Itchy patches and Remicade

allergy testing

Allergies.  They are THEE worst.  And a problem I’ve managed to avoid until about 6 months ago when I started a new infusion-therapy drug for my Ulcerative Colitis called Remicade.  Now, instead of continuing to figure out why I have UC, I’m spending my energy and time deducing why my lips and face have been swelling like a balloon, and how these reactions fit into my personal health equation.

Without going into the nitty-gritty side effects of Remicade (even I…even my doctor doesn’t know everything that can happen. Very comforting.), I’ll simply say that the drug shuts down the part of my immune system that is attacking my colon – the autoimmune component of my disease.  And because of that shut down, I’m way more prone to infections, viruses and apparently – allergic reactions.

Around the Holidays, my lips started swelling from some unknown substance in one of the chapsticks I was using – this from Burt’s Bees and this from EOS at the time, which I’d bought in an attempt to use more “natural products.”  Soon after those reactions, my face started swelling and then my eyelids, which used to happen periodically in high school.  Overall, I was miserable, and missed several days of work and some family get-togethers.  Once the swelling would go down, I’d be left with tight, itchy, flaking skin on my face – always a lovely accessory to any outfit.  Especially in the winter!  And so the cycle continued for several weeks.  The picture below may not look like much to you, but trust me – my upper lip was double its normal size!  And SO itchy!

swollen lips

I finally made an appointment with an allergist who ran several rounds of blood and prick tests on me, all of which showed only a mild allergy to cats and dogs.  The picture above was taken of me yesterday evening and shows the most recent allergy testing I’m having done – patch testing thru the T.R.U.E. test by SmartPractice.

They are highly sticky patches with little squares of about 30 common allergens that cause contact dermatitis – most of which I can’t pronounce because they’re synthetic chemicals and compounds.  There are two spots on my back that are currently VERY itchy, so I’m hoping that those two are “IT”, the mysterious allergen culprits that have been causing my issues.  I’ll be getting the patches removed tomorrow morning and evaluated for Round 1 and then a second time on Friday.  Have I mentioned that I cannot shower because of these little guys on my back?  Yes, it’s bird baths for me all week…nothing makes me feel more like a lady than washing just the essentials of my bod and skipping the rest!

After using my deductive reasoning – and making a list of every ingredient in ALL the products I was using on my body – I had a hunch that my allergies were caused synthetic sunscreens, beeswax and/or aloe.  However, I don’t think that any of those substances are being tested on the patches currently on my body.  I may have to set up a custom panel – so I should probably just give my entire  paycheck to the doctor’s office.

To help myself out a bit, I’ve limited my use of most beauty products besides pure Vaseline  for my lips, a suncreen-free, soothing face lotion with cucumber by the YesTo brand and using only Physicians Formula brand concealer and powder.  No foundation.  These three brands have not caused me any issues to date, so regardless of what my results reveal, I’ll be continuing to use products from these companies.

I’ll be sure to check in with an update on my results tomorrow.  I’m going to be straight up pissed if this incessant itching means nothing.  You can be sure my fingers and toes are crossed to increase my chances of getting some answers and putting this problem to bed.

In happy health,

Erika

Minimalist Wishes and Why

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What happens when we strip away the stuff?

By one definition, it’s an art genre from the 1950’s, but Minimalism, as I’ve learned from my research, is a lot more than just a name for art.

It’s a way of living, of thinking, of doing.  And it’s a lifestyle I’m craving for several reasons.  The idea behind minimalism is to incorporate just the essentials into every part of your life and nothing more.  No excess, no clutter.  Putting less emphasis on stuff, and giving more time and energy to experiences, learning new things, accomplishing goals and dreams, living in the moment, spending less time cleaning.  Ultimately, less stress.  Um. Yes.  I want that.

