My Health Update FOR 2021

Health Update
My favourite beach in New Zealand (and where I spent summer holidays as a child)
My Health Update: What My AIP WAY OF LIFE LOOKS LIKE in 2021, in my eighth year ON THIS CRAZY RIDE
It’s kinda’ hard to fathom but this is my eighth year of following this AIP way of life. I receive emails asking FOR A HEALTH UPDATE, after following the AIP framework for a lot longer than I ever could have imagined when I first began. Today’s post is inspired by my most recent enquiry.

Hi there,

I was reading your account of your gut dysbiosis and then noted the article was written in 2014.  Just wondering how you are doing now?

Were you successful in winning back your microbiome?  I’d love to hear.

Many thanks,
Sara

Sara, this post is for you.


If you had told me back when I started the elimination phase of the AIP that it would still form the roadmap for my health caper in 2021, I would have thought you were barking. Barking mad, that is. Never in my wildest imaginings would I have guessed that I would eventually become a mentor in this space.

But, along with my Wheel of Health, the AIP does still form the basis of my health choices. Happily so. And, I remain so very grateful that I stumbled upon The Paleo Mom and the Autoimmune Protocol framework all those years ago.

I have written and spoken extensively about my health ‘stuff’ and what motivated me to take the first step in my AIP way of life.

IN A NUTSHELL, HERE’S WHERE I WAS AT When I began my AIP caper:
  • I had recently self-diagnosed my 20+ years of horribly painful and shameful skin issues as stage-II Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) – more on that here. At the time, I had no idea that the foods I ate might have something to do with my hideous disease.
  • My HS caused me to be hugely self-conscious about my body. It made me feel unclean. My self-esteem suffered.
  • My Vitamin D levels were alarmingly low
  • Blastocystis Hominis (an intestinal parasite) was an issue
  • At the time I started the elimination phase of the AIP, I was unaware that I would require periodontal surgery due to my gum disease. Despite my regular brushing and flossing, I was facing the very real chance of losing teeth.
  • With a strong family history of colorectal cancer and abnormal test results, I was undergoing annual colonoscopies.
  • A full night’s sleep was so far from my reality I had forgotten what it looked like. I suffered terribly from insomnia.
  • I was a complete stress-head. I worried about my level of worrying.
Health Update

And HERE’S WHERE I’M AT NOW (Based on that list!)

  • My HS is almost completely in remission. This in itself is life-changing in a way that only an HS sufferer could ever really understand. It’s not gone. If I inadvertently eat something I shouldn’t, or if my sleep and stress management rituals fall too far behind, my body reminds me that my HS is waiting to come back. It is well under control.
  • My Vitamin D levels are in a much better place and I monitor them regularly.
  • I actually addressed the Blastocystis Hominis before I started AIP. To be honest, that was a bit of a mission. I was resistant to using antibiotics unless I absolutely had to, so I began with a fairly aggressive herbal protocol. It didn’t work. They are resistant wee buggers. As a result, I went for an – at the time – quite a cutting-edge cocktail of antibiotics via colonoscopy. The parasite left the building.
  • I had my periodontal surgery (Not recommended if it can be avoided. Look after your gums) and my gum health is significantly improved.
  • I credit my change in diet and lifestyle with improving my bowel health to the extent that I now only have a colonoscopy every five years. Without my family history, it would be ten years. My last colonoscopy showed a ‘squeaky clean’ colon!
  • My sleep is much improved. I’m a complete nanna about my bedtime and guard my sleep ritual like a trojan.
  • I continue to experiment with stress management practices. I’m back at the gym and have recently started learning Qi Gong. Meditation and breathwork are daily fixtures.
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What does my AIP way of life look like now?

No health update would be complete without detailing where I’m at now…

In my mentoring practise with clients, and when it comes to my own health ‘stuff’, I am fond of asking three questions:-

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What’s tricky?

