OUR STORY



     Hey everyone, my name is Matt. My wife Sara (pictured above) and I have been married for a little over 7 years now and we've been together since high school. We've been through quite a lot over the last several years, which you can read more about below, if you like. Through these experiences, we've grown a lot and learned more than I probably thought I'd ever want to know about how food and external factors in the environment can positively or negatively impact our health. This blog will hopefully help many others as we share our experiences that have helped us to determine what are the best lifestyle choices (food, products, etc) to encourage health and well being.    

     Hi, Sara here.Some of you might know me as Sarabeth, which is a nickname I've had since I was a kid. This blog has been a long time coming for me and I've had to learn the hard way about how foods and products impact my life and my health. I am very passionate about making the healthiest and wisest choices I can for myself and my family and the rest I leave up to the Lord. There's only so much that I can control, but I believe wholeheartedly that the choices I have control over truly matter. But I had to come to these choices, the hard way. Here is a condensed version (I know, kind of hard to believe considering how long it is) of my story.

     In 2007, I was working nights as a full-time RN on a Pediatric Unit. While I enjoyed nursing and working with my little patients, I could never quite understand why I always felt terrible. I would see my co-workers handling the schedule with ease, while I was always somewhat fatigued, dizzy, nauseated and fuzzy. At the same time I was working on my Master's to fulfill my dream of becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Then one day out of the blue, I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe asthma attack. I had dealt with asthma as a kid, but it was always sports induced and this felt quite different to me. I felt like I couldn't get a breath in, as if I was starving for air (if you know anything about asthma, it is generally exhaling that is a struggle). My husband Matt  rushed me to the hospital and they gave me some respiratory treatments, which seemed to help and they sent me on my way. This would have been fine, except for the fact that I continued to wake up every single night with asthma attacks for the next 6 months straight. There would be a rare night that I would sleep through the night without an attack, but those were few and far between. I began having issues in the day time as well and I was constantly fatigued and exhausted. I was forced to stop working at this time due to these symptoms. My first doctor didn't believe it was asthma because it didn't follow the normal patterns. He ordered a methycholine inhalation exam, which induces an asthma attack in patients with asthma but not in those that do not have asthma. Upon completion, my test results showed I definitely had asthma. After countless ER visits and visits to my Pulmonary Specialist along with multiple tries with different medications, my symptoms began to wane and become more sporadic. I was so thankful when I began to see these symptoms fade and I thought that would be the end of my health issues. Boy, was I wrong. This would just be the tip of the iceberg...

      I thought with my asthma calming down and getting a full night's sleep, I would feel better and more rested. But I began experiencing indescribable fatigue and weakness. To the point that I could barely get out of bed and my muscles wouldn't seem to work right and when overtaxed they would feel so fatigued that I would literally lie in bed all day and cry because of the pain. I switched doctors and after running multiple tests, my physician felt that I had something called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with symptoms of Fibromylgia. CFS tends to be kind of a vague diagnosis since there really are no blood tests one can use to diagnose this and there are no medications to treat this directly. At this point, I wanted to try and go back to work but I was so fatigued that I was barely able to function with normal activities of daily living. My doctor suggested attempting to use a anti-depressant as sometimes these medications have been shown to help people with CFS. The explanation behind this is that many people with CFS also have an underlying anxiety disorder or depression and if you treat the anxiety &/or depression it will improve fatigue. However, this wasn't the case with me. Aside from some antsy feelings and general anxious thoughts over what was wrong with me, I wasn't experiencing true anxiety or depression. I was very uncomfortable with starting on these meds when I didn't really believe they would help me. But I wanted to trust my doctor's opinion and give it a try. This ended up being one of the worst decisions I have ever made. Three days into treatment on a very low dose of Cymbalta, I ended up having something called Serotonin Syndrome - a life-threatening reaction. I was rushed to the hospital and my symptoms lasted for two days and I seriously thought I was dying. Those were probably the worst two days of my life. Till this day, whenever I see the Cymbalta commercial, it makes me feel sick. The whole depression hurts...Cymbalta helps thing....well not for me at least. That isn't to say that there aren't some people that have been helped by this medication. I have a very good friend that struggled with anxiety and found that Cymbalta made a difference for her. That just wasn't the case for me. After this I decided no more medications, unless they were absolutely necessary.

