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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.
Ryan has been managing uveitis, a rare autoimmune condition that affects his eyes, for more than 10 years. It came on suddenly and severely, and Ryan was told to manage it with daily steroid use. This of course had side effects and when his vision started to deteriorate, Ryan decided to explore other options. After experimenting with various elimination and adrenal-balancing diets, his labs showed great improvement and he was able to come off steroids completely.
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
In 2010 I had sudden and severe eye inflammation in my right eye. I was diagnosed with uveitis, a sight-threatening autoimmune condition. After a year it appeared in both eyes. I was tested for every known condition that could cause it and was diagnosed as idiopathic-unknown cause but was told it’s an autoimmune condition.
As a complication of the inflammation I also had macular edema (swelling). Essentially this was the same inflammation that also affected different parts of my eyes.
The treatment (steroids) caused two other of the leading causes of vision loss in me, cataracts and glaucoma. I’ve had six eye surgeries including cataracts removed from both eyes before I was 30.
Describe what the lowest point on your health journey was like.
The fear that I might lose my eye sight was the worst. Over the last 10 years one of my eyes was usually not doing very good. I spent the majority of the time using one eye to read with. I nearly lost my vision in both eyes. Not knowing if I’d get to see my kids grow up. The doctors were treating it with steroids and there were times when it was managed quite well until it would flare up again.
I had three of the most common conditions that cause vision loss with no idea why and the only thing that helped were steroids that had terrible side effects. It was beyond frustrating trying to balance the right amount of steroids that helped without making the other conditions worse. I had multiple doctors that were often conflicting with each other.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution? Basically, what was the tipping point?
Deep down I knew we were made to heal. It’s widely known that autoimmune conditions need an environmental component to trigger them. I’m not a victim and took ownership of the idea that whatever caused my condition may in some part be my responsibility and I owe it to myself to find what it is.
I started looking for solutions immediately. The very first question I asked my doctor was if diet could impact it. He of course immediately said no as if it was the most ridiculous thing I could’ve asked. I spent 10 years researching autoimmune conditions, diet, and nutrition.
I had read countless stories and listened to podcasts about others healing from autoimmune diseases with diet. I knew it was possible. The biggest catalyst was learning about cortisol. It puzzled me how I could be dependent on a synthetic version of a hormone I made every day. That’s when I learned about how our diet impacts our cortisol levels. This was a game changer.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
The earliest change I made was cutting out processed foods/sugars/gluten. I still had issues but they weren’t quite as severe after making this change. The biggest difference for me was adopting an approach that is a hybrid of paleo, AIP, carnivore and adrenal reset diet.
January 2020 I went on what’s called a lion diet. It’s the most restrictive diet I know of. It’s essentially beef, salt and water. I did it for 30 days and frankly felt horrible. I added in some good slow carbs and have been adding in more carbs slowly over the last year. I also do carb cycling for cortisol health.
My condition was actually very well managed at that time so it’s hard to tell exactly how long it took. I was managed with daily steroids. I needed 4 drops per day and more if I was flaring. Around 30-60 days after I started the elimination diet I felt like my sight was better but thought it might’ve been wishful thinking.
At my next follow up I had zero signs of inflammation or swelling of the macula, which I had that previous October. My doctor said it was the best my eye has looked over the last 10 years. When I got that report I knew my diet was working. I started tapering off the steroids. Keep in mind if I ever went more than a day with less than four steroid drops I would flare. I haven’t had a single drop in over a year and have been completely symptom free.
I’ve also noticed healing from other autoimmune symptoms I’ve had for years: mouth sores, swollen lymph nodes, and vitiligo. The vitiligo isn’t completely gone but it’s dramatically improved.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
Countless blogs, podcasts, videos on diet, nutrition, and autoimmune disease. Dr. Alan Christenson is especially helpful with balancing cortisol.
Mikhaila Peterson who I saw on Joe Rogan popularized the lion diet to reverse her auto immune condition.
Also various stories on the autoimmune protocol and paleo diets. Different protocols will work different for each person. Some may find plant based works for them. For some keto or carnivore is necessary. For me its animal based, slow carb, and carb cycling that works.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
Immediately I was referred to a rheumatologist who put me on methotrexate. I did it for about a week and after no improvement she wanted to increase my dosage or try more powerful drugs. I rejected them after reading about how harmful systemic immune suppressants are. Having damage to eyes is bad enough, but if your liver is damaged or you are more likely to get cancer, that’s an entirely different problem. I wanted to take my chances and keep the problem contained to my eyes rather than my entire body and risk my life. If you’re taking a systemic immune suppressant you are immune compromised. I just kept coming back to the fact that something caused the condition, meaning something can heal it.
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?
Everything. I take “gratitude walks” every day. I walk in nature and appreciate the fact that I can see as well as I can. I don’t take a single sunrise or sunset for granted any more. I spend time every day to just get quiet and create feelings of gratitude. I actually started this before I healed. I was really struggling with the fear. So I embraced it and started learning about how blind people still had very successful careers and fulfilling lives. Once the fear was gone it was so much easier to deal with. The following year I ended up healing. I don’t think it’s necessarily connected but I thought it was ironic.
I always promised that if I ever healed I would spend my life helping others do the same. There is so much information that isn’t widely known that should be. I created a Facebook group about it and started a website where I write about self development. One of the main topics is healing from autoimmune disease.
Would you like to share your Story of Recovery? Let us know by filling out our interest form.