To me, Minimalism equals simplicity – something I’ve never seemed to have in my life.  I see it as a holistic approach to living because the focus is on the essentials, a “back to the basics” mentality, that would allow for more time to focus on improving my health, sticking to a workout routine, lessening stress.  Many tasks, including keeping the house clean, getting out the door on time, staying organized, paying bills, and more, always seem harder for me than everyone else to manage efficiently.  So, living a simple life, seems like a lofty, foggy unattainable goal that I’ll never cross off my list.  No matter how bad I want to.

When most people think of a Minimalist home, they might picture an image like the one below.  A predominantly white, futuristic living room, with zero stuff, exposed light bulbs as lamps, maybe two pieces of furniture at most.  Sleek to a fault, with no mess or imperfection to be seen.  But that’s not the aspect of Minimalism I want to instill in my day-to-day life.

minimalism

I want to adopt the mindset that less (things) is more.  Having only the essentials around with no unnecessary distractions and stress is so appealing to me.   As everyone does, there’s so much I want to do in life – books i want to read, places I want to go, things I want to learn.  But, most of the time, a pile of papers or things to clean or a drawer to organize pull me away from these goals.  I often think that if I significantly simplified my life and home, that things and stuff would no longer stand in my way. That it would be easier to get myself out of my own way…

I enjoy being innovative and re-purposing things for multiple uses.  I love to DIY and make my own useful creations out of things I already own.  Adopting a Minimalist lifestyle would force me to adapt and utilize even more creativity to make use of what I have and not simply run to the store to buy what I need or want.

Balance has never been something that comes easily to me and maybe that’s because I’ve allowed my life to become too complicated.  I’ve been feeling an urge to settle down into a simpler, easier life with less distractions and more intentional living, so maybe this Minimalist mindset is the start of a beautiful thing for me.

This list of 10 benefits of a Minimalist lifestyle pretty much sums up why I want to explore this way of moving through life.  And here are five ways that I plan to immediately implement Minimalism in our home:

  1. Cut down on our paper piles and improve our filing system – the bills, magazine articles, newsletters, coupons, pamphlets overwhelm me so easily.  Less of them would be an immediate stress relief!
  2. Clean out my closet – it’s time to give away or sell some of those clothes that I haven’t worn in literally years.  Let someone else enjoy them and lighten up my closet.
  3. Simplify my healthcare.  Clean up our diet and streamline my supplements, in order to achieve less trips to the doctor, less medication, less stress, less illness.  And more of the good things in life.
  4. Clean off – and KEEP CLEAN – our kitchen table.  It is our “catch-all” space of the house and things get buried on top of each other.  The less I allow to make it to the table, the more I’ll realize I don’t need all the crap in the first place.
  5. Devising a simple plan for accomplishing my goals.  I’m hoping that removing the junk from my physical life will automatically lessen the mental junk too, and will create space for me to focus on what I truly want to achieve in life.

Does this lifestyle appeal to you?  If so, why?  How do you try to simplify your daily life?

Here’s to a happy Monday,

Erika

Not sure what foods trigger you? Try using the My Symptoms App!

mySymptoms

Checking in with a quick update today – not feeling awesome, flaring/bleeding slightly.  I’m watching what I’m eating but not being QUITE so restrictive with myself.  In terms of the AIP protocol I try to follow, albeit loosely, I’m still steering clear of tomatoes, nuts and seeds as I’m pretty positive they tear up my already-inflamed colon.

I’ve decided that I REALLY DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHICH FOODS I HAVE INTOLERANCES OF OR AM ALLERGIC TO!  If you suffer from an Autoimmune condition like Ulcerative Colitis and are trying to treat it as much as possible with diet, than you know my frustration…

A decision I made earlier this week was to continue using an app I’d purchased/downloaded on my iphone around April of last year called “MySymptoms” by SkyGazer Labs, to record, organize and analyze the foods I was eating, supplements I was taking, exercise, etc., to see if and where some connections could be made.

