This is Part II in a series about my healing story of how I started to and continue to take charge of my own health. If you haven't already, you can catch Part I here.
So I'll tell you right now this isn't one of those incredible healing stories you've seen on Dr. Oz. "Turns out she was allergic to gluten! She cut out all wheat and dairy and her symptoms vanished!"
I wish it were that simple. Mine's a bigger puzzle than that. I think most probably are.
But those are the stories you hear, you know?
That's why I want to share this with you. Healing is complicated. And it can take a lot of time with lots of starts and stops and stall outs in between.
And here was a big a-ha for me: It starts even before you realize it's happening.
It's funny, you know, I was thinking about the timing of things after I posted Part I last week. In my mind, I'd neatly re-written the story that one day I just decided I was ready to start all of this.
I remembered later on though that's not really how it went. It wasn't like I woke up one day and changed everything.
Change happened slowly, one small thing at a time.
At least the important stuff anyway.
And even before I started making real changes, I spent a lot of time just reading the books, articles, blogs... consuming the information without doing anything.
So I want you to know if that's where you are, I was there too.
What my memory recalls Part II as is the time I dove deep into investigating the root cause of my autoimmune disease - when I started working with all the different holistic and alternative medicine practitioners who have helped me along the way.
But only focusing on that is like starting with that time I went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. I'd be skipping over all the parts that prepared me for that experience - learning to swim, then snorkel, getting over a fear of sharks, other smaller snorkel trips that led up to this really big one. You get the idea...
This is probably just human nature though, right?
To 1.) glance over the preparation that got us here and 2.) not give ourselves credit for all our hard work.
It's the same reason why adopting the habit of starting your day with hot lemon water doesn't sound nearly as exciting or productive as undergoing chelation therapy to detox heavy metals.
See, I know what you're thinking... you're going "chelation therapy? Tell me more about that...", aren't you?
I'm with you. I wanted to get to the big stuff as fast as I could.
I realize now though those "one small things": the lemon water, more water in general, adding in dark leafy greens, eating a rainbow diet, dramatically reducing processed foods and inflammation triggers (sugar, dairy, gluten), making time for myself, finding ways that worked for me to manage stress...
Starting with a solid foundation of healthy lifestyle habits is like learning how to swim before venturing into the deep.
Looking back I'm so glad I allowed myself that time. I realize everyone and every circumstance is different and in some situations time is of the essence. I think though if you do have the time to go slow and can get strong in those "strokes" (and then of course you'll always work on maintaining them)... I know it's not the exciting part, but I think it's the most important part of the adventure.
This is what's shaped the way I work with all of my clients, too. Because I know adding in, changing one thing at a time, starting from where you're at, and making changes that fit your life exactly how you live it today is what works and lasts.
That's what gives you the confidence and courage to go deeper.
So deeper I went....
As I learned more about what autoimmune disease really was... Or, I suppose the more accurate way to put it: that we don't really know what it is… or rheumatoid arthritis. or lupus. or MS. or Hashimoto’s. Or any of these mysterious diseases where the body seems to be attacking itself.
Whatever you want to call it. That's just it, it's only a name.
The name of a disease or condition doesn’t tell you anything other than that.
It's just a word to describe or represent a random collection of symptoms. It tells a doctor which code to use to bill insurance. And it gives you, the patient, something to google.
But it's just a name.
It doesn’t tell you what’s really going on.
As I did more research, I started learning about the underlying factors that can create the perfect environment for the perfect storm of autoimmune, or really any disease, to brew.
Things like: nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins; food sensitivities and allergies, especially gluten; gut flora imbalances and overgrowth; leaky gut syndrome and intestinal permeability; parasites, infections and stealth viruses; heavy metal toxicity, and others...
Scary as some of these things sounded (dear God don’t let it be a parasite…), they at least were real things I’d heard of before.
