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This is a guest post by Ivy Hauser on her experience with using ancestral nutrition to manage her autoimmune condition.
During my college years, I have been incredibly blessed to be able to experience the positive impacts that food can have on one’s health. In the past four years, I’ve had two autoimmune diseases go into remission, alleviated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and related symptoms, and reversed insulin resistance. The 65 pound weight loss and acne clearing up aren’t too bad either.
I hope that my story will be encouraging to others, especially those living with chronic diseases.
I was diagnosed with Lupus and Sjogren’s Syndrome in high school. The fatigue, hair loss, rashes, joint pain, and general achiness came on so gradually that I never really noticed myself getting worse. Eventually, I woke up every morning feeling like I had gotten hit by a train and looked forward to the end of the school day when I could come home and go back to sleep. After I was diagnosed my doctor put me on an immune suppressant for Lupus symptoms and I felt a decent bit better. By the time I went to college I was able to act like a normal person. I still had a good number of flare ups and painful days but at least I didn’t have to take four hour naps every day. My body still reminded me that I was not totally healthy though. If I stayed up late (by Lupus standards this would be past 11pm), my general tiredness and achiness multiplied and it took several days to really recover.
Spring of my first year in college I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which explained why I had a hard time losing weight (insulin resistance), and a series of other hormonal issues. I went on a diabetes medication for insulin resistance and got some dietary recommendations: no sugar, low fat, and lots of whole grains. After this I became completely preoccupied counting sugar grams and scouring labels for “100% whole wheat” items only. I also ate sugar free candy like it was going out of style.
But my stomach had other things to say about this. My doctor explained that the medicine would cause stomach pain any time I ate carbs (the whole grain recommendation was clearly helpful here). So I started to eat a low carb diet. Partly to avoid stomach aches and partly because I had been doing enough reading to know that an insulin resistant person should not be eating lots of carbs anyways. In about a year I was able to reverse my insulin resistance. My stomach started feeling better and I didn’t complain about the extra weight that came off.
I initially came across information about Ancestral eating by running a Google search for “grain free sugar free desserts.” I thought I was the only person that would ever Google such a thing, but I came across a number of websites mentioning the Paleo diet. I thought it sounded kind of silly and didn’t pay much attention at first, especially when they said you shouldn’t eat legumes (but they’re like the pinnacle of health, right?). I liked learning about nutrition so I kept researching for fun and I found a lot of information on gluten and auto-immune disease. I had already given up bread, pasta, cakes, and the like so why not just ditch gluten all together? After winter break of 2011 I decided to get serious about cutting gluten and Ancestral eating. I was near 100% gluten free and probably 90% legume/dairy/sugar free.
Just like my symptoms came on gradually, they went away so gradually that I hardly noticed. It wasn’t until a specific night that I actually realized all my symptoms were gone. I was never able to stay up late without awful pain and fatigue for the next few days, so when I stayed out until three in the morning dancing near the end of spring semester I was mentally kicking myself before going to bed. I’ll never forget when I woke up the next morning, anticipating that “hit by a train” feeling then moving my limbs to realize they actually didn’t hurt. I literally leaped out of bed, started jumping around, and realized – you know, I have been waking up without pain for some time now, I think. This is what it feels like to be a normal, healthy person!
Now I do basically anything that I want to without fear of having a flare. I feel my best when I’m not eating any grains, sugar, legumes or dairy (except cheese and butter, they like me pretty well). But now I’m healthy enough to where the occasional (non-gluten) deviation doesn’t wreck me. If I eat gluten, the next morning I wake up with joint pain again. If I eat too much dairy, my acne comes back. And if I eat too much sugar or grains, my stomach hurts. I’ve been able to find out exactly what works for me and I’ve been amazed at how much my body has changed because of what I eat. By the end of my first year in college I was on five prescription medications. I am happy to say that through giving my body whole, nourishing foods I no longer need any of them.