Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Story {part 2}

Here is part 2 of my struggle to finding good health. Click here to read part 1.

Three long airline flights later, I found myself crying, in a foreign country, sore from travel, and tired from my red-eye flight, but finally in the arms of my soon-to-be husband. My journey was finally over, or so I thought.

I fell sick right after arriving and was bed bound for over two weeks. Instead of being alarmed by this, I was ecstatic by the weight I had lost (7 kgs, or 15 lbs) and wrote off my illness to jet lag combined with acclimating to the new food.

Soon I was up on my feet again - and therefore eating again. I put all the weight right back on, and it continued to creep up from then on. I also discovered that I was incapable of walking. Something I used to do for hours on end now caused me indescribable pain after just a few short minutes. My husband is a very active person and did his best to make things easy for me, but he was soon at a loss of what to do. His parents became very worried and fixed an appointment with their family doctor.

I went to the appointment. He poked. He prodded. He asked questions. And he had nothing. He didn't have the slightest idea of what could be causing my pain. He had my blood tested because I complained about chronic fatigue and blood sugar crashes as well, but everything came back normal. He once even asked me if I was really in "that much" pain.

My in-laws, thankfully, believed in my pain and saw my fatigue firsthand, so we continued with the doctor visits - this time at the local hospital. I spent over a year in and out of that place, seeing specialist after specialist, running test after test, and they never could tell me exactly what was "wrong" with me.

One very nice, and probably well-meaning, doctor finally told me I was hyperlax. (Never mind the fact that she had already tested me for this, and that I failed all the tests miserably, this was still her answer.) According to her, my tendons were too loose and therefore did not support my joints sufficiently, causing them to rub against one another. She prescribed me a glucosamine and chondriton supplement to take three times daily as well as a strong anti-inflammatory to take in case of a major attack. She also advised against any and all forms of physical activity, with the exception of swimming (which happens to be the only sport I absolutely hate).

Fueled by cartilage-building supplements, anti-inflammatory pills and a complete lack of any physical activity, my joint pain once again settled into a constant dull ache. I continued to live like this for a few years, all the while watching my weight climb slowly as my health declined rapidly.

The turning point was January 1st, 2013. I was looking at the pictures we had taken that night and it hit me: I was fat. All my other problems, all the ones I had been refusing to face, came surging up at me as well. I was tired, no matter how much sleep I got. I was bloated, no matter how many lemon juice cleanses I tried. My stomach hurt in permanence. I was bitchy, no matter the time of month. I cried myself to sleep each night because the pain in my joints was unbearable. I was 24 years old yet I felt as if my life was nearing its end.

My sister, who was taking health and nutrition courses at that moment, suggested I try "clean eating". I was doubtful such a thing could help my joint problems (wasn't clean eating for health freaks?) but I was ready to try anything.

To my great surprise, I was pain free two weeks later. I still couldn't walk far without taking my anti-inflammatory pill, but for the first time in a very long time, my every day activities no longer caused me pain. The constant dull ache was gone.

I started researching more about health problems linked to food sensitivities and decided to follow an elimination diet to determine if I had any other triggers. I discovered right off that I react very poorly to dairy and gluten. The gluten surprised me because although my paternal grandfather was diagnosed as having Celiac's disease, each test I had had done came back negative. I decided to go with my gut - literally - and not base my decisions on the doctor's findings.

Cooking from this point on became difficult for me... How could one go about eating "normally" without gluten or dairy in their lives? After typing "dairy free gluten free recipe for..." in my search engine for the hundredth time, a link for Mark's Daily Apple popped up in the results. I clicked over and discovered that many people ate like me - and most of them by choice! They called this way of eating and living paleo.

The rest is history. The more I read, the more I discovered that the Paleo lifestyle was one that made sense. At first I was reluctant to give up certain foods, but I soon realized the way I feel when I eat them isn't at all worth how good they may taste.

What is worth it is my health. I no longer take any supplements or any pain medication - at all! I can now walk several hours at a brisk pace - and I find it to be quite enjoyable! Exercise now takes a very important place in my life. It is a daily activity that I look forward to.

And besides that, many other good things have come from this. I have lost over 10 kgs (22 lbs) and I now sit at a very fit and healthy weight. My chronic fatigue has disappeared and I am able to function perfectly on very little sleep, if need be. I can go hours without eating - and I no longer experience shakes or lightheadedness. My skin has cleared up and pimples are a thing of the past. My daily mood and monthly PMS problems have also hit the road, much to my husband's joy.

Those are probably the biggest, most noticeable changes that have taken place, but the list is much, much longer. I am quite literally a whole new person, and my husband took very little convincing to jump on the clean eating band wagon after seeing the miracles it did for me! (I'm still working on Paleofying his diet completely... ;-p)

Thanks to Paleo, I now enjoy life. If this blog helps even just one person change their life as I have, then I will consider it a success.

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