Getting My Life Back Together – The Autoimmune Rebuild of 2014

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2012 and 2013 were the most difficult years of my life (see my 2013 yearly review).  2014 was all about getting my life back together and rebuilding my autoimmune system.  Before I begin, please watch this small clip from Forest Gump:

Like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, I was angry – angry at the doctors who would tell me to “take these pills” only to realize they were contributing to my condition.  Angry that Chiropractors manipulated me too much (to this day I still cannot turn my neck prior to 2012).  Angry at taking advice from the functional medicine doctors and holistic practitioners telling me they have the solution to my illness, take my money, and rarely ever follow-up.  I was angry at God and the people who praised God as the ultimate healer only to be writhing in pain every night and never hear a word back from Him.  And ultimately frustrated with the realization that the very medicine I wanted to get off in the beginning turns out to be the one thing I need to get my life back in order.

Then why did I suggest you watch a video clip of someone at peace? After fighting the “storm(s)” like Lieutenant Dan, I realized that we all have struggles and peace is determined by the way you perceive life.  And for positive perception to begin, I had to let go of the expectation that to fix my autoimmune condition without medication. And rebuilding is the small wins you get like learning how to run the first time, being able to sit in a chair for more than 20 minutes or treading water (exercise) for that extra 10 seconds.  It’s the people I met, the woman I fell in love with, and realizing who I am instead of trying to attain a status of what “you” perceive I should be.  Letting go but not giving up is my new motto for 100 percent health.

My Steps on the Autoimmune Rebuild of 2014

While I let go and found new perceptions to life, I never stopped researching, experimenting and relearning.  The best way I can describe my autoimmune rebuild is through this recent study from 39 experts in Autoimmunity.  They concluded that most people develop autoimmune conditions from these major areas:

autoimmune environmental factors

Repeatedly these experts suggested these specific tips on protecting your health and improving your immune system:

1. Clean up your diet by removing toxic and inflammatory foods.
My experience:  Some of the inflammatory common foods I continue to avoid are processed foods (especially the ones I cannot pronounce or understand), breads / flours (the starches I tolerate are rice, potatoes and quinoa), soda and artificial sweetners.  I eat low amounts of dairy, beans / legumes, alcohol, and tomato paste.
2. Eat a variety of organic whole foods.
My experience:  If I could, I bought local.  To do this I visited the farmer’s markets and talked to the farmers about what they grow and what pesticides they use.  I now buy a wider range of non-USDA certified foods because the foods are still organic (or use organic practices) but aren’t USDA certified yet.  This saved me money and helped me understand the local production of produce (i.e. what is best to buy each season).
3. Take care of your microbiome.
My experience:  Your microbiome is basically the good and bad bacteria within your digestive system.  By introducing probiotics, you increase the good bacteria which helps repair it.  I continue taking water kefir on and off (currently doing it now) as it is easy to use and costs much less than buying probiotics.
4. Reduce your stress.
My experience:  2012 & 2013 I separated myself from almost anything that caused me stress as I could not cope with that along with my periods of depression and chronic pain.  Since I was getting better by taking Humira (end of 2013), it allowed me the freedom to learn how to exercise (the 1st few months I had to relearn how to run again – it was quite a strange experience), socialize, and gain weight (at one point I weighed as little as 118lbs.), and not trying so hard to “fix” my chronic issues – all of which continues to keep my stress down.  Throughout the months 90%+ of the symptoms went away and I developed a life again.  This continued as long as I kept the mantra of letting go but not giving up.
5. Sleep.
My experience:  I got to re-experience the amazing feeling of sleep without pain.  If I continued to eat right (mostly by listening to my body and making sure my bowel movements / BM were in check), exercise and went to bed at a decent time, I got good sleep without chronic pain.  I will mention, though, that I’ve gone through many revisions on which type of bed to use.  I have a Sleep Number and can adjust but the settings are too dense/soft between the settings I use.  Adding in foam toppers (currently at 1 1/2″) and mattress toppers have mostly helped, but it’s still a work in progress.
6. Exercise (but don’t overdo it!).
My experience:  Yoga has helped tremendously and I do it almost everyday.  The Wii Fit Plus works well as I never need to go anywhere to do Yoga and follow a routine.  Swimming works well but I stopped going for awhile as the chlorine in the pool isn’t the best for health.  For more intense workouts, I do push-ups with the Perfect Push-Up, pull-ups, various types of crunches / sit-ups (but doing this carefully), arm-band bicep curls, and exercises that use my body + gravity instead of weights.  I also developed a Volleyball MeetUp every Wednesday that turned popular and has been great for me socially and with coordination.
7. Clean up your environment.
My experience:  Besides changing out my air conditioner / handler, this will be one of my focuses in 2015.  Although I’ve done pretty well with getting natural products for my skin / exterior, I still need to work on the cleaning products.  I recently went to a seminar talking about all kinds of natural remedies and will be posting that experience soon.
8. Be your own advocate.
My experience: Besides this blog, I will be speaking more about my story at upcoming events, continue to help others with questions they may have (both on blog and in-person), and take health-related classes.

