Most of us have seasons in our lives when we are tired. Chronic fatigue from autoimmune symptoms is a whole other animal. I convinced myself for a LONG time that my fatigue was because I was in the middle of raising 5 teenagers, working a full time job, being active in church and managing our household and the finances. While that IS a lot, it wasn't the real reason I was so exhausted.
My first diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back in 2012. When I asked my doctor what that was he said, "it's what we give you when your body is exhausted but we don't know why". He told me to get more sleep and manage my stress. Okay then. During this time, my sleep was ALL messed up, I was wide awake when I should be sleeping and falling asleep at work. This is not a joke, that's exactly what I was doing. Until our vending machine started carrying those yummy Starbucks drinks.
I needed those drinks to function, or so I thought. Those wonky sleep patterns were my body's cry for help, but I didn't know I was supposed to be listening.
I thought it was perfectly normal to slug down caffeine at all hours of the day because that's what everyone around me was doing. It wasn't until I started going to a chiropractor who did a functional assessment of my sleep patterns that I realized I was in trouble. She told me Chronic Fatigue was the body's first warning sign that my body wasn't working right and needed some support. She ordered some food intolerances tests, did some bloodwork, and asked me to journal all my symptoms over the next week. Secretly, I knew I was in trouble but I told all my friends that I was just fine. But I wasn't, I was miserable.
When I returned to my chiropractor for my test results, I was AMAZED at what she told me - multiple food sensitivities, off the charts cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for allowing you to manage stress well), and something called SIBO. SIBO stands for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and it was why I wasn't sleeping, my stress levels were so high and the source of my food intolerances. She gave me hundreds of dollars in supplements and something called an Anti-Candida diet to follow for the next 21 days. While she meant well, I was more stressed and tired than ever. It was a LOT to manage and I just wasn't sure I'd be able to handle adding anything to my already packed schedule.
I complied because I didn't want to upset her (Umm, WHAT?!?) and it was the worst 21 days ever. I felt MORE tired and slept even less. Not to mention with the new diet and added stress, I was a grumpy monster, to say the least. I went back and had tests redone and wasn't surprised to learn that all my symptoms were worse. Good grief!
I went home and did some research on my own. At this point, I wasn't sleeping well, I was bloated all the time, I was only going poo once or twice a week and my moods were all over the place. Something had to change and had to change quickly. My research brought me to a bunch of blogs who ate this ancestral diet called Paleo. Eat like a caveman? Why?
They showed person after person who had healed from what I was dealing with and much worse just by adopting this lifestyle. I thought, Great!, this is the answer! So I bought all the books and listened to all the podcasts, liked all the Facebook pages, pinned all the pins on Pinterest, and dove headfirst into this new lifestyle. And it worked great! I lost 40 pounds, my husband and I both got off all our medications and I felt mostly normal again. I still had my digestion issues but was told I needed more gut support. I mentioned this to my chiropractor who ordered some HCL for me as well as telling me to drink aloe juice and eat LOTS of fat. And it mostly worked for awhile.
Flash forward a few years and all my symptoms started returning. I couldn't understand it because I was now on what's called the Paleo AIP diet. It's a highly restrictive diet that eliminates nearly all foods people are sensitive to and some that specifically cause joint pain. I didn't have my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis yet, but I was dealing with joint pain as well as still dealing with digestive issues. I went to California on vacation in December 2017 and had periods of extreme exhaustion and incredible pain in my feet. I powered through and then called my doctor when I returned.
On the day of the appointment, my middle finger on my right hand was so swollen, I thought it might be broken. When I showed her, she ordered an Xray and some bloodwork. She sent me home with a prescription for Celebrex and told me to rest and reduce my stress. Sound familiar? She called me a couple of days later and told me I tested positive for rheumatoid arthritis and set me up with an appointment with a rheumatologist in a couple of months. At this point, my joint pain was so bad it was keeping me up at night and made it nearly impossible to do my job (I worked at a computer typing all day long).
I met with my rheumatologist who confirmed my diagnosis and added Anemia of Chronic Disease. No wonder I'd been tired, my iron levels were in the toilet and I officially had an autoimmune diagnosis. He put me on prescription after prescription, but my body either rejected them with an allergic reaction or they flat out didn't work. I was SUPER frustrated.
At this point, I'd spent the last 7 years eliminating toxins, trying to eat well and exercise, took all manner of supplements, but nothing seemed to work. A friend referred me to a naturopathic doctor she'd been working with and I set up an appointment. We went over my medical history and what I was doing to support my body. She agreed that I was doing everything right and wanted to order some tests for Epstein Barr Virus or EBV. She called me the next day and asked how in the world I was even managing to function. She told me I had what's known as Chronic Epstein Barr Virus or CEBV and was currently in the middle of an active EBV episode. She gave me some herbal antivirals and suggested I do some reading on EBV diets and lifestyle changes. I had already done most of the lifestyle switches.
My research on EBV protocols led me to a man named Anthony Williams or the Medical Medium. I had a source for the supplements he suggested but I have to say his food protocols were unlike any I'd ever seen! Many people finding success with his plan come over from the Paleo, AIP, and Keto diets. Just like me. I started drinking 16 oz. of celery juice, followed my fresh lemon juice each morning. I ate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced my fats until lunchtime. Dinner was a small amount of animal protein and TONS of veggies and fruit. I started noticing that my energy was returning and my joint pain was diminishing too. Just the other day I got a full, uninterrupted 8 hour of deep sleep. I was so HAPPY!
If you've read this far, THANK YOU! If you talk to most people with chronic sleep issues, they'll tell you it didn't happen overnight and it doesn't always happen just to people who aren't taking care of themselves. If you'd like to learn more, click here and I'll send you my FREE guide to feeling more energetic! Thank you and be blessed.
This is part 1 in my series, "Living with RA". I wrote about pain and stress. Check them out and let me know what you think!