This post is a testimonial written by Amy B. – I hope it can help even one reader. We all need to share our stories so that others can benefit from our experiences and the valuable lessons we've learned along the way. – Diane
As a teen I suffered from chronic headaches.
When I was 17 years old, I started having some numbness in my face, so we had some testing done and the first CT scan showed massive fluid build-up.
I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a condition where cerebral spinal fluid is built up in the ventricles of the brain.
It's commonly known as “water on the brain.” It has many different causes; in my case, the aqueduct between the third and fourth ventricles in my brain had grown shut with cartilage, creating a blockage that caused my spinal fluid to build up in the third ventricle.
This is called aqueductal stenosis. I went through a series of shunt surgeries (a drainage system of sorts that diverts fluid into the stomach), and after those kept failing at a fast pace, I had a third ventriculostomy, which creates a non-mechanical drain system.
Fast forward approximately 11 years, and I was pretty unhealthy.
My body was tired and worn out from chronic headaches, and being inactive had caused me to put on some extra weight. My husband and I dined out a lot, and I never really watched what I ate at all. When it became clear that we would need to go back to a shunt as a treatment path for my hydrocephalus, my husband and I embarked on an all-out blitz to get me as healthy as possible in order to make the frequent surgeries that a shunt requires easier to handle. In 2012, at the suggestion of my personal trainer, Joe Locascio, I started looking into the Paleo lifestyle as a form of an anti-inflammatory diet, which he felt would be best for me. Food choices that would cause the least amount of extra fluid and stress on my system seemed to make the best sense. I dove into this information wholeheartedly, and found several online resources, including blog.balancedbites.com, to be very helpful.
Eventually I picked up Practical Paleo and tried to follow the food choices in the Neurological Health plan as best as possible, with some modifications for my activity as I lift weights and am very active now.
The customized information makes it easy to compare the differences in the plans according to your goals. I love the way Practical Paleo lists foods that you should try to include and the nutrients that they provide. It makes it all very easy to understand. The biggest change to my diet by far was the elimination of grains. That completely changed the way I eat, and because of that, we eat at home a lot more. The foods that I try to incorporate daily are bone broth, coconut oil, natural protein sources of all kinds (grass fed and organic when possible), blueberries, turmeric, ginger, and garlic. I also make a homemade tea with ginger root and organic cinnamon sticks, fresh lemon and honey. It's delicious, and has lots of healing properties. As I became a lot more active, and after I lost a lot of weight, upping my healthy fats significantly has really made a difference in my energy and my athletic performance. I also try to get 8+ hours of sleep a night, and I drink over a gallon of water a day.
The results of my lifestyle changes have been remarkable.
Since changing my food intake and becoming more active, I have lost approximately 50 lbs. of fat, and have gained about 10 lbs. of lean mass. I'm 6′ tall, so that equates to moving from a size 14 to a size 4. I've recently had several shunt revision surgeries, which I have literally flown through. I have been able to heal from my recent surgeries so easily! For example, with the last surgery I had prior to this lifestyle change, I took about 3½ weeks off from work. After my surgery on New Year’s Eve 2013, I returned to work the next Monday, just 5 days later. I started lifting weights 10 days later. I had yet another surgery on February 20, 2014, and I'm so grateful to my neurosurgeon, Dr. Kent Yundt of NW Brain & Spine in Bend, Oregon, who has been so instrumental in my journey. It's my belief and understanding that eliminating grains generally lowers the inflammation processes of the body, and I attribute that to my quick recoveries. Even my incisions heal faster when my diet is on track. I am so thankful to be strong, healthy, and in control of my body. Through social media (Amy's Instagram) I've been able to connect with lots of people who also are affected by hydrocephalus, and I try to provide encouragement to keep pressing on when things get tough. I love how down to earth Diane is, and I appreciate how gracious her whole team has been to me.
I want to encourage all others with neurological conditions to keep fighting for a better quality of living.
It's so hard at times. I've found much comfort in the online support that I receive, and am honored to be an example to young girls with hydrocephalus. My husband and I have a phrase we use a lot, “relentless pursuit,” and that refers to the constant battle and endless fight for everything that is important: love, family, and health. If it's worth it, you'll fight for it, no matter how hard it is. Thank you to Diane and the Balanced Bites team for all you do to provide support to people like me who are in need of information and encouragement. I am forever grateful.