Auto-Immune..Going, Going Almost Gone

Carla Coulson Loc Boyle

Me by fab photographer Loc Boyle


I have been meaning to write this post for the longest time.

I know many of you are in the same auto-immune boat as me although you may have a different auto-immune condition such as fibromyalgia, vitiligo, sarcoidosis or one of the hundreds of auto-immunes see here (staggering).

I have received loads of emails and questions from my original posts here and here about my progress with my new way of eating and my wholistic approach to Graves Disease, Alopecia Areata and Lichen Sclerosous.

Before I go on, I am not recommending anyone on medication to stop. If you want to change your diet you need to do it with the supervision of a good naturopath or Functional doctor.

One of the stand-out things I have found about auto-immune conditions is that we are surrounded by them, it seems degenerative disease is our generations gift for eating way to much processed food, living a fast lifestyle and not listening to our bodies and not taking enough time out. Ask a friend, family member, work colleague and you will be surprised who is suffering.

I have tried to quantify this diet and my lifestyle changes since January by having regular blood tests and the results have been overwhelming. So overwhelming I kept going.

As a reward after my recent holiday I had a blood test and the news was so fab I wanted to share the results with you.

Thyroid problemResolved!!! When I started this diet back in January my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was almost nonexistent. In December 2013 my TSH was 0.005 and as at Mid August it was 2.240 (so in the range it’s scary). Do the math (cause I am a photographer and not very good at it) but that is a massive jump. See comprehensive test results at the end of the post with monthly moves..

Auto-immune Antibodies – Down from 11. 9 in December to 4.8 in August. They need to get under 1.75 to be home free (in remission) so not there yet but getting closer

Alopecia Areata – Hair growing in all 3 bald spots. Gawd this makes me happy. Lovely little black and grey hairs 3 inches long filling all three baldies!

Lichen Sclerous – Prior to March I was still having problems with Lichen Sclerosous. I ended up in this private forum and discovered Oxalates. A word I had never heard before and one that has changed my life. I added a Low Oxalate diet to my Paleo Diet and I believe going on the Low Oxalate diet was the thing that hastened healing of all three auto-immune conditions.

Is the Low Oxalate diet fun? NO, but neither is Lichen Sclerosous or any of the others AI’s. I had almost instant results once I started this and then my thyroid values moved enormously so I have a sneaky feeling Oxalate is the new black. I think Oxalates are to blame for auto-immune as much as Gluten.. And I never believed in detox symptoms till I met Mr. Oxalate..

Without a doubt cutting Gluten and processed foods out was the first great step I took but discovering the Low Oxalate Diet was the second one.

There is so much great information out there and I will try and share as many links here as possible but all Auto-immune disease stems from a leaky gut so the important thing is to heal your intestine and then your body will heal itself. World expert Dr. Alessandro Fasano explains it here

Snapshot of Auto-Immune

  1. Leaky Gut – We all have compromised digestion thanks to years of processed foods and food intolerances. Sarah Wilson explains it simply here
  2. Inflammation – Is the root of all auto-immune and most disease. Things that cause inflammation are sugar, coffee, refined foods, alcohol and processed foods. Dr Mark Hyman explains it here 
  3. Food Intolerance –Weakens the immune system..seems a large part of the human race is allergic to lactose and gluten.. more info here
  4. Give your system a break – By taking away irritating foods and flooding it with nutrition from whole foods and supporting it with complimentary holistic treatments such as acupuncture, massage and shiatsu.
  5. Get Moving – One of the best anti-imflammatory of all time, you don’t need to run or go to the gym. Walking is great.
  6. Practice deep relaxation – Such as yoga, meditation and long walks
  7. Be patient – Let your body heal itself naturally.. We took a lifetime to get into this situation its going take time to get out of it.

