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  • Molly Bergseid

MY STORY OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

Updated: Jun 4

If you were to tell my 20 year old self that I would start a blog some day, I would say that’s crazy. But there is something so powerful about ‘rock bottom’.. it really changes you. So, here I am today - writing this blog to you from Denver, Colorado, hoping to share what I’ve gone through and learned along the way!


I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, so ‘being healthy’ was just a way of life. I ate well (lots of whole grains, nuts and seeds, greek yogurt, blah blah blah) and exercised a lot. But little did I know, my definition of being healthy would eventually do a 180.


My definition of ‘healthy’ now? PALEO. No grains. All the veggies. Wild caught seafood. Lot’s of probiotics and bone broth. Berries. Grass feed meat & organic poultry. More veggies. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Yoga. Hike. Walk the dog. Meditate. Non-toxic skincare & beauty products. Non-toxic household products. Positivity. Laughter. Dance. Supportive people. Dogs.


It took me a long time to figure it all out. It's a process, and takes a lot of commitment.


Here’s how it all started.



In my early 20s, I started to notice random pain in my feet. It wasn’t too bad at first, but it continued to get worse as time went on. My foot doctor did what he could do, operating on both of my feet, but the pain never stopped. It eventually spread to my hands, so I went to see a Rheumatologist. When my bloodwork came back, my results were off the charts. At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints.


Before I had time to process what was going on, I was already prescribed to take medication. I had a feeling there was a better way. I did the best research I could, googling ‘rheumatoid arthritis diet’, or ‘food to avoid with rheumatoid arthritis’, but I could barely find anything.


Later that year, something happened that completely changed my life. I was at a holiday party and a family friend nonchalantly said ‘have you heard of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne?’ I hadn’t, but was desperate for any information that could help me feel better (my meds didn’t help at all..) so I went home and bought her book The Paleo Approach.


I felt like I hit the jackpot. I mean I DID hit the jackpot. This was everything I was looking for, and so much more. If you have an autoimmune disease, or just suffer from any kind of health issues, I highly recommend reading this book. Dr. Ballantyne uses science to explain what is happening in your body when you have an autoimmune disease, the foods that can make it better or worse (outlining the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet), and other lifestyle factors that make a difference.


In a nutshell, the AIP is a version of the Paleo diet where you eliminate all foods that can cause inflammation in the body (grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, sugar, soy, nightshades, legumes, alcohol) for a period of time, followed by a reintroduction phase to identify which foods your body tolerates. In addition, you focus on consuming lots of nutrient dense foods (vegetables, good quality seafood/meat/poultry, probiotics, bone broth, and organ meats).

I started the AIP immediately, and within one week, my pain started to subside. I was so excited! I knew there were changes I could make on my own that didn’t require medication. The next week, I was in my Rheumatologist’s office with The Paleo Approach in my hand telling my doctor everything I had learned. He was really interested & even wrote the name of the book down. (Side note: I found out years later that he now recommends his patients read this book as an option in their healing. Very cool considering many doctors think diet and lifestyle have no impact on your health.. *rolls eyes*). He supported my decision to go off mediation, giving me two options: (1) cut my medication in half for 3 months, then go off it completely, or (2) just stop.. cold turkey. I chose option 2. My reasoning: This medication has done nothing to help my join pain, but my diet has. So I’ll just stop.


Oh my god. If there is one word of advice I can give anyone in the whole world. Never stop taking medication cold turkey.

Exactly 3 weeks later, my body started to flare. But this time it was about 100X worst than I had experienced before. Top to bottom, every joint hurt. Badly. All day long, every day. I could barely walk, open the cap off my toothpaste, raise my arms to brush my hair, I mean I couldn’t even sleep. And every night around 6, my body would pick a joint that would flare so badly, the pain took my breath away. One night it would be my right shoulder. The next night, my right knee. Then my hip, wrist, hands, ankles…. this just went on and on.

I was depleted. How could I go from being on top of the world, not feeling pain for the first time in 5 years, to feeling the worst pain imaginable? I felt like I was in jail. Why was this happening to me? No one deserves this.

In addition, I felt ashamed. I was so excited to tell all of my friends and family about this new diet and how I took charge of my autoimmune disease. Now I’m supposed to tell them that its kicking my ass? I felt like I failed.

The funny thing is.. most people had no idea. I was a total mess at night, crying, cringing, praying for it to end. Then in the morning, I would get myself together, go to work, and put on a happy face. My friends & family knew things weren’t awesome, but I didn’t want them to know how bad it was. It was hell.


I put up with this pain for over 6 months before going back to my Rheumatologist. He put me on a biologic medication, and the next day, my pain was gone. (I feel like its important to call out that this is a really uncommon (but lucky) reaction.. most people’s pain doesn’t just go away over night. My doctor thinks it had to do with the fact that I was eating 100% strict AIP for over 6 months, and the medicine was just the thing I needed to pull my body out of the flare.)

Like I said.. this experience taught me a lot. First and foremost, I learned that you can use diet and lifestyle to help heal your body, and that medical intervention does not mean you are a failure. I learned that having a team of people who support you no matter what is essential (shoutout to my amazing fiancé and mom). I learned that I am stronger than I ever could have thought. And last but not least, I learned that I have a voice and I want to use it. The resources available when I was starting out were few and far between. I want the next person who is just starting their healing journey to have tons of resources and information so they don’t have to suffer as much as I did.

That was pretty deep. But don’t worry, its all good :) Here’s where I’m at now.


I eat a version of paleo that works for me, focusing on a variety of nutrient dense foods. I cook all the time, and create my own {paleo} recipes that I want to share with you! I do lots of hot yoga, hikes, and the occasional run. I have the most wonderful fiancé who will be my husband soon given this COVID19 bs ends! And we have the cutest golden retriever puppy in the world, Ella. Couldn’t be happier!


So yeah.. that’s me! I will start sharing recipes next time.


xoxo,

Molly







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