     While recovering from my reaction I began experiencing additional new and disturbing symptoms. Some of which included, heart palpitations, racing heart, difficulty breathing, clammy, dizzy, nauseous, burning sensations in my back and head, shaky, etc. I didn't know what was happening to me at first. It would come out of nowhere and I was continually having to be taken to the ER because my tachycardia (increased heart rate) would not come down by itself. I would need to receive a Beta Blocker medication to bring it down to safe and normal levels. They diagnosed me with Panic Attack Disorder and my doctor felt hat perhaps the reaction to the Cymbalta may have triggered a chemical imbalance, which was leading to this. However, multiple doctors suggested that my anxiety was not responding like normal anxiety. That there must be something else going on, but they couldn't figure it out. These attacks began occurring every day and most days I would have about 6 panic/anxiety attacks per day. At this point I was forced to quit my Master's program. Many people around me would would say things such as, "you just need to stop thinking about it," or "just relax", etc. which made it obvious they had no clue whatsoever and it also made it harder to be around those people. Most of the time I could barely handle being around anyone other than my husband. Sometimes going to the grocery store would bring on a major panic attack,which seems ridiculous I know. I was forced to stop driving and I had to limit my activities in order to limit the severity of these attacks. I became agoraphobic as a result and it got to the point that I struggled to leave the house at all, even to get my mail. The only way I would leave was if my husband was with me.

   All of these symptoms the asthma, chronic fatigue, fibro, anxiety/panic disorder continued to worsen and it was like a snowball effect. I started having new symptoms popping up all of the time...things like heart palpitations (PVCs/PACs), acid reflux, severe migraines and malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. I had a few instances where for no known reason my potassium would drop severely low. My doctor's were uncertain and they just didn't have the time to try to figure out what was happening to me. I suggested that perhaps I had a food sensitivity or allergy, like to gluten. My doctor at the time refused to test saying that I didn't have the "classic" symptoms of someone with Celiac. I was not in the best place physically or mentally to argue and I wasn't the best advocate for myself because I just didn't have the energy to do it.

     Then, by the grace of God I came across a holistic doctor in 2009 that was able to run some different tests and conclude that I had a major gluten issue. My allergist confirmed that I had a gluten allergy with a blood test. The odd part of it was that around that time, people either had Celiac or a gluten intolerance...there isn't ever much talk of people that actually have allergies to gluten. It doesn't really matter considering treatment is the same. Get the Gluten completely out and that is exactly what I did. Starting the day I received the diagnosis and I never looked back. In fact, I distinctly remember sitting in my doctor's office balling my eyes out because I was so thankful that it was a gluten problem. That might sound really weird, but before that, I was thinking that I was dying and now I was given something that I could do something about! That's where blissfully whole comes in...I'm thankful that I get a choice to be healthy, to make better choices for myself and my family.

     Since then I have lived completely gluten free. I wish I could say that I saw immediate results, but it took a lot longer than most. What was noticeable right away is that I had been having to go to the ER multiple times per month and after getting off of gluten, all of my symptoms calmed down and I was able to control them at home without going to the ER. That was such a blessing! But it took about a year to see more results, but I would notice that I also struggled with other food sensitivities and while my symptoms improved, they never really have all gone away completely. Slowly I began being able to do things again. It really helped when we got our dog, Duchess (see below). She is amazing and I love her dearly. She helped me start leaving the house and being able to do more things, little by little.

     As of today, I believe that getting off of gluten saved my life. But it isn't enough for me. While I have started to be able to do things again like driving, serving at church, going places without my husband, spending time with friends and family again, of which I am so thankful for, I continue to struggle with my CFS/fibro and anxiety as well as other symptoms. Many people ask me why I am not all better since going off of the gluten. I don't really have the answer for that. But what I do know, is that for years, my immune system was attacking itself each time I would eat something with gluten in it, which I did daily. Those effects were far reaching and my body is still healing. Also, I would say that my problems don't really start and stop with gluten (this I will save for another time). I have other sensitivities to food and products that I am still figuring out how to live with. Recently I had a major reaction to some cleaning products that made me really ill. I'm learning that it isn't just about living healthy in one area like in relation to food, but making healthy choices that encompass all areas of my life.

