My personal journey back to health
The short version
I developed a chronic, inflammatory and painful disease in a time of my life when I did basically everything wrong. Doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t help me. I finally got a diagnosis but there was no effective treatment. Eventually I discovered what enormous impact changing my diet had on my symptoms. I adopted a low carb diet, and later a strict version of the paleo diet. I hired an expert on chronic disease who found more factors contributing to my pain. They were treated and now I’m almost completely symptom-free. Now I work as a specialized advisor, helping others make the same journey I did.
The long version
I started noticing symptoms at a time when I made every mistake possible in the way I lived my life. My diet had far too much grains, carbs, sugar and dairy; wheat was my largest energy source and I had unknowingly adopted a diet consisting almost entirely of inflammatory foods. I was stressed, slept poorly, completely ignored any notion of circadian rhythms, and spent far too little time in the sun and in nature. I exercised, but not regularly. I was completely out of balance but not able to see it. I was probably severely malnourished and I assume my vitamin D levels were dangerously low. The warning signs had been there for years, as I did present with a lot of weird symptoms that I nonetheless happily ignored. However, another less ignorable symptom appeared: an unusual type of systemic pain.
My pain got slowly worse and I went from doctor to doctor, all of them stumped by my symptoms. Tests usually revealed nothing, but it was just standard blood work. Sometimes a test would come back outside normal range, but effort was not made to find out why. Referrals to specialists were sent back as they didn’t want to investigate me. I was devastated and felt mistrusted and all alone.
Finally, a former boss and professor of mine figured it out. Later I got that diagnosis confirmed by an American M.D. and researcher – the preeminent world expert on my disease. Despite finally having a name for my condition no one could help me with my symptoms. Some doctors still told me my condition did not exist. No drug helped, except very high levels of prednisone, which I didn’t want to continue taking due to the risk of side-effects. I kept looking for the one thing that might fix me. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of doctors, tried 44 different drugs, treatments and supplements, of which none except prednisone made the slightest difference. I don’t even want to think about how much money this has cost me. On the other hand it’s given me the valuable insight that the placebo effect does not work on me, and when something actually works, it’s the real deal.
One summer, in the hope of losing a few pounds, I tried a low-carb diet. To my surprise my pain subsided rapidly and significantly. And every time I tried eating sugar and carbs, my pain grew worse again. This made me hopeful! If my symptoms could get better or worse, perhaps they could go away completely? I began to understand the many ways sugar can ruin your health. This was about two years after my disease onset and after I went on the low-carb diet my symptoms stopped progressing as fast. I was lucky enough never to develop debilitating pain and could continue working.
Eventually my own research led me to the conclusion that my condition must be inflammatory, and possibly autoimmune. I kept hearing that people with autoimmune diseases could make their symptoms less severe by excluding foods from their diet, such as dairy and grains. I loved milk, yoghurt, and cheese and after a long time of denial I reluctantly sat down and googled it. I found information on the paleo diet and in particular a version of it designed for people with autoimmune disease. After just a few days on this diet I could feel the soothing effect. My inflammation levels were down. And most of my other symptoms disappeared completely (or improved tremendously). Finally, the worry I had felt concerning my condition – not knowing how bad things would get – was replaced by hope, curiosity and a drive to learn more.
When I had my second child my stress levels shot through the roof and my lack of time got so severe that it was hard to follow my strict diet. My symptoms returned. However, by now I had learned a lot about inflammatory conditions and knew that there often was a combination of things causing them. I found a complementary practitioner whose skills impressed me and I decided to hire him. His consultations were held using video chat and it worked perfectly well. He asked all the right questions and his extensive knowledge and broad approach made him earn my trust immediately. He found out about a number of things causing my high level of inflammation. He treated me and again the effect was quick and dramatic. I’m now almost completely symptom free and have to pinch my arm sometimes (it doesn’t even hurt anymore like it used to). I aspire to a low carb paleo diet but seem to be able to stray mostly without consequences. I don’t have to do everything right – just enough to keep my bucket from overflowing.
On this journey I’ve not just learnt about the importance of diet, lifestyle, toxins and infections for the emergence of inflammatory diseases, but also studied a large number of both standard and experimental methods to treat many kinds of chronic disease. When on parental leave after defending my thesis I decided that I wanted to help others regain their health from diseases often considered incurable. My calling has been fueled by both my own experiences and the many, many other success stories I’ve come across,. Sometimes, people say they were prepared to take their own life because of their misery before they – at the last moment – found that healing was possible. My conviction is also strengthened by the fact that my advice has helped people around me that I care about. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t look for someone to hire earlier, someone with the ability to both take a step back and look closely, see the person as a whole and understand that everything has a cause. I aspire to be that person for others.