Today I have a very special guest post from an HMP reader who overcame Psoriatic Arthritis by changing his lifestyle.
His name is Zak Khan, and I think you’re really going to dig his story.
Zak was diagnosed with a crippling autoimmune disease that made it impossible to live a normal life. After having a negative experience with the drugs from his doctor, he decided to create his own system to recover using lifestyle changes and natural medicine.
I’ll let him explain it.
It was mid-2015, and I had just finished my first set of law examinations for the year. I was burning the midnight oil for the better half of 3 years, and my life revolved around books and computer screens.
Finally, I could take a breath of fresh air and just relax. Little did I know that my life would take a drastic turn and things were about to get a whole lot more challenging. It started with a dull nagging ache in my right hand, but I didn’t suspect it to be anything serious.
For the first week or so, I just assumed the excessive amount of note-making and typing had finally caught up with me.
So, I popped into the doctor’s rooms and was prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication. Over the years, I’d fall ill with the flu about 2 – 3 times, but it was never anything serious. Nothing a good old course of antibiotics couldn’t fix, right? (I’m not that good at sarcasm, bear with me)
The only time I needed to visit a hospital was in 2012. Allow me to backtrack and give you a bit of history about my health. I was bloated for about a month straight, and no amount of anti-acid, diuretics or relaxants solved the problem. The doctors were unable to find a proper diagnosis, and I was reaching my wit’s end.
After doing some research, I discovered other individuals who suffered a similar fate and were unable to consume wheat or gluten. I felt suspicious of bread for a long time, so I decided to get rid of it. I cut out bread and pasta from my diet, and everything returned to normal!
I adapted to this bread free diet and started my cross fit journey. Things were spectacular, and I was losing weight like crazy. Over the course of a year, my weight fell from 84kgs all the way down to 65kgs!
I felt great!
In good times, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment and indulge in things you know aren’t healthy. I’m not perfect, and that became abundantly clear to me when I’d find myself binging on takeout food over the weekend.
I may not have been consuming bread, but I was running through servings of ice cream, chips, fast foods and sodas like a mad man.
In 2014, I developed a skin condition called psoriasis which is an autoimmune disease (just like psoriatic arthritis). Patches of scaly red itchy skin would develop all over my body and scalp. Every time I’d step foot in the sun or under very bright lights or feel stressed, it used to feel like worms were crawling around my head!
The dermatologist prescribed some steroid creams, and when I brought up my concerns of developing psoriatic arthritis, he told me we’d deal with it if things reached that point (I didn’t want it to reach that point, but okay).
The medication helped, but every three months or so, the psoriasis would flare up, especially during the stressful examination period.
How Psoriatic Arthritis Changed My Life
Now that you’re all caught up — let’s get back to the point of when I developed psoriatic arthritis. It started in my right hand and progressed all over my body. The joints in my shoulders, hips, wrists, ankles, knees and knuckles were all in a constant state of inflammation. My immune system was completely wrecked!
It was attacking all of my joints, and I had no idea what to do about it. My mind broke when my body deteriorated to such an extent that I could barely walk or hold a phone in my hand without excruciating pain.
Also, my knees were blown up twice its size because of the excess fluid that built up. I was 22 years old, but I felt 95!
I have my entire life ahead of me, and this was no way to live. With that being said, the doctors put me onto disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in hopes of dulling my immune system and lessening the inflammation in my body. The side effects were tremendous, and within two weeks, my liver couldn’t handle the medication, and I started to show signs of it. My skin was horrendous, and I was fatigued all the time. Not to forget the mood swings attached to being on strong medication.
What truly broke my heart was my new found inability to write. My dream has always been to be a full-time writer and author. Not being able to use my hand to write was devastating and almost brought me to tears on many occasions.
This was the worst period of my entire life, and nobody around me understood how I felt. I was desperate and decided to research a more natural and holistic approach. I heard stories of people reversing diseases, and the fighter in me believed that I could too.
I discovered two stories of individuals who managed to get this chronic inflammatory arthritis into remission by radically changing their lifestyle. It took them upwards of two years, but they were able to get their life back. It was all the hope I ever needed. It lit a fire within me, and I dug deeper to find more solutions.
Eventually, I discovered a corrective chiropractor on Youtube who shared long talks of reversing autoimmune diseases through lifestyle changes. I don’t live in the US, so it was impossible for me to visit him, but all the videos he shared on health were more than helpful and they changed my life.
Only two weeks into the DMARD’s treatment, I decided to abandon it and pursue a holistic and natural approach. I was already in a horrible state and felt like I had nothing to lose by trying something unorthodox and unconventional.
