Living Well With An Autoimmune Disease

living well with an autoimmune disease

After living with an autoimmune disease for over a decade I have experienced both living well, and not so well during that time. I’ve had periods of flares, years of remission and years of soul-growth and healing. Each of your personal experiences in living well with a chronic illness will have parallels to mine and yet also be different. There are a few key factors to living well with an autoimmune disease that have profound impacts on daily life. They are spiritual, mental and physical aspects that when all working together help me to live the best life possible.

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Beauty in the Dissonance

We all vibrate on certain gradients of energy. The world is spinning and here we are, buoyant with the currents of electric charge all varying in grades of frequency. Like attracts like and we are pulled to one another by this charged beauty, almost unexplained yet completely understood. This is how I feel when I am reached by someone’s writing. They touch me in a way that’s goes beyond the surface and into much deeper crevices of my heart and soul. It’s not every day when this happens, but it is true that we attract into our lives what we put out. I believe wholeheartedly that my intention in sharing people’s stories has sent this massive shock wave out into the world charging these captivating people with the challenge of sharing themselves with the world. I first came across Mitch Hankins from Instinctual Wellbeing.(@mightymorphinmitch) via Instagram and I was initially drawn to his contagious sense of humor and as I continued following him connected and resonated so much with his life journey. The way he shares his meaning is one of the most beautiful expressions I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. As I read his contribution to Soul Power, I cried. I sat with his words, absorbed their energy and thought, “How lucky am I, to be moved by something so honest it’s nearly tangible.” I know you will feel the same, it’s truly an honor to share his words with you.

Beauty In the Dissonance

 

A Note From the Author:

This piece is about coming to terms with who you are, being happy with the person you see in the mirror, and seeing the beauty in your life no matter how chaotic it may seem at times.

So often (and rightfully so) we look to food and lifestyle to aid us in our healing, but in this, we miss another important piece of the puzzle, which is being able to look inwardly to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself and your body, and accepting yourself and your story for what it is.

In being a transgender man who also deals with multiple autoimmune conditions, this has been something I have had to deal with first-hand, and in many ways it has been a far greater challenge than changing my diet or modifying my lifestyle ever was. However, although it has been challenging to embrace my own story, the light that it’s brought to my life has been far brighter and far more rewarding than anything I could have ever hoped for.

So this is a piece of that story. I hope that no matter what your circumstances are in life, that you can begin to dig deep and embrace your own story, and start to see your reflection as part of the whole, and as the wonderful mess that it is: beauty in the dissonance.

-Mitch

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Liver Meat Squares

Liver Meat Squares

 

 

 

Many people are totally repelled by the thought of eating liver. My mother is one of those people. She grew up in a household where liver and onions was a prized staple at the family dinner table, not only that, but there were strict rules about eating your meal, drinking your milk and not being allowed from the table until the plate was clear.

Imagine how she felt as she sat at the table loathing the liver and onions before her, unsure of how she would get rid of the foulness. Well, clever as she is, she came up with some alternatives. During that time she had cuffs in her pants and somehow mysteriously liver would end up in there, or tid-bits handed off to the cat, who was all too pleased to receive the unwanted meal. Even the smell, to this day makes her quiver. NO my mother will likely never eat liver and I never had it growing up since she felt it clearly a form of child abuse to serve it to us. She was scarred for life.

 

Well, I am here to show you that taste buds are not genetic :) which you knew, so I am really here to show you that liver can actually taste REALLY good. The first time I tried liver we were in a restaurant in France and it was chicken liver pate over crostini, it was okay, I’ll admit that I tolerate but do not love chicken liver. When I jumped deep into healing my body I realized so much of what I actually needed to be eating, and offal being one of those.

 

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How To Eat Well On A Road Trip

roadsidefood

Road tripping is fun, exhilarating and liberating. Knowing that you have power over which direction the wheel turns offers a whole new level of freedom unlike much other travel. But preparing for a road trip can seem daunting, especially if you’re moving across the country, like me.

