Friday, September 14, 2012

The Story of My Health

I've been meaning to write this all down for quite some time. This is the story of the downward slide of my health, the frustrating years spent in pain with no diagnosis, and my subsequent research, experiments, and then miraculous recovery.

I also have my Miracle Diet up here on my blog, feel free to take a peek if you want a shorter, more detailed look at what ended-up healing me. I've also put together a page of resources HERE.

I want this story to be out there so others with similar conditions can find health. The number of people, mostly pretty young, that I know with autoimmune or gut issues is staggering. I know 20-somethings with lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, thyroid disorders, mysterious rashes, leaky gut, etc. This isn't normal. I've also read articles about the rapid rise of "acid reflux" in babies, not to mention the rise of autism. Something is not right in our lifestyles. I've managed to heal myself quite dramatically, and I hope other people can do the same, and health care providers can learn and help as well.

So here's my story.
It's a long story, I wanted to get every detail in there for people studying this phenomenon, and also for others who might see some of their symptoms reflected in this.

In the Beginning

ET was my bud.

I was a healthy child. 
I was born in a military hospital in Washington in 1979. My poor mom labored too slow for the doctors, so they pumped her full of Pitocin. She bore the pain with no painkillers (go mom!) and I was born naturally. My mother breastfed me for 2 years, just as she should (again, my mom rules).

I mention these things to do with birth because there has been research into the connection between autoimmune disorders and the way people are born and whether or not they were breastfed. Being born by cesarean and/or being formula fed makes it more likely for you to have a myriad of health problems, including gut and immune system disorders. I'm one of the oddballs that had a decent start, but had something go awry later.

In childhood I was really healthy, no allergies, digestive issues, healthy weight, rarely got sick, etc. Cognitively I was at the top of my class. Around 14 years old I started to experience some teenage depression. I had certain life experiences that could have pushed me there, or perhaps there was a physical component to it too. Gut issues and nutrient deficiencies, like low vitamin B12, can cause depression and anxiety. So who knows the cause. I was just feeling a bit blue, and had social anxiety. I spent far too much time sitting in my room writing moody poetry. :P

I was raised eating a very standard American diet. My mom made balanced meals, but we did get fast food sometimes, and there was a decent amount of canned vegetables and processed foods in our kitchen. As far as I recall, my favorite dishes were mac n' cheese, cottage cheese, quesadillas, wonton soup, and anything with chocolate. My mother often complained because I didn't like very many vegetables (but she got me to eat them anyway). I also was never really into eating a lot of meat, but again, I would eat what my mom cooked.
Then, at around 15 I decided to become a vegetarian. 

Age 13. 
Geez, I wish my hair still looked like that!


The First Signs of Something Strange

I remember the first time I experienced what I would later come to know as "brain fog". I was about 15 or 16, and walking through Safeway with two friends. I had headed off to go find something in the store when suddenly... I completely forgot what I was looking for. Not only that, but there was a feeling of emptiness in my brain, like a circuit had been cut-off and I couldn't reach that information anymore. I felt really... blank. It struck me as very odd.

10th grade school photo. 

Around that same time I began to think I was hypoglycemic. Sometimes I'd get dizzy, tired, and cranky. I thought it was my blood sugar crashing, so I started snacking regularly to try and help it. The snacking didn't actually help. I never went to see a doctor about it either. (When you grow-up on Medicaid, you learn to only go to the doc when it's an absolute emergency.)

As I progressed into my late teens, and started college, the depression and anxiety peaked. That was a really rough time in my life. At this time I was living in the dorms in college. It was my first time away from home, in a new weird place, and I was under a lot of stress. On top of that, I was feeding myself terribly. Starch and dairy were the main staples of my diet, with some soda guzzled down on top of that. I *did* eat fruit and veggies with most every meal, but not enough of them. But according to the food pyramid, we're supposed to be getting about 60% of our calories from grain foods, so I wasn't that far off. 