Now, March 2017, I am 100% in remission from psoriatic arthritis, and I’ve finally gotten my life back! The inflammation in my joints reduced by about 50% within the first month and then disappeared altogether about eight months later. The damage done to my joints took time to heal, but as of March, they’ve healed to such an extent that I’m able to cross fit train again, bench press 25kgs and sprint.
It was a long and hard road, but I accomplished something that has built an undying belief within me of the human body’s capability to heal and flourish with a healthy lifestyle.
I feel obliged to put a disclaimer out there that I’m not a doctor and the content in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone. I’m merely sharing my story and the techniques I used to overcome psoriatic arthritis.
With that being said, here are the changes I made to my lifestyle that radically improved my health.
The System I Used To Heal From Psoriatic Arthritis
“If you eat right, you feel right. And, if you feel right, you look right.”
You wouldn’t fuel an unleaded car with leaded petrol, would you? If you did, it would suffer and break down.
So, why would you fuel your body with refined carbs and junk food? It’s a pity that I could only ask and answer this question when my body had already broken down.
Most of the junk food we eat contain ingredients that are either GM or inflammatory in nature. Because I was pumping my body with so much junk (apart from bread), I developed a permeated gut (popularly known as leaky gut).
Food particles would enter my blood stream through the holes that appeared in my gut and wreak havoc on my immune system. Over time, my immune system began to incorrectly identify these food particles as foreign bodies and attack them. Antibodies were developed, and whenever I ate wheat or gluten, corn or soya, my body would have an immune reaction.
My goal was to heal leaky gut, reduce inflammation in my body, put all my autoimmune diseases into remission and then maintain a disease free body. So, I started by altering my diet and then progressed onto fixing my sleep, dealing with stress, building a strong mind and supplementing my diet.
Diet And Nutrition
For me, refined carbs, sugar, vegetable oils high in omega 6’s, lentils and gluten were messing my body up. Remember earlier I mentioned that I couldn’t eat bread? Well, it turns out that I can’t eat ANY wheat or gluten.
Strangely enough, I noticed a common trend amongst people who suffered from psoriatic arthritis. They would have flare ups after consuming nightshades. Tomato, potato, peppers and eggplant are nightshade vegetables. These are staples in most diets, especially mine, but I decided to cut them out even though it seemed like there was nothing left for me to eat.
The only foods left were lean meats and fish, bone broth, green leafy vegetables, some root vegetables, healthy oils like coconut oil and olive oil, omega three enriched nut butters, fruits, organic dairy and health teas. Basically, foods we ought to be eating on a daily basis!
For the sake of convenience, here’s an image with a list of foods I avoided and foods that I consumed on a daily basis. I printed a copy of this and stuck it up on my fridge as a constant reminder.
Also, if I ever made any purchases from stores, I tried to purchase whole foods as much as possible. In the case of products, I’d meticulously scan the list of ingredients for nightshade spices, hydrogenated oils, wheat or gluten, soya, soya lectin or soy emulsifier, corn starch, corn flour and whey casein. If they had any of the above, I’d avoid those products. Shopping so restrictively is difficult at first, but you begin to form a new found desire and respect for foods in their natural state.
Over time, I began to shop more in food markets and less in grocery stores. Not being around hundreds of temptations made it easier to focus on buying healthy vegetables and fruits.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t so anal about buying organic. If you can acquire organic vegetables and fruits, go for it! They’re a better option. But don’t let that hinder you from making the choice of eating more vegetables and fruits.
Juicing vegetables every morning made a whirlwind of a difference on my health. From what I understood, leaky gut made it difficult for my body to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Juicing vegetables and fruits reduced the need for my body to break down fruits in its whole form and up to 80% of nutrients are extracted from vegetables and fruits.
Here’s my favorite green juice recipe that I consume daily:
You can use any amount of the above-mentioned vegetables and fruits. For me, 1 and a half apples are perfect for sweetening any green juice.
During the first three months, my diet predominantly consisted of vegetables. As the inflammation in my joints reduced, I added chicken and fish back into my diet.
- Breakfast: Every morning started with 1 cup of water, green juice (1 cup to ½ a liter), 1tbsp of chia and flax seeds in coconut milk and a cup of green tea. Lots of liquid, I know.
- Lunch: A huge bowl of mixed salad with apple cider vinegar and chia seeds sprinkled over it, grilled chicken or fish, rice or sweet potato, fermented vegetables and bone broth.
- Supper: Salad again, chicken or fish, bone broth, pea protein shake in water or coconut milk and a serving of fruits.
Rest And Recovery
I’ll be the first to admit that bad sleeping habits have contributed significantly to all the sicknesses I’ve developed over time.
Lack of sleep and exhaustion leads to stress, inflammation, and burnout. I don’t believe we’re designed to be awake staring into blue lights until the wee hours of the morning.
