#74: Reversing Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis with Julie Fischer

Reversing Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis with Julie Fischer

Today’s guest, Julie Fischer, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) after four years of unexplained symptoms and multiple doctor visits with inconclusive tests. Since then, she’s been living life a bit differently to manage (and even reverse) symptoms…and helping clients do the same.

You’ll hear about:

  • The convoluted road to being diagnosed with MS (or any autoimmune disease)
  • How stress and trauma can trigger disease
  • Approaching life differently to manage symptoms
  • How Julie approaches her coaching work with clients who have MS

Mentioned in this episode:

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Julie Fischer (00:00):
But I'll sort of say like one more step. I can take this step. I can take this step. I'm feeling good. I'm walking. Like just kind of really acknowledging myself in my own body, trying to move in some way every single day. Cause of course with Ms. I mean, yes, there's the headaches and cognitive things and, and things like that, but really it's about movements.
Michelle Leotta (00:20):
It's time to stop being the victim of your overscheduled life and become the most powerful version of yourself. Welcome to she's got power.
Michelle Leotta (00:36):
Did you know that without proper sleep for even a couple of nights, your gut microbiome shifts and it makes you more prone to disease and weight gain. That's why I tell my clients that if they have to choose between getting a full eight hours of sleep at night or getting up real early to work out, choose sleep every time. Now, sometimes especially as we get older or when we're feeling stressed, sleeping becomes a little more difficult. Doesn't it. I completely rely on sleep masks to help me sleep better. And I have tried so many, I finally found one that fits really comfortably. It's customized the proportions of my face and it's designed to block out all the light yet. Like all of it, nothing sneaking through the cracks I've been wearing manta sleep masks for more years than I can remember at this point. And I think you're going to love them.
Michelle Leotta (01:28):
It's a small investment that has huge payoffs go to she's got power.com/manta M a NT a and get 10% off your first order. Thank me later. Well, Hey there, the fall is off to a super busy start. My boys are doing fall ball, which means the joy of sitting at baseball games several days per week and running them around to practices. Isn't just confined to the spring. I get to do it all throughout the fall too. As you can tell, I'm very excited about this. And of course, this is all a lot of sarcasm. I do love that they're involved with sports and friends. It just, you know, gets to be a lot. I'm the kind of person who, when I do something, I wanna do it right. Therefore I have to really try hard to not take on too much, or I will burn right out.
Michelle Leotta (02:18):
And to be honest, baseball schedules push me extremely close to my edge. Today's episode is with my friend colleague and fellow health coach, Julie Fisher, and Julie and I are so alike in this regard. She is very thorough, very on top of her stuff. She likes to do things right, but years ago, Julie was curled up on her office floor and experiencing a myriad of symptoms that just didn't make any sense. And it took years for her to be properly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or Ms. Which if you don't know, is an autoimmune disease. Like so many women who are suffering with autoimmune disease, Julie needed to learn how to do life a little bit differently and manage, and actually reverse her symptoms, which she did. I give her so much credit because I've spoken to lots of women who are facing autoimmune issues and specifically Ms. And many of them kinda throw up their hands like, eh, there's nothing I can do. They're just hoping for the best and playing the waiting game. Do you know anybody like that? The truth is there are things that you can do to lessen and even reverse autoimmune symptoms and slow the progression of disease. So here's Julie's story, which is frankly triumphant.
Michelle Leotta (03:35):
Hey Julie, thanks for being on the show today.
Julie Fischer (03:37):
Thanks for having me.
Michelle Leotta (03:38):
I love that every woman I interview for the show has some sort of story where they've hit rock bottom. And when we were just chatting earlier, yours sounded very similar and you said I was curled up on the floor. So why don't we start there when you were curled up on the floor, tell us what was going on.
