Health, Wellness, & Self Care

Answers

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In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Author Unknown

The Back Story

For as long as I can remember, I have been plagued with many physical difficulties that have often interfered with my keeping up with a “normal” lifestyle. Constant exhaustion and fatigue, muscle pain, “irritable bowel syndrome” symptoms (especially after eating), sleep problems, headaches, problems with appetite (varying from constant hunger to being completely unable to eat), and anxiety–to name a few.

My mother (who has been clinically diagnosed with severe fibromyalgia) raised me with a good knowledge of how the body works, good nutrition, and has had me in chiropractic and kinesiological care since I was a child. She took me to many different doctors (both “mainstream” medical doctors, and naturopathic doctors) over the years for my different conditions, and always got different answers. In 2006 after going through a very stressful time in my life, a natural doctor ran some rather unconventional tests, told me that I had the body of a 50-year-old, put me on a strict diet and so many supplements I took more capsules than I could count in a day. I found this to be helpful, but hard to live with. After a year of gagging down supplements and feeling like I couldn’t eat ANYTHING, I just decided I just couldn’t do it anymore. I took the “I’m just going to enjoy my life and deal with feeling like crap” approach because I felt like it was either all or nothing.

I maintained a fairly healthy stress level over the next few years (long distance relationship, new marriage, miscarriage, deployment, reintegration), but my symptoms were fairly manageable if I got enough rest. I came to the conclusion (after working full-time for six months during my husband’s first deployment), that I am physically unable to hold a job and remain sane, and I feel much better when I can be a stay-at-home wife.

In 2009, I started having a weird thing happen when I ate fresh fruit. My tongue and lips would get tingly and my ears and throat would get itchy. I learned later that this is a condition known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) which is related to pollen allergies and hay fever.

When I got pregnant with Ezra, my health problems got worse. I gained 100 pounds within a year and a half, my IBS symptoms greatly increased, my pain level during pregnancy was high, I couldn’t sleep well, and I became extremely lethargic because I was so uncomfortable. I figured that it was “just the pregnancy,” and that I would return to my “normal” once Ezra was born.

Ezra’s birth and my recovery proved to be much more difficult than I expected. It took me about 4-8 weeks to begin to feel remotely normal, but my stress level was still high as I was managing a newborn on top of preparing for my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan.

During the past year while my husband was gone, my IBS symptoms got even worse than they were during pregnancy, and rare was the day I wouldn’t end up running to the bathroom at some point. I began to notice trigger foods, like anything with tomato, blueberries, tuna–even french onion soup would make me sick! I was also struggling with sleep as Ezra still hasn’t figured out how to sleep through the night consistently (at 17 months!), and was often waking up every 2 hours or so. I was exhausted and sick a lot, but would still get up at random hours to talk to my husband, or just stay up late because the time after Ezra went to bed was sometimes the only “me time” I got in the day. I was running on fumes, and coffee.

Progress and Answers

I was seeing a chiropractor and having massage therapy done on my neck (for headaches) every few weeks. In doing some research on digestion during the summer months, I was reminded of the importance of probiotics and I learned that abdominal massage can be helpful for digestive problems. The therapists at my chiropractors office were not trained in abdominal massage, but he gave me the name of someone who could. Brenda is trained in massage and reflexology, but after looking over my medical history and my first treatment in August, she told me “I will continue to treat you, but you NEED to see a MEDICAL doctor for the problems that you are having. Your symptoms are consistent with Chron’s disease.”

Needless to say I was a little bit taken back. Here was a natural therapist telling me to see a medical doctor! I think I should! I saw my primary care medical practitioner and she ran a lot of tests – tested me for Chrons, blood in the stool, took blood work to test for Celiac disease and bacterial infections, and scheduled a CT scan of the abdomen for the end of September. When all the results were in, I was disheartened–medically there was absolutely nothing wrong with me!! While I was relieved to not have Chrons or Celiac, I still knew there was something more going on as my symptoms were getting worse. My PCM put in a referral to see a gastroenterologist.

Throughout the fall months, my seasonal/fall allergies were absolutely horrible. I had every allergy symptom in the book and was taking Benadryl and Claritin like it was candy, with little-to-no improvement.

The ragweed started dying, but my OAS symptoms were still there. And the weirdest thing of all is that I was starting to get OAS-like symptoms to foods other than fruits and vegetables! (Goldfish and cereal broke me out in a rash on my neck!)

When I saw the GI doctor in November, he told me that I just had “irritable bowel syndrome” and that the only other answer he could give me was to see an allergist. I really did NOT believe that I could have food allergies because with both the IBS and OAS symptoms it happen all of the time when I eat the trigger foods. Why can I eat these foods sometimes with no reaction and other times get a bad reaction? If I am allergic wouldn’t I get sick every time?

I got in to see the allergist in mid-December. She did skin testing on my back for all of the environmental/airborne allergens, as well as a handful of the most-allergy-prone foods. My reaction was horrific. I had a “Christmas tree reaction” (as in bright red skin and HUGE bumps) to ALL (as in every. single. one) of the trees, grasses, and weeds. I also tested positive for allergies to wheat, soy, corn, tomato, and egg, along with several other fruit and vegetables that have similar protein structures to certain pollens. I was pretty much in shock. I knew that allergies ran in my family, but I never imagined that allergies could be the problem.

