It has been some time since I checked in with you on the journey of alternative/ supplemental healing methods for Crohn’s, and truly much has changed and evolved since 2015-16 when I started driving to Xiaolan Health Center to work towards a holistic healing path. As some of you know, in the time since then I have had several more significant mile-markers, revelations, and tests of faith, and I continue to streamline what “works” for me in new and different ways. Every body is different, and so it’s important to emphasize that what works for me is not what works for every body--but I’m encouraged by finding other bloggers who share their autoimmune journeys, and so I feel it’s important to continue to share information as it’s revealed to me. Perhaps needless to say, but I am not a medical doctor, and this is purely to help bring light to certain paths in the web of autoimmune and the dark forest of information.
That’s IT for me right now in terms of supplements!! I’m still a big advocate of acupuncture, largely because of its nervous system benefits (and chi balancing, of course), as well as of food-related healing. Food is the single most important factor in my health (short list: no wheat, coffee, or alcohol, focus on lean protein and cooked veggies), along with stress reduction. The deepening need to understand stress in my system has been highlighted by a journey that started about a year ago when I tried yet another pharmaceutical, which in turn dug out more underlying issues to carefully consider.
One of the most significant experiences that has shaped my forward path and research is that after striving quite hard to do things the “right” way by seeing an excellent Chinese and Western medicine doctor, I had a number of significant obstacles and traumas thrown in my path. This led me to work through EMDR therapy and to, for a time, “give up” trying the natural way, and “give in” to the pharmaceutical suggested by my Western doctor, Humira. Now Humira is in the class of TNF blockers/ “biologics”, which of course sound natural and scientific, but really substantially inhibits your immune system and has a huge and scary list of potential side effects. I have always been terrified and skeptical to put my body on this short-list of drugs because I don’t like the idea of my immune system becoming dependent (re: what happens when they stop working?! which they often do over time…), and also because my body is HIGHLY sensitive to all substances. All the same, I had begun to wonder whether I was doing more harm than good for myself by resisting a class of drugs that might work. This was my first surrender.
Long story short-- I was wrong and I was right. Injection site reactions to this drug are deemed “normal” and I put up with them for weeks and months… but when my skin began to itch all over, starting at the backs of my legs and spreading with no visible irritation whatsoever... I knew something was wrong. I stopped sleeping. Sadly the doctors that prescribed these meds didn’t take me seriously the first few times I called, but I knew enough to eventually take myself off the drug. I saw an allergist, who confirmed no allergies, and after several months of still not sleeping or healing, I saw my childhood doc who confirmed my suspicions that this was neurologic and caused by the drug. Neuropathy is essentially what happens when the myelin sheath that covers your nerve cells starts degrading, and it’s also not necessarily reversible. The subsequent healing process went like this: for several months I’d been hooked on ambien to sleep, then gabapentin (an anti-seizure med) to calm my nervous system to get “real” sleep (ambien only allows for the first few superficial layers of sleep to occur, so essentially for months my body was still not resting and repairing itself). I took lots of alpha lipoic acid, a natural supplement approved for treatment of neuropathy in Germany and elsewhere, and I’m happy to say that nearly a year after first starting Humira, I am mostly healed from its effects.
SO WHAT CLUES DID THIS GIVE ME TO MOVE FORWARD WITH?!
Obviously something was up with my nervous system!! If Humira had such a profound and unexpected effect when modulating my immune system (and btw hadn’t really improved my Crohn’s symptoms), there had to be something else going on. While on the drug, I’d had several significant sensations that felt like a “wash” of electricity flooding my body unexpectedly. I still can’t say exactly what this is, but in combination with research into how trauma affects the body (largely neurologic) and when and how my symptoms kicked in (often in relation to training and/or EMDR therapy, and at the time I was teaching many aerial classes for my income), it became apparent that I had stress effects that were outside my conscious control. This was highlighted and exacerbated as I made the move back to the east coast, throwing myself back into immersive teaching and performing environments that required superhuman energy output. In the weeks and months since, I have removed myself from these types of environments in an effort to moderate my energy output and not “over-extend”, but I am still dealing with chronic fatigue, and my energy boundaries come “sooner” than they would in another body. This is something I am still resolved to heal further.
In clueing in to the connections between stress and trauma, I’ve become attuned to the vagus nerve, which interfaces with parasympathetic control to the heart, lungs, and digestive system. Vagus Dysfunction results in GI symptoms, and this proves itself to me again and again when I over-exert energy. I am learning to tap into more subtle cues, like how my throat and voice shut down when I've had to use a lot of social and/or physical energy, fight-or-flight breathing patterns, liver and spleen imbalance observed by multiple acupuncturists, and the tension I get at the back of my head, which sometimes causes migraines. I’ve begun developing a new training regimen for CNS nervous system regulation, though that will be another post down the line, and something I hope to give back as a future program. It is my duty now, as I continue training and living in this American over-work culture, to pay attention on a gut-level to when my body needs to rest, which is not necessarily when I’d “like” to rest, as in what my mind would have me do.