Hope Warrior -Kristen Boehmer

It’s a new Hope Warrior Wednesday!

I’m so happy I get to share a little bit of Kristen’s story and how she copes with having a chronic illness. She’s a busy gal, but was able to answer a few questions. Make sure to check out her website Living Loving Paleo and her instagram @livinglovingpaleo for some mouthwatering food photography and her life with Crohn’s Disease.

Meet Kristen!

I was checking out your story on your website (I will link it here), and boy have you been on an unbelievable journey. I know you were young when you were first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, but do you remember how you felt when you received the diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease isn’t something that I could fullyunderstand as a kid, which in some ways, made it easier to cope with. My parents immediately took full responsibility for my health, but at the same time, I did have to grow up quickly.

Taking 96 pills a week at age 12 is a lot to swallow, no pun intended. What would you tell a pre-teen going through something similar right now?

I would tell a pre-teen that no matter what, they should never, ever give up. It may feel like your world is falling apart, but if you allow it, your illness can actually become your greatest gift.

It is really frustrating when I feel like some doctors are not hearing me. It sounds like you went through something similar. How do you advocate for yourself now?

I’ve found a practitioner outside of conventional medicine who really listens, and that’s made all the difference. Thankfully I’m healthy enough now that I don’t need any sort of outside intervention.

What is your current treatment plan? (Natural and pharmaceutical if applicable)

After spending many, many years on medications, I’m now able to control my disease completely through diet and lifestyle. I eat what makes me feel good and live a life that I love.

 Your website has lots of delish Paleo recipes. What inspired you to start Living Loving Paleo?

I wanted a place where I could share my journey (outside of social media) as well as my recipes, so a blog felt like the perfect format.

How do you balance working full time with managing your chronic condition and spending time with your family?

While I have Crohn’s Disease, it’s thankfully no longer something that I need to manage. I work from home and accomplish much of what I need to get done while my husband’s away at work (he works 48 hour shifts as a fire fighter), so that when he’s home, we can spend much of our time together.

You talk about the fatigue, waking up tired and going to bed tired when fighting infections and the ongoing battle an autoimmune disease fights with your body. Do you still have days like these? What do you to conserve energy?

My health is by far the best it’s ever been, so thankfully those days are VERY far and few between! If I do come down with a cold or the flu, I simply set everything else aside and completely focus on my health. My immune system is fully functioning now, so I’m very rarely sick for more than a couple days.

 We went to San Francisco on our honeymoon and feel in love with the city. I am so jealous that you get to live near a city with the best coffee and some awesome food options! Eating at a restaurant can be difficult for IBDers who are afraid or embarrassed to ask their food to be cooked in ways specific to their needs. Do you have any tips for handling these scenarios? 

I have a great dining out guide where I’ve shared all my best tips and tricks! It

can be found here – http://livinglovingpaleo.com/2016/06/15/tips-dining-

paleo/

I truly believe that our environment can play a huge part in healing. Do you have an area in your home that helps you gives you the hope you need to keep fighting? What does it look like?

I really do my best to keep my entire house filled with calm, healing energy.

How do you treat yourself when you want to indulge?

I get a mani/pedi or a massage and take myself out to lunch!

What are some of your favorite books and or music/podcasts?

I love reading and have too many books that I’ve enjoyed to list off. As for podcasts I love Balanced Bites, The Sessions With Sean Croxton and The Tim Ferriss Show.

If someone were to ask you to tell your story in one sentence, what would it say?

Although my journey hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me the most beautiful life I could ever imagine.

 Do you have a mantra or an image that you use to give you strength or encouragement?

I recently heard Tony Robbins talk about achievement versus fulfillment, and it really stuck with me. I don’t have a specific mantra or image, but I believe in filling my own cup up before I can give to anyone else. When I’m fulfilled and loving life, I put out my best work.

What are some of your hobbies and activities you enjoy?

Cooking, reading and being outside with my husband and dogs.

Where are some of your favorite places to travel?

Hawaii for sure!

 

Who gives you hope? Do you have any “Hope Warriors” that inspire you?

While my husband has always been my number one supporter, he’s taught me to love and cherish myself first, so I’ve become my own “hope warrior.”

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Kristen!  I’m so glad you’re doing well and enjoying a beautiful life. Love your story, and I’m honored to share it. 

Happy Wednesday Folks!

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Hope in my MRI scan

* warning* this is a long post
If you are looking for my tips on how to prepare for an MRI and don’t care about my experience scroll to the bottom. Thanks for reading!

I wanted to share my MRI experience last night in hopes to prevent others from going through what I went through. I was told that this would be a 30 to 45 minute scan, with no contrast but lots of breathing and holding my breath.

