Tag Archives: chronic illness

To Beat Chronic Illness You Have to Trust Your Gut

When dealing with chronic physical and mental illness, who will help us but our instincts?

Chronically Ill People

Nobody can tell you why you hurt. People call you ‘whiner’, ‘hypochondriac’, or even worse, they ignore your pain altogether. 

You’re hurting, not just inside, but in your very bones. It’s difficult living with pain you can’t pinpoint and symptoms as mysterious and worrying as they are diffuse and intangible. 

You’re not getting any where with doctors. They tell you over and over again: ‘your bloods are fine’, ‘you have depression’, ‘you need to take it easy’. And you try your best to do this, but you aren’t winning. So, you continue to push for answers. 

The problem is, nobody has the answers. Nobody who we consider reputable anyway. And by reputable, I mean medically sanctioned. The issue here is that medical sanctions apply to medical research, and when the research comes up on chronic illness, it comes up extremely short indeed. 

University was a trigger point for me. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t part of the cut throat bullshit that kept the private school feeder college kids energized. They loved to jibe and poke at each other, find ways to get underneath the skin, and into the mind. It was an unpleasant, jarring experience. For a while, my mind took the brunt, but eventually, like an ass overburdened, my body broke too. 

I started getting ill more often. At first it was just small things, like breathing problems during the summer after exams, when the quiet period allowed my body to feel the emotional pain it had endured during the whole year. By the end of second year, however, I was a wreck. I had a slipped disk which had caused all manner of painful nerve problems, and a degree of numbness that persisted. It got so bad that I could not walk properly at one point. The MRIs spat back data suggesting it was ‘nothing serious’, but it didn’t feel like that to me. 

I endured increasingly bizarre health complications. I couldn’t breathe — something like asthma was taking hold. I had heart palpitations, more severe by the day. I experienced numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. My bones ached in my ankles, knees, and hips. My blood pressure was extremely high all of the time. The list of problems spun out of control. 

Nobody could help me. The doctors were not listening, and appeared unconcerned by the raw data they were getting back — all the while, my quality of life plummeted. I was getting nowhere. 

It’s at this breaking point —  when you really have to decide to give up and die, or get up and do something —  that you really put your life into perspective. 

I realized, ‘Julian, nobody is going to save you from this, you have only yourself, and your intuition to guide you — use it, and get better.’

So, I listened to that voice, telling me to guide myself, to trust my gut, ironically, one of the first places I focused my healing energies. I’d always had some digestive issues, but I largely ignored them. What can you really do about it? You feel kind of powerless when it comes to your stomach. It’s used every day. You seem to feel as though it should handle the task its set without complaint. Everyone else seems to manage it, why can’t you stomach it too? 

Well, I started to realize, our bodies really do have weak points — places, organs, or points that need fortifying. Many have a weakness in the stomach, but it’s just not something that we try to manage or intuitively fix. We just carry on until something really bad happens and we need surgery. This is a disaster. We need to fortify these weak points before we end up in hospital. Every single one of our organs can do its job well if we give it what it needs. 

But it takes a lot of work. We have to do research. We have to be prepared to look outside what is considered scientifically justifiable. There is so much that science has the barest grasp, and people with chronic illness are the first to know about this. They are the first to learn the limitations of science when it comes to fixing their health. Once you realize just how thin the net is, you learn to make your own net. You cannot rely on medical interventions for your health. Some of them are ineffective, some still are down right dangerous and unnecessary. Now, I am not anti-science, and I am not anti-medicine, but I do think that when it comes to chronic illness, we have a disastrously poor grasp on what is causing it. An open mind is the only way to better health. 

I’ve read some very out there stuff. How about Anthony Williams, the ‘Medical Medium’? He writes about chronic health issues, and he gets his answers from a spirit that guides him by talking to him in his head. Do I rule it out as fraudulent? No, I let my intuition guide me. Does the message seem genuine? Are people getting better? If the answers are ‘yes’, then who am I to discount it? 

I’m serious. If you’re battling chronic illness, you need to be open to ideas that fly directly in the face of the concrete bastion of the scientific method. You are not going to get the answers that you need or want there. It is going to be grueling, and you are going to doubt what you are doing at times, but you must trust yourself. If nothing else, having faith in your mind and body will help you get better. Many people who suffer from chronic illness have lost both, and that is a tragedy. 

My point is, there is much we don’t understand, and when nobody understands you, or what you are going through, you are going to have to find ways to understand it yourself, many of which will seem very bizarre indeed to the vast majority of society. That’s none of your concern. You are listening to your intuition and following a path of learning. You’re a pioneer, and a marauder on the edge of understanding. You have got to believe in yourself and use your feelers to find the truth. This truth may be heretical, even absurd to many, but that is not for you to worry about. What you care about is getting better, so get better, by any means necessary. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself on the way, and trust me, it’ll be worth it. 