Julie Fischer (03:55):
So I was working at Macy's at the time I had been working in the corporate world in New York city for close to 20 years, by the end, by that time. And I was working in the kids department and I was kind of doing different. I wanna sort of part-time things that was sort of wherever I was needed is where I was working. So I worked there full-time for a while. Won't get into the whole story, but once I had kids, I always just kind of filled in like where I was needed. So they just kept me on for several years after finishing my real full-time management job. So I was in the kids' department noticing I was just kind of super tired all the time, having headaches, having unexplained pain, and literally in the kids' department had all sorts of samples of rugs and big stuffed animals and things like that all around.
Julie Fischer (04:43):
And there were many days that I would just think that looked much more appealing than sitting up in my chair and looking at a computer screen. And I would shut off the light in my office and just lie down on a shaggy sheep, something and just lie there in a ball. And it was in those moments that you just kind of realize like, oh my gosh, what is going on between knowing that I was super stressed, not just at work, but in life and being a new mom, juggling working in the city, really not understanding or knowing at all what was going on with my health. And it was super scary.
Michelle Leotta (05:22):
That's and what did you think was going on? I mean, you just named a couple things that everyone can probably relate to. You've got kids you're still working. You're commuting into New York city to do it. Yeah, you're stressed. Okay. We got it. How old were your kids then?
Julie Fischer (05:35):
Little three and one. Oh, wow. Three and one. Yeah, little.
Michelle Leotta (05:41):
So it kinda,
Julie Fischer (05:41):
So that gone back to like the, the meat of doing things, right. So maybe, maybe a little older than that. Yeah. Born too, maybe, but little. Okay.
Michelle Leotta (05:50):
Yeah. And so now you're like curled up with the shaggy sheep on the floor of your office and you're thinking I'm just tired and this is normal or this is not, not normal. And I need to go to a doctor. What were you thinking?
Julie Fischer (05:59):
Yeah, I mean, I fluctuated right between, oh my gosh. I have a brain tumor and have six months to live to. I'm sure this is nothing. Let me just go out and have a margarita and I'll be fine. Right. Like you kind of fluctuate between those two beliefs. Like I'm gonna be the superhero and just ignore everything and, and just keep searching forward to, there might be something like really seriously wrong. And so that was when I did eventually start going to some neurologists, had all sorts of different scans, one led to another, went to another, and then there were even some gaps in time in terms of like, then I would feel better for a little while, you know, and then like every, everything seemed fine and then it would feel better. And, and anyway, and so ultimately it was the neurologist back then with Ms. They had noticed like some lesions, but it was kind of inexplicable. So it wasn't tumors. It wasn't anything like that. It was just these possible lesions. And then it wasn't until eight to nine months later when I was feeling bad again and went back for like a recheck. And that was when there was more activity. And so that was kind of what presented the diagnosis that things had gotten worse over that span of time.
Michelle Leotta (07:10):
Okay. So how long do you think pass between when you first started experiencing kind of strange symptoms and when you finally got diagnosed with Ms.
Julie Fischer (07:21):
You're gonna make me do some quick math. Yeah. I mean, my final official diagnosis was in December of 2011 and my son was born in 2005. So I probably started noticing things in 2007 in 19. It could have been like four years of total span of going to the wrong types of doctors starting to go to the right kinds of doctors starting to change some of my habits, but not, I thought that was part of it. I thought I just needed to lose weight was part of it. Cuz I had been heavier. I wouldn't say I was off the charts, but I definitely had 20 pounds to lose. And so I started on a all processed food, all the time program that I did for about a year lost 20 pounds or more, and then with, but was feeling worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. And so then I was like, okay, well now I'm thinner, but um, still feeling terrible. Right? So you try all sorts of different things. You know, I tried yoga, tried therapy, tried losing weight, tried all these other things and then it wasn't until kind of the end of this, that little road where they were like, okay, well here's what we think it actually is.
Michelle Leotta (08:32):
Wow. So yeah, it takes a while. It takes a while for most women because the symptoms are so like you said, like it could be, I'm fine. I'm sure this is normal or, oh no, I have a brain tumor and this is the end of my life or, oh now I've been, I've been feeling okay for a couple of weeks that maybe it's all over. So what would you say to a woman who is curled up on her floor and wondering if this is normal or not?