Now what?

The recommended treatment for environmental allergens is allergy shots, which I will beginning this month. (It’s a very extensive process requiring shots twice a week for 4-6 months). For the food allergies, I am on an elimination diet. Since working to eliminate food allergens I have seen about an 80% decrease in the IBS and OAS symptoms. And when I DO get sick or have a reaction I can almost always pinpoint something that I’ve eaten where an allergen slipped in unnoticed! I am amazed.

Over the course of this process, in doing a lot of research into food sensitivities and digestive problems, I have become 100% convinced that this is further indication and proof that I suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as there is a well-known link between the two. While I have not been officially diagnosed, the symptoms are all there, as well as the family disposition.

All that being said, along with the elimination diet and allergy shots, I am working on lifestyle changes in an attempt to look and feel healthier. I’ve joined up at a local gym that has childcare in an attempt to be able to exercise more regularly. I can’t do much, but I can do some (walking, elliptical, and some machines).

Most wheat-free products are by default organic, so I’m finding myself shopping in the organic section at Kroger more and more. I am finding this “diet” much easier to deal with than the one I followed in 2006. Because of the rise of Celiac disease and food-allergy awareness there is a much broader selection of wheat-free products available! (Breads, waffles, pastas, cookies, cake and baking mixes, etc). Sometimes it’s hard to eliminate all of the allergens at the same time – for instance some of the wheat-free products still contain corn or soy, but I am trying to eliminate wheat the most, and then make sure that soy and corn are not main ingredients.

My over-all food plan is this: 1) eliminate or decrease food allergens 2) increase protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats 3) decrease processed foods, refined white sugars, and empty carbs 4) buy organic as much as our budget can afford and 5) increase water intake.

I’ve also become religious about daily taking 5htp (which is an amino acid that helps with sleep and a plethora of other fibro symptoms), calcium/magnesium supplements, and probiotics/digestive enzymes. While I know there are many supplements I have and could take (and do occasionally), I get stressed out thinking about a bunch of pills, so these are the ones I am most concerned about and feel like I can manage taking on a regular basis.

I realize that this has been lengthly and detailed, and if you are still reading then kudos to you. I have written this because many of my Facebook friends have expressed concern and asked about my new dietary restrictions. I’ve also been in the midst of a bad flareup over the past few weeks as far as the fatigue and fibro symptoms, so I wanted to explain that that’s normal for me. As I mentioned before, the past year I ran on fumes and now that Russ is home and able to help, my body is going into recuperation mode and letting itself down. I’m so incredibly exhausted most afternoon I am in tears, but I am just trying to rest as much as possible.

All of this has been difficult, but relieving. It’s much easier to rest without feeling guilty about just being lazy or selfish, unable to “keep up” with all of the “normal” women out there who can manage work, kids, Pinterest, and housework and still seem to flourish! I am who I am, and I am coming to a point of acceptance that my “normal” will just look different from most people’s.

33 Comments

  • Kristin Kraabel

    Girl I hear you on all this. But I was diagnosed with serious allergies to everything outside and 151 foods out of 153 foods when I was younger and went through all of that when I was a teenager. I’m working on losing some weight…but working 10 hour days and husband being gone and kids and living with parents and renting my house…uffda I need to buy a treadmill maybe. I eat GF always, but eliminate dairy often, have eaten raw diet, juiced (when I get a sick tummy) and vegan and vegetarian….so I say I’m a flexitarian I listen to my body 🙂

  • sarahlmalone

    I really related to this. I thought being grain free and doing gaps were the answer, as both helped me a lot. You should check out unblindmymind.org because it has changed my life and taken away my chronic fatigue and anxiety. She talks about autism, because the diet was invented to help that, but it is actually related to many illnesses. I can so relate to wanting to keep a nice home and have it all together. Now I’m free to do that, and it makes me want to tell others. Sorry for babbling!

    • Aprille

      Thank you so much. Going grain free has helped me immensely, but after a year and a half, a combination of finances, resources, and energy caused me to leave behind some of that. I am still completely wheat and gluten free, and try to keep “gluten free” products to a minimum, but I’ve added rice and corn back into my diet. *sigh* I really can feel the difference, it’s just SO MUCH HARDER to consume fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter especially on a limited grocery budget! I will definitely check out that link. I truly believe that there are links between diet and autism, ADHD, chronic fatigue, sensory processing disorder, and fibromyalgia (and I believe that they are all related on some level). Ultimately, I want to take my entire family grain free, but again – energy levels, low finances, resources, it’s just impossible right now. So I try to count the little victories like the fact that my boys will eat gluten free mac and cheese. 🙂

  • Stephanie Yax

    I can relate with your post. I have an autoimmune disorder (which it took years of Dr visits & feeling like I was a crazy hypochondriac before getting a diagnosis of) that makes it impossible for me to juggle a job & taking care of my family. I feel guilty because I see other (most) moms doing both & people
    don’t understand why I am home now that my kids are both in school full time.