The great thing about traveling by car is the ability to pack whatever you want, including food. If you are trying to be conscious of what they consume or are following the Autoimmune Protocol, traveling can be a point of stress because of the lack of control over meals. It’s gotten easier over the years to have access to healthier options while traveling, however, it’s still not always easy to find easily accessible meals from most standard restaurants.

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How to Trust Your Intuition

Trust Your Intuition

When I graduated college I moved from Virginia to Alabama to live with my Dad for a year. Growing up with divorced parents and living overseas in Belgium for the better half of my life I hardly knew my Dad as a person, it was a connection I desperately wanted. No needed rather. This felt right to me, I knew that it was an opportunity I would regret not taking. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I now cannot imagine lacking the closeness that my Dad and I now have.

During that same time, I got a job working for a travel company that promoted south east traveling working in the creative department as an Art Director. When I interviewed for the job I frankly had no idea what I was doing. I had been interviewing for jobs for months and felt unsure about what other opportunities there would be for me in the area, but something felt off. In my heart my opinion of my future boss was a RED flag waving and screaming “steer clear”. I shoved this aside though, and took the job out of necessity and fear. Fear of not finding something better, fear of not being good enough for something better and just plain fear of not having a job.

In turn, what I did was shut down my intuition that was telling me something wasn’t right about the situation. I stayed in that job for a year being verbally abused and degraded on a daily basis. Despite my appeals to superiors about the situation, I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer, my intuition had been right.

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Warm Chicken “Grain” Salad – Nourish Paleo Cookbook Review

When I think about all that the Autoimmune Protocol has done for me I think about nutrient density. Because of this diet I now have learned so much about myself, my body and got rid of my misunderstanding about how food works in the body, and how  to form a healthy relationship with food. This book encompasses all of that. The recipes focus on nutrients first but bring back the flavors that are well missed while following the Autoimmune Protocol. Nourish brings back the flavor and inspiration to AIP cooking. Rachael from the popular blog Meatified has created a book full of recipes to help aid in the process of healing your body.

So many of Rachael’s recipes in Nourish make my southern heart go patter-patter, like collard greens with parsnip cream, baby back ribs and BBQ sauce along with roasted okra. In fact my jaw dropped when I first tasted the BBQ sauce, she manages to create an actual spicy flavor using AIP approved ingredients and it will blow your mind!

Nourish The Paleo Healing Cookbook

Another reason I love Nourish is the recipes are all fairly simple, uncomplicated and take little time in the kitchen. One of my favorite recipes so far has been this Spring Soup with crispy prosciutto which took me all of 20 minutes to fix. It’s so light but it left me feeling completely satisfied after.

Spring Soup

I thoroughly enjoyed her Parsnip cream, BBQ sauce and Apple Dressing recipes you’ll be lathering these sauces of everything you put in your mouth! They are insanely simple to make and it may be the reason why I love them so much because when you’re already spending a lot of time prepping food in the kitchen it’s nice to have certain items that just take a few minutes.

It’s because of her recipes that I actually tried shrimp cakes. I have a weird aversion to (fish) cake anything, but she made these look so good in the book I felt I had to try them. And  and I LOVED them, seriously I could make and eat these everyday. The recipes in this book focus on aiding  in restoring the body to health through nutrient density. She makes beef tongue and offal look GOOD, no joke, you’ll be drooling looking at some of the recipes in her book and suddenly craving liver pate.

This book is for all people truly not just those following AIP as most of the recipes I doubt you’d even consider saying they’re restrictive. Moreover, Nourish is for both people that have been on the protocol for a long time, or those just starting. I love it because it focuses so much on the nutrient quality of food and that being the forefront of every recipe is what is going to help people succeed in their journey to health. If you’re having a hard time focusing on that area of the autoimmune protocol, you need this book.

Shrimp Cakes

A perfect example of not missing much on the protocol is finding inventive ways to recreate flavors and textures of foods that might be missed, like grains. In this warm chicken “grain” salad that I share with you from her book this salad transforms into the texture of grains and into a warming meal that leaves you satisfied for hours because of it’s jam packed nutrient density.

