Featured in the Lakeshore Weekly News
If you are a regular reader of my column you may know that I’ve been making a series of lifestyle changes over the last year in particular. It’s an effort to improve my health, quality of life and my longevity.
I’ve gone through a series of realizations in my 40s where I’ve arrived at a better understanding of what is within my control and what is not within my control. Knowing this has allowed me to work on myself in ways I hadn’t before.
Some years ago I accepted the truth that my life isn’t something that happens to me; it is something I make happen. What I do for a living, whom I spend my time with, how I spend my time is all my decision. If I’m not happy with any of this, there is no one to point a finger at other than myself.
There is something scary but exciting about taking ownership of your own life. Little by little I’ve been changing and tweaking things to create the kind of life I want.
A big part of this involved my health. I’ve struggled for years with two autoimmune disorders called Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s disease. Both affect major functions within my body because each affects my thyroid function.
My symptoms range from extreme fatigue, joint pain and brain fog to hair loss and sudden weight gain, as well as a host of other symptoms, which interfered with my quality of life.
Three months ago my hair was falling out and I gained 12 pounds over a few weeks. Alcohol was a big contributor to the flare-up of my health issues because of the inflammation it causes. I was a very dedicated social drinker who didn’t drink in moderation.
Per the American Heart Association, moderation would be no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Anything more increases your risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The first thing I did was I quit drinking alcohol. Then I got serious about being aware of what I was eating and how it affected my health and sought help for my joint pain at Empower Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Excelsior.
Dr. Madalyn Raasch and Dr. Brittany Mulder work to help patients with their whole body health, not just through adjustments but also nutritional counseling and several other services. They educated me on which foods contributed to inflammation thereby worsening my condition and which foods decreased inflammation. Alcohol is a big contributor to inflammation.
I’ve been sober for a little over three months now. My joint pain is no longer a daily occurrence. My energy has increased tremendously. A nice side affect is so far I’ve lost 9 of the 12 pounds I gained. Plus, my dramatic hair loss not only stopped, it has been growing back.
My cooking skills have increased as well. Eating the way I do requires a little more work because I don’t eat processed foods, but it is delicious! I’ve enjoyed learning new recipes and trying foods I wouldn’t have tried before.
Dr. Raasch and Dr. Mulder give me the tools, and I continue to do the work. My partner Tony supported me tremendously by quitting alcohol with me, as well as going along with eating how I was eating. His efforts to support me have resulted in him losing 16 pounds, going from having very high cholesterol and blood pressure for years, to having normal results for both today, all within a few months.
Our lifestyle changes have resulted in us living more of the life we want to live. I don’t feel deprived because I’ve gained so much. I love wine, but I know I’m not the person who can successfully drink in moderation. I’m three months into my sobriety, and though it’s not without effort at times, it is worth the effort.
What changed for me was my desire to live the life I want, to experience joy, to embrace and learn from challenges became more of a priority than my false need for things that contributed to my illness. I’m a work in progress. My lifestyle changes need to be maintained if I’m to be successful.
We live in a world today where our decadence and over indulgence is literally killing us. People in some parts of the world are starving to death, and we live in a country where we are eating ourselves to death.
When we take care of ourselves we can successfully take care of others. I could see how many of my struggles with situations or people were more about my lack of self-care and not anyone else.
Knowledge is incredibly empowering and just what my doctors ordered. Drs. Raasch and Mulder have a mission to educate, elevate and empower individuals to take hold of their health. It’s a mission I’ve come to share.
Featured in the Lakeshore Weekly News
It wasn’t until I was about 40 years old that I started to drink alcohol regularly. For the last six years I’ve enjoyed white wines or vodka sodas, which were my go-to drink choices.
Enjoying a glass or two or three of wine with friends, or my guy, during a beautiful meal or a lively conversation was one of my favorite things to do. I love everything about wine. How it’s made, how it tastes, how it smells.
There is just one big problem. I have two autoimmune diseases. One is called Grave’s disease, the other is Hashimoto’s. When my immune system jumps into action to fight an illness or combat stress, my autoimmune diseases create antibodies that attack my healthy thyroid, causing a host of issues. It is slowly killing my thyroid.
I’ve been dealing with the Grave’s disease for about 19 years. I was diagnosed with the Hashimoto’s a couple of years ago. Today there is no cure for an autoimmune disease. Traditional medical doctors can only treat symptoms.
I’ve learned to live with or manage most of my symptoms when my disease is acting up. Most people who know me have no idea. I pride myself on living as normal a life as possible. I’m able to do this because I manage my time, learned how to say no, rest when I need to and I don’t take on more than I can chew, most of the time.
Often I’m dealing with: Extreme fatigue, sometimes so bad that walking up the stairs is a feat, a rapid heartbeat which is puts way more wear and tear on my heart than need be, muscle and joint pain, puffy face, sensitivity to cold, memory loss. Thankfully, my friends and family are used to me repeating myself and forgetting their names as well as unexplained weight gain. I keep clothes in three different sizes, and my least favorite symptom is hair loss!
When you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chrohn’s disease to name a few, anything that causes inflammation is the worst thing for you as inflammation is the partner in crime of an autoimmune disease.
Alcohol is incredibly inflammatory. I’ve been able to minimize the symptoms of my autoimmune disease by changing my diet to one that is an anti-inflammatory diet in nature. For me, that is eating paleo.
Minimizing stress, getting outside, getting good sleep and exercise are also other ways to minimize autoimmune disease symptoms. Plus, those are smart things to do for anyone.
Even doing all of the above, my hair started to fall out recently. I have a few bald spots. Bald spots, people! You can’t see them the way I wear my hair, but they are there.
During a visit to my doctor’s office we talked about how important it was that I be on an anti-inflammatory diet, which I was, except for my wine and vodka consumption. I needed to stop drinking alcohol because of the inflammation affects. So I did.
My 6-year love affair with wine and vodka ended. I’m not going to lie, I was bummed out! I’m with an amazing man who also quit drinking alcohol with me in solidarity and support. We’ve come to realize that for us the benefits of not drinking alcohol greatly outweigh our desire to drink it.
Quitting was not easy, and I don’t expect it to be without a few road bumps. After a few months I could have a glass of wine once in a while. The thing is, I’m not a once-in-a-while drinker, so my partner and I have decided that we are just done drinking alcohol.
I also started a hair thickening treatment that is non-toxic and chemical free, which I found at Beauty Ecology Organic Salon in Wayzata. My bald spots now have sprouts of hair growing.
Since I quit alcohol, I’ve been able to string together several days of being symptom-free. My skin looks amazing, and I’m sleeping better than I have in years. I still love wine, but I love myself more, not to mention having hair.
I’m still enjoying beautiful meals and lively conversations, just with sparkling water instead of wine.
My adventures in living life perfectly imperfect are featured in the Sun Sailor, The Lakeshore Weekly News and South Lake Neighbors Magazine.