Then, when I was 21, I broke my vegetarianism. I had by then dropped out of college, and was living in a dilapidated old punk house in a terrible neighborhood and working in a coffee shop. I'd been really broke, and for a couple of months eating too much ramen and burritos, and had gotten really listless, pale, and obviously anemic. My emotions always felt a little raw and jittery, and I felt really adrift in life. One day my roommate brought home Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the smell of it drove me absolutely wild. After he went to bed, I snuck out into the kitchen, grabbed a leg out of the fridge, then ran back in my room and devoured it like a rabid animal. From then on, I couldn't contain it, I ate meat again. 

Soon after that, I moved back to my home town, and my health improved for a bit. My depression and anxiety lifted (thank goodness), and I *looked* more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. 

Age 22. Looking a bit healthier.
                                               (I know, it's a silly bathroom mirror photo...)

The Crazy Disability Thing

At 23 I was back home, planning to go back to school, and working in a coffee shop in the meantime. Things were looking up. I did notice some weirdness in my arms though. I hadn't been able to do push-ups for awhile because when I tried I had a dull pain in my forearms. 
Then, one week I moved, lifting heavy stuff, then had to work some long, busy shifts at work, on the espresso machine for hours. My forearms HURT. I started getting this shooting pain, like the inside of my arm was on fire, in my right arm. Then it spread to the left. Then it progressed up to my shoulder in my right arm. Then it did the same in my left. Fingertip to shoulder in both arms were on fire.
Finally, I told my manager and she sent me to the workman's comp doctor. They gave me a powerful anti-inflammatory drug and a painkiller, and gave me a note to do "limited duty" at work. The drugs made me feel like I was moving through jello, and they didn't kill the pain at all. Soon, even the limited duty was too much to bear. Holding a pen was excruciating, using the tongs to pick up pastries was out of the question.
I went back to the doctor and he put me on full temporary disability.
They said I had tendinitis, but it was a crazy tendinitis no doctor I saw had ever seen before. Normally when a tendon is damaged or inflamed it's *one section* of a tendon, not both entire arms!

I went to this same doctor twice a week for months. Each time he would look blankly at my arms, ask me if they felt better, I would say "No", and then he'd give me more pills. For three months I felt like I was in that jello, hazy and in pain. Then, I started getting splitting headaches every single day. I asked the doctor if it could be the drugs causing it, and very defensively, he said "No." I smelled a rat. So I stopped taking the drugs without him knowing, they didn't help the pain anyway. And viola, my headaches went away immediately. 
After a year and a half on disability, going to physical therapy, and other specialists who didn't know how to treat me (all they seemed to know how to do was perform surgery or prescribe drugs, neither of which could help me), I was declared permanent and stationary, according to them, my arms are "10%" permanently disabled. The pain got better, and totally manageable, but the damage has never totally gone away. 

One thing I did get out of that silliness was the insurance of my old job paying for me to get re-skilled in another profession. So I went to fashion design school. Not too shabby.

The crazy tendinitis has flared up badly twice more since then. Both times were when I was using my arms too much for an extended period, too much yoga plus too much sketching, or too much sewing. The flare-ups last for about two weeks, are very painful, and once I had to quit a job because of it. It's really limited me as far as what professions I can choose to go into. For example, I couldn't work in a costume shop and move up the ranks because I can't use scissors for very long. I also can't play bass guitar anymore, lift weights, carry anything moderately heavy, etc.

On a positive note, I did started taking dance classes again around this time too. I grew-up dancing and doing yoga, and always loved to be active. I finally started studying bellydance, and I fell madly in love with it.

The Skinny Vegan Years

At 25 I got a part in a local indie film, and like most ladies in our culture, felt immense pressure to look pretty enough to be on film. This meant losing weight. I was about a size 8 or so at the time of casting, and I easily dieted/exercised down to a size 2 by the time we began filming. I'm totally pear-shaped, so that's really only a difference of about 15-20 pounds. (I do want to note that I did not, nor have I ever, had an eating disorder.)

