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What I’ve Learned…

I’ve not had a chance to write as much this semester because I’m taking two classes, working part time and volunteering to plan for a virtual college fair. Whew! I was able to take a nutrition course this semester and it has been so so good!

So what have I learned?

Nutrition is foundational to EVERYTHING. And sadly, our system here in the US does not support proper nutrition to all. Food access is a huge issue, food insecurity is real and food swamps are a thing. Food swamps are areas that are flooded with fast food chains and quick marts. There is nothing wrong with these places but they are not replacements for real grocery stores and fresh food markets.

But I digress … I had to write a paper on the myth that organic is more nutritious than conventional, and with a few minor exceptions, it’s not. And did you know that seafood is not regulated as organic in the US? 🤯 If you see any seafood labeled organic, it’s typically based on the label from another country. Organic produce does limit what type of pesticides might be used but that doesn’t generally affect whether the food is more nutrient dense.

And I had to compare an online newspaper article with the study that the journalist pulled from. And there was sooooooo much information missing from the newspaper article so reading the original writing is recommended, if you have access to it. The study detailed the various chronic diseases that are associated with drinking both diet and regular soft drinks. But the newspaper article left out much of the details. And I get it- I was a journalism major and you only get so much space to write an article. But it can be a disservice to those reading it.

As I always say, take control of your own health. Definitely do the research and work with your health care practitioner. There are so many ways to improve your health, maintain the health you have or even work to put health conditions in some form of remission just by addressing nutritional deficiencies.

Wishing you the best in your health journey!

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Relief!

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

That being said, I started using Humira to stop/slow the progression of Ankylosing spondylitis. The rheumatologist recommended it and am I glad that she did! I can move better and more and I no longer need to get up an hour plus earlier than a normal person would to start my day. While I still get tired (working full time, part time and going to school part time will do that!), the all day fatigue has lessened. The knee swelling that made my right knee look double its normal size has gone down. And so many more benefits!

I got news of the biggest change yesterday!

I’ve mentioned working on my bloodwork numbers before, especially iron and c-reactive protein because iron would be low and CRP (an indicator of inflammation) would always be super super high. I had been trying everything – lifestyle changes, totally changed how I eat, exercise, supplements. I had to do bloodwork yesterday morning to set a baseline on the medication.

EVERY SINGLE FACTOR CAME BACK NORMAL!! 

Even my iron level went up to normal and the C-reactive protein dropped to a normal level; the CRP level had been crazy high when I first had it tested in 2018. If my calculations are correct, my original CRP level was about 100!!!!! That’s at the border of the high level and points to an autoimmune condition. Now it’s less than 3! I am so thankful and so grateful for finally getting relief.

I realize that everyone does not go the medication route but after trying alternative solutions for 4 years, I am elated to find something that has been most helpful!

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Finding balance

I’m sitting on the beach at a lake in Ohio. As my brother jokes, this has become my new favorite place. 🏖 and in a way, it is. I can get outside, enjoy the sun and disconnect for a bit before going back into the business of everyday life.

And I’m thankful that the beach is only 30 minutes away!

I decided to bring a book today along with my usual snacks. It’s called Body on Fire by Drs. Aggarwal and Rao and I’m already hooked on the first few pages. It goes along perfectly with my desire to find balance, or homeostasis as mentioned in the book. And for me, that’s everything at this point. So many times, I’m going from one thing to the next all day and not resting until it’s time to sleep!

And I’m on a such a mission to regain balance that I recently put in my notice at work without having another job lined up immediately. There’s a travel component that is just too much for me physically as I learn how to manage Ankylosing spondylitis. But the wild thing is that once I made that decision and put in the notice, I started receiving TONS of interview requests; and while that’s a post for a different time, it brings a level of validation that others positively view your skills the way you see your skills but your current place does not.

But, I digress …I am finally saying yes to myself and all that entails. And my yes may look very different from your yes, and that’s okay. Each of us is so unique and it’s time we celebrate our uniqueness in healthy and balanced ways. So as I continue to read, and begin class again next month, I hope to hold this moment to look back on when I don’t always have a moment to pause.

Wishing you all the best from the beach! And check out the book 📖

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Birthday update!

Yesterday was my 46th birthday! 🥳🥳🥳🎉🎉🎉

And I’m so grateful for another year. I started an active rehab program with a wellness center to have better mobility and build strength, both of which I need. Since being there, I’ve been able to go forward down the steps rather than turning sideways, bend the right knee more regularly (yay!!), do water exercises weekly and incorporate more yoga on the floor rather than in a chair.

I also started taking medication for Ankylosing spondylitis and that helps tremendously for pain and fatigue. I’ve got a way to go (because brain fog is real! 🤯) but I’m so glad that I’ve made progress. I’ve even started walking more regularly, which had been a challenge because joints would be painful with swelling.

And I’m continuing to work on diet and lifestyle. My sleep is still spotty at best, but I’ve started reintroductions for the AIP and I’m now on stage 2. I did add black and pinto beans early because I needed the calories and feeling of fullness from fiber!

