How I cured my own auto-immune disease with natural lifestyle changes

This guest post below comes to us from one of our Completely Nourished readers, Angelia. I’m so honored that she took the time to share her personal story with us here, and I hope many of you find inspiration in her journey. Please comment below to let Angelia know if her journey resonates with you in any way; and feel free to forward this critical info about the importance of being our own health advocates to anyone who may find it useful! (And if you have relieved or eliminated your own health condition through natural dietary and lifestyle changes, please submit your story to us here so we can consider sharing your journey with our readers!)

Disclaimer: All information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional before making any changes to your medications or other treatment plans. Please do your own additional research regarding any of the information shared here on our site.        

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Pain ruled my life back in May 2013 when this photo was taken

Angelia writes…

“My story starts when my mother passed away in 2010. Although this was an extremely painful part of my life, one good thing did happen during that time – I met up with my mother’s lifelong best friend. During my brief visit with her, she taught me two life-altering lessons about the importance of real food for our health:

  • Lesson #1:  Waste not, want not. This lesson included how to can fresh foods to preserve them for later.
  • Lesson #2:  Food and herbs (and even some wild plants) = medicine. This lesson also included being mindful of what we eat.

However, there was also a bad thing that happened as a result of my mother’s passing. The grief shattered my world, and I ended up drowning my sorrows for the entire next year – so I didn’t put her wise friend’s words into practice until later on.

As the months of 2011 went by, I started to realize that the alcohol which I was drinking every day was doing damage to my heart. Determined to get back to taking care of myself, I sought the help of the local mental health clinic. The doctor also diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. I also had thick brain fog. The doctor prescribed 2 different drugs, which didn’t work; and I gave up hope for their help for a year and a half.

(On a side note…when I had lost my husband in ’95, doctors prescribed two different antidepressant drugs for me, which made my behavior worse and also made my body sick back then, as well.)

I quit drinking, but I noticed that my body didn’t feel better. I was overweight, but I had always attributed that to my low thyroid. I found out about that problem when I couldn’t get my period after my son was born. It was also the cause of the preeclampsia I had at the end of the pregnancy. Come to find out that this happens to a lot of women during pregnancy, and I feel it is one of many diseases that is preventable with proper diet. The doctors told me I would always have hypothyroidism and have to take thyroxine for the rest of my life, and so I blindly believed that. I was also fatigued, yet I didn’t sleep well; and I started feeling arthritic.

medsIn 2012, a traumatic event at work had me seeking help at the mental health center again. This time, I was ready to take their help seriously and get healthy. The doctor, who already had 4 drugs on his list that he couldn’t prescribe me, tried 4 more drugs with me in the next 6 months. After 6 months of sickness from the pharmaceuticals, I told him to give me just an “as-needed” pill for the anxiety because practicing meditation at home and receiving therapy services from the mental health center had started to really help me.

I also started studying herbs to find alternatives to the pharmaceuticals. None of this made my heart feel better – I would have palpitations and weak, fluttery feelings, especially in the evening or whenever I didn’t eat. I was having increased pain in my neck, which I knew was from inflammation, that made it feel as if my neck was made of pea gravel. I was also having trouble with my arms from the base of the neck to my fingertips. There would be burning pain some days, pins and needles other days – pain, nerve impingements, or a combination of any of those. I was taking 12 to 16 Ibuprofen pills per day in order to function, and I took Tylenol on top of that if I had a headache – which was often.

By February 2013, I was in such pain I couldn’t hold back tears. I was losing range of motion in my shoulders, arms, and neck; and I had constant back pain. I gave up and found a clinic. The physician’s assistant was probably horrified by how much medicine I was taking. She did an x-ray, which showed minor degenerative changes. That was scary. She gave me Aleve. I went back the following month because, while the Aleve would help the pain somewhat, it didn’t work well; and I was still suffering the nerve impingements. She did an MRI and saw the inflammation. She gave me Vicodin to take as needed, and she sent me to physical therapy.

exerciseHere was when I really started getting a clue. I realized at this point that exercise, oddly enough, relieved my pain. I got the “okay” from the physician’s assistant to exercise at home. I noticed that on days I did exercise, between that and the drugs, I was pain-free. I could even have good days where I could break the Aleve tablet in half and get by. When I got the nerve impingements, I only took the Vicodin in half-tablet doses because I was afraid of it, and it made me constipated – I didn’t like taking Milk of Magnesia for that. I was happy that I was taking less medication overall, but I was also sad because I realized that this was like a band-aid, and not the real solution.