    Because I stay home when I’m fatigued, people don’t see that side of me. Even when I explain that I have a disorder, I still look well enough to them to be working. They assume I’m lazy & that I could have nicer things if I just worked harder. But I work my tail off in the midst of palpable exhaustion.

    My entire existence is spent caring for every detail of my family’s life & yet I feel like I have a scarlet letter painted on my forehead. I’m tired of feeling ashamed for being who I am.

    • Aprille

      Stephanie…I just relate so much. We actually sent our son to preschool earlier this year and someone suggested that I could get a job now – and what they don’t realize is that we sent him as much for ME to get rest as we did for help him with socialization, behavior, and education. I ultimately wanted to homeschool but I am looking down the road wondering how it will even be possible and sometimes that makes me feel awfully lazy.

      Don’t be ashamed of who you are. You are definitely not alone.

      I hope you will take some time to browse around here. I’ve done a lot of writing on the topic of mothering tired, and you can read some of my top posts on that subject here: http://beautifulinhistime.com/mothering-through-fatigue/

  • Barbara W.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have many symptoms similar to yours, and life — especially motherhood — is a constant battle. Your story validates my struggles and gives me hope that there might be a reason for the pain/fatigue even if the tests for celiac, etc come back negative. Truthfully, I constantly suffer from really bad allergies, but I’ve never been tested for what is causing the symptoms. No matter what the tests say, I have another avenue to explore. So again, thank you for putting your story out there.

    • Aprille

      I’m glad it helped. Food allergies can be debilitating. I wrote this post four years ago and am still having a lot of digestive issues so will be seeing a GI doctor in the near future. It sucks. 🙁

  • Tammy

    I know what you mean about not having to feel like you’re just lazy or selfish and can’t keep up with “normal” people. I was finally diagnosed with Narcolepsy With Cataplexy in 2013 after fifteen years of falling asleep at the drop of a hat, not being able to sleep at night, forgetting words, and starting to dream before I was completely unconscious or waking to find myself trapped in my head unable to move a single muscle, even to open my eyes. I had to be careful not to laugh too hard because my knees, abs, and arms would “disappear” and I would sink to the floor like an unprofessional twit. When I was finally diagnosed, I felt so vindicated: I’m not lazy, I’m not spacey; my brain just has a broken regulator and thinks I need some REM while I’m sitting at my desk! I figured out how much of what medicine I needed each day to wake me up and combat “breakthrough sleepiness”, and I was normal! Yippee….great….Then we wanted to get pregnant. Goodbye wake up medicine, it was nice knowing you. I hibernated for the first four months of pregnancy; if I was awake, I was sitting very still and nibbling on crackers and ginger ale to keep from tossing my cookies. In my 3rd trimester I had convulsions from pre-eclampsia and was forbidden to drive for six months. (Hello, house I have been incarcerated in for the entire winter; I can’t bear to look at your walls in the light of day anymore xD) Now my daughter is eight months old and it’s hello medications, my old friends. But they aren’t working the same; one isn’t waking me up and the backup makes me so grouchy I’d rather stay home and not take it than be able to drive safely but scream at my daughter and snarl at my husband. I got here from a random “more like this” pin I was looking at, but I seriously need these posts! God sent me a blessing by showing me this blog!

    • Aprille

      I’m so glad you found my blog. Your challenges sound so uniquely hard and I wish I knew how to make it better for you. Glad you have found what works for you!

  • Rose

    Thank you so much for posting this! I know this is kind of an old post, but I was Googling “tired mom who has no time for making friends” and I found this. I can relate. I’ve been dealing with spine issues, scoliosis and lordosis. It weighs me down and makes me tired. I have a 2 year old son, who also got diagnosed with mild Autism and I’m a SAHM. I’m worn out, I wish I could do as much as other moms can do. My husband and family/other people just don’t get my back issues, they think I’m exaggerating and am just being lazy and making excuses. I’m 34, but I look like I’m in high school, so people can’t imagine how I really feel. I feel like an 80 year old at times. I also had some health issues like urinary retention after giving birth and had my gall bladder removed in April. I’m having teeth issues too. I’ve gone downhill after having my son. I deal with depression and anxiety. My marriage has been rough, and dealing with my controlling parents has not been easy. The more stress there is, the worse it is. Believe me I wish I could do more than I really can. I’ve have been praying a lot and keeping my faith during these rough times. Despite how hard things are, I’m so thankful for my son. So thanks so much for posting this, I really needed to read this! God Bless You!

    • Aprille

      Rose, thank you so much for your comment. I’ve talked with many other special needs parents, and this life is SO trying, for parents with no limitations themselves. When you have your own things you are dealing with…WOW it’s like 3 times harder! I hope you will check out our support group for special needs parents: facebook.com/specialneedssurivival (page) and facebook.com/groups/specialnneedssurvival (group). I post encouragement there both places throughout the week! <3

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