Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Your Body Seems to Turn Against You

By Mary Ellen Bianco

Managing multiple health issues became the dominating factor of Andie's life. Photos by Patti Hartog.

When I asked Andie what she thinks has changed her life the most, her reply was: “The peace that I’ve found for a healthier future is within my faith. It is the answer to all of the unrest, because through God I am healed.” Andie Moore, 26, is living with multiple autoimmune disorders that many women may not face in a lifetime. “There are days where trying to feel normal is the hardest part,” Andie says. “People expect you to be able to go off and do what everyone else does.”




Autoimmune disorders occur when the body's immune system, which normally helps protect it from infections, turns against the organs and tissues. “I learned that once you have one disease, you’re susceptible to others,” Andie says.

Debilitating migraines began when Andie was in eighth grade. In addition to a throbbing headache, migraine symptoms can include slurred speech; sensitivity to light, smells and sounds; nausea and vomiting; and numbness or tingling on one side of the body.

The migraines still impact Andie’s life. “I had hoped to grow out of them in my 20s, but it hasn’t happened,” Andie says. She tries to head them off with rest and medication. “Having a job as Unit Manager in the skilled nursing unit at the Forum at Brookside— that’s even harder. I’ve had to explain myself so many times. Bills and taxes don’t care.” (You might want to try this migraine app.)

When Andie was 18, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease. At first, she didn’t take seriously the necessity of cutting gluten out of her diet, which she says caused more damage. Painful urinary problems occurred after Andie ate gluten, especially bread, and another diagnosis emerged: interstitial cystitis, a type of chronic inflammation of the bladder. “I cheated for a long time, and I’ve been addicted to bread,” Andie says. “As I get older, the symptoms are exaggerated.”

Andie had to figure out another way of dealing with her autoimmune disorder.


While in college, Andie began having severe digestive issues that caused vomiting. She was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles in the stomach does not function normally. “I’ve done more damage to my system, and it comes out in different ways,” Andie says. “By continuing to have gluten, the problems I had may have been small, but now they’re not fully fixable.”

Last year on New Year’s Eve, Andie had a seizure, which she refers to as the “grand finale.” There was no neurological cause found. “The doctor said that there was scarring on my brain from Celiacs,” Andie says. “I know I really have to stick to the diet, and fortunately I haven’t had a seizure lately.”

In June 2015, Andie was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid gland. “I’d been trying to lose weight, but it didn’t happen as easily as it used to,” she says. “I changed doctors and she specifically checked the T4 number, which is the main hormone produced by the gland. Mine was very low at .82. The normal range can go up to 1.77.” She had been prescribed a strong thyroid pill and she’s gradually lost a few pounds. “Previously my family practice doctor had said that since I was in my mid-20s, I didn’t need to worry about it, but it is a factor.”

Through the years Andie has had multiple visits to urgent care clinics, emergency rooms and specialists. “Some doctors prescribe too much medication,” Andie says. “I’ve been over-prescribed before, so I try to take as little as possible.” She suggests that people do their own research, acknowledging that her mom, Pattie, has really helped her since she also has Celiac disease and hypothyroidism (Pattie had suggestions for us, too — read them here). By reading Pattie’s suggestions for online articles and books, and with questions to ask health care professionals, Andie does her own research.

Changing her perspective about the situation has improved Andie's outlook on life.


Natural vitamins and supplements have been added to Andie’s daily regimen to help boost and support her immune system, since her body fails to do that on its own. “They have been slowly helping me,” she says. “ I’ve been able to see and honestly feel the change for the better.”

Andie says that it’s best to focus on the underlying cause of the autoimmune disorders. “Find a doctor who treats the whole, not just each individual symptom,” she says. “I also learned that negative self-talk makes you sicker. I needed to change how I think and what I say.”

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