This is the story of how I cured my rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic sinus infections, seasonal allergies, and gluten intolerance… naturally, with diet and supplements.
I'm glad you found my website. If you're sick and in pain with , I know how you feel. I was just like you. When I was in my twenties, I was in pain all the time.
In this post, I'll also share with you how 20 years later, just this past year, I had the had the second biggest breakthrough of my life and helped my nanny and assistant cure her chronic migraine headaches and painful ovarian cysts.
This is a long post, because I had a lot to say, but buckle up, because it's totally gonna be worth it. Big revelations — stick with me! I believe this is the most important post I have ever written in my life, and I think it will positively impact more lives than my blog has impacted in almost a decade. Yes! This is THAT big! Read on…
My Story: Arthritis at Age 25
My name is Ann Marie. I was only twenty-five when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I was about to graduate from college and getting ready to start my first job at a digital ad agency in Silicon Valley. And I couldn't get out of bed in the mornings. I wasn't sleeping well — the pain in my knees would wake me up at night. And the joint pain was spreading from my knees to my fingers and elbows. I was living on pain medication. I knew my problems were only going to get worse because arthritis is a degenerative disease.
In addition to the arthritis, I also had chronic sinus infections and seasonal allergies. I was always sneezing and coughing, I had chronic itchy, watery eyes, and post-nasal drip, a white coat on my tongue, and I was always blowing my nose and rubbing my eyes.
To top it off, I had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). I used to think these were made-up illnesses made up by lazy people. I found out the hard way that chronic fatigue syndrome is real and it's debilitating. Coffee was my best friend.
I was only twenty-five and I had the energy of a senior citizen. I never felt rested in the morning, felt exhausted all day long… and forget about going to the gym or going out swing dancing at night like all my friends (hey, this was the 1990s — swing dancing was in back then).
It was the spring of my senior year at college and I was getting ready to move across the country from Texas to California to start my new job. I had worked hard in school, pulled all-nighters, got straight As, graduated at the top of my class, and landed a job the most prestigious digital ad agency in the world. How was I gonna pull this off? I was really scared about how I would handle the stress and long hours in Silicon Valley with my failing health.
Searching for a Cure
Doctors didn't have answers for me. They told me that in time, I would end up having to take stronger painkillers and arthritis medication. Eventually, they said I would have to have surgery.
I started spending time in the library, reading books about arthritis (this was before the internet; they had just invented the browser but there was very little information online yet).
All of the books I found talked about how to cope with arthritis, but none of the authors wrote about curing arthritis. They were just like my doctors, saying I'd just have to live on painkillers and eventually I would need surgery.
I remember one book talking about how many people with arthritis will end up in a wheelchair, and how to install railings in your home.
I threw that book across the room.
I knew there had to be a better way. I was only 25. My whole life was ahead of me. I was not about to give up and just accept this degenerative disease.
So I started trying to find books about “natural healing” for arthritis. There weren't a lot — this was the 1990s.
After many hours in the library, I found an article about arthritis in cattle. Ranchers found that nightshade vegetables caused arthritis in their cattle. Well, I thought to myself, what if I stopped eating nightshade vegetables? It was a crazy idea but I had nothing else to go on.
So then I had to look up what nightshade vegetables were. They include include five things: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, tobacco and peppers.
Giving up eggplant? No problem! I also figured I could do without peppers and tobacco (I didn't smoke). But living without pizza and French fries was going to be a challenge.
Nonetheless, I thought I'd give it a try.
One week later, my arthritis was 80% better. I was thrilled!
Why Was My Immune System Broken?
Excitedly, I told a good friend of mine about my success. “You shouldn't be reacting to nightshades,” he said. “If you're reacting to nightshades, you have a problem with your immune function. You should look into what's wrong with your immune system.”
Wow, I thought. He was right. Most people don't react to nightshades. If they did, nobody would be eating pizza or French fries. McDonald's and Domino's Pizza would go out of business.
So, what was wrong with my immune system?
I was glad I had tested the nightshade theory, because even though it wasn't the ultimate answer, it had convinced me that you can stop pain by changing your diet. This was huge!
I didn't know anything about the immune system, so I went back to the library.
I searched on the computer at the library computer for “immune system” and I found a book called The Yeast Connection by Dr. William Crook.
I checked the book out from the library and read it cover to cover (instead of doing my homework). Dr. Crook said that to have a healthy immune system, you need a healthy gut. Dr. Crook said that in order to have a healthy gut, you need a healthy amount of good bacteria. Without enough good bacteria, your digestive tract gets overrun with yeast and other pathogenic bacteria (hence, the title, The Yeast Connection.)