Carla Coulson greens

The Way I Eat

No Gluten

No Dairy

No Coffee,

No Alcohol,

In general no grains or legumes but I do eat rice a couple of times a week

No Sugar (sugar is in everything once you read the labels) this includes almost all sauces

No processed food, this pretty much knocks out everything on the supermarket shelves

Organic fresh fruit and vegetables, a small amount of nuts, organic eggs and meat and wild fish (I eat meat once a week)

Good fats, such as avocados, organic butter, cold-pressed olive oil and coconut oil – this is really important.. I have learnt fat doesn’t make you fat. I have never eaten more fat in my life and it has had no impact on my cholesterol only my waist (it’s thinner).

I started eating fermented foods 

Most auto-immune diets also knock-out nightshades, I reduced them but still put capsicum in salads and ate the odd tomato.

I Stopped:

Using all perfumes and non-organic body products including hair shampoos, body creams

Flouride toothpaste

Being connected 24/7 to social media and working like a maniac

Got rid of all cleaning products in the house and replaced them with eco versions.

I Started:

Walking everyday for 45 mins (exercise is the best anti-inflammatory there is)

Getting 15 mins of sun where I could (to help with low Vitamin D levels)

Meditating twice a day

Making bone broths to substitute eating meat.

Drinking filtered water

Drinking herbal teas, Rosehip for Vitamin C and Nettle for Iron

Bought an earthing mat for our bed – these videos are interesting

Reduced stress and my workload

Supplements:

These are some of the natural supplements that were prescribed to me by my naturopath. I would suggest seeing a great naturopath for your specific health needs.

Cod liver Oil once a day – a teaspoon

Silica

Magnesium

Vitamin B12

Hawthorn

Vitamin D3 1000 u

Grapefruit seed oil

Symptons of Auto-Immune:

Chronic tiredness (like falling asleep at lunch)

Heart palpitations (thyroid)

Anxiety (thyroid)

Chronic Candida

Muscle fatigue (I could hardly climb to the 2nd floor without feeling like it was Mount Everest)

Sleep problems (thyroid)

Baldness 3 totally bald spots on my head (Alopecia Areata)

Itchiness and lesions (Lichen Sclerosous)

Brain Fog and a sense of not being here (thyroid)

Itchiness on the front of my shins

Bumps on the backs of the top of your arms

Phlegm

Millions of small pimples that look like a heat rash but were discovered in the middle of winter

There are a million other systems but these were some of mine.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Was it difficult to go on the Paleo diet? and how much meat to you eat? No. I have always loved eating well and had previously bought organic food but was almost exclusively vegetarian unless eating at someone’s place and I didn’t want to cause a fuss. I was eating loads of carbohydrates and almost no protein. When I made the switch I found I was rarely hungry and no longer had sugar highs and lows thanks to the whole food diet and eating good fats and protein. I eat pastured raised meat once a week and make bone broths to put in soups and stews. For me the focus is on fruit and vegetables and I eat a lot of eggs.

What was the hardest thing to give up? For me it was coffee, I love coffee and even now my morning doesn’t feel like it ‘starts’ because there is no coffee ritual. In the past couple of weeks on the weekend I make a big deal of going out and finding a great coffee in Paris and enjoying it like it is truly special instead of using it like a crutch as I did before.

Any setbacks? Yes. Once early on when my system was very fragile I kicked off the Graves again by eating lots of sugary fruit (bananas, pineapple and mango together). I did the same thing this summer when I ate an enormous gelato (first one in 8 months) and nothing happened so I ate another one the next day and then thyroid was off and running again with heart palpitations and exhaustion for a week.

How do I handle travel? I travel regularly for work and take my own food stocks. When I worked in the mountains in Italy for a week I took canned sardines, pre boiled eggs, avocados, baked banana bread (I substitute the almond flour with chestnut flour and go light on the honey) and fruit in case I couldn’t access what I needed when I arrived. Guess what? I couldn’t..