 

Here’s to your health and getting in those important nutrients!! Check out my Instagram for a chance to win a copy of her awesome book!

 

WARM CHICKEN “GRAIN” SALAD – with butternut squash and greens

Chicken "Grain" Salad

 

Ingredients  – Serves 4

4 cups (560 g) butternut squash

2 tsp + 1 tbsp (10 ml + 15 ml) coconut or avocado oil, divided

1 tsp (5 g) salt, divided

1 lb (454 g) ground chicken

1 tsp (4 g) garlic powder

1 tsp (2 g) ground sage

1 tsp (1 g) dried rosemary leaves

½ cup (70 g) diced onion

8 oz (225 g) Swiss chard

4 oz (115 g) spinach

Squeeze of lemon juice

 

Process

ROAST: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Cut the butternut squash into ½ inch (13 mm) cubes and toss with 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of the oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the squash out in a single layer. Roast the squash until it is tender and beginning to brown and caramelize at the edges, about 15 – 20 minutes. Reserve the cooked squash for later.

COOK: Add the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil to a skillet over low-medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the ground chicken, breaking it into a few large pieces with your hands before dropping it into the pan. Don’t break up the chicken in the pan any further or it will overcook and become very dry. Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, garlic powder, sage and rosemary over the chicken and cover the pan with a lid. Cook the chicken, covered, until it is cooked through and there is no pink inside, about 5 – 6 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway through. Do not overcook the chicken – it should release juices into the pan and still be tender when cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

ASSEMBLE: Crumble the cooked chicken into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 – 5 times, until the chicken is broken up into little “grains”. Do not overprocess, or you will end up with a sticky paste! Finely slice the chard and spinach. Toss together the “grains”, roasted squash, chard and spinach back in the pan with the onion and all the pan juices. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the salad, to taste, and toss together to combine. The salad can be eaten straightaway, but also refrigerates nicely so you could make it ahead of time and serve it as a cold “grain” salad, too. When it’s warmer, I like to swap the butternut squash for roasted asparagus, beets or summer squash and lighter greens, but the possibilities are almost endless!

 

Enjoy!
Love and light,

Kari

Avocado Lime Hand Pies + Alternative Autoimmune Book Review!

There are tons of cookbooks out there. Until recently however, there haven’t been many dedicated solely to following the Autoimmune Protocol. When I first started my journey on AIP, Mickey Trescott’s cookbook helped guide me in the right direction, it was instrumental in me starting my journey which is why I am so excited so share some incredible books with you dedicated to the Autoimmune Protocol.

I know that books like Alternative Autoimmune by Angie Alt are helping so many people. First off I have to tell you that this book, while filled with tons of recipes, it’s far from just an ordinary cookbook. It’s a motivator, incredibly inspiring and in it’s on way a cheerleader. It’s as if Angie herself is coaching you through your own AIP journey while sharing her own intimate personal stories. It’s a peek inside her heart and her kitchen, and you can’t ask for more from a book!

Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook

I’ve made several of her recipes like Pork & Sprouts Breakfast Skillet, Bacon & Artichoke Stuffed Pork Chops, Lime & Coconut Ceviche and Turmeric Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp all seen below! I’ve also made her Turmeric Cauliflower, Zucchini Cilantro Burgers and so much more.  All super yummy, inventive and left me wanting for nothing!

When first starting the protocol it can be daunting to figure out how to piece together ingredients and make a meal out of foods that may be new to you. The recipes in this book are completely different than any I’ve had before and some I would have never thought to try, like these yummy Avocado-Lime Hand Pies I share with you today!

Pumpkin Turmeric Shrimp Soup

This book is an essential resource for those of you who just started following the protocol but also for those who have been on the protocol for a while and are now reintroducing foods. Maybe you’re thinking about reintroducing coffee or mustard but are at a loss for how to use these two ingredients. In her book she has recipes for Coffee and Balsamic Roast Beef, and Mustard Chicken Wings and a Lemon Bar Ice Cream I am dying to try after some of my own personal reintroductions. She provides you with the steps to reintroduce food groups and the recipes to do it with! This book is about healing not just your insides literally, but also your insides emotionally!