It all made sense. I had grown up on antibiotics and sugar. My good gut bacteria had been killed off by the antibiotics. And all the sugar had fed the bad bacteria and yeast.
30 Day Elimination Diet
Dr. Crook recommended that I follow an elimination diet for 30 days (forgive me if I'm getting any details wrong — it's been over 20 years since I read the book). Then after 3 or 4 weeks, you could start re-introducing foods.
For the first 30 days, I cut out all foods containing sugar, yeast, mold, starches and fermented foods. So, in other words… no bread, rice or any other grains, no cheese, no wine or beer, and no sugar or fruit of any kind. I was only allowed to eat meat, eggs, seafood, and non-starchy vegetables (no potatoes).
The first week or so was excruciating. I was ten times more exhausted than I usually was, and I felt like I had the flu. The flulike symptoms, I learned were caused by “die off,” which is what happens when the pathogenic bacteria dies off in large quantities (when you stop feeding it all the sugar and starch, it can't survive).
After the first several days, I started to feel better, and as the weeks wore on, my symptoms began to disappear. After about a month on the elimination diet, I was feeling 95% better.
However, I noticed that if I even ate one tiny little bite of gluten or sugar, my symptoms would all come back with a vengeance. Arthritis pain, mucus, itchy, watery eyes and itchy nose and throat, dizziness, brain fog, and exhaustion.
I found this out by testing different foods one by one.
Dr. Vikki, the Miracle Worker
Around that time had moved to Silicon Valley for my new job. A friend at work recommended I go see Dr. Vikki Peterson.
Believe it or not, 20 years later, Dr. Vikki and her husband Rick are still in practice. They do work with patients remotely (you just have to travel there once for the initial visit). If you're interested in working with them, please tell them I sent you.
I worked with Dr. Vikki for 2 years, and it was awesome. I am eternally grateful for her for helping me through my process of healing. It took two years for my gut to heal fully.
I had to avoid gluten and sugar for 2 years. But those were really the only things I had to stay away from. I could eat honey in moderation, and all grains and starches. Fruit was fine, too, just not in excess. (I remember once going to the Juice Club and getting a giant fruit smoothie. I ended up with my head on my desk, dizzy and exhausted — too much sugar!)
During the 2 years I was healing, Dr. Vikki worked with me and gave me therapeutic grade probiotics (this is the brand of probiotic I recommend now: GutPro).
She also gave me supplements to help support my adrenal glands. When your body is fighting an illness, it taxes your adrenal glands. Being sick had really put my adrenal glands on overdrive, and getting the extra nutritional support made a huge difference. I felt energetic enough to get up early, work long hours at the office, and even go out dancing and on dates at night. Even though I had to avoid gluten and sugar, I was getting my life back!
How the Digestive Tract Heals
The digestive tract is made up of good bacteria and bad bacteria. One of the main jobs of the good bacteria is to keep the bad bacteria in check. You're always going to have some bad bacteria, but when you have too much bad bacteria in your gut, you get overrun with yeast and other pathogenic bacteria.
I always compare this to a city that gets overrun with gangs and violence. Neighborhoods explode with crime and drugs, and nobody wants to live there anymore. This is what happens when your gut gets taken over by pathogenic bacteria. You need to starve out the bad guys (by reducing and/or eliminating sugar, starches, fruit and anything you react to). And you have to bring in the good guys (probiotics — I recommend GutPro) to kill off the bad guys.
It can take a couple years for the gut to heal. I'll explain why… There's something called villi, which are tiny finger-like projections that grow along your small intestine. It's like grass or a brush lining.
One of the other jobs of good bacteria is to keep the wall of the gut healthy — kind of like fertilizer for a lawn. When you don't have enough good bacteria, the lawn dies and you end up with a bald digestive tract.
The villi is there to secrete enzymes that help you break down and digest carbohydrates. For example, your villi produces the enzyme lactase in order to help you digest lactose from dairy products.
It takes time for the villi to grow back, which is why it can take months or years before you can start eating the foods you are allergic to again.
After around two years of avoiding gluten and sugar and taking therapeutic-grade probiotics, I found that I could start eating gluten and sugar in moderation and not react. In other words, I didn't have any symptoms.
It's now 20 years later and I have been able to eat anything I want this entire time. That makes me very happy. As you can tell by the name of this blog, Cheeseslave, I really love food. And I hate not being able to eat the foods that I love!
Even more importantly, degenerative disease is just that, degenerative. And disease begets disease. If I had stayed on the course I was going, I would have gotten sicker and sicker. I would have ended up like my stepmother, who passed away a decade ago. My father came home to find her dead on the floor of their home. She had had rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for a long time, and she just kept getting sicker and sicker. The doctors gave her more and more drugs. And they ended up killing her.
