Tag Archives: illness

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We have grazed over a lot of information this past few days about eating, exercise and treating our bodies kindly.  I hope you have found it interesting and also found something to help you on your journey.

Below is a small list of links for you to research on your own, get your brain thinking about some of these issues.  If you have any resources to add to the list please do so here or on the Facebook page!

Food Matters (or on Netflix)

Health For Change (also on Netflix)

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead (on Netflix)

Dr Oz on Nutrition

Michael Pollan (books)

Food Inc. (film)

Whole Foods on Healthy Eating

Dr. Andrew Weil on Supplements

Starting tomorrow we are going to begin exploring another branch of the journey through chronic Illness, Feeding Our Souls.  Stay tuned!

PATTERN

Today is Day 18 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can start Day 1 here.

I've talked a lot over the past few days about listening to your body, listening to what it's saying to you. I learned the hard way what the ramifications of not listening to your body can be.  If I had slowed down and made some lifestyle and dietary changes (including supplements) back in my 20's I might not have crashed as badly as I did.  Crash and burn.

If this is a new practice to you, this listening, let me tell you how to get started.

Most of us (sufferers of chronic illness) did not have 1 big event that caused our immediate physical breakdown.  Most of us began falling apart one little system, one hormone, one neuron at a time. Some symptoms may have been subtle, some more noticeable, but there was most likely a pattern or logic to it.  And there continues to be a pattern today, a chain reaction of diet, environment and biology.  If we want to find some comfort, wellness or healing we need to track these patterns down.

It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I noticed that sugar has a terrible effect on my already foggy brain.  Of course, I crave sugar because it it provides a fast burst of glucose to my already sluggish brain.  However, it's sort of like throwing lighter fluid on a fire that has nearly burned out.  It will "flash" and burn hot for a short while but burn out completely just as quickly as it ignited. I was eating little bits of sugary snacks or beverages to give me a burst of much needed energy but crashing horribly about an hour later.  Eventually, the sugar stopped working altogether and I went from bad to worse within moments of eating it. It was a pattern that I had to figure out and avoid as much as possible.

Maybe yours is exertion related; a little is good but a lot is lethal.  Or your symptoms worsen by 500% the next day if you get less than 9 hours of sleep at night.  Perhaps your symptoms are aggravated whenever you eat dairy, or pasta or peanuts. Or a stressful situation causes your body to ache for the next 3 days.  If you're a girl, you might feel horrible most days but right around ovulation you are guaranteed at least one good day.

It's list time again.  It can be a detailed chart with each day, all of your symptoms and a play-by-play of your entire day. Or it can be a simple number written on the calendar, 1-10 bad to best.  But devise some way of tracking your symptoms and see if you can begin to notice the patterns of your symptoms or good days/bad days.  Some patterns will become obvious right away, others may take weeks or months to pin down, but be diligent with it.  It will pay off!

This list can be helpful not only for you but also for your doctor.  A good doctor can look at a list of symptoms and quickly eliminate or speculate particular illnesses.

Look for the patterns!

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Today is Day 17 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can start Day 1 here.

Just as we discussed thinking out side of the box in choosing a health care professional, you may need to try some "alternative" methods when it comes to nutrition.  Although, I really don't love that term "alternative" when speaking of nutrition.  I'll tell you why...

Growing up my mother periodically took us all off of wheat & pasteurized dairy.  We took supplements like Vitamin D, Zinc and Echinacea.  30 years ago my mother and Katie Lee from our local health food store were telling people not to eat high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils and the world laughed at them.  Now every MD worth his salt is preaching it, in fact, Dr. Oz has become famous for it.  Netti pots were only for hippies, now every corner drugstore carries them because some doctor on TV decided it was OK to use. My great-grandmother taught us how to eat right, "science" is just catching up to what she already knew.

So it bothers me to call it "alternative" to suggest a specific diet, eliminating certain foods or taking herbal remedies when our ancestors knew that if they had an upset stomach and they drank some mint tea it cured their nausea.  It wasn't scientific method that brought them to that conclusion, it was common sense and wisdom from past generations.  It shouldn't be called "alternative", it should just be called natural or normal.

Yes, I know there have been problems with dosages or combining treatments or using the wrong substance for a particular ailment but guess what... that happens every day in every pharmacy across America with synthetic, potent, expensive, Federally regulated drugs.