Do I eat out? I rarely eat out preferring my own food!!! Gluten is in everything, in Thai sauces and other foods I love. I eat Japanese and take my own gluten free Tamari, chose things like Omelettes or ask how the fish etc is cooked. Have been caught out with batters and breadcrumbs many times.

If and when I go into remission will I go back to eating gluten? Getting off Gluten has been one of the greatest and liberating experiences in my adult life. I no longer need to walk into the local bakery ever again and the bonus has been a slimmer waist and better health. It has allowed me to reconnect with real food and cooking it in a respectful way.

Any health bonuses you didn’t imagine? I have been plagued with headaches my whole life. Since changing the way I live and eat I haven’t had a headache for 6 months and I have lost four kilos. My husband who has had chronic ‘wake you up at night’ Eczema since he was a teenager has lost 12 kilos and his eczema has gone. He wasn’t convinced about the diet till he saw this film. Now he is the world’s number 2 fan (after me).

Where there any times you felt like giving up? There was a day afterI had been on the Low Oxalate diet for a couple of months when I realised there wasn’t a lot of fun in my life at the time. I had read everything I could on diet, I was not only gluten, sugar, alcohol, coffee, processed food free but also free of almonds, sweet potato, chocolate, figs and many other heavenly foods I loved. I was miserable, from that day forward I decided to lighten up and have more fun, have a massage, go to the cinema and forget my oxalate obsession for a while and be kind to myself.

Is it expensive? Yes, without a doubt I am spending twice the amount of money on food that I previously did and wholistic practitioners aren’t covered in the health care system in France. I cart home a shopping caddy full of fresh fruit and vegetables twice a week but being sick is also expensive. I am investing in my health now instead of later and seeing the benefits makes it worth while.

Any Tips on making the change? The toughest thing about eating this way is that you need to be organised and always have food handy. This means thinking and preparing in advance, always having the fridge stocked and something in your camera bag or handbag.

What reactions do you commonly have when you tell people how you are eating? The most common reaction is suspicion. People tend to not believe you and think you are slightly kooky. Try telling an Italian that the pasta they have been feeding their child it’s whole life is causing him/her harm! It’s like saying the very fabric of their culture is turning on them. Much easier to walk away from it than believe it.

Anything else you would like to add? This has been one of the most empowering experiences in my life. Seeing that my body can heal itself with kindness, good food and love is a powerful feeling. We all make such a big deal about eating like this but it’s simply returning to the way our Grandparents ate.

Want to learn more:

The Perfect Human Diet – A documentary that explains the concept of Paleo eating

The Wahls Protocol
– Written by the doctor who had MS and was in a well chair for years) after one month on her diet she could walk with crutches, after 5 months she rode a bike and after 1 year she rode 50kms. This book explains degenerative disease in simple language and gets into the details of what to eat.. Wonderful.

Minding Your Mitochondria – Terry Wahls Ted Talk on diet and disease

Sarah Wilson – Sarah has a section on her blog discussing auto-immune here

Practical Paleo – A great practical guide to understanding your particular auto-immune condition, what to eat and some great recipes.

Nourishing Traditions – One of my favourite books recommended by a dear friend and tells us the traditional ways to prepare foods.. Love this book

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – If you want to go the whole way this is a study done in the thirties by Weston Price. He travelled the world to find people who were still eating traditional diets untouched by white man’s food. I loved it.

My Blood Results from December to August

Red Means the values are out of the range

TSH – The accepted Range is from 0.270 – 4.20

23/12/2013 – .005

4/2/2014 – .005

22/4/2014 – .770 (woohoo in range)

14/8/2014 – 2,240 (woohoo in range)

T3 – The accepted range is from 0.93 – 4.40

23/12/2014 – 5.6

4/2/2014 – 4.5

22/4/2014 – 2.50 (woohoo in range)

T4 – The accepted range is from 9.3 – 17

23/12/2014 – 20.1

4/2/2014 16 (woohoo in range)

22/4/2014 – 12 (woohoo in range)

Auto-immune antibodies – The accepted range is under 1.75

23/12/2014 – 11.9

4/2/2014 – 7.54

22/4/2014 – 6.49

14/8/2014 – 4.86

 If you are wondering why I have gone to the trouble of adding my test results its because throughout these eight months its the one piece of information I couldn’t find on the internet. Nobody had quantified their results and shown their progress although many spoke of healing.

