Over the past 10 years, I have learned so much about healing my own body. 18 years ago, I was first hit with an a pretty severe case of ankylosing spondylitis, AS, and for the first ten years of mysterious back pain and flare-ups I went misdiagnosed my doctors. Then after 8 years of taking NSAIDS and doing my best to ignore the pain, I was hit with raging IBD to where I was having trouble eating food. Like any foods. This started my quest into healing my body naturally, as the doctors and specialists I saw back in the early days offered no help or advice, I was told repeatedly by doctors (including GI specialists) that what I ate had nothing to do with how horrible I felt. And I seriously felt horrible. Painful bloating, stomach cramping, gas, insane back and joint pain, feeling like you’d been hit by a bus, you get the idea. Facebook didn’t exist back then, nor did Paleo diet or AIP websites. In fact I only new ONE PERSON who was gluten free back then, and she turned me onto the idea, so I tried eating gluten free. I also went on to try everything from the anti-Candida diet, the Dr. Hulda Clark parasite cleanse and anti-parasite diet, the gluten-free/dairy/soy/corn-free diet I discovered on Dogtor J, the raw vegan diet, the Blood Type Diet, the SCDiet, the Paleo diet, a liquid diet, and finally discovered the Low Starch Diet after getting diagnosed with AS about 6 years ago.
Thankfully the world has come a long way in the last decade at recognizing the roll diet plays in our health and well being. I am now at a point of what I consider “remission” from IBD and AS, to where if my spine wasn’t so badly fused, most days I would forget I ever had AS. I know longer live in fear of the next AS or IBD flare. I no longer consider my middle name to be “inflammation”, and instead I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to regain my health to where I can be active everyday, and life my dream life. I am honestly living my dream life. ♥
The most important thing I learned is that a “healing diet” looks very different for each one of us! I wish there was a magic wand I could wave to make everyone instantly better and healthy again! Oh, how I wish. My first cookbook was an attempt at that magic wand, and while I got many wonderful thank you notes, I got just as many notes from those who were frustrated and not feeling better despite their efforts at changing their diet. And because I am not a trained doctor, health professional, or nutritional therapist, I am not equipped to be advising anyone of dietary changes based on their unique circumstances over email. Every time someone sent me questions regarding their health and personal challenges I was very upfront about saying “This is what worked for me… but the most important voice You can listen to in this journey is going to be YOUR inner voice.” And I still absolutely believe that to this day. In the end, it was my own voice that helped me save my own life. ♥
I shared everything I learned along the way very publicly in recipe/blog posts on this blog, on KickAS.org (my user name was BettyRawker if you search old forum posts) and in the The Low/No Starch Diet for Ankylosing Spondylitis Facebook Group. I also had an ebook cookbook available the past year & 1/2 called “Pure and Simple Paleo: a Low Starch Cookbook”.
Here is a short and sweet summary of the tools I used to help heal my body, mind, and spirit along the way:
Dig deep and identify which foods (if any) are causing inflammation and an autoimmune response in your body. Once you identify those foods, AVOID them. Once symptoms have subsided and one is “pain-free” then foods can be tested again to see if they cause inflammation. I personally used Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCDiet) combined with the Low Starch Diet for AS to find the foods that made me feel my best, and the foods I needed to avoid if I wanted to continue to feel my best. I modified the SCDiet to fit my body, so I quit eating all dairy while healing, and added in ingredients that worked well with my body, like cacao, flax seeds, chia seeds, pysllium seeds, etc. I can now eat pretty much all foods except: soy (soy is the number 1 trigger of inflammation in my body!), I also avoid cows’ milk (I can eat unlimited goat & sheep cheeses, kefir, butter, etc, but I am allergic to cows’ milk), and I now eat all grains (except I have not added gluten back into my diet yet, but I enjoy all other grains), and I avoid refined / cane sugar as my body no-likey (I can eat all the honey, maple syrup, fruits, juices, and natural sugars I want, but refined sugar makes me feel icky so I simply avoid it). I used to be really sensitive to nightshades, but I can now eat all the potatoes I want, peppers no longer bother me, though I haven’t tried eating tomatoes again yet, but I’m no rush. Otherwise I eat a very diverse diet with starches, grains, wild caught fish, a little pasture raised meat & eggs, all organic fruits & veggies, all nuts & seeds, and whatever else is in season.