I began to research natural solutions to inflammatory problems through herbs. I noticed that from a lot of sources there were foods on the list that reduced inflammation, and there was another list of foods that increased inflammation.

monstersmoothieYou can imagine my shock at the realization that I was poisoning myself with food! My body literally attacked me every time I ate. That’s what my mom’s wise friend was talking about! I was super excited about the idea of curing myself through food. I read Bob Harper’s book, The Skinny Rules, after which I started drinking a lot of water. Man, did that help. It seemed to make my energy more efficient. Also, the smoothies in his book kick-started my replacing processed food with real fruit and veggie smoothies made from things like kale, spinach, apples, and blueberries. I researched macrobiotics and a few other nutrition books (some of which I dismissed), and then I read The China Study.

It was now June 2013. I had lost 10 pounds, and my pain didn’t plague me quite as much. As I read The China Study, I figured out my body may be affected by the GMOs (genetically-modified organisms), hormones, drugs, and other things in meat.

food labelI was becoming mindful of my eating, reading ingredient labels, and looking out for GMOs; but there were 2 more times I ate bad foods and noticed the pain and inflammation, and that really drove home the lesson that I could never eat processed food with additives again. One time was within 30 minutes of eating bacon, and the other time was right after eating a small order of French fries at a fast food place. That small fry had me in agony for 2 days! I never ate fast food after that. I also stopped eating meat, and as soon as I did, my pain was 40% less within the first week. I was now eating a whole foods vegetarian diet. My skin looked better, and I had lost 20 pounds by August, but I was not 100% better yet. I was still plagued by nerve impingements, and I was relying on the Aleve, night and day.

One day in August, I shared a cheese pizza with my sons, and I had to go to bed early that night. I had fiery pain in my shoulders, and I felt sluggish the next day. I realized it was either the cheese or the crust, so I became vegan. When I did, I noticed a jump in my energy and a significant drop in my weight, and the level of pain dropped in those last 4 months of 2013.

In 2013, I went from 200 pounds to 160 pounds. I’m only 5’3″, so at the start of the year I was obese. By October, I dropped down into the overweight category.

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Here I am feeling GREAT in 2014!

I have continued eating a whole foods vegan diet and researching nutrition, and I am now free of all drugs for pain and anxiety since February 2014. I have now lost 55 pounds, and I’m in the average weight category. I am down from a size 20 to a size 10. I still exercise every morning, and I’m in better health now than I was when I was 16 years old. (Of course, I was a rebellious and repressed teenager back then who just needed to express herself. Unfortunately, it was in negative ways that affected my health like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.)

I have enrolled in college to become a dietician, so I can have a career helping people become more mindful of their food, remove processed foods from their diet, restore their health, prevent disease, and relieve their pain. I want to help others in the same way I helped myself – with real food. I also took up the banner for real food by signing petitions, spreading awareness over social media, supporting the farmer’s market, and I am on the lookout for other ways I can help.

I hope my story helps someone today.

Blessings to all who read this,

Angelia”

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Asperger’s, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD and Diabetes are no match for this determined mother!

Please give a warm welcome to Em, an amazing mom in Omaha, NE who will stop at nothing to give her boys the healthiest life she can. I had the pleasure of meeting Em recently, and I’m thrilled that she was willing to share her story with all of you here! I’m sure many of you will relate to her journey…from realizing that her boys’ health was suffering…to struggling for answers…and then putting in the hard work (and finances) it takes to implement the natural solutions she believes in so strongly…

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emberEm writes…

“My life changed after the birth of my oldest son in November of 04′. Born with many issues, one of our struggles became something called MSPI (milk soy protein intolerance). Which, after all was said and done from surgeries to NG feeds (Nasal Gastric feeding tube) left a lot of stress and confusion in our home, where new parents had to maneuver through a new food world. All that being said, when he hit 2 years old, we were told he’d out grow his MSPI and to feed him regularly – Even though he failed a conventional milk challenge with pasteurized store bought milk, we were told to feed him normally and see. By the time he was 4 years old, he had been diagnosed as “Failure to Thrive” for his entire life, had a diagnosis of Functional Abdominal Pain and was just a few days away from being in the hospital. He had no energy, was lethargic really, dark circles under his eyes and only wanted to eat macaroni and cheese and ice cream!