And I’m including a recent photo comparison. The pic on the left is from my cousin’s wedding, just over 5 years ago. The one on the right is earlier this week at the beach with family.

Hope your health journey is going well!

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Food can be medicine!

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

I’ve been doing sooooo much reading about how certain nutrients can specifically benefit certain conditions. One book that I read was Eat to Beat Disease by Dr. William Li. Mind blowing! A friend even purchased the book after hearing me talk about it so much.

When we eat, we are choosing what outcomes are body will have – health or disease. Now is this perfect? No. Epigentics plays a huge factor on us but we can assist our bodies by being as preventative as possible through our choices. So I wanted to share some of the insights that I found out via Dr. Li and other sources. I am now experimenting with all of the recommendations below in a search for better health and hoping to put the autoimmune condition in remission!

  • Did you know… watercress’s antioxidants have been linked to lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease? It has over 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamins K. And one cup is only 4 calories!!
  • Did you know … eating processed meats 4 to 5 days per week is equivalent to accelerating your age one year for every year you eat that way?
  • Did you know …having lycopene-rich foods/juices (guava, tomato, watermelon, etc) before having X-rays reduced the damage done to the DNA by the radiation?
  • Did you know …eating 40 grams of dark chocolate daily can positively influence gut bacteria and reduce the body’s stress markers in only TWO weeks?
  • Did you know …high salt intake is not only linked to high blood pressure but it also strips away the protective mucus lining of your stomach?
  • Did you know …cherry, San Marzano and Tangerine tomatoes have more lycopene than other varieties?
  • Did you know …fasting cycles might be used to build a fresh immune system?
  • Did you know …pomegranate juice can rebuild the gut lining?

And why try to incorporate healthy, whole food? 420 million people worldwide have diabetes AND it leads to 1.6 millions deaths each year!! You and I have such a great influence on our health! Are there any recommendations that you have to improve and enhance health? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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Confessions of a former carb and sugar-binger

Where do I even begin on this blog post? I was talking to my mom the other day and was talking about my current heath challenges (I’ll update in a separate post but have to see another specialist as I was rear ended in a car accident last week). So much of the “health advice” given when I was young has been proven to be so, so wrong now. And I believe it has a long term effect on my health and the health of others.

One of my first memories of wayyyyy too much sugar and carbs involved eating cereal. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well it is when it’s a sugar laden cereal (think the orange animal who claims the food is great or something similar) and I put additional sugar on top of it! And then moistened the cereal with canned sweet milk. OMG!!! There was also the syrup with the side of pancakes. Or my love of pop tarts. I even did Nutrisystem at a young age and had to drink skim milk. 🤦🏽‍♀️

Remember this was the 90s when fats were vilified so I stayed away from “fat” products. But the substitutes were laden with sugar, sugar and more sugar- Snackwell cookies and candies. My go to meal substitute was a bag of skittles while on the run, again no fat.

And the low point was in college. There was a sweet shop in the cafeterias on campus and a “light” ice cream machine and the waffle machine. Carbs and sugars everywhere. When you have PCOS like me, this is the recipe to have crazy and uncontrollable cravings. Like I wanted sugar all. of. the. time! One thing I’ve never admitted and I’m so embarrassed and ashamed even now because I can’t imagine that I did this- my roommates would have pop tarts which were my biggest weakness. I would sneak and have one at times without asking. 😭😭😭 I would eat and within two hours be hungry again because I lived on carbs.

So why mention all of this now? Sometimes you have to remember how far you’ve come, especially in light of various health challenges. I am pretty sure that my overindulgence of carbs and sugar left me so nutrient deficient that my body was like – chick what are you doing?! I am so thankful that I learned how to appreciate real, whole food. And I know that this health journey will take time. Clearly, none of this happened overnight.

Maybe that’s where you are today, thinking will anything ever improve? How long will this take? Let me encourage you that you can be healthier and support a healthy lifestyle. Each day is the opportunity to make great food and lifestyle choices that move you to optimal health. That’s the goal. So if this former carb and sugar-holic can move past the above mentioned habits and food choices, everyone can!

Now versus the carb/sugar-holic (7 years ago)
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Healthy with Friends

As I’ve mentioned, I really started focusing on new ways to get healthier in August 2018. But before that, I had tried so many times to lose weight and would get to a certain weight and get stuck! In the in-between times, I would just think – screw this – and eat or do whatever I wanted, even if it wasn’t healthy.

What I have learned in this health journey is that having others who are moving in the same direction as me is key. That being said – a memory popped up on FB today from 7 years ago with a good friend. In the “then” picture, she had lost 15 pounds and I had not even tried again.

And then there’s our now pictures. We took very different paths to achieve better health but look how far we’ve come! My friend is a workout queen, working her way down to a size 6. I am more the lighter workout (think yoga, walking, bike riding) person and am at a size 8. And we both changed our eating habits, though I am much more strict since I’m following the AIP.

