Can Paleo Help With Lupus?
This guest post is written by Cindy Holder Poole about her own experience with lupus.
Sixteen years ago I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. My life changed in ways I would never have imagined.
While I had been fairly healthy and athletic during my younger years I had found myself working too much, sleeping too little, and about to embark on a downward spiral that ended many of my hopes and dreams.
I was told to avoid sunlight and rest when tired. I was told diet wouldn’t help but to watch my weight. I was also told to avoid stress which was difficult since I worked as an air traffic control specialist at Los Angeles Air Traffic Control Center. Shortly after my diagnosis I gave birth to my second child and then found out that my oldest son had a form of muscular dystrophy. Stress just kept coming at me! I gained weight and my disease progressively became worse. Eventually it became difficult to even walk.
My doctor referred me to a cardiologist to check out some new and worrisome symptoms. The cardiologist looked me in the eye and said that if I didn’t make some changes that I would not live a long life. I now had metabolic syndrome, was prediabetic while barely forty years old.
My rheumatologist asked me if I was able to handle all my duties as Mom to a handicapped son and an infant, as a wife, and as an air traffic controller. With tears in my eyes I finally admitted that I couldn’t handle all of my roles anymore. The decision was made for me to take a medical retirement. That added to my stress, believe it or not. I loved my job so very much but with the shift work, the massive amounts of overtime that I worked, I knew it was time for a change.
My husband encouraged me to begin walking. Our neighborhood has a small hill at one end, and I remember being unable to make it up that hill. I cried with frustration and pain but my husband encouraged me to just take one more step, then rest, then try one more step. Eventually I built up to walking a few miles a day which included ascending that abominable hill with each mile loop! (I sprint up that hill now!) I was still having lupus issues, however, and would be very stiff and achy after my walks.
A few years ago, I turned to a more holistic doctor who advised me to give the Paleo diet with the autoimmune protocol a try. I didn’t take that news very well at all! Give up sugar? NO!!! Give up bread?? Was he crazy??!! No more beans, tomatoes or chiles? Absolutely NOT!! I live in Southern California where those are the staples of everyone’s diet!
I resisted his advice but began to devour everything I could read about the Paleo way of eating. I was training at Just 1 Fitness with Dexter Bowen, and he encouraged me to listen to the good doctor and give the Paleo diet with autoimmune protocol an honest try. After all my research and with the encouragement of Dexter, I finally relented.
After three months of living a Paleo lifestyle, my lupus doctor asked what I was doing differently? He said whatever the changes were that they were working and he, after twelve years of the same medications, would cut my meds in half. But that wasn’t my breakthrough moment.
My breakthrough moment came last summer while at Huntington Beach with a group of young families from my husband’s work. My newly adopted five-year-old son was running along the water and I was able to sprint to keep up with him. I hadn’t been able to run and play like that with my middle son. I was too sick with lupus and with an unhealthy lifestyle to enjoy his early childhood. The sudden realization that I was RUNNING with my child brought me up short.
With tears in my eyes I realized I was going to live a long and happy life! I will be fifty soon and I feel better and am healthier and happier than I ever remember.
I wish I could say that was enough to make me a strict follower of the Paleo way of eating but I do have weak moments. I have learned to listen to my body. I feel better when I eat Paleo. I look better when I workout and maintain a healthy weight. And stress isn’t so stressful with a full night’s sleep and a good workout the next morning!
I will always struggle with my cravings for certain things, but I keep moving forward because life any other way isn’t a life!!