Julie Fischer (08:55):
Yeah. I mean, it's definitely not normal. Right. And, and I think, you know, as a woman, as a mother, you, you kind of know what's not normal. And I think for me, when I had looked back, even before the curl up on the ball, what really eventually got kind of pinpointed as my initial symptoms was when my son was only a few months old and I couldn't open, I couldn't, I kind of lost strength in my right hand and I couldn't open baby food jars. I couldn't open a water bottle. And my doctor at that time was like, well, you have tan elbow from carrying your baby all the time. So that was, you know, I had a brace, I was icing it. Right. So that was like a year of something, you know? And then again, it went away. Right. So I think as you know, with autoimmune symptoms can come and go.
Julie Fischer (09:42):
And so if you have sort of one kind of sense of weakness, muscle weakness, then it gets better. Then it was when I was doing the breast cancer walk and my left and my right leg was numb all the time. And I thought it was just because I was walking too much or whatever. Right. So you kind of have these things over time. So I think the advice would just be, you know, no, you're not crazy. And most likely it's not the, your worst fear come true. Right. There's most likely just something in between that you can really figure out how to better manage and come through it or at least have longer spans of time in between new things popping up.
Michelle Leotta (10:22):
Yeah. And you've done such an amazing job of managing, uh, your symptoms. I wanna talk about that, but I'm also curious if you think it was childbirth pregnancy that triggered the autoimmune disease to appear. Right. Kind of that's what set it off. Cause you know, we talked about the, the trigger for these things. Sometimes it's a very stressful event in somebody's life, some trauma or something, you know, big that has happened. What do you attribute it to
Julie Fischer (10:48):
Mm-hmm yeah, that's a great point and great question because I certainly have wondered, right. If just simply the trauma of childbirth, you know, and my son's birth as compared my daughter was kind of a more traditional, like water breaks, go to the hospital, have the epidural. Right. Next day it was kind of like a slow instead where with him, it was much, much, much quicker and much kind of more urgent. And he was really kind of in, he wasn't physically in distress, thank God. But he just, he didn't really open his eyes until he was seven days old. You know, it was that kind of like, he just wasn't ready. Like it kind of had, and his personality is still that way and in a way, right. It was like, it was just so I do believe that there probably was a piece of that whole experience physically, emotionally E everything too. It could have certainly been what kind of, you know, started that. I mean, throughout my life, I always had issues with headaches and back pain. I always had bad TMJ. Like I always had certain things even as a teenager, but nothing to the extent of the tennis elbow when that first started the
Michelle Leotta (11:54):
Julie Fischer (11:54):
Elbow that started. Right. Yeah.
Michelle Leotta (11:56):
Got it. So you've done an amazing job. Like I said, of getting to a point where you told me before we hit record, like Ms. Really? Isn't this giant thing in your life. Like you're just living life and then it's oh yeah. Oh yeah. I have Ms. But you are a woman cuz I know you well enough to say this you're a woman who, when there is something that needs to be taken care of, you take care of it. You take care of it. Well, you are organized you're on top of your game. Where does that come from? Is that character trait passed down through your family or what?
Julie Fischer (12:27):
I'm not sure. You know, I, I did it even ask this once of a therapist years back, I was like, why do I always feel like I need to have everything so organized and be that person who will jump in, right. I'm that person that when there's like, we still need help please. You know? And my husband will be like, someone else can do it. Doesn't have to be you. Right. But it's always me. And I think, you know, some of it could be attributed to, I moved around a lot as a kid. You know, my parents got divorced when I was five. I lived in, I think, eight different homes between like being born and, and middle school was in a different school in sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade. Like there was a lot of transition for me when I was younger.
