Today I am so excited to share our Wellness Warrior Laura Clowdus!
Laura Clowdus lives with her husband, Jeff, and their two sweet boys under two, Vance and Ruston, along with their dogs Texas and Crockett. They enjoy living in a modern barnhouse on 40 acres on Lookout Mountain outside of Chattanooga, TN.
Laura Clowdus is a registered nurse and holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She later pursued a career as a wellness coach and is registered as a Certified AIP Coach and a Certified Wellness Life Coach.
We first met Laura through the social media app TikTok. We love social media these days, there is a whole wide world of inspirational patients, coaches and fellow warriors who are out there sharing their stories to help the chronic illness community, and Laura is one fellow warrior on this list.
I reached out to Laura and asked her if she would be willing to share her story through an interview on our blog, and we are so excited she accepted the invitation.
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Let's get into the interview!
Laura when were you diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? What age were you?
I have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), endometriosis and Raynaud's syndrome.
I started having symptoms of autoimmunity when I was 22; one day I developed horrible pain in my eye with redness. I was diagnosed with iritis, which is inflammation of the iris within the eye.
My ophthalmologist said I had an unusually strong case so we did blood work and discovered I had the HLA-B27 gene that predisposed me to other autoimmune conditions, especially ankylosing spondylitis.
My doctor told me not to worry about developing AS because “only middle aged men get that disease.”
I found out later that is not true at all!
How long did it take to get a diagnosis?
Three years after my bout with iritis, I began developing severe hip and back pain along with full body aches.
I immediately knew what it was.
I was referred to several doctors to get a diagnosis.
One doctor told me my “butt stuck out too much” and gave me ibuprofen to fix that problem. Ha!
Finally, I was referred to a great rheumatologist who confirmed that I did have AS. It took about 6 months after I developed that pain to reach a diagnosis.
Are you still able to work? Or do you have hobbies to help pass the time?
I continued to work as a registered nurse at the hospital for several years after being diagnosed.
At first, most days it was very difficult to get out of bed and make it to work on time with the pain I had.
But, after learning about autoimmune disease and taking care of myself, I was able to finally be symptom free!
After I had my first baby, I decided to work from home and started my business as a life coach.
What is the biggest struggle you face with your illness?
The biggest struggle I face now is managing my postpartum inflammation.
During pregnancy, autoimmunity will worsen or go into remission, depending on the part of the immune system that is impacted.
After pregnancy, hormone changes cause the opposite effect to occur.
Thankfully, my autoimmune disease went into remission during pregnancy. But, now I am dealing with postpartum induced inflammation.
I am experiencing bloating, fatigue, and brain fog. These symptoms are mostly minor and slowly improving.
I know that if I can effectively manage this inflammation, it will not progress into AS pain.
It's a process but I am comforted by knowing exactly how to manage it.
How have you overcome or learned to cope with that/those struggles?
I am currently doing everything I can to decrease inflammation and this is how I have been managing my disease without medication for the past 4 years.
I eat the Autoimmune Paleo diet (AIP) as well as foods I have been successfully been able to reintroduce.
This allows me to give my body all the nutrition it needs to heal and maintain a healthy gut as well as avoid foods that stimulate inflammation.
Gut health is key!
I also manage my stress. I use tools that I have studied to become a life coach in my own life everyday.
I am constantly checking in with my brain to be aware of what I'm thinking and feeling. I question my thoughts and choose thoughts to help me get the feelings and outcomes I want in life.
I also am careful to avoid resistance when I am experiencing negative emotion.
Basically, I manage my brain by choosing what thoughts and feelings I want to have based on what is happening in my life.
That gives me control of my stress and it has been a game changer when it comes to my stress-induced inflammatory symptoms!
If you could give advice to someone newly diagnosed what would it be?
My advice would be to ask yourself what your mind and body needs.
You might need more sleep. You might need to avoid sugar and gluten. You might need to say "no" the next time somebody asks you to volunteer your time.
Symptoms are your body's way of communicating to you.
If you are having inflammation, your body is telling you something is wrong and it needs your help.
In today's society, we are constantly focused externally on things like our phones, our jobs, traffic...etc.
We rarely focus on what is going on within our minds and our bodies.
Check in with yourself and do what your mind and body need.
If you could give advice to someone who suspects they have the same illness as you, but is struggling to get a diagnosis, what advice would upon give them?
Be your own advocate.
The diagnosis process is hard.
I had a very good idea of what autoimmune disease I had but it still took about 6 months to get a diagnosis.
Communicate with your doctor, get another opinion or a referral if needed.
Do your own research.
And most importantly, you do not need to be at your "sickest" to receive a diagnosis.
Take care of yourself and do what you can to decrease your inflammation as you pursue answers.
Is there anything else inspirational you would like to share with our readers?
I hope this has been inspirational for you.
I would like to add that when you google your diagnosis or potential diagnosis, you will most likely find scary autoimmune stories that rob you of hope. But, if you continue to do your research, you will also find people sharing amazing stories of overcoming their symptoms and living well with autoimmune disease.
This confused me at first but over the years I have come to understand why there are these two different groups of people. It all comes down to mindset.
If you believe that your autoimmune disease will control you and limit you in life, it will. But, if you believe that you are in control and capable of taking care of yourself no matter what you are faced with, you will be able to live well.
How can other warriors get in contact with you?
What a great interview! Thank you Laura for giving us your time today to share your story.
Laura has made some really great points, our favorite was her comment about becoming your own advocate.
Learning to be your own advocate can be a difficult skill to learn.
One way you could help yourself with this is using our preparing for your rheumatologist worksheet.
This free worksheets helps you to get organized before you meet with your rheumatologist, ensuring you are well prepared to answer their questions along with a space to list the questions you have for the doctor.
Thank you for taking the time to sit, read and enjoy another Wellness Warrior Interview. We hope to catch you next week.
Wishing you health and happiness,
We strive to help educate and inspire autoimmune patients by sharing stories like this one, and sharing many resources through the website and our blog posts.
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