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February 26, 2017

My Alternative Journey to Health

In response to this post of mine being shared on another site recently, many people have wanted to know more specifically what I am doing in my alternative, holistic quest for health. So if that post led you here, welcome! :) I will now endeavor to answer those questions, and if I miss anything, please feel free to comment or contact me. (I do ask that you please read this whole post carefully before commenting.)

HOW IT ALL BEGAN | I had mild health issues and symptoms throughout my childhood and teenage years (they were regarded then only as quirks). In 2010, my body crashed and I began living with debilitating eye pain, headaches, all-over body pain, constant exhaustion, memory problems, IBS, extreme sensitivities to being poked or pushed against, and a plethora of other symptoms, turning my world entirely upside down. (I finally wrote down all the symptoms I could think of a while back, and there were about 75.) In 2011, after testing including an MRI to rule out other possibilities such as arthritis and a brain tumor, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (and a bit later unofficially with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). 

I then embarked on the traditional route of antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and other prescriptions to attempt to ease the symptoms. Only one helped briefly, and based on what I know about those drugs now, I regret taking them. By 2013, I chose to go off all prescriptions, as they, at best, were not helping. I also eventually chose to quit taking over-the-counter medicines, including pain medication.

HOW I STARTED ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT | In 2013, a friend of a friend suggested an alternative holistic doctor in the area and passed along a DVD that covered this doctor's view and treatment of Fibromyalgia. It was all brand new, mind-blowing, belief-shattering information to me, but I skeptically gave it a chance. During my treatment with this doctor, my most notable improvements were losing about 25 pounds (that I really needed to lose) through addressing my diet needs and a brand new sense of hope I didn't know existed for people like me. After being treated there for about a year, my husband and I happened to move to another state and so started seeing another alternative, holistic doctor that my previous doctor recommended. That is when things really started to get good.

MY ACTUAL DIAGNOSES | This new doctor of mine ran a large number of incredibly in-depth tests to check for everything under the sun: Lupus, Lyme Disease, Epstein-Barr Virus, arthritis, metal poisoning, Celiac Disease, food allergies, gene mutations, hormone imbalances, and a multitude of other imbalances, infections, parasites, viruses, and more. While testing revealed literally a dozen or more problems, among my biggest issues were Lyme Disease (the co-infections Babesia and Bartonella), mercury poisoning, and the unresolved chicken pox virus from when I was five years old, along with gene mutations that inhibit my body from detoxing properly on its own. You can read about a few more of my diagnoses here.

HOW I'M BEING TREATED | My treatment has been made up of three main things: 1) Field Control Therapy, a cutting edge treatment that periodically determines what pernicious agents are affecting your body the most and addresses them by strengthening your body to rid them on its own. 2) Supplements that continually change based on my body's changing needs. 3) Diet changes tailored to my body's needs. I also see a chiropractor for adjustments every so many months. Most alternative doctors either are also chiropractors or have a chiropractor in their office that can do this; I just go to a separate one for these specific needs because it is closer to home. I am currently considering adding another layer of alternative treatment and will definitely write about it if I do and find it to be helpful.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES I'VE MADE | In addition to the treatments listed above, I have made several changes myself that have proven to be hugely beneficial:

1) Removing toxic products from my life and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives. There is a ton of information to be found online about what all ingredients we need to avoid and why. But the bottom line is that all mainstream products (yes, probably the ones you've been using your whole life as I had; think Maybelline makeup, Clorox wipes, Tide detergent, etc.) contain chemicals that we absolutely should not be putting on our bodies--what we put on our bodies is absorbed and just as important as what we eat. You can see some examples of what I do not eat below, as removing toxic foods and ingredients is also vital.

2) Detoxing. In this day and age our bodies are bombarded with harmful, sickness and cancer-causing toxins, from makeup ingredients to food additives to cigarette smoke to EMFs. And while some of us have the MTHFR gene mutation (like I do) that inhibits our body's natural ability to help detox these things, we could all use some help in this department because of the sheer, unprecedented amount of toxins we are being exposed to. A while back I realized that the pain I once would have called "Fibro pain" is frequently actually the build-up of toxins and is eased by detoxing. There are a few suggestions for detoxing practices here and here that I have found very helpful on this journey. I would add to that list oil pulling, which I wrote about here; it alone immensely improved my migraines. (You can browse some of my favorite detox tools here.)

