A Personal Journey With Autoimmune Disease - Blog - Persona Nutrition

A Personal Journey With Autoimmune Disease

The human immune system is a myriad of organs (and organisms) that protect us from harmful bacteria, fungi, toxins, and viruses found in the environment. Some of the organs that comprise it include the lymph nodes, bone marrow, tonsils, the spleen, and gut bacteria – think of it as a college football program working to get to the playoffs at the end of the season. Your spleen is the quarterback, your lymph system is the Athletic Director, your gut bacteria are the defensive line, and so on. The season is life as you know it, and the playoffs symbolize making it through this holiday flu season (or Coronavirus pandemic) unscathed. To accomplish this, the quarterback must play well, the Athletic Director must invest in the program and the defensive line must hit the weight room; you get the picture. Our immunity from the outside world is a product of several complex biological mechanisms working in unison for pageantry on Saturdays (every day). As we grow through our lives and are exposed to internal and external stress, our immune system is put to the test. In some people, about 23 million Americans, their immune system malfunctions under this stress and attacks the tissues of the body causing disease. When this confusion occurs, it is called autoimmune disease.

 

Autoimmune diseases manifest as Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Chron’s disease, Celiac, Alopecia Areata, and more. Companies stack millions of dollars each year marketing remedies that may result in little improvement or yield side effects. But what if there was hope for the damage caused by these inflammatory diseases?

 

For example, a 2018 study I read from Augusta University, published in The Journal of Immunology, outlined how baking soda acts within the body to support inflammation that can result from autoimmune diseases. The study shows that drinking baking soda mixed in water could potentially promote a healthy immune response by the spleen and encourages cells that reduce inflammation throughout the body. Researchers explained how it’s not exactly a mechanism of flipping a switch on or off but instead influencing the body to shift from a pro-inflammatory state to an anti-inflammatory one. This conversion of proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory cells might prevent the body from attacking its own tissues. Imagine your quarterback who is having a mid-season slump and giving him a potion that ignites his peak performance to finish the season with fervor. Reaching the playoffs now doesn’t seem as farfetched. This is what happened to me.

 

In 2015, I was enjoying some quiet months after graduating from college, which was a stressful endeavor for me, and I noticed a circular spot of hair missing on my beard. I didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, I was enjoying the downtime, feeling healthier than ever, and looking forward to starting my career in laboratory science. In the coming weeks, I noticed another spot missing from my beard. Once I started noticing spots on my arms, legs, and scalp, panic ensued. I began to reach out to my friends in the medical field and was quickly informed that I had Alopecia Areata and there was nothing to be done about it. Well, I could take steroids and other drugs that would work for a short time to grow my hair back, but the list of side effects was two miles long and I had no guarantees they would even work. At one point in 2017, I had almost no hair on my body, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and only a small ribbon of hair that wrapped around the back of my scalp.

 

Needless to say: I. Felt. Sick.

I mean, I was fine as far as my vital signs and typical physiological functions are concerned, but I just felt sick. What was I to do? My drug choices could only be taken for a brief period and there was a chance they might not do the trick. I had reached a new low and was legitimately concerned for my long-term health.

 

Then I remembered that someone once told me, “nothing can give you everlasting happiness because you already have it.”

 

I thought to myself, “What if this were true for nutrition and healing the body?”

 

I was convinced that humans are healing machines and I became determined to find solutions. If I were to heal, I had to become my own biggest cheerleader. I reflected on my lifestyle and what things needed change. After all, I spent several years studying under the author of Physiological Ecology and the take-home message from all that time was, “you are what you eat.” In the early days of my impassioned investigation, I figured that my wires got crossed somewhere between poor diet and the sleepless nights of cramming for exams (or the celebrations thereafter), and naturally, my immune system just gave way to the stress. I had persuaded myself that I could promote healing with sound nutrition and good dieting practices.

 

Hm, what would that even mean?

I spent the last 4 years studying about the human body but had no idea where to begin fixing my own.

 

After several years of trying a variety of diets and scouring the internet for information, I found a practice that began to work for me. Hungry to keep pressing forward, I came across the article about baking soda and autoimmune disease. I thought to myself, “It’s $2…why not try it?” I tried everything else it seemed, so I decided to give it a shot. Now, keep in mind that in the interim from when I was diagnosed with Alopecia to when I found the baking soda, I had made several lifestyle changes to reduce chronic inflammation in my life. I was getting 8 hours of sleep regularly, I incorporated a mindfulness practice, I stopped drinking alcohol, I ate a strictly plant-based diet (fish sometimes), and was even Intermittent Fasting 6 days a week. I started taking baking soda in June of 2018 and behold, by August, my hair began growing back!

 

It was remarkable, my hair was growing back all over my body and down the middle of my head (but not the sides). I embraced the hair growth on my scalp by sculpting a pretty sweet fauxhawk and honoring it by digging out a few of my old Blink 182 CDs; it was truly a fun time of healing. The hair on the sides of my scalp eventually filled in and my eyebrows regrew slightly. I couldn’t have been happier. Disclaimer: it is the nature of Alopecia Areata for hair to regrow as spontaneously as it departed, but I’m convinced that my lifestyle changes were the key.

 

I became comfortable with my hair regrowth and eventually phased out taking the baking soda altogether. I was still strict on my diet and spiritual practices, but the baking soda was a thing of the past. When I started a new job and the Coronavirus pandemic hit, I found myself experiencing the same stress that I felt when I was finishing up my degree. As sure as the day is long, the dreaded spots reappeared on my scalp. I quickly remembered the reprieve I experienced from the baking soda last time and began to incorporate it into my diet again. After about 2 months, my hair stopped falling out and began to regrow in spots. As for life now, instead of waiting until it’s 4th & Inches and the game is on the line, I just incorporate a small amount of baking soda with water into my daily practice and enjoy life with my autoimmune symptoms greatly reduced.

 

 

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.

References:

  1. Fuhrman, J., & Sparrow, N. (2011). Super immunity. HarperCollins.
  2. Karasov, W. H., & del Rio, C. M. (2007). Physiological ecology: how animals process energy, nutrients, and toxins. Princeton University Press.
  3. O’Connor, P., 2018. Oral NaHCO3 Activates a Splenic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway: Evidence That Cholinergic Signals Are Transmitted via Mesothelial Cells. The Journal of Immunology, 200(10), pp.3568-3586.
  4. Sonnenburg, J., & Sonnenburg, E. (2016). The good gut: Taking control of your weight, your mood, and your long-term health. Penguin Books.
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