First off, let me say that I went into this with complete confidence. I’ve had an MRI on my back years ago and knew what it was like and was prepared for it. However, this turned out to be an entirely different experience.
I arrived at the hospital at 645 for my appointment at 7pm. I checked in, completed a form and sat down in the waiting room.
At 730 a tech came to get me and escorted me to a locker room. They were out of scrubs so she had me wait while she went to get some for me to change into. When she came back she showed me where to change and lock up my personal belongings and said she would be right back to escort me to the MRI.
Scrubs are so warm and cozy. Not. I was freezing.
Here I am modeling my new outfit.

image

I paced the locker room that i had been left alone in while waiting, trying to stay calm and ease my anxiety. 30 minutes later another nurse came in to get me, not the original person. She acted surprised that I was still in there and asked if J* had been in there yet. She said she didn’t know where the original person was but that she would take me back even though I wasn’t her patient. This person (we shall call her S*) ended up being my angel that night, but at the time I was a bit frustrated for being forgotten about i had been at the hospital for over an hour at this point.  When we arrived back at the machine she asked me if I had been told how this would go. I said no, I had only been escorted to the locker room and told to wait there.
She had me sit on the bed that goes into the machine and handed me some earplugs. She got me a warm blanket and then the other nurse (j*) showed up and tosses a bag of fluids and contrast in my lap.
“Okay! Ready for your IV!?”
uh. What?
No one said anything about an IV.  The phone call prior to coming on to the MRI said I wasn’t having any contrast. I had no prior knowledge of this.
I felt my heart racing as I stared at the huge needle that had been dropped in my lap. My veins are poor and I had to stop drinking water at 2pm that day per the phone call for my scan. I knew I was dehydrated and would be a hard poke, and hadn’t prepared for it. You just don’t drop an IV bag and needle in a person’s lap without a warning. Especially me. Don’t do that to me with needles. I work hard to decrease my anxiety and it takes a lot of preparation, dropping a needle in my lap doesn’t help anything, especially right before I’m about to be stuffed in a small machine.

“Are you sure you have the right patient?” I asked. “I was told this would be a no contrast MRI,  just lots of breathing.”
“Nope,” she said without even checking. “Your orders changed and you’re essentially getting two MRI’s today.”
S* saw the sheer panic in my eyes and asked if I was okay. I stated that I’ve had some really terrible experiences with getting IVs before when I’m not prepared or hydrated enough and that this was a shock for me. I then went on to say I needed to be heat packed and needed a baby needle and they may need to contact the IV
J* interrupted and said she wished I would have told her this earlier so they could have worked on it already. (When would i have done this? When you forgot about me in the locker room?) She then said she would try a couple times and we would call the iv team if necessary.

Thank God S* took over and said she used to be an outpatient surgical tech and felt confident that she could get it on the first try. She asked J* to get a smaller needle, told me to lay down and breathe and try to relax.
She got it on first poke.
J* asked me why I was there, I explained that I have ulcerative colitis and the MRI is to check for bile duct cancer.
She asked when I went to the lab to treat my “colitis” and I replied it’s ulcerative colitis, not simply colitis, and I don’t go to the lab, I go to the infusion center and it takes a few hours for my medication.
She then shrugged, gave me ear plugs and had me lay down, strapped me to the table and put a brace like thing over my stomach. She said to stay as still as possible and said to listen to the prompts from the machine and that she would guide me through the whole time.
She left the room, and S gave me the panic button to push in case I had any problems. She put my arms above my head and a bolster under my legs and heard her leave the room as I  breathed deep and waited.  And waited. And waited.

And finally J came on the overhead and said the table is going to move, and in I went. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths.
The machine came on and told me to take a deep breath, let it out, take another deep breath and hold it. I held my breath while I counted, sometimes to 5, sometimes to thirty five until it told me to exhale. And it would make the sounds like the alarm and shake and beep. And I breathed. And this went on for what seemed like forever. My hands and toes were tingling and numb from being so cold, and I was started to get anxiety because I knew I had been in there a long time but had no concept of how much longer it would be.
J* came on the speaker and said I was doing great and they were going to start the contrast now, not much longer. I thought the contrast had already been in me. This must have been about an hour after we started. The contrast stung a bit as I felt it travel up and back down my arm again. I breathed, and tried really hard not to cry as I wondered why I had to go through this. I just kept thinking of my fiancé and going to California on our honeymoon and being somewhere warm and my family.
The machine had me hold my breath and breathe, hold my breath and breath for maybe 5-10 scans and then one scan lasted for maybe 10 minutes, no status update from the S* or anything. Finally it went silent. I lay there and counted to 100. Nothing happened. I said “hello? Can anyone hear me?” Nothing. Silence. My shoulders were aching, my feet were numb and my hands were tingling and I was starting to think they forgot me. My heart sped up and I tried to focus on remembering breathe. Finally she came on the machine and said one, maybe two more scans and we were done. Okay. I thought. Can’t be more than 5 minutes. I can do this. And closed my eyes again and breathed.

