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Exercise Makes Me Sick

Updated on August 9, 2016

In the beginning there was fat

Last summer when I was kicking tail in the Gettin' Healthy department, I woke up one day with extreme dizziness that would not subside. This led to several doctor appointments, an MRI, some medication that made me very sick, and a diagnosis of Sjogren's Syndrome.

First, let me say that YOU know your body and its limits. The information I'm posting here is just that...information. Consult your doctor before you stop or start any supplements, exercise programs, etc.

OK. So the rheumatologist laughed at me when I told him that getting healthy made me sick. In the 3 months before seeing him, I had made some major changes. I quit smoking! Woot! I changed to a nearly all vegetarian diet. I was exercising almost every day. I had lost 39 lbs. (I had also cut out all artificial sweeteners some months before was a sad goodbye to Diet Dr. Pepper) So why did I feel so completely awful when I saw him in September?

Step One: Mind over flab

1) I made up mind to do it. Willpower is something I struggle with so I joined a weight loss contest using Young Living products and set out to WIN. And I did win it!

Step Two: Stub out that cigarette. Duh.

2) I used Young Living's Ningxia Nitro every morning for a month. This was the key to my mental fitness. It helped me stay focused on my goal to quit smoking and boosted my energy. For the official record, I have had a handful of cigarettes since June 24th, 2014. I have learned my lesson though and have kicked the habit for good. Even though I did not continue Nitro every day, I have only had a handful of cravings or urges despite being around smokers on a semi-regular basis. I do still use Nitro for energy at times. I really love that product!

Step Three: Get the tools to succeed!

3) I used Weight Watchers Points Plus to manage the amount of food I was eating. I purchased a Points Plus Calculator on eBay. I downloaded a Zero Points Plus Food List and googled WW friendly recipes. I also wrote the number of points per serving on boxes and packages of food in the house. That way I would be fully aware of what each snack or ingredient was "costing" me. Now that several months have passed, I have moved on to an Atkin's approach to a low carb/high fat way of eating. It seems to be the key for my body to keeping the pounds down and inflammation at bay.

Step Four: Decide how to workout and use what you have

4) I bought Dr. Scott Johnson's ebook, TransformWise. I used the YouTube channel he made for free workout videos because I did not know what a Prisoner Squat was. Hahaha. I did purchase a stability ball on clearance but I used heavy canned vegetables for dumbbells and a milk jug full of water for a kettle bell. I also downloaded a free interval timer on my tablet to help with the rhythm and timing of the workouts. My husband joined in and we had a a lot of fun doing these together.

Then the worst happened

Great! I was shedding pounds and reaching my goal and then WHAM! I could not get out of bed. I have researched and asked questions and looked back over some other health problems I've had and discovered that by going so far to the other side of "healthy", I was really hurting my body. I still stand behind every single product and strategy I have mentioned but I was doing everything TO THE EXTREME. I was not pacing myself at all and I paid for it dearly.


Why did it all fall apart?

Oxalate. Have you ever had kidney stones? Ouch! Right? I have had so many problems with kidney stones and if I eat a diet high in (particularly raw) produce and nuts, I get oxalate stones. Recent blood work showed that I had low ionized calcium levels and that can lead to higher amounts of oxalate in your system. I later had oxalate levels tested and they were quite high. I've learned that high levels can cause pain, inflammation, depression, and more. So the largely vegetarian diet I was on was causing some issues...again. This was one main reason I switched to a low carb diet.

Too much

Chia seeds. Could the chia seeds I was eating and putting in smoothies be causing the acute dizziness? I was eating a couple of tablespoons every day or two. My blood pressure was low the day the dizziness started. Also, it never occurred to me that these might thin my blood. Um, hello! I have a hereditary clotting disorder. This was not smart of me. At. All. So please research every supplement, super food, exercise technique you decide to introduce into your life.

Not enough

Not enough vitamins. I assumed I was getting everything I needed in my diet. Blood work determined I was low in Vitamin D. I took mega doses for months and there has been little change in my levels. My ionized calcium level was also low. My B12 level was fine. I have had problems with B12 in the past though. At that time, I had to give myself shots to get my level back up. Other minerals were good. Bottom line, get your blood levels tested once a year (or as needed) to make sure they are staying in the normal range because you may not be getting enough in your diet or you may be over supplementing.

Too fast

Exercising this couch potato body. Dr. Scott Johnson talks about the body's response to exercise in TransformWise. He explains how sudden activity can raise levels of cortisol (here is another article about this effect) and you may not get the results you were looking for at the beginning stages. That made total sense to me but I did not research it any further. I have since learned that even though I was not doing high cardio/impact training, I was doing was too much too soon. I mean, I was living the most sedentary life possible and did not ease into working out at all. This likely set off my autoimmune issues. FYI, I had never had autoimmune blood work done before August 2014 but I do believe, based on my significant past medical issues, I have had Sjogren's Syndrome for many years. So the exercise did not CAUSE the autoimmune disorder it just contributed to a flare which led to the diagnosis. Diagnosing Sjogren's Syndrome takes an average of nearly 4 years because the symptoms mimic other issues/diseases.

Anti Inflammatory Foods


Where am I now?

So where am I now in the Gettin' Healthy department? Right after I got sick, I gained back weight. I blame all the depression eating I was doing. I could not physically exercise (or walk up the stairs or get out of bed some days) and I didn't care what I ate.

1) I have managed to stay steady at 20 lbs. lost since July 2014. I went through a round of all kinds of medications to balance back out. My Vitamin D has stayed in the normal range (though still pretty low). So now I am only on 2 medications

2) I have struggled with staying hydrated. The Sjogren's dries out any mucosal tissue in your body and I was not aware of just how dehydrated I was getting. I am better at staying on top of this though.

3) I kind of lost my will to exercise for several months. Ever have a car wreck and then be afraid of getting in a car for a little while? Yeah. That. It took me a long time to find my limits. But I got brave and started low impact isotonic exercises along with Transformwise, dialed way down. And instead of pushing myself to complete the 30-50 minutes of training, I take cues from my body. I am working out 10-20 minutes a day 5-7 days a week now. If I am too sore one day, I rest. And do not feel guilty when you have to rest. A day or two of rest beats a 2 week long flare.

4) Eating better. Out of necessity, we eat almost every meal at home. There are almost no raw vegetables in my diet though. I hate limiting bread/pasta, vegetables, fruit, and SUGAR! but it is worth it. Honestly, I've had much less fatigue eating low carb. My joints still hurt if I happen to exercise a little too much. Most everything I eat is on the anti-inflammatory diet so overall inflammation is down and I recover pretty well from strain or injury.

5) Mindset. Balance has been a hard lesson to learn. I really wish that I could have kept up everything I was doing last summer and reached my weight loss goal already. It's been months but I still have a lot of regret there. It's hard to get motivated when you are not mentally or physically "there". But I spent time overcoming that mindset. Having a schedule helps our family and this is key to me staying upbeat. If I have to do something at a certain time, the Type A person in me kicks in. I have been making small goals. I want to lose 10 lbs. and can do that. Yes, I have a lot to lose but that frustrates me and overwhelms me. 10 lbs. That's all. So while my mood really depends on the day, my overall mindset is positive. I no longer feel lost in this diagnosis.

I hope some of this information helps you. I wish that someone would have found my Sjogren's years ago. I do wonder if I would have had the complicated pregnancies and numerous surgeries and chronic respiratory issues if I had been diagnosed a decade ago. At least I can go forward now knowing how to balance things and treat my body well.


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