My name is Amanda. I’m a fairly boring housewife-type living in coastal New England with my little family; husband, almost 2-year-old son and almost 4 year old daughter, cat, and two canine mutts. I’m a social worker and psychotherapist specializing in the advanced treatment of psychological trauma, though I don’t discuss the specifics of my work on the internet. I’m home with my kiddos now while my career is waiting for me. One reason I choose to stay home is because the first year of my daughter’s life was a rough one.
I had to do fertility treatments to get pregnant with my daughter back in 2007. I won’t dwell on that except to say that it sucked, and I gained some weight from the hormone injections. But, it worked and she was born in the winter of 2008. I was lucky enough to fall instantly and profoundly in love with her slippery little body the second she was plopped on my chest. We had a wonderful time together in the beginning, despite some breastfeeding challenges and the usual sleep deprivation. Those six months were some of the happiest of my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. We never do.
Six months into our life together, I got sick. I knew immediately that something was wrong, so I didn’t tell anyone, even my husband. My hands were pins and needles. I thought it was contact dermatitis, but, it spread and moved around my body. Soon a band around my chest was totally numb, then my fingers went numb, then my feet. It was scary and disconcerting, and I finally went in to see my doctor, assuming that she would brush it off as a B12 deficiency, give me shot and send me home. My blood work came back however with very elevated CRP and Sed Rate, and I was positive for some strange antibodies like ANA and smooth muscle cell. She immediately called a neurologist who had a cancellation and sent me for an MRI and lumbar puncture.
I’ll never forget the phone call. I was home alone and Hazel was napping. He was very nonchalant when he said, “So, you have
significant white matter damage.” I was hysterical sobbing and he told me to go to the hospital so I could get Solu-Medrol infusions. He told me to look online and pick an MS drug before our next appointment. The steroids were horrendous and I gained even more weight on top of the pregnancy and fertility treatments. My husband had to take the week off work while I was recovering. I had no idea what steroids even were and no one, certainly not my doctor, prepared me for the storm that would happen in my body over the next month.
I put together my list of all four injectable medications available at the time, the pros and cons for each, and a long list of questions. My neurologist didn’t have the time to go over it all with me, and told me to just take Copaxone, a daily injection. I discovered later that he receives money from Teva Neuroscience, the drug manufacturer, to give talks to the public about “Current trends in drug treatment for MS.” I am a good patient though so the nurse came to my house and trained my husband and I to do the injections. For a year, I did the shots every night, had all my questions ignored by my neurologist, had my MRI every 6 months and slept. I was so tired beyond imagining. I felt like I was constantly fighting my way up out of general anesthesia. It made parenting very difficult. my hands seemed to be permanently numb even after the high-dose steroids, and any increase in core body temperature, or an ambient temperature above 80 degrees would bring back all the old symptoms. I would go on a mile long walk and sleep for three hours. My adipose tissue was degraded where I had to inject, and I was covered in painful itchy welts from injection site reactions. My life was limited and sad. I pictured myself in a wheelchair at Hazel’s graduation.
I have always been interested in complimentary and alternative treatments, and received a lot of support from my massage therapist, my chiropractor and my acupuncturist. I read books about alternative treatments for MS, including Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Many MS patients don’t stick with diets that are perceived as “too limiting”, but having been a vegan and vegetarian for most of my life, I felt like I was prepared. At the time, a typical day for me would consist of a bowl of Kashi GoLean cereal with skim milk for breakfast, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese if I was out of the house. Lunch was usually a sandwich or wrap of some kind, and dinner would be pasta or homemade pizza. I did a lot of cooking, but because my husband was a vegetarian I rarely made any meat at home.
Around the same time, another woman I know with MS said that she was managing her disease with the Paleo diet. I remembered hearing something about the “cavemen diet” that was all steak or that it was like Atkins or something with no vegetables and immediately dismissed it. I read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes around the same time that I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and everything started to fall into place. it seemed so simple and natural, like water flowing down hill. I had an epiphany, and sat my husband down to tell him that I was going to have to start buying and cooking meat at home. My diet before was not one that had much to criticize. My dietitian that I saw when I was pregnant told me that she wished all pregnant women ate like me; fat-free and low-fat dairy, whole grains, occasional lean meat, lots of fruit and veggies, very low saturated fat.
In desperation, I did a total turnaround. I decided to give it 30 days after I read Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. I got rid of what little processed food that I had, and was shocked to find that my definition of “processed” had changed with my new information. I started eating eggs for breakfast, sometimes with bacon. I started cooking with butter. I bought my first package of lard from pastured pigs at our CSA. I started roasting whole chickens, one of my favorite meals since childhood and that I missed dearly. I started eating even more vegetables than when I was a vegetarian.
After 30 days, I was off all my medications and not only remained in remission, but I no longer had the symptoms that I was told would be permanent. The fatigue was gone, I had total feeling back in my hands with no residual paresthesia, and I had no more heat sensitivity. On a particularly nice day outside for a walk, my husband said to me, “If this was last year, you would be complaining so much about the heat, and going inside to take a nap.” Everything changed. I effortlessly lost about 40 pounds and felt like I was ten years younger. I loved cooking again. My husband began eating meat again and had similar results. I was able to do yoga again, and lift very heavy weight at the gym. My kids felt lighter, and I was shocked at how much I could get done in a day. I cannot overstate how dramatic the changes were in my life.
I eat meat on the bone, and cook with chicken stock made from feet. I make my yogurt and crème fresh and ricotta. I buy a half
a cow from grass-fed and finished, pastured cows raised by friends. I eat so many vegetables. I love food and the options are limitless. I eat big salads, avocados, fruit, raw nuts, olive oil and homemade mayonnaise. I braise lamb shanks, and ox tails and stew. I roast chickens and sear ducks. I drink tea and stock and seltzer and wine. I eat butter and dark chocolate and brie and goat cheese. I will stuff a fresh fig with blue cheese and honey and thyme for breakfast, and snack on homemade pâté. I have meals of roasted broccoli, cauliflower, squash and beets with lemon juice. I eat yogurt I make with heavy cream on berries with cinnamon. I do not feel deprived of anything.
I struggle with sugar sometimes, and holidays, and alcohol and organ meats. It’s a process that is constantly revolving and refining for me, and I enjoy that. I have eaten an ancestral/paleo/primal/traditional foods diet for about 13 months now and stay off my medication and in a total remission with no new disease progress. I have a new neurologist who supports my choices a hundred percent. I no longer consider a wheelchair to be a part of my future. I have a passion for sourcing, cooking and eating Real Food, and helping people, particularly people with chronic health conditions and people with children, transition to a traditional foods diet. I’m also honored to know my fellow blog collaborators, who are some of the kindest, most knowledgeable and hilarious people I have met. Truth.