When I was born in the late 1970’s, I didn’t have the best start in life. I had jaundice (liver issues) and colic (gut issues). I was not a breast-fed baby and could not tolerate the infant formula I was given, so they switched me to a different kind that did not cause issues. Food sensitivities were already starting to appear.
I was always a sensitive kid, taking on and trying to fix everyone’s problems. Some would call me a “worry wart,” or a “mother hen” type. I felt I had to excel at school and in life. I was sure the more I could “control” my environment, the safer my world would be.
Because of my genetics and my A-Type personality, other health issues started to pop up during my pre-teen and teen years. A few examples were: Fifths disease, chicken pox at age 14, nearsightedness, being a “late bloomer,” crooked and very crowded teeth, depression and the most debilitating of all, abdominal PAIN!
This pain was on my right side and I could get it under control sometimes. But as I aged and the food industry became increasingly processed, it became more difficult to avoid the pain. Especially since I was a child, and not able to control my food intake. Parents, relatives and school did that for me. However, I instinctively knew with the first bite of food if I was going to get sick. I would then try to avoid those foods. Others began to say I was a picky eater, had an eating disorder, or “that it was all in my head.”
The pain was intense! It felt like someone was pouring battery acid into my intestines. I usually was unable to sleep at night, but I would get up and go to school the next day, with a sore stomach, feeling like a truck ran over me. My sides would get very sore from the attack, and be tender for a day or two.
I noticed the pain was worse with foods that had a lot of chemicals, preservatives, or were processed and greasy / fatty foods. Big triggers for me were MSG and Canola oil. Being a child in the 80’s most of the foods I ate were processed. (Cereal, Pop-tarts, waffles, juices, tea, cookies, candy, chips, pretzels, lunchmeat, PB & J etc.)
It became more difficult to predict which foods would make me sick. Not only food affected me, but so did my emotional state. As a teen and a menstruating woman this put me in a tail spin. One day a particular food would be OK, and the next day it wouldn’t. For instance, when I was in a stressful situation, such as the first day of school, regardless of what I ate, I would be guaranteed to be in pain by the time I got home from school. Choral concerts, oral speeches, any stressful situation aggravated my stomach.
Despite everything, I graduated with honors, missing very few days of school. I started working right away at a local company doing customer service and accounting work. I worked for two years, saved up for a house and got married at the age of 20. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t do well with change or stress. With the responsibility of owning a home, taking care of household chores, working, and learning to be a wife, I had my first Crohn’s flare within the first year of marriage. But I didn’t know it at the time.
My body began to deteriorate, strange symptoms such as rashes, ring worm, pink eye, followed by bloody diarrhea appeared as my immune system continued to weaken. I was so exhausted, I had to leave my job. I would end up having multiple bowel movements a day. I had a fever of 103 for 6 months. I was white as a ghost, and losing weight fast. After taking the medications the doctors gave me, I had even more gut pain and vomiting. I was down to 88 pounds and thought I was going to die. I told my husband of just over a year, to remarry once I passed away. I remember feeling so helpless, hitting rock bottom, and praying. Nothing the doctors were doing was helping! I went through so much in a 9 month period that I joked how I didn’t even have a baby to show for it. After seeing many doctors, having many tests, and taking prescriptions, I was told I have Crohn’s Disease, which is an Irritable Bowel Disease. But in my heart, I felt like that was just a label to put on my condition since the doctors couldn’t make a concrete diagnosis. I never felt Crohn’s Disease was the root of my health problems.
First, I was administered a 12 pill regiment of Asacol, which did nothing. Then I was given a Remicade infusion, which was new at the time, unaware of the side effects. But the only other option was steroids and the risks that accompany them. After my Crohn’s was “under control,” I was then administered a maintenance dose of Imuran, which is an immune-suppressing drug. That left me susceptible to things like infections and cancer. All the tests, doctors, and meds were expensive, and you know what? I still had pain and diarrhea! When the severe abdominal pains would come, I would try to find a comfortable position but couldn’t. During those dark times, I knew that if I didn’t take control of my health, that one day this would kill me.
I regained enough strength to function, but not enough to return to work. Three years later I heard about Jordan Rubin’s story, saw him on TV, and read his book, “The Maker’s Diet,” I decided to start his diet January 1, 2005. What did I have to lose after all? Could changing my diet help? The doctors said food had nothing to do with Crohn’s.
I purged my entire kitchen of all the “bad” foods and filled it up with good healthy foods and embraced the entire process wholeheartedly….for six days. At day six I was detoxing, and felt really sick. I did not want to continue eating this way. Who knew eating healthy food and stopping the bad food would leave you curled up on the couch in the fetal position like a drug addict coming clean?! I begged my husband for chocolate, but he refused and helped me get through it. After the reboot to my system, food tasted better and brighter. Oranges were so sweet they tasted like sugar. I lost 6 pounds in one week, and best of all I HAD SOLID BOWEL MOVEMENTS once again!! I began to realize the power food has in healing or harming our bodies, and I never looked back. I do not miss the old way of eating or how it made me feel.
I continued on my journey as I’ve not been able to get rid of my pain completely. I have to constantly watch what I eat and keep my emotions in check. This illness has taught me so much about myself. Our bodies know what they want and need to heal, we just have to stop and listen! The body will whisper at first, but if we do not pay attention, it will get louder, until we must stop and address our eating habits and lifestyle. Our bodies want us to be balanced, healthy and alive.
In 2011 I transitioned my diet to the Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP) to help autoimmune issues. I was able to control my inflammation and wean off (very slowly) all of my medications. I now treat my body naturally with foods, supplements and lifestyle modifications. I’ve even been able to do this under some very stressful life changing situations. All the while I kept inflammation under control, had no diarrhea and no fevers!
Now that I’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s an autoimmune condition that sets me up for contracting other autoimmune conditions. For me this has manifested as Hashimotos, an underactive thyroid disease.
For me, healing from Hashimotos has proven to be much more difficult then healing from Crohn’s. Your thyroid controls EVERY cell in your body. I suffered from many symptoms of low thyroid, such as: Insomnia, (despite being exhausted), dry skin and eyes, irregular periods, hair loss, heart palpitations, an enlarged thyroid gland with nodules-which makes it hard to swallow at times, hand / muscle tremors, low body temp, cold hands and feet, cold weather intolerance, estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue.
I have a fine line to walk as Crohn’s seems to require one diet, and for me it seems, my thyroid wants a different diet. Poor gut health affects the thyroid, and low thyroid affects gut health. We have to look at our bodies as a whole working unit, not just individual body parts. We are physical, emotional, spiritual, and energetic beings. Hashimotos has taught me we are all unique and need to adjust our diets at different times in our life. Crohn’s has taught me to give up on being perfect. I have to do what I can when I am able and not use up all my energy to the point of exhaustion.
I’ve learned so much from my illnesses and I want to help others get their health back, or better yet, to prevent diseases in the first place. Health and healing is a life long journey, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Have you also lost your health? I would love to help you get it back!
Learn about others I have helped on their health journey here: https://amandagoodwin.biz/testimony/
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If you’re like I used to be, you have likely been struggling to find the right doctor, the right tests, understand lab ranges, and the best medications for your body. You’ve likely tried a number of diets and strategies that haven’t worked.
I know how frustrating this can be, and how confusing it is to try to make sense of all the conflicting information out there.
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Thank you for reading my story!