In 2002 I contracted a serious case of pneumonia which was allowed to stick around way to long before relenting and taking antibiotics. The antibiotics may have saved my life at that point but within three months afterward my health literally crumbled. Unexplained weight gain of 35 lbs, profound fatigue, every fiber of my being ached, constipation and a whole lot more. Several of my colleagues were in the allopathic and alternative field. Quality people. I was diagnosed by them eventually with fibromyalgia and that’s what I was treated for. But the “standard” approach of taking a supplement, doing a food allergy test, doing chelation due to a positive heavy metal test all produced either occasional temporary improvement or no results at all. My colleagues were all looking for the “silver bullet”, the one disease one cause solution. But it didn’t exist. It still doesn’t.
I ended up having to embrace an entirely different model of care for chronic pain. A much more complex model than to just take a pill (drug or supplement), or only to change my diet. I was about to find out that the journey back to health would require discipline, not hanging on to a model of “what did the tests say”, not hoping for the next miracle, and not expecting that what “fixed” one fibromyalgia patient was going to “fix” me. In other words not depending on acute care methods to fix what was now a chronic problem.
My recovery started with the brain and the fact that prior to the pneumonia I was under severe stress. My brain never shut off, couldn’t get to sleep-couldn’t go back to sleep. This created abnormal biochemistry (too much cortisol) that was contributing to my over all pain patterns. This had to be corrected – preferably without drugs. I found a Doctor, a functional neurologist – in Appleton Wisconsin who taught me to do that. My pains reduced by about 50%. Who would have thought? The brain? It only controls everything. But the cause or perpetrator of chronic pain? Yes, at least in my case and since then I’ve found it to be true in most chronic pain sufferers.
Next this doctor told me to contact another Doctor in San Diego who did something called functional medicine- an “alternative” type of care. This doctor started to talk to me about gluten, celiac, Hoshimoto’s Thyroiditis. Things I have never heard of before. It turned out I had them all including chronic fatigue and peripheral neuropathy. In retrospect I can add leaky gut, hypoglycemia and SIBO (small intestine bowel over growth) and numerous food allergies. I was probably autoimmune most of my life (since 3rd grade) and had it triggered by the pneumonia. Previously I only knew auto immune disease to be things like MS, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis. OK. Now what? What’s the test for this? What’s the diet? Gluten free? Of course. Paleo? What pills? Can this be helped?
“Yes” he said- “it can be helped. But the testing is poor for what you have, the labs are inconsistent and unreliable and frequently come out normal. Also your recovery will require a complete change in your perception of what needs to be done and also life style changes specific to you for you to get well and stay well’. “A change in lifestyle specific to me?” “Yes”, he said. I can get 100 patients in here like you but the diets and supplements will differ for each depending on that individuals stress levels, severity of symptoms, what’s causing their leaky gut, what their different food allergies are etc. Thus, I became a student of this doctor and his methods. Functional medicine and functional neurology were in their infancy and just developing. It took me a long time to get well examining my food allergies, infections, inflammations, nutritional deficiencies (due to celiac) dysfunctional mitochondria, stress mechanisms (my brain and bad cerebellum from 8 concussions) hormonal system and environmental forms. These systems and conditions were what had to be investigated and addressed for my case. For someone else there could be more or less systems involved. Its never the same for any two people I was to find out.
It was hard. It required discipline. It took trusting Dr. Ted Carrick and Dr Michael Johnson, both Board Certified Functional Neurologists and Dr Datis Kharrizian, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and their teachings. It wasn’t easy or simple and now as a practitioner in this field treating these conditions I can tell you, it never is. But this approach works consistently. As with most things in life that are hard to achieve and that we have to reach down inside to achieve – it turns out to be the right way and as a result this approach as produced short term and long term results in myself and subsequently other many chronic pain sufferers. Today my personal health is 95% improved and my “bad days” are as good as most people’s “good days”, maybe better. It was worth the effort.
For those of you who have a chronic thyroid problem or gut problem that just won’t resolve or those of you who have almost any type of chronic disease or pain issue, recovery is a journey, there’s no getting around it. There’s no silver bullet. The good part is that if you embrace this comprehensive chronic pain model and pay the price vast improvements in your present health are waiting for you.