Guest Post: An Autoimmune Disease Changed My Life For The Better -Angela Hoyos
Six years ago my life changed forever, but not in the way you might think.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was a crisp September day and I was making my way to campus. I got off the subway and I started walking towards Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto and suddenly the right side of my body went numb. I couldn’t move my right arm or leg
All of these crazy things started racing through my head. I thought I was having a stroke or a strange allergic reaction but I never imagined that the words Multiple Sclerosis (MS) would re-define my life.
I’ll get to that in a bit.
I stood by the side of a building until I regained some sensation again. I was so relieved and I chalked the weird symptoms to stress and lack of sleep – I was a student after all. I went on my way hoping to never acknowledge what had happened.
But the symptoms came back and after a second, third and fourth time I knew I couldn’t just ignore it. My body was trying to tell me that something wasn’t right.
I remember driving to the gym one afternoon and I started feeling the numbness again. I was terrified that I would lose sensation in my leg again so I quickly drove to a nearby walk-in clinic hoping to get some answers.
Visiting the doctors:
The physician quickly noted my symptoms and concluded that I was experiencing the early signs of MS. He advised that I make an appointment with a family doctor who could disclose treatment options. To this day I don’t know why this doctor would so irresponsibly diagnose me with MS without as much as performing a blood test.
In November I met with my family doctors and I gave him the complete rundown of what had happened and what the walk-in physician had said. I shared all of the weird symptoms I was experiencing: numbness, tingling, fatigue, dizziness, loss of balance and muscle spasms - which are common MS symptoms.
What is MS?
Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disease that targets the central nervous system. The body mistakenly attacks the protective layer around the nerves in the brain and spinal cord which is known as myelin - Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses from the brain. Those with MS will get lesions, with varying severity, on the brain. Lesions indicate evidence of nerve cell damage.
Think of your brain like a lightbulb that’s connected to a chord. Someone with no MS has their chord intact with electricity running back and forth to the lightbulb without interruption. Someone with MS, however, has a frayed chord which interrupts the flow of electricity to the bulb.
While my doctor didn’t want to confirm that my symptoms were MS-related he also didn’t rule them out either. I was sent for a series of tests which included an MRI, which is the preferred imaging tool used to diagnose MS. This scan reveals areas of MS lesions on your brain and spinal cord. My test came back inconclusive.
The doctor prescribed several other non-MS related tests and everything came back negative. I was told to just ‘wait it out’ and to monitor any changes.
As a 20-year-old, I was left in this horrible limbo. The tests may have come back negative but the symptoms were incredibly real. I wasn’t getting better and no one could tell me why.
Some experts believe that multiple sclerosis can go on undiagnosed for years because not all patients show abnormalities on their tests.
Learning about Naturopathy:
I remember coming across an article about a woman who was seeing a naturopath to treat a different autoimmune disease and her story caught my attention. I had never given naturopathy much thought - I was skeptical and didn’t conceive any other form of medicine outside of my doctor’s office.
After exhausting, what seemed like, all other options I found a naturopath in my area who had positive reviews and I made an appointment the following week. I remember feeling nervous when I walked into the clinic but as soon as I sat down I was at peace. The energy and the environment was different than any other medical waiting room I had sat in. The Initial consultation left me speechless, it was an hour-and-a-half long and the doctor spent the entire time reviewing my symptoms, my lifestyle and my family health history.
I was so impressed with how eager this doctor was to talk about what I was feeling. She was compassionate and extremely knowledgeable about the human body. For the first time in a long time, I was hopeful.
My naturopath’s diagnosis:
The naturopath believed that I did, in fact, have an autoimmune disease, and my body’s defence system was attacking itself. She felt that my symptoms most strongly coincided with those of MS patients.
She believed my symptoms were related to poor diet, poor gut health and low levels of vitamin D and B complex.
I underwent a complete lifestyle overhaul. I was put on a new diet which cut out dairy, gluten, refined sugars and inflammatory foods; I went on an intense whole- body cleanse and I was introduced to vitamins, supplements and intravenous treatments. About three months into my new treatment regime my symptoms subsided. I was in absolute shock.
I couldn’t believe it. It was almost a year since that fall day where my symptoms first appeared. For almost a year I was living with constant numbness, fatigue and other crazy symptoms and so my life was put on hold. I stopped driving, I took a break from school, I forgot what “feeling normal” was like.
I went without having any MS-like symptoms for six years.
A new way of living:
For most of my life, I was polluting my body with an unhealthy diet and state-of-mind and I certainly paid for. I now believe that if it wasn’t for my health scare, I would never have embraced a holistic approach to health care.
I am not discounting conventional medicine at all; everyone should have a good family doctor in their circle of care but naturopathy can improve your quality of life and get to the root cause of diseases when conventional medicine can’t. Both methods can and do work together.
Today I still visit my naturopath and I’ve continued the same diet and supplements that were prescribed to me when I first stepped foot into her office. I will never go back to my old lifestyle.
Do I have MS?
The jury is still out. After years of having no symptoms, I experienced a relapse earlier this year. I was away on holiday and I contracted food poisoning. About a week later the dreaded numbness, fatigue, and dizziness symptoms started up again. My naturopath, who draws a correlation between gut health and autoimmune diseases like MS, has been working with me to restore my body again.
So the symptoms are on-and-off but I feel a lot stronger and more in control than I did last time. I will begin a new round of tests soon, which includes an MRI, to see if anything has changed from my last scan.
Naturopathy changed my life and prompted this new-found interest in holistic health. After graduating from Journalism School I started writing for different health and wellness magazines. This was my opportunity to learn about new trends and speak to experts in the industry.
Last year I decided to claim my own space in the Google-verse and I launched a health and wellness hub - FabLane Blog - where I interview experts about trends, products and services that help others lead happy and healthy lives.
Over the last few years, it seems like holistic health is gaining credibility and consumers are starting to understand the importance of being accountable for what they put in their bodies and on their skin. I hope FabLane can be that platform where consumers looking for thought-provoking, and factual content can find answers.
As I continue to work on my own health journey, I look forward to sharing what I discover with my community.
Angela Hoyos is the creator of FabLane, a health and wellness blog that features different industry experts, product reviews and health trends. In her spare time Angela enjoys hiking, meditating and making vegan treats.