It was during this time that my youngest was born and also diagnosed with MSPI! I breastfed the entire time with him. Though he was so sensitive I literally was allowed to eat less than 10 types of food the entire year. None of these foods came from a box or can – this should’ve been my first clue!

dathenBeside myself with worry over my oldest son, I was talking with a friend who jogged my memory of an article I’d read when he was first diagnosed. The article explained that we begin to crave the things we’re allergic to. So, I took to the internet to find what I could and recipes that I could use if I removed the milk from his diet again. This is around the time I stumbled upon the holistic online community at Completely Nourished. I found a few recipes and promptly removed the milk proteins from his diet. Within two days, he was asking for second helpings of food. I added liquid vitamins that were easily digestible for his tummy (all gluten-, casein-, preservative-free, etc.). Within one week, the dark circles under his eyes were gone, he’d put on 2 pounds and most of his personality changed!

Diagnosed with Asperger’s, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, etc. I pretty much couldn’t think about his future – I knew what all of these diagnoses together meant. Well, just removing the gross processed milk proteins changed a majority of his issues! His tics were so bad that it would take him 5 minutes sometimes to finish a sentence because he’d tic, stop talking and have to start the sentence over. He was beating himself and had just expressed the desire to have coprolalia (This is what people think of when they think of TS). It was really bad. We removed just the milk and in 3 years, I have not seen his tics come anywhere near that degree anymore. Truth be told, now, when his tics are on a downswing, you wouldn’t even notice he has TS! To top that off, he went from 8 medications down to just 5!!

JaxSo, I went back and read Christy’s story again. I followed a few of her recipes and started to slowly cut out all those additives in his food and his brother’s food. We’re still not 100% additive-free, but we’re probably 99% additive-free now. We also made sure that their food was organic whenever possible as well.

Flash forward 3 years and my son was again being tested for Celiac. So, standing there holding him down for yet another blood draw, I realized that rather than keep doing this, it made more sense to just go gluten-free for him. So, we went gluten-free, too. Within 4 days he had what one neurologist termed “withdrawal” symptoms! It was awful really but, by the next day, just like when he was removed from milk, he was almost the little boy I knew at 2 years old!

Which prompted me back to Christy’s story here, where I poured over anyting that I could get my hands on. Then I went went back and got my geek on. I researched for hours sometimes on the internet about foods, GMOs, preservatives, etc.,  After a little over 2 weeks now casein/gluten free, my oldest is being titrated down on the dosage of 2 of his medications with the hopes that he can get completely off of them! My youngest, who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in November of 2012, was originally put on ADHD meds during the day and awful Clonidine at night to help him sleep. Today, after just this short time off of gluten too, he’s now medication free! Unlike my oldest, who you wouldn’t even know had Asperger’s, you will notice my little guys eye contact problem and sometimes his communication issues, but, overall, his whole personality is different. He’s still a little wilder than the neighborhood kiddos, but nothing like he used to be.

em and kidsOn a side note, before I took them gluten-free and as preservative-free and additive-free as I could, I weighed almost 300lbs on the dot. I got whooping cough last year and couldn’t shake it. Went in a second time to the ER and had pneumonia. They sent me home with some antibiotics and strict instructions. Two days later, I got a call from my GP’s nurse. She told me that I was hands down diabetic, but that they needed to perform another test to be thorough. She read off my entire CBC to me and explained what all these numbers meant. While she did say that my illness would give some of these higher readings, it wouldn’t account for how high all of them were or why they were all out of control.

I found out that I had metabolic disorder, my adrenals were running on empty, etc. I sat there and realized that with two parents who had congestive heart failure, one of which had died at 61 years old from it…and my mother at 64 has already had numerous heart attacks, a stroke and 2 stents put in her heart…I had a choice to make!