You have to understand where you’ve come from in order to get where you want to be, and I believe Alternative Autoimmune and Angie’s personal stories will help do that.

Bacon & Artichoke Stuffed Pork Chops

(Image from Alternative Autoimmune)

Angie talks about self-esteem with the “butt manifesto” which I LOVE. The way we view ourselves and how it correlates with our eating habits and disease is such a real thing. The relationship between ourselves and illness is a delicate one, but we have to move through some grieving as we venture into a new lifestyle and this is an important step. She covers this all in the most graceful and vulnerable way. Honestly, if the food itself doesn’t convince you that you need this book, the insight from her years of healing herself will inspire you and leave you feeling confident that you can accomplish the same.

This journey isn’t always just about the food, and it’s in fact about so much more. I love that Alternative Autoimmune covers all facets of the health journey in her book and brings perspective for those who are wading in the waters of resistance and struggle. Alternative Autoimmune is truly a guide to get you through it.

 

AND NOW –  the most delicious and unusual treat a sneak peak from Alternative Autoimmune which I am in LOVE with!

If you want to WIN a copy of her ebook head over to my Instagram page to enter!

 

 

AVOCADO LIME HAND PIES

Avocado Lime Hand Pies

(Image from Alternative Autoimmune)

Ingredients

(filling)

1 ripe avocado
1½ tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup honey

(crust)

¾ cup tapioca flour
¾ cup coconut flour
¾ cup palm shortening
⅛ cup turbinado sugar (also called
raw sugar)
1 ripe banana
¼ teaspoon salt

Process

Filling
Put all ingredients in a food processor and process
until smooth. Set aside.
Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put all ingredients
in a food processor and process until dough forms.
Dust rolling pin with tapioca flour. Roll out dough on
parchment paper to ⅛ inch thickness. Using a large
round cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible.
Set aside. Reshape dough and cut again, repeating
until all dough is used.
2. In center of 1 round, place 1 generous spoonful
of filling. Place second round on top of first. Press
around edges to close crust and then flute with a fork.
Poke top of round with a fork. Repeat until all rounds
are filled. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet
and bake 25–30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

 

Notes: Depending on humidity, dough may be too dry. If
so, add 1 tablespoon full fat coconut milk (more if
necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time). Dough should be
soft and pliable.

 

ENJOY!

All the best in your health,

Kari

Why Knowing Your Farmer Is Important For Your Health

 

Lambs Together

“Know your food, know your farmers, and know your kitchen.” – Joel Salatin

Most Saturday’s I walk over to the farmers market from my house, and even if I don’t buy anything I’m looking for conversation. The beauty of markets such as these lies in the construction of a community, it’s the weaving together of people from various backgrounds for one common goal; to sell their goods to people in the area because they believe in what they produce. Buying locally takes on a whole new meaning when  we consider food quality and our health.

Months prior to moving  to Florida my Grandma told me about a woman who sold eggs, chickens and lamb at the farmer’s market. Knowing my interest not only in health but in sustainability she pointed me in the right direction. When I first approached Amy’s tent I gazed at the pictures she had displayed on a tall makeshift wall of the fields, lambs, chickens, how their farm works and the beauty of the land is an after thought in these photos. On that same wall she has a picture comparing the yolk of a conventional egg (literally sad looking too) and one of the eggs from her hens.  The bright orange inside outshines the other egg as it pales in comparison. I knew we would get along after seeing this picture as it indicated to me her value in quality.

It seems like in the last decade the term “Buy Local” has blown up on the internet, bumper stickers and paraded around on more and more USA main streets across the country. It’s like not-so-secret club that everyone is welcome to join and I promise you want to be IN this club. As we talk about getting to know your farmer and why it’s important to shop at farmers markets and local stores we have to address the benefits being so much more than simply knowing the location of where your food comes from. It’s an important factor for understanding not only what it takes to make your food to appreciate it’s cost and value  of course, but going even deeper this is why knowing your farmer is important for your health.