How successful the app can be for identifying your “suspect” culprit foods depends on these factors:

– how often you record what you are eating

– how detailed you get about the individual ingredients of the foods you are eating

– how accurate you are with recording in “real time” – or, getting as close to the actual time a food was eaten as possible and not simply estimating.

Take a look at this app – I think it cost me a couple of dollars, $2.99 maybe for a one-time download?  Not positive on that, but I can say that whatever dollars I DID spend on it were well worth it.

*** This app is NOT meant to produce a diagnosis but aims to provide you with information about what foods, habits and maybe drugs are causing you trouble so you can more knowledgably adjust your lifestyle.

Do any of you know of or use any similar apps?? If so, PLEASE SHARE – this stuff intrigues me so much!

I plan to check in with my results once I’ve gotten a few more days of recording in the diary.  Thanks and happy Friday!

In healthful happiness,

Erika

Which came first: hormonal imbalance or Ulcerative Colitis?

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I have been wondering about this “chicken or the egg” question for a long time – which REALLY came first: my hormonal imbalances or my Ulcerative Colitis?  Or were both issues stewing in my system for years and feeding off of each other? I’m highly intrigued by the possible correlation between my out-of-whack hormones and my UC diagnosis., and have done a decent bit of research on the topic.  In addition, I plan to start myself on a “Healthy Hormone” Supplement Plan courtesy of The Hormone Diet by Natasha Turner, ND, and will outline below the supplements I plan to take as suggested in the book for my specific* hormonal issues.

*My supplement plan is NOT for everyone – the book outlines really great HOLISTIC supplement/diet/lifestyle suggestions for ALL hormonal imbalances, so it’s definitely worth a read for yourself if your hormone issues vary greatly from mine.

When I was 15, I found out I had excess testosterone through a blood test and was put on birth control for 7 years.  I stopped taking birth control a little over a year ago, because I was tired of putting yet another drug in my body everyday (9 pills a day for my UC was enough, thank you), and since then my issues have slowly returned.  I currently have mild acne, darker hair growth on my body/chin/cheeks and breast reduction – all signs of excess testosterone or excess androgen in females.  Not to mention, I seem to have “flare-ups” around the same time as my periods which are not regular.

No connection? I think not…

Realizing that my hormonal problems had not been fixed, but just masked by birth control, and remembering the strides I’d made with treating my Ulcerative Colitis with diet, supplements and lifestyle changes, I dove into research about how to naturally regulate my hormones and have learned some pretty encouraging information, the most important of which is that:

Systemic Inflammation is the underlying cause of most hormonal imbalances, as well as autoimmune diseases! 

Natasha Turner, author of The Hormone Diet, created the hormonal “Treatment Pyramid”, which outlines how inflammation can lead to a host of other hormonal imbalances (click on the “Treatment Pyramid” link for a photo of the pyramid), and should be the first issue to be addressed before correcting the rest of your hormonal imbalances.  All this time I was thinking I needed to simply lower my testosterone, where as inflammation could be at the root of the problem…

Here are the basics of the “Treatment Pyramid” / Hormonal Imbalances, starting from the base:

3.  “Stress and Anti-Stress Hormones” (in order of Importance):  A) Low Cortisol  B)  Low DHEA

4.  “Sex Hormones” (in order of Importance) :  A) Excess Estrogen  B)  Low Estrogen  C)  Low Progesterone                             D)  Excess Progesterone  E)  Low Testosterone  F) Excess Testosterone

5.  “Metabolism”: Low Thyroid

6.  “Renewal” (in order of Importance):  A)  Low Acetylcholine  B)  Low Melatonin

7.  “Strength”  Low Growth Hormone

I actually found by taking the hormonal imbalance test in the book that I have multiple imbalances – Inflammation, Excess Insulin, Low Serotonin, Low GABA, Excess Cortisol, Excess Testosterone and Low Thyroid.  Damn – that’s a lot of problems.  As Turner suggests, I am going to start by treating the inflammation and if that doesn’t work, move on to treating the next imbalance (for me, it will be Excess Insulin) and so on.  My current diet of no grains, no dairy and low sugar to treat/heal my Ulcerative Colitis has already begun to help me regulate my insulin levels.

