I always thought of myself as a fairly healthy person. I was a gymnast and soccer player; I always liked exercise, especially hiking and walking. I endured my fair share of colds, but always seemed to recover. I did have allergies and moderate asthma and took medications when necessary. But who didn’t have these normal issues? Little did I know how good I was at ignoring my body! There was a storm brewing and I paid little attention to all the sirens.
My first bout of extended illness was in 2005 after finishing a very stressful teaching job. I developed severe nausea and fatigue. After an endoscopy, I was told that I had non-ulcerative dyspepsia or that my stomach was producing too much acid. The gastroenterologist told me the only remedy for my symptoms was taking the purple pill (Nexium), which I preceded to take daily for over two years. It helped greatly at the time and I thought I was “cured”. I learned later that it actually worsened my condition. (Read about the dangers of taking proton pump inhibitors like Nexium.) It was more likely I had too little stomach acid, plus gluten intolerance.
The health crash that changed my life came in 2008. My stomach condition flared up again, then asthma attacks combined with panic attacks, anemia, depression, and debilitating fatigue. I was sleeping 10-11 hours a night plus taking two naps a day! I was put on more drugs for my stomach and asthma, including a round of prednisone. My doctor tested everything from mono virus to infections. Nothing turned up and she told me to rest, lessen my stress, and prescribed anti-anxiety meds (which I never took). I didn’t like hearing that it was all in my head. I knew something was wrong with me. It was awful! I was so scared to be alone. I woke up with night sweats often and could barely breathe. The only thing that calmed me down was listening to Scripture and praying out loud. One time, I ended up in the ER with a panic attack. I had no idea what was happening in my body. One thing I did know – I never wanted to feel that way again! I was finally willing to change my lifestyle to feel better. Thus began my healing journey. I started researching and discovering possible causes for my conditions, and became my own health advocate.
During this time, a woman from my church told me about a naturopath that could help. In my first visit, she listened to my story for over an hour! She said I probably had adrenal fatigue, in which the adrenal glands can no longer regulate stress effectively. Before complete exhaustion, they can over-react and produce far too much of the hormone cortisol. Symptoms like acid reflux, extreme tiredness, panic attacks, and low thyroid can result. She also tested other female hormones and found several out of balance. She gave me supplements to help my adrenals, iron to help with the anemia and thyroid meds to help with the low thyroid condition I developed a few months later. Since I had digestive troubles, she immediately prescribed a gluten-free diet. I had no idea what gluten was at the time! But I did the best I could, and learned fairly quickly. Within three weeks of going gluten-free, my fatigue began to lessen. I started to have some good days, instead of ALL bad days. I saw more improvements by going dairy and sugar free.
A chiropractor aligned my spine for more healing and through supplements, weaned me off of Nexium and Prilosec over the course of the next year. He, along with the encouragement of my nutritionist, convinced me to go grain-free. I felt even better, but had to stick to my restricted diet religiously. My food sensitivities seemed to be multiplying, with over 20 foods that I reacted to. I kept hearing about the GAPS diet, and finally read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Many of the case studies she described sounded like me! And not only did they improve on her program, but in many cases they healed completely. I started the GAPS diet in April of 2012 and am still persevering. It may take several years, but I’m willing to stick with it. Lord willing, the GAPS diet will be an instrument of healing for my body. I’m looking forward to the day when I can eat almost any food without reacting to it, and when my skin will be clear and calm without itchy redness. In addition to a nutritional program, I’ve also found that adequate sleep, supplementing with Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil and Nutrex Hawaiin Astaxanthin, playing in the outdoors, and exercising with strength training have been crucial in building my immune system.
As you know, the body is not just physical, though. During that summer that I will never forget and never wish to repeat, God taught me so much about my sin. I was prideful and independent. I didn’t need help from other people and I could take care of myself, or so I thought. I remember that being so difficult – asking for help! I wanted people to see me as competent and good at my work, but The Lord showed me how my perfectionism and people pleasing were idols. They still are at times, but I recognize them more now, and I’m thankful the Holy Spirit convicts me gently. Working so hard to live up to my own unrealistic expectations and pleasing other people caused me so much unhealthy stress!
Whatever the original causes for my health crash were and no matter how badly I wanted to get better, I eventually came to the point of acceptance. “Ok, God, if this is what you have for my life right now, then so be it. I want to glorify you no matter how awful I feel.” Proverbs 3:7-8 was a huge comfort to me.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.
I began to believe God would heal me, but it would be in His timing. I’m still learning and still healing. But overall, I’m so much better! And I know now when my body needs to rest and I don’t push too hard anymore.
I’m writing my story to encourage you, the reader. Many people have been through similar health challenges and found healing. But many are still looking. I don’t know what your circumstances may be. But I truly the believe the body can heal if God wills and if it’s given the right tools. I pray you will find healing and no matter what life throws your way, you will trust in your Creator. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, He is not far, but very near you. He is the One who gives great peace.
From Psalm 34…
I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.