Pilates: A Powerful Tool for Autoimmune and Inflammatory Diseases

On July 22, I attended the Inflammatory and Auto-Immune Diseases workshop at Body Harmonics. It had such an impact on me that it was all I could think about on my long drive back to NJ. It continued to consume my thoughts for the next few days. I sent an email to Margot, Founder & Director of Education at Body Harmonics, letting her know that “of all the courses I have EVER taken this was THE MOST POWERFUL I’ve ever experienced.” In part it is because I have a lot of personal experience with the subject due to having Celiac and Hashimoto’s. I also told her “I never cried in a class before!”

What really resonated with me that Margot said was that “a lot of people with autoimmune diseases blame themselves for their condition, and it’s really not their fault.” I don’t even think I realized until that moment that I felt that way. But my eyes welled up and I felt like I was punched in the gut. I said to myself: “I do blame myself!” I think back to first getting the diagnosis and thinking “if I only ate differently, if I only would have addressed my issues sooner...”, etc. 

Here's my story ...

Growing up, I was constantly hurting myself. Extra sore muscles, torn ligaments in my knees, ankles and back, knee surgeries, repeated soft tissue injuries, unbearable migraines, and constant sick-to-my-stomach feeling were all chalked up to: "Oh, she's just clumsy." "She's just accident-prone." "She plays too hard." "It's growing pains. She's too tall for a girl." "She's just being a picky eater...make her eat it." "She's just trying to get out of school." "She tries to keep up with the boys...get her some dolls."

Then came a series of miscarriages in my mid to late 20s (it happens dear, it’s nature’s way). There were bouts of depression (it’s just baby blues, it’ll pass) that I never had time to address, as I was too busy raising a family.

A back injury in my 30s brought me to Body Harmonics. I was still not aware that I had Celiac or Hashimoto’s, but Pilates got me going again. I was stronger, happier, and healthier.

In my mid 40s I started fighting depression again. I was tired beyond tired (sleeping 18 hours a day), constantly sick to my stomach, and had headaches that could not be helped by any drug. My emotions were all over the map, and would change within five minutes. I literally thought I was going crazy!

I went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. A few years later, at my insistence I was checked for and diagnosed with celiac disease. It seems like the pieces of the puzzle of injury and “un-wellness” were starting to at least make sense. I was tired due to thyroid issues that had probably been going on since my pregnancies in my 20s. It explained why I would be sick to my stomach almost immediately after eating, with rashes, headaches and mood swings beyond any sort of control. The injuries and muscle soreness (it was more than just "playing too hard" as a kid) were likely caused by celiac disease; my body was not absorbing the nutrients I needed to keep my tissue healthy and injury-free.

Finally having an explanation for my symptoms has helped me see that I am not "crazy" and, as Margot said at the workshop, it was not my fault! With the proper diet, correct medicine, and Pilates (and lots of fighting doctors for what I need, and more specifically, what I don't need) I feel that I at least have some control over my body and moods again. A very freeing realization. Yet it is an ongoing process of trial and error, with new information often replacing the old — frustrating for sure, but also just a part of my journey. 

I was a bit hesitant to share my story, not wanting to put my personal life out there for all to read. Then I realized that not many people would associate Pilates with being such a powerful tool for those suffering with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and that sharing this just might give someone else the same opportunities to put the pieces of their own puzzle together and maybe try a different path toward better health if the one they're on isn't quite the right one. Nothing is more rewarding to me than helping ease someone's difficulties when they come to me.