Back in my corporate days, I had a wonderful boss who would ask me this in our weekly catch-up sessions together. I find it a very helpful tool in helping to get clear on what my priorities are at any giving time.

What’s working?

Compared to where I was when I started, LOTS is working!

My Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), the reason I began this wild ride all those years ago, is almost completely in remission. When my HS flares now, I know it’s because some aspect of my AIP way of life is out of balance.

But there is so much else that is working. This AIP caper has been such a force for good in my life.

community

Without question, one of the biggest side benefits of my AIP ‘stuff’ has been the wonderful community of – let’s face it – mainly women who have become such an important part of my life.

It is something I never imagined at the beginning of my AIP adventure.

It started with my early adopter AIP blogging buddies – people like Rory, Kirstie,  Petra (formerly of BiohackU), Emma (formerly of The Bacon Mum, and then with me at Conscious Autoimmunity), Mickey, Eileen, Erin, Kate, the beautiful Martine, Sophie, Jo, Stephanie, and Catharina – to name but a few. It grew in 2016 with the start of all my lovely  AIP Resetters. And, then in late 2018, AIP Mentorship brought my #bloodyfabulous crew of seriously fabulous connection. I even got to meet some in New York.

And, the woman who started it all for me, and who has become a friend, the wonderful Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom, herself.

I LOVE the AIP community. I really, really do.

purpose

I worked in strategic HR for over 20 years before becoming an AIP Mentor and coach. Unsurprising that words like PURPOSE and VALUES and GOALS are like catnip to me, then.

If the Autoimmune Protocol is my WHAT I need to do to improve my health, my Wheel of Health gives me the tool to prioritise HOW I need to do it (because I can’t do it all at once). And my purpose? My purpose is my WHY.

All of this gives me a process and helps me to stay focused as I continue to chip away at my personal health ‘stuff’. And, it works for me to continue to set myself incremental goals towards improvement.

RITUALS

Those incremental goals I refer to are one of the big reasons I’m such a fan of creating RITUALS. More than healthy habits or routines, my rituals allow me to very intentionally add diet and lifestyle choices that serve me (and that also means I continue to crowd out the ‘stuff’ that doesn’t).

A good example of this is my MORNING RITUAL. To be honest, I think it’s one of my better life decisions. My morning ritual sets me up for the day, and it gives me the space to tick a lot of things off my health ‘to-do’ list, too – before the outside world gains entry.

Another ritual that serves me very well is guarding my sleep like a ninja. I’m a bit of a zealot about honouring my nanna-like bedtime. I have a simple evening ritual that works for me and I’m convinced this has been a game-changer in my health caper.

NUTRIENT DENSITY

Even though I can always add more NUTRIENT DENSITY, it remains something that is working. If I compare the way David and I eat – and live! – now to eight years ago – WOWSER! I am so much more aware of what I put in my mouth, and I actively seek out healthier choices.

What’s not working
PURPOSE + NUTRIENT DENSITY)

There is a sense for me that I haven’t got to the root cause of some of my health ‘stuff. And yes, this stuff takes time! I did an awful lot of investigative work in the early stages of my AIP caper. I worked hard on fixing my gut. I eradicated parasites. I identified MTHFR and Pyrroles as issues. Fermentation became a hobby that I still enjoy.

And then, I needed a breather – from all the navel-gazing and the expense and the supplement popping. To be honest, I got a bit over myself. For the past couple of years, this deep-diving has taken a bit of a back seat to other goals.

Late last year, I started working with a new integrative doctor (I’m seeing Dr Mark Donohoe. He’s a great listener!) One of the primary reasons for seeking out Dr Mark is that I continue to struggle with weight loss – despite all my health initiatives.

Because this ‘stuff’ takes time, we are still very much at the exploratory stage. But, I have learned that I am positive for both the Celiac gene (I have been completely gluten-free since 2013. It is a major trigger for my HS) and I have mild Thyroiditis. I am currently experimenting with treating the Thyroiditis with iodine and selenium supplementation.