I'll stop preaching.

My point is this, it might be time to try something different.  Are you exhausted?  Maybe you could try drinking some herbal tea with ingredients proven to provide stimulant-free energy that won't make you crash and won't cause lasting damage to your liver or adrenal glands. Do you suffer from cold sores? Over the counter lysine has been proven to improve the healing time of cold sores and can even prevent future breakouts.  Prone to eczema? Take a swig of olive oil every day it you might see some improvement, no copay.

Natural remedies and taking vitamins can feel like learning a 2nd language.  I grew up that way so it comes natural to me but if you don't know where to start or want to learn more here are a few sites to get you started:

  •  Dr. Oz-  yes, the great and might Oz has a lot of great information.  I really appreciate his ability to pair modern medicine with more natural remedies.
  • Dr. Mercola- Dr. Mercola has been around for a long time and is well respected in the medical community (they may not always agree with him, but they respect him). He provides free nutritional eating guidelines for beginners.
  • Dr. Weil- another veteran in the health/nutrition world.

These are just a few among many, many others.  At the end of this series I will be posting a list of resources for even more ideas on how to stay healthy.

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Today is Day 16 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can catch up on Day 1 here.

When you are suffering from chronic illness or pain over extended periods of time it can make you a little crazy. When you go on day after day, muscles aching, brain foggy, body broken, it can feel like you got stuck on the hamster wheel from hell.  You wake up sick, you trudge through the day sick and you go to bed sick.

So here's what I want you to do: make a list; make a list of all the things that provide your body even just a few moments of relief.  This can be more difficult than it sounds, particularly if you have a serious illness that knocks you flat for days or weeks at a time.  However, I believe if we put some thought into it and pay attention to the signals our body is giving us we can begin to recognize the activities or treatments that bring some level of healing or comfort.

Let me give you an example.  When I am feeling my worst my body aches all over, just as if I had the flu.  Except it's not the flu.  I just hurt.  Through trial and error and, well... accident, I discovered something.  I have no idea what the science is behind it, but what I have figured out is that if I take a super hot bath, shower or sit in a sauna the pain goes away.  The relief only lasts for about 2 hours, but I am so grateful for those 2 pain-free hours.

I have also noticed that sometimes if I eat a little something, anything but sugar, my symptoms will lessen.  Again, the relief is only temporary but when I need just a little more energy to get me through a rough day it's well worth a try.

I want you to start making a list of the things that bring your physical body a little comfort or relief.  Why do I want you to write it down? Because it is so easy to forget what you need to do when all you can think about is how much pain you are in. Especially if your particular illness causes brain fog & forgetfulness (mine does, it's so annoying). You may have a hard time coming up with anything at first so I'll give you some hints (some of them go along with our "exercise" theme from Day 14:

  • hot/cold bath (try epsom salts in a hot bath)
  • hot/cold beverage (especially herbal tea made with calming herbs)
  • sauna, dry sauna, whirlpool, cold pool (that will wake you up!)
  • stretching/yoga/pilates
  • fitness class, working up a sweat
  • walking, hiking
  • ride a bicycle
  • swimming
  • pedicure/manicure
  • gardening
  • change of climate (going to the beach, mountains, warmer/cooler/drier climate, etc.)
  • massage, physical therapy, spa treatments
  • ointments and lotions such as mineral ice, Tiger Balm, arnica, etc.
  • ice packs
  • a warm blanket or heating pad.
  • sitting near a fan
  • sitting with feet slightly elevated such as a recliner or laying with body completely flat, such as the floor.
  • eating a light, nutritious snack
  • eating spicy foods (it works for me!)
  • playing Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect
  • dancing
  • fitness or foam roller
  • aromatherapy (lavender is known for it's calming effect, citrus in an energizer)

I'm sure you have some home remedies of your own, try to do at least one per day.  Especially on the bad days.  And be sure to share them with the rest of us here or on the Facebook Page!

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Day 15, we have made it halfway already.  This week we have been talking about the body, how to give it what it needs.  Today is about "rest".  But instead of talking about it, today we're just going to do it.  Because my body is screaming for a rest and I bet yours is too.  So just take a deep breath, exhale long and slow, and just rest.