As a blogger and writer, I can’t help but work on computers for many hours at a time. To break out of a bad system, I’ve rearranged my schedule, and all electronic devices stay far away from me after 9:30 pm.
Hit the bed before you feel exhausted or extremely sleepy and form a night time routine that contributes to health and wellness. I like to read an actual physical book for about 30 minutes to unwind and relax before sleeping.
Sleep is an investment in your future.
Stress contributes to inflammation, and an inflamed body creates stress. It’s like a cycle of doom that feeds into itself.
Depression plagued my mind when I was unable to walk or function as a normal human being. I’m an extremely goal driven individual and in constant pursuit of new challenges. Finding myself stuck in a bed while suffering from horrid pain really affected my psyche.
If you’re in a similar situation, I just want you to remember that you aren’t alone. There are people around the world who were in a similar position and have come out stronger. I’ve been through the lowest of lows, but it did not beat me. If I could overcome this disease and rebuild my life, so can you.
An undying belief can go a long way in recovery. Have faith in your body’s ability to regulate and heal after an illness. It’s not all doom and gloom. For now, even in a state of constant inflammation and pain, remember that the one thing you can control is your thoughts and how you perceive a situation.
You are not defined by any disease. Keep that in mind and look beyond the problem at hand. This sounds kind of silly, but when I couldn’t walk much, the one thought that kept me pushing forward was the possibility of being able to run at the beach again and driving.
Rather than constantly stressing about what has changed in your life, focus your attention towards a better future and the things you want to accomplish.
Envision a healed version of yourself, have faith and work towards it.
Supplementing A Good Nutrition Plan
Supplements alone won’t fix problems. I wish they did, but the true value of supplementation lies in how it works with a good nutrition plan. High-quality natural supplements can drastically aid in digestion, reducing inflammation and the rate at which you heal.
I wanted to avoid anything weird and processed, so all the supplements I consumed were either naturally sourced or organic.
Here’s what I supplement with on a regular basis:
- Pre & Probiotics – To replenish the good bacteria in my gut. This helped my immune system recover.
- Turmeric Capsules – Admittedly, this is optional and unnecessary as I cook with lots of turmeric.
- Matcha Powder – 10x the antioxidant power of green tea and can be used to bake with.
- MSM or Collagen Capsules – Aids in joint, tissue and muscle regeneration.
- L-Glutamine or Pea Protein Powder – I alternate between the two. L-glutamine is an amino acid capable of soothing and healing the gut lining as well as repairing joints. My pea protein powder contains most BCAA’s and is great for recovery.
At the time of starting this regimen, I wasn’t well-versed in the art of fermentation or preparing bone broth, so supplements helped make things far more convenient. But, a proper nutrition plan can offer everything you need without breaking the bank for quality grade supplements.
If you can afford it, then by all means, invest in supplements.
For the latter half of 2016, I reduced the consumption of supplements and finally learned how to obtain them from foods and herbs. Believe me when I tell you that I can scream from rooftops about the wonderful benefits of fermented vegetables.
All you need is some cabbage, a bottle, water and some salt or live cultures. Shred your cabbage, pack it into a bottle ¾ way, add about a teaspoon of salt or live cultures, add water until everything is submerged under water, close and leave it to ferment in a warm place for 7 – 9 days.
Once fermented, empty the water and store your fermented cabbage in a fridge for up to 6 months. I ferment a bunch of different vegetables and eat them every single day.
Use supplements wisely and it will make a significant impact on your health.
The End Of My Psoriatic Arthritis Story And A Second Chance At Life
I’m extremely grateful to KW Stout for giving me the opportunity and a platform to share my story of triumph over a disease that plagues the lives of many people around the world. I hope it serves as a tool for inspiration and a helping hand to those who need support.
Consult your doctor and try to find a system of living that perfectly suits the needs of your body.
It took time and many breakdowns to reach this point the results were worth it. I progressively felt better month after month, and now I feel like I’m in the best shape and phase of my life. I still don’t consume most of the foods I cut out of my diet, especially nightshades but I’ve grown less intolerant to other foods.
We’re all unique and things vary so you’ll eventually figure out what foods are safe to add back into your diet and what foods should be eliminated indefinitely.
Consistency is the key to change and success. I’m not advising anyone to abandon medication or anything irresponsible. All I’m suggesting is to try and incorporate as many lifestyle changes as possible to support a healthy mind, body, and soul.
Take care of yourself. Treat your body like a temple and things will change for the better.
I wish you all the best and a very healthy, happy and long life!
Zak Khan is a full-time writer and author who shares his insights on productivity, self-development and writing over at Zakwrites.com.
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