This summer I am celebrating three years of improved health. I want to share my story with others because maybe I can help someone else who is feeling lost and hopeless. There had been a period of five years during which I suffered with various autoimmune diseases that resulted in numerous doctor visits, many prescriptions and a multitude of blood draws.
“In this country, autoimmune diseases, when taken all together, are a huge health burden. The annual health care cost for autoimmune diseases is $120 billion a year representing nearly twice the economic health care burden of cancer (about $70 billion a year),” said Dr. Donna Jackson Nakazawa.
I was one of those spending lots of money looking for help. In fact, my insurance company had assigned me to a special department to help manage the diseases. But it was an ad on TV for thyroid and diabetic patients that caught my eye. Finally — someone looking to address the underlying causes of disease rather than just treat the symptoms. I was on five prescriptions at the time, but still not feeling good and not sleeping. The inflammation was so bad, opening a water bottle was impossible at times. I had amassed so many blood draw results that I now brought a notebook to my doctors’ appointments.
Their solution was to heal my digestive system and avoid some foods. To say the least I was skeptical but also desperate. In less than two months, there were subtle changes — all of them good. Instead of prescriptions, she suggested vitamins. It was major food changes — no sugar, no gluten/wheat, less dairy. And I'm not saying it was easy, but when you finally feel good after years of inflammation, shingles, steroids, etc., it was well worth it.
In time I was able to stop taking the drugs that suppressed my immune system. And after 18 months, my blood results were all in the normal range. All achieved without prescriptions. But many medical doctors are still skeptical.
There is a relatively new way of thinking out there. I have become an advocate for functional medicine. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.
Recently I consider myself lucky as I was tested for various food sensitivities — not food allergies. Gluten was targeted as a moderate factor as were many other foods — some moderate and some severe. It was the first time that I could say what I knew to be true was actually proved by a blood test.
The good news is if you are an advocate for your own health, there are practitioners out there willing to work with you to improve your health by stopping the cause — not just treating your symptoms.
Consider the foods you eat. Try cutting out bread for two weeks and see how you feel. Or try dairy. Or sugar. You can do it!