Autoimmune Rebuilding with Humira

None of the above would have been possible without Humira.  As much as I tried to not use a biologic, I realized that my body cannot rebuild and heal (without severe consequences) with a dysfunctional autoimmune system (due to the environmental factors that contribute to autoimmunity – see graph above).  Here are my inflammation blood test results from 2014 while on Humira compared to 2012 & 2013 (mostly without Humira):

autoimmune inflammation rates from 2011 to 2014

The graph above shows two markers of inflammation.  Normal SED rates range from 0 – 15 and CRP ranges from 0 – 4.9.

  • SED Rate:  Normal rates 0 – 15.  In April 2012, highest was 101 (chronically killing me).  My lowest was 4/4/14 which was a 2.
  • CRP Rate:  Normal rates 0 – 4.9.  In April 2012, highest was around 142.8 (chronically killing me).  As of 4/4/14, it is under 1 and I have never been that low.
  • Fibrinogen Activity:  Another marker of inflammation (not shown in graph).  Normal Rates 193 – 507.  6/6/13 I was at 578 and on 4/4/14 which was a 203.  I do not plan on taking more of the Fibrinogen tests as insurance companies are increasingly not accepting them.

2014 Humira Timeline

  • April 2014 (Blood Test) – From November 2013 to February 2014 I used Humira as directed (every 2 weeks).  March to May 2014 the longest I would go without a dosage was once per month.  The results from April are my lowest in inflammation.
  • August 2014 (Blood Test) – 5/30 – 9/2/14 I went off Humira for 3 months (94 days).  On average, Humira will stay in your system 82.5 days as the average half life of Humira is 15 days X 5.5 (decay rate).  The results were an elevated CRP of 6.3. Symptoms that started coming back were bloating, stiff neck (enough to start restricting my movement out of bed), weight decreasing to upper 140s, mucus in BM & and fissure was starting to occur.  With these results and my doctor’s suggestions I went back on Humira but only taking one dosage per month.
  • December 2014 (Blood Test) –  1st month (September) still had the most symptoms (but issues above mostly cleared up within 2-5 days) and 2nd month (October) I was almost symptom free.  By the 3rd month (November) things did clear up and I was back to normal.

NOTE:  One major issue I thought I had while on Humira was hives.  It turned out that visitors to my home had brought bed bugs and after they left, I was bitten by them thus causing the hives and in no way was due to taking the Humira.

My Weight

In 2013 I went underweight due to malabsorption in the body (classic symptom of Crohn’s disease) and my lowest weight was 118lbs.  After taking the Humira to suppress my autoimmune system and continuing my diet, my weight went back up to my normal weight.  The graph below shows from April 2013 – April 2014, my weight has mostly stayed in the 150lb. range and is today at 154lbs.

Weight while on / off Humira 2013 - 2014

Weight fluctuation 2013 – 2014 while on / off biologic medication and changing my diet.

Highlights of the Autoimmune Rebuild 2014

Now that my health is back in order, it was time to rebuild my life instead of focusing most my attention rebuilding my autoimmune system.

Masquerade Ball Elegant Rumba

Masquerade Ball Salsa Dancing Group Photo (April 2014)  MORE PHOTOS

J A Moisan Old Grocery Store North America

One of the oldest grocery stores in North America. J A Moisan – Quebec City, Canada

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City, Canada

hippocrates health institute original building

Taken during my tour, the original building of the Hippocrates Institute, one of the first facilities to promote health and wellness over traditional medicine.


Autumn Blossoms End of Life Care Residence 3D Concept Naples Florida

Rebuilding my business. This is one of the 3D architectural visualization projects I worked on. Naples Daily News Article

Chrysler 200 (car on right) and my old Sebring (left)

Purchased a Chrysler 200 (car on right) and my old Sebring (left). Did a lot of driving to find a good deal and glad to see I was able to do it without much issue. A year ago this wasn’t possible.

007 Salsa Dance Event Fort Myers Florida

Me with the owners of salsa dance studio during their 7th anniversary event.

I'm at the Naples, Florida pier during a full moon.  At this point, my weight was close to normal.