Weight before diet and veganism... 2004

And then at my thinnest... 2006
(low and behold, when you're sickly thin, people ask you to model! :P)

I'd been eating some meat for the last couple years, but was never very into it. I hated red meat and most pork, and pretty much just ate a bit of chicken and fish sometimes. I still mostly loved my starch and cheeses, but has matured my diet into eating more fresh fruits and veggies than I used to. I was actually learning how to cook, and got into an intense domestic phase where I loved making everything from scratch. I also took my multivitamins, ate whole grains, bought low-fat milk, and thought I ate perfectly healthy.

At 26, I had cut most animal products out of my diet, and tried to incorporate more raw and organic foods. I had become really sensitive to milk, and mostly cut that out of my diet, except for the occasional slice of pizza.

I want to note here that I *never* knew I had any digestive issues. My tummy was always a bit poofy, even when I was really skinny, but I thought nothing of it. Sometimes I would feel extra bloated after a big bowl of pasta, but it wasn't too alarming. I also had bouts of mild nausea every single day. I thought I just had a sensitive stomach.

Then, I decided to go vegan. I was a bit sad to let go of eating eggs, as I've always really liked them, but I thought I was doing something healthy that helped the environment. On the vegan diet, I lost even more weight, not on purpose, and dropped down to a 0, which was too thin for me. I looked bony and sickly. I felt like my weight loss was a bit out of control. I ate more to compensate, and managed to gain back a little bit. Looking back at pictures now, I was still too thin. But I was always hungry and I ate CONSTANTLY. (TMI moment: I also had about three large bowl movements a day. At the time I thought this meant my insides were functioning properly, but really, I think I just wasn't absorbing the food I was eating.)

I tried my best to be a healthy vegan. I took sub-lingual B12 supplements (those absorb better), high-quality whole food multivitamins, liquid chlorophyll, flax oil, garlic pills, tried to get all of my amino acids, and ate lots of fresh organic foods. I loved cooking things from scratch, I ate minimal soy foods and when I did eat it it was usually fermented and organic. I also soaked my beans and bought sprouted grain products. I did my very best to do the vegan thing "right."
But, the diet didn't help my health at all. The opposite happened. I was foggy and tired all the time. For years I was sooo tired in the morning, I eventually got to the point where I'd drink 2 cups of coffee to get going in the morning (and by now coffee hurt my stomach), then I was always too amped-up at night, so I'd sometimes drink a glass of wine to be able to sleep. (see my notes later on for how my doctor explained this weirdness)

Taken on a trip to China. I look weird and sickly here. My belly was SO bloated by the vegan Chinese food. 
If you look at my stomach in this pic you can see where I used photoshop to blur the pronounced elastic line across my bloated stomach. I was otherwise still very thin.

Other health condition notes: The brain fog had settled in slowly over the years. Feeling tired all the time, kind of spacey and "blank" or zoning out easily was common. Forgetting really basic names and things started to happen. I also had these weird sore points on my rhomboid muscles (between my spine and shoulder blades on my upper back). My lower back ached a lot. I had an incident where I was bumped by a passser-by and developed sciatica on my right side from the jolt. 
At 22 I suddenly developed spider veins all over my legs. They ached, and I still have to be careful to be active enough or more of them start to form.
My blood pressure is always severely low (the person who takes it is usually alarmed.)
Cold hands and feet.
My skin was still pimply, even up to my late 20's, and I started getting these itchy red dry patches on my eyebrows and on my jaw-line. While in finals at fashion school I developed SEVERE red, cracked, dry patches under each eye. They were totally unsightly. When they finally healed I had light wrinkles there I'd never had before.
My hair was insanely dry, I used to slather coco butter products on it, to no avail. 
I've also had chronic gingivitis since I was a child, it still hasn't cleared. 
(I don't know if all of this is related... I'm just throwing it all out there in case someone can connect the dots.)