Erika’s Hormonal Balance Supplement Plan:

General Supplements and doses for ALL people regardless of hormonal imbalance:

  • Probiotic – I use one specifically for Colon Health, but there are lots of great options out there
  • High Quality Multivitamin containing 800-1,000 IU of Vitamin D3, Iron and Folic Acid (important for women of reproductive age)
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil High in DHA – 2 to 4 grams a day with meals
  • Calcium-Magnesium in a Citrate base with Vitamin D3

Supplements for Specific Hormonal Imbalances (I’m going to start with treating my inflammation and then move on to the next hormone levels if need be:

1st – Inflammation – (Pyramid Base)

  • Turmeric – also supports liver function and detox – 500 – 1,500 mg/day on empty stomach
  • Organic Green Tea – 2 to 3 times a day in tea form or capsule form

2nd – Excess Insulin –

  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) – has anti-inflammatory properties – take 1,500 mg 2x/day with food for 3 months – “conjulite form”

3rd – Low Serotonin –

  • 5HTP – 50 – 400 mg/day – divide in 2 throughout the day or take whole does at bedtime

4th – Low GABA –

  • GABA – 500 to 2,000 mg 1-2 hours before bed
  • also helpful to regulate GABA is getting more regular sleep and practicing yoga!

5th – Excess Cortisol –

  • Vitamin C (lots of it!) – 2,000 – 6,000 mg spread throughout the day – should contain bioflavonoids

6th – Excess Testosterone –

  • Saw Palmetto 160 mg 2x/day on empty stomach
  • supplements taken for Excess Insulin and Excess Cortisol can regulate testosterone also!

I’m truly hoping to NOT need to take all of these – but it feels SO good to have a clear-cut plan to begin to deal with hormonal problems that have been plaguing me my whole life.  It would be such an awesome plus if my Ulcerative Colitis followed suit and responds to the reduction in inflammation.

I’ll be sure to post updates about my progress!

 

 

 

 

 

 

instead of wallowing in my pity, I decided to dive into some research to learn how I could naturally reset my hormones.

AIP-Friendly Goodies – “soft serve” and cake-cookies

So – I like sweet things – like alot, a lot.

I don’t remember EVER having as much of a sweet tooth as I do currently and ever since going Paleo just under a year ago.  I used to crave cheese, carbs – in college I had pasta almost every day!! – but never really sweets.  Sure, I rarely turned them down either, but I literally could not say no to a plate of pasta.  Sweets I could have lived without.

Then things changed.  I could care less about cheese and pasta now – again, SURE, I miss them both from time to time but I don’t long for them.  What I do long for most days is just a simple cookie or two that won’t break my AIP diet, or any baked good really! …..

So, I’ve realized that I experiment the most with AIP dessert recipes and find that I spend most of my lunch hour browsing the AIP dessert section of Pinterest – follow my AIP Board, I post at least one new recipe I want to try almost every day – and Chowstalker’s AIP recipes, and actually get giddy thinking about baking when I get home from work.  I admit that baking with coconut flour is hard and that many of my attempts have fizzled into mostly almost-burnt-to-a-crisp cookies that crumble (and not in a good way) once they’ve cooled.  And since removing eggs and nuts from my diet about 3 weeks ago, baking while sticking to my diet became about 10 times harder.  But for now, I’m taking it as a challenge, not a negative, and have recently come up with two really yummy and easy AIP friendly treats!  I’m still working on the recipes for both, but I didn’t want to wait to share them, so here they are:

Creamy Banana Berry “soft Serve”

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First of all, sorry for the shadowy pictures – I am no photographer, that’s for sure!