Naples Florida pier during a full moon. At this point, my weight was close to normal.


Letting go but not giving up is my new motto for 100 percent health.  My hope is to one day be off any medications but I accept this may take years.  Until then I won’t give up on finding ways to fix my root causes and not just the symptoms.

Day 22 to 6 Months – Week 7

Uniqueness of Week 7

  • Removing Parasites with Papaya:  The seeds of a Papaya removes intestinal tapeworms in your body.  People have varied the intake of these seeds for 7, 23, and 30 days.  Learn more about Papaya & Seeds >> | Science Abstract
    20mL (.6 oz.) is what the scientific abstract used for dried papaya seeds.  I’ve tried this for a few days by popping the seeds, drying them, and then adding to soups and salad (similar to peppercorns).
  • Combining Food for Smoother Digestion:  Did you know that some foods like melons don’t play well with other foods?  If not, I suggest you sign up (it’s free) and get this food combining chart.  Click on the photo below to get the overall idea.  Sign up for the full explanation.

My Health in Week 7

  • Sleeping with Inflammation & Pain:  Continuing 1-2 Advil / ibuprofen to reduce the pain to manageable levels during sleep.  I pulled my neck out again & purchased the water pillow on 2/27 to help relieve the pain while sleeping.  Although it went ok for 1-2 nights, the pain still was constant, painful, and draining.  On 2/29 I had my father massage my back and found a lactic acid pocket (about the size of a golf ball), applied ice & then heat to relive some of the pain.  The next day I got a neck brace + a stand for my laptop so I can look more evenly at the computer while I’m working.  Lastly, I am sleeping with my shoulders on the hard side of my bed (with a flat 1″ high pillow) while the soft side (lying diagonally) for my sacro joints (near the hips). I’ve seen a 50% increase in mobility and pain management.  In other words, it’s working!
    I’m still getting used to the bed in Naples and have been fighting more with stiffness than anything else.  Sleeping is still the hardest thing to do (and I wake up a few times throughout the night), but the pain isn’t unbearable and it doesn’t take me 20 minutes to get out of bed.
  • The Gut Repair I and/or the Pyloricin recommended by Joseph Family Chiropractic have seemed to help my condition.  I believe these natural antibodies and immunity boosters are helping out my condition specifically because I don’t remember feeling this well after two weeks being off Enbrel.
  • Travel & Endurance:  On Saturday I traveled back to Naples for a week which meant a very busy Saturday (3 grocery stores, total driving 2 1/2 – 3 hours, and reorganizing / fixing the house).  Although I was very tired, I was able to do this all on my own which I could not do a week ago.  The next following days were less load, so pain management has been easier and I’m mainly battling against stiffness.  During week 5, I’ve got two appointments for the chiropractor to help out with stiffness, my neck, and getting me back on my routine.
  • Enbrel:  It has been 2 weeks & 3 days since my last shot.
  • My lowest weight was 142lbs. and a BMI of 19.88.

Notable Meals this Week

Dill & Lemon Tuna Salad (Food & Thought)

  • Ingredients included are a dill & lemon tuna, oranges, cranberry-raisins, orange, and walnuts on a bed of spinach.
  • In the future, have them add olive oil & some Himalayan salt & pepper to the spinach base.

Synopsis of Meal:  Good size portion that will hold you off for a few hours.  But the tuna is sold separately; thus the cost is $17.  The taste of the tuna was great, but the salad was dry.  I’m not sure I’d get this again.

Vegetarian No-Bean Chili

Ingredients used from the “Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn.  They include:

  • sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 bay laves
  • 2 red/yellow bell peppers (chopped)
  • 2 stalks cellery (chopped)
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (chopped)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 28 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes (I suggest Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste (hunts is fine)
  • 1 pound of firm, sprouted tofu (non-GMO & USDA organic & is crumbled when added)
  • 1 apple (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder, coriander, and Dijon Whole Grain mustard
  • 3 dates soaked at least a few hours
  • parsley, basil, salt & pepper

Directions:  Saute onion on medium high heat in a large 7 quart dutch oven (or similar in size) with sunflower oil for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, bay leaves, bell pepper, celery, carrots, jalepeno and cook addition 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add water, tomatoes, tomato paste, tofu, apple, remaining seasonings, mustard, dates (without the water), parsley and basil and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.

Synopsis of meal:  Yes, this recipe can feed an army but soup can be frozen/refrigerated & then reheated on the stove.  The taste was quite good and I would make it again.