Julie Fischer (13:06):
So I think there's probably that sort of, if you really look back where it probably comes from was I probably always just had this sense of needing to feel like I was in control. That always felt better to me knowing that I had a plan and I had a process and I have my rule book and that's right. Here's what I'm gonna follow. Right. Kind of coming from myself, not to say I don't follow other people's rules cuz I, I do that too. You know, I'm definitely an obliger in that way. But I think for me to have my system and my process and is I think that's, you know, just always been important to me.
Michelle Leotta (13:40):
Thanks for sharing that. Did you know, my parents got divorced when I was five too.
Julie Fischer (13:44):
Oh, I did not know that.
Michelle Leotta (13:46):
Yes. There's. I mean, there's really something that happens to a kid and especially with this, the moving and the different logistics that happened after that. And how do you keep your sense of control over things, this coping mechanism. So now it's turned into a full-fledged personality trait and but it works for it. I, I could imagine it works for you and against you. Maybe you can speak to that a bit. Mm-hmm
Julie Fischer (14:10):
yeah. I think as I get older, I've gotten much better at the balancing act. Right. When I was younger, it was much more of the controlling by doing so I was always volunteering, always the taking over if something wasn't done right. I would just do it myself. Right. And I sort of had those expectations. We joke that when the first apartment that we had bought in Hoboken, I joined the board and that was like one of the first minutes that we knew we were gonna have to start looking to move, you know, , it was way too much. And so I think, you know, I used to just yes, yes. To everything where now again, I think it still goes to that scene level of my personality in terms of having my rule book to follow. But I'm much better at saying no when it's appropriate at, you know, writing a comment and then deleting it when appropriate.
Julie Fischer (14:57):
Right. And being able to not necessarily kind of jump into things that I know I just don't have the bandwidth for is kind of, yeah. I think that's just where I've grown into. Like I, and again, it, it comes from kind of having those buckets. Like I do the one thing that I do really well with my synagogue, the one thing that I do really well with the school now. Right. I've got four kind of different jobs that I think that I do pretty well. Right. But all four of them kind of have their, their bucket of existence. Right. Like there's just kind of different things. So when temple asked me to do more things, always reminding myself, Nope, this is what I'm doing. Right.
Michelle Leotta (15:34):
I already checked the box for, for these guys.
Julie Fischer (15:36):
Exactly. And so I think again, I guess you could say that goes to organization too, recognizing how much time I have my day and how much I have to give. And I tend to try and be someone that doesn't over, you know, under deliver. So,
Michelle Leotta (15:51):
So you never under deliver that story better? Sure. , we've been working together a long time. So I know that about you. How has this ability to organize and be on top of your game helped you keep Ms. At bay? I mean, it's an amazing story. I've talked to so many women, they get diagnosed with Ms. And it's really just feels like a waiting game for them and they kind of shrug and go, I guess we'll just kind of see how it unfolds, but you've taken the reins unsurprisingly.
Julie Fischer (16:17):
Yeah. And you know, this may sound kind of hokey, but I feel like when I'm doing anything physical, right there definitely are times like if I'm out running and I just feel like my legs are feeling heavy or if I'm, you know, even just out walking and I notice maybe some sense of something that I used to feel, right. Some of the tingling or things like that, I just try and use so much positive reinforcement and positive. Just kind of mantras that I'll sort of say like one more step. I can take this step. I can take this step. I'm feeling good. I'm walking. Like just kind of really acknowledging myself in my own body, trying to move in some way every single day. Cuz of course with Ms. I mean, yes, there's the, you know, headaches and cognitive things and, and things like that, but really it's about movements is the root of the disease.
Julie Fischer (17:04):
Right. It's really impacts movement when it comes to the nervous system. So I'm always very focused of my intentional movements. And again, you know, if I starting to feel like there's anything kind of coming in my way, I'll listen to like some kind of motivating podcast or I'll do those. Cuz I do think that mindset is such a big part of it and reminding yourself like I'm okay, right? Like I might have this weird foot cramp, but that's okay. It will go away. I've had this before it will get better. And just kind of having that sort of mindset cuz I, I know that things that are going on, I know that it's not caused for alarm per se. It's just part of my life. Right.