So, this is, like, the easiest thing ever to make – and it’s almost like its simplicity makes it that much more delicious!  I walked around my house eating this creamy and cold dessert going “mmmm” after every bite.  The texture is perfect and the recipe leaves room for SO many different flavor combinations, you’ll never get bored!  It’s best if eaten right away but can be frozen – it will just need to thaw a bit on the counter or more quickly in the microwave to regain its creamy texture.

I used my Nutribullet to make this treat, but a blender or food processor would work just fine.  I’m still currently saving up for a good food processor, so the “‘bullet” was a good second choice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized frozen bananas cut into chunks
  • at least 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries and/or strawberries, plus a handful to top/mix into your “yogurt” if desired
  • the fat/crème from 1 can full fat coconut milk (I used Taste of Thai which I can find for pretty cheap at my local Walmart)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Add all the ingredients into your Nutribullet, blender or food processor and mix/pulse until smooth.  Using the bullet I had to pulse mine a couple times and shake the mixing cup once or twice since the mixture was pretty thick.  If you want a thinner texture add a teaspoon or two of the coconut milk left in the can after scooping out the fat (clear or milky liquid), and if you want a thicker texture, add more banana or try a couple of ice cubes and pulse until well mixed.  The mixture should have the texture of soft serve – hence it’s name!  As you will notice, I didn’t add any additional sweetener, but a little honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup would be nice!!  Once warmer weather is here to stay, i’ll be pouring this mixture into some popsicle molds for a quick treat!

To make something similar to a “Dairy Queen Blizzard” (especially in time for summer!), add some crunch and texture to your “soft serve” with the following diet-appropriate suggestions:

For AIP –

For Regular Paleo (less restrictive than AIP):

Hand-mixed Pumpkin Banana “Cake Cookies”

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Now THESE little beauties I am proud of – especially because I just threw the ingredients in a bowl and told myself I was going to eat them however they tasted.  Well – I actually ate TOO MANY of them because they were so good…Coconut flour has a lot of inulin fiber which can aggrevate some GI conditions like Ulcaertaive Colitis.  So, just a precaution, limit your self to a couple of these a day, don’t eat the whole batch in one day like I did!  I got carried away…with pride…

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • about 1/3 can of pumpkin puree (I use the Aldi’s brand – no additives and it’s cheap)
  • 4-5 tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons of arrowroot flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsps. baking soda
  • cinnamon – it’s your call on the amount – I added some into the batter and sprinkled some on top of the cookies before I put them in the over.  I REALLY like cinnamon.
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • about 1 tbsp coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • 1-2 tbsp. of preferred natural sweetener – I used about a tablespoon of coconut sugar, but maple syrup would work too, you may just need to add more coconut flour to soak up a little more moisture

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  • Mix all ingredients together in one bowl (yep, just one!) I used my hands to mix the batter.  The batter should be on the dry side, a little spongy and should leave no residue on the sides of the bowl. It should be the consistency of – well, cookie dough 🙂
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Roll dough into balls of about 1″ in size and flatten with fingers to about 1/4″ thick.  Depending on size of cookies, this recipe makes between a dozen and 16 cookies.
  • Bake for 40 -45 minutes, checking every so often that the cookies aren’t burning. My cookies were soft on the inside and fully baked and a little chewy on the outside, and reminded me of cake!
  • Once these cooled, I squirted a little honey on them and they were amazing!

So amazing, I ate too many, kind of defeating the purpose of a sweet “treat” – it was more like a sweet meal.  Still, it was better than eating too many processed cookies.  Just be careful with coconut flour quantity if you have UC.

BUT 2 or 3 of these puppies with a hot cup of black coffee or tea in the morning with a little fruit or (((bacon))) would be the perfect start to any day.

Hope you enjoyed these recipes!  Have any ideas on how to make them better – please let me know!!

 

Yours truly,

-Erika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flaring Up? Don’t pop more pills just yet!