I heard the door open. I’m done!  I thought. I made it! And I looked up and backwards a to see S’s face. She said they entered the numbers in wrong and needed to redo the last 4 scans. (Wtf?!) She asked if I was okay and I said not really. I’m freezing and really uncomfortable and ready to get out. She felt my hands and said they were ice cold and got me a warm blanket to go over them and around my head. I asked her how much longer and she said about 15 more minutes. I breathed feeling the tears form and said okay.
I made it through the next 15 minutes dreaming of vacation and going through everything I am thankful for. And crying.
Next,  it was silent again for a few minutes I stretched, and waited thinking finally (again) it was over.
Then J* came in and said okay hun we have a few more to do, we can’t seem to get the machine right but you are doing just fine keep staying still, ok?
I was done. I had been in there for who knows how long at that point and this was the third time she said it would be one more time. I said nope. I’m done. They can use what they have at this point. 
So she left the room and talked to whoever and then the machine scooted me out and said she said well I guess it will be good enough. I was shaking through my whole body. S* came in with a blanket and wrapped me up. She then took out my IV and realized J* had taken away the cotton balls so there was blood dripping down my arm. S* explained to me what had happened during the scan and that I had been in there for almost 2 hours and was very strong. She said it was a very hard test, essentially two tests and I did great at staying still. She apologized for how long it took and that I wasn’t prepared for it and walked me to the locker room. It was 10 pm by the time I got to the locker to change my clothes and then had to wait another 20 minutes for the cd to be printed. I called my fiancé in tears, and drove home on the snowstorm.

If you read this whole thing, thank you. I wrote this in hopes that someone else preparing for an abdomen/bile duct MRI will know what they’re in for. So they will know it’s not a 45 minute scan, it’s about 2 hours. You will have an IV, you will have to hold your breath a lot and you should wear really warm fuzzy socks. Ask for extra blankets. You might not think you’ll need them when you get in there, but it only gets colder.  Don’t be afraid to hit the panic button if you need a break. Have someone there to take you home because even if you think it’s no big deal, the reality of it is you could benefit from the support.
And wake up in the morning feeling thankful. I woke up today thankful for my supportive,  loving fiancé who made me tacos and paleo tortillas and kept the warm and waiting for me to get home. I’m thankful for my health insurance that allows this test to happen. For my family. For the sun being out today. Let the experience remind you of what you have and what you are capable of. Don’t let how someone else treats you rob you of joy. You are more than a patient in a machine. You are a person,  and I bet you’re an amazing person. Remember that.

Hope Warrior-Astrid

Please bear with me while the blog undergoes some updates. It’ll be back to being pretty, clean and organized soon!

It’s a brand new year, thank goodness. I had the greatest new years eve, this year surrounded by many of my favorite people. Last year I had to worry about being close to a bathroom, this year, I knew I would be okay. Last year, I was about to face the biggest health disaster of my life so far, and this year, I was laughing and smiling and crying tears of joy.  Totally different from last year. I’ve never been so grateful in my entire life. There are days I wake up and I honestly have a hard time believing that the treatment is working. But it is. I’m alive, I’m well, I’m happy, and I’m so, so blessed.

To kick off the new year, I’d like to share Astrid’s story. When I was at my lowest point with this disease, she was always leaving me encouraging messages and continues to cheer me on as I do well, and when I need  a little boost. She seems to do that for everyone that she sees struggling or battling an aggressive disease like IBD. If there were more people in the world that shared the same caring attitude that Astrid did, no one would ever feel alone. Do yourself a favor and check out her art in the links below.  Thanks for being you, Astrid, and for letting me share your story. Happy Warrior Wednesday!

 

Hello My name is Astrid and I am an IBD/ UC warrior.

Astridselfie

I was honoured when Jacklyn from FlareupHope asked to feature me as one of her Wednesday Warriors, I felt a sense of sisterhood with Jacklyn when we first bonded on IG. It was comforting to find others with IBD and sharing our stories make me feel less alone and scared.

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with?
I was diagnosed with Mild to moderate Ulcerative Colitis

When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?
June 2013, The diagnostic was a relief as I needed to know how to proceed with a game plan.

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?
I have a very sensitive system to start and when I started taking Asacol, couple doses Salofolk following my doctor’s instructions, I felt more sick. I was only able to be on the medication for 2 weeks. My symptoms worsen and brought me to a full flare , that is when I went on a 5 weeks prednisone starting at 40mg to take the inflammation down.Because I didn’t want to rely on long term medication to maintain my everyday living, I worked really hard to find ways to manage my symptoms through diet change. I found the Paleo lifestyle a spring board to my healing regimen .

If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid. This is a true test and will actually make you stronger . You are stronger than you think, you can heal your body, just listen to it.

What do you do to relieve stress?
Yoga, drawing and painting, walking in nature, bellydancing

You are an extremely talented artist. How long have you been creating? What inspires you?
Thank you for your compliment about my artistic abilities. I have loved creating as long as I could remember, silly putty was my favourite toy as a kid, I always had a pencil and paper with me, drawing was my thing, then I learned to paint in school. I am inspired by shapes, colours and texture from nature and love the uninhibited feeling in my children’s artwork.I love painting flowers.

Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted?
This too shall pass

What keeps you hopeful?
Meeting more and more IBD/ AI warriors who is dedicated to healing the body through a holistic approach. My first GI told me that I would be 1 in a million if I can control my UC with diet alone. I really should buy more lottery.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
Focusing on Breathing, seems so simple but I often forget to take deep breathes until I do yoga or bellydancing. Putting things in perspective when a stressful situation arise. Is my world really going to crumble? Is my family going to be harmed? Am I going to live through it? I used to jump at other people’s requests or demands. I would put their needs or wants first. Now, I prioritize my life better, my health and family always come first.

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things?
A perfectly sharpened black drawing pencil, epsom salt bentonite clay bath, coconut anything, lavender, the smell of my children’s hair (when it’s cleanish ), a juicy grass fed steak

Social media accounts /website?
http://www.healmeinthekitchen.com
www.astridfoxartanddesigns.blogspot.com
IG: @astridfox_art

Biggest change you’ve made since diagnosis? I am better at managing stress now and have found a positive outlook in life. I have learned to calm my fight or flight habit and start living life with different perspective.
I have learned to adapted to evolving healing eating plans as my body changes. I started with going grain-free right when I was on my short course of prednisone, , then I embraced the Paleo lifestyle, now I have fine tuned it with AIP ( Autoimmune Protocol ) with low FODMAP. I cook 90% o f my foods, spend 80% of my waking time in the kitchen. I read labels because my wellbeing depends on it. I almost never eat out but you can often spot me with my thermal flask of bone broth at restaurants while out with my family.

Best thing about having this disease?
Having to learn how to face my fears and dig deep into my darkest places, I have become the person I have always want to be, I have learned to live with less fear and without regrets. (I love this-J)

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
M y greatest accomplishment besides being a parent is building a business from ground up. 17 years ago, My husband and I took our passion, along with our inexperiences and decided to start our own business. When we opened our retail fashion boutique in 1998, apparently our neighbouring business ,at that time, thought that we ( our business) would only last a couple of months. That neighbouring business has since sold and change a couple of hands over and we are still the longest standing business with the same owner in the hood. Being entrepreneurs isn’t easy but we stood the test of time with our boutique/cafe, Global Atomic Designs and Black Echo Coffee, in the fashion district of downtown Vancouver, Canada. We having survived the economically ups and downs throughout the years and continue to push trend boundaries .We have earned international recognition in what we do like making into the NY Times 36 hours guide.

Astrid is a whole food advocate, recipe developer, ferment fanatic, mother, wife, artist and entrepreneur. When she is not playing kitchen scientist, she is most likely plotting her next painting move from her yoga mat. Carving time to fill her different hats can be challenging, but she finds joy in balancing a holistic lifestyle to support her continuing battle with Ulcerative Colitis. She owns a fashion boutique/ cafe www.globalatomic.com and www.blackechocoffee.com in downtown Vancouver, Canada with her husband.

You can also follow her creative art progress on http://instagram.com/astridfox_art

Hope Warrior- Shawn

Hi folks! Sorry I have been away for so long. I caught a terrible cold and was spending all of my energy on my day job and am just now getting it all back again and getting back into the blog! I promise it will be better than ever before, stay tuned for the next few months to see what’s coming!
In the mean time, I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s Wednesday Warrior, Shawn.
She’s a great example of how your life doesn’t have to revolve around your disease, and you can do amazing things still! Using ulcerative colitis as a driving force and determined to put herself and others fighting autoimmune diseases into remission without having to rely on harsh drugs and awful side effects, and she’s doing great work on this!
Check our her contact info at the end of the blog, and thank you Shawn for sharing!
Here’s Shawn’s story:

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008. At the time, I just took the medication (mesalamine) I was given and it went into remission without a problem. I had a few small flares over the next few years, but was able to get over them pretty quickly. It wasn’t until August of 2013 when I was hit with an intense, debilitating flare. Tests revealed my UC had spread. My gastroenterologist was the worst! He gave me no insight as to how this could have happened and refused to entertain any idea that diet played a role. Instead, he handed me a prescription for prednisone and mesalamine and made sure I was aware that I would need to be on medication the rest of my life. This infuriated me, but looking back now, I’m so incredibly happy that I had the worst doctor ever. It forced me to do my own research on causes and treatment of the disease because I was determined to get off prescription medications! 18 months later and it has become almost an obsession…I WILL figure out how to make people with autoimmune diseases well again without the use of debilitating prescription meds. I have found my calling!

Since that moment of enlightenment, my life has been a whirlwind! First and foremost, I completely changed my diet and in doing so, have been able to get my UC symptoms about 90% under control. I currently follow a STRICT paleo diet, eliminating ALL grains, dairy, processed foods, sugar, and legumes. For 6 months, I even took it one step further and followed the Autoimmune Protocol which eliminates nuts, eggs, and nightshades…foods that can cause inflammation in those that are sick. In doing so, I was able to take my healing even further, get off ALL medications, and add these foods back in with no symptoms! Food is medicine and it has been a game changer for me. Another plus? It has MADE me learn how to cook and it turns out that the kitchen is my happy place! I have eaten some of the best meals of my life while focusing on eating for my health. This is MY #1 PIECE OF ADVICE…even if your doctor tells you diet has nothing to do with your disease, IT DOES! At minimum, it is absolutely critical you get rid of all processed foods and grains. It’s not that bad, I promise!

