When I was sixteen, I was actively involved in sports at school. I played soccer and I regularly lifted weights so I considered myself pretty fit and strong. At some point I started having nagging pain in my hips with no known origin. The doctor thought it was an injury from soccer so he sent me to physical therapy. There I was provided some temporary relief but the pain seemed to always reappear and overtime it began to evolve. I remember having days where it took everything in me to get out of my seat and walk to my next class because of the searing pain down my legs. Fast forward a few years into my early twenties, and there is still no resolution to this mystery pain which has yet again evolved into something more. At this point not only were my hips the source of my pain but my lower back seemed to be getting weaker despite my best efforts to keep in shape. I was participating in triathlons and running almost daily and I even started yoga to see if I could loosen up my tight muscles. I thought this would help take the pressure off my bones and nerves but to no avail, the pain continued to progress.
There is one night in particular that stands out, I sat down on the floor to put my shoes on so I could take my dog for a walk and I couldn’t get up. The pain was so bad, I called my brother in tears and he came to my house picked me up off the floor and we took a very slow and painful walk around the block. Moments like these seemed to increase in frequency and thank goodness by my mid twenties I had a loving and supportive partner (Jenn) to help me through these times. My pain got to a point where the only time I didn’t hurt was when I was moving, the problem is life can’t be lived in a constant state of motion. I quit sleeping, socializing became nearly impossible because I couldn’t sit for longer than twenty minutes before the pain kicked in, and relaxing was never comfortable so I ended up in a constant state of stress.
My mom saw me in this state and quickly took it upon herself to get me into a doctor so we could finally get to the root of the problem. After a quick round of questioning and a physical assessment the doctor told me he was almost 100% certain I had Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the spine. He sent for some scans which came back positive for the disease and referred me to a rheumatologist. I chose not to see a rheumatologist because I didn’t have insurance and my mom and I set out to do some research of our own. I adopted a strict no starch diet (Jenn and I were testing food with iodine for reactivity). The diet worked, I lost weight, my pain decreased significantly and I was sleeping through the night. I had found a miracle drug for the pain I had suffered for nearly a decade and it was all in the food I was eating. I managed to stick to the diet for about 6 months before it just became too time consuming with work and because I was feeling so great I reverted back the Standard American Diet.
Over the course of the next year I disregarded my diet and tired my best to disregard my pain. It continued to progress and evolve to a point where I had no choice but to go see a rheumatologist. Right about this time I also discovered the Autoimmune Protocol Paleo diet and I decided to give it a try. It was not as strict or exclusive as the starch free diet and I felt almost immediate results. Once again I was convinced that the food I was eating was playing a huge role in whether or not I was in pain. I decided to follow through and see the rheumatologist so I could get a firm diagnosis once and for all. I went in with high hopes and medical records in search of an answer. She seemed to agree that my scans and symptoms indicated AS and ordered labs to further investigate. She wrote me a prescription for Humira which I was reluctant to take but she was convinced the diet was not going to work. After I had my labs done, she came back to me and said I did not have any results that indicated I had AS let alone anything wrong with me (AS still does not have any firm diagnostic tools so this was a gray result). I felt defeated and frustrated and I’d reached the end of my rope. At this point I decided to scrap the diet once again and just surrender to the fact that there is nothing wrong with me. I was just going to live a life of pain because that is in the cards I was dealt.
Fast forward to now. Over the course of the last year, I have spent much of my time eating what I want and drinking a lot. I quit exercising and continued to contribute the downward spiral of my health. My pain has been at it’s worse, I gained a lot of weight and I could just feel how quickly my health was declining. I decided to try chiropractic to see if I could find some relief. Much to my surprise, it worked. Not only for my back, but my overall health. My chiropractor encouraged me to get back on my diet and start exercising. She ordered x-rays of my spine which I’d never had before and sure enough there are more signs of AS. Now with a naturopath and a chiropractor on my side I know I can live a healthy pain free life so long as I put myself first and continue to allow my body to heal. There is no cure for AS but there is a way to take my life back from it.
That is what this blog is about. I need accountability which is why I post here. I also want to share with others the miracle of the AIP diet. I truly believe that our bodies can heal themselves if we allow them too. I hope you will follow me on my journey and I hope I can inspire others to take back their health and live a pain free life.