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It was late September and I was waiting to board my Southwest flight home. I started small-talking with this guy in the B group.

Me: “So I guess you were in Minnesota for work too?”
Guy: “Yeah, I was here for a game last night.”
Me: “Oh, nice – what game?”
Guy: “I play for the Twins – we just clinched our division.”
Me: “You are on the team? Congrats – who are you?”
Guy: “Jim Thome”

After finding out his identity, I told Jim that my boyfriend was going to make fun of me for not knowing – after all, we’d been going to Sox games the past few years, and Jim Thome was on the Sox before leaving for the Twins in 2010. He laughed and said it was nice to meet me. We parted ways and I found a seat toward the front. I was excited to get home to tell my boyfriend that I met a real, professional athlete.

Little did I know, the best part of the plane ride was still to come.

I put my suitcase in the overhead and put my tote bag under the seat. It was packed with gluten free/dairy free goodies (courtesy of my very thoughtful colleagues). The lady next to me said, “You bring your own gluten free food when you travel? That’s smart, I do that too.”

She asked if I had Celiac disease and I told her no, that I was newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but that I was doing a lot of research and decided to treat the disease with diet vs. the ABC drugs. She said that she had psoriasis and found that diet worked for her as well (the drugs prescribed for psoriasis are similar to the ones given to MS patients).

We talked the entire flight.

She had a Ph.D. in nursing and was returning from a conference. She’d been working as a faculty member in a nursing school for years, but told me that she spent her early career on a hospital’s neurology floor. And she had experience working with MS patients.

She said that the medicines are used – the steroids, the interferons – as a band-aid to help the problem. But they don’t fix it. And then those drugs have side effects, so people end up taking additional medications to counteract those problems… and the cycle continues.

However – if you combat your autoimmune disease by changing your diet and eliminating inflammatory foods you start to fix the problem – your antibodies are no longer provoked, your body stops attacking itself and you start to heal. She was the first medical professional (who I talked to) to have this outlook, but she was also faced with an autoimmune disorder.

In her experience with psoriasis, she only had flare-ups when she’d eat dairy or gluten. She also had to limit her intake of legumes and nightshade vegetables.

When we landed in Chicago she hurried off the plane (she was off to teach a night class), but she turned to me and said, “You’re doing the right thing. You’ll be fine.”

And she was right. I have been fine.