Holistic Remedies & Diet
The healthcare industry continues to learn more about chronic conditions, honing in and more accurately diagnosing these issues. Why then do they continue to rise?
Autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases are on the rise worldwide. The United States however, has seen a rapid and substantial increase in these conditions compared to the rest of the developed nations. The question of course is why?
There are several different schools of thought on this:
- Increase in obesity
- Just now being properly diagnosed
- Food/Water and Environment
- Lifestyle (Stress)
As someone with two diagnosed autoimmune conditions (or autoinflammatory depending on who you talk to), I think it’s a mix. That said, one factor stands out among the rest, and the medical community isn’t going to like it. Food…food is the biggest link to these autoimmune/autoinflammatory conditions.
Background of my story explains my stance:
A case of pink eye kicked off my genetics. I contracted pink eye from a co-worker and within a couple hours, my eye was swollen shut and I was in agony. As soon as I got home, I reached out to an eye doctor who was kind enough to work me in. It was Iritis. What is Iritis you might ask? Imagine your eye is like a camera. The lens must be taken off and the camera must adjust to light, distance, etc. Your eye does the same. In my case, the lens was stuck to the iris. Every time my eye tried to adjust to lighting it would tug and tear, causing severe inflammation. The Optician looked rather concerned at the extent of inflammation, and he referred me to the eye moran center in Utah. I quickly booked an appointment with a specialist there.
I sat down and the specialist inspected my eye. “You have Ankylosing Spondylitis, I’m 99% certain, but we need to run some other test to make sure.” he said. I of course had no idea what AS was; I’d never ever heard of it. Keep in mind this was back in 2008/2009 and AS was far rarer than it is today. He ran a test to check for the HLA-B27 protein. I was positive. He sent me to a rheumatologist to have my back checked and get some x-rays. Luckily, no fusing had taken place yet, and overall it was an early onset of AS. (Something to note- not all AS patients are HLA-B27 positive, making it harder to diagnose. Add to that the often misdiagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis and people can go undiagnosed or incorrectly diagnosed for years.)
I was given instructions from the rheumatologist to stretch my back every morning and night, to make sure I kept mobile so I could try to keep the fusing to a minimum. I did as I was told and on I went. My back would hurt from time to time in the morning or after standing for 8 hours or more, but nothing like chronic pain, or severe pain. I felt as though AS was not that big of a deal, something I could easily live with and barely notice. I was wrong.
Fast forward to 2014. I moved from New Orleans, LA to Salt Lake City, UT. Within 1 month I had what looked like boils growing in my armpits. They would grow to the size of a quarter and then go away after several painful weeks. Then came the big one, a golf ball sized boil that was so painful I was nauseous and could not sleep. One day, while at work, it finally exploded, and I do mean exploded. A pale whitish liquid poured out of my armpit like a waterfall, lasting nearly an hour. After it had relieved the pressure, it continued to seep liquid for months. I was in shock, what had caused this? What was it even? Here comes my second autoimmune condition: Hidradenitis suppurativa. This is where things get really interesting. I went to a few doctors who did not know what I had; they speculated a wide range of possible diagnoses. It wasn’t until I told my aunt a name to at the very least ask a doctor about that I found my answer. She informed me I needed a dermatologist and to tell them that I suspected HS, and that I had a relative who had HS. She’d had it growing up, she’s a stage 1 HS patient, lucky for her she never progressed passed stage 1. I did as she asked and sure enough, after several appointments, I was diagnosed with HS.
Here is where food/water comes in. I had been fine in Louisiana (a much hotter and humid climate which should aggravate my HS) and within 1 month of moving to Utah, I had boils in my armpit. What changed? Climate-yes but technically for the better. What else changed? The water. In certain counties in Utah, they put fluoride in their water. Fluoride is a known toxin, hence why the dentist made you swish it around in your mouth and spit it out as a child. The dentist was always very clear to not swallow the fluoride because of potential dangers. What about air, had the air changed? Somewhat- portions of Utah (especially where I lived) sit in a smog filled bowl. The air is highly polluted; this is a known issue in Utah and causes serious health risks for adults but especially children.
