Inflammation from the Gut

SusannaalterND | 11:23

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"A lot of them were just kind of concluding that this pain was kind of in my head"

Chronic Inflammation Naturopathy Whole Food Plant Based Diet Vegan Leaky Gut Systemic Inflammation

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I guess it starts way back, when I was in my early twenties and I was in my senior year of college and around this time of my life, I was super active. I was an avid mountain biker, rock climber, trail runner... Just always moving, so active. And one day I noticed a strange pain in my foot, my right foot. And, you know, considering my body was my temple, I decided to take a break and allow my foot in my, you know, the pain in my foot to heal. And over time, even with resting, the pain didn't go away. And strangely enough, it actually spread into my left foot. And so this was really starting to get me concerned, because I just wanted to get back out there on the trail again, of course. So I started going to doctors and they just diagnosed me with something called metatarsalgia, which literally translates to pain in the metatarsal region of the foot. That wasn't very helpful, and I was prescribed some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to just help with the pain. But the pain doesn't go away and it actually continued to spread throughout my body to about every nature joint in my body. Pretty soon, I was feeling it in my hands, in my elbows and my shoulders and hips, in my knees, in my neck. And really, no one was able to figure out what was going on. I actually had to take a break from school, medically from school because it was just getting too painful for me to walk around campus. And at the same time I, of course, was having a ton of anxiety about this. And yeah, I just felt like I had kind of fallen into this identity crisis of who am I, if I'm not able to be this active outdoorsy the young woman that I had been for so many years. But anyway, I went home, to be with my parents and to really get to the bottom of what was going on.

We went to several rheumatologists and all of my blood work came back completely normal. All the imaging done on my joints came back, maybe showing some, there was some minor inflammation in the soft tissues of my feet, but the joints were completely fine. So they weren't able, the doctors weren't able to really find a real diagnosis to give me. And, I think a lot of them were just kind of concluding that this pain was kind of in my head, linked to anxiety. And that was really hard for me to hear, because at that point, I just wanted to hear a diagnosis so that I could fix it. But at this time, I just totally felt like I was some, you know, medical mystery and had some weird disease that no one had discovered yet and that this joint pain was going to be my new normal. And I'd say right around when I was hitting rock bottom was when my parents decided that they needed to get me a wheelchair, because it was so painful for me to walk around. Not that not that my neurological symptom or neurological system was at all compromised. I still had normal movement functioning, but just the pain was the worst part that they were trying to mitigate with the wheelchair. So yeah, around this time in my life, I was feeling really, really low. I pretty much spend all my free time looking for some kind of natural solution. I started reading all sorts of books about nutrition and Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and I was really about to kind of give up hope at one point, I forgot to mention I had all sorts of other practitioners on board. massage therapist, lymphatic drainage and energy healers. You know, trying lots and lots of things on. And I just felt so hopeless. But one day it was my massage therapist actually said, You know, I know you've been to a ton of doctors, but I think there's one more you need to go to. And so I said, OK, what the heck?

And I went to this doctor who was a holistically trained medical doctor who really understood the inter-connectedness of all of the organ systems. And it was the first time I went to a doctor, where he sat down with me, for an hour and 1\/2 and just listened to my entire story, and he got some really, you know, crucial information out of my story that helped him figure out that my joint pain was really coming from systemic inflammation that was stemming from my digestive system. And to me, this was completely, you know, new I had not heard of the leaky gut phenomenon was, a term that is used for the inflammation and the hyper permeability of the gut lining. So, he said the solution is in your diet, and I'm going to switch you over to this particular diet and put you on a few supplements and take you off your medications, because those are actually worsening the issue and once you settle of that, there is just a big yes. You know, this voice from inside that was like yes, of course, of course, this is the answer. And so, interestingly enough, I'll go ahead and say that right now, I eat a whole food, plant based diet, and I really believe in the power of a whole food, plant based diet. And, I know that it was the whole food, plant based diet that actually got me back to 100% health. But at that time, the doctor actually put me on more of a paleo type diet, a low lectin diet. So at that time, it was very therapeutic for me because it cut out a lot of processed foods that I was eating, cut out a lot of inflammatory foods that I had been eating. And it actually decreased my joint pain about 80% within two weeks. So for me, it was pretty miraculous. And I know it was more the diet than the supplements that did this.

But, you know, for the next I'd say three or four years, I really kind of plateaued. And I felt like I was really, I really had to work very hard to manage my joint pain. On top of that, I also developed some abdominal symptoms a lot of pain in my abdomen, which, in retrospect, I look back at and I think, OK, well, maybe maybe something did flare up after that visit with that doctor. But also I know that the power of the mind-body connection is very strong. And so I looked back at that and think, I wonder if it's that abdominal pain really came from knowing that there was an issue in my intestines. And I kind of manifested after my stress, But anyway, going back to kind of that 3, 4 year period of time after switching to the diet, where I was still really managing a lot of symptoms. I felt pretty strict, really, really strict and limited in my diet. Like if I were to stray a little bit away from the diet that he recommended, you know, symptoms would totally flare up. And I really did it. I didn't like, I didn't like that feeling of feeling so controlled by my diet. And so in this whole time frame, I also had this kind of more spiritual awakening as well. And I realized that all of this struggles of dealing with chronic pain, joint pain was really a blessing in disguise, because it woke me up to realizing that I wanted to become a naturopathic doctor. Before then, I really had no direction in life, you know, I was really into rock climbing and kind of just wanted to be a rock climber for the rest of my life. But, that didn't feel fullfilling for me. And so I decided to take the premed classes applied to med school. I went to naturopathic medical school, and, you know, while there was this desire to really support other people and figuring out their health mysteries, I think another piece of wanting to go to a naturopathy medical school was also to really understand what was going on in my body more, because I felt like I hadn't quite gotten totally all the answers, I needed. You know why? Why, after being such a good patient and following everything the doctor said, was I still experiencing some joint pains and abdominal issues?

And so it really wasn't until my third year medical school that I started digging really deeply into the nutritional science. And I have some doctors and teachers to thank for that. Also my partner. He's also a naturopathic doctor now, but I began to realize the power of a whole food, plant based diet, and started to really learn how when we really clear out animal foods from the diet, we reduce exposure to pathogenic bacteria. We reduce exposure to compounds that continue that allow inflammation, chronic inflammation to persist in the body. So I gradually shifted from the paleo diet over to more vegan diets, a whole food, plant based diet and slowly over the course of two years, I completely, I would say I am completely back to a 100% healthy, no joint pain, no GI issues. And I'd go even further to say that I feel more healthy, more strong, more vital, more energetic now, than I did even before all of this stuff came up in my life. And so that's really my story.