     I've recently started a new dietary regimen that so far seems to be helping me a ton and I've also started to remove the toxic products that I was using on a regular basis and replace them with non-toxic products. As you can see, I'm still on this journey toward wholeness and healthiness. I don't have all the answers, but I am passionate about seeking a better way, because I believe there is one! For me, this isn't just a fad or something new to try, it is my life and I want others to know about these things so they don't have to find out the way that I did. I hope that you will share your experience with me and I invite you to join me on this journey toward wholeness!

Sincerely,

Matt & Sara





2 comments:

  1. Hi, I go by ChanShelly on youtube and I've talked to you a bit on there about health problems before. It's awesome to hear your full story and I'm so excited about your blog! Blogger is giving me issues and not allowing me to follow any new blogs, but once I get that sorted I will definitely subscribe to yours, and I am certainly going to be checking it on a regular basis until then! I started seeing a new naturopath about 6 months ago (I've, unfortunately, had really bad experiences with naturopaths [and really every other kind of doctor] up to this point). He tested me for food allergies and found I was allergic to dairy, nuts, sesame and sunflower, gluten, and sugar. I haven't had many changes since going off them so far, but I'm really encouraged by your story! Also I am so sorry about your experience with SSRI's. Drugs can be SO scary and it's overwhelming when you're seeing all sorts of doctors who just want to shove different meds in your face. I recently had to stop seeing my sleep doctor (I have narcolepsy and dysautonomia) because of this. She first prescribed me Xyrem, which uses the same meds as are in date rape drugs, which was absolutely HORRIFIC for me. Then she wanted to triple my SSRI dose...

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    1. Thank you so much ChanShelly! Yes, of course I remember you :) I'm sorry to hear about your health struggles. It is such a challenge at times. I'm sorry to hear that you've also had a bad experience with naturopaths and doctors in general, hopefully this new one will be better! I have also had quite a few negative experiences myself. I've found that with holistic/naturopathic doctors and with general MD's there are some gems out there, it's just a matter of finding them! I've recently found a great MD, who practices functional medicine...pretty much tries to get to the root of the issue and treat that, versus just treating symptoms, which I really appreciate. It usually means lots of testing though. It sounds as though you have a lot of food allergies...I'm not surprised. It can be really frustrating waiting to see results, when you hear about people noticing results within just a few weeks of being off certain foods. For me it took quite a while to see real results. I know with gluten, it can stick like glue to your intestinal wall and can take a very long time for it to be out of you system. Even if you aren't eating it, if the gluten leaks out of your intestines (maybe TMI), it can cause a reaction. Stay strong, hopefully you'll start to feel better in time. I'm like you though, gluten is my main food issue, but I also struggle with other food sensitivities. If you haven't heard about it yet, you might be interested in checking out the WHOLE30. I just posted on it and have been doing it myself. I heard about it through a friend, but since you are already off a lot of the foods, you may find it to be not that big of a leap. You can always check out the blog the whole9 or the book, "It Starts With Food." I found the book extremely interesting. It may be that while you aren't eating those foods, you are still eating foods like corn and gluten free grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc) and other foods, which also cause inflammation and gut permeability and that could be making you feel ill. Also, there are some foods that mimic gluten and we can sometimes react to those as well. I wish it wasn't so complicated :( I have struggled with doctors in the past trying to push meds on me...I think there is definitely a place for meds, but I don't want to just treat my symptoms either and cover up the problem. I think that it's good to be cautious, tripling your dose of SSRI medication is kind of scary to me. If it isn't working, it bothers me that doctors won't try and figure out the cause. I'm sorry to hear about your narcolepsy and dysautonomia. That must be very challenging. I also have some level of dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system, which my doctor's believe also plays into my panic/anxiety disorder. My nervous system is extremely reactive. I haven't struggled with narcolepsy though. It sounds like the two might be related. Have you ever had your doctors run any genetic tests on you before? I only ask because my doctor has run a couple that have been helpful in finding clues about some of my issues as well as supporting the areas where I have genetic mutations. I believe narcolepsy can be related to some genetic mutations, but I'm not an expert.

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