 

Bottle Feeding LambsBottle Feeding Lambs

Whether we’re talking about vegetables or livestock, knowing where your food is grown or raised plays an integral role in understanding how it works in your body too. If you know who is raising the chicken’s for the eggs you’re eating with your bacon for breakfast, you have the knowledge to understand precisely how those chickens roam, what they eat, and inadvertently what you’re eating. Say you have a corn allergy but you’re buying eggs from the grocery store that are “free range” or “fed a vegetarian diet”  you won’t know for sure whether those hens are eating bugs or are supplemented with feed, most likely made of corn. By reaching out to a farmer, you get to bond with the person whose hands tend to the animals that sustain your own livelihood, this is an education.

The power of food as medicine is unbelievable, but it would be incomprehensible without power of education.

Spending time at a farm has it’s immediate health benefits aside from empowering your healthy choices. Over the weekend I spent part of the day out with Amy at her and her husband Jim’s farm, A3 Farms. About a week before she told me that all the baby lambs had dropped and immediately I knew I had to go pay a visit. It was my second time out to the farm, but this being the first chance I really got to have the full tour.

As we walked along the fence where all the mama sheep and baby lambs lay, a few of the lambs galloped towards us. These in particular were ones that were neglected by mother, they knew Amy now as their mother and she was coming with bottles to feed them.

 

Bottle Feeding Lambs

I helped her feed the babies and as they searched for the bottle they’d crawl in between my legs, rubbing against them similar to the antics of a cat. This, I learned is something they would do to their mother in search of milk.

Being around animals is therapeutic in itself and I felt immensely grateful to be able to give them love and nourishment. Just by being around them, outside, exposing myself to new things and learning my mood was elevated. By doing this it perpetuated my gratitude for the reciprocity of the relationship. I know that at some point these animals will serve to nourish others and while the animal lover in me screams, THIS IS SAD but the reason in me whispers this is why we take care of the world in which we live, because relationships are intended to be mutually beneficial.

Bottle Feeding Lambs

What happens is you begin to realize the impact you have with your consumption of food. It’s not a passive action, as in some ways it can appear by strolling through the grocery store buying products off the shelves (hopefully, not) or even with produce that is labeled organic yet you aren’t entirely sure what went into the soil. As you deepen your relationship with the person who cultivates the food you buy you’re able to find gratitude for food that you’re eating as you begin to understand that you’re not the only one that matters in the equation.

Getting to know your farmer gets you out of thinking “self” and into think “us all” as you consider the animals, the farmer, the community and economy. It’s like a Newton’s cradle, by pulling one side of the ball or more than one ball the kinetic energy has to pass through every ball in order to reach the other end. It’s this velocity which causes the opposite ball to begin moving, simultaneously igniting the back an forth motion as energy is transmitted in this pattern. Every ball is touched by the instigation of the initial energy and each plays a part in order for the them to continue in movement.

If we’re adamant about knowing where our food comes from we must actually seek it out so that our farmer’s can continue to grow organic vegetables and raise quality livestock. We have to step outside of how we currently understand food in this day and age, and instead into the root of the process to grasp our part in it all. I know, not everyone may have direct access to go out and spend a day at a farm, but nonetheless getting to know the farmer’s at your market will help you in facilitating a connection to deepen your relationship with what you’re feeding yourself.

Lamb

Spending time with another living thing is about forming a relationship, time is money and if you’re asking me, time is the most valuable investment. When you give someone the opportunity to share their story with you, you’ve slipped a coin into the jukebox of their soul.