Savor every bite. Find the beauty in the foods that make you feel good. Celebrate nourishing your body. Find things to feel grateful for everyday. If your diet is feeling really limited, you may feel you have endless options when it comes to enjoying flavorful teas. I also love doing little arts, crafts, and splurging on new fabrics at the fabric store. One can also savor a deliciously good book. Sometimes when we take our focus off of searching for all the answers, the answers we seek flow into our lives in unexpected ways.
Look into the “Rules of Food Combining” if you suffer from bloating, cramping, or gas after eating. This was a revolutionary discovery in my journey. Following the principles of food combining early on helped me so much when my IBD was at its worst. I no longer follow the rules, as I no longer suffer from IBS or IBD, but they did enlighten me quite a bit on how to drastically improve my overall digestion of foods! Which was key for my healing!
Make necessary lifestyle changes to reduce stress. Put your health and well being above all else.
Get more restful sleep. Make more time for relaxation and meditation. I love being outdoors in our garden, or resting under the shade of our apple trees on a summer day with my dogs. I take my shoes off and connect my bare feet to the earth to rest, recharge, and experience “earthing”. I also enjoy what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy also known as “forest bathing” or simply being out in nature, when I’m out foraging wild foods for a pie or our dinner.
Find the activities and people that bring joy to your life, and celebrate those. Learn to say no to things that don’t.
Find a Doctor or Health Professional that you feel has your best interests at heart. I’ve worked with a great Functional Medicine Doctor who helped me get some tests done to that looked at the cellular health of my body, and it helped identify which supplements I can take to better nourish my cells. I only take a few supplements, and most days I forget to take them. 😉
Use a Full Body Healing Approach. Not only did I focus on healing with my diet, but I also focused on healing physically with Rolfing Therapy and using my own fasica tools at home, warm water pool physical therapy (I swim everyday!), I’ve also been using microcurrent therapy to help bring back more range of motion in un-fused joints, and I have worked with some brilliant physical therapists on restoring my posture with body mechanics. I use skin creams and salves made with arnica that I love to run into any achy spots, the Naturlz company makes 2 “healing pain” creams that I love. In the past I’ve tried everything from accupunture to cold laser therapy, to sitting in a radon mine in Montana. Our bodies are always changing, and often times we need to adapt the therapies that make us feel our best along the way.
If fermented foods make you feel good, eat them. My favorite probiotic rich cultured foods are: Jun tea, (directions for making Jun & why I love it here), raw fermented sauerkraut and cultured veggies like carrots, beets, & ginger, Kevita sugar-free kefir made from fermented coconut water, and goat milk kefir (which I love in this no-churn goat kefir ice cream recipe). I also like fermented dill pickles (either Bubbie’s brand or from our friends at Super Natural Farm – I also get other fermented veggies and krauts from Super Natural Farm). I have also taken probiotics in supplement form, and my current favorite brand of probiotics is Megaspore, which you can get from some health practitioners or online.
If you’d like to hear my voice, and hear more about my journey’s in healing check out this podcast I was recently interviewed on by Eileen at Phoenix Helix. I think it’s a really great & inspiring podcast, perfect to listen to on an hour long drive in the car. ♥
I guess that about sums it up! I’d love to stay connected, so please join my mailing list if you’d like to receive my monthly newsletter.
And I’m absolutely thrilled to be working on a new *gluten-free* & *grain-free* cookbook project that I just know peeps are going to LOVE!! The plan is to have this new cookbook available as an ebook in the summer of 2017, and hopefully and extended version in print in 2018.
A lot of the inspiration for my blog comes from living here nestled into the foothills of the Oregon Coast range, a little place I call the edge of the world! On any given day at our home, you may find a herd of 50 elk wandering through our front yard, a bobcat lurking in the backyard, wild turkeys trotting by, raccoons raiding our compost pile, and squirrels in our attic. We also see so many amazing wild birds! And hawks, great-horned owls, and many coyotes too! We truly live in a magical and wild place, on the edge of the modern world, I treasure everyday here, and I look forward to sharing these treasured moments with you too! ♥