How Functional Medicine Changed My Life
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My life was falling apart. Suspected causes of my nerve pain and intense bladder urgency and pain included multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial cystitis, lupus, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome--no doctor could quite figure it out.
I was always in pain. My whole body hurt. I had tingling, burning sensations covering my body. My bladder felt like it was literally going to burst from pressure every second of every day, even while empty. At no fault to pelvic floor strength, I was losing bladder control. I couldn't sit due to unbearable pelvic pain. I had severe SI joint dysfunction and pelvic floor dysfunction. I repeatedly choked on food. I fell down the stairs 6 times in 3 months due to dizziness and my joints locking up. Constant nausea plagued me. Digestive problems left me embarrassed to leave the house. Anxiety and depression tormented me. I felt miserable; no, I felt worse than miserable.
And no doctor, not a even specialists; no one out of 10 different doctors I saw knew how to help me. Narcotics and anti-depressants were their solution.
Did I mention I was 24 when they suggested this? I thought my life, all of my dreams, my ability to be a mom was just over. No hope. The world of conventional medicine left me no hope. One doctor actually told me to stop hoping I'd get better. She said she's never seen anyone with these symptoms get better and the sooner I accepted them, the sooner I could learn to live with them.
WHAT IS THAT?! They wanted me to just give up and accept that the rest of my life would look like this?!
THE BEGINNING OF HOPE
I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to accept it. So out of desperation, my husband and I made the decision (the best decision we've EVER made), to spend our entire savings on a functional medicine doctor with a specialty in functional neurology.
We had no idea if he could help, if diet change and supplementation could make any real difference, but at this point he was our ONLY hope apart from a miracle straight from Heaven.
Turns out, he and his treatment plan were our miracle from Jesus. God put him in our path to bring healing to my life and healing to my family.
In just three weeks; yes, THREE weeks all of the nerve sensations and pains throughout my body were gone except for mild bladder pain, urgency, and pelvic pain. Even that pain though, which before was at an average level of an 8 on a pain scale, dropped to an average intensity of a 3 most days. I'd call that a win even though it didn't disappear completely! Then, after a few months, even my anxiety and depression completely faded away! It was incredible!
So, why does this matter?—
Because we need to bring awareness to the healing power of nutrition! And sadly, we need to bring awareness to the devastating effects of poor nutrition.
The majority of the issues I was having stemmed from severe, systemic inflammation within my body and my nervous system. This inflammation was caused by and worsened by poor nutrition, a bad gut infection, and imbalanced hormones. Guess what caused the gut infection and imbalanced hormones in the first place—poor nutrition.
The chronic pelvic and bladder pain I was having was a result of childbirth and multiple falls down the stairs, so I didn’t think that nutrition could be making it worse, or that nutrition would help it get any better. I mean, how can nutrition heal physical damage to the body like osteoarthritis and nerve damage? And how can it possibly make it worse?
THE ROLE OF INFLAMMATION AND NUTRITION
I didn’t understand how nutrition could help me at all. In fact, I don’t think doctors understand it either; because I saw around 10 of them and all of them denied that my poor nutrition had anything to do with any of my problems or pain. Then, when I saw a decrease in my pain, they denied that it had anything to do with the diet and lifestyle change that my functional medicine doctor prescribed.
So, how does it work? How did nutrition eliminate the full-body nerve pain and reduce the pelvic pain so drastically?—
By reducing inflammation in my body!! Did you know that when our body is experiencing systemic inflammation, it makes pain from localized inflammation from a wound or trauma much worse?
See, inflammation can actually be a good thing when doing what it was designed to do—in small-scale situations, inflammation actually promotes healing. When we scrape our hand, sprain our ankle, etc., that part of our body becomes inflamed and it’s actually part of the healing process.
With systemic inflammation though, our tissues start to become damaged instead of healing. With that, any part of our body that experienced localized inflammation from a wound or trauma, like in my case—my pelvic area and low back due to childbirth and the falls down the stairs—those areas become even more severely inflamed beyond what is necessary and beneficial for healing. Now the inflammation has peaked at extremely high levels that begins to damage the tissues and increase the pain.