That day as I helped Amy bottle feed a few babies she explained their farming practice and the process she goes through every year during the spring. This year she had 52 babies, with one being still-born. Later in the spring she will go through the shearing process with the older sheep. In the summer she has a lot of work ahead of her as they will prepare to check all the lambs for worms and parasites, which she says can kill many of them if she doesn’t get them at the right time. As we talked I learned more about her passion for sustainability, knowing that she can provide for her family and friends no matter what happens is where she finds comfort and what made her fall in love with farming after years working in the corporate world. This type of security is invaluable to her. But, what I also learned is her dedication to food quality. We bonded over her reading the Primal Blueprint and when I shared about having an autoimmune disease and using food to restore my health she instantly opened up about her own journey learning to understand how food works in the body, and then wanted to know more about what I am studying. This moment was the beauty of vulnerability acting as the bridge to connection.

Lambs Together

It’s from this conversation, the egg picture on her stand, and now having seen first hand, I know everything raised on their farm is given the utmost love and care. Her priority is quality. The beauty of knowing your farmer in this way is that there is no guessing. No wondering whether something is organic, or grass-fed, or raised in a cage. You’ve now armed yourself with another tool in your arsenal for combating health challenges, you can feel sure that your choices are solid.

Forming a personal relationship with a farmer and the animals they raise causes you to value their livelihood and appreciate the cost of what they produce. Through knowing the food you’re eating from them will nourish your health but affect many more than you. By knowing your farmer you’re giving back on a much larger scale, it’s an investment in “us all”.

 

 

Have any of you been out to visit farms, gotten to know your farmers? Share your experience in the comments below!

xo,

Kari

Living With Arthritis

managingarthritis

Last week I had the privilege of participating in an online chat discussing living with arthritis with Emma from The Bacon Mum, Erin from Enjoying this Journey and Kat of The Primordial Table. Thanks to A Clean Plate the Autoimmune Connection is a web series that discussing all things related to autoimmunity. It serves as a way to bring together various bloggers, health and wellness experts to discuss autoimmunity, the autoimmune protocol and act as a resource to those dealing with different challenges throughout their journeys.

 

We talked about our personal experiences with each of our types of arthritis, Rheumatoid, Psoriatic and Anklyosing Spondylitis. Arthritis affects us all very differently, yet so similar too. We discussed each of our own trials with reintroduction during the autoimmune protocol, along with what has worked in our lifestyle habits and what hasn’t. Not only were we able to talk about how to use food as medicine, but we all also shared how arthritis is so much more than just manifested in the physical body. We also talked about how we keep mobile and why it is so important as persons with arthritis to focus on our mobility and range of motion.

 

I couldn’t have been more excited to participate in this great discussion with wonderful company. These ladies have seriously so much to learn from and I was honored to chat with them! Check it out and make sure to subscribe to A Clean Plate to get all the latest videos from the Autoimmune Connection. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you watched!

 

 

xo,

Kari

 

Acupuncture for Autoimmune Diseases: TCM & First Treatments

Acupuncture For Autoimmune Diseases Part 1

Preface

I hope to explain a bit about acupuncture for you all and the benefits of acupuncture for autoimmune diseases as many of you have been curious of my ongoing treatment. Understand that I am not an expert on this and I do not have all the answers, but I present to you my understanding, research, along with my personal experience.

Acupuncture Explained

A major component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is qi, pronounced as “chee”, sometimes it is spelled as chi. Qi is vital in all things and has aspects of matter and energy. The qi in the body represents and measures the vitality of a person. There can be qi in foods as well, though that may be a topic for a different discussion. In the words of Paul Pitchford, “From a therapeutic standpoint, there are several functional aspects of qi. It is warming and is the source of all movement; it protects the body, flows through the acupuncture channels and maintains the activity of the body systems and organs. Sources of qi in the body are three-fold 1) from food; 2) from the air we breathe and 3) from the essence of the kidneys, some part of which we are born with.” Qi simply put and the way I understand it is the energy that moves within you, keeps your organs and systems moving and working together. How well we use qi depends on how we live our lives, what food we eat, our attitudes, mental state, relationships with people, and experiences.

