Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Autoimmune Diseases + Sharing YOUR Story

So, I know I’ve talked a TON about my journey with Ulcerative Colitis and how it is an autoimmune disorder and inflammatory bowel disease, but I thought I would bring it back to the basics for those of you who may be new readers (welcome!) or who would like to know more about what an autoimmune disorder actually is (or who think IBD is the same thing as IBS – it’s not). I’ve done a ton of research on autoimmunity and IBD since receiving my diagnosis, and I thought it would be great to share some of the information I’ve learned with those of you who might be struggling along the same path or who would just like to know more.

What’s an autoimmune disease?

It’s actually pretty crazy when you look at the numbers – it’s estimated that 50 million people have an autoimmune disorder and that’s just the U.S. alone. Yikes! But autoimmunity wasn’t always the norm, and there has been a significant increase in the past few decades. Why? There is a lot of speculation, but many experts contribute it to the increase of poor dietary choices (and quality of our food) and stress.

Your immune system is a vital part of the human body function. It’s basically there to kick the ass of foreign invaders (like viruses and bacteria) that get into our bodies through germs, etc. In other words, it’s your internal defense system. The issue though begins when your immune system falters and fails to distinguish your own body tissue from foreign invaders. Essentially, your body attacks itself, and this can manifest in a number of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation like swelling and redness
  • Trouble concentrating (aka brain fog)
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive issues

There are two different classes of autoimmune diseases – systemic and localized. Systemic means that a wide range of bodily functions and tissues can be affected, while localized means that one type of tissue or organ is (like IBD). More often than not, the line between these two is not so clear with the existence of a few localized symptoms affecting different parts of the body. Autoimmune diseases often coexist – if you are diagnosed with one, there is a heightened risk that you may have another. (Related: I really hope my phlegm-y  cough is not another autoimmune disease!) 

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So what triggers an autoimmune disease? This is widely debated with some experts pinpointing specific triggers while others giving a more general opinion that it is just something that can’t be avoided if you’re predisposed. However, the general consensus is that it is likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as:

  • Stress
  • Dietary sensitivities
  • Response to a drug or medication
  • Infection

Basically, anything that puts a strain on your immune system. Interestingly enough, it’s been found that 75% of the population affected by autoimmunity are women and that hormonal shifts play a large part in disease flares. I saw this myself when I experienced remission while pregnant, and I have read and heard of similar stories. I definitely find it interesting that the majority of those diagnosed with an autoimmune disease are women and that a common trigger can be stress. Women have a tendency to do it all… possible connection?

What’s crazier still is the general lack treatment that targets the cause, rather than just the symptoms. More often that not, the answer is “just learn to live with it.” While I am super grateful that drugs like Entyvio are available and helped put me in remission (*knock on wood*), I went through a lot of trial and error to get here, and the confusion encouraged me to seek alternative healing methods such as diet, exercise, and learning to cope with stress and anxiety.

So, what’s my stance? I think (and have found) that my own personal journey with UC and autoimmunity can be managed through both conventional and holistic medicine – and much of my efforts are put towards maintaining overall good health to reduce overall inflammation and the likelihood of a flare. I know this will differ greatly among individuals, so I am by no means saying it’s my way or the highway – I just wanted to share some of the background behind autoimmunity and a few of my thoughts as a person who lives with an autoimmune disorder.

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If you’re struggling with an autoimmune disease or chronic illness, I’d love to hear more about your experiences with autoimmunity, and what’s worked/hasn’t worked for you. 

In fact, I’m so interested in hearing and SHARING these experiences, I want to start a new feature on Instagram Live/TV to help others who struggle with their health. I remember when I was super sick, I wanted to connect with others and hear about what they were doing to better their health – even just having the support of people who “get it” makes a huge difference in how someone experiences their illness. If you’re interested in sharing your story on IG Live (basically, just a conversation/Q&A), please send me an email at tina@carrotsncake.com.

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Primal Guide to Allulose Sweetener

My Heart Grew Fonder

I think I love coming home from vacation as much as I love going on one. (Except maybe in the winter when you leave balmy breezes to come home to freezing temps. That is hard to come home to.) But seriously, being away from home makes me appreciate it so much! I just love the feeling of getting organized when I return.

When we got home from the beach on Saturday evening the weather in Cville felt like the perfect crisp fall day. I actually got a teeny bit excited for autumn to arrive! We had two days of low humidity and ideal temps, and it made me go crazy to get the house in order. (I tend to get excited for fall cleaning/back to school more than spring cleaning!)

Saturday night we were craving fresh salads, and I made this version of a chopped salad with romaine, fresh corn, hard-boiled egg, peppers, goat cheese, walnuts, and homemade croutons via toasted focaccia bread.

Mazen spent Sunday with Matt, and I unpacked and cleaned the house from top to bottom all morning. I found a magic eraser and tackled some walls that were filthy, and even touched up some trim! #nesting

Sunday afternoon I went with some friends to sit under the brightest blue skies at Jefferson Vineyards. I felt like we had escaped to Sonoma for the day. Despite not being able to enjoy all.the.rosé, I still had a lovely time. Rosé soon enough!

Sunday night Thomas smoked BBQ chicken. I made a watermelon feta salad with basil from our garden, and we grilled corn to complete the meal.

Here’s my Sunday morning fruit yogurt bowl topped with almond butter. I am loving all the summer fruits so much and craving yogurt bowls every day.

Remember the days of beach boot camps and 5 mile runs at 7am? Yeah, those are over. After having Mazen I find it so hard to escape away for workouts. I mean, I could have gotten up at 6am to run, but this pregnant lady needs her sleep more than a workout. I got in a beach walk most days while I was there while my mom or Thomas watched Mazen, and that was good enough for me. I figure I’m getting half a workout just being pregnant 🙂 So I pretty much took the week off of exercise, except for walking. However, that had me craving it upon my return. On Sunday we took Gus for a 2.5 mile run. It felt pretty good to be running, but I had to stop and walk a few times to catch my breath. I am clearly out of running shape, and my body appeared to be working very hard to keep up the pace! And yesterday I went to the gym and got in a great strength workout.

25 weeks and feeling large!! How much longer do you think I can wear this jacket?

And finally, some peachy overnight oats to begin a healthy week back at home. I am craving all the healthy things today!

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Episode 401 – Robb and Nicki Q&A #7

Clean Eating Green Bean Quinoa Salad Recipe

This clean eating green bean quinoa salad is the perfect summer salad for quinoa lovers!

For me, summer is all about easy salads. Not just green salads, all kinds of salads! Fruits, grains, greens…… Read more →

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