Happy Monday, all!  What an oxymoron that statement is 🙂

Just a little update before the main gist of my post…

So I am 12 days into my Autoimmune Protocol diet to begin to heal my Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune digestive condition (check out “The Paleo Mom”  with LOADS of AIP info, recipes, explanations and more). Two big changes I’ve noticed in my colitis symptoms in the past couple of days are: 1) I haven’t bled in the last 4-5 days and 2) the heavy, “inflammed” sensation I was experiencing at the base of my tailbone has greatly subsided.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still experiencing gas, bloating, and some urgency, etc. – but it’s a step in the right direction in my book, and my condition feels quite manageable for the time being.

My goal is to continue with AIP for at least 2 months before I begin reintroducing foods – MAN do I miss EGGS, though!  I’m thinking outloud here – the whole “Reintroduction” phase on this elimination diet scares the living hell out of me, because it seems like such a precise process where one slip throws 2 months of strict AIP down the drain!  I’m a worryer, so of course, I’m already stressing about what’s to come!

eat all the things

…Orrrr eat NONE of the things??

Have you had an experience with re-introducing foods on AIP/Paleo/Specific Carbohydrate Diet ??? How did you go about planinng for it realistically?  Or did you just choose to avoid these foods in your diet indefinitely?  Also I’m thinking about buying “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballantyne – has anyone read this book and could give me a quick review??

the paleo approach

I suppose maybe this fear of “reintroduction” is what has kept me from truly implementing “AIP” in my life for some time now – any feedback you can offer about your own trials, errors and succsses is greatly appreciated!

I’m not ready to post my next “3 Ways to Happy Post”, but I did want to share some natural ways I like to calm my flare ups and symptoms when they hit, WITHOUT having to increase my medication.  I hope these tips help you, but please – I’m not a doctor.  If things are serious, get the help you need!

HOLISTIC FLARE-UP MANAGMENT TIPS:

—- Try sipping some aloe every day.  It soothes inflammation from the inside, just like it soothes sunburn on the outside!  I buy the Lily of the Desert brand from my local natural grocer.  If you don’t like the taste, add it to a smoothie and mix it into a low-sugar organic juice!

—- Drink some healing homemade bone broth, – check out my first post for a simple crockpot recipe!

—- Eat soft foods, while still getting nutrients.  Steam or boil all vegetables to make them easier to break down.  Puree fruits, drink smoothies with avocado and banana, eat less-fatty meats.  I personally really enjoy certain canned veggies like green beans and carrots.  Gross to some maybe, but to me they are the next best thing!

—- Consider taking a daily digestive supplement like GI REVIVE – a nutritionist I saw suggested I take it, and though I am not currently taking it, I still have some in my pantry on hand in case a flare-up rears it’s ugly head.

—- If I’m going to have a big meal, I sometimes take a swig of apple cider vinegar to aid in digestion and to ward off gas, bloating, etc., which worsen my flare-ups.  Try getting ACV into your diet in other ways like making your own delicious and health packed salad dressing!  I mixed up my own (below) in an empty glass spice bottle – 1 parts ACV to 2 parts olive oil, Himalayan salt and herbs to taste.  I used oregano, parsley and onion powder.

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—- Try to eat smaller meals during a flare-up to give your digestive tract a little break.  Big meals will force your system to work twice as hard to break down twice the food!  And if you have a slow digestive system like me, that spells big trouble…

—- Cut back on dried fruit – for me, dried fruit blocks me up, for some it does the opposite.  There is lots of sugar in dried fruit and cutting out that extra sugar can help regulate things.

—- Take up a calming hobby like yoga, jewelry making, reading, painting, writing, walking, etc.  Not only is doing something you like stress relieving, it will also get your mind off of harping on your current flare-up.

—- Sleep!  Sometimes a hot cup of chamomile tea and an early bed time can do wonders!  Snuggle up with a good book, sip some tea, decompress and conk out!  And don’t forget to breathe deep!