Just in case you don’t know, I’m doing better everyday. Many of my health issues are clearing up. I’m becoming happier. I trust myself and my body. I listen to the birds, the trees, the earth, and the sky, and I believe in that. I believe that the universe supports us when we listen to it, so I’m letting it guide me, by putting my faith in that spiritual reality. I’m only at the beginning, and all because I listened to a man who hears voices in his head. I think I’ll keep an ear out for the plants and trees, maybe they’ll have something to say about it too? Nothing is too weird. Keep pushing for the confidence in your life, your soul, and the spirit of Earth. It is waiting patiently for you to listen.

Trust your gut. Heal it, if you need to. Be prepared for a bumpy ride. You’re going to end up in places nobody else understands. What an exciting opportunity. Use that gift to build confidence in your life and spirit. It’s a turning point for anyone. You might need to walk on the fringe, but if that’s how you get better, does it matter? I guess that’s for you to decide. 

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Dieting Is Restrictive and That’s Exactly How It Needs to Be

‘Dieting’, as a term, gets a bad wrap these days. 

You hear the usual bombastic responses from people:

‘Dieting is restrictive.’

‘Dieting can lead to eating disorders.’

‘Dieting can create unhealthy relationships with food.’

The problem is, we’re already past the stage where we get to have a healthy relationship with food. The food we are given, except for the very basic wholefoods that we can buy, are laced with destructive toxins, like hormones, additives, preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics. These chemicals are already wreaking havoc on our digestion, causing systemic toxicity, which then leads to inflammation. Sustained inflammation feeds into the development of chronic illnesses, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. 

When we tell someone that they have an ‘eating disorder’ because they choose to be selective about their eating habits, we are often making an unfair, uninformed, and unsubstantiated comment about somebodies lifestyle choices. 

The fact of the matter is, our food has never been so poisonous. Sweeteners cause weight gain. Preservatives have been shown to exacerbate behavioural problems. Sugar (abundantly present in a wide range of shop-bought foods) definitively increases risk for obesity, leading to other chronic health conditions. Poisonous produce is abundant, poorly understood, and often advertised as ‘health promoting’. 

Is it any wonder some of us feel the need to restrict in order to survive — even thrive — under these conditions? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way saying that eating disorders do not exist — they unequivocally do, but the negative value judgements that the typical person imbues on dieters is unfounded, and even, ignorant. 

I think dieters and any person who is on the road to a healthier life, should reclaim the term. Yes, dieting is restrictive, and, unfortunately, as food corps pump more and more toxic junk into our foods, a healthy diet will have to be.

We have got to completely re-frame the way that we view dieting or lifestyle changes in society. Did you know that the American Diabetic Association is funded by coca cola? What does that statement say to you? Can you read between the lines? Big food companies do not want to help you, they want to control the information which is being given. This is a game of damage limitation, and big food companies have their fingers in all the pies. 

It is up to dieters, and those who take it upon themselves to reform their eating through big lifestyle changes, to do their research, and find a diet which works to make them feel healthier and happier. 

About a year ago, following a particularly stressful period, I started to develop symptoms. These symptoms ranged from hip, knee and ankle pain, to drastic mood swings and even periodic, uncontrollable crying and laughter. My symptoms were disconcerting. I was determined to find the root cause. 

On that journey, I discovered a lot about my particular dietary needs. I learned about lactose and gluten sensitivity, and I learned about the effects of a highly westernised diet on conditions of chronic pain and neurological disorders. My conclusion? Certain foods had to go. These are foods that I had grown up with as a child, foods that were deemed to be fine, even good for you. They were doing me harm, and I wish I’d had the courage to intervene and improve my life sooner. 

I spent years with serious mood swings and emerging chronic pain, to my mind, the beginnings of arthritis. I am only 28 years old. To be in that position at my age was devastating, but I had to act. I needed research and fundamental changes in perspective to find a way to heal. 

It’s still a process. I still eat foods that I have learned are bad for me from time to time, but the key is, I’ve significantly reduced this intake. I think a diet might cross into the eating disorder territory when it gets to the black and white elimination of an ever increasing range of foods. In contrast, a healthy tapering of some known allergens is a good route to a more sustainable and healthy life. 

I’ve cut out milk. I was intolerant to cows milk as a baby, before allergies were properly understood, but somehow, as I grew older, I lost touch with that understanding. This was the first to go, and you wouldn’t believe how easy it was. I only had milk in my coffee. As soon as I accepted black coffee as a delicious alternative, I never needed milk again, and my health began to improve. Boom, one busted, a few more to go. 