The cool thing about our bodies though, is that they want to heal. They want to get better, but they can’t do that when we don’t fuel them correctly. They can’t do that when we lead them to damage themselves by eating an inflammatory diet.
Thankfully though, when we feed our bodies nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich foods that help fight inflammation, we begin to release them from the grips of systemic inflammation and reduce our pain everywhere else, even in the areas with severe inflammation from a trauma.
Sadly though, doctors don’t teach this. Even many nutritionists don’t teach this. And it BREAKS. MY. HEART.
AWARENESS: FALSE “HOPE” VS GENUINE HOPE
I have met so many people who are in similar situations as I was—suffering from dysautonomia, gut infections, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, autoimmune disease, etc. Doctors can’t find solutions apart from medicine for pain management. And that makes me angry—because I personally walked that road for several years.
I had no answers and was told I was normal and to live with it. When it got so severe I couldn’t bear it anymore, I was offered narcotics and other medications with uncomfortable side-effects. No hope. No solutions. Just medicine for pain management.
Then, one doctor with a focus on nutrition and seeking out the underlying causes of disease, helped me find healing and pain management without medicine, without side-effects. And that deserves some attention—awareness needs to be spread. Hope needs to be spread. Because I am only one of the many people he has helped.
I find it important to note here also, that bringing awareness does not mean bringing false hope. Some people have called me a dreamer, said I’m giving false hope to those suffering, but I’m not. No amount of hope can be false if our hope is in God and the design he had for our nutrition and our bodies.
I’m not spreading a message that nutrition will heal every single ailment under the sun, that nutrition will make every person 100% pain free or that it is the solution to all disease and cancer. No, sadly, in this fallen world bad things happen, and our bodies decline.
But that doesn’t mean we go down without a fight!! That doesn’t mean we give up hope when our bodies want to heal. Sometimes we can’t fix our problems 100%, and I know that full-well. But, we must keep hoping and pushing for answers.
Personally, I know that apart from surgery, my bulging discs may never return to normal. But, I also know I can manage the pain through diet and lifestyle change. My autoimmune disease will never go completely away, but I can certainly put it into remission.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be back to the way I was before all of this began. Though my symptoms have decreased, I still have pain flare-ups, I still have an inflammatory process in my body, a mystery we are still trying to uncover. I'm still not 100% better, but my quality of life is so improved I think it's necessary to spread that hope for others who are suffering.
I know that I can continue to achieve significant pain management through nutrition and lifestyle change, even if I'm not completely better. I know many other people could achieve this as well if they only had the resources and education to help them through the process.
So, hear me out. Awareness doesn’t mean false hope. I’m not promising that functional medicine is the answer to all of life’s problems—but one thing I can be sure of is that functional medicine gives hope where often no hope is left.
And sometimes, the best thing for a hurting soul, is genuine hope. Hope that their pain can be managed, hope for a better quality life, hope for a future filled with dreaming and pursuing passions, hope for a cure.
Those are necessary hopes, not unrealistic dreams. Hope is what gives us the strength to keep going even on the hardest days.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
If you can relate, know that I’m praying for you. Keep pushing for answers, keep striving for health, keep praying for strength. Never, ever give up hope; because it’s hope that keeps us going. And sometimes there are answers out there that we haven’t yet found, but we may if we keep on looking.
So, keep moving, and know that God is with you. He hears you and He wants to help you.
If you're curious about functional medicine and the science behind how our bodies work or how I found so much healing from nutrition and lifestyle change, the link below will take you to my all-time favorite health resource, a book titled "Why Isn't My Brain Working?" by Dr. Datis Kharrazian! My functional medicine doctor gave me this book at my first appointment, and it's been one of my most essential resources since!
I wish I could explain all of this to you on my own. I wish I had the knowledge to share it right here on this blog--but I don't. It's in this book though--everything you could ever wonder about caring for your body and your brain--it's here! Use the link below to get the book for yourself!