Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Deciding to heal

Deciding to heal.

Medical intervention is life saving.  We know this.  Those who save lives are totally incredible and we need eternal gratitude for all those who have been touched by these lives.

There is zero doubt in my mind about this.  There are times, we simply need help.
My final year of my degree has highlighted the importance of taking control of ones own health, mind, body and as always, spirit (although that’s not often mentioned in my science degree.)  Biochemistry, physiology and the body is a miracle.  How does everything work together so synchronously for us to thrive as humans?  Honestly, I believe a certain degree of miracle must be present.  Being designed so beautifully, our cells and organelles are factories for our health, without them, no oxygen. Without oxygen, no life.  Without lungs, no oxygen… see my point.  Symbiosis is truly ever present and when things go wrong, we sometimes need to ask why.

Laying blame is wrong.  No one wants to be sick.  No one chose to make himself or herself ill.  Yet the chronic diseases we see so prevalent in this world are often preventable. This is a fact.  Yet do we know how?  Why do we suffer such illnesses?  Can they be reversed?
Research, research, research.
The information is out there.  Sadly, often our doctors simply do not have the time to go through finer details and we could be left in wonder of what to do next.

Finite details might just switch on the knowledge or motivation for change.
I have a story rather like this.

Forever a sick child,  we were given antibiotics on most occasions. There was a time the primary reason for visiting the doctors was to ‘get some antibiotics’. Now we know this is not the best route to take in all occasions, yet life saving in others.  Finally we know that antibiotics are to fight bacterial infections, hence the name.  My teenage years were also troubled with health issues which carried on through infertility, hormonal and other chronic pain manifestations.
My symptoms here will not be described in detail but please be aware of a few descriptions approaching. 
Many surgeries, all non specific and seemingly unrelated, followed and a general feeling of not being my best came to a head in 2009. Shocking issues from the gut we stopping me in my tracks. Putting on the brakes of life until the symptoms were so bad I was heavily loosing blood all day, every day.  The GP seemed to think more surgery might be needed and gave me a follow up appointment which was definitely not treated as urgent.  Things got worse, I ended up in the hospital and after surgery and biopsies I was told they were looking for harmful tumors. 
How could I share this with my parents?  They already buried my brother and there was only me left.  You can’t help but think of the worst-case scenario but I should have worked harder on relaxing inside as much as my outer appearance seemed.

During the surgery, I was informed that my colon was heavily ulcerated.  They suspected ulcerative colitis.  Immediately I began research.  Specifically into Inflammatory bowel conditions.  It’s known as IBD and is the collective term for crohns and colitis.  Being inflamed anywhere in the body is not a good place to be. Yet already I was motivated and determined to do what I could to help myself.

Results were in. The biopsies showed Crohns disease.  A disease from anywhere from mouth to anus in the digestive system.  It will also have the ability to penetrate right through the tissue layers which is life threatening.  Alongside gastritis, a hiatus hernia and flattened villi (showing Coeliac disease – a gluten allergy).  So, while this sounded a pretty grim story and the potential need for lots of surgery, I became determined.

Burning candles at my desk late into the night, I was busy reading more and more, going deeper and deeper while I waited for more medical appointments.  Finding a diet detailing The Specific Carbohydrate diet, I read a book by Elaine Gottschall “Breaking the Vicious cycle” and read it cover to cover in one sitting.  Why had I never heard of all this stuff?  You can heal from your nutrition?  You can heal your gut and it changes everything, even mindset! I was astonished. 

Immediately I requested an appointment with a dietitian at the local hospital and I began eating the way the book instructed instantly. 
Science moves on quickly and I’m pleased to say that today, the NHS does now recommend the low FODMAP diet for those struggling with digestive health which is not too dissimilar to the Specific carbohydrate diet.  Yet in 2009 I left the dietitian clinic in floods of tears when they spoke to me of ‘a varied and balanced diet’ and showed me the Eatwell Plate full of grains and starches.  Inside I was screaming but remained polite.   I knew this was wrong as I had already begun eating bone broths and eliminating sugars as well as the gluten which had been harming my body all these years through allergy.
My gastroenterologist gave a long list of prescriptive medicine for me to use.  Two of them were essential at the time but turned me inside out with pain so I got off those as soon as I could possibly do safely.  We had a heated conversation; I was frustrated – his exact words, “You can’t deal with crohns without medication or surgery.”  I cried.  I would. I was determined.  I knew what I had read.  Keeping an open mind to what he said was unthinkable.

Continuing to spend much time in the kitchen with careful preparation of my nutrition, continuing to research, beginning to wear bikinis in case he was right and I needed abdominal surgery….everything changed.
Beginning a running regime I was determined to run a race in totality.  Just 5k, that would do.  Dance has always been my passion and I began to compete, doing great with my amazing dance partner and ending up finalists of the nationals from 160 couples down to 5.  We didn’t win but that didn’t matter.
My body transformed unrecognizably.  I was feeling fit and well, my horrific symptoms I saw before surgery disappeared within 3 weeks. 
The following summer, for the first time, I had no hay fever.  My constant ear infections which also needed previous surgery and I lost my hearing bones in one ear, had gone.  Totally.
Never in my life had I felt so amazing.

More difficult conversations with the gastroenterologist led to a place of ‘agreeing to disagree’.  I knew then that diet was the key to making significant improvements.  While this was a dramatic way of eating, it was necessary to heal.  Being transparent, things have slipped since and I can feel it. But easily, I pull things back and see the same wonderful results over and over.

They say you are what you eat.  You definitely are a product of your absorption.  While my degree has taught me much about the systems of metabolism I feel the important lesson to pass on is to listen to your body.  This far, 9 years later I am blessed to still be in better health without surgery or medication.  My crohns went into remission after 3 weeks and that is where it has stayed.

* If you have any health concerns I would always recommend seeking the advice of a health professional as well as listening to your body.


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