Guest Post by Angie Alt: My Chem Lab

July 17, 2013 in Categories: by

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Angie AltAngie Alt is wife, mother, world traveler & blogger. She’s also a warrior in the autoimmunity war. Angie confronts three autoimmune disorders each day, including Celiac Disease, with powerful management techniques like AIPaleo & the Paleolithic lifestyle. She blogs regularly about the emotional side of tackling autoimmunity, adopting Paleo, and how it impacts her, her family, & their way of life. You can read more by Angela Alt at her blog and connect with her on Facebook.

I’ve been busy lately.  Really busy.  You might have even noticed that last month, I didn’t get a chance to write my monthly guest blog for The Paleo Mom.  Quite frankly, I was too busy.  So what is it that’s been occupying all my time?  Well, I was busy slowing down my life and revamping my schedule to better meet a few personal goals.

 One of the first things I did was start a new job with a slower pace and a reduced scheduled.  I have a desk in a quiet space looking out a window into a green, calm forest.  I’ve watched blue jays in the branches while I enter company data and caught glimpses of deer while I worked on filing.  It’s been great, like mixing “aaah” and office.

 I’ve also had the opportunity to catch up on tons of my favorite podcasts (like The Paleo View!) as I check-off the daily to-dos in my new position.  Recently, I was listening to a Balanced Bites podcasts with guest, JJ Virgin.  It was a great show, but one line in particular stood out for me.  JJ said, “Your body is not a bank account. It’s a chemistry lab.”  Wow.  That knocked my socks off.

 I’ve understood this concept for a long time.  In fact, I wrote about it last October.  It was the additional comparison that really got me though.  JJ said, “ . . . not a bank account . . . a chemistry lab.”  It made so much sense to me and suddenly I was thinking of examples I see all the time, in my life and the lives of others, to back-up her statement.

 One of the most concrete examples is weight loss or gain.  If the worn, old bank account analogy were true, then simple calories in versus calories out should help heavy people lose quickly or extremely thin folks, like me, put on the weight we need for optimal health.  I eat three big meals a day.  They are filled with protein, healthy fats, and good carbs and plenty of other fruits or veggies.  Due to autoimmunity, I keep exercise to a very minimal walking routine.  With the bank account idea, I should easily achieve my weight gain goals.  In over a year of trying, I’ve yet to get there though.  My body isn’t a bank account; it is a chemistry lab.

 The delicate reactions that our performed inside us every second, require that every piece be in place.  We need the right vitamins and minerals, in the right amounts.  We need each organ to do the best possible job at its particular function.  Each chemical substance is transformed into something new to be used by our body, but only if all parts of the process are in place.  We learn this even in the most basic high school chemistry class.  The whole experiment fails if just one piece is wrong.

 This is not simple math.  Not a matter of two plus two equals four.  We can’t go on thinking that we can just add (or sometimes worse yet, subtract) infinitely to our bodies, without serious consequences.  We are these really beautiful, really complex chemistry labs.  We are bubbling, cooling, solid to liquid, carefully timed and constructed chemistry labs.  We need to put all the right reactants in place to reach the products we need on the other side of the equation.

 The more health conscious choices I make, the more I can feel the experiments in my cells getting closer and closer to ideal results.  It’s not just about diet, either.  Some awesome chemistry happens in me when I spend time in the sunlight or practice proper sleep hygiene.

 Or when I get busy slowing down and reducing stress.  Chemical reactions require careful attention to lots of detail, including time and pressure.  Changing jobs had some effects on my actual bank account, but any subtractions there were made up for in my better functioning “chemistry lab.”


“Due to autoimmunity, I keep exercise to a very minimal walking routine.”

I don’t understand this. Can you please explain?

