May is National Lupus Awareness Month! We are featuring Bryana’s story of a lupus diagnosis that began when she was 12. Since that day, she’s worked to manage her lupus and educate others about her disease. It’s taken several years, determination and patience, but now at age 16, Bryana is feeling well, and keeping busy with school and friends. She has finally been able to successfully manage lupus symptoms. She credits healthy eating, God, and supplementing with collagen every day in helping in her amazing recovery.
Five years ago, I woke up unable to lift my head. I held my hands up and tried to bend my swollen fingers. I couldn’t. I remember fear and agony overwhelming me as I yelled for my mom.
It took two years of 100 degree plus fevers, water retention, countless doctor appointments and many tears before I was finally diagnosed with lupus on July 9, 2012. I was only 12 years old at the time, but it’s a day I will never forget.
Since then my life has taken twists and turns—some good and some bad. I’ve learned how to manage my lupus symptoms by nourishing my body, which includes eating healthy foods and making choices that benefit my body. And recently, I’ve been supplementing with collagen which has made a huge impact on how I feel! I can be active, workout, and wake up the next day feeling great-no joint pain!
Lupus: An Unexplained, Chronic Illness
While I had never heard of lupus before I was diagnosed, I found out that more than five million people worldwide, including 1.5 million Americans, are affected by lupus, and 5,000 to 10,000 of them are under age 18, like me. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body, including skin, blood, joints, heart, lungs and kidneys. It causes a person’s immune system to attack its own healthy tissues instead of attacking harmful bacteria and viruses in the body.
Lupus has no explanation, and unfortunately no cure.
Learning to Control My Health Condition
At first, I was taking 12 pills a day to try to manage my lupus, all of which had their own unique side effects. One made me too tired to go to school, while the other kept me awake until 3 a.m. Another pill caused me to become a hungry, bottomless pit, while another brought on horrible nausea. And worst of all, I had to take steroids for the arthritis that pulsed its way into my knees, knuckles and ankles. As a tween, I was terrified these powerful steroids would stunt my growth and cause me to gain weight, two side effects that both eventually happened. The more I focused on my sickness, the worse I felt.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. Now, at age 16, I only take one prescribed pill a day, and I no longer experience the extreme pain that I used to. I improved my health and now manage my lupus through eating a healthy diet of wholesome foods, which includes supplementing with collagen. I also find support by sharing my recipes with a community of like-minded people on social media. I definitely have my “off” days, especially with anxiety, but physically I am as strong as I’ve ever been.
What I’ve learned
In learning to manage lupus, it’s super important to listen to my body since I know myself and my limitations better than anyone else. I have to put my health first, so this means that I don’t always do what my friends do. I am only taking two classes in high school, as opposed to my classmates who take six. And even though I live Southern California, sun exposure causes lupus flares, so I have to limit my time outdoors and I simply can’t go to the beach.
What I Eat Makes a Big Difference
I was taught early on in my diagnosis that diet has an immense impact on my health. Before I was sick, I did not make healthy choices. The only way I ate carrots was if they were drenched in ranch dressing. My breakfast on most Saturday mornings was Aunt Jemima pancake mix with extra syrup.
Since then, I have drastically changed my diet, and become much more aware of how food makes me feel. I have experienced first hand what a difference nutrient-rich foods can do for your body and, for the sake of my health, I’ve chosen to be diligent and particular about my diet.
Foods I avoid:
- Tomatoes – these are part of the “nightshade” family and can cause inflammation for those with autoimmune diseases.
- Processed meats that are high in sodium – because lupus affects the kidneys, I am very aware of my sodium intake.
- Sugar – an excess of refined sugar causes inflammation in the body, which can trigger lupus symptoms. I try to choose natural sweeteners like local honey or organic maple syrup.
Foods I include:
- I eat a lot of organic avocados, blueberries, and sauerkraut because they help me rid my body of toxins and keep me energized. Avocados are full of healthy fats and are anti-inflammatory; blueberries are rich in antioxidants and a perfect example of a naturally sweet food; and sauerkraut has natural probiotics that clean your gut.
Supplementing with Collagen Has Helped Me Be More Active
I recently started taking collagen peptides, and I can honestly say it has changed my life. Now, I am able to do all my daily activities and exercise without any joint pain. Because my autoimmune disease affects my joints, I was always very cautious when it came to workouts that included jumping, squats, and lunges. If I was very active or did a workout that involved too much knee bending, I would wake up with severe pain in my knees and joints. It made me feel old and so limited in what I could do!
Now that I use Further Food Collagen, I have been able to do so much more physically. I can keep up with my friends and do more of the activities that I want to do. Now, I can incorporate jumping jacks and squats into my exercise regime, and no joint aches and pains the next day! Not only do my joints feel cushioned and strong, my nails and hair have grown like crazy (added bonus!)! I mix Further Food Collagen in milk, juices, and pancake batter (homemade-not the packaged stuff!)-it dissolves easily with no taste and texture.
Sharing My Story With Others
After I was diagnosed, I realized none of my friends knew what lupus was. It was painful to realize that those around me had no clue what I was going through to manage my lupus, and had never even heard of this invisible disease. Just because you can’t physically see that a person is sick, it doesn’t mean they are healthy or feeling good.
Since then, I’ve been trying to educate those around me about my illness, especially this month, Lupus Awareness Month. I hope you will help me spread the word on this autoimmune disease that directly affects so many people, including teenagers like me by using the hashtag #LupusAwareness on social media.
And if you are trying to manage your lupus, you can get through this, one breath at a time. Watch what you eat, listen to your body, and remember, you are not alone!
Ready to cut sugar out from your life? Take the #SugarPledge and sign up for our FREE 7-Day Sugar Detox Challenge
BE HEALTHY EVERY DAY with Further Food Collagen Peptides! Collagen heals your body from the inside out. Learn more here!
Want to read more?