Like, Vitamin D deficiency - now that’s something I can work with! Opposed to the where-do-you-even-start feeling you get from hearing “autoimmune disease.”
I learned more and more about the nutrition part of it all. And it was empowering to find something that I could do on my own.
I kept changing things here and there.
I learned how to make a stir-fry - which became my go-to meal for years!
This was when my true appreciation and love of a big ol’ salad began (and this blog, originally called "meggsalad" was born!). I started making a big salad every morning and taking it to work.
I remember the first time I made quinoa and served it to friends before quinoa was a household name and the funny observations they had about it…
And the first time introducing them to kale chips.
I was becoming known as “the healthy one” which was a reputation I didn’t exactly love.
What I did love was sharing what I was learning with the people I loved.
And I thought it was pretty cool to see my new found habits catch on in them too.
Come to think, that’s probably what inspired me to get my health coaching certification…
At that point I felt as though I'd done everything I could on my own.
I decided to enlist the help of a functional medicine doctor, which is an M.D. or D.O. physician whose specialty is to investigate the root cause of a condition or symptoms. This is a type of doc who spends a lot of time both with you (typical first appointment is 90 minutes) as well as digging into your health history. They go all the way back to birth or even before that, consider different systems in the body (ie. the gut and digestion) and how they may be affecting other systems in the body, and run in depth tests... lots of tests.
The functional docs helped find and put together more pieces of the puzzle.
I saw other types of practitioners too - pretty much you name it, I tried it.
And each contributed a piece, or put together pieces that were already there.
Here's the thing with puzzles though... they suck you in.
The more complicated they are, the harder it can be to tear yourself away.
Every now and then you get a piece in there and it hooks you even more.
It feels like you're so close.
You stare at it, all the pieces must be here?
But one could be missing. you don't know.
Meanwhile, life is going on outside. But you don't even notice.
You're lost in it.
I was lost in it.
I was so determined to make this thing go away. No matter what I had to do. How much pain I had to endure. If it meant it would be gone, it would be worth it.
Then something happened that saved me. Two things really.
I got pregnant.
And you know how I knew? My joints stopped hurting.
I’d been going to a yoga class that I loved even though it hurt. And on this one particular day, without even thinking about it, I popped right up into down dog without hesitation, which always made me wince.
Not this time.
I knew it right then and there.
Docs had always told me pregnancy would be a gift. Most women go into remission or at least have a dramatic reduction in joint pain and stiffness.
Surely that was it.
I took a test that night and confirmed it.
I felt relief on so many levels. In my joints, in my body, my mind and my heart - knowing it’s time to move on to a new chapter. I was done fighting this losing battle with my own body.
It would be nice for a change to focus on someone else - a tiny, new, little body (later to find out two tiny little bodies). At the time I didn’t even realize just how nice pregnancy and life after would be…
That’s part III.
My biggest lessons learned and key takeaways for you:
- Start with the basics. If you're contemplating making changes or going down a path to heal a health condition, start with the basics first like making sure you're drinking enough water, eating a diet that's majority vegetables, and the other basics I mentioned above. If you need support and accountability to see it through, reach out to me or another health coach. That's what we're here for. You can email me to schedule a free 20 minute strategy session to help you get started.
- Be your own health detective. Do your own research. Seek out professionals and experts you trust in real life and online to learn from. Don't be afraid to share your findings with your doctor. And if your doctor poo-poo's them, get a new doc.
- Look at every health care professional as someone to add to your team, of which you are the quarterback. You want team members who are going to team players and put the good of the team (ie. you) first, ahead of personal agendas and egos. You want players who are going to play well with the other players too. If they don't they get kicked off the team.
Let me know if you have questions.
There's so much more to this story that I haven't included here for the sake of space and time and not wanting to bore you with details. If you're curious and would like to know more, I'm happy to share more with you. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me questions, thoughts or anything you'd like to know more about.
I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be navigating a healing journey so please know that I'm here for you no matter what stage you're in.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.