If you had told me five years ago, that there would come a day where I wouldn’t wake up in pain, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, “That’s a nice thought, but I doubt that will ever happen.”
My body began the path towards degeneration in elementary school, with IBS and severe back pain. I never considered that this was abnormal. While most of my friends didn’t struggle with IBS, I figured the back pain was just part of being human. I felt so bad for all the grown-ups who complained about waking up in agonizing pain. I couldn’t imagine how much pain they had to be in if it only got worse from here on out.
It wasn’t until I was living on Maui with my husband and 6-month-old daughter that I casually mentioned my experiences to a friend who was an internal medicine doctor. She stopped in her tracks, telling me, “Kelsi, that’s not normal.” I was waking up every morning with so much pain in my feet and knees, I could barely walk. Some days I couldn’t even pick up my daughter. It felt like a stinging liquid imbued all tissue just beneath the surface of my skin. I would describe the feeling to my husband like all of my joints were “barnacled,” getting stiffer and more achy and slow. I had chalked it up to stress and the wear and tear of pregnancy, but my friend opened my eyes to the reality that this pain was not what a “normal” 26-year-old woman should be experiencing.
I then sought out a well-respected DO who assessed me, did some bloodwork, and made dietary recommendations. She ultimately put further testing on hold because I was pregnant with twins, and autoimmune disorders go into remission during pregnancy. So I never got an official diagnosis or treatment plan.
Nevertheless, this visit ignited a fire in me to figure out what was causing the pain and to begin treating it. I read as much as possible about different autoimmune disorders, and I experimented with different supplements and food habits until I came up with a combination that merited life-giving results. Here’s what I discovered.
Food Can Be Medicine
I have made a rule with myself, barring emergency situations, that unless I am consistently working out and eating well, I will not go to the doctor. Why? Because so many physical issues can be resolved through nutrition and intentional physical movement. If you have an autoimmune disorder and/or mental illness of any kind, I strongly suggest removing gluten from your diet. I have also severely limited my sugar, dairy, and alcohol intake. These dietary changes in tandem have vastly improved my feelings of stiff and swollen joints, and aided my ability to think clearly. My mind and my gut are much happier this way.
Along with a healthy diet, I also take a whole food women’s multivitamin, cold-pressed flaxseed oil soft gels to combat soft tissue inflammation, and Vimerson turmeric supplements to support my joints. Since adding these supplements, I experience almost zero pain in my knees and ankles/feet. Before, I could barely squat down to pick anything up off the floor (and don’t even get me started about standing back up again afterwards) the pain was so profound. Now I can dance around, jump, squat, sit “criss cross applesauce” etc. This kind of physical freedom is a game changer, especially as a mom of three toddlers.
Low-Impact Exercise is Still Exercise
Because my autoimmune disorder has manifested in ways like soft tissue pain and joint inflammation, high-impact sports and programs like Crossfit do not go well with my body. Core strength is key to keeping my back, neck, and knees strong and aligned, but I also can’t be hopping all over the place lifting heavy weights and crushing my knees. Pilates has been my golden ticket. I can strengthen my body, detox my lymphatic system, tone my organs, and improve my flexibility and endurance, all while loving on my joints.
The best part of this exercise is that I find myself wanting to nourish myself after a session. During a workout, I’m already thinking about the pineapple kale cashew milk smoothie I am going to make afterwards, and the 50 Billion CFU probiotic capsule I am going to open into it. I am excited to sit down with that steaming cup of freshly brewed, organic red raspberry leaf tea and reading a good book or writing new poems.
Continue reading the full article at the faith and ethical lifestyle blog where my article first appeared — www.elizabethsteere.com
Medical disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a scientist. Although I do my best to present factual and evidence-based information, it’s possible I’ve gotten some things wrong. Please talk to a trusted medical professional before making any changes to your health care.