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My Autoimmune Story.





I'm not one to share too much personally through writing, so this is a wee bit vulnerable, but I feel perhaps someone else may be able to connect with this or perhaps learn something new. I also tend to force myself to do vulnerable things in order to grow... so far it has been a challenge but always a worthwhile adventure. Only a few people know this story. I also am extraordinarily passionate about autoimmune challenges and being able to reverse them completely or at least reduce symptoms. So, here I go....maybe it will be beneficial for someone who is, or was, also struggling with autoimmune?


Nearly 15 years ago now, I was at the risk of dying from Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid, which in turn affects everything. I was in what is called a thyroid storm, and evidently had been for quite some time, too long, which evidently is life-threatening - little did I know! I knew I didn't feel well, but I was working with my acupuncturist and we thought perhaps I had brought back another friend, aka parasite from my travels. I, unfortunately, have brought back a few too many intestinal travelers from my adventures. I could hardly run, could hardly hold any yoga asanas (postures), I was shaking so much, my heart was resting over 150bpm, my gut was a wreck, my emotions were unnaturally all over the place, I was exhausted all the time, and just felt crummy overall. It wasn't until I started vomiting regularly, for no apparent reason I could tell, that I called the doctor and they had me come in immediately.


It was a scary time. I had always placed so much emphasis on being healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle and then I was at the doctor's office in the hospital not knowing what was going on. The radiologist looked at me like a ghost and claimed he had never seen numbers like that (with the radioactive iodine) and asked me how I was even functioning. I just cried. I was a wee bit of a wreck - thyroid affects hormones levels in case you didn't know.


Then, I learned a lot about my condition. My TSH levels were .000001 (there may have been more zeroes) and my organs were basically on the struggle bus. I had to immediately go on beta blockers for my heart and propylthiouracil for the Graves. The propylthiouracil tried to put my liver into liver failure, so we switched to methimazole/tapazole.


It was a terrifying time for me, and a really rough first year. However, it was also my # 1 teacher. I don't think I have ever cried that much over that first year. There were so many feelings...so...many...feelings and thoughts including, but not limited to:

  • Why me?

  • What did I do wrong to deserve this?

  • What could I have done differently?

  • Why is this happening?

  • Will I ever be normal again?

  • I put so much emphasis and effort into being healthy, how could this be?


I couldn't participate in all the things that filled my cup. I couldn't raise my heart rate which meant no hiking, no backpacking, no rock climbing, no dancing, no yoga (well, the yoga I was practicing), etc. Did you know what dating was like? I had to wear a heart monitor and constantly check it. So, as I'm walking by my date I had to check my heart rate and frequently ask to slow down or sit down. It affected all aspects of my life.


According to the endocrinologist I had two options: surgery to remove my thyroid or radiation to kill off the thyroid. I wasn't happy with any of those options. I told her that I really wanted to try to reverse it naturally. Do you know what she said to me? "You will fail." Those were her EXACT words. Can you imagine not only hearing that, but can you even imagine saying that to someone who has just been given some shitty news about their health, and whose emotions are already all over the place? It was horrible. I seriously don't know how anyone could say that to someone. I didn't know what to do or say, so again I just cried. All my appointments were by myself, so I felt very alone in all of it, so very alone. However, it did nothing but make me even stronger, so I am grateful for that. Then, you add to it that the select few family you chose to share the information with also felt that way, and never could understand your viewpoint of trying to heal it naturally. Again, it was a really rough, solitary, time full of so much growth and learning.


So, I spent several years truly diving deep into autoimmune disorders. I worked with Naturopathic medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and Functional medicine. I went to many conventions and conferences surrounded autoimmune, especially functional medicine conferences. I researched so much online and saw so many various practitioners - whom I am forever grateful to, every single one. I did more self-reflection and shadow work than I ever had prior. I discovered through serendipitously meeting the appropriate teachers what yoga really is, and how practicing so much of the westernized yoga contributed to my autoimmune. I worked through a lot, and am grateful for all that work, and believe me...it was work.


Bottom line is I was able to reverse my autoimmune. It took time (about 7 years), patience, and dedication to not only continuously learning but also learning the healthy lifestyle that was right for me. Please keep in mind I was leading what most would call a healthy lifestyle when I was first diagnosed, yet it was not healthy for me. Friends even responded with "But you are the healthiest person we know!". However, I was not doing what was healthy for my body. For example, in case you didn't know, being a vegetarian or vegan for one person can be perfectly healthy, for another person it can cause so much dis-ease and dysfunction.


Not only have I reversed my own autoimmune, but I have helped guide others to reversing theirs in much less time due to my acquired knowledge and experience. So, if you are working with any autoimmune challenges, please have hope for either reversal, or at least less or zero or minimal symptoms. Everyone is different, and if you have read my other posts you know I'm not a huge fan of general recommendations, but here are some guidelines or autoimmune that you may want to start implementing if you have not already:


  • No gluten - there is a connection with gluten and autoimmune disorders regardless if you test positive or not for a sensitivity or allergy. It's just good to avoid if you truly want to get better. I can go off on this and explain how one molecule can affect your body for up to 6 months. It is not as hard as you may think. :) It's just habit, like most things, and though habits can be difficult to change, they can also be easy. ;)

  • No nightshades. These include tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes (does not include yams and sweet potatoes), hot peppers, etc. Nightshades are known to increase inflammation in those who are prone to autoimmune disorders. Once you are balanced and your autoimmune reversed, you can add them in. I love my garden fresh tomatoes and potatoes, and I eat them. As long as I don't eat a lot, I'm good. We are all different and unique, so it really depends on the individual.

  • Manage stress. Remember that stress is not work, school, family, etc. Those are stressors. Stress is the physiological reaction within your own body. Keep your body out of the sympathetic/stress response and you allow your body the time and space to heal. I always like to remind people that you can have two people in the exact same situation, one will have a fired up stress response and the other will not. It is how we manage our own system. Sometimes, even if we feel like we are managing our stress ok, the stress response is still strong and active. Awareness and continuous practices, like yoga (not asana) are key. Additionally, the awareness that sometimes the environment we are in is just not conducive for our health is also important. Everything is about balance, and understanding that which creates balances compared to that which creates imbalance - there is a huge lack of this currently, and unfortunately. Think of that like attracts like principle. ;)

  • Self-love and appreciation. Seriously - the majority of those who develop autoimmune challenges struggle with truly accepting themselves as-is.

  • See a variety of specialists to find what works for you. For me, Ayurveda was the most healing, but I also incorporated tidbits from other medicines. I also learned that my body doesn't do well with multiple supplements - it is too much for my body. One to three supplements works for me...part of why I fell in love with Ayurveda... and of course it is the sister science of Yoga. Too often, others in various medicines recommended more than that and because I have a sensitive system, it was too much for my body.


Bottom line - if you or someone you know is working through an autoimmune diagnosis, not only is there hope, but there are SO many options for that hope to thrive and turn into deep, deep healing, despite what others may tell you. Every medicine has its place, and I value allopathic medicine so much, but regarding autoimmune challenges other medicines have way more success.


Sending lots of love your way,


Jessica






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