AIP Stories of Recovery is a success story series about regular people from the Autoimmune Protocol community who are changing their lives using the protocol. Each month a new person is featured and readers have the opportunity to discover all the different health challenges that are being overcome by folks just like themselves on the same path. At Autoimmune Paleo we hope you’ll be inspired by, empathize with, and learn from these stories. If you are interested in sharing your story, please let us know by filling out our interest form.
Despite receiving a diagnosis relatively fast, Astrid was not spared the severe pain and discomfort that ulcerative colitis can bring. Having watched her mother manage a chronic illness using pharmaceuticals for years, Astrid knew from the beginning that she wanted to approach it a different way. That’s when she went looking for answers and stumbled upon AIP.
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, which is part of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) family, in 2013. Despite the on and off dragged out discomforts I had been experiencing before the officially diagnosis, I still feel I was one of the lucky ones who got some answers pretty fast.
When this all happened, I was going through some really stressful times, moving our retail business of 15 years. Even though the new location was just down the street. The built up stress finally broke my body down. The first sign I noticed that something wasn’t right was the increased trips to the bathroom, then when the frequency increased and I was passing liquid stools, I went to my GP for help.
My GP is the non-alarming type, which I appreciated for many years; he has always tried to calm my anxious nature, but his usual approach of “don’t panic…this should pass” pushed me to dive deeper into my own wellness. After about a month of back and forth office visits, I knew I needed to take things up a notch. By then I was passing bloody stool, so I went to the ER to get some more tests done. I got a scope several days later and confirmed my health condition.
Describe what the lowest point on your health journey was like.
Honestly, since I gratefully got into remission last fall (2017), it’s really quite hard to think back to my lowest point. It almost felt like a dream because I was so, so sick compared to the person I am today. I used to sleep 18 hours a day, run to the bathroom 12 times on average, I even brought my pillow to the bathroom so I could sleep on the toilet. I had bloody diarrhea with dull aching pain that resembled active labour, except I knew there was no bundle of joy waiting to meet me. Rapid weight loss, 20 pounds. within 2 months was scary. I’ve always had “meat on my bones” so watching the sudden drop in weight was even more dramatic. There was a period, during my first flare where I lost a pound a day. I remember how uncomfortable it was to lie in the bathroom because I was so bony. I purposely avoided my reflection in the mirror after I undressed.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution? Basically, what was the tipping point?
My tipping point… when my GI (gastroenterologist), at that time, presented my “only” option to manage the disease was lifelong meds. See, my mother had a chronic illness and for years I watched her lining up her pills to take. I witnessed how many side effects she suffered from the longterm pharmaceutical use. Then there’re my children… the fear of becoming a burden to them and worse, not seeing them grow up, was probably the biggest wake up call I got to start taking action.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
My first step in my healing plan was a ton of research, I started going gluten-free, but removing grains showed the first sign of improvement. As I browsed through the internet, I found a few people with IBD who had success following a Paleo diet. I was pretty overwhelmed and filled with doubt that it would work for me. But something inside me sparked up, so I began my journey there. I was happy to feel less digestive symptoms, less trips to the bathroom.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
The first Paleo cookbook I got my hands on was Against all Grain. Then I read through Robb Wolf’s UC remission story and became more encouraged. Eventually I found AIP through the Instagram account belonging to the late Martine Partridge, @Eat_Heal_Thrive. She injected in me with hope, knowledge and possibilities. My research led me to many trial blazer researchers/educators/medical professionals like Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Dr. Terry Wahls and Dr. Jason Fung just to name a few.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
Yes, I was prescribed with asacol and salofolk suppositories as longterm management medication which I rejected. I did agree on a 5-week course of prednisone after my first big flare, that was before I had any directions or protocols to follow, which bought me time to hash out my plan.
My choice to try “food as medicine” came from watching the health of my type-2 diabetes mother deteriorate, from being her caregiver for decades, from the helplessness I felt not being able to help her. But with my body, I had a choice to test things out, listen to it for directions. I also believe that getting to the root cause is more important than trying to “patch” things up so most allopathic medicine aims to do, so I thought I’d give my alternative method a try and I’m sure glad I did.
It can seem like our lives are consumed by a chronic illness, but there is so much beyond those struggles. What brings you true joy right now?
I’ve heard many people, who’ve hit rock bottom and bounced back, say this “being sick was a blessing in disguise”. Without all the soul searching and self discovery, I wouldn’t be the person I’ve grown to be today. My true joy now is becoming an example of survivorship from a chronic illness; though not terminal, UC was definitely debilitating.
I’m ecstatic to have found my voice, to have built the confidence to really engage with my community, to share wellness tips and tools, to recognize that there are countless people out there who can benefit from hearing about my journey. Today, my passion is making connections, whether it be connecting with likeminded new friends, connecting people with people for support or connecting people with resources like Autoimmune Wellness <3. Pouring back into my wellness community with the encouraging message that when it comes to our own health, there are options, and definitely hope.
Would you like to share your Story of Recovery? Let us know by filling out our interest form.