The Sick Dancer

When I was 28 I was working in a stressful corporate design job. I hated it. My first attempt at a career had not been fulfilling. So I decided to go back to college and finish my BA, and this time, major in dance. I quit my job and moved back up north to go to school.
I'd been having more back pain, but thought it might be due to having to sit at a desk all day. At first, my classes went great, I LOVED dancing so much, I was in total heaven.
Then, a couple semesters in, I started getting injury after injury. Tendinitis in my left calf, then my back went out. So I saw a doctor, and I tried to explain to her that I'd had lots of weird symptoms for years. She didn't listen, and instead just sent me to a physical therapist for help with my back. The PT also didn't listen, and instead just gave me some exercises to do. Yeah, no help there.
Then a combination of not feeling well, injuries, and my dislike of the dance department at my school prompted me to change majors.

This is when the shit really hit the fan...
I was so tired and foggy and weird, all. the. time. My body hurt all over. I had to sleep on the other side of the bed from my boyfriend because even just the light weight of his arm pressing next to mine was excruciating. Falling asleep was hard. I'd wake-up randomly in the night. Sitting up for long periods was incredibly painful, my back muscles would spasm. I always had to bring a back pillow to my classes, pop an Aleve just to stay sane, and chug coffee to stay awake.
My very smart Kinesiology professor was the first one to ask if I had Fibromyalgia. I had no idea what that meant, but I looked it up. It sounded like it might be what was going on with me.

Me and my sweetheart, 2009.

The Gluten Connection

In 2009, I was in school full-time and working part-time. I was in tons of pain, but couldn't figure out why. Then, one day my mom mentioned that maybe I should try a gluten free diet, she'd read that it helped some people with my issues.

So on a lark, and without doing much research, I went on a vegan gluten free diet. Three days into it, I noticed a sudden change... my brain fog lifted. It felt beyond amazing. It was the first time my brain could think clearly and easily in over a decade. I suddenly had more energy too, and I noticed that eating things actually gave me *more* energy, instead of the opposite, which blew my mind. I knew I was onto something with this gluten free thing.

But... then, something happened that I had not anticipated (because I didn't do research!)
I started going through gluten withdrawal. This happens to a decent percentage of people, especially those with leaky gut, because gluten activates the same part of your brain as opiates do. So, I started going through something that was probably akin to heroin withdrawal. The brain fog came back, and I felt WORSE than I had before! I literally could barely move from the couch for a week and a half. I missed work and was behind in school. I knew I had to power through it though.
Laying on the couch, I had lots of time to research gluten free diets on the internet. I discovered that I needed to do a full elimination diet, and I bought a book by a woman who cured her rheumatoid arthritis. (This is the book, I recommend it:
So for a few weeks I ate really plain foods, mostly steamed veggies and roots with coconut oil and sea salt. I felt a bit better, but still not great.

Then, when I started to add more foods in after the elimination, I discovered something really important. I had SEVERE sensitivites to certain foods. If I ate a nightshade plant (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant) I would wake up the next day with really stiff, painful arthritis-like pain all over my body. I'd get up from a chair and not be able to straighten myself upright. My gluten sensitivity was even worse. Upon eating gluten, I would feel really dizzy and kind of drugged, brain-fog to the max, then my belly would riot and get really gassy, and the next day, I would have NO ENERGY, and feel like total dog meat.

I also discovered that it took only a little bit of gluten to set me off. Again, something I had no idea would happen when I went gluten free! There were a few gluten contamination issues in my kitchen that made me realize how sensitive I was. For instance, my husband (boyfriend at the time) steamed some dumplings in a steamer basket, and the basket didn't get cleaned thoroughly enough. I steamed some veggies in it afterward, and got so sick from it. Now our kitchen is totally gluten free, and my fabulous husband eats gluten free at home. I'm also really careful in restaurants, and I avoid non-GF pot lucks like the plague.

The nightshade and gluten sensitives I read more about, so I came to understand them. But there were other weird health things going on that I still didn't get. For instance, I noticed rice made me really bloated. Corn didn't seem so great either. But weren't these foods supposed to be safe on a gluten free diet??? (Nope! Keep reading!)

For months I stuck with the gluten free thing, but still felt rotten most days. I read things about this being "normal" so I just tried to chug though. For adults with leaky gut or Celiac disease, it usually takes years for their guts to heal. (You can rack up a lot of damage by age 30.) Meanwhile, I was a senior in college, worked 30 hours a week, and still managed to get straight A's. (I have ferocious will power!)