Secondly, I had to make some major lifestyle changes. Living a rested, stress-free, health-fulfilling life was now my biggest priority. I had spent years in a super stressful job, had a crazy workout routine, ate at a caloric-deficit everyday in an effort to get to my ‘ideal’ weight, dealt with dramatic relationships, and spent one too many nights out until the bars closed. I simply could not live this lifestyle anymore, my health was more important. I immediately adopted a more ‘grandma-like’ lifestyle! I make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep every single night which means some nights, I’m leaving social outings early, something I have learned to be OK with doing. I also don’t drink alcohol anymore (except for a very occasional glass of red wine) and have had to adapt to being the only one ordering water! Although I still workout regularly (I am a personal trainer after all!), I make sure to listen to my body and tone it down when I need to in order to avoid physical stress. I no longer allow dramatic people into my life. If I do have a stressful day, I make sure to spend at least a few minutes that day in full-on relax mode, focusing on deep breathing and muscle relaxation. This is my version of meditation! I also spend about 30 minutes every night doing restorative yoga poses to detox my body and mind from the day. In purposefully de-stressing my lifestyle, not only have I been able to physically heal, but it has helped me mentally cope with the battle at hand. This is my #2 PIECE OF ADVICE…get rid of as much stress as you possibly can and get some sleep! Eliminating stress is the only way to truly heal.

It may seem like this major life overhaul I’ve had would be hard, overwhelming, and not fun, but it is just the opposite. I’ve never felt so empowered in my life! I’m not letting this disease win! Yes, I have bad days. There are days when I don’t feel well and it’s frustrating. There are times when I want to go out with my friends and have a beer and a giant plate of nachos. There are times when I just don’t want to think about any of it for a second. But, I recognize that its normal to have bad days and negative thoughts. I don’t beat myself up about it. Its what you do with the negativity that matters. For me, I’ll take a nap or read my Us Weekly (my guilty pleasure) to take my mind off of it for a bit. If I’m frustrated, I’ll go get a great workout in and sweat the frustration out! After I take this time away, I turn my feelings into motivation! I head to my computer and do more research, looking for even more information that will help us all beat this disease. My bad days only fuel my fire! And this is my #3 PIECE OF ADVICE…YOU are not YOUR DISEASE! Don’t let it take over who you are. Let it motivate you to live your healthiest life and use those lifestyle changes as empowerment!

I have a ways to go, but in the past few months I have learned so much about treating and preventing autoimmune diseases WITHOUT prescription drugs. It is a possibility and so exciting! As I get information, I will be sharing it to help everyone else via my blog: www.well-belly.com. You can also sign up for twice monthly newsletters focused on wellness as a lifestyle on this site too! If you need ideas for what a meal should look like on a Paleo diet, follow me on Instagram: @well_belly.

I would love to hear from anyone who is struggling with their battle, has questions, or just wants to chat! Email me: wellbellynutrition@gmail.com.

Well-Belly-Web

The Paleo Partridge- Hope Warrior

Thanks for tuning in this Wednesday folks!

Have you met the Paleo Partridge? AKA Martine? She is an amazing lady who creates some delicious AIP recipes to help ease her IBD, and makes many other tastebuds happy as well! Martine battles Crohn’s Disease, another inflammatory bowel disease that can cause some nasty pain and symptoms. But she’s a warrior and fights it with a positive attitude and is super relatable in her posts. She’s also been very encouraging to me personally as I battled my last flare, and her support was/is so appreciated still.  Check out her website www.thepaleopartidge.com . You can also find her on instagram posting mouth watering dishes and gorgeous shots of her travels @the_paleo_partridge. Get to know the Paleo Partridge below! Thanks for answering some questions for me, Martine. You’re the best!

martine

What is the number one thing you’ve learned about since your diagnosis?

I’m stubborn, doggedly so. This can be a weakness as much as it can be a strength, and I realize that while being obstinate about certain things-like your health-can bring great outcomes, it can also become a negative force. So it’s very much a process. (haha! Just ask my near and dear). I will say, though, I’m so proud of the determination I’ve exercised when it comes to my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing-I’ve made leaps and bounds progress and feel healthier than I ever have since my diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 15. Goodness! It’s hard to believe it’s been a couple decades since that diagnosis.

What are you current medications/what lifestyle changes have you made to treat your IBD?

I currently take Humira 40 mg every two weeks as well as on-and-off Cipro and Cortifoam (a rectal steroid) for stubborn perianal Crohn’s. I started following a paleo lifestyle about eight months ago and implemented the autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol four months ago with some unsuccessful attempts at reintroductions of eggs and nuts. So now I follow AIP for the long haul, and that is A-OK by me because I’m feeling fantastic.