If you need to catch up on the first 15 days of the series you can do so here:

Day 1- 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness

Day 2- An Introduction

Day 3- A Diagnosis

Day 4- Doctors; The Good, The Bad, The Indifferent

Day 5- Think Outside of the Box, Pt. 1

Day 6- Think Outside of the Box, Pt. 2

Day 7- Advocacy, Guest Post

Day 8- Snags To Watch For

Day 9- Feed Your Body

Day 10- Listen Up!

Day 11- Stop Eating Chemicals

Day 12- Eat Your Colors

Day 13- Easy Veggies

Day 14- A Little Is Better Than None

 

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Ttumblr_mr80mqGZC31st5lhmo1_1280oday is Day 14 of 31 Days of Chronic Illness.  You can start Day 1 here.

Besides nutritious eating and watching out for chemicals there is another facet to taking care of our bodies in this journey through chronic illness.  Exercise & fitness.

Just saying it sounds exhausting, right? When you're in the throws of illness the last thing you want to do is work out.  You're already dog-tired, maybe even in pain.  If you're anything like me, when I'm having a "bad spell" my symptoms actually worsen after within 2 hours after exercising.  It hardly seems productive.

And yet, all of the experts will tell you that one of the best things to produce health in your body is to exercise.  Exercise can have these positive effects on your body:

  • better sleep
  • improve blood flow to the brain
  • boost immune system
  • reduce risk of cancer
  • improve blood sugar
  • lowering blood pressure
  • increasing energy levels
  • and many more

The key, I think, is this: finding the right exercises and doing them only to the point that it is beneficial.  It is important to challenge yourself to incorporate fitness elements into your week but exercise should not become another stressor in your already stressed out life (James L. Wilson, Adrenal Fatigue).  Choose one or a combination of activities that you enjoy and do them slowly at first, only building up to the level of exertion your body can tolerate.

While I may not have enough energy to participate in a spin class right now, I can do a few arm exercises at home before I go to bed. If I were to walk a couple miles I would be in a lot of pain by the end of the evening, but I can work in a few light stretches to keep my muscles loose and less prone to injury.

So my challenge to you today is to start exploring some light fitness activities that could bring you joy as well as help get your body moving.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • swimming (a heated pool would be ideal)
  • yoga, pilates or other slow stretching exercises
  • physical therapy
  • walking (outdoors or treadmill)
  • elliptical trainer
  • cycling (indoor or outdoor)
  • isometric contractions
  • push ups, sit ups
  • water aerobics
  • dancing, Zumba
  • light weights
  • archery or other low impact sports
  • Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect
  • bowling
  • golf
  • hiking
  • gardening
  • kayaking or stand-up paddleboard
  • horseback riding
  • TRX

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list but I hope it will help you find some activities that bring you fitness as well well-being.  If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section!

 

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carrot potatoes

Today is Day 13 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can read Day 1 here.

For the last few days we have been talking about nutrition and feeding our bodies healing foods. For some of you this is a welcome challenge or a return to the healthy lifestyle you used to have.  The rest of you are having a panic attack.  You can't cook, you don't know anything about nutrition, you don't have time.

Don't freak out, you can do this.

I'm not proposing that you immediately clear out your fridge and pantry of all suspicious foods, run out to Whole Foods and restock it all with seaweed chips and mushroom burgers.   What you need to do is start small.  Just one little lifestyle change at a time. Start reading the labels of the foods already in your pantry; if you come across an ingredient you don't recognize, look it up.  Next time you run out of Cool Ranch Doritos, don't replace them. Add a fresh salad to your weekly meals.

Salad are a great way to start adding fresh vitamins and minerals into your diet, no cooking involved.  Every grocery store in America now carries pre-chopped and washed lettuces. Pick up an extra veggie for your salad, something colorful like yellow bell peppers. Toss in some cherry tomatoes, add your favorite dressing or just a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice.  You, my friend, are now eating your colors.

As for cooking, it can be intimidating but I assure you, there are shortcuts. Once you get a "method" under your belt, it can be the springboard to lots of quick, easy and nutritious meals.  I'm going to share with you one of my all time favorite methods for cooking a pile of veggies quickly and most deliciously.

