April is Autoimmune Awareness Month. Reports show that approximately 10 million people in the US are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. But, this doesn’t mean there aren’t so many more. It takes an average of 3-5 years and multiple doctors for someone to be diagnosed. Why is this? Because the symptoms are mistaken as individual medical problems rather than as a whole. People who have 1 type of autoimmune are 3x’s likely to develop more. So, symptoms like chronic fatigue, joint issues, skin issues and dehydration are misdiagnosed until they are looked at as a whole.
Thanks to my eye doctor (yep, that's right, my eye doctor) I was able to get some answers to my dehydration, circulation issues and exhaustion symptoms. I woke up one morning with my eyes so swollen so I reached out to her and got an appointment. She started asking questions like do you feel dehydrated? Do you have other things that seem uncommon….I had a bunch. She tested my tear production (which I get every year now) and I produced no tears. What I ended up learning from the rheumatologist she sent me to is that I have Sjogren's which, for me, consists of dehydration, exhaustion, throbbing, joint and circulation issues.
For 15 years I felt this was something I would have for the rest of my life and I just had to make myself comfortable and I did….I changed the time of my fitness classes knowing within 2-3 hours of finishing I would be completely exhausted and freezing from sweat which triggered the numbness in my fingers and toes. At least then, I could get a warm shower right after, get comfy and go to sleep.
Medications are necessary in some cases, but many times it has been found that medications can make symptoms worse or create other side effects. I didn’t take medication because I was told there is nothing to do other than making myself comfortable. But, here’s the incredible thing and if you suffer from autoimmune, I hope you hear this. WHAT YOU EAT MATTERS! It took me 15 years to realize, coincidentally, that autoimmune can be changed significantly by nutrition. I started doing and now run a Low Glycemic Nutrition Program. I was 3 weeks in when I decided to just be still and completely body aware to see what muscle pain I was feeling from working out. Forget the muscle pain I set out to be aware of….What I discovered is that the throbbing, the tiredness and the circulation issues weren’t present. WHAT?! 15 years of being told there is nothing that can be done other than making myself comfortable and nothing about my nutrition and here we are…just 3 weeks and my autoimmune symptoms were gone?!
This doesn’t mean you won’t ever have symptoms and well, when I eat something with grain, gluten or that’s high glycemic, I know it! Just like that I am exhausted and throbbing. Side note for those of you confused by grain and gluten. Grain-free and gluten-free are not synonymous terms. Gluten-free foods do not contain grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, but they may still contain other grains. And grain-free diets may be gluten-free unless they contain ingredients that are hidden sources of gluten.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your own research and advocate for yourself especially when you aren’t getting answers or are made to feel like it’s in your head. These symptoms are real. If you suffer from autoimmune, have been dealing with no success in reducing the symptoms and are looking to make changes through nutrition and exercise, let’s talk. In addition to teaching my nutrition program, fitness classes and personal training for weight loss and weight management, my goal is to help those suffering from autoimmune through the same tools while individualizing your meal plans.