Real People, Real Paleo: Marni’s Struggle with Inflammation

August 25, 2012 in Categories: by

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“Real People, Real Paleo” is a series of posts written by real people who were inspired to share their paleo story with you.  There is such diversity in the challenges that bring us to a paleo diet and lifestyle and in what we hope to achieve by adopting them.  These stories are intended to be a place of inspiration, written by real people, showing the diversity of our needs and our approaches to this way of eating and living, and explaining how each individual’s implementation of paleo meets their needs.  By sharing these people’s stories with you on my blog, I hope to redefine what paleo success is.  I do not believe that eating paleo is purely about losing weight, gaining muscle, and having 6-pack abs.  I believe that paleo is about being healthy enough to thoroughly enjoy life, whatever that means for you, and about sustainability for our entire lives.  If you are interested in writing up your story, please contact me using the form on this page.

Marni in January 2011

My name is Marni and I’ve struggled with my weight and depression for as far back as I can remember. My search for health used to be mainly about losing weight, but in the last year it has become so much more than that. Thank-you ahead of time for reading my story here, and if you’d like to join with me on my health journey come visit my blog at http://www.wellgroundedhopes.com/.

Inflammation. Isn’t that just for the elderly? I had no idea what was going on with me when inflammation first hit me. I had no idea how serious of a health problem it truly is until my paleo research began in January of 2012.

My first experience with inflammation started one summer about 10 years ago when I couldn’t stay in bed in the morning. The sharp, pinching pain in my lower back would kick me out of bed before I was ready. However, it would ease up and disappear throughout the day so I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. I was only 27 years old. But I got blasted that summer with a massive attack of inflammation. What started out as back pain, exploded into my right hand, left ankle and knee, and finally my left eye. My joints were so swollen I couldn’t bend them, I was embarrassed to wear shorts because of my giant ankle and knee (so unflattering!), and I had to take steroid drops in my eye to treat the iritis, inflammation of the iris, that I never even heard of before. I hobbled and shuffled around like a 90-year old woman. In spite of my swollen state and young age, I was often blown off by doctors and there were no answers. My blood work came back clean. I was perfectly healthy, huh! The closest any doctor came even close to helping the problem was talking to me about my chronic constipation. Going a week without (cough) pooping was normal.  It always comes down to poop, doesn’t it!  This doctor told me to eat gummy bears. You know, the candy. Good advice, I feel so much better now!

What got me through that summer was a lot of movement, no matter how pathetic it was. Eventually the massive flare up settled down. But I battled iritis in both eyes for about 5 years after that, and I have had low-level chronic inflammation and stiffness since. I had no clue that the food I was eating could have anything to do with my condition, whatever that was. I went undiagnosed for those same 5 years until I found a rheumatologist who told me I had ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that fuses the vertebrae of the spine together but also affects other body parts. Nothing was showing up in my blood work even then, but he just added up all my symptoms and could at least put a name to it.

It wasn’t until I saw a naturopathic doctor, not long after my diagnosis, that I had someone start teaching me that food really does matter. He also diagnosed me with Candidias, an overgrowth of the bad bacteria in the gut, so he put me on a special diet that restricted wheat and sugar. And wow, I thought that was SUPER restrictive back then! I struggled with it. I still had massive cravings and just getting through a day without sugar was a victory. If I made it a week, it felt like a marathon. It wasn’t a good fit for me with this naturopathic doctor as he was quite a perfectionist and sometimes I walked away from an appointment in tears because I felt like a failure. I really wanted to improve my health, both for my arthritis and my lifelong battle of being overweight, but I couldn’t get a grip on the diet he laid out for me. He also didn’t know, or didn’t explain very well, the implication of Candidias, and how my gut was connected to my immune system. I did manage to keep wheat out of my diet and interestingly enough, the iritis disappeared with it and I haven’t had an iritis attack since. However, I was still eating sugar, other grains, lots of dairy, and mmm, my coffee. I still had inflammation in other parts of my body. Oh yes, I also didn’t poop that great either.

My naturopathic doctor’s diet for me failed because I was still eating inflammatory causing foods. I still allowed myself once a week pig-fests where I binged on all my favourite goodies. My top weight in my pregnancy was 250 lbs; I ate absolute crap-food during pregnancy and I let my cravings lead the way. How I regret it and how I wish I knew then what I know now. After my son was born and the initial pregnancy weight came off, I still weighed in at 205. I was on a mission to get the weight off and I worked hard: I ate 1500 calories per day, strength trained three times a week, and did cardio almost every day. I lost about 15 pounds. In. One. Year. I was painfully discouraged, and painfully fat. I hated my body.