I feel so bad for my father and my stepmom and what they went through, and that's what drives me to continue to share information. I know there are so many people out there who are suffering. There is hope and recovery is possible!
Why Weren't People Getting Better?
Fast-forward 10 years later… In 2007, my baby girl was born and I started the Cheeseslave blog and started writing about health and nutrition. The blog allowed me to interact with lots and lots of people who had health challenges.
A couple years after I started the blog, I launched an online video class called Reversing Food Allergies to teach others what I had learned and help them start on the elimination diet. A lot of people were able to reverse their food allergies and recover. But as I would soon find out, not everyone was recovering…
In 2014, I took a hiatus from blogging after my million-dollar blog network that I built from scratch crashed and burned to the ground (you can read the whole story here).
Last summer (2016), after giving birth to my second child, I decided to resuscitate the blog and start rebuilding. I decided I wanted to relaunch the Reversing Food Allergies online class. Many of my readers have been asking for it. But I no longer wanted to use Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's GAPS Diet as the basis for the class as I originally had. This is because I strongly disagree with Dr. Natasha's position on FCLO.
So… I started looking around to see if there was another dietary plan I could build my class around. I looked into Auto Immune Paleo… I will share what I found out about AIP, and why I ultimately rejected the diet… because so many people were not getting better.
This is something I saw, interacting with my blog readers over the years, a number of people are just not recovering. Why?
But before I get into that, I need to share a little backstory about my assistant, Jennifer and her path to recovery.
Jennifer started working for us as a nanny in 2013, the year before my company crashed. Right before the crash, she moved back to Arizona to get married. That ultimately didn't work out, so she came back to work for us in the fall of 2015 to take care of Kate and Oliver.
About a year ago, in early 2016, Jennifer, age 25 (the same age I was when I got sick) kept complaining of health problems. She was having migraines on a weekly basis. She also suffered from extremely painful ovarian cysts every month during her cycle, which would often burst and she would have to go to the hospital, since over-the-counter pain medication didn't help at all.
I wondered if maybe gluten was the problem. I talked to her and asked her if she had ever tried an elimination diet. She said, no she hadn't, but she was willing to give it a shot.
After 30 days on the elimination diet, Jennifer had had no change in her symptoms. She still suffered from migraines and the painful cysts. We started reintroducing foods one by one. No reaction to anything. And she was still experiencing chronic pain.
In other words, the elimination diet had been a failure. I had no answers for Jennifer. This made me very sad.
But for those of you who know me, I'm not one to give up easily. I said a prayer, knowing that my higher power would bring me an answer to help Jennifer.
The End of Acne
A few months later, a friend of mine, Melissa Gardner emailed me a copy of her brand new book, The End of Acne, asking me if I'd consider reading it.
I had known Melissa (online at least) for nearly a decade. I met her in my earliest days of blogging. She had a blog called The Cellulite Investigation. On that blog, she was investigating cellulite and possible dietary and/or environmental causes. I always loved her blog and respected her as an investigative journalist.
The End of Acne was a revelation! It was the answer that I had been seeking for Jennifer.
This was the missing piece for so many people who were not recovering. The answer: fluoride.
In The End of Acne, , Melissa Gardner explains how she discovered it was fluoride that was causing her chronic acne and cellulite.
You can watch my video interview with Melissa here:
I also wrote a review of the book, The End of Acne.
The Fluoride in Jennifer's Diet
As I was telling Jennifer about the book, she said, “I wonder if that can help me. I have chronic acne. I've had acne my whole life — since I was 16.”
All of a sudden, all of the pieces came together for us. I said, “How much kombucha are you drinking?”
“One or two bottles a day,” she shrugged. “Why?”
“So… 16-32 ounces per day?”
I then explained that kombucha is really high in fluoride.
She then told me she had been on Prozac, which also contains fluoride, since she was a teenager. (Around the same time she started getting bad acne.)
She decided that day to stop drinking kombucha and tea. She phased herself off the Prozac (note: check with your doctor before you change anything re: medications).
Getting The Fluoride Out
She started eating a totally organic diet. For 30 days, she ate 100% all organic food. This was to avoid the cryolite, a fluoride-based pesticide that is sprayed on most fruits and vegetables.
She also only ate organic meat, drank organic wine and beer and pretty much followed Melissa's advice in The End of Acne to the letter.
She avoided eating anything cooked in Teflon (Teflon increases the fluoride in food three times.)