Health Update

I have undertaken a fairly rigorous mucosal tolerance protocol (a variation on the original devised by Dr Michael Ash). Despite eating more apples than Johnny Appleseed – as a vehicle for some heavy-hitting probiotics, I didn’t notice any gut symptoms. Thank you, AIP!

Perhaps more alarming for me is evidence of a compromised immune response as shown by active Epstein-Barr virus and low T-cell response. This remains a bit of a mystery (but more tests are coming.) Clearly, working on understanding this better is a priority.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Honestly? My stress management practice remains a work in progress. I never realised just how poorly I managed stress in my pre-AIP days. Despite experimenting with a number of strategies to reduce my stress levels and increase my resilience, I know in my heart of hearts that this still requires attention. It seems this is a bit of an Achilles heel for me.

One of the most obvious measures I have that stress is still an issue for me is that I am a prodigious nighttime teeth grinder. It is a chronic issue for me. And by chronic, I mean I cracked two molars a couple of years ago because of my nocturnal habit. I now wear a very sexy mouth-guard and I have been working with a craniosacral therapist to ‘crack’ (<– ha!) this habit but I’d like to work even more pro-actively about preventing further expensive dentist visits.

I’m better at setting an intention of GRACE and EASE and pausing regularly to ask myself what I need (<– this is a recent addition to my morning ritual), but there’s still work to be done!

(Here comes the vulnerable, baring my underbelly bit –>)  For me, wrapped up in this stress ‘stuff’ is a whole lot of residual shame and body issues from HS-related messaging that just don’t go away overnight when you’ve suffered from such a hideous affliction for so long. I’m increasingly aware of the need to dig deeper into this.

In 2021. I’m committed to having a year focused on self-compassion when it comes to my personal health.  That includes working on some of these unhelpful, stress-inducing stories I tell myself and, frankly, being a little kinder to myself.

I have a tendency to be all gung-ho about my goals. This year is very much about a more measured and gentle approach. Well, that’s the intention!

What’s tricky?

Same shizzle. Different day.

RITUALS

Sitting firmly under the ‘tricky rituals that require more work umbrella’ for me is movement. As in, I still need to do more. And so I shall.

About three years into my AIP caper, my adrenals packed it in. BIG time. (I refer you back to my challenges with stress management!) My lovely doctor (Dr Kate Norris) advised that I cancel the gym membership and stop my twice-weekly kick-boxing sessions with my personal trainer. And so I did, despite my love of vigorous boxing sessions with Big Phil. Initially, this was fine because I have a gorgeous pup who loves nothing more than to go out on walks. But she has aged in the last wee while – she’s deaf and her sight is going. Those walks resemble dawdles now…

Last year, I found myself a wonderful exercise physiologist. I started out working with the lovely Rachel from ENVY twice a week, and then increased that to three times. I also found a delightful Qi Gong teacher and I’m enjoying weekly sessions with her, too.

I’m going to continue experimenting with my movement in 2021.

What’s also tricky for me is that I’m easily distracted! I want to do ALL THE THINGS! It’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan of breaking things down into small, manageable pieces. It helps me to manage my own expectations and not try to everything at once. NEWS FLASH – you can’t. You’re human.

I’m human! That means I’m not perfect.  Creepage happens. Even after all this time following an AIP way of life. As well as facilitating AIP Reset, I undertake my own personal ‘Resets’, too. I do this two or three times a year. Accountability and camaraderie make a huge difference in achieving health goals. It’s one of the reasons I love my Mentorship crew so much.

AS MUCH AS WE WANT TO, Being human means NONE OF US CAN DO everything AT ONCE. (And, I really want to do everything. NOW!) This is where my Wheel of Health is helpful. EACH month I TAKE TIME TO ASSESS WHERE I’M AT and set myself short term TWEAKS to work on.
Let’s see what 2021 will bring!
Health Update

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