A friend of mine mentioned the paleo diet and though it sounded a bit bizarre, something about it rang true to me. And I was ready for it. I was sick of being fat and I was terrified about what arthritis would do to my body in ten years. Or in twenty. My rheumatologist had recently checked my spine with X-rays to see if there was any degeneration happening and she reported to me that there was none. Yet. The ‘yet’ scared me silly. I brought paleo into my life and went cold turkey. I read Robb Wolf’s book, and I took up his challenge. Seriously, what’s 30 days out of your entire life? Within one month, I lost 15 pounds! After half a year of eating 99% clean (I’ve made some mistakes along the way) I have lost 34 pounds, I no longer get sharp stomach pains, the inflammation in my joints have settled right down, I poop better, and the cloud of depression and anxiety that plagued me my entire life has gone away. I will never forget at the start of my paleo journey where I said to myself, “This is me. I finally get to be me.”

Marni in July 2012

I would like to include that I’ve taken my little son with me on my paleo journey. After a year of painful sleep deprivation and awful nights where he just wouldn’t stay asleep, we now get to sleep through the night. Once I removed grains from his diet, he finally ‘slept like a baby’. Once I removed dairy from his diet, his eczema (that he had since he was 2 months old) completely cleared up. The eczema took longer to clear up, but it did!

I’m not where I wish to be; still a bit chubby and I still have inflamed joints, just less of it. The inflammation I still struggle with is now both my curse and my blessing. It’s a great radar for when I eat clean and for when I screw up. I know quite quickly when I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t have. When I can’t bend my sausage-finger because it’s blown up with swelling, I know what not to eat again! I’m following the auto-immune system protocol as outlined by The Paleo Mom; challenging, but so very worth it. It’s just not worth it to me anymore to eat the wrong foods and suffer the next day. There’s no doubt in my mind that what I eat affects me on so many levels. And though I’m very happy to have lost weight, the other health benefits I have received go deeper in a way I never would’ve imagined. Lived with depression anyone? I know without a doubt I’m on the right path and I’m so thankful for all the paleo heroes that have shared their own learning and success.

Comments

There have been a number of success stories that I’ve read right at a time I needed the inspiration. Thank God for the internet and the ‘paleo community’!

It definitely is a journey! I’ve come to learn that being real about it and learning along the way is so much better than expecting perfection. I wish you the best as you start out!

Thanks so much for writing this. I’m also controlling ankylosing spondylitis with autoimmune paleo protocol. Your story is so similar to mine! I was diagnosed 6 years ago after suffering chronic constipation and gut issues and bizarre pain I didn’t understand. I went the traditional route of NSAIDs, Humira, and Methotrexate. After spending a couple years with the medications getting heavier and scarier and still not controlling the inflammation, I went cold turkey off all of them last summer and went on a strict paleo protocol and added LDN. I was amazed when I made it through the first few weeks with no drugs. A year later, I’m still struggling with inflammation, but I’m still FAR better than I was on the terrible meds. My focus now is trying to heal my gut and to keep the flares from hitting and damaging my spine. I feel that we’re so close to understanding how to heal autoimmune issues through healing damaged intestinal lining. I can’t help but think the paleo think tank community is going to find the solution. We’re in this together!!

Marni, I’ so happy for you! This story brought tears to my eyes, as I am dealing with psoriatic spondylitis and have also greatly reduced my pain using the autoimmune protocol of the Paleo diet. Unfortunately, I have some folks insisting that I’m just experiencing a spontaneous remission that has nothing to do with my diet.

I was also on the heavy-duty meds like Remicade, methotrexate, and prednisone. But they only partially controlled my pain, and I still needed strong pain medications like oxycodone. Right now, I’m off ALL medications for my disease AND off all pain medications. I’m still dealing with some inflammation, skin issues, and permanently damaged joints, but I’ve only been on this diet for 7 weeks. Now I have some real hope that between all of us, we might eventually find a solution!

I’m also considering starting LDN, but my next step is to start working with a Integrative/Functional Medicine doctor to find additional ways to improve my health.

Some people just can’t see how our diet affects us, which I can’t comprehend! It’s just so simple: we are what we eat! My mom also isn’t convinced that I control my inflammation (for good or bad) with food. RIGHT ON for getting off your meds and for your long-term goals.

Wow! I feel like I just read a story about my journey with pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and weigh loss struggles! Thanks for sharing. So glad I found Paleo too!

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