Sometimes, I don’t feel as energetic or as pain free as I’d like to be now, even after being diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. Then I remember where I was just one year ago! I am so thankful for the improvements and positive changes that I’ve had over that time.
I started recording my walking and workouts on the app Map My Walk in June 2018. How do I know this??? LOL I looked it up yesterday because I went walking at one of my favorite local places. And it was FAST; well fast for me. I looked at the app to check whether I had ever recorded a mile pace that fast.
And NO I had not! 🤩
Yesterday’s pace was a 23 minute mile. I was listening to music and imagine my surprise when the music diminished and the voice of the app stated the one mile mark with the pace time! I even went back and checked last year’s workouts when I was struggling just to get out of bed. I didn’t have the exact date but I did have a couple of times listed for February and both one mile pace times were over an hour!
AND, I was still walking with the cane then!!! 😧
I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to pursue better health and to actually feel better. Days like this are a wonderful reminder of progress. And thank you for rocking with me throughout this journey!
I joined a wellness center. It’s affiliated with my job at a local hospital and it’s in an area I frequent most in the city. Now I’ve just got to find a routine and stick with it!
When I lived in Chapel Hill, my apartment complex had amazing facilities so I didn’t need to join a gym. And the weather tended to be alot warmer year round than where I now live so looking for a gym was not as pressing. I chose a wellness center that has a gym, well, because it’s a wellness center. With the exception of a sauna, it has every single thing that I was for including a steam room and heated pools.
The challenge is fitting workout time into my day. It’s easy to do a quick yoga routine or treadmill workout at home but I also need a bit more than just those two. At first, I thought that going before work might be an option. But since I’m in school as well, I use the mornings to cover homework so that’s out of the question.
At least for now!
So my goal has been to go one time per week and try different elements each time. I have started seeing a chiropractor twice per week and I am upping my gym time to twice per week – heading to the gym while I’m already out!
Today I tried out the elliptical machine for the first time on about 3 years. Dealing with the osteoarthritis, which turned out to be Ankylosing spondylitis, made using an elliptical extremely difficult. I did 10 MINUTES! That seems very small but it’s a jump from not exercising on it at all 🤩🤩
Any suggestions on how to add another day at the gym? I’m open to all suggestions! Hoping your health journey much success this year 🎊🎉
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!
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.
In my last post, I talked about finally being diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. And it’s still a huge thing to wrap my head around, especially since I’ve made such dramatic changes in my health. I’ll admit- sometimes I just want to say forget this push to be healthy and order a pizza (especially from my faves in Chicago) or drench everything in bbq sauce!!! But reality sets in and I know the consequences later will not be worth it so I don’t.
And this autoimmune condition of Ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, has no cure according to the resources that I’ve read. Any condition that ends in “itis” is indicative of inflammation and this is an inflammatory condition of the spine. It can also affect other joint areas. There are secondary issues that can occur with AS such as uveitis, inflammation in your eye which I’ve written about too as I’ve had that multiple times starting in 2009. And the cause of AS? No one knows though it’s believed to start with a leaky or impaired gut.
AS makes you really stiff, especially if you sit for a long time. Movement helps AS a great deal but it’s hard because when you’re in pain, the last thing that you want to do is move around! Stretching and functional movement are helpful and research shows that water based exercises are great as these don’t impact the joints. So I got a referral for that! If left untreated, AS can also cause fusion in various areas with your bones and you lose alllll flexibility and range of motion! 🤯🤯
While no doctor has stated this, I think AS is why I developed severe osteoarthritis at such a young age. The doctors just ask why I developed it so early; 🤷🏽♀️ how would I know?? I’m not a doctor. But to be better informed, I ordered a couple of books that are written by doctors who also have AS. Unlike me, both of these doctors have a genetic marker that is often seen with AS. And both found out much earlier than I did in the progression of the condition.
The doctors’ books offer insight on how they manage AS naturally, now. Both had taken different medications and decided that they would move forward without the meds. That’s the level that I eventually want to get to. I’ve been approved to take a VERY expensive medication to help relieve the chronic inflammation that I have. I’m hoping that as I start implementing the doctors’ recommendations, I can work with my doctor to decrease the medication. I’m also going to continue to focus on healing my digestive system and will move in the direction of working with a functional doctor who specializes in these types of conditions. And since stress can play havoc on the gut too, I took up my health care system’s offer to speak to a counselor. My hope is to find ways to better manage stress. Whew! That’s a lot!!
But I’m hopeful! If you are interested in the books by the doctors mentioned, leave a comment and I’ll include them below!
I was in a car accident two weeks ago. A guy rear ended me and it wasn’t super severe. But since I already have neck issues and stiffness, I thought it best to get checked out. So the police officer had the paramedics take me to the ER. While there, the physician assistant sent me for X-rays and a CT scan to check for fractures; I had no physical bruises though I was sore on my back.