As I sat there listening to my numbers being read off and listening to my children digging through their Legos in the other room. I realized that I could keep going the way I’d been going or I could die younger than my parents. So, I headed back to the Completely Nourished online community to find recipes and as much information as I could to get myself healthy enough to take care of my boys. To date, I’ve lost a tad over 40 pounds in 2 months! I have way more energy than I have had in years, and I’m emotionally happier and more together than I have been. My whole life has changed!

Had I not found Christy’s site or story here, I have no idea where we would be now. THANK YOU Christy! We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you! And, for anyone out there reading this…KNOW that diet DOES matter!”

5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

Phil with his beautiful, nutrient-rich garden!

We hope you all enjoy today’s guest post from Certified Organic Gardener Phil Nauta of SmilingGardener.com. Be sure and leave a comment for him below if you have questions or would like more info…

5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

I’m so glad that Christy and Chad talk about gardening once in awhile here, because to me, it’s one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition.

That’s because most everything in your soil goes into the food you grow and then into you, and whatever’s lacking in the nutrient profile of your soil won’t make it into that food.

Eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides is a good start, but it’s only a start. That’s what not to feed our plants and soil, but what do we feed them instead?

Just like us, plants (and other beneficial soil organisms) need well-balanced sources of over 80 trace minerals, as well as the basics like plenty of air and water.

So feeding them just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium isn’t going to result in plants that have the right levels of zinc, selenium, magnesium, and boron, let alone enzymes, vitamins, phytohormones or antioxidants needed for their health or for ours.

There are a few simple things we can do to ensure that our soil, our plants, and we ourselves are getting fully balanced nutrition from our gardens.

This is what I’ve done to dramatically increase the nutrition in my food, and I’ve helped many others do it, too:

First, we can make a great start by feeding our soil lots of organic matter on a regular basis.

The simplest way to do this is by mulching – covering the soil surface with a layer of organic matter so it’s never bare.

Besides the water- and temperature-moderating effects of mulching, it’s also the easiest, most natural way to add nutrition to the soil, without the extra work and destructive effects of repeated tilling.

This will be most effective if we use nutritious materials for mulch. Leaves are a great, nutritionally balanced mulch source that’s widely available for free.

Any deciduous tree leaves will do, but it’s usually best to avoid conifer needles since they contain compounds that inhibit the growth of other organisms.

If you live near the coast, seaweed is an amazing source of perfectly balanced nutrients and natural plant growth hormones. Collect it from the beach after a storm and put it in your compost or spread it right on top of your soil as a mulch. If that’s not easy to access, liquid kelp fertilizer is now widely available at garden stores.

In fact, the sea itself is an amazing source of perfectly balanced nutrients for soil and plants. You can apply seawater directly to the soil at as much as 1 cup per square foot, or buy very concentrated sea mineral products.

In case you’re concerned about the salt, it isn’t a problem at normal application rates, when balanced with all of the other minerals in seawater, unless you happen to have too much sodium already.

Glacial rock dust is another excellent, balanced source of mineral nutrients that will benefit your soil and plants, no matter what conditions you start with. You can find this at some garden supply stores.

Finally, compost is not only an important source of nutrients if made well, but a great way to breed the beneficial microbes we want in our gardens.

By making sure that we consciously feed our compost balanced nutrients, rather than just treating it as a scrap heap for organic waste, it can hugely add to our garden’s fertility.

These are just a few simple suggestions to get you started. The main thing is to get started!

I was amazed and relieved to discover, after years of thinking and reading about the problems with the industrial food system and how important it is to try alternatives, that I really enjoy getting my hands in contact with the earth. Feeding my soil turns out to feed my soul as well as my body.

Feel free to ask me any questions below about how to grow more nutritious food.

Do you already use some of the methods I mentioned? Or do you have any tips of your own? Let me know below.

About the Author

Phil Nauta is a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional. He teaches practical organic gardening tips to home gardeners at SmilingGardener.com.

“Fibromyalgia to Pain Free!”

