Interview with an AI Thriver

Let me introduce you to my brother, Doug. He is not just a survivor of AI diseases (psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis) – he is a THRIVER. I’m so proud of my brother, and happy for him and his beautiful family, that he has overcome the odds and truly learned to thrive despite chronic, severe AI diseases. Listen to our conversation to see what he has to say about his experience with AI disease, the diet and lifestyle changes he made to overcome them, and his advice for anyone who is still finding their way through. (Transcript and photos below).

Transcript

Audrey:

Hi everyone. Today I’ve invited a special guest, my brother Doug. I’ve asked him to join us and share with us his story of recovery from multiple autoimmune diseases. Doug has suffered from what they now call juvenile arthritis, but back then they called growing pains, as well as psoriasis and hives that he had since he was young boy. I believe it was in his early twenties, he was diagnosed with psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis and he’s been on medication to control that for many years. However, it was about four years ago now, when he had just turned around 40, that he developed severe ulcerative colitis. And I wanted Doug to join us today because he has – I think – a pretty remarkable story of recovery and it shows us what can happen when you find the right practitioners, and you do the hard work it takes in changing your diet and lifestyle to recover.

Doug, happy and hiking

So, hi Doug, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us today. You had something fairly traumatic happened to you with your health a few years ago and it must’ve been pretty scary for you and your family. Tell us briefly what happened, and were you ever afraid you weren’t going to be able to turn it around?

Doug:

Sure. Yeah. So, basically what I developed with ulcerative colitis – and it developed pretty severely –  I don’t know if I would described it as necessarily traumatic. It was progressive and it was a confusing, debilitating kind of condition that you just don’t expect to happen. I like to say it’s the funnest of the conditions I’ve had. But anyway, it definitely makes for a challenging lifestyle as far as work, as far as anything you do. And then it definitely has a lot of effects to your nutrient absorption and your overall health in general. So yeah, again, I wouldn’t say mentally traumatic, but definitely was challenging and confusing when it came about. It definitely led to having to find new ways to get to the bottom of what was causing it and solutions to overcome it.

Audrey:

Yeah. I know at one point the experts were actually at the point of suggesting that you may need to in fact actually have parts of your colon removed. So you had to make some pretty dramatic changes in your diet and lifestyle to recover. And, now that you’re on the other side of that, what are you most grateful for in your life that you might not have if it weren’t for your commitment to doing the hard work?

Doug:

Heading up the ski lift to mountain bike his way back down

Simply being able to do all the things that you want to be able to do without the impediment of a disability that’s permanent, right? Like, if they did remove parts of your colon, I mean, you’re basically getting a bag. I mean, those are way better these days. What they can do with those, they kind of put them inside you. But still, you know, having to drain that out six times a day and that’s the best you’re gonna be, that’s it. That’s a life sentence at that point. Right? So not that that’s the end of the world. You’re not necessarily, I mean, you’re going to live through it, but it’s still not what you want. And having the full freedom of being able to do the things I want to do with my kids, activities, travel, anything I need or want to and function normally. It’s fantastic and at the same time, you know, getting past this problem has helped enable me to do more in improving my health in general. So, it’s something that you kind of take for granted and ignore, when you’re getting older and you have responsibilities and whatnot. You get used to how you feel. But you feel so much better when you do get into a program that is good for your wellbeing and to deal with your condition. But then ultimately just helps all aspects of your life.

Audrey:

So, let’s go back a little bit. We know that all AI diseases have a genetic component and that for it to become active there also has to be a condition of leaky gut and one or more triggers that set it into motion. Can you tell us a bit about how these diseases developed for you and was there a specific trigger that you’ve been able to identify?

Doug:

Not a specific trigger. I think it’s all cumulative. Diet has been a big one, but it’s questionable – is it strictly diet? Is it a combination of modern diets in our society, is it your microbiome and antibiotics and things like that? If it’s stress and other things – or it’s all of the above, right? There’s a lot of potential causes and I don’t know that there’s any assurance it’s one thing or the other or combination of all of them and a cumulative result, right? The toxins that build up results in your body that are stored in fat cells and all those kinds of things. Those are all the theories that are what’s causing these chronic conditions that didn’t occur in people 150 years ago. Right? They’re all new and modern and come with how our society’s changed and how we’re adapting to that.