Fast forward to my results – the attending physician noted no fractures and stated that my images were consistent with someone who has Ankylosing spondylitis. Now, I’ve researched this condition on and off for a few years but this was the FIRST time a medical professional has ever said – yeah, you have this. The recommendation was to follow up with my primary care doctor which I did.
What is Ankylosing spondylitis? Easiest explanation is that it’s inflammation of the spine that can affect other joint areas as well. Since talking to my doctor last week, I’ve been poring over the research and I’m so angry that no one thought this might be a problem before. I’ve had two rounds of physical therapy for my knee and two rounds for my neck area. I’ve taken LOTS of aleve. I exercise and totally changed my eating habits and lifestyle yet I couldn’t have just ONE doctor to say – hey I’ve put two and two together and that equals this autoimmune condition????
So today, I just want to stress that you have to advocate for yourself. I was sent to see a rheumatologist who really listened. I’ve seen one before; he did a visual test and sent me for some bloodwork. Since I didn’t have the genetic marker and don’t fit the profile (I’m not a middle age white male), then he dismissed it. UGH! I’m so glad that the new rheumatologist listened, put two and two together and is working with me for a plan of action.
I’m fortunate – I work for a research doctor who is familiar with the condition. My cousin and a friend work in the pharmaceutical industry and provided more details on the medicine that is recommended. But so many others don’t have those resources at their fingertips. *sigh* and this is another reason for me to push with public health. Studies show that women of color don’t get the treatment that they need for so many conditions and just as often, they don’t even know what to ask for.
Whatever your medical state or condition, please advocate for yourself. Take the time to do the research. Keep pushing the envelope. It shouldn’t take a car accident or other incident for you to get the treatment that you need.
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!
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 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!
Everyday, I have a decision to make: to either do all the things to give me a chance to feel great that day or revert back to old habits that weren’t the best for me. Every. Single. Day. I say this because every day is NOT a great day but I choose to move forward with something that can help tomorrow.
Why? Even when it’s hard. Why? Even when I seem stuck. Why? Even when there’s no progress. Because I cling to my reasoning behind what I’m doing. See, when I started my journey in getting healthier, my nutritionist asked – what’s your why? I took that to mean- what’s the reason that is so strong that even when I don’t feel like it, I’ll keep at it. My why?
Elimination of pain
So as I’ve mentioned, PCOS can cause low grade chronic inflammation which I definitely deal with. Well when everything is inflammatory, then it can have negative effects on the body including the wearing and tearing of joints; this can lead to osteoarthritis. And arthritis is painful. Pain is that motivator for me.
I plan to start the autoimmune protocol diet in January to start targeting what may be causing pain and to heal the gut, which I need in the worst way. When you wake up in some level of pain everyday, then you will look for ways to reduce pain – physical therapy, gentle exercise, NSAIDs, more sleep, Epsom salt baths, CBD oil, dietary changes, weighted blanket. I’m trying them all in an effort to minimize pain and enjoy each day.
So what is your why? Whether you are just starting or looking for ways to stay motivated, I encourage you to find a strong reason to stay on track. Writing it down and sharing your reason with accountability partners are both great recommendations that I’ve used. On my vision board, I even include ways to accomplish my goal.
What is YOUR why? Share below and motivate someone today!
It’s that time of year when sweets are in abundance EVERYWHERE! I even saw this display at a local big box store. There were even TWO displays and they were gone within a couple of weeks 😱
And it’s sooooooo tempting to give into all the sweets. But the sweets are laced with so much sugar! And yes, I used the word “laced” because sugar lights up the same parts of the brain as drugs. I have been researching the effects of sugar for years and while I don’t have the links for proof, please take the time to research what I mention below:
Sugar is addictive (as mentioned above)
Regular sugar has no nutrient value to add to your food
Sugar suppresses the immune system, making it harder to get better when you’re sick and consuming it
Sugar in excess seems to affect the level of sweetness that your taste buds become accustomed to
Sugar is detrimental to so many body processes and functions
When I consume too much sugar in a sitting or in a day, I can quite literally FEEL all these areas of my head lighting up because I try to minimize sugar as much as possible. My joints ache and hurt, making mobility much harder. And the uveitis in my eye begins to flare and it’s really hard to get that down. Whew!
So what do I do? When I do add sugar on purpose, it’s usually honey or maple syrup. I do have treats sometimes – there’s a non-dairy frozen dessert that I like or I may have portions of organic dark chocolate. But pain is a motivator and on my quest to live and feel optimally, then avoiding excessive sugar is a must.
Enjoy your holiday season! I’m just reminding you to be mindful of what you eat. Everything affects your body and wouldn’t it be great to be at your best over the holidays? 🤩 That’s my goal!
Got any recommendations on how to keep the sugar to a minimum during the holidays? I would love to hear your advice!