Sunday, February 8, 2015
New Year, New Flare
Hello 2015. How is the New Year finding you? It's finding me on the mend, after a slow and insidious autoimmune flare-up. The thing about autoimmunity and flare-ups is that you can be sailing along feeling fine and then suddenly, you're dashed against the rocks and everything falls to pieces. Or, alternately, you don't realize that your ship is sinking until it becomes very obvious. The second type of scenario is the one that has been more frequently my experience and that was my recent experience.
Sometime last fall, my hair started shedding. It wasn't a big deal and I waited a bit to see if it was merely seasonal shedding. But, it wasn't. It kept shedding and shedding (I counted 90 hairs after a shower one day!). And around Thanksgiving, some insomnia started happening- the kind where you wake up after 5 hours and can't fall back to sleep. My skin wasn't quite as clear as it had been. Even my cellulite seemed to make a slight comeback, despite not having gained any appreciable weight (why does THAT have to be on of my inflammatory symptoms? Not fair.) My typing deteriorated and my word recall was a little off.
Other than these symptoms, I didn't have the sort of intense fatigue I often get during flares. I had days here and there, but no large blocks of major fatigue. Or any very acute inflammation, save for a few days that my neck and shoulders were inexplicably sore. When I become noticeably inflamed, my shoulders seem to be the main target and sometimes my hips/thighs.
I finally had some blood work done right around Christmas and it came back showing functional anemia- my iron wasn't super low, but certainly low enough to affect my health. My red blood cells were enlarged (megaloblastic anemia, caused by low B12, folate, or both). The anemias are most likely due to inflammation affecting absorption, or gut damage, OR gastric autoimmunity flaring up (I make parietal cell antibodies, which produce hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factor). By the way, if you have any sort of anemia, it's a pretty big deal-breaker for healing, since you need healthy and abundant red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
My C-reactive protein was very high, and my HDL was at the top of the range (yes, you can have too much "good" cholesterol). My doctor informed me that these two together indicated inflammation and an active autoimmune situation (as opposed to inflammation from an acute infection). My D levels had also climbed too high, but I'm positive that that was due to some mega-dosing I'd done in Nov. and Dec. fighting off some colds. Oops. Time to back off on the D3...
My thyroid numbers weren't too remarkable- I had hoped they might show something obvious, but they didn't. However, inflammation can cause thyroid hormone resistance at the cellular level, so that could certainly be at play. Finally, my kidneys weren't quite doing their job right, which was kind of alarming. My doctor assured me that it wasn't at the level of actual pathology, but that we still needed to do something about it, so she recommended I do a 5 day kidney detox, which she informed me had worked well for many of her patients.
As you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled with these results, and they were a good nudge to get back on full Autoimmune Paleo again, which I did on New Year's Day. What do I think caused this frustrating flare? Honestly, I don't know for sure. My main guess is that something I re-introduced wasn't something I should've been eating. Potato is the main suspect, as I had tested positive for IgG antibodies to it last spring, but I hoped enough time and gut healing had passed to be able to tolerate it. Or maybe I encountered some gluten cross-contamination on vacation last Aug. but the symptoms took awhile to show up. I don't really get GI symptoms, so it can be hard to tell. I wish I knew the exact cause.
So, I immediately put myself back on methylcobalamin B12 lozenges (which I hadn't been taking), and added methylfolate to the mix to be on the safe side. My doc had me add a DHA fish oil supplement, as she was concerned that phospholipid antibodies, which can cause hair loss, could be acting up. Because they attack the cell membrane, DHA, which is found in the cell membrane is important and has a protective effect. Plus, it's also anti-inflammatory and important for the brain. I didn't want to supplement with iron, but I did start using a bit of organic blackstrap molasses, which so many people swear by for correcting anemia. I think it works so well due to all the other minerals/cofactors it contains. I also ramped up my gut health support.
My hair is still shedding somewhat, though not as severely, but I've actually been feeling pretty good this past week. My energy levels have been much more consistent and downright good, as opposed to just ok or off. My skin has cleared up a lot since being back on AIP. The best part is that my hubby decided to do it with me (he's THE. BEST.). He's even getting into some of the cooking! I've also lost the couple of pounds I gained from having Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas all in a row. Two pounds were no big deal, but it's still nice to have them gone. My sleep is still spotty, but I am having more good nights with 8 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep.
I've used this flare as an opportunity to step up my self care and commit to a 100 day "gong." A gong is a discipline that you commit to for 100 days and if you miss a day, you have to start over from the beginning. I chose qigong as my daily discipline, because I know that the more I do it, the more the health benefits will accumulate, especially in areas like energy, hormone balance, and sleep quality. I'm annoyed with myself that I wasn't doing it consistently before, but I'm also proud of myself that I'm making it happen. I'm now over a third of the way through my challenge and it's become a true part of my routine.
To keep myself on track, I made a list of all the things I'm doing right- I think it helps to remind yourself that you ARE doing a lot right- and also a list of things I could stand to do more of because I know I benefit from them. I look at this list daily, and it really helps. So, I'm on the upswing. I hope I keep improving. I'm going to be watching my symptoms like a hawk.
I will keep you posted.