For some people, medication is enough, but I’m not one of those people. On conventional treatments but without paleo and AIP, I struggle with abdominal pain and cramping, painful abscesses that drain causing fistulas, chronic anemia, zero energy, joint pain and horribly high inflammatory markers.

I’m so grateful to have found out about AIP because it eliminates all of those horrible symptoms. I don’t experience the constant problems with abscesses, and my blookwork has improved so much. I’m especially excited about consistently keeping my C-Reactie Protein (a sensitive inflammatory marker) in the normal range. I’m also ecstatic that my iron levels recently came back up on their own without the need of an infusion.

(THIS IS SO AWESOME TO HEAR!!)

How do you keep your mental health intact while dealing with the symptoms/changes of the disease?

Looking after my emotional and mental wellbeing has been the most challenging aspect of having a chronic illness. And even though I’ve been battling autoimmunity for so long I’ve only recently made progress in maturing my heart and mind.

About a year ago I found a Certified Hakomi Therapist (CHT) and worked very hard with her for several months in order to learn to love all of me, cranky colon included! I spent years loathing the part of my body affected by Crohn’s which means I spent those years actually hating a good part of me because I viewed the diseased part of my body as an invader, a betrayer and a monster. My therapist helped me learn to nurture and love my large intestine, which led to an incredible inner peace and calm as well as a feeling of wholeness, which had been missing since my diagnosis as a teenager.

What do you struggle with most? What are you doing to overcome it?

I still struggle with keeping my emotions in check, specifically I fight against negative thought patterns and anxiety related to the daunting permanency of an autoimmune diagnosis and the trauma of bad (and sad) memories related to suffering with this disease.

In order to keep all of that in check and not slip back into my old habits of self-loathing, I maintain a regular practice of yoga and meditation. The movement of body and mind augmented by breath is tremendously therapeutic and calming; it helps me regain focus and not allow that antagonism between body and mind emerge again. I’m so grateful for my practice of yoga and meditation; the practice has changed my life and I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Any advice for the newly diagnosed?

Hold your head up high. Don’t let IBD or any disease rob you of your self-worth. You are an amazing human being! Be proactive. Educate yourself. Work with the medical professionals to find a treatment-conventional, alternative, or both- that works best for you.

Rules to live by?

Never let the disease define you, you are so much more than the diagnosis. Oh, and prioritize sleep-get your eight hours, kids! 🙂

Quote you turn to when you need to be uplifted:

Hmmmm….this often changes, but I usually write down an affirmation for the month on a sticky note and put it on my computer. This month’s affirmation: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again.” I love that! It keeps me focused and hopeful.

Music/Song:

Anything by Vampire Weekend- I totally dig every single track on every one of their albums (yep, I’m a fan-girl). Also, can I just say Stephen Paige (formerly of Barenaked Ladies) has the most awesome voice ever, and I crush on him regularly.

Go to Snack when flaring:

Roasted chicken and well-cooked mashed carrots with a big dollop of coconut oil, yummy cozy, soothing, low-residue comfort food.

Activity that lifts your spirits:

Yoga, yoga, and yoga. Meditation. Also dancing to a good beat! 🙂

Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you:

I like to remain curious and thoughtful about the world because if you’re bored, you’re boring. And that’s just not cool.

Mangia Paleo-Hope Warrior

On Wednesdays we meet warriors. This idea of sparking a little more hope in the world isn’t just something I can always find from within myself. I’ve found that the spark grows more when there are others out there you can draw inspiration from, relate to, who provide a sense of humor, a little support and a whole lot of light when you’re reaching for the stars in the darkness.
Laura and I were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis close to the same time, and her Instagram (@mangiapaleo – follow her!) account displaying how she was using food as medicine to fight her disease into remission was so reassuring to me. Plus she displays the best sense of humor and doesn’t hide about the difficulties and frustrations the disease can cause. When we could laugh about poop together, even through cell phone screens and laptops hundreds of miles apart, I knew I had found an IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) family member. I wouldn’t have gotten through my hospital stay with a good attitude and faced recovery without having her cheers and healing vibes.
So meet Laura, a true IBD Warrior. She has some great recipes and info about ulcerative colitis on her blog as well!

@mangiapaleo

What’s the number one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?

I’ve learned that I am more resilient than I would have ever known. It also surprised me that I took a negative diagnosis and turned it into something that, hopefully, instills inspiration and strength in others.

I think you definitely do that with all of your efforts. When were you diagnosed?
March 2013

What are your current medications/what lifestyle changes have you made to treat your IBD?
Immediately after my diagnosis I began the paleo diet lifestyle. My diet excludes grain, gluten, dairy, legumes, sugar and anything processed. I am currently taking a maintenance drug but do not believe it contributes positively to my health-or at all. *shrug* My diagnosis was just last spring, so I’m still experimenting with what I can and can’t eat or do with my ulcerative colitis.