On vacation in 2010. Vegan and gluten free and looking/feeling ill.

Never Give Up... 

The more nutritional research I did, the more I realized I should probably eat some meat. (sorry veggie friends, love you!) So I started integrating it back into my diet. I felt like the Vegan Police were gonna come get me, but frankly, at that point, I didn't give a damn. Like my mom (also a vegan then) told me: "If you have to take down a turkey with your bare hands to get better, DO IT."

(But didn't the China Study say if you eat vegetarian you'll be super healthy??? The written part of the study said that... but not the data. This is a well-written dissection of it here: China Study: Fact or Fallacy?)

I was still fumbling through dietary things at that point, feeling like I needed some professional help. I didn't understand why sometimes I felt better than other times, or what exactly I needed to supplement with or eat in order to encourage more healing. I was still sick, but had no health insurance. So in desperation, I took on a horrible office job for the insurance. Then, my health started getting really bad again. My knees felt like someone had hit them with a baseball bat, I limped everywhere. I was worried I'd lose the ability to walk, and have to go back on disability. My fingers felt inflamed and kind of like my two smaller fingers were being bent sideways by my ligaments. My back hurt too... ug, I was a mess!!! I was so tired and cranky all the time, I thought my husband was crazy for staying with me. After he fell asleep at night I would just lay beside him and cry.
I also hadn't been able to dance for so long at this point, and dance is one of the greatest loves of my life, I was heartbroken.

One day at work I found an angel card of Raphael randomly in some business cards. For those of you not familiar with him, he's the angel of healing. I'm not Catholic, but I taped the card to my computer screen for comfort, it seemed like a sign. I also started meditating more, and built a little altar in my house. I've never been especially religious, so I just put together spiritual things that resonated with me. I had crystals, candles, special objects, and a picture of my favorite Celtic goddess, the goddess of my ancestors, Brighid, who is also a Catholic saint, and one of her powers is healing. Sitting there meditating with that altar was the most spiritual connection I'd ever felt, my third eye HUMMED. It was incredibly comforting.
There was a New Age store near my house and I'd go there sometimes and pick out a crystal that resonated with me, then I'd carry it around. It's interesting the things we gravitate to when we feel we're in our most difficult days.

After my health care kicked-in at work, I FINALLY went to see a doctor again. She was a very nice general practitioner, and she did some blood tests to determine my nutrient levels. She said my B12, vitamin D, and magnesium were very low, and suggested I supplement. (I was already supplementing these nutrients.) Her preliminary assessment was that I probably had "fibromyalgia." I told her I thought I might have Celiac disease and/or leaky gut. She didn't know much about any of these conditions, so she referred me to a rheumatologist.

Ah... the rheumatologist... She was the last straw in a long line of disappointing Western doctors. Yet another condescending doc who wouldn't listen to me and acted like I was an idiot. She did blood tests to see if I had thyroid issues, lupus, etc.. and on top of that she threw in a Celiac disease test. I asked her how it was possible to do a blood test test for Celiac since I was gluten free. She gave me that wonderful condescending stare and said "Of course you can." Well, I looked up the exact test she gave me, and guess what? It says plainly in the instructions (found on a medical reference website) that it doesn't work if the patient is gluten free. God, I love the internet.
Guess what was her solution was for my condition? Medication. That's it.

There is no way I will EVER lie back, give-up, and just let doctors shove pills down my throat to mask my symptoms. I believe in healing, and that is what I was searching for.
Needless to say I never stepped foot in her office again.

So I was back to square one.

Sara To The Rescue...

One reason I'm so passionate about sharing my story with others, is that my friend Sara totally saved me by showing me a book!

She heard through the grapevine about my health issues, so she sent me a letter via Facebook. She'd been struggling with an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's Disease, wherein your immune system attacks your thyroid. She'd tried traditional care, but found no relief, then she found this amazing book that helped her heal.