WHAT I DON'T EAT | I do not eat gluten (wheat barley and rye), grains (corn, quinoa, and oats), dairy, soy, nightshades, refined sugar and artificial sweeteners (which means I do not drink pop), table salt, yeast, vegetable oils, and a few fruits and vegetables that I have shown allergies to. While the right diet for each person will vary and is best determined with thorough testing, anyone with autoimmune conditions especially should avoid gluten, grains, dairy, soy, nightshades, refined and artificial sugar, and table salt. I do not eat your typical processed foods and eat organic whenever I can, a change that would behoove anyone, chronic illness or not. The additives and chemicals in today's popular food is absolutely unbelievable. (You can browse some of my favorite foods I've found here.)

HOW I AM NOW | Any journey to health is going to be, as my first holistic doctor put it, a marathon and not a sprint. Anyone with as many issues as those of us diagnosed with Fibromyalgia are going to take a lot of time to heal, especially if you have been sick for many years as I have. (I'm pretty sure I was infected with Lyme Disease about 17 years ago.) There is most definitely hope of being "all better" or at least vastly improved, but that is not going to happen overnight or even in just a year--for anyone. As with any chronic illness, there is not a quick fix.

While I am still in this journey to healing, I am the best I have been since I got sick in 2010, and I even have the bloodwork to prove it. This past year, each of my sets of bloodwork came back better and better, a concept I was definitely not familiar with! I know I still have a ways to go, but I accept that because I know this journey of alternative treatment is worth it, not only for improving my health but also for opening my eyes to the truth about health, medications, toxins, diet, and more.

MY TRANSFORMED VIEW OF FIBROMYALGIA AND CFS | Stay with me here and try to understand what I'm saying with an open mind: I firmly believe that diagnoses like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome only describe the symptoms one is experiencing and are not legitimate as end-all diagnoses. I too was once relieved when I was given that diagnosis. And then I learned the truth. The suffering of those of us given these labels is painfully, excruciatingly real--but such a diagnosis is a cop-out. "Fibromyalgia" literally means "muscle pain." Chronic Fatigue is just that: chronic fatigue. Those are symptoms. Do you believe that symptoms, like headaches, extreme pain, exhaustion, memory loss, etc., all just happen on their own, with no cause?

When you see someone with a broken leg, do you assume that their leg just broke on its own? Spontaneously, with no cause but only the diagnosis of "broken leg syndrome" because sometimes that just happens? Or even that the leg is just not working for some inexplicable reason that cannot possibly be determined because sometimes that "just happens"? Of course not! Something had to cause that leg to break--a force of some kind had to come in contact with the body, and the evidence of that occurrence is a broken bone, manifested in pain and the inability to walk.

Similarly, nothing that happens in your body "just happens." There is a cause--or more often a combination of causes, whether infections, viruses, gene mutations, trauma, toxins, parasites, inflammation, and more--manifesting itself  in any and all symptoms you are experiencing. Further, any symptom you experience is your body's way of trying to tell you that something is wrong. It's not your body cruelly deciding to mutiny and ruin your life--every pain, every memory slip, every trembling limb, every moment of panic is your body begging you to help it in the only way it can: by getting your attention.

I grew up being told that anything odd my body did was "just because," even that my symptoms summed up with "Fibromyalgia" happened "just because." I believed that for a long time. And that belief came to a screeching halt when my eyes were opened to the truth through my experience with alternative treatments. I have come to truly believe that "Fibromyalgia" is just a label that mainstream doctors give to people with more problems than they can or want to attempt to help. The average doctor doesn't want to run a ton of time-consuming tests (and often isn't even equipped to), see the same patient frequently for six months or a year or two, work with them, analyze every single part of their body system, determine exactly what dysfunctions are occurring, and treat them all individually, patiently, and thoroughly, no matter how long it takes, without a single prescription. The average doctor wants to prescribe you something to make you "feel better"--just enough to get you through--and send you on your way. I don't want to just "get through." I want to thrive. And mainstream medicine does not offer you that option.

Mine was not a "classic misdiagnosis" because I finally found I had other things resulting in my symptoms; mine was a classic diagnosis. It was determined that I have Fibromyalgia because it hurt in a certain number of places the doctor pushed on and because I tested negative for everything else that they decided to test for. That is a classic Fibromyalgia diagnosis. They didn't make a mistake in giving me that diagnosis; rather, their whole belief system that results in that diagnosis is flawed.

Please keep in mind, I am in no way saying that everyone who has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or CFS has the same exact problems I was found to have. But I am saying that I firmly believe everyone who has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or CFS has their own unique combination of actual structural and/or neurological and/or metabolic problems that are all teaming up to absolutely ruin their health, and that every one of those root causes is at least treatable or even healable at the source.