How do you keep your mental health intact while dealing with the symptoms/changes from the disease?

A huge part of why I stay strong is my accountability from my blog. I feel a sense of purpose when I post new recipes or health information. Upon being diagnosed I also believe I was given an obligation to raise awareness and help others in their journey. Being an advocate for IBD is a reminder that I am in control of my disease and that my diagnosis brought me to a healthier way of living.

What do you struggle with the most? What are you doing to overcome it?

My independence is something I really value, but I can get lonely occassionally. My friends and famiy have been an amazing support, but sometimes you just want someone to surprise-pack a healthy lunch for your or ask how your day was and give you a hug when you come home.
Having IBD is one of those diseases where it is easy to seclude yourself and believe that no one understands what you are going through. But I have overcome that by speaking out about it.
Since I have been very open, honest and candid about my disease I have met some amazing people through my journey. You’d be surprised how many people/acquaintances in your life have Crohn’s an colitis!

Any advice for the newly diagnosed?

I have 3 pieces of advice:
Even though you may not feel like it, you are in control. You own your body.
Do your research on health and nutrition.
Talk about it. Raise awareness and help the average person better understand our illness. It’s a great way to build a network of support, too.

Rules to live by?
Always bite your tongue when you hear someone without IBD tell you they have a stomach ache. Oh, and eat clean and get plenty of sleep!

Quote you turn to when you need to be uplifted:
“Every day may not be goo, but there is something good in every day.”

Love it! Musice/Song: “Three Little Birds”- Bob Marley
I also have a short Spotify playlist called “IBD Flare.”

Go to snack when flaring: Bone broth and roasted carrots with turmeric and ginger.

Activity that lifts your spirits: Cooking, CrossFit, and doing anything outside in beautiful weather.

Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you:
I always keep my sense of humor.

Hope In the Battle

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Yesterday started beautifully. I woke up with energy, took my yoga mat out the back porch and spent a good hour flowing and connecting. I had plans to get some grocery shopping done for the SCD diet and do some packing/purging of items in preparation of the move, as well as to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. I was happy, blissful, and feeling like the medications were finally working. Around one in the afternoon I lost my energy, and the evening ended/proceeded with the worst episode I’ve gone through since my diagnosis.

This is the thing with ulcerative colitis. It challenges you. It wants to beat you.

It says “Try to keep that same blissful feeling,” and laughs while inside the pain is so intense you’re whispering profanities to yourself and squeezing your wrist just to bear through another cramp.

It dares you to not be frustrated when you have to cancel your shopping trip with friends because you haven’t been able to go more than a couple hours without an urgent bathroom trip.

It taunts you to feel energized and get out of bed in the morning when you were up every few hours the night before, rushing to make it to the restroom without waking anyone else up.

It tries to steal your confidence when you look in the mirror and see this gaunt, ghostly figure with dark circles looking back at you. It laughs when you step on the scale to discover you lost another 2 pounds overnight.

It smiles when you still have a terrible taste in your mouth after brushing your teeth and sees the tears in the corners of your eyes.

It wants you to feel the shame burn on your face when you stand in line at the pharmacy with your preparation H wipes and sensitive toilet paper and the clerk tries not to make eye contact.

It may try, but it doesn’t have to win.

There’s always another way to look at things. I’ve felt the worst that I have in a very long time over the last 24 hours. My bathroom trips are in the 12-17 times per day. Everything hurts. I shed a couple of tears of frustration this morning.  That doesn’t mean I’m weak. It doesn’t mean I’m broken. I’m battling. I’m still here. I can fight back. Here are some of my strategies for the war tactics of UC.

The pain is temporary. When it seems overbearing, I try to distract myself with other thoughts. Read a book. Set some goals. Count the tiles on the floor. Make plans for the new house. Hum a song. Think of something better than this moment.

Good friends understand when you have to cancel plans. Start planning another trip. Or a movie session. Or just text. Whatever I can manage.

Don’t make it the disease’s choice whether I sleep more or get up. It’s my choice. It’s not “the ulcerative colitis” that kept me in bed. It’s that I was tired and needed more sleep. Or I’m taking it easy today because I’m exhausted. My choice. Don’t give power to the disease.

Forgive myself for having the ugly thought. It’s not true and it’s not helping anyone to feel sorry for yourself. Yes, this sucks. But I have the power to choose how I’m going to feel about it. Put on a little makeup, and a smile, and you’re good to go. Maybe do a face mask or paint your nails. Show yourself some love. Don’t let this steal your joy. What do you really want today? How can you make that happen?

If the tears come, let them. This is hard stuff. You’re going to be sad. You’re going to be frustrated. Things aren’t going to go your way. Life is not as you knew it before. But you have a choice. You can react in a manner that makes it better, or you can make yourself feel worse. Let the tears fall, then figure out what you’re going to do next and move on.

