Living with an Autoimmune Disease...

I started this blog to share my nutrition knowledge, and shed light on matters of confusion. The one thing I have loved along the way, is speaking to people and hearing their stories about their experience with nutrition. Nutrition isn't always about eating healthy because thats what is best for us to maintain our ideal weight and live an active life. NUTRITION has powerful effects. NUTRITION can be used to manage diseases, and help in the healing process when there may not yet be a medical cure. (Note: I am in no way condoning nutrition as a replacement for medicine, instead when used in combination, they can do powerful in the body). 

Today I thought I would share a story from a wonderful girl I met through my blog. She is suffering from Crohn's an auto immune disease. 

There is currently no know cure for Crohns. Crohn's is an chronic inflammatory bowel disease that most commonly affects the lower section of the small intestine and large intestine (colon). The inflammation to the bowels can severely affect digestion, leading to weight loss, fever and severe abdominal pain just to mention a few symptoms. So how is it caused? well we all have an immune system, it reacts to foreign antibodies and substances in our body to detoxify and eliminate them... food ISN'T something that the immune system would usually react to. However, in Crohn's patients the immune system badly reacts to some foods and bacteria in the bowels. This creates inflammation  - the bodies natural response when something is wrong. Read more about the causes and effects of Crohn's here.

The other day I spoke to the wonderful Alexa from The Girl in Healing. Diagnosed with Crohns, an auto immune disease at a young age, I wanted to find out how Alexa has used nutrition in the healing and management of the disease.

Tell us a little about yourself - What do you do? Where are you from?

I live north of Boston, Massachusetts where I was raised in a small town. I graduated college in May 2016 with an elementary education degree. This year, I am a full-time nanny, which I am so happy doing! Education and children have always been near and dear to my heart.

I am actually starting a new holistic nutrition program in February 2017 through the NTA to earn my certification as an NTP. This way, I can help patients going through various health crises by using real food and supplements to get their systems back on track. I have developed a huge passion for real food and natural living since being on my own health journey, and I am beyond excited to work with others this way.

 

When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was 12 years old (ten years ago).

  

Can you tell us a little bit about the autoimmune disease? How has it affected your life?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic autoimmune condition and a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), with Ulcerative colitis being the other type. Chronic, meaning recurring and there is no cure, and autoimmune meaning my body confuses healthy cells that are supposed to be there as foreign invaders that it needs to get rid of. That causes a cycle of chronic inflammation.

During times I am not feeling well sometimes I have to cancel plans or miss school/work. That can be hard because I always want to push through it and not let my symptoms dictate my schedule. Fortunately, I have come to terms with the fact that rest is so important to get back on track and now focus a lot on listening to my body.

IBD has also had a positive impact on me. I went from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) to learning what foods are inflammatory, what gluten and sugar to do us, what leaky gut syndrome is, and the importance of choosing organic foods and avoiding GMOs, which is something I believe is a contributing factor to the increase in autoimmune diseases.

The way my family shops for groceries has completely changed as well and I am so proud of them for getting on board. And of course, having Crohn’s disease inspired me to start my blog. Being able to help people who are in the position I was in when first diagnosed means so much to me because I know what a confusing and discouraging journey it can be.

 

How has nutrition played a role in your treatment?

Nutrition has had the biggest and most positive impact in my treatment. For the first 14 months after I was diagnosed I was being treated by traditional gastroenterologists. I was given a steroid plus another medication and very little guidance on diet. The steroid made me feel better, but it was only masking my symptoms. At the 13 and 14-month marks, I had to be hospitalized two times because I became severely ill again.

My parents felt strongly that food must be playing a part, but the doctors dismissed that idea saying there was no research to show diet having anything to do with IBD. Luckily, we found a doctor that did believe this and I went through a complete transformation.

 

You follow a modified Paleo Diet… How have you modified it? What foods to you find most beneficial/harmful to your condition?

I realized that the foods I can eat almost perfectly align with the Paleo diet. However, I do tolerate some foods not allowed on the Paleo diet like chickpeas and gluten free grains such as rice, millet, and quinoa. On the other hand, I cannot eat some foods that are allowed, like tomatoes, white potatoes, some nuts, etc.

The foods easiest on my system that are my most basic staples if I am flaring are white rice, chicken, turkey, bison, and soup/broth.

Sugar is my worst enemy! Not only is it inflammatory, but when I have sugar, I start craving it all the time. Once I get past the sugar withdrawal, I don’t even think about it. Cow’s milk products (with the exception of grass-fed butter and small amounts of some cheeses), and gluten are the other big offenders to my system. Tomatoes, oats, corn, and soy don’t agree with me either. 

 

When did you start your blog? And why?

I started my blog almost a year and a half ago after only having an Instagram account for several years before that. I started my Instagram account as a way to show people what I eat, as well as to learn tips and recipes from others in my situation.

I really loved the instant connection that social media has, and I wanted to do even more with it. I felt like a blog was the logical next step to reach more people and provide more helpful information and support.

As I mentioned earlier, I know how it feels to be given a livelong diagnosis without a cure or a treatment that is proven to work. I know the frustration of doing everything “right,” but your body acting out anyway. My goal is to spread all of the knowledge I have accumulated through my own experiences so that other people with chronic illnesses can feel empowered to make the same changes in their lives.

 Alexa Federico is a 20-something born and raised north of Boston, Massachusetts. She blogs at Girl in Healing, where she creates healthy recipes and shares her life experiences living with Crohn’s disease, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which there is currently no cure for. She is a firm believer that “food is medicine.” You can follow Alexa on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 


Check out some of my favourite anti inflammatory recipes - think everything rich in tumeric, healthy fats (omega 3), and a good source of activated nuts!

- activated granola

- baked salmon

- immune tonic tea

If you want to see more stories like this on my blog, or you have a story of your own you want to share (blogger or not) let me know by liking this post and commenting below or email me at hello@shelleysgoodeats.com

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