Day 22 to 6 Months – Week 6

Food for Week 4 (7 Weeks Since Start)

Fruits & Veggies Detail - Week 6

Uniqueness of Week 6

  • Making “Bread”:  Looks like I can use almond flour and/or coconut flour to make breads, crackers, etc.  The catch is to use this in small doses as too many almonds can lead to omega 3/6 imbalance and too much coconut flour can lead to flare-ups.  For me, I’ll probably visit these flours after the 6 months.  MORE INFO >>

Kale Chip & Dehydrating Fruit

  • Dehydrated fruit & kale chips.  Kale chips had garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese (didn’t have nutritional yeast on-hand).  Tastes good but too salty.  For the fruit, here are the preparation instructions & length of dehydration.  I tried oranges, mangoes, bananas, apples, and kiwi fruit.  Although all taste good, most people gravitated towards the mangoes and apples (add cinnamon for an extra kick in the apples).
  • Zyflamend – After attending an inflammation class on 2/25, I found out that the turmeric and ginger root were not nearly as effective as a supplement.  Plus they overpower the taste of my smoothies.  According to the doctor, she said “how much curcumin is in an actual turmeric root (or culinary turmeric powder).  Although the numbers vary, it’s primarily between 3-5% (some sources say as little as 0.6%, some as high as 6%).  That pales in comparison to the 95% found in supplements!”  I will update my daily routine to reflect these changes.
  • Concentrate vs. Pasteurized – Which is Better?  Consumers often favor not-from-concentrate over concentrated juice because they think it’s fresher.This is not the case. During the pasteurization process, the juice is heated, deprived of its flavor and stored in vats for as long as a year. When it’s time for packaging, orange flavor must be added so it seems fresh. Not-from-concentrate costs more, but it’s neither fresher nor more nutritious than juice from concentrate, as reported by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.To make juices concentrated, they are put through all kinds of processes and then frozen in a slushy vat just like you see at your local 7-11 (only much bigger).  The process is more about removal of the juice than adding preservatives.  A great explanation of all these procedures can be found here.

My Health in Week 6

  • Red Meat:  On Tuesday 2/21 I tried red meat (sirloin – 3″ X 3″) along with grilled asparagus and two raw carrots with salsa.  Whenever you don’t eat red meat for over a month you realize how hard it is to chew and digest.  Plus the taste is nowhere near as good as it used to be and I felt a type of reflux (almost a burp, but not quite) after eating it.  After this experience, I don’t really see my self eating red meat anymore.  It just doesn’t make sense.
  • I had a pulled neck since the beginning of the week and had to take some Advil / ibuprofen to reduce the pain to manageable levels.  On 2/23, the pulled neck was greatly reduced and I’ve felt better on 2/23 than any day while I’ve been here in Venice.  I also purchased a water pillow on 2/27 to help relieve the pain while sleeping.  In one night I have seen some reduction in my neck, but it will take at least a few days to see if it all goes away.
  • Sleeping with Inflammation & Pain:  After the pulled neck, my daily routine works out quite well.  However, my issue is still sleeping.  The best times seem to be a day or two after I take Enbrel up to 7 days after that.  After that, the pain & inflammation greatly increases.  For example, I’m writing this paragraph on 2/25 at 3:30am (went to bed around 8:30pm exhausted) with heavy inflammation & pain around my entire mid-chest & back area.  Also the pain & inflammation has moved from my right hip to my left.  It seems I cannot sleep well without an NSAID each night (I took Advil when I wake up from the pain).  I went to bed at 8:30pm, got up at 3:30, went back to bed at 4:30am & woke up at 8am – my longest sleep since the start of the diet.  Each day afterwards, I’ve taken 1 Advil with food 1-2 hours before bed.  It’s allowed me to sleep 8-10 hours per night after 2/25.
  • My lowest weight was 142lbs. and a BMI of 19.85.

Notable Meals this Week

Shrimp Avocado Salad (Mi Pueblo)

  • I admit it, I messed up on this meal.  I forgot to tell them to remove the cheese & put the avocado dressing on the side.  Other than that, the meal will full of good ingredients – avocado, shrimp, mixed greens, tomatoes, sunflower spouts (I was surprised to see that), and some other ingredients that I can’t remember.  The great news – no flare-ups…whew!
  • Mi Puelbo also has an organic menu & juices / smoothies that I will try next time.  Make sure to ask for it as I never saw this menu coming in.
Synopsis of Meal:  Large enough portion for a lunch.  If you’re still hungry (I was, but not too much), add in a juice / smoothie.  I can’t comment on the taste because I had those extra ingredients.  I would assume that it would taste good without the cheese & avocado dressing.