Tag Archives: stress

Autoimmune Disease Rant

I’m sorry, I try to be positive. I try to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems, but today I feel like just ranting a little…for one day. So, here goes…

As many readers know, I have an autoimmune condition that has not been given an official diagnosis. Currently they call it “mixed” or “undifferentiated” autoimmune disease. Basically, we are waiting for more symptoms, so that we can give it an “official” name. Lupus? Scleroderma? Who knows? “We” (doctors) are just waiting to see where else in your body this is going to pop up so we can put a label on it. After a bout with pleurisy about 2 years ago, I finally agreed to take the medication Plaquenil. Its an anti-malaria medication that is shown to decrease inflammation levels. The problem is that after the doctor tried to convince me the medication was “mild”, he then said, ”oh and you need a yearly eye exam to make sure you don’t go blind from it”. Really? So the side effect is blindness? Great. I was desperate at the time, so I took it. I have been on it for about 2 years now.

A little over a month ago, I stopped taking it.  I decided to do trial run to see if I could stay off the medication. I have been pretty good with my exercise, Paleo diet, stress management, etc so I felt like maybe I didn’t need it anymore. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get out of your system, so I have been feeling the same for the last few weeks. Until maybe the last 3-4 days. Today its my knee that is aching. Last night it was the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend it was my wrists. I am afraid that my illness is going to come back full-blown. I am afraid I am going to have to get back on my medications. Or medications that are worse than the Plaquenil.  I am afraid that this knee pain is going to go back to how it used to be where I didnt even want to stand-up to walk my patients to the door. I am afraid my lungs or kidneys will spontaneously fail. I want off the meds, but I am so afraid right now.

I went to see an alternative doctor yesterday that put me on an even sticter diet plan. No granis, no dairy, no alcohol. I already knew that that is what I needed to do. The problem is that I think 100% compliance is unrealistic. For example, I was not pefect with my diet over the weekend, I ate Mexican food on saturday and some crackers and cheese at an Oscar party on sunday. BUT, that is not even two full meals of cheating. All my other meals were Paleo meals.   I feel that is as compliant as I am going to get.  Sometimes I want some spaghetti or Mexican food. I can’t live on 100% paleo all the time, I have a real social life. I can’t constantly live in this place of deprivation, eating salads and meat only. Never enjoying a glass of wine, cheesecake, or a delicious Italian dinner. Feeling guilty over too much fruit. I desperately want to get better, but I desperately want a balance. I want to eat a good diet, be at a healthy weight, feel good about my health and my life, and enjoy foods that I like from time to time and not be so afraid. I don’t know where that balance is….

My boyfriend says, that if I really feel that way, I should get back on the medications. That way I don’t have to be 100% compliant all the time (although I probably still will eat mostly Paleo, just because its better for me) AND I won’t have any pain. I just don’t know if I want to take that risk of getting back on the meds. I also can’t live with this diet forever, always trying to be more and more compliant, and never feeling good enough.

So, thats my rant for today. I am tired of thinking about it all the time. I am tired of reading the blogs, feeling my diet doesn’t add up, feeling that my results are not good enough or dramatic enough. My body is struggling with inflammation. I don’t know definitively why. Some say diet, environmental toxins, genetics, stress. I think its all of those factors. Just a big combination of things making my body freak out and attack itself. The solution as I see it today are 2 things: take the meds that could have side effects; or follow a diet that makes me feel sad and deprived that I will never be able to be 100% compliant with.  What would you choose?

How to actually lower your cholesterol

As a Registered Dietitian, I have seen hundreds of patients trying to lower their cholesterol via a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Many patients come to me desperately trying to figure out why their cholesterol keeps increasing after years of avoiding fried foods, meat, bacon, eggs, and cheese. I learned in school,

that if a patient was not seeing results with a low fat, low cholesterol diet it probably meant they weren’t REALLY avoiding the foods they needed to avoid. Just a few years ago I believed that if a patient was truly eating lots of whole grains, very little fat, and avoiding red meat at all costs, they should have low cholesterol. But, after a while in this field, seeing one unsuccessful patient after another, I started to see that this was clearly not happening. How could ALL my patients be lying to me about what they were actually eating? Sure, there is a genetic component to high cholesterol and some people’s numbers are high no matter what they do, but these cases are rare. I didn’t feel that genetics was accounting for the lack of change I was seeing in my patients when they changed their diet according to my recommendations

The thing is that I was eating a “heart healthy” diet myself, exactly as I had learned in school. I knew I had a family history of high cholesterol and had to be careful with my diet.  But, even in following the traditional recommendations (and who knew them better than me?), my total cholesterol was over 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) was borderline high. How could this be?  I ate oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, whole grain bread with fat free mayo, low fat cheese (or fat free, yuck!), and turkey for lunch, and whole wheat pasta with veggies for dinner! I used only olive oil for cooking, didn’t eat fast food, never ate anything fried, avoided eggs, and didn’t eat much red meat. Why was my cholesterol so high at only 27 years old? I had all the information and was following the recommended diet I had learned in school. Why couldn’t I lower my own cholesterol? Why were my patient’s struggling as well? Clearly there was something that was not right.

Part of the reason I became a dietitian is because I love how often the field changes, requiring a lot of research and constant learning to stay on top of all the new information. I like to try things out on myself before I make recommendations and don’t like to recommend diets if I am not seeing the results I think I should.  I couldn’t accept that the low fat diet I was following was not keeping my cholesterol under control, especially since I was following exactly what I was taught and what was fully accepted by the medical and nutrition communities.

So, I hit the internet and did some research, I desperately wanted real results for my patients and myself, and didn’t want to provide information that clearly wasn’t working. I attended a few “alternative” nutrition conferences to try to discover different ways of thinking about heart health. After a lot of research into what would actually lower my cholesterol, I changed my diet. I quit following the “recommended” heart-healthy diet and I added back many foods that I had been avoiding for years.

After 6 months on this new diet, my cholesterol went down 32 points, my LDL was down 27 points, now all within normal levels. I also convinced a coworker to try the diet with me and her total cholesterol dropped 20 points and LDL dropped 25 points after only 2 months. Her HDL also increased by over 20 points, and she was not exercising (exercise usually raises HDL)!

When I told my doctor what I had done, including the dietary changes I had made, he told me it was impossible, that it couldn’t have been my diet that changed my cholesterol. He said “You must have a different kind of metabolism from other people!” Really? Clearly, he was wrong, it was my diet. It’s not his fault, his area of expertise is not nutrition and he is just following what the rest of the medical community has accepted as dogma. When you know better, you do better.

So I wrote a program manual called “How to actually lower your cholesterol” to help people like myself who are doing everything they can, following all the recommendations as closely as possible, and still not seeing the results they want with their cholesterol levels. It outlines exactly what you need to do to get your cholesterol down fast.