I did this for all of those like me who were searching for an alternative to the doctor’s standard response of ‘its incurable you will have to live with it for the rest of your life.’

I believed it was possible and I can see it is.

Wishing you all good health and happiness.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

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Please share for the good health of those we love..x

The Power Of Food

Carla Coulson Loc Boyle small

Me at Bondi in Sydney by Loc Boyle

I promised myself I wouldn’t turn this blog into a food/health/auto-immune blog but couldn’t resist sharing a little update with you.

You may remember from this post that I was diagnosed with Graves Disease (which is an auto-immune disease) in December and at the same time found a bald spot  (Alopecia Areata) in the back of my hair. Oh and there is another one at the other end of my body called Lichen Sclerosus that begs you too scratch all day!!

The doctors wanted to kick this under the carpet as ‘hereditary’. My mum and all her sisters have vitiligo, my uncle had Psoriasis another Uncle has Sarcoidosis,  my sister has vitiligo and my cousin has had Alopecia since she was in her 20’s.

Well, it is almost 2 months now that I have been on a Paleo Diet, no grains, legumes, milk products, no sugar or processed food. No coffee, alcohol or stimulants.. Just good old veges, fruit, nuts and seeds and protein..

A couple of weeks ago I checked in with my French doctor (always an interesting experience). There was a lot of head shaking (you need to take drugs), whipping out of the prescription pad and ‘non non non’ this natural thing is no good.

But I don’t have any symptions I insisted. My acupuncturist had been working on my gut and my head (think of woody the woodpecker and his beak knocking on my bald spot) and my hair is starting to sprout and the itchiness in my nether regions has subsided.

I begged her to let me take another blood test and then we would talk about it.

Begrudgingly she  agreed.

On weigh in day (cause that’s what it felt like) I was doing  ‘Oh what a feeling’ Toyota jumps (the Aussie’s will know what this is)  all the way down Rue du Rivoli hugging my results to my chest.

Fruit-and-vegetables-for-sale-_MG_5203_Carla-Coulson

Fruit for sale in Puglia by Carla Coulson

Not only had 2 out of 3 Thyroid values entered the ‘normal range’ but they were buried right down there in the middle smug as can be no longer teetering on the outside. But the big news was my auto-immune antibodies had almost halved.

Reading blood results are like reading the deep sea scrolls for the uninitiated but in French they are extra tricky so I thought I better check with my doctor.

More head shaking, she couldn’t believe the results. I secretly think she thinks I am taking medication and not telling her. She has given me another months ‘leave of absence’ before she threatens to bring out the prescription pad.

I walked out of that doctor’s office feeling Round 1 to the organic farmers..

As well as changing my diet I am changing the way I do things. No instagramming, Facebooking in bed! Nothing happens before my morning walk and 20 mins of meditation and yes Carla you can actually take a lunch break.

I have dragged my sore and sorry body to Yoga for the past 2 months and enjoyed the experience of going slow and realised how broken my body is after all these year of carrying camera gear on my back for hours and days at a time.

But most of all ‘hail’ to the human body that after decades of battering responds to kindess so quickly.

Some links you may like:

My favourite books Practical Paleo and Nourishing Traditions Natural Treatment Solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease

Websites I enjoy Mr Paleo himself Loren Cordain at The Paleo Diet  Rob Wolf Sarah Wilson Paleo Mom Dr Amy Myers

Sending my deepest love and thanks for all your well wishes each and every day.

Stay tuned for more photography..

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

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Please feel free to share with anyone this may help. xx

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