Now, if you find all of this insulting to those of us thousands of people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I ask that you please go back and reread this and try to see what I am actually saying. I am writing all of this (and all of my other posts on this topic) because I have been where you are. I have reached the end of my rope over and over and sobbed over my body's state more times than I can count. I have earned a college degree only to get sick a few months later and be unable to go get a "real job." I have had my life turned upside down. I have assumed there was nothing that could be done. And then I found out all of the above information and my life completely changed. I went from no hope at all to all the hope in the world simply because I opened my mind and became informed with the truth. None of this is being written to bash anyone who is suffering--it is written to help. I am pouring my heart out, gritting my teeth, and getting through this post not because it's fun or because I think it will be well-received but because I know there are people out there just like me who need it. Surely one or two of you will see the hope in this post and be compelled to become your own advocate and fight for answers and health as I was, and you are why I am writing. I only wish I had learned all of this years ago, and so I am writing for you what I needed to know but did not have access to.

A FEW TIPS | Things to keep in mind:

1) If you're considering going off any medications, please do not do so cold turkey; make sure to check with your doctor first and, if you do, ease off very gradually.

2) If all of the above sounds so promising but you have no idea where to start, the first step is to find a doctor near you. Just search Google for "holistic doctors," "alternative doctors," or "functional medicine doctors" in your area and see what you find. Read their website to see what they say they treat and how they treat it. Ask around and see if someone you know knows one they would recommend, or even if they know someone who would recommend someone (that's how I got started!). Once you find your doctor, he/she will be able to order tests tailored to your needs and walk you through every issue found, one issue at a a time. I highly recommend trying to find one that does Field Control Therapy.

In the meantime, I recommend trying a couple of the lifestyle changes I've made and listed above that can naturally help with many symptoms. But keep in mind, it is all about baby steps--start small, and all your steps will inevitably add up to something great. I know it all can seem overwhelming and even scary, but I want to encourage you that it only seems scary because it's unfamiliar territory, and once you get going on this journey, things will become clearer and more understandable. 

And please know: you are never too old or too many years into sickness to try alternative treatments. There is always hope for improvement!

3) If all of the above sounds absolutely impossible or ridiculous to you, please know that I am just one in thousands being helped by alternative, holistic treatment--and I do not mean just symptoms being soothed but actual causes improving on paper in test results and in day-to-day life.

4) If all of the above sounds like way too much trouble to you, then that is your call and I'm sorry you see it that way. You have to acknowledge the true value of health in order to truly aim for and commit to it. If you want to improve, you have to really want it, more than you want familiarity or even some of your favorite foods. You can be skeptical, as I was, but you must be open-minded and dedicated.

5) No, unfortunately insurance does not generally cover alternative treatments and testing, though it does often cover some. The reason for that is a whole other story.... I know most of us dealing with chronic illness don't exactly have scads of money lying around, and I have said "yes" to things but had to say "no" to others. But each of us needs to weigh the options offered by our alternative doctors and see what we can make happen and what we can't. You do the best you can and will make work what you really want to work.

MY HOPE FOR YOU | As I said before, I know this post will not be well-received by many. A few years ago I would have probably scoffed at it and maybe even laughed. But I'm offering you hope, and if you want to scoff and laugh at hope ... I really can't help you there. You have to reach that point where desperation meets open-mindedness on your own, in your own time.

My hope is that someone reading this has their eyes opened, that the clouds begin to part a bit and you catch a glimpse of the hope that lies in the truth and in the alternative, holistic world. If you are in misery and feel like you are stuck in a life-sentence of Fibromyalgia, CFS, or any chronic diagnosis, you do not have to stay that way. I know this is some mind-blowing stuff, but once you begin to wrap your mind around this temporarily unfamiliar world of alternative treatments, you'll see it's mind-blowing in the best way.

I'm not going to lie and say this is an easy road. Any journey to health is going to hold a multitude of ups and downs. But what worth doing is ever easy? I hope you can see that your health is worth it.

Would you like to hear more about anything in this post? Still have questions? Please feel free to comment below or contact me
You can also check out some of my favorite foods and tools I've found on this journey here.

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 Nothing on this blog is to be construed as medical advice,
as I am not a doctor or health professional. I am only 
 a woman with powerful personal experiences to share 
 and am not responsible for any adverse affects from 
 incorporating my suggestions.  No claims about promising
 treatments or approaches are to be taken as guarantees
of improvement or cures. Please do not make any 
drastic changes without consulting a doctor.  

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