Shan Swain - originalToday we are pleased to share with you the guest post below written by one of our clients, Shan Swain. We hope that you find her return-to-health story to be an inspiration. Please share with anyone whom this may help! We are so incredibly happy for Shan that she is feeling so much better these days! Food is an amazing thing!

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Shan’s Story…

“It has been 9 months since I have started my new food journey. I must give you a little health history prior to this. About 15 years ago, I was beginning to have joint pain – it wasn’t bad at first but as time went on it increased. Between the cold weather and other health issues, exercise started to become more and more painful. I went from walking to not walking because of the pain. I would have to organize my schedule according to my pain level. In a matter of 5 years I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The only thing they could do for me was physical therapy or medicate for the pain. So I begin to seek my own relief, like going for a massage (which I intently did for 3 to 4 years). Also, heat seemed to provide some relief and acupuncture helped for a short time. But even with trying all of this, my pain was still there and worse as the years went by.

In January of 2012 my daughter Courtney told me about an article she had read about someone who had lived for years with Fibromyalgia but was currently pain free. She told me that the gal’s name was Christy Pooschke and that she had a website full of information at http://www.CompletelyNourished.com. So I read Christy’s whole return-to-health story on her website, and in her story I found the light! I could relate to everything she was saying about her health issues, it was my story! The light was that Christy had discovered a solution to the PROBLEM – not a fixer upper or a band-aid, but a true, real solution!

I was a skeptic at first. It was hard for me to put my mind around all that I needed to change with my diet. I called her with no hesitation, and we scheduled a time to meet. In the mean time, we chatted on the phone about some of my history and food journaling. As the time was approaching for us to meet, I was beginning to have some doubt that this could possibly take my pain away. It seemed to me that I would be in this pain forever. But I started to go through my cabinets and switch out some of my foods that I have always eaten. I had no idea that these things could’ve possibly been causing my health issues all these years!

When the time came for Christy, my daughter and I to meet for our consultation…I still thought it wouldn’t work. But Christy put us at ease and said “these changes take a little time, so don’t overwhelm yourself.” She went through some of my foods and explained that it’s the ingredient information that matters because so many of the additives in our foods can make us sick. As we continued, she challenged me to start switching out my food for more additive-free foods and to cook my own food at home. Christy’s “Eating Additive-Free” Cookbook & Shopping Guide was a huge help in that regard because it is filled with recipes for the “typical American” types of foods my family already enjoys!

When we finished our consultation, I began to go full speed ahead and switched out everything in my cabinets for real food and clean food. This took time and required my attention as to what I really was eating. It was shocking to find out that something as simple as canned tuna fish often contains hidden MSG! One of MSG’s most commonly known side effects is headaches but also for me the effects of MSG were bloating, aches and joint pain, and chest pain that felt like a heart attack. A few times I thought I was having a heart attack, which led me to get an EKG…but my heart always tested out just fine.

I started to go out to eat less often and began cooking more at home. This gave me satisfaction to continue this new journey. Within 2 months, I started to feel a difference! The days and weeks went by, and I had less and less pain. I am not even aware of the joint pain anymore…unless I go out to eat. Then, soon after I eat I can either get a headache or joint pain which I know is from an additive in the food. It’s amazing how I can tell a difference immediately! I have been so careful (with help) when I grocery shop for clean foods. I make sure that I purchase real food ingredients. For example, now I make sure to select peanut butter that contains just peanuts and salt. Nothing more!

As for my activities I am trying to work in some simple exercises and walking. This has been amazing because the walking has been easier and fun! I’ve also been able to thoroughly enjoy several vacations with my family since recovering from my Fibromyalgia pain – and that has been an absolute blessing! I also love outdoor activities, and maybe I will try to bike again. In the mean time I am totally enjoying the flavor of my new foods, my new menu ideas and how much better I am feeling. This is now 9 months into my new food requirement. And I don’t say that lightly, it is a requirement for me to avoid food additives if I want to feel good. I have also lost 30lbs., not that it was anything I was working towards, it just happened as a “side effect” of avoiding the additives.

My final thoughts…if food additives are causing folks like me to be so sick, what other problems are people having that might be a result of their diets?! Let’s be sure to inform those who are in need.”

Very Thankful,
Shan Swain