Michelle Leotta (17:45):
So when you're working with clients, so you, you work with clients who have autoimmune disease in particular, I'm interested in, in Ms. How much of the work do you do around mindset versus other types of diet, lifestyle modifications?
Julie Fischer (18:00):
Yeah. You know, it certainly varies by client and it depends really on where they are because I think some people and many people who find me the way that they find me is from different writings and things that I've done specifically about diet as it relates to Ms. So I think some people just think, you know, what is an autoimmune diet? How do I possibly get rid of gluten? What would you know, I can't do this. Right. They kind of get in their own way. Very specifically as it comes to diet, then once we can kind of really start unpacking some of that and then start feeling a little more in control and knowing yes, I can do it. Right. That's where mindset becomes so important because our mind just goes right away to, I know I should, if only I could and what am I gonna do on this arbitrary day in the future when I can't anymore.
Julie Fischer (18:51):
Right. And so that's so much of what I do is kind of finding that space between the wood and the could and focus on what I am doing. Right? Like that whole, I am walking, look at me, I'm walking, I'm doing this right. I'm eating the salad with salmon, like it's happening. Right. I'm not gonna think about what I might do when I'm gonna mess up when I'm on vacation or how I'm gonna feel terrible. It's like, no, I am feeling good. I am making positive choices and I am moving forward. Right. So that's one thing I say a lot that's space between the could and the wood is the, what you are is the a
Michelle Leotta (19:30):
So I mean, it sounds very much to me about like, let's stay in the present mm-hmm and not go spiraling into the future when everything goes to. We're okay right now. Yeah. Blah, that, that mindfulness. Yeah. That's a beautiful way to work. Did you have any important mentors, doctors, people who helped you figure out how to get your Ms within your control? Like who, who got you there?
Julie Fischer (19:55):
You know, I had started kind of, I bought a lot of books, you know, at the beginning I, social media was just barely a thing back then. Like I think I had just kind of start, you know, was on Facebook, but it wasn't certainly what it is today, but I had the walls protocol was a big one of just kind of reading, cuz of course Terry Walls has a, you know, huge success story when it comes to Ms. So I think she was someone that I had come across as just kind of an Ms success. And so I had read her book and then there was another book or I'm forgetting her name now and it's Judith something it's in my blog on my website, if you're wondering, but it's called, um, managing Ms. Naturally, which wasn't purely just about none of these books say don't take any medication.
Julie Fischer (20:40):
Cause I did start take, I was a good girl and I did start taking my medication back in 2012. But I think both of these books together together was what kind of led me to just wake up one day in 2013 and say I'm never eating gluten again. Like that was so I started there, made my way through, just navigating on my own through what was gluten free. And then actually through Instagram was when I kind of found the 21 day sugar detox, which after doing that and kind of rid myself of lots of other, you know, inflammatory foods in my diet was how I kind of, and that was the senior that I decided to go to IEN. And so that was sort of how it all unfolded. So I would say, you know, as far as a specific, I didn't really know anyone specifically yet that had Ms.
Julie Fischer (21:24):
Um, there was one young girl that I met at an event. I do a, a big fundraiser every year called climb to the top for the Ms society. And I met a young girl there who was diagnosed like as part of in graduate school. And she became, for both of us, we were one of the only people we knew in real life that had Ms. And so in sort of a, you know, I wouldn't say she was a mentor or that I was a mentor, but always seeing her on Facebook and knowing she's gonna be at the event every year. And I've met some of her family and watching her through the years and her watching me and my kids growing. And I think having some kind of connection like that is just so powerful. Right? Like I, she always brings a smile to my face, even just thinking about her, right. It's been all these years, but that was so she was really the only person that I knew in real life what
Michelle Leotta (22:14):
I was. Oh, wow. Yeah.
