Hi, my name is Lauren. I grew up with a very healthy, vibrant childhood. Nothing could ever stop me from running the fastest, jumping the highest, and riding horses better than anyone I ever knew. That was my passion, horses. If I could not do something, I figured out a way to do it. I was never one to give up or give in.
Never did I think I would eventually be stricken with such a depressing, energy zapping, incredibly debilitating disease with a really dumb name called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Never did I think there would be a few years where riding horses again seemed hopeless.
I got married in the summer of 2007. Soon after that I started experiencing what I thought was a simple case of sciatica. My mom always suffered from sciatica pretty bad, so I just thought it was genetic and it would just come and go and that was that. I remember the day I almost got the wind knocked out of me from the very first pain in my lower back. I went running with a friend when all of a sudden my lower back felt like all the joints locked up on themselves and it literally took my breath away. I thought maybe I was just tense from my new office job, sitting all the time, so I just needed to stretch. I had to stop periodically during that run just to stretch out my back for any relief. A few days later would mark the change in my life for the next 4 years…
The sciatica over the following 2 or 3 days grew increasingly painful. We went out to dinner with family and sat in a booth for a while talking. As we were leaving I could barely scoot out of the booth and upon standing I almost collapsed. I literally could not put ANY weight on my right hip whatsoever. I was completely dumbfounded as to what the problem was. It felt like my hip was out of joint or was going to crash though itself. My husband had to carry me from the car to the bed.
Well like many with AS, thus begins the saga of getting a diagnosis…
At first I thought I was sitting too much, then I thought the position of the printer under my desk at work was forcing my legs a certain way throwing me off, then I thought it was my mattress, etc, etc. I’m sure my husband was beginning to think I was a hypochondriac searching for attention. I have been to my GP, a Sports Medicine doc, an orthopedist, several rounds of treatment of physical therapy that only made me feel worse, a chiropractor for many, many “adjustments” that many times left me limping out of the office, painful massages, 3 MRI’s, 3 or 4 X-Ray’s, and finally went to see my old orthopedist who worked on a torn ACL I had back in college. He was a godsend. He was the one who finally had the brains to send me to a rheumatologist. After my follow up visit to go over the x-rays and bloodwork, I was diagnosed as having “possible pre-AS” in December of 2010. “Possible” because my SI’s were not fused on the x-ray.
Oh, the RELIEF of having a diagnosis, yet undeniable SADNESS I had. I was hoping it was a mechanical problem, because certainly I could not have some strange, genetic, chronic disease! Yet, I secretly deep down inside knew I did. And I was just handed a brochure and told to basically deal with it or take some strong medicines that suppressed my immune system.
I didn’t particularly think that was acceptable to me, so I remained in denial and miraculously for the next 7 months I was in complete remission, furthering my thinking it was all a bad dream and whatever was behind me was behind me. Well, it was like my body was simmering behind the scenes for those 7 months because I ended up having the MOTHER of all flares, the most painful flare yet…right before I was supposed to go on vacation to the Bahamas. Needless to say that entire week was consumed by pain and the depression that goes with the flares. It was NOT fun. I had plenty of forced smiles, bahama mamas, and comfort food to go along with that. I also had plenty of time to contemplate on the beach. Every day I would rack my brain for clues to why I had this and what I could do about it. On one of the days I was meditating, and thinking about all the online research I had done while trying to get a diagnosis. I remembered skimming past one of the “possible” problems associated with my search terms in the Google bar. It was ankylosing spondylitis, and I remember reading somewhere in a short paragraph about how diet could control the symptoms. I made it my resolve that when I got back to reality, I was going to get busy with my new homework.
After doing my research on NSD, I realized that everytime I felt good or was in one of my short remissions, it was around the time I was doing some sort of diet, and the worse times I would flare was Fall through Winter. Go figure, Thanksgiving and Christmas is starch city everywhere you turn.
My first day of NSD was August 25, 2011. Five days later my food journal states, “Feel pretty good today! Went for walk after work”. TWO days after that my journal reads, “I feel great!!!!”. The journal and the iodine testing is a MUST DO. It took me a while to work out the kinks, and I am still working out some residual kinks, but I am almost there. In the 4 1/2 months I have been on this lifestyle change, I have only had 2 or 3 MINOR flares, that usually only lasts about 24 hours. I have learned that if I feel a flare coming on, all I have to do is do a fast from dinner to dinner the next day and the flare has either subsided greatly or gone. I have also lost 30 lbs, which I definitely needed and I’m sure helps the pressure on my joints anyway. At this point I have learned dairy and too many nuts will bother me, so I am now starting to move in the direction of following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, which is no dairy, nuts, eggs or nightshades. I find that personally, I feel BEST if I eliminate those items. My diet is now any kind of meat and a variety or lettuces, broccoli, chard, kale, and water. Cauliflower is currently debated.
Believe me, if I can do this, anyone can do this. It was hard giving up my starchy favorites, as I was the ultimate foodie. I LOVED spicy ethnic food, southern food, italian food, etc. But it’s just not worth it to live in pain. Life is SO much more than food. Life should be about laughter, joy and exploration! You can’t do those things in chronic pain! So those non-nutritious starchy foods are not worth it for me. I am so much healthier, happier and in as close to being pain-free as possible. I still have plenty of things to work out in my diet and I know I will get there. I will never trade this new lifestyle for anything. I rode horses on my parents farm a few weeks ago and I look forward to riding again for the rest of my life.