—- Ease stress during flare-up times by being over-prepared – meal prep for a couple of days with soft, healing comfort foods so you won’t be tempted to eat any problem foods when hungry and stuck in a pinch – this one is embarrassing, but pack an extra pair of undies (maybe even some TP) in your purse, book bag, gym bag, etc.  Obviously, the plan is to NOT use these items but at least you know they are there if need be!

—- LAUGH!  Go watch a funny movie, hang out with your funniest friend (my boyfriend in my case, yes I’m lucky).

Now – I’m SO interested to know – what are your healthy flare-up management tips?? Can’t wait to hear from all of you!

Stay tuned for my next “3 Ways to Happy” post in the next day or so!

 

In healthful happiness,

-Erika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My story and the first “3 Ways to Happy” Post

Hello, world!  Ah, it’s great to be here, to be writing again – and writing about a holistic lifestyle, health and happiness.  I’ll skip the blabbing for now and get right to the story – my story – and the digestive illness and health concerns that have inspired me to start “Holistically Happy”…(caution #1: parts of my tale are not for the “easily-made-queasy – caution #2: I use a lot of “potty humor” to stay positive about my journey, sorry if that’s not your thing!)

SO, here we go…..

During my senior year of high school, I started seeing blood in the toilet when I went #2, accompanied by diarrhea, an increased urgency to use the bathroom, cramping, awful gas and bloating, severe fatigue and swollen joints.  Even as an 18-year-old, I knew that seeing blood when going to the potty was never a good thing.  I was a really good student, played 3 sports, and was going through my first real “break-up” – I boiled my “issues” down to stress and figured it would stop.  Plus, it was an extremely embarrassing problem to have, especially as afemale teenger – I mean, I was just happy to have days now and then when they weren’t huge pimples on my face… So, I chose to play down my debilitating digestive symptoms and pushed through my senior year.

Fast-forward to 6 months later, and after a couple of misdiagnosed hemorrhoids (that took me 5 minutes to spell just now!), the impending doom of a probable blood transfusion (my hemoglobin was dangerously low from passing so much blood when going #2), and my first colonoscopy/endoscopy, I was finally diagnosed by my GI doc with Ulcerative Colitis.  My colonoscopy showed that 2/3 of my colon and rectum were inflamed with open, bleeding ulcers.  No wonder I’d felt so awful – I’d been like a zombie for half a year with awful mental fog and daily exhaustion, running to the bathroom every 15 minutes (sometimes not making it in time – you can do the math there), bloating like a whale, bleeding all the time, and sporting a greenish, sickly, translucent complexion.  It all made sense now – I was sick.  Apparaently, really sick…

senior year

That’s me in the front row with a bunch of my friends senior year right after I was diagnosed.  I look happy, and I probably was, but was still working hard every day to NOT show my peers how awful I felt inside.

So what DID a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) mean for as an 18-year-old?  Well, to start, a lifetime full of a medication called “Asacol” (9 pills a day to be exact), no knowledge of ANY cure, cause or treatment for UC other than daily medication.  UC, a form of “Irritable Bowel Disease” is an “incurable” Autoimmune Disorder where my body attacks my own colon as a foreign object.  My doctors told me food played no role in my symptoms or the onset of my disease and that my only option was to pop lots of pills to control my “flare ups”, or periods of bleeding/inflammation/diarrhea/lots of time in the bathroom.