See, the funny thing about all of these autoimmune disorders (like Hashimotos, Celiac, Crohn's, etc...) is that I hypothesize that it's THE SAME DISORDER. It's just that in some people your immune system attacks your bain, in others, it attacks your thyroid, or your salivary glands, and on and on. People with one kind of autoimmune disorder usually have another. And guess where most of your immune system is located?? Your digestive system!

So Sara sent me a link to this book, with a very convincing letter urging me to get it ASAP. It's mostly about thyroid disorders, but it was really helpful for my condition too:

Not only did the contents of the book help, what was really my saving grace was the practitioner look-up on that website. I found Patrick Tribble, a chiropractor in Berkeley. He did more tests, re-analyzed the tests from my former doctors, and gave me a detailed work-up of my condition. He was the first practitioner I went to who knew what was wrong with me!!! Not only that, but he was currently treating 40 plus patients with the same type of disorder. He was intelligent, respectful, openly helpful, and spent lots of time answering my questions. He also complemented me for all of the great research I'd done on my own.

The first treatment he put me on was to go on this supplement and complementary diet:

I was finally on a REAL gluten free diet (all grains have gluten in them) that could let my gut finally heal. It worked wonders for my health. In addition to some other supplements to stabilize my blood sugar, and higher amounts of Vit D and B12 supplements (I started taking liquid B12, it's been much more effective.)

Plus, for the first time in YEARS I was actually getting Vitamin D, B12, and long-chain omega 3s from my food. So important! Just supplements don't cut it. Eating fish and organ meats is where it's at (gory sounding, I know, but actually yummy and darn good for you.)

Oh, and I cut-out coffee! SO IMPORTANT. After the horrible withdrawal, I felt so much better. My poor adrenal glands. Some research also suggests that coffee may trigger gluten antibodies in people who are gluten sensitive. Another good reason to cut it out of your diet.

With how wonderful this diet made me feel, I decided to go on a Paleo-type diet full time. I still was not eating nightshades though. It's kind of limiting, but after following the diet for a few months, I noticed my gut had become less sensitive to many things, and I was able to add in a bit of goat yogurt (goat's milk has a different kind of protein than cow), occasional nuts and seeds, and eggs.

So what was the final diagnosis you may wonder???

Things doctors have told me:

- Mild Hyperthyroidism
- Leaky Gut
- 10% arm disability from severe tendinitis
- Possible Firbromyalgia
- Hypoglycemic
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Mild Adrenal Fatigue - This is why I was so tired in the AM and wired at night. My Cortisol levels were wacked-out.
- Nutrient Deficiencies

There really is no blanket diagnosis that we can put a finger on with certainty. My Chiro called it "Head to Toe Disorder", the rheumatologist and my general practitioner thought it might be fibromyalgia. But the funny thing about a fibromyalgia diagnosis, is that that disorder is sort-of a catch-all. There is no test for it, it's merely what they call what's wrong with you when they can't figure out what's making you hurt. I also don't think I fit the Fibro. diagnosis, because my pain isn't just a dull ache, but horrible injuries that take out my knees, back, arms, etc..

What do *I* think the issue is after experiencing this and with the tons of research I've done since then?
I think I probably have Celiac disease, due to my very severe gluten sensitivity, but since I no longer eat gluten, there is no way to test me for it.
I also think I had gut damage or triggering of the Celiac disease occur because of the foods (and toxins) we feed ourselves in this society. We eat such radically different foods from what humans have eaten for our entire existence. It's irritating our stomachs, freaking out our immune systems, and thus causing a cascade of health problems throughout our bodies. I think some people are genetically more sensitive to these changes, and genetics aren't something that is set in stone, various events in our lives will trigger parts of our genetic code to become active.
I don't know if my vegetarian and later vegan diet caused my problems, or just made them worse. There is no way to tell for certain. All I know is that the diet made me feel worse, and was not what my body needed to eat.
Seeing as my health issues are very similar to my grandmother's, and that my mom also has a gluten sensitivity, I'd say there is something in our genetics that makes us prone to these health problems.

Also, check out these two photos for changes in my skin...

I look tired here, a bit puffy under the eyes. 
Small red itchy patches and some acne are being hidden by make-up. This was normal then. 
I'm 28 years old.


