Hi Friends…I’m on a healing journey and I don’t want to go it alone. The following post is a continuation of my story thus far. If you would like to read the last blog post, click here. I named these first 2 posts I Can No Longer Be Contained because I have been suffering in silence for quite some time, and I believe that by sharing this journey, I can connect with others who may be having a similar experience with autoimmune illness.
July 12, 2022 - Beneath a persistent headache and general feeling of blah, I am embarrassed. I find myself repeatedly trying to justify to Emergency Room personnel my choice to heal my mystery illness via a functional medicine approach. In other words, even though I don’t really have any gut-related issues, I do believe that changing my diet and lifestyle can promote healing. However, my arguments are not convincing anyone, not even myself if I’m being honest, as it appears that the one day of drinking bone broth has backfired in a big way.
In the ER, the doctor and nurses attending to my case seem to be extremely competent and knowledgeable, and they are very nice to me, but also a bit patronizing. I’m feeling quite defensive about my choice to change my diet and lifestyle as their team clearly does not agree with this alternative path I’ve chosen. I want to shake them by the shoulders and shout that functional medicine digs deep to find the root cause of illness! And your traditional approach to healing, “if you can’t name the illness, just throw a pill at the symptom to make it go away” has failed me multiple times. Can you blame me for trying another way?! I just want to feel better! But alas, I don’t have the energy to argue. I’m sick and this is not the place to have a showdown.
For the better part of 4 hours, I’m hooked up to monitors, blood work is tested and fluids are intravenously replenished. All test results are negative for anything suspicious, my heart rate has returned to normal and I’m sent on my way with a little chiding about stopping this crazy bone broth diet and I should be fine. I leave the ER with my tail between my legs. Sigh…
When we get home from the hospital, I am hungry and thirsty, but afraid to resume the bone broth for fear of having another scare like the night before. I know I need to call the functional medicine clinic and let them know what happened and ask them “what now?” but first, some ginger ale. I feel guilty for drinking it because it wasn’t on the protocol and it’s laden with sugar, but I grew up with a mother who swore by sipping on ginger ale when you’re sick so that’s what I do. We had stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up a rotisserie chicken. I eat some of the chicken, drink some ginger ale and begin to feel a little better.
Still feeling like a failure after one day of being on the protocol, I call the functional medicine doctor and sheepishly explain what happened. I worry about what they will think of me. Perhaps I did something wrong to cause me to go to the ER or maybe I am a weakling for not just sucking it up and staying the course. What they reply is not what I expected.
After being placed on a brief hold, the person who answers the phone gets back on the line and says, “Dr. F (for Functional Medicine) said that he’s sorry for what happened to you. It’s not a common occurrence, but it can happen. Instead of just eating the broth, you can now graduate to having meat and veggies in the broth (for all 3 meals for the next 10 days).” That’s it? That’s it. They do not elaborate.
By now, Bob is seething. He just wants me to quit this program. He doesn’t care about the money I've invested, but in spite of Dr. F’s lack of bedside manner, my Libra Sun wants to be fair and give this new healing approach a chance. My 9th house Stellium (Mercury, Mars and Neptune huddled together) in Scorpio is quite tenacious and wants to get to the bottom of why I’ve been feeling this way. Functional medicine digs down deep to find the root cause of illness…all the heavy Scorpio in my chart plus my natal Sun in the 8th House resonates with this. Learning astrology has really helped me to understand why I think, say and do the things I think, say and do.
For now, I win this disagreement with Bob although I must confess, I remain conflicted. I really expected Dr. F and his team to be a little more sympathetic and caring about what happened to me. I decide to chalk it up to the act of caring for someone does not translate well over the phone nor over the internet. Again, my dander is up about “everything is online anymore!” And I begin to follow the updated protocol to now include meat and veggies in the bone broth. At least I will have a little more substance to my meals going forward.
Now before you shrug your shoulders and ask, “what’s the big deal, Diane?” As a fellow soup lover, you may be picturing me feasting on giant bowls of hearty soups and stews brimming with juicy cuts of beef and wholesome veggies like tomatoes and potatoes. Not exactly. I may have left out a tiny detail about this new dietary protocol. For the unforeseeable future, I must eliminate the following: Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Sugar, Processed foods, Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant), Nuts, Seeds, Legumes, Corn, Grains and Alcohol. Remembering these heavy restrictions, my next few meals look like this.
Almost 24 hours later, I still don’t feel right. I experience occasional heart racing, fatigue and weakness, but not enough to warrant another trip to the hospital. I call Dr. F to explain/complain, and I am instructed to just begin the full dietary protocol implementing the aforementioned elimination diet. It feels like I may be their problem child/patient and they don’t know what to do with me. Perhaps I’m just reading into it as I have a tendency to do just that. I also message Dr. P (my Primary Care Physician) about what I’ve experienced these last few days including the visit to the ER. She is much more sympathetic to my plight and places an order for me to wear a heart monitor for a few days. When I call to set an appointment to have the holter monitor placed, I learn that I will have to wait a couple of weeks and will need to drive an hour away as this is the only time and place for the first available appointment. Still, I schedule the appointment. In a sense, I feel like I'm cheating on Dr. F by continuing to court Dr. P's views as well.
In the meantime, I start eating real whole foods at every meal, and I begin to lose weight and feel a little better. I adhere to the dietary protocol about 95% of the time and begin to notice that when I fall off the wagon, i.e. eat something with gluten in it or have a tiny glass of wine, I get a migraine. Sometimes I get lightheaded after eating bacon, fresh spinach or canned tuna. If I eat leftovers, I feel the same way. Again, I call Dr. F’s office to explain/complain, and I am told that I may be experiencing a histamine flare. Certain foods are higher in histamine than others and can cause symptoms like one gets from seasonal allergies…runny nose, stuffiness, heart racing, dizziness. They send me a list of high histamine foods to eliminate. Of course, the list comprises everything I like to eat, and my diet has become even more restrictive. Again, I'm sensing a low tolerance threshold for my daily calls or emails. I am not feeling their love.
Yet to my delight, I continue to lose weight. To my chagrin, I keep eating the same foods repeatedly (picture the movie Ground Hog Day) and I desperately need to expand my menu repertoire. Thank goodness for Pinterest! While Dr. F’s office did send me a wealth of recipes, most of them did not appeal to me. The diet I now follow is most like that of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) or Autoimmune Paleo protocol. While I wait these few weeks for my test results, I find some new recipes on Pinterest that are compliant with my diet adding some variety to everyday meals. I also feel a kinship with the bloggers who create these AIP recipes as many of them have ushered their own autoimmune diseases into remission just by changing their diet and lifestyle.
For the first time since I began this healing journey, I no longer feel alone. I feel seen. I still don’t know exactly what is wrong with me…do I have an autoimmune disease that wasn’t detected by the labs Dr. P ordered? Something like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Lupus? Or is it a virus like chronic Lyme Disease? I am about to find out.
To be continued…