Posts tagged ‘chronic health problems’

KNOW YOUR BODY. Tracking Your Autoimmune Symptoms is a MUST for Healing.

I had pepperoni pizza last night and it was GOOD! Two years ago, that was a total no-no, as my body was a mess and not ready to handle the onslaught of the pepperoni or the pizza dough or the cheese (all of which I react to where my symptoms flare up).

Today, however, I can have some once in a while and be pretty much ok because:

  1. I know EXACTLY how it affects me.
  2. I know EXACTLY how much I can have and how often, to stay balanced and not let my symptoms come back full force.
  3. I know EXACTLY how to support my body afterwards to reverse the effects pretty quickly, within a day or so, so I can get on with it.

And that’s what I want you to be able to do.

If you live with an autoimmune condition, food allergies are a fact of life. If this is news to you, please read this fully!

The “chicken and egg” conundrum comes in because:

(a) Autoimmune means your body has started treating some foods as allergies / intolerances / sensitivities (these are different things) even if you were never allergic to those foods to begin with, usually because, now, your digestive system (which is intimately connected to your immune system) is compromised at a deeper level, and;

(b) When you eat these foods you make the Autoimmune condition worse, which may cause you to become allergic / reactive to even more foods.

And so, which comes first? The Autoimmune condition or the food allergies?

When it comes to Autoimmune, we need to stop thinking in a linear fashion, in straight lines, as in “A happens, then B happens.” It’s more of a circle, see. Think of all the letters in the alphabet strung together like on a necklace clasped around your neck. A, C, P, T are happening at the same time and they might all lead to B and even back to C and P again.

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED in your body. Autoimmune doesn’t just pop up overnight although it may seem like it (that’s how it showed up for me). If your head hurts and your feet hurt, these are not two disconnected, random symptoms.

And what complicates things even further is that no two people tend to react the same way or have the same symptoms.

For example, when I eat pepperoni pizza, I wake up with a puffy face and puffy hands, my ribcage gets sore around the lower edges and it hurts to breathe, I get a bit short of breath, and usually I start wheezing too. (And, yes, I have no shame or qualms about sharing this…) my stool gets whacked out – but even how that shows up is changing nowadays so I need to pay attention. (FUN! =) But for you, your reaction-causing foods and your symptoms are likely to be different.

The trick is to KNOW YOUR BODY.

YOU know your body best. Not your doctor, not me, not your mom. YOU.

For months, I tracked all my symptoms. I had almost 10 whole pages, typed out, of symptoms. At one point, it was so bewildering because my symptoms would change weekly, sometimes daily. Some would appear only once, such as my legs swelling up from the knees on down, and some were absolute constants, such as the pain in my feet, or tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, legs, and feet. These days, I don’t need to write it all down because now tracking these connections comes naturally; it’s become second nature because I tracked them diligently earlier.

In time, you will start noticing trends and you’ll get to know the signals your body is sending you. You’ll see which choices seem to affect which symptoms show up, whether it’s how much or how well you sleep, exercising too much or too little, inability to express anger, nervous or happy stress, some of your food (either what you’re having OR what you’re not having!). It really can be anything, as this is just life. It’s a circle. Everything is connected.

The point is, you can get your symptoms under control but it’s up to YOU.

If you ever need help figuring it out, you know who to call. =)

May 2, 2009 at 11:12 AM Leave a comment

The Power of Words… and Pain

It’s way past bedtime for me but I have such a buzz that I can’t get to sleep.

No, not that kind of buzz!

The best kind – a natural high. I spoke in front of 500 people (and had a great time doing it!) but that wasn’t even the best part. (I actually asked for some red wine tonight but just realized I didn’t even take a sip… I don’t drink anymore… my body doesn’t like it.)

Andy and I just returned from the Celebrating Science & Soul event, which “generates donations to support the Institute for Health & Healing’s work of healing people and transforming the practice of medicine. Last year the Institute touched the lives of more than 50,000 people, many through our scholarship fund and free programs at the bedside and in the Bay Area community.” Amazing, really.

Each year, this event honors pioneers in integrative medicine. This year’s honoree was Dr. Michael Harner – an incredible visionary – as well as Dr. William Goodson, breast cancer surgeon extraordinaire, who received a Compassionate Caring award. Beautiful people. Past honorees include Drs. Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Mehmet Oz (pre-Oprah!), and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Wow.