And she didn't eat any seafood or anything with animal bones (like bone broth) that was not organic — since fluoride is stored in the bones of animals.
I also got her a fluoride water filter for her birthday gift, so she could filter her water at home.
One month later, her skin was completely clear of acne for the first time in a decade.
Seven months later, she's only had one migraine. Migraines she used to get weekly.
And her ovarian cysts have stopped forming. She hasn't had any pain with the cysts since she cut the fluoride out of her diet.
The only thing that didn't get better after the first 30 days was her acne. But we figured out why…
Right after the initial 30 days of her strict organic diet, we went on a trip to Arizona for a homeschool conference. This was September of 2016. We stayed in a hotel and we are eating hotel food, which is not organic, and it's all cooked in Teflon. Everything had fluoride.
We were swimming every day, too. Swimming pool water is not high in fluoride, but it is high in bromine, which like fluoride, is a halide and a hormone disrupter.
Within a few days, her perfect skin was covered with acne again.
Jennifer has found that unless is fanatical about eating an extremely clean, totally organic diet, doesn't eat out at all, and avoids ALL seafood, and if she only cooks without Teflon, that is the only way she can keep her skin clear of acne.
Even if she consumes a little fluoride, her skin will immediately break out.
This didn't surprise me, because Melissa Gardner described the exact same thing happening to her in The End of Acne. One slip up of fluoride, and her face would erupt with acne.
Fluoride Is Everywhere, And It's Hard to Get Rid Of
This just goes to show you how prevalent fluoride is in our food supply. Most people think they can just filter their water and stop using fluoride toothpaste and they'll be fine. Nothing could be further from the truth. In America, we are exposed to fluoride constantly — it's in almost everything we eat and drink.
Not only that, but fluoride is stored in your bones and teeth… and it acts as a “fake” for iodine so your body will store it in your breasts, your thyroid, your ovaries, and for men, the prostate. (Ever wonder why there's so much breast cancer, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer these days?)
Even worse, fluoride has a 20 year half-life. What that means is… if you were to stop eating ALL fluoride right now and you never ate it again, 20 years from now, you would still have half the fluoride in your body.
Bottom line: once fluoride is stored in your body, it's very hard to remove get it out. And it will continue to cause problems — hormonal problems, bone loss, cancer, etc.
There is one way to get it out though, thank goodness… with the iodine protocol. (Which I haven't written about yet so I can't link to it — soon!)
Iodine to the Rescue
Iodine kicks fluorides butt. Just like probiotics work to heal the gut and wipe out pathogenic bacteria, iodine will open up a can of whoop a** on fluoride and kick it to the curb. (Haha can you tell I grew up in Texas?)
Problem is, just like with probiotics, you gotta go SLOW. When I started on probiotics back when I was recovering, if I took too much too fast, I would have really bad die-off reactions. Flu-like symptoms, exhaustion, etc.
When Jennifer first started trying to take iodine, she got a horrible rash. Melissa Gardner, too, would break out whenever she tried to take it. In The End of Acne, Melissa had to take micro amounts of iodine and slowly, slowly build up.
It was worth effort, though. A couple years after starting the iodine protocol, she is completely acne-free and cellulite-free. (And who doesn't want THAT?)
Why the GAPS and AIP Diets Don't Work for Everyone
Suddenly it all made sense to me why so many people haven't been getting better on the GAPS and Auto Immune Paleo diet.
On the GAPS Diet, you are consuming a lot of bone broth, and often kombucha as well. All kombucha is high in fluoride, and unless the bone broth is organic, it's also loaded with fluoride.
AIP is GAPS on steroids. People following AIP drink a lot of bone broth, but they don't usually specify that it needs to be made with organic bones and water filtered for fluoride.
AIP also prohibits coffee, which means they're usually switching to tea. All forms of tea are high in fluoride (unless it's herbal tea).
AIP also prohibits alcohol. So instead of drinking wine, people often switch to kombucha — or drink more than they normally would if they were on GAPS (which allows some forms of alcohol).
They also recommend that people eat seafood, particularly canned seafood like anchovies and sardines — super high in fluoride!
I also researched all of the AIP diet books I could find… none of them mentioned Teflon cookware or filtering your water for fluoride. They also don't require their adherents to buy only organic produce — so the fruits and vegetables they are consuming are likely sprayed with cryolite, the fluoride-based pesticide.
I realized that this is probably the reason some people don't get better on AIP or GAPS. This is why they are having hormonal problems why their auto-immune disorders get worse.
What people need is not only an elimination diet to avoid foods they react to, but also a diet that helps us to avoid all forms of fluoride.
Got questions? Please comment below.
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