Hi Diana! Thanks for reading. So, the exercise routine . . . alot of AI peeps find that too much or the wrong kinds of exercise can lead to flares of their AI. That has been my experience too. When I keep think low-impact & simple, I get the greatest reward, w/out losing ground in my healing. I remain really confident that eventually I will be able to tolerate more intensity. The whole Paleo approach to exercise is how to get the good benefits, w/out overly taxing the body, this applies to AIers & non-AIers alike. Check out these links on the topic:

Angie, I mean no disrespect by this comment, but after reading all of your posts I feel the need to get something off my chest. Also, I dont mean to single you out, as Im noticing this trend with many of the people who choose to speak out about the struggles we face when dealing with AI. That being said, I find many of these posts to be very defeating. The fertility post you wrote a few months back especially struck a cord with me, being that I have not yet tried to start a family but hope to in the near future. Its as if you are saying that those of us with autoimmunity shouldnt try to have children, or should expect that its going to be a huge struggle. Those words honestly made me question whether I should try to become a mother and put an immediate sense of fear in me that it wont happen. And now this post, where you mention that your exercise is nothing more than minimal walking. Why are so many of us falling victim to these diseases? I feel like adopting the mentality that we are “sick” and “different” and need to modify our lives accordingly almost makes the situation worse. I notice that when I hyper focus on my psoriasis and count my lesions and check them every hour to see if they have changed, or spend hours on FB or blogs reading about every one elses struggles and what they are eating/not eating, doing/not doing, that I feel much worse. But when I step away from all of that noise and CHOOSE to exercise, have fun, and get things done that I feel 100% better. On those days I forget that Im “sick”. I think we need to remember that there are some extremely successful people who suffer from autoimmunity. Heck, there are even reports now showing that JFK suffered from Celiac and UC. If he can run a country, then I dont see why so many of us feel the need to sit on the couch feeling sorry for ourselves. Granted, I know that each person is affected by their disease in a different way, and I dont discredit the fact that there are many people who are very sick and suffering, but please dont continue to lump us all into one category. I live a very fulfilling life in which I work hard, exercise intensely, maintain my relationships, etc and hopefully one day will be able to raise children as well. Do I feel great all the time? No. But I cant let it hold me back…

Hi Marci. Thanks for reading. I am sorry to hear that you find my posts “defeating.” I think I’ve written in a manner that is meant to honor the struggle of AI, while also tapping the powerful side of what it means to get up every day & decide you are going to face down illness. I don’t feel held back at all, rather I feel that I have found a deep well of positive energy & strength in myself. For instance, you seemed particularly upset about my post on infertility, but I actually ended that post w/ this line, “I know at times it seems unimaginable, but I have actually gained some incredible things in my life due to my multiple autoimmune diseases. Even with the gains, I think a big part of keeping a positive outlook is occasionally taking a minute to reflect on all that was compromised.” I don’t think you should let AI stop you from starting a family or approach it w/ a sense of fear, but I know from the personal experiences of myself & many other women w/ AI, that infertility can be a part of the picture. I wrote that post to show that if that is the case, a woman in that situation could find a way to both acknowledge that loss and move on positively. I find a balanced view to be the most authentic way for me, & many others, to go forward. As to this post & my mention of a minimal exercise routine . . . at this point in my particular healing journey, I have found that the line between beneficial exercise & too much is very fine. If I try too much, I end up set-back instead of gaining ground. I know that many, many other AIers find a similar pattern in their lives. You should understand that I was sick for over a decade before I was diagnosed & lived an unusually high-intensity life in a developing country in the final yrs prior to diagnosis. That may mean that I will have a longer time line to fuller recovery & as you mention, the ability to “exercise intensely.” I recommend you listen to podcasts on the Paleo approach to exercise. AI or not, high intensity training leads many folks into a depleted state, quickly taxing the adrenals. If AI is already present, it can be wise to go slow. I have not adopted a mentality of being “sick” or “different,” what I have done is recognized what my specific life challenges are & found tremendously empowering ways of conquering them. My mission is to write honestly about that path w/ the hope of inspiring other AIers to view their own challenges w/ the same confident outlook.

I loved this post… I have training in both physiology and biochemistry (specifically a degree in physiology and nutrition and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry). you are quite right when you say that we are just a chemistry lab, although I would think of it more as a biochemstry lab…
everything we do is fueled by biochemical/chemical reactions.

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