Gluten, now this is a bit more tricky. How do you get rid of something that is a staple in the western diet? The answer is, ‘with a great deal more difficulty’. Tapering has been the most effective thing in this instance. Just gradually getting rid of bread. For lunch, I’ll try a salad, or maybe a smoothie instead. More wholefoods, less gluten. It’s not easy, but it is doable with time. 

I also cut out soda — all kinds. I just drink water, coffee, and herbal teas. Sometimes this is hard, as water can get a bit dull, but to be honest, as long as I have my coffee, I don’t miss soda too much. I’m pretty happy not to touch it, and my urge to drink it is non-existent. 

My point is this, if you need to cut foods from your diet to feel healthier and happier, do it. Please. You need to look out for yourself first. If ‘restrictive’ dieting helps you feel more like yourself, more like the you you always knew you could be, then just do it. Peer pressure, judgement, and outdated views about food are not your problem. Your problem is figuring out how to make your life more enjoyable. If you’re like me, you’ve probably felt sluggish, run down, and low in mood. You may even be suffering from something like fibromyalgia, arthritis or MS. These lethargic and painful states require you to rethink your nutrition plan. Some of that may well involve restricting certain foods, and that’s ok. 

This is not a drill. Not all food is your friend, and your ‘friends’ may not support that view. Just tell them that you’re not doing it for them, this is for you. We need to start reclaiming the word ‘dieter’. We’re restricting because the food industry is no longer supporting our health in the ways that they claim to be. We have a duty to restrict where this can save us from foods that harm us. For those of you battling food intolerances, mood swings, and chronic physical pain, ‘dieting’ is not a bad word. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Dieting is restrictive, yes, but that restriction is about preservation, not obsession. Keep doing what makes you feel better. 

When it comes to your health, diet for you, for your preservation, for your livelihood, and for your well being. Never let the people around you talk you down. Trust your instincts, work out what feels right, and follow it relentlessly. ‘Restriction’ is not a bad word. ‘Dieting’ is not a bad word. Claim them back, then claim your health as well. 

Intermittent Fasting – An easy, simple and powerful aid to better health.

As with many trends in the dieting industry, us seasoned veterans apply a liberal amount of scepticism to new and rising health fads.

We know, for instance, that you’ll often only hear the good, when there are certainly hidden consequences or trade-offs that come with making these drastic changes.

It’s our job to cut the wheat (yuck) from the chaff, and make sure that we make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of both the pros and cons.

Keto has become a massively popular dietary trend in America, and has genuinely helped epileptic patients when drugs fail, and anecdotal evidence is growing that it can help diabetics shut down a cycle of sugar dependency, lose weight and become healthier.

All well and good, but the research is up in the air.

Studies suggest that long-term, the diet is hard to stick to, and when it fails, many dieters end up back where they started. Also, what are the side-effects of a long-term high-fat, high-salt diet? Some research suggests kidney damage, dangerous blood lipid profiles, and in some cases, death. In the short term, many users can experience horrible side-effect such as serious constipation and diarrhoea, palpitations, cramping, thirst, hypoglycemia, orthostatic hypotension and low-blood pressure.

It’s all too easy to find a new diet that touts extraordinary health benefits, wrap yourself up in the concepts and notions which support it, and turn a blind eye to the criticisms. More so when we consider that the internet is an echo chamber. Youtube’s algorithms show you what you want to see. Re-affirming what you watch. It’s force feeding you a truth that you want to hear. We must remain vigilant to the comforting cotton-wool like nature of social media and video sites which wrap us up in a cosy spool of ignorance.

So, what can we do? Remain critical of dietary trends, absolutely. Search google for literature on the efficacy of Keto for example. Search for side-effects, long term success rates, dangers and limitations of current data. This will give you a much more impartial attitude to your health and hopefully lead you to some safe and healthy middle grounds.

And of course, the best way to know how effective a diet or lifestyle change is, is to try it. We perpetually offer ourselves up as lab rats, eating the latest health food and documenting the effects. Thankfully, being in an age of relative enlightenment, we usually find either something doesn’t help at all, or it helps a little, or even a lot. We’re not usually faced with things which can really make us seriously ill. Thank you ancestors for poisoning yourselves for our gain!

With that in mind, I have been trying Intermittent Fasting, which displays promising evidence for being achievable every day, simplifying a busy lifestyle, and most importantly, reducing insulin sensitivity and promoting cognitive focus!

As I said earlier, we need to be careful with these kinds of changes. Intermittent Fasting can put the body into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism and destroying the bodies ability to deliver appropriate nutrition and energy to vital organs. The impact of this can range from fatigue, brain fog and low mood, to severe eating disorders and systemic organ failure. However, this tends to become a problem when people reduce their caloric intake as well as fast and continue to do this for long periods of time – not my approach!