All you need to remember is this: 425 for 25

Here is the general method: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. cut up some veggies (I'll explain that further below) and drizzle them with some olive oil. Sprinkle in salt and pepper then toss it all together with you hands.  Spread the veggies in one even layer and roast in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.

Now, let's apply this method to a real recipe, roasted carrots and red potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take 2 handfuls of baby carrots (the ones in the bag) and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Take about 7 small red potatoes and cut them into quarters, place them with the carrots.  Drizzle the veggies with 2 tablespoon of olive oil then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Using your hands, toss the carrots and potatoes lightly to evenly coat them all with oil then spread out in 1 layer in the pan.  Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are just lightly browned.

The beauty of this method is that you can use it for so many vegetables: carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, asparagus, squash, onions and more.  Just adjust the cooking time as needed, up or down.  I like my veggies tinged with crispiness on the edges (blackened, actually) so I usually cook them for 35-45 minutes.  But feel free to cook them less if you like them more firm or only lightly toasted. I will roast 1 whole pan of vegetables on Sunday night and end up with about 3 days worth of delicious vegetables for lunch or dinner. All I have to do is warm them back up.

You can experiment with seasonings, too. Along with the salt & pepper you can add Italian seasoning, chile powder, herbs de Provence, lemon pepper, grill seasoning, etc.

Don't let "heath food" scare you, it's not rocket science.  Just start exploring the delicious possibilities.

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chard rinsed

 

Today is Day 12 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  Day 1 starts here.

Continuing with this theme of giving our bodies what it really wants, an easy way to begin incorporating nutritious foods into our diets is to start adding in foods that have natural color.

Why?

Number one reason, hands down, is that colorful foods contain essential nutrients,antioxidants, & phytonutrients that help your fuel your body and help it fight disease and inflammation, including DNA breakdown and cancer.  You can take supplements to try to get these disease-fighters into your body but the best way to do it is through the food that you eat.

How do you guarantee you are getting the right combo of nutrients?  Eat your colors.

lemon herbs

There are a few exceptions, but in general foods of similar color contain similar nutrients, antioxidants & phytonutrients.  At the end of this post I will include some good articles on which colors will give you which phytonutrients but here a few guidelines to get you started (via Fitness Magazine and American Dietetic Assoc.):

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Green-   protects your vision, protects against UV damage, fight depressions, and defends against certain cancers. Try avocados, apples, grapes, honeydew, melons, kiwi, limes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach

Red- boosts metabolism, whitens your teeth, increases cardio endurance.  Try cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes, watermelon, beets, red onions, red peppers, rhubarb and tomatoes

Yellow- heals wounds, beats bloat, boosts energy and protects skin from free radicals.  Try apricots, grapefruits, pineapples, yellow peppers, yellow corn

Orange- improve memory, prevent breast cancer, boost immune function and improve muscle function.  Try cantaloupe, mangos, papayas, peaches, carrots, and sweet potatoes

Blue/Purple- fight the flu, improves memory, and improves blood flow.  Try blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins, eggplant, purple cabbage and purple-fleshed potatoes

White- lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, promotes heart heath and may reduce the risk of stomach cancers.  Try bananas, cauliflower, turnips, garlic, ginger, jicama, onions, potatoes

All that just from eating more fruits and veggies!

Here are some great articles if you want to do a little more reading:

**This post was originally posted January 4, 2012

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Today is Day 11 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can catch up on Day 1 here.

Yesterday we talked about listening to our bodies and being kinder to them.  When I slowed down and paid attention to what my stressed out, sick body was saying, this was the first thing I heard:

"Stop eating chemicals!"

I have an advantage over a lot of people because I grew up eating spirulina, millet and natural peanut butter so thick you could peel it right off the bread.  My mom was all natural way before it was trendy or cool. So eating healthy is not foreign to me and overall my diet was not that bad. I've always eaten vegetables & fruit, I've taken vitamins my whole life, and I'm very familiar with cooking my own meals.

But there were some spots in my diet that needed attention.  Mostly, lunches.  Because I worked up in the hills, far away from any restaurants or even my home, I had to pack my lunch every day.  However, when you're exhausted and can barely manage to peel yourself out of bed every day, cooking is about the furthest thing from your mind.  So almost every day for lunch I ate a pre-packaged, frozen meal.  I mostly purchased the "healthy" or "lean" ones but looking on the back of the label I found some things that were disturbing: corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, soy protein, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, glutamates,  preservatives, and so much more.