Development for me has been – and why I would say it’s all cumulative – because I’ve had psoriasis since I was a toddler. They used to call it cradle cap. That’s what they thought it was, because I’d get it in my scalp, but they never really knew. And then they figured out “oh, that’s psoriasis” – it’s more of a chronic thing. So, they just give you some topical steroids.

So from that early age, I just always had that. Then I would have hives and I’d have inflammation, massive inflammation. My whole knee would swell, whatever, couldn’t even put pants on. They could never figure those things out back then. There wasn’t as much information, you know, back in those days. So, they would just give you different things to treat it or to get through it. So, it’s something you got used to and it was just how you were – I mean, you grew up that way. That was kinda what I was used to until it developed into more significant bone deterioration from persistent arthritis in different joints, especially my toes, but it had been throughout my body and they just didn’t really realize the impact of it, until I started getting into the newer biologics [medications] that have come about. And then ultimately into the ulcerative colitis that I developed even while on the heavy biologics that are there for the arthritis that they give you for UC [ulcerative colitis], that I actually developed it while taking those.

But the key thing that I’ve learned so many more things since then that, you know, whether it’s diet, whether it’s all those things that are contributing, they definitely are cumulative and are what leads to progression and the change in the way your body and your immune system attacks itself and, ultimately, causes these kinds of conditions.

Audrey:

So, you mentioned diet was a big one for you. What’s your diet like now?

Doug:

I would describe – or the term for it – it’s autoimmune paleo, with basically gluten free, sugar free, legume free, dairy free and low FODMAP. So that’s it in a nutshell. That’s a mouthful. And if you don’t know any of these things, three or four years ago, I would have said that there’s a bunch of Greek, right? I have no idea what I just said. But I understand what all that is now and I’ve learned so many more things relating to it. I could go more into it, that would take a while, but it’s honestly easier to say what I can eat versus what I don’t eat. But that’s basically the protocol I settled on and has been working.

Audrey:

And what about lifestyle? What changes have you made in terms of physical activity and stress management?

Doug:

I think that lifestyle has been a thing that kind of just occurred. It’s more of an enablement thing in the sense that I would say I’m more active. I am just in general because I have more mobility, more energy, more strength. Back when I had significant arthritis, I used to have to time things that I would do – like a big trip or even just cutting the lawn and playing with my kids a bit, you know, that was it. That was my Saturday and then you know, the rest of they day would be sitting around watching a movie or something because I’d be tired. I’d be worn out.

Doug and his beautiful daughters

But I just thought I was old and out of shape. I would tell myself, “you need to get into shape,” but didn’t really realize how much all these things were a factor. Because it’s kinda like the boiled frog syndrome, you know, you put a bullfrog in cold water and you turn the heat up at one degree every day. It doesn’t realize it’s being boiled until it gets to the point – the breaking point. You kind of have that reality that after you start to improve it’s kinda in reverse that, you know, you can do more. You start to be able to do more and realize all the things you used to do. Now I can go out and take my kids snowboarding all day, I can do yard work when I get back, I can do a hike. I can do a run, I can go to the gym, whatever I feel like because I have that energy and I have the strength and stamina to do it all.

It’s more of a lifestyle opportunity that has presented and enabled – my body has improved to enable my ability to have the kind of lifestyle that I couldn’t otherwise have.

Audrey:

And I think the other thing that we’ve talked about over the years is that one other big change that seems to have made a big impact for you is that you moved out of a very polluted area where you had a long commute, to living in an area where you now have a lot of really fresh air. You’re in Colorado, so you have beautiful fresh air. You don’t have a long commute to work. In fact, I think you work from home most days. So, you have that environmental toxicity as well as a pretty significant – I think a lot of people find that a long commute rather stressful. Do you think those also helped in your recovery?

Doug:

A hundred percent. Definitely, there was a significant improvement – and it was a suspicion that I kind of had always had. I’d sit there in my commute in traffic, and honestly it wasn’t anything worse than your average one. Right? It’d be an hour or whatever, but you know, particularly in the wintertime, you could see the air, you could just see the air. You look in the streetlights and you’re seeing the particulates and all of that that are swirling around. You take a hike to a little bit of elevation, you look down, you see the brown grundge of the exhaust that builds up and that’s something that’s kind of like the boiled frog. You live in it, you don’t really notice it. But then when you go away from it for a period of time, now when I go back, I come from what would be, you know, very clean air because I’m in a more remote area. I go back and I could get out of the car you can kinda, you taste it, you smell it. Like you notice it because your body hasn’t gone –  all the stuff that, it just puts that in background noise, you don’t even know it’s there where you can kind of tell.

