderful benefits of her new fad. I had smiled and nodded and continued on with my life. Imagine my surprise when I found out that AIP was a paleo diet modification! Maybe Mom was onto something this time.
I believe that everyone responds to different foods differently, based largely on our individual metabolisms. Scott cannot eat much in the way of animal-based protein or his lymphedema explodes! He does best with mostly plant-based proteins. Even then, he needs to keep his protein intake to moderate amounts. It’s little wonder that his brother does as well as he does as a vegan. I, my sister, and my mother all have metabolisms that need high levels of protein, particularly red meat and animal-based protein. Armed with this knowledge and the hope of putting my autoimmune activity into remission before it had much more of a chance to get started, I decided to embark on the AIP lifestyle.
I began following the AIP diet about four months ago and plan to stay on it for a year before getting my blood work rechecked and we’ll go from there. It really hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, thanks in large part to so many amazing AIP pioneers who have done a lot of the hard work. The recent holiday season was a particular challenge, though. I’m slowly acclimating to this new way of looking at my food and lifestyle habits. I’m learning to listen to my body. I’m starting to experiment with new ingredients and recipes, many of which I hope to share with you here. Some of the recipes I’ve found so far have almost made it worth going AIP. Almost.
I’m still having a hard time turning down social invitations to restaurants where I can’t eat anything. I’m still finding it hard and slightly embarrassing to explain to people that I am on this super strict diet that doesn’t allow any cheating and that I generally can’t risk eating their cooking. And I’m still having a very hard time watching Scott eat delicious (gluten-free) pasta right in front of me. BUT, I am starting to feel more energized and just plain healthier. The muscle pain and stiffness are much better. Scott and I have rediscovered our love of entertaining in our own home, and I’m slowly starting to see my friends more. I am beginning to get my life back! When I compare where I am now versus where I was a year ago, I have come so far! I’m so very thankful for the friends and family who have come alongside me and are supporting and encouraging me through this and to start this blog! I couldn’t have done it without you!