Six years ago, I was experiencing symptoms I could not explain. Some of this included, but was not limited to; hair loss, 40+ lb weight gain in under one year, heartburn so bad I could not eat or drink water, overall lack of gut health, no energy, severely dry skin, brain fog, chronic pain in my legs, migraines, and I was also super susceptible to any illness. These were just the beginning of the symptoms, and to this day it can be difficult to remember all of the ways illness impacted me mentally, physically and emotionally.
My first diagnosis of autoimmune disease was Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I was prescribed synthroid for symptom management and I was told that I could never stop taking that medication without risking death.
But because Hashimoto's does not explain heartburn, I was also sent to a gastroenterologist, who performed an upper endoscopy and found lesions on my esophagus explained as a hive-like reaction due to allergies.
That was when I was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis and I was prescribed Prilosec for symptom management, and sent on my way.
I was still experiencing other symptoms that could not be explained…
I was still experiencing other symptoms that could not be explained, and because my gastro doc said I was having allergic reactions, I went to an allergist. My allergist performed the skin prick test, and injected me with dozens of external and internal irritants. Although many allergies can be diagnosed with this type of testing, I was also tasked with performing my own elimination diet, to determine additional irritants and allergies.
At this time, I discovered I was allergic to some strange things and a lot of random things! For instance, I became allergic to eggs! I had been eating them my entire life without issue, so this was a shock to me.
I also discovered I had allergic reactions to many medicines like Tylenol, ibuprofen and benadryl. But I was also discovering additional food allergies: soy, bananas, xanthan gum, and other fillers and preservatives.
I even developed an allergy to synthetic fragrances, which cost me my job, and a lot of social engagement. My allergy to perfume and cologne was so severe that I could not fly on an airplane, I could not go to a movie theater or a mall, and on several occasions had to excuse myself from important social functions because one person was wearing cologne, or a fragrance had been used in a body lotion, or a bathroom soap that caused an allergic reaction.
This is when I was prescribed my first epipen. And this symptom had the highest impact on my life, and resulted in my diagnosis of Urticaria.
All of my diagnoses were delivered to me within one year. Not one of my doctors asked about my diet, exercise or mental health. And I was not focused on any of that at the time either.
I accepted each diagnosis like a death sentence…
I accepted each diagnosis like a death sentence, and became more and more depressed with each one. About 2 years into the process I started to consult a naturopath. They put me on a treatment of massage, acupuncture, vitamins, enzymes, supplements, and tinctures. I was still not asked about diet or mental health. And I was still taking the prescribed meds from my other doctors, who did not communicate to each other about any of my illness.
I was seeing a therapist during this time and prior, and I still see her periodically, but that was still not enough to help me realize the changes I was capable of making. I accepted my fate, and accepted my diagnosis, and I become more depressed and anxious as time went on. The reason I was not getting better with all of these treatments, is because everything my doctors prescribed me was for symptom management. And with every new prescription or vitamin or alternative, I was exacerbating other symptoms and creating new ones on top of that. Medicine, to me, was not prescribed as a solution or cure. So each time new ones were added, I became more lost and sick than when I started.
It was in January of 2016 that I got fed up. I had a bout of heartburn that almost compelled me to visit the emergency room. It felt like my entire insides were on fire. And I thought there was no chance of relief.
However, I had recently read The Wahl’s Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls. She suffers from MS and designed a Paleo diet for reduction of inflammation in the body. Although I did not have MS, I knew I had a lot of inflammation. And at that point I was ready to try anything. I committed to 30 days following this diet to the letter.
I started feeling better in three days. I had energy and mental clarity at a time when I did not think I would ever see those things again.
I followed it exactly like the book suggests for 30 days, just like I said I would. And at the end of the 30 days I started to make changes to this regimen based on my own needs. (I simply did not need to eat that much food every day!)
As I continued this food journey, I did not lose weight, and I did not eliminate the vast majority of my symptoms. I was still overweight, struggling with the fear of potentially living inside a bubble due to my allergic reactions, and depressed and anxious about all of the loss I was experiencing.
I lost friends, jobs, and even the desire to put energy into that or any other aspect of my life.
And then I had a real breakthrough.
I discovered cold water immersion.
I was at my wits end, and once again fed up with myself and the way my illness was taking over my life. I was ready to try anything. So I tried an ice bath. It lasted 9 seconds. And it changed my life. I felt empowered in a way I hadn’t felt in years. Even though I was depressed and in chronic pain, the ice bath was something I COULD DO.
Just sit in the ice.
I also felt immediate relief of the chronic leg pain, which had gotten so bad it hurt to even drive.
IMMEDIATE RELIEF AFTER 9 SECONDS. WOW!!
This lit a spark, and I started doing ice baths once per week, still only a few seconds at a time at first. But I knew I needed more of this, because I just felt better. So my husband, and our business partner, built the first prototypes of what is now the Cold Forge.
They could see my changes, and they knew how important it was for me to make this a regular practice, and how hard that would be to get this much ice daily in Arizona.
One year ago, with our prototype, I began my regular cold water immersion practice. The changes were, once again, immediate. And it all started with my mental state.
By this time I was able to stay in 32 degree water for two minute intervals, as a result of a coaching method I developed. (2 minutes is ideal for total body benefits.) And because I was feeling stronger, mentally and physically, I felt empowered to make additional changes.
I got rid of all of the vitamins and supplements, no weaning, right away.
At that point I was taking more than 20 pills every day.
Well, I'm not anymore.
And the weight started falling off. I mean really falling off. I lost 10lbs in the first month of this new practice.
I kept going, and I weaned myself off of Prilosec. And I kept feeling stronger, and healthier. Two months ago I quit synthroid cold turkey. I simply stopped taking it.
It is going to take a little more intention to wean myself off my allergy meds, because the withdrawals are very intense. But I am working on it. And I have lost 47lbs, and gained muscle strength I was told would be impossible in my “condition”.
When I went in for my blood work with my endocrinologist I had no idea what to expect. I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable presence of antibodies, and the high T cell counts.
When I received the results with a clean bill of health... well I am still in a little bit of shock about it!
I knew I felt better, stronger, and I know I am not experiencing the symptoms I used to, but getting the lab results that proved to my doctors that I was healthy removed any self doubts.
I am still allergic to eggs, and soy and bananas, but I can fly on an airplane again and I can go to the movies. And when I am faced with synthetic fragrance, although I step far away, I am no longer having the allergic reactions I became so accustomed to.
I believe, through the power of my diet, my mind, and my choices, I have healed my body.
I believe this is a practice, and it is up to me to continue to treat my body with regular cold water immersion and other methods of self care. But I also believe, if I was doing that all along, I may not have gotten sick in the first place.
I can look back and see the way I was living in a trauma state, because I did not know another way to exist. I now live in a state of calm, and have the tools to help me stay in this state, or come back to it quickly.
I also continued to make other changes; intermittent and extend fasting, a magical apple cider elixir that I start my morning with, and a (mostly) carb free and meat heavy diet. I will never have the full answers as to how I got sick, how long it built up in my system, or if there was any one specific catalyst towards my illness. But I do know, that making small changes led to big changes. And change meant I was seeing results and continued to become more empowered on my journey towards health.
I will continue my current regimen, and I will continue to seek out uncomfortable ways towards my personal growth. But I will not succumb to illness the way I used to, and I will listen to my body over a medical diagnosis from anyone.
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