So I’ve been fasting for two weeks on a 16:8 plan, which means that I fast for 16 hours a day and eat in an 8 hour window. It usually means I eat at 12 and stop eating at 8, with a little give and take here and there. I usually eat 2 meals a day of a relatively good size, with my first meal containing almost no carbs from wheat, potato or rice etc and my last meal of the day may contain a moderate amount of these carbs (though I try to avoid wheat and potato as both gluten and nightshades may irritate a sensitive digestive system). This actually prevents my body from going into ketosis, which it does not tolerate well, for all of the short term side-effects already listed above.

So, what has it been like?

Well, I have been really happy with the results!

As someone who has a big sweet tooth and is a bit of an emotional eater, fasting has completely curtailed my need for sweets. I just don’t feel a craving for them anymore. I haven’t had any chocolate the whole time and I haven’t wanted any! Miraculous and probably one of my favourite things about this change. This shows that my blood sugar is more controlled and that’s really important in staving off chronic illnesses like diabetes.

My blood pressure has also come down from about 140/90 which is just about borderline high blood pressure, to anywhere from 120/ 80 – 130 -80. This is an incredible reduction in just two weeks. I tried a lot of things prior to this to bring that number down, but very little I did seemed to work. This has been such a simple change to implement and is already significantly impacting my health and well being.

My skin has cleared up. I suffered from moderate acne all of my life. I still have the occasional spot, but the number of breakouts has reduced significantly. I’m losing weight. My trousers are baggier and my stomach is flatter. I have Sebhorrheic Dermatitis which is a more severe form of dandruff, which flairs up from time to time in a very bad way. This has also reduced, though not fully disappeared yet. Joint pain had begun to set in. Periodic sharp pain in my hip and knees became less noticeable and problematic. Asthma, which I acquired recently has been barely a concern since I made this change.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress I have been making with this change, which has also simplified my lifestyle and is really quick and easy to implement. I’m seeing real, tangible health benefits which are not coming with nasty side-effects. It almost seems too good to be true!

We’re still in the early period at the moment and the proof in how effective this change is will come after I can say I’ve managed to stick with it long-term, but so far, it’s an exciting start to better health!

Join me if you can and try it out for a week, maybe it will help you as well!

Keep safe and well,

J

Chronic Illness and Vital Acceptance

If you’ve developed an illness that is now invading your every day life in a way you can no longer ignore, it can begin to gnaw away at our sense of justice.

You’re a good person, you work hard and try to get by in a difficult world. People can treat you badly and not bat an eye, but you’re not like that, and if you are, your awareness ignites you to apologise or make peace with your victim.

And yet, even so, you’ve been stricken with bad karmic juju. You’re suffering, but you feel that suffering is unjustified.

Our health is so important to our quality of life that we often get wrapped up in the ‘why?’. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ‘Why couldn’t I be someone else?’.

The ‘why’ is fine when we are dealing with the things that we can change. There are so many good ‘why’ questions that can really change the world. To some extent, a little ‘why’ can be good even in exploring chronic health problems. After all, a better understanding of our ailments can mean we can better address them and find some balance.

I’ve even written on the ‘why’ myself, exploring how a largely vegan or plant based diet can reduce inflammation in the body and improve overall health and wellness for those with chronic illness.

But, the ‘why?’ only goes so far. At some point, it yields less and less, becoming an exhausting obsession of diminishing returns. When we personalise our why’s and make them existential, we lose more and more energy, time, and happiness, to an unanswerable set of questions. When we reach this stage, we need to consider how we will accept the things which we cannot change and work on making our realities manageable, even joyful.

Acceptance is vital to living with chronic illness. We cannot continuously snarl at our illness, hoping that eventually it will subside or diminish. We cannot keep it in a box away from visitors, a morbid little secret out of the public eye. Our illness will live with us and we must accept that it continues, as do we.

Illness is unpleasant. It makes our lives hard, sometimes unbearably painful, both mentally and physically. It can be isolating, desperate and cold when so few understand how painful it is. But acceptance is part of changing that story. Don’t try to push it under the rug or pummel it into submission, but try to accept it as a part of you, aim to no longer fight with yourself.

In some respects, accepting chronic illness can make it easier to live with and tolerate. It can even contribute to recovery or partial recovery. The stress we cause ourselves when we are fighting our illness can inevitably strengthen it. The more you fight a thought, idea or perception of reality, the more power it gains over you and the more fear, panic and despair it generates.

Your reality needn’t be one of fear or aggression directed at disturbance and chaos. When you choose to allow or accept chronic illness to exist with you, rather than against you, you can begin to change your relationship to it. You can begin to be happier and lead a more fulfilling life.

We all want that, right?

J