When I turned 40, I didn’t really feel the issues or challenges that people often cite at this point in life. I was in a really good place emotionally, physically and financially. I felt fit and healthy, and even though I was in a very stressful job with high levels of accountability, life felt good.
What I didn’t realise at the time is that a whole host of issues had been slowly developing in the background, and in just a few months I went from being fit and healthy to requiring help for basic tasks like having a shower, getting dressed and walking. What I found particularly weird is that my profession at the time was as an occupational therapist working in neurology. I regularly worked with people who had the same symptoms that I developed.
It was the most frightening time of my life. I recognised my symptoms to be similar to those experienced in MS. As a health professional, I did what we are encouraged to do – research. You see, it didn’t make sense to me that my immune system would instruct my body to attack itself. There must be an underlying reason for the immune system to respond in this way, like an undetected virus or bacteria. So rather than suppressing my immune system, I researched how to support my immune system. I read as many peer reviewed papers, books and online articles as I could find. I researched nutrition, herbal, and lifestyle medicine.
What I discovered is that with chronic conditions such as autoimmune disease, you need to start by examining your lifestyle. Look at the way you live, what you think, and how you manage your emotions.
There was a quote on Joe Dispenza’s Instagram feed which resonates. “What if the worst thing that happened to you turns out to be the best thing that has ever happened to you?” Looking back, I realise that something good has been born out of this difficult experience. I woke up to how my behaviours were driving my illness and found the courage to change.
What I did and how it can help you.
I asked for help
Now it’s not easy to go it alone and walk the less trodden path. My family were extremely distrustful of any modality outside of traditional medicine and although they supported me, I understood their fear. As such, I found myself an excellent herbalist who is also a functional medicine practitioner, to work alongside the recommendations of my doctor. She was able to request tests that looked for viruses that might be driving my symptoms and to look at the health of my gut in order to prescribe herbs and supplements to support my damaged nervous system.
Food overhaul - I radically changed my diet.
Everything changed when I focused on nutrition. Within two-weeks I noticed a small improvement to my balance when walking indoors. Within 2 months I was walking around outdoors by myself again. Functional medicine doctors explain that the gut is the seat of our health and when it is damaged, as often seen in autoimmune conditions, toxins are able to seep into the bloodstream, causing inflammation. The elimination diet I used is an adapted version of Paleo with a massive dose of leafy greens. I began by removing all the trigger foods – gluten, dairy, almonds, soy, eggs, legumes and sugar. I increased my water intake to 2 litres and ensured that it was filtered.
Evidence suggests that psychosocial factors influence the physiology of the gut. I prioritised daily journaling and took time to talk about, define and examine the stressors in my life. Work was the greatest source of stress; the high level of accountability for patients coupled with their families’ fear for their loved ones’ future, and low-level managerial support had most definitely taken its toll on my body and mind. So too did the childhood trauma of going through a messy and painful divorce, and the on-off bullying I experienced at home and at school. I learned that unresolved emotions from past experiences can play out in the subconscious mind on a loop that causes low-level inflammation.
Meditation and visualisation.
I started to meditate in earnest. Prior to this, I regularly attended yoga and the gym, and I convinced myself that I was managing to stave off the stress. In retrospect, if I’m truly honest with myself, I knew that I was struggling. I just didn’t know what to do to make things easier. By carving out time to relax, meditate and visualise, I believe that I created the inner environment to permit change. Because the mind does not recognise the difference between an actual event and an imagined one. Therefore, when you visualise excellent health, using all the senses, your body believes this and starts to switch on the genes that cause good health in response to this new data.
I made friends with sleep again.
Fatigue was an issue for me. I remember existing on four hours sleep. Nights when I would lie awake for hours. I would try reading, getting up for some water or trips to the toilet to help myself get some sleep. I was exhausted when I woke up and wired when I wanted to go to sleep. I had no energy and resorted to coffee in the morning and when I was wired at night, I would have a glass of red wine to help me unwind. My cortisol levels were out of whack and my adrenals were on the floor, driving the inflammation in my body ever higher. Download my free 8 ways to improve your sleep
Movement and exercise improve your immune system functioning. We are designed to be active throughout the day, everyday. However modern life is not designed for this. We sit for hours, looking at a computer screen, or the TV. We subscribe to gyms and talk ourselves out of going. Or we put ourselves through rigorous training and wonder why we don’t have the energy to go more than three times a week. I recall being this way with the gym or hot yoga classes. Exercise felt more like punishment than pleasure.
I changed my attitude to exercise by incorporating little, bite-sized spurts of movement into my day. More walking, some swimming when I could, stretching in the morning. Getting the dose right is key.
Need some help? You can contact me for some 1-1 person-centred coaching. Book a free clarity call to see how best I can help ❤️