So here I was in extreme pain to the point of nausea and chills, unable to move (this did not help my AS as movement is key to keeping AS in check), and gaining weight. Thus begins the trial and error of medication. I was put on several antibiotics- including cipro, a drug the FDA recently warned about using due to severe side effects. After the antibiotics didn’t work, I was steadily moved from stage 1 to stage 2 and then stage 3 (there are 3 stages that are recognized, however various other reports have up to 8 stages for HS). I had severe tunneling in both armpits, open holes that oozed all day and night. I couldn’t move my arms and I was miserable. Enter Humira, a biologic. I took it for 3 months. The first month was wonderful, not only had it helped my HS and my holes were starting to close, but it had helped my AS. My back felt amazing; I had not known how much back pain I had until it wasn’t there anymore. Life was good, I was happy… until excessive weight gain started, psoriasis on my scalp (I had never had psoriasis before), and I got sicker. Biologics suppress your immune system, some people can be on biologics and have minimal issues, and others have severe reactions. (To put this into a clear image; if you are suppressing your immune system, you’re open to everything and anything, and the body’s natural response to fight these bad guys off is now behind bars.) A simple cold, which is what I had, can go from just the sniffles to sepsis or pneumonia. I ended up with severe bronchitis and was in danger of possible pneumonia. I stopped Humira immediately. Within a few weeks the psoriasis was gone, but the bronchitis took 7 months to finally clear up. I decided right then and there to go a natural/holistic route.
I started with water. I filtered out fluoride and other metals that can be toxic. I then moved onto food. Overhauling my diet took a substantial amount of trial and error and time. I finally figured out through HS groups on Facebook and my own research that nightshades had to be removed, dairy had to be removed, gluten and wheat had to be limited if not removed. Processed foods and sugar had to go. It took years to finally figure it all out. My AS was in remission until I had a baby. Sadly it came back with vengeance, but is now manageable as long as I stick to my new way of eating. My HS has not tunneled (although some holes are still open) since changing my way of eating. Anytime I tried to reintroduce dairy, or processed food or processed sugar, my HS would start to react within hours, verifying food is a huge trigger. I now know for sure food and water are a huge reason for my autoimmune flare-ups. Did they cause them? I don’t know. Some would say I was genetically pre-dispositioned for these, and while that’s probably true, food and water are definite triggers for even worse flare-ups.
I have to wonder if instead of being fed antibiotics and biologics, if I’d been educated about inflammatory foods and removing them, would I still be a stage 1 HS patient? Could I have put my HS into full remission through food management if I’d been given that information sooner? I won’t know, but hopefully I can save others from progressing to stage 3, or better yet help people find full remission and manage their condition.
We are a sick population- heart disease, chronic illness, comorbidities, obesity etc. The one common link to all of these is food, and some could say exercise. We need to start asking ourselves what is in our food? Why is gluten intolerance on the rise along with celiac disease? Bread used to be one of the most wholesome foods out there, rich with minerals we need to survive. When was it filled with sugar, soybean oil and dough conditioners, essentially useless for nutrition?
These conditions and ailments will continue to grow and outpace our healthcare system. It is not a sustainable system as is; we simply can’t afford what is coming. The United States (i.e.- the world) needs to take a look at what the cost of processing and mutating our food is. Can our human bodies withstand these changes and adapt? So far, our bodies rebel with a resounding no. So how do we fix it?
Take action in your local farmers market. Support natural growers. Reach out to your politicians, look into your states policies on what kind of food can be sold to the masses, engaging with your surroundings and with those who make laws that affect your well being. Any little bit helps. A healthy food movement has to start somewhere, so why not with you?
Featured Author: Jennifer Dredge