Julie Fischer (22:16):
I know I,
Michelle Leotta (22:17):
Yes. To go through, no, not at all. I mean, to go through a situation like that alone versus having, knowing others who are going through the same thing, that makes a huge difference.
Julie Fischer (22:27):
Michelle Leotta (22:27):
Julie Fischer (22:28):
I hope that, I mean, I remember that moment when we met, I mean, we were both work, of course, I signed up for, to do this climb and I couldn't just signed up to do the climb. I signed up to work, you know, at the climb event and the, we were at the same table together sort of giving out these gluten free cookies and getting people to sign up. And, but, you know, it was an interesting moment for both of us to be kind of vulnerable and connecting in that way. And, and it was pretty powerful.
Michelle Leotta (22:54):
I'm sure though, a lot of your clients feel the same way. Maybe they don't know anyone else who is dealing with the, the issue that they have, or maybe the people that they are talking to or taking a completely different route or giving up and playing the victim as opposed to, Hey, there's something I can do about this. So I know we likely have listeners who either they themselves have been diagnosed with Ms. Or they know someone who has Ms. And I know you have a free resource to share. Do you wanna tell us about that?
Julie Fischer (23:21):
Sure. You know, over the years I had just kind of come to find that there were certain foods, of course, there's always a list of foods to avoid, but there are certain foods that really do make me feel better and that have different Nutri, you know, nutritious benefits and different vitamins that you wanna make sure that you're getting from your foods, different types of fats and things like that. So I had put together just like a little guide, five foods that can help with, um, symptoms of Ms, or just kind of help. It's not, not a cure of course, but just things that can just help good place to start. If I'm not feeling great while people want to reach for a bagel or chicken soup, right. You think of what these comforting foods are, where for me, I know that there are things that are going to make me feel better, even if it doesn't necessarily feel like the comfort food that I'm looking for, if that makes sense. So that's kind of what this guide is all about. It's just foods to always have on hand, easily accessible that you know, are going to help you to move forward.
Michelle Leotta (24:20):
And where can we get that?
Julie Fischer (24:21):
And you can find it@healthyonhudson.com slash fight Ms.
Michelle Leotta (24:28):
Healthy on hudson.com/fight. Ms. Okay. Thanks for sharing that. I hope that will be of use to anyone again, if you yourself, or, you know, somebody who has Ms. There's not a ton of support out there specific to Ms. So I love that your, a resource in this area, and before we wrap up, I wanted to know what you thought Ms. Has given you, like what superpower has been unleashed in you because of going through this experience.
Julie Fischer (24:54):
I mean, just definitely that awareness and importance of being in the present, where I think before, as I was describing, right, I'm always a planner planner, planner, planner, planner, right. And kind of doing, and just, I often would lose sight of what was right in front of me. And I think that's what, having this diagnosis, having this disease, having to manage my medication, having to, you know, manage all the foods that I'm eating, things like that really just forced me to remember to take that pause, look at what's right in front of me, appreciate what's right in front of me and around me more so than I ever did before.
Michelle Leotta (25:35):
Thanks for being here today, Julie,
Julie Fischer (25:37):
Thanks. Michelle
Michelle Leotta (25:44):
Is a perfect example of how childhood trauma can create coping mechanisms that turn us into people, pleasers and perfectionists, hypervigilant, and stressed throughout our lives. We don't even realize it, but it shows up in the form of super organization and always striving to do more and do better. And this leads to it primes us for burnout and often autoimmune issues. If you're having strange symptoms that doctors haven't really been able to address, you're not alone. It can take years and years for autoimmune disease to be diagnosed. And even if it's not autoimmunity symptoms of chronic stress can show up in a variety of seemingly unconnected ways. And the solution is a combination of addressing the physical, mental, and emotional states like Julie spoke about. Do you know anybody who has Ms. Please share this episode with them? And if you found this episode, helpful, leave a written review of the, the show on apple podcasts. So more women who need this sort of help and inspiration can find it. Okay. Uh, I'm off the baseball practice. I'll see you next week.