I had the honor of speaking as a patient testimonial. Here’s the video if you’re interested in watching. It runs about 7 minutes.

I haven’t shared much of my personal story yet in this blog. I’ve had a bit of a block. I am a super private person; I get the heebie-jeebies when I share too much personal info. But SO MANY people thanked me for doing so tonight at the event, that I see now I must. The story of my past 2.5 years is much bigger than just me. It’s part of my contribution and part of what I can give back. Because, you see, it’s been a long journey for me, but not as long as for others who are still suffering in silence and who, like some of the attendees tonight, may read / watch / hear about / listen to my story and have that be their nudge of hope that gets them to start healing and return to claim their life.

So, here, I will start to break my personal barrier and I begin offering to you my medical story and the story of my return (braver! bolder! brighter! than ever before) to owning my life.

I’ll start by giving you the video above as well as my speech transribed below. Pass it on.

*****

Simla’s Speech

They say the memory of pain is one we cannot retain, probably for reasons of survival. I beg to differ.

 

Pain.

 

It takes over your life until it’s all you can see, feel, taste, or think about.

 

It clouds your world so you don’t know who you are or whether you’ll ever have a good day again. When a good day means you can breathe without your ribs throbbing or your lungs burning, when you can tie your sneakers and take a step without your feet screaming, brush your teeth without getting exhausted, and remember the sentence you just read for the fifth time.

 

That’s the state I was in when I arrived at the Institute for Health & Healing Clinic in November 2006. I had already seen close to ten physicians to no avail. I had severe nerve, muscle, and bone pain along with short-term memory loss, debilitating fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. My standing diagnoses are fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, undifferentiated connective tissue disorder, multiple chemical sensitivity, and immunotoxicity. Along the way, I had been misdiagnosed and developed medication-induced hepatitis and pancreatitis. Not to mention gallstones. Add to that a lifelong battle with IBS, asthma, chronic bronchitis, a bout with Legionnaire’s Disease and pneumonia, and you get the picture. I was a mess. I was desperate, and desperately lost.

 

As a management consultant, I had thought I could use my intellect and methodical thinking to figure it all out. I was wrong. I had to go much, much deeper.

 

Using guided imagery, the incomparable Dr. Michael Cantwell helped reintroduce me to my Self – the Self that was not defined by pain. He helped me strengthen and redefine my connection to something bigger that had been lost. I was able to hear my inner voice again and let it take charge. Slowly, I began improving.

 

I recall one particular guided imagery session with Leslie Davenport, Integrative Psychotherapist, when my itching from jaundice stopped for good after I asked my body to give me a break, even though my skin was still very much the color of a ripe banana. Leslie’s kind and soothing presence created a haven where the noise in my body could sort itself out.

 

With the radiant Jodi Fishkin Manning, my stagnant insides found movement again, through her gentle touch as an exceptional massage therapist and powerful ability to really, deeply listen to what I had to say, without judgment or pity.

 

I still see Helen, the warm-hearted sage, every two weeks for acupuncture to keep my body balanced and my symptoms under control. But I see her just as much for her ability to help me get and stay grounded. She is always patient with my stream of questions, teaches me about myself and promotes guilt-free self-care.

 

That’s “my Team.” Together, along with my naturopath, chiropractor, rheumatologist, my husband Andy and my family, the IHH Clinic Team gave me hope, validated my pain but also my ability to heal, and encouraged me to pursue my newfound passion for holistic nutrition. In the past two and a half years, I left corporate America, went back to school (again!) to become certified as a health and nutrition counselor, and have opened the doors of a thriving holistic practice of my own.

 

Today, on most days, my pain is a memory – one that I respect, for it taught me much. Though my body can still be temperamental, I am always mending, healing, moving forward.  I can wear heels, haven’t needed surgery and my memory is better than ever, although my husband may beg to differ.

 

Consider yourself fortunate if you get to meet or spend some time with these exceptional practitioners tonight, as you are in the presence of true healers. They embody the spirit of medicine in all the ways medicine can and should manifest.

 

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express in a small way my immeasurable gratitude to Dr. Cantwell, Jodi, Leslie, and Helen.

 

How do you say thank you to someone who has helped you rebuild your body, mend your spirit, redefine your way of being, and incidentally, discover your life’s work?

 

But I can tell you that everything they’ve taught me is embedded in how I now live. I hope to pass it on. Thank you.

March 9, 2009 at 8:04 AM 9 comments


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