Fast-forward again to today – coming up on my 6-year anniversary of my UC diagnosis and a lot has changed, but not everything.  I still suffer from UC, along with some hormonal issues I’ve been battling since I was a pre-teen (I’ll go into all that later, but it’s mostly excess testosterone).  BUT, in the last year, I’ve made numerous decisions to fight for my health that have changed my life, including:

—-> Following a couple diets called the “Autoimmune Paleo Protocol”, and the general “Paleo” or “Caveman” diet – I’ll get into specifics later, but you can learn more about AIP here at one of my favorite blogs.  While following AIP, I do my absolute best to eat no gluten, grains (including corn), dairy, refined sugar, eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades, and try to keep my natural sugar intake as low as possible.  Many of my posts will pertain to this subject, as every day is a new adventure and/or struggle with keeping this restrictive diet in check.  In fact, my hope is that this blog (and hopefully a handful of followers in the future) will force me to take even more accountability and responsibility for my health when it comes to my diet.  I’ve definitely been loosely follwoing AIP for the past coupls of month, and I’m ready to get more serious about ultimately healing my UC through this seemingly promising regimen.

—-> Practicing Yoga when I can (I should do it daily).  The wonderful, deep breathing I’ve discovered through Yoga is the only thing I’ve found that truly calms me down and clears my head.  I love following free videos on YouTube or http://www.doyogawithme.com/.  Stress very negatively affects my UC symptoms and flare-ups, so keeping my stress levels as low as possible will continue to be an important part of my healing.

—–> Visiting a couple Holistic Health Practitioners who introduced me to various digestive and hormonal support supplements that I have used to literally “supplement” my AIP diet.  My learning curve with supplements has made it even clearer to me that the secrets to my healing success lie somewhere within Mother Nature’s caring embrace.  I’ve tried a handful of different supplements and will comment on their effectiveness, price, etc. throughout my posts.

—->  Experimenting with DIY personal hygiene and home care products like toothpaste, makeup, remover and all-purpose cleaning spray, to eliminate as many toxins from my daily routine as possible (and to save a little money!) to protect my already compromised immune system.  This is time consuming, but so worth it for the peace of mind and money saving – and it’s kinda fun!

But, seriously – WOW do I feel better!  I’ve lost weight (about 20 pounds in the last year, without really trying), I have more energy and more mental clarity, reduced bleeding and “flare-up” severity, less bloating, less acid reflux, reduced joint swelling, clearer skin.  This is all great, and call me crazy for wanting my UC to be GONE – but I believe that with time, effort and perseverance I can ultimately reverse my condition, too.  I’d love to hear about your journey – email me at ezaborny@gmail.com so we can connect!

At this point,  I want to introduce my 1st “3 Ways to Happy” post, a weekly (hopefully daily in the future) feature where I will include 3 “projects” I’m currently working on to improve my health and happiness holistically.  A lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest – people, if you aren’t “pinning” already, what have you been doing with your lives????  Please follow me on Pinterest HERE!

1)   Our garden plans are in the works!  My boyfriend, Seth, and I moved in together about 6 months ago and we are so excited about starting our first garden!  We picked out a handful of organic seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit company with a GREAT selection of hundreds of seeds.  I’ll definitely be keeping track of our garden’s progress on “Holistically Happy”!

Seeds ordered from Seed Savers Exchange!

2) My first experience with gut-healing chicken bone broth – this recipe could not have been simpler.  I simply put chicken bones, skin and cartillage left over from a whole organic chicken we used for soup in our crock pot with a couple cups of water (less if you want a stronger broth), a couple glugs from my Apple Cider Vinegar bottle and some himalayan salt, garlic powder and parsley.  Man, is a warm mug of this stuff comforting!  My goal for right now is to try to have one cup a day, and eventually increase to 2-3 cups daily.

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3) Bracelet Making – for a little extra income and as a hobby!  I’ve been making leather beaded wrap bracelets for the past 2 years that I sell at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which is about 20 minutes from my house.  Not only do I make a little extra money from selling these bracelets, it’s also a great stress reliever for me – most days!  I create custom size/color/length/design bracelets, so if you’re ever interested in purchasing one of my handmade creations, email me at ezaborny@gmail.com!

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Whew – that was a novel of a first blog post – but, boy, that felt GOOD to just get it out.

What are 3 things you’ve done lately to take care of yourself in the name of being holistically happy and healthy?

Yours truly,

Erika