Lessons from Lupus

Writing a portion of a diet book led me to Elisa, the beauty in the picture. I want you to meet her. Elisa is a dietitian, like me, and vegetarian, like me. And a blogger like me. So when I found out she has lupus, medically termed Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE)I asked her to guest blog here about the trials and tribulations, topsy and turvy, when healing her body, spirit and heart afterwards. There’s a lesson here for us all. Here she is!

Hey there!  I’m Elisa and I have a private practice called Think of me as your friendly dietitian: defying lupus with whole food plant-based meals, veggilicious recipes, alternative therapies and nurturing veg-friends – such as yourself – in quest to conquer disease!

I am a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. My degree in Nutrition & Dietetics is from the University of Delaware, and I interned at Geisinger Medical Center. I worked as a clinical dietitian at two different hospitals for four years before starting my own practice.

Through my research and experience I’ve learned that eating a whole food plant-based diet, while significantly decreasing processed ingredients and animal products, can have a drastic impact on your health.

My lifestyle is about consuming generous amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes in many different varieties. I believe in plant-strong eating, because I’ve experienced its healing effects while learning to enjoy the of taste pure food.

Since childhood, I’ve recognized the importance of lifestyle choices. I ‘ate right’ and was a dedicated athlete in high school and college, even being awarded an athletic scholarship.

Despite living an active life and consuming all things in moderation, I was hampered by health issues since my early 20′s, and was eventually diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus.

This disease, although a “mild” case, turned my life upside down. Working became a daily struggle due to debilitating pain and fatigue. I often slept 14 hours a night to recover from a normal 8-hour workday. My relationships suffered because of my lack of energy, and my diagnosis was confusing because I looked ‘fine.’

When conventional medical treatments failed, I was so miserable I resigned from work. I chose to use that time to look for less common methods of healing. I studied medical research that documented a plant-based diet’s role on disease, and I began re-vamping my own nutrition. Being vegetarian wasn’t enough. I was determined to learn how to prepare whole foods from scratch, and to use my education as a health care provider to improve my life every single day.

In the past two years, I’ve steadily progressed. As a result of my diet changes, I’ve drastically eliminated inflammation in my body – inflammation is a marker of all diseases. My sedimentation rate, an inflammatory marker, decreased from 27 to 2. My ssDNA (an indicator of an immune abnormality) is down from 130 (elevated) to 40 (within normal limits).

Meanwhile, at the same time, my risk of developing other diseases has been lowered by significantly increasing phytosterols in my diet. My cholesterol values went down to protective levels. My total cholesterol 119 from 198 (borderline high), my LDL (bad stuff) cholesterol is 56, and my triglycerides (blood fat) are down to 34.

I’m off daily medication, with significantly decreased muscle, joint and pleural pain, arthritis, headaches, congestion, fatigue, infections, mouth ulcers, hair loss, and malaise. I still have periodic setbacks with Raynaud’s phenomenon (where my fingers and toes turn white from cold), chilblains (sores on my hands and toes), and allergies. I’m confident that in time these issues – which have developed over the past decade – will continue to improve. I’m finally able to exercise daily without flaring up symptoms, and I’ve resumed a fulfilling life.

I’ve gained valuable insight and experience as a health care provider who’s battled disease and grown all too familiar with the medical challenges patients endure. Instead of relying on medicines with risky side effects, my story is about using nutrition to take control of my health. In the process, I’ve discovered that plants are the natural, sustainable fuel intended for our bodies.

What a story, eh? Stay tuned for more blogs from Elisa! In the meantime, play around with vegetarianism made easy.

Orgain – organic whey supplement
Thriving in life – nutrition guidelines to prevent and heal disease

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