 

To better understand how it all works, we must also understand yin and yang. Everything can be described in terms of yin-yang principles. It is rare for someone to be defined as only yin or only yang since they work in congruence together and when health is attained they are in balance. With autoimmune diseases in particular we know that there is an imbalance in the body simply because the immune system cannot recognize self from non-self invasive cells. Studies have shown that acupuncture can help to restore the body to homeostasis aka balance in the body.

Yang is associated with active, masculine, outside mind, light, time, heat, energy of the body, function to name a few. Yin on the other hand is passive, Earth, substance, inside, body, feminine, dark, cold, blood, to identify a few. Everything is whole in nature, and it’s the balance of yin and yang that makes them so, as one cannot exist without the other. Since this is all a bit complicated to understand, and I am deep in the learning process this video explains it visually, which helps for my learning style.

 

 

Acupuncture works to stimulate the blood flow, which helps to stimulate the body’s capability to heal. Acupuncture practitioners can use pulse diagnosis tests to identify different areas of the body that need work, certain pulse reads can indicate the areas of imbalance. A person can be too yin, or too yang in certain areas, the goal is to activate the qi to return the energy to a whole balanced state. It helps to activate the stagnant areas of the body to move and/or release the qi to get the body systems and organs working together in balance.

Acupuncture is a very personal and intimate experience but there is no doubt that it helps with anxiety, depression,  chronic pain and disease management. Chris Kresser explains perfectly HERE just how acupuncture works to alleviate pain.

“Genetically the body is not designed to be in chronic pain. It will do everything it can to get us out of pain. Acupuncture “reminds” the body how it should be functioning, and helps its powerful inbuilt pain relieving mechanisms kick into gear. It’s a bit like jump-starting a car. You’re not changing how the car works, or even adding anything to the engine. You’re just giving the battery a little jolt so the car can run how it’s supposed to.”

 

 

My First Acupuncture Treatment

I was nervous the day of my first acupuncture treatment a back in November though, I’m not afraid of needles. I’ve spent the last nine years of my life getting stuck for blood drawings, infusions, and self-injecting medications. Needles were not my issue. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect and most often, the unknown causes anxiety. What happens to your body when the needles go in? I knew the science of it, but I didn’t know how it would pertain to me as an individual.

Going into my initial session I had no idea how I was going to react. As I talked with my acupuncturist we addressed the main issues I wanted to focus on treating, my arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis) you can read how that affects me here, leaky gut and digestive issues, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue and amenorrhea. I was feeling like I had no energy for life. The day to day was draining me and I had no space for anything extra. Fortunately she is extremely sensitive, detailed and thoroughly discussed how each of these problems made me feel. I instantly felt a connection with her and it put me at ease. It was as if I had known her for a long time,  I was only returning to see and be comforted by an old friend.

 

Her explanation of how my treatments would work helped me to understand more of the process of acupuncture. While I hadn’t yet committed to a full treatment plan I was seeing her for the first session to gauge whether it was something I really wanted to do for a longer term. She explained that during the first few sessions we’d be working towards getting the stuck and negative energy currently inside of me out, so that my qi can move properly throughout my body.

With hypothyroidism a major symptom is sensitivity to cold and coldness of the extremities. Most often my hands and feet are icy cold even if the rest of my body is warm even if I am covered up with blankets. I understand now there isn’t enough qi in my body to reach my extremities and warm up all parts of my body, the energy I do have is working overtime to take care of other things. Simply staying warm is a task and for the qi to reach the ends of my body is low on priority right now. She explained that the first few sessions she would leave the needles in my body on the pressure points for a longer period of time. Depending on the treatment the needles can stay in, or simply go in and come right back out.

 

The first day I saw her I was having terrible digestive upset, I was eating nutrient dense foods, doing yoga and all the “right ” things, but still my stomach and intestines were in knots. When we began treatment she started in my abdomen by placing needles in the lower two sides near my hips,  one at the bottom of my sternum and another at the crown of my head. She told me to just relax for 15 minutes and covered me up with the blankets in order to keep me warm (remember extremities). What felt like a half an hour passed and my anxiety began to stir.

