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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.
In addition to being one of our recipe contributors, Beth Chen is a veteran in the AIP world. She’s been blogging for almost 10 years and has had her fair share of ups and downs on her healing journey. Initially, Beth’s wide-ranging symptoms led doctors to believe she might have cancer (luckily she didn’t), and when she got pregnant, her body had even more trouble staying balanced. Beth knows was it means to feel hopeless about healing, so she’s got wonderful wisdom to share around keeping a positive mindset and finding joy and gratitude in the everyday.
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
Endometriosis, eczema, leaky gut, food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, candida, SIBO, and more.
Describe what the lowest point on your health journey was like.
I’ve had multiple low points which created huge shifts in my life. The first was when I initially got sick. I was so ill that my doctors thought that I was dying from ovarian or colon cancer. They were not optimistic. Luckily it wasn’t life threatening, but it was chronic and turned my world upside down. I went from being very active and independent to bed ridden and fragile in a short period of time. I really had to fight my way back to some sort of normalcy. And even then, it wasn’t all that healthy.
The second low point for me was during and after my pregnancy. It seemed like from the minute I got pregnant, I was sick. My body struggled to conceive, maintain and deliver my child. Afterwards, I had a broken tailbone, chronic mastitis (and the high fever that went with it), severe tearing and nerve damage. All of that in addition to the chronic health issues I was already dealing with. And I just couldn’t heal. I really wondered how I was going to live, let alone take care of my newborn. It took 3 months to heal from the delivery and then 3 years before I could sit without pain. 3 years! And even 5 years after my son’s birth, I’m still struggling with the health problems I developed during that time.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution? Basically, what was the tipping point?
By the time my kiddo was 8 months, I knew I needed to make some big changes. My elderly parents basically moved in with us to take care of me and help with my son because I wasn’t capable. I was a shell of my former self and couldn’t have survived without them.
I really needed to take charge of my own health because all of the specialists I had been seeing were stumped. They kept saying I was fine but inside I knew I was dying. That’s when I found the AIP diet and started looking at root causes. It changed the way I think about doctors and medicine. It started my on the healthy path that I’m on now.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
I had severe and extensive food sensitivities when I first started the Autoimmune protocol. I was very skeptical because I already had a restricted diet and didn’t think restricting it further would do any good. I was also still listening to my Western medicine doctors who said that diet has nothing to do with my specific health issues beyond food sensitivities. I was so naive. I had actually read about the AIP diet the year prior, before I had gotten pregnant and dismissed it because it sounded too restrictive.
My dietician convinced me to try it for a month. And by the end of the month I had discovered additional food sensitivities and had actually started to feel better. She encouraged me to seek out a doctor that can diagnose and treat my root causes because sometimes it takes more than just diet to heal.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
I’ve used them all! I think of the Autoimmune Protocol as a tool and it’s just one tool in a very large toolbox that I now have to help me feel my best.
Specifically, I’ve read all the books about the Autoimmune Protocol, gut health, healing, etc. And I’ve used additional treatments as well such as laser treatment for that nerve damage. After 3 years of pain, I was finally able to sit comfortably after just 2 laser treatments. I’ve also used antiviral, high dose vitamin C and ozone IVs, lots of supplements, DNRS, acupuncture and chiropractor adjustments. All of these treatments have either brought me relief from my symptoms or helped with healing. I believe that it’s important to attack my health from multiple different perspectives.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
My western medicine doctors initially suggested immunosuppressants. I rejected those because I was concerned about the side effects not to mention they didn’t know what was wrong with me. They were just guessing and I wanted more certainty about a diagnosis and treatment.
I also initially rejected IV treatments due to cost. They aren’t covered by insurance and I didn’t see the value in paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket. I finally tried them after hovering around 100 pounds and only being able to eat 4 foods. I was scared and needed to try something new. I’ve found them very helpful for specific issues and at different times on my wellness journey.
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. Just the fact that most days I’m without pain brings me joy. I’ve spent the last few years severely ill, in constant pain and I was truly struggling to survive. That changes you and how you view the world. It’s helped me find joy in the mundane.
That’s not to say that I’m completely ‘healed’ because my diet is still very restricted. I’m still restricted beyond the limitations of the AIP diet. I still have months where something new goes wrong and I’m very sick and struggling all over again. My health progression has always been two steps forward and one step back. But I have faith that I have a good and responsive health care team that will guide me back to wellness.
I also realized that I don’t need to be ‘healed’ to be happy. What is ‘healed’ anyway? After being sick for 10 years, I realized that I may never get back to the same level of health from before my illness presented itself. And there certainly isn’t a magic pill that will make me feel better and I’ll wake up fine one day. But my life is happening right now. And I don’t want to miss it or be miserable forever because my life is different. Different than I had imagined my life. Different than the life I had before I got sick. Different than everyone else. There’s a freedom and peace to letting go of all those expectations. It’s allowed me to find joy in simpler things.
Would you like to share your Story of Recovery? Let us know by filling out our interest form.