I'm 31 years old here. No photoshopping, very little make-up. 
This is the healthiest my skin has been since childhood.

By 2011, things were going good, my energy levels were better, my stomach didn't hurt anymore, my brain fog was so much better. I even started trying to dance again. And I realized something crazy about myself, when I feel healthy, I'm kind of an energetic spazz! Seeing as I've always been really mellow, this was news to me! :P
However, when I cheated and ate any kind of grain (oh, how I miss sushi!!) I would feel foggy and weird again. I've also become far more strict about not eating ANY GMOs. Those little buggers sneak in everywhere! From the corn used to process table salt (seriously) to the beets used to make sugar, to the soy in my lip balm. GMOs were designed to destroy the intestines of bugs... so guess what they do to humans? Yep! No good for anyone, but especially us leaky gut folks.

I've gained back a lot of weight as well. This is partially due to not being able to dance for 2 years, and partially because I'm actually absorbing my food now. I went from a size 2 to a size 10 in a year and a half. Honestly, it's been a bit hard. I had to buy almost all new clothes, and have sometimes felt a bit down about my appearance. I remind myself that I'm so much healthier, and that's what's important! Now that I'm dancing again, I honestly think I'll probably stabilize down to a size 8 or 6. But even if I don't, I'm fine with it! I love my big booty! ;)

But hold your horses, the story ain't done yet!!! There were a couple other mysteries I had yet to resolve.

I know, I have so much crap wrong with me, you must think I'm a hypochondriac by now... But I swear I'm not! :) I'm actually one of those people who usually doesn't make a fuss when they're in pain, and doesn't go to the doctor soon enough.

So first, I tried to go back to dance class a couple of times, but had these insane, painful cramps in my hamstrings both times. Then, I started getting the insane muscle cramps while going on walks occasionally. It would seriously lock my leg, I'd be in blinding pain, and I wouldn't be able to move for 5-10 minutes until it subsided. Then it would feel like I had sprained the muscle. Once it even happened in my neck. I read that this can be caused by magnesium deficiency... but I was taking magnesium supplements! So I looked for natural sources of magnesium, and one of them is liquid chlorophyll, something I hadn't taken in a couple of years. So I started drinking it again, and bingo! The cramps went away and have never come back. Thank god.

Another great source of magnesium and other nutrients is BONE BROTH! This stuff is like magic food, it makes you feel so good!

Other things I've added to my diet: Organ meats (so good for you!), coconut water, *liquid* cod fish oil, and homemade nettle infusion.

Next up (and last thing, I swear!) was my lingering lower back pain.... Everything else in my body felt so much better, but not my hips/lower back. So Dr. Tribble looked into it, and had me get x-rays of my spine. It turns out my 5th vertebrae is nearly flat, and spurs have developed on the bone, which rub against the ligaments that go into my hips. Another couple of my discs are a bit too flat as well. My doc said he'd never seen that kind of degeneration in someone as young as I am, and with a spine shaped like mine (it's on par with a 70-year-old's spinal wear.) So he gave me some exercises to help strengthen my core and create a sort of muscle 'corset' to hold it all stable. The exercises have helped a ton, but I still can't sleep on my back very much.

An interesting note about disc degeneration: I was watching an interview by Lierre Kieth, the author of  The Vegetarian Myth, and she claimed to have very similar health issues as mine, including the disc degeneration. Her theory is similar to the primal diet one, that we evolved to eat certain foods, and the kind of diet we're eating right now is causing health issues for people.

The End... For Now

Thanks for reading my story! I hope the information I've provided has helped you or someone you know.
For more information on the exact diet I am on, go HERE.
For more links to articles and research, go HERE.

After being gluten free for 2 years, and Paleo for one year, my health has dramatically improved. I'm even dancing again, and performing for the first time in years this weekend.

But it's not just diet that heals the body... Going outside in nature, being around people you love, thinking positively, reducing your stress, sleeping well, exercising, these are all so important!

No matter how much pain you're in now, there is hope! Hang in there, and focus on health.

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