“ I am having a really hard time just laying here, being here with myself,” I didn’t even realize what I was saying but it all began pouring out of me as if these were words I had spoken at another time. I then said, “ I’m feeling like I do when I have my regular MRI’s to check my spine for bone fusion,” and at this point the tears began to roll away from my eyes. She asked what that feeling was like and began to release the blankets from each of my sides. The tears continued to stream steadily and while I was not hysterical, everything inside of me was screaming, “Get up, get out, move you have to MOVE!”

“It’s really hard being trapped, in there, not being able to move,”  I said to her as she laid  a tissue by my hand. “It’s really scary not being able to move,” I repeated and she replied “Have you experienced that feeling at other times?” BOOM!  “Yes,” I said muddled with tears. Instantly I was 15 again unable to walk, my fingers curling into my hands, unable grip, students laughed and whispering behind my back, completely out of control and trapped in my own body unable to move. During those times I felt like a hostage inside my own body.

“It’s terrifying to not be able to move,” I told her, “it’s my biggest fear of all.”

 

It’s the most powerful and emotionally draining experience I’ve ever had, but my digestive upset was completely alleviated. It felt as though I was on the table and talking with her for over an hour and I wondered how I had been there so long, but it was only 15 minutes. In confusion and disillusion I left, exhausted. My body had done so much work and energy had shifted so much by the time I made it home that afternoon I crashed.

The important thing for you to know is that this doesn’t always happen to people. This is not necessarily the norm. From my understanding people can have extremely emotional releases during acupuncture but more often than not they don’t. This was simply my experience, my body has so much depleted qi because of all of these issues, arthritis, hypothyroid, potential parasite, adrenal fatigue, lack of blood, let alone the day to day activities and showing up in the world, emotional stress and past experiences buried deep inside of me. This may be the case for you too, but it’s completely individual. And I should mention that this strong of an emotional release has not happened since, there have been other things, but not like this.

I felt so light after. Regardless of the extreme fatigue, I felt a weight lifted off as me as if I had been keeping someone’s secret and just got to vent with my best friend. However, the fear of not being able to move is not something I even knew I had. I have never given a thought to it consciously before. Sure, the prognosis for my disease is spinal fusion and being wheelchair-bound, but what caused that fear was having experienced immobility and that experience along with the emotions attached to it have been stored in my body ever since. I just never realized it consumed me. Yet it’s an epiphany for me, I have this new understanding of myself, of why I enjoy movement through yoga, why traveling and physically relocating makes me feel alive. It’s the freedom of moving that I love, and the loss of that which terrifies me in every aspect. I understand deeply my motivation for everything I do, the way I live life, the way I eat, the way I treat people, how I care in my relationships it truly comes back to a determination to always be mobile.

 

I instantly knew after this session that I needed to commit to further to a treatment plan. What I learned of myself in one single appointment was revolutionary and now what I have learned after a consistent two months of treatment is invaluable. Dr. Perlmutter a neurologist and author of the popular book Grain Brain put my perspective into words perfectly,

Wouldn't you rather understand why you have a problem instead of just trying to cover it up?

Acupuncture has given me more insight into the why’s of my health challenges more than any other form of treatment I’ve sought out before.

 

I am still deep in this journey and I want to provide you with the best information to make an informed decision as to whether acupuncture is a treatment you wish to pursue. Since it varies to every individual experience I want you all to know how much it has truly affected me, and though I do recommend it, I also encourage doing thorough research, looking into your acupuncture’s credentials and mostly trusting your intuition with your decision as that is what led me to mine. In my next post on acupuncture I will discuss where I am now after two months of continual treatment and some more of what I have learned along the way about autoimmunity, vitality and myself.

 

 

 Helpful resources:

 How Acupuncture Works: Chris Kresser

Acupuncture Intro

What Is Qi and Other Concepts of Yin and Yang

 Dr. Perlmutter: Grain Brain

 

 

Wishing you love, light and vibrancy!

 

XO,

Kari

 

 

 

CONTINUE –> READ PART TWO OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

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