Breaking Free from Pain and Prescriptions

About 8 months ago I began to have some significant GI distress.  The pain presented in the mid/upper section of my abdomen and initially, occurred a couple times a week at night after eating certain foods.  I visited a doctor and was prescribed antacid, which I took.  The pain only intensified and became more frequent.  Within a month it was occurring 2-3 times a day, every day, and so painful that I was throwing up after hours of being hunched over in the bathroom. One afternoon, I couldn’t take it any more.  I had my wife drive me to the ER….where they recommended I see a GI doctor (which I had already scheduled two weeks prior).  I left the ER with more medication – one to coat my stomach before I ate and another to relieve pain.  I took both as prescribed.  All along I had been keeping a food journal which produced no significant trends in food sensitivities or times of day that pain occurred.   For a couple weeks, the symptoms seemed to subside, mainly because of the medications.

It was about mid August when I hopped in my car to head to North Carolina to meet up with the rest of my family, who had taken a week long vacation.  About two hours into the drive I stopped off in at a pit stop to give my dog Kona a water/potty break.  I bent over to pick up her water bowl and immediately after standing up right, I had a blurry spot in one eye and the left side of me body was heavy and difficult to control.  I shuffled back to my car and began to text my wife that something strange was happening.  Within minutes the fingers on my left hand were numb and the numbness began to travel up my arm to my head, down to my abdomen, to my legs and toes.  The numbness never stayed in one stop, it continuously moved, crawling all over the left side of my body.  Then I began to have trouble texting and speaking.  I could read just fine, but trying to convey what I wanted to say was impossible.  I tried texting my family and friends, some texts being successful, others not so much. And amongst all the terror, I developed a very intense headache.

It took me 45 minutes to call 911.  And even then, I couldn’t tell them where I was.

It was by far the scariest moment of my life.  My mom, brother, and friend Victoria drove long distances to sit with me in the ER, get my car from the rest stop, and rescue poor Kona from animal control.  All the while, my wife was stuck in NC without a car of her own and very poor cell reception.  And in the end…it was a migraine….a migraine!

But why?  I had never had a migraine before. Ever!  Turns out,migraines are one of the side effects of the medications I was taking.  I was beyond frustrated.  Pain brought on more pain which brought on more meds.  Pain meds for the stomach, pain meds for migraines, anti nausea meds because pain meds caused me severe nausea.  I was over it.  I had become some pill popping manic and I hated every second of it.  I was paralyzed by pain and prescriptions.

Eventually, I was able to stop taking the medications.  All my GI symptoms disappeared before my appointment with the GI doctor.  She said to come back if the symptoms reappear.  And guess what?

They’re back…

About a month and a half ago, the same pain began to present in the same way.  As you may guess from my previous experience, I did not immediately scramble to make a doctors appointment.  I did, however, scramble for my computer.  I began to search my symptoms and natural cures.  The one thing that continued to pop up: The Autoimmune Paleo Diet.  Now, I have been trained to have a fair amount of skepticism in what I read, but the more I delved into this diet….rather lifestyle, the more I wanted to give it a shot.

In a nutshell:

“The autoimmune protocol was derived from the recent research indicating that autoimmune disease stems from a problem with intestinal permeability (or “leaky gut”), instead of the commonly assumed infection that resulted in autoimmunity. Simply put, when a person has leaky gut, irritation in the gut lining causes the tight junctions in the intestinal barrier to let unwanted molecules (food, toxins, bacteria) into the bloodstream. All the foods avoided on the autoimmune protocol are those that have been shown to irritate the gut or cause increased permeability in the gut. If you want to dig in to the science behind the autoimmune protocol, check out Sarah Ballantyne’s book – The Paleo Approach.” Mickey Trescott from http://autoimmune-paleo.com

Now, I don’t know if I have an autoimmune disorder…I don’t know what I have. But I do know my stomach and GI System as a whole is not healthy; evident by multiple a week stomach aches.  And I don’t know if this will cure my symptoms, but I do know that doctors prescribed me medications without running any test or having a definitive diagnosis.  And putting healthier foods into my body sounds like a much better idea than shoveling some pills down my throat.

So, pretty much, I have to cut out a ton of foods including

-eggs
-nuts
-seeds (including cocoa, coffee, and seed-based spices)
-nighshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the spices derived from them)
-alcohol
-NSAIDs
-excess fructose (more than 20g/day)
-potential gluten cross-reactive foods
-non nutritive sweeteners (including stevia)
-emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives

Wait…NO COFFEE….NO CHOCOLATE!  Wouldn’t it be easier to just take a pill…..you would think but after this summer…I’ll try this first.

Sarah Ballantyne from thepaleomom.com outlines these food to eat:

  • organ meat and offal (aim for 5 times per week, the more the better)–read more here.
  • fish and shellfish (wild is best, but farmed is fine) (aim for at least 3 times per week, the more the better)–read more here and here.
  • vegetables of all kinds, as much variety as possible and the whole rainbow, aim for 8-14 cups per day
    • Green vegetables
    • Colorful vegetables and fruit (red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, white)
    • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress, mustard greens, etc.)
    • Sea vegetables (excluding algae like chlorella and spirulina which are immune stimulators)
  • quality meats (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild as much as possible) (poultry in moderation due to high omega-6 content unless you are eating a ton of fish)
  • quality fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed animal fats [rendered or as part of your meat], fatty fish, olive, avocado, coconut, palm [not palm kernel])
  • fruit (keeping fructose intake between 10g and 20 g daily)
  • probiotic foods (fermented vegetables or fruit, kombucha, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut milk yogurt, supplements)–read about them here and here.
  • glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue, joints or skin, organ meat, and bone broth)

Anyway, this diet is only supposed to last for 30-60 days…maybe 90.  Then you begin to reintroduce foods as you are able to tolerate.  Sometimes it takes months and years to reintroduce all the foods, some foods I may never be able to eat again.   I’m still preparing the begin the diet, as this is not something you can start on a whim.  It is either all or nothing.  If the diet is not followed 100%, then the potential benefits cannot be reached.

I know there will be critics of my choice, but it is my intention to demonstrate how healing can come from controlling what we put in our bodies, not simply adding pill after pill to cover up symptom after symptom.    For those of you with similar stories, I wanted to chronicle this journey of healing and restoration.

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