After I got diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, I became fascinated with why my immune system would become confused like that. I felt that there had to be some underlying cause or reason for it. Our standard medical system, though well-intentioned, simply doesn’t have time to explore that level of issue with you (most of the time). They band-aid symptoms, rather than try to work at triggers. They generally don’t explore lifestyle – which although may not be the “cause” of the problem, can absolutely help balance a more livable solution.
I believe each and every one of us has to be our own self-advocate. Educate yourself as much as possible on your condition – and on your immune system as a whole. Learn what drives inflammation in the body, and what slows healing and repair. All these things can support a body that simply needs more help than average.
It’s like a bank account. A body with autoimmunity withdraws more on a monthly basis, so if you don’t want to feel overdrawn (e.g. crappy) you can put time and effort into depositing more funds so you have a higher balance to work with. Only you can do this. Do not rely on your doctor to do it for you, do not give your power away. Only you have the potential to know & nurture your own body.
Keep learning, keep trying things that sound worth trying. Try it – then listen to your body. Listen for feedback. Keep the things that work, leave the ones that don’t seem to help.
After I got diagnosed, I went down to the main library and got out tons of books on MS and autoimmunity. Lots of research there quickly led me to the importance of gut health as a primary focus and the importance of foods (both what we are eating and what we aren’t eating) on our overall health. Over time, I gathered a list of more and more respected holistic health experts. All these people have different flavors and focuses of things – but for the most part, they are all saying the same thing. When a lot of experts, who back their claims in science, all generally say the same thing, that makes me take note – because they are all drawing similar conclusions (and getting inspiring results) despite coming in on the issue from different angles. E.g. it rings more like ‘truth’ than a single focus.
And what are they saying? Eat more whole, unprocessed foods. Eat more vegetables – many more vegetables, lots of green ones especially (and no, corn and potato don’t really count). Eat variety/diversity – veggies, fruits, fungi, spices, herbs. Eat colors – phytonutrients. Remove inflammatory foods – which can be unique to everyone (try a food elimination diet). Think hard about removing gluten and dairy (there is so much research about these at this point that they are too ‘suspect’ for me to feel they are worth it for me). Practically eliminate refined sugar, reduce carbohydrates. Drink bone broths, fermented foods, and/or take probiotics. Eat organic / not factory farmed where your budget allows.
But although healing the gut is probably the most immediate ‘bang for your buck’ (e.g. logical place to start), it doesn’t stop there. It is more holistic than that. Reduce your chemical exposure. Question anything that goes on your skin – your body absorbs that, whether you realize it or not. Scrutinize your lotions, deodorants (no aluminum), make-up, and cleaning supplies. If you need to have any mercury fillings replaced, insist the dentist follows a rubber dam procedure. Protect your sleep quality – getting enough is very important, keep blue light (TVs/phones/laptops) low the hours before bed (install f.lux), keep the cellphone out of the bedroom, and explore supplements to help sleep if necessary (melatonin, glycine, tryptophan). Get regular exercise/movement (for the lymphatic system) – but it may be that gentler is better than mainstream (try koga!). And lastly, but maybe most importantly, deal with your stressors. “Your issues are in your tissues”. If you have something you hate about your life – chances are it is having a real manifestation in your physical experience. Hiding and avoiding your own mind is not as effective as we like to think (pun intended).
It’s a long and evolving, iterative journey, and I know I’m still on it. But I must be doing something right, because it has been a full decade since my diagnosis – and I am still stronger/healthier now than I felt back when I was diagnosed. Maybe we can’t “fix” all our problems, maybe some things are destiny, but we sure as heck can influence it (explore the fascinating frontier of epigenetics and the power of our influence on our experience). Our choices heal us or hurt us. I will always be on this journey – because it is my ‘lifestyle’. I had to change the way I lived, to meet the needs of my body. If I stopped living this way, then the debt would surely accrue again, and that is not a road I want to travel down again if I can help it. For me, having a capable body that doesn’t limit me to go on long, rugged hikes and explore nature is a very high priority. If I have to put extra time into food prep, cooking, label reading, and meditating, then that is a price that I will gladly pay. Is it work? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I cannot think of any accomplishment more “worth” my time than feeling healthier than I otherwise would.
So I encourage you to jump in. Start learning about all this stuff – the reasons behind all the recommendations. Then it is not some long list to comply with…it is simply a logical lifestyle of having a holistic relationship with your body. Another great way to learn tons is by attending online informational summits. Early on, I discovered many of these holistic experts have summits where they interview on different deep-dive topics. They are completely free if you put your life on pause and make yourself available to listen to all the sessions within the time windows (which I did) – or, you can purchase them to have the leisure to listen to them forever. Sign up for the mailing lists of some of your favorite experts and I’m sure they’ll announce one eventually. I’ve learned oodles upon oodles this way.
Lastly, here are the experts I learned most from and, in my opinion, offer great wisdom:
- Dr. Terry Wahls
- Sarah Ballantyne, PhD
- Dr. Tom O’Bryan
- Dr. Amy Myers
- Dr. Susan Blum
- Dr. David Perlmutter
Mind (and epigenetics):
- Dr. Joe Dispenza
- Bruce Lipton
- Dr. Daniel Amen
- Gregg Braden
- Dr. Lissa Rankin
Google them. Your adventure awaits.