I struggled in deciding if I would share this story. It is personal and just writing it brought back so many emotions. This season was challenging and I spent a lot of time feeling misunderstood because of my condition.
Autoimmune diseases are complex and there is no one, clear way to diagnose and treat them. They can be absolutely devastating. I am not a medical professional and what I am sharing is not medical advice. I was able to reverse my symptoms while avoiding medicine. I recognize that not everyone is so lucky. I am sharing my story in the hopes that it helps someone else in their journey for answers.
Five years ago, I was depressed and scared. It felt like my body was shutting down. I had developed what we would refer to as a “sun allergy.” I had Lupus symptoms such as extreme sun sensitivity, reoccurring systemic rash, joint pain, and stiffness. I couldn’t even ride in a car without having to cover my skin with a blanket for protection from the sun. When my friends were enjoying days at the pool or park, I had to decline and attempt to explain something no one seemed to understand. At night, my joint stiffness was so bad I had to pry my fingers open from fists that had formed in my sleep. To say this was a difficult season is an understatement.
Unfortunately, my blood work was inconclusive to officially diagnose lupus. I was referred by my physician to an allergist who referred me to a rheumatologist. Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of autoimmune disease and I was recommended to begin a prescription for an immune-suppressant drug. I knew this was not an answer for me so I began to do my own research.
I already ate a vegan diet, but as I mentioned in my journey to a plant-based diet, vegan is not synonymous with healthy. I continued eating a diet centered on vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits, but I began to cut out sweets and bread. I also found that some sufferers of autoimmune disease used fasting to relieve joint pain. I began routinely fasting for 18-22 hours. I found that I felt immediate relief in my joints but as soon as I began to eat, the pain slowly returned. In my season of recovery, I fasted one day a week and cut out all sweets and breads. Slowly, I decreased my fasting until I no longer suffered from symptoms. I learned to read the signals in my body. The beginning signs of joint pain alerted me that I should reevaluate my consumption of sugar and ensure that I was not spending too much time in the sun.
Five years later, I can now spend all day outside (with sunscreen!) and enjoy a plant-based diet. I rarely fast for health reasons, though I do cut off evening eating/snacking at 6:30. This gives me a 13-14 hour fast before my next meal and helps my digestion and energy levels feel optimal. I know what worked for me may not work for someone else and certainly it wasn’t an overnight “cure all” BUT I also wished there were more personal accounts shared to help me navigate my path to remission. If it helps one person, then it was worth sharing!
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