The problem with eating foods that are highly processed and full of chemicals is that your body doesn't recognize it as "food."  Our bodies are incredibly adaptive, and will try to survive on whatever resources it can get, but after a while those chemicals cause our bodies to react in ways it was never created to.  These chemicals & over processed foods disrupt hormones, produce toxins, and even cause cancer. In her book Master Your Metabolism Jillian Michaels explains, "Your poor body is stumbling around, trying to scrounge something nutritious out of this toxic food environment... too many additives and processes have mangled the food supply and confused your body's normal metabolism."

On January 1 I made a decision to eat fewer chemicals and engineered foods and instead eat more whole, natural foods.  I didn't want to change everything all at once and shock my system with something that wasn't going to be sustainable.  I just started getting pickier about what I defined as "food."  If it came straight out of the ground or ocean (with as little chemical treatment as possible) I ate it.  If it had a face or had a mother in it's previous life, it was on the safe list. If I could pronounce and recognize the ingredient list, I ate it.  One by one, I eliminated the chemical-tinged foods.

Guess what happened? My body responded.  It wasn't drastic and definitely didn't happen overnight, but week by week I started noticing the dark circles under my eyes weren't as big.  My energy levels starting picking up and my brain started to come out of the fog that it had been in.  My digestion became more normalized and my skin started get a little glow back.

It has been a couple of years now since I started being more mindful of my foods, limiting the chemicals, and food tastes so much better now.  It's not that I never "cheat", I do. Especially when I'm pressed for time. But those Franken-foods never taste as good as the whole, natural foods that I was raised on, grew and love.  When I eat fresh, simple foods I know that I'm fueling it for health and healing.

So that's my challenge to you.  Next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the ingredient list before you put it in your cart.  If you can't pronounce an ingredient, put it back on the shelf because it's not food.  If it has artificial colors or artificial sweeteners, pass. If there is a "junk" food you love, see if there is a healthier version or brand. Start adding more whole, unprocessed foods to your meals and snacks.

Your body will respond with gratitude.

07

Today is Day 10 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness. You can catch up to Day 1 here.

At one point in my heath journey I realized I needed to:

  1. Stop and listen to what my body was trying to tell me.  I had been sick for quite a few years at this point but it didn't happen overnight.  I had been accumulating little quirks and symptoms for years until finally they all just combined into a mess of sickness and exhaustion.  So I decided that I needed to just shut out all the noise and trust that my body knew what to do next.  But I had to listen.
  2. Be kinder to my body.  It had worked hard over the years and I had pushed it way too far. The year before my physical body officially crapped out, I was so busy I didn't have time to do the most basic things. Like eat.  Or sleep. Or relax.  I was working full time, training and teaching Karate roughly 20 hours a week, plus church, plus family, plus, plus, plus..  Finally my body just said, "ENOUGH!"  It just couldn't take the abuse any more.

Because I wouldn't listen to all the signals my body had been giving me, it did an "override" and forced me to slow down.  All the way down.  But it took a while for my brain to catch up to what was going on.  Even in the middle of debilitating illness & physical pain, I was still trying to find a way to do all the things I used to do before I became sick.

But I just got sicker.  All the while my poor body was screaming out to me and I just wouldn't listen.

I am fortunate.  Much of my physical pain and illness has been reversing lately.  At least as long as I'm doing all the "right stuff".  I know some of you have illnesses that will be with you forever.  Maybe it's MS or Parkinson's or another condition.  First let me say, I'm sorry.  I can only imagine how discouraging and scary that must be.

Second, I want to say this: don't give up. Your body may be broken in places, but you're still here and your body is still talking to you. It still wants to be well and it is trying hard to get there, given the resources it has.

So let's help our bodies along as best we can.  Let's stop working against them.  Let's get quiet and listen to the cues they are constantly giving us. Let's give them the nourishment and rest they are asking for.  Will it be the miracle cure?  For some perhaps.  For others, no, not a miracle cure.  But it can give us all some calm in the storm, and there are days that's all we're looking for.  The strength to get through one more day.