We’re taught not to talk about our bowels or anything that comes out of them. It can be embarrassing buying preparation H and soothing wipes and keeping it all in a cupboard with your enemas and rectal suppositories next to your boyfriends cologne. Those shameful terms are ones that no one wants to hear or have talked about. But talk about it. Make jokes if it makes it easier. If you keep it to yourself, the disease will stay inside you. The more awareness the better. One of my favorite quotes from Jillian Michaels “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You never know, something you say might inspire more research, might reach someone who is alone in this disease, or may bring some insight to someone who has no idea what an inflammatory bowel disease does.

Ulcerative Colitis can try to steal my dignity, my confidence, my strength, and it can try to do a lot of things to break me down. But it won’t win. I have hope. I am strong and I am determined to beat this.

I don’t know what brought on the extreme episode. Possibly the piece of Guyere cheese. It was on the SCD safe list, but the extreme pain started after that. I’ve decided to add dairy to my list of restrictions and move forward. I just ate some homemade chicken broth, said a prayer, and am waiting to see how that effects me. Other than that, it’s just been water today.

One foot in front of the other and you’ll keep moving forward.

Hope in Diets

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Aside from going on the spiritual diet of “May Cause Miracles,” I took it one step further and I started the SCD diet yesterday. Or at least I thought I did. 

I bought the book “Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.” (www.scdrecipe.com). Thinking I would give it a shot. So far, the steroid enemas are making little progress toward any remission status (and the side effects have been less than wonderful), so I figured looking at my diet (again) wouldn’t hurt. I’ve been gluten free since I was diagnosed and first went into remission by doing so. But once I stopped taking the canasa I immediately flared up again. That was in September and the bleeding hasn’t stopped since. I did an elimination diet and removed soy from my list of “legal” foods. Still no remission. Some days are better than others, but the urgency is still there and I still get nervous about accidents, and the good old friend blood shows up to say hello multiple times a day. 

Anyway, I figured trying something else wouldn’t hurt. So I bought this cookbook at a used book sale and began reading. Essentially, my understanding of the SCD diet was like the title said “grain-free, lactose free, sugar free solution.” Sugar wasn’t something I paid close attention to, and rice and corn were something that I still allowed on my previous diet.  I decided maybe eliminating those would help. So, I copied the list of legal and illegal foods in the cookbook and went to town meal planning. And I’ve stuck with those meals so far. 

However, it has come to my attention that I’m doing it wrong. After a little further research at breakingtheviciouscycle.info and scdlifestyle.com and thegapsdiet.com, I learned that I should have done an introduction phase with bone broth and such first. I also found out that aloe vera gel was illegal, and that really seems to help soothe my inflamed tum. Ugh. I was frustrated.

I took a minute, closed my computer, and changed my steroid induced attitude. I decided not to be so hard on myself.  I might not be doing exactly what the books say, but I’m making changes and trying. And if this doesn’t cure the flareup I’ll revisit and go to square one. If I get worse, I’ll go to eating just bone broth for 5 days if I have to. But I’m hoping to get better. Hoping that it helps stop the bleeding, and I get to feel satisfied and happy at the same time. Somehow, I’m going to beat this.  I might not be doing it by the books, but I’m doing it this way for myself. Every one of us is unique, every one of us has their own needs and lifestyles, and everyone of us is important enough to feel good every day of their life. You decide what works best for you, I decide what works for me, and we all end up healthy and happy. This is me believing in miracles, maybe we can work it into a Disney song someday. 

So, here’s the gist of what I’m doing. It’s a combo of Paleo, SCD, GAPS and what I know works for my body. 

What I’m having:

Fresh chicken, turkey, beef, fish, lamb, shellfish. 

Fresh spinach, onions, tomatoes and multiple other vegetables cooked really well or blended. 

Fresh and frozen fruits (without added sugars)

Natural cheeses (Cheddar, Colby, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Swiss) and Farmers Cheese if I can ever find it. 

Cooking oils

Nut flours, almonds, cashews, haelnuts, pecans and nut butters with no additives

Honey

Spices, 

Fruit Juices with no added sugars. 

 

What I’m not having:

Processed meats, potatoes, yams, canned fruit, grain of any kind including corn rice and soy, milk, mozzarella and ricotta, ice cream, chocolate (sigh), coffee and beans. Pretty much any form of processed anything. Trying to keep it as whole and fresh as possible. 

This morning I had a delicious green smoothie and my stomach didn’t bloat up like a 4 month along preggo. I ate leftover chicken with cheddar cheese and spinach (cooked really well). I drank a kombucha for afternoon snack and had mixed fruit of pineapple, strawberries and melon before that. This evening I ate boiled chicken with Greek spices and a cucumber and onion salad. It was delicious. I’m just about to settle in for some warm almond milk and banana sauteed with honey. This “dessert” might just satisfy my sweet tooth for the next few weeks. 

How long will I continue this? Hoping til at least my birthday. Or when symptoms go away. Whatever comes first. My birthday is May 19th. Also happens to be World IBD day. Ironic? Perhaps. Reason to celebrate extra hard? Absolutely. 

What dietary restrictions are you following? What have you had success/failure with?