So that was a definite when we moved – we didn’t really move necessarily for that reason, but it effectively could help. Although I was on an improving trend, that accelerated significantly after I moved. If I could draw a trendline, I was improving at a certain percentage rate, you know, if it was a 1% every week, once I moved, it was like, it shot up to like 5% a week. Within a few months – I think we officially had moved here in October of 2017, and by February, I was kinda calling it, “Hey, I’m, I’m better now ” sort of thing.

Audrey:

Amazing. Okay. Well one more question for you. What advice would you give to someone who is kind of still in the thick of it? You know, maybe they’re struggling to find the help they need or perhaps whatever they’ve tried so far hasn’t resulted in any major improvements. What would you say?

Doug:

The biggest thing would be to know that there’s more to it, that there are benefits worth it and to stick to something. Like if you’re just new at any of these kinds of things – again, as I mentioned, like even my diet, all these different things you’re avoiding. When I ate so many years ago, I used to consider pizza the most wholesome food there was, right? It was the perfect food. It had dairy, grains, meats, vegetables, all in one shot. Right. It’s perfect. And so, it seemed like it. And it was cheap too. So, you can’t beat it. Well now I don’t even see that as food, right? It’s like, it doesn’t even look that way to me, but at the same time, that’s just where you come from.

So, I kind of have to remember that far and try to realize that that’s kind of where you come from and it can be confusing and can seem like “Is this even worth it? Am I even doing the right thing?” And that was the biggest thing for me is I had a lot of motivation, but at the same time I was trying everything. I joked that I used to read the internet to the end and then what? There’s too much to go on. So many different protocols and some things worked for others, [different] diets, you know, the vegan diet or whatever. There’s so many different ones. There’s more and more information, but everybody’s a little bit different. So, what should you be doing then?

I found that the biggest thing was if I knew what to do, if I knew somebody, I could say, look, you’ve got enough experience as a practitioner that has diets, that has insight into holistic, integrated, specifically autoimmune awareness and protocols on what to do and knows what to look at in your blood, that kind of thing and can give you something to follow then follow it and just do it, you know, religiously and realize that, again, you’ll change in the sense that if you do stick to it you won’t find you’re missing anything and you’ll feel great for it.

You’ll feel better for it if it is what’s right for you and works for you. It just takes time and now I would say it’s a lot easier in a sense. There’s just continues to be more and more products, more and more people adopting this and finding this to be a solution for them. So, you know, find somebody who’s done it and get their advice. I mean I could give anybody who wants to know my diet exactly how I get through it, how I travel. I travel for work all the time, still all that stuff. I can give you a ton of tips for that. So, find somebody that can help you through that sort of thing. And then, just stick to it.

Audrey:

Be consistent. It sounds like that’s a big thing.

Doug:

Yeah. And as you started, for me, as significant as it was, it took me – I was probably strict in full elimination for at least four or five months where I was extremely strict and it was probably a year before I would be at all relaxed. And I’m still, I mean, there’s no such thing as cheat days. There’s none of that stuff. You don’t do it. You just don’t. And then you change as a result of it and it’s not about cheating. I think people look at it as though – “well, you can have a cheat day and eat whatever you want.” But, it’s like, that’s not how it works.

Audrey:

It’s just how you live and how you eat now and that’s what food means to you.

Doug:

Precisely. There’s nothing to cheat. There’s just a way to be. I don’t feel I miss anything. But I definitely can see it. And again, I had the motivation to change that way, but maybe not everybody is impacted as significantly and maybe doesn’t feel that they’re driven to doing that. But again, to me it’s just how I’ve become and I don’t feel anything I’ve missed by just sticking to it and committing.

Audrey:

Yeah. Well that’s so great. And of course, as your sister, very happy for you and happy to know that things have improved so much.

That’s all the time we’re going to have for today. So I really just want to thank you for taking the time with us and, I’m sure that our listeners are gonna find some inspiration and some hope after hearing this today, so thanks a lot.

Doug:

Sounds good, no problem.

Audrey:

Bye bye.

Doug:

Bye.

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