And I have other friends who are working on their health too! Be that person who motivates others to make a change to become healthier 🤗. I recently read a quote that where you will be in 5 years will depend on the people you hang around. Get some friends traveling in the same direction as you. It makes a difference!!

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Surprises with the AIP

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

Capturing how I’m feeling!

I have been on AIP (the autoimmune protocol) since January 1 and while there have been challenges, it has not been as dramatic of a change as I thought it might be. I had a win Friday! 🙌🏽

I manage osteoarthritis and get steroid shots in both knees a couple of times per year. In not planning as well as I needed to on Tuesday, I had to grab a protein bar to eat something while prepping for a lunch time meeting. Keep in mind, I had that same protein bar before AIP and thought that it did not affect me. But, later that night, I felt a twinge of pain in both knees and my ankles were much stiffer. I knew it was the bar! 🤦🏽‍♀️

So I readjusted and made a puréed vegetable soup to really focus on nutrients. And when I got up Friday morning, no more ankle stiffness or pain twinges. That was a great learning experience and it shows how far I have come. Before, when eating foods that arthritis doesn’t like, I’d be in a ton of pain in less than 2 hours! Like barely walking with the cane type of pain.

And then today … I did part of a yoga workout on the ball and could bend and lift knees, though not as high as instructor! 🧘🏽‍♀️I have not been able to get the right leg to bend and lift for months doing the exercise!How amazing is that! That’s combined with doing a short 1000 step walk beforehand without my knee sleeve!!! 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

This is such an unheard of breakthrough for me. I’ve read so many testimonials from people who have had such amazing health wins once they started AIP but those are generally from people who have autoimmune diseases. And technically, I don’t. Osteoarthritis is not and while PCOS is akin to autoimmune disease with a published paper making the argument that it should be, it’s not either. But I thought hey, what could it hurt to try and focusing on nutrient density is always important.

I will continue to document this journey, including reintroductions to find out what works for me and what doesn’t. If you don’t know a lot about AIP, I would definitely recommend finding out more, even just to dive deeper into better health. And if you know someone who has an autoimmune condition and think they could benefit, share this post with them!

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Update: first of the year

So I had my annual physical with my primary care doctor today. I really like working with her because she listens and tries to help based on my lab results, how I’m feeling and what might have been treated by other doctors in the past. Below is my update on issues I’ve mentioned in the past:

  • Iron level: still sketchy. I tested 6 months ago and it was low. Now, it dropped almost another point even though I take iron 3 times each day and liver pills. Since I have heavier cycles, I’ll be getting some testing done with an ob/gym
  • C reactive protein level: still elevated BUT…lower! In the past, I had hs CRP measured but the lab with the doctor just did CRP. And from my understanding, the conversion is based on a factor of roughly 10. So in converting my 39.5 CRP to hs CRP, I would be at a 3.9! This is AMAZING!!!!!!! My last test was done at the end of 2020, around November and it was 19

So, mixed results. My weight was about 8 pounds less than last year but I’m not really concerned about weight. I’m more than okay where I am. I’m just trying to see what is going on with these iron levels!

What are my health intentions this year?

1. Increase iron level

2. Continue to decrease c reactive protein

3. Better mobility in knee and neck areas

To help, I started the autoimmune protocol. It’s basically an elimination diet to help lower inflammation, heal the gut and find out what food triggers I might have by systematically reintroducing foods with a journal of results. I’m starting with 3 months but may go up to 6 months if needed. And I’m trying to find a functional or integrative doctor.

What are your health intentions this year? How are you going to make it happen? All the best in this new year! 🤩

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Then and Now

About a month into my journey to feel better, I started taking pictures to chronicle my progress as the scale doesn’t always correlate to progress. And I still do it because the body dysmorphia is real! I may not see myself as the size that I started, but I also don’t see my current size the same way others do.

So …the left hand picture is from September 2018. I remember buying that shirt; I loved it! It was a size XXL from JCPenney. The picture on the right is from last week. I am going to a funeral and, as usual, most of my clothes are too big *sigh*. I live by a Gap factory store that has AMAZING prices so I headed there to find something appropriate. The sweater is a small 😱 I haven’t worn a small since 8th grade while running track! The skirt is a size 8, both by banana republic 😱 I don’t ever remember wearing anything below a size 9. I’m always amazed when I see these comparisons.

How it started. How it’s going

And as you can see, I still have a knee sleeve on as my right knee continues to be a challenge. That day, I had gotten steroid shots in both knees so I’m still researching ways to improve joint health and minimize inflammation and arthritis. I plan to start the autoimmune protocol (AIP) in January to continue to reduce inflammation and figure out what triggers I may have.

I’m also focusing on gut health and started a new probiotic that is supposed to be great. With all the research available about the gut and the need for bacterial diversity to support health, I’m hoping that the probiotic, along with continued modifications, will help. And on most days, I aim for 5-6 servings of veggies and 1-2 servings of fruit along with protein; I eat a good deal of fish. All of this is a change from then to now.

Let me know what changes you’ve made and seen in your health. And any tips to reduce inflammation are great appreciated! To your good health…