When I first started working with a holistic practitioner on my health, the sheer number of supplements had me very overwhelmed! I mean, holy cats!! How in the heck do I organize all the bottles, and remember to take them when I should? To top it all off, I wasn't feeling well most days and the energy it took to just keep them organized was exhausting!
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Let's face it, having autoimmune disease is not an easy road. The healing path is full of hills and valleys, and even though I like to think its always linear, I have written before how the reality is much different from the fantasy!
But sometimes we tumble into a crevasse so deep, its hard to realize what just happened. For the last several weeks (more like 5 now) I have been dealing with one of the worst regressions of my autoimmune disease in probably 4 years. At first I was somewhat nonchalant about it. I had a few days of really bad symptoms, but then bounced back pretty quickly to feeling great. Then it happened again, and again and again! After a few weeks of this, I knew something was wrong because now Im spending more days in bed or on the couch than I am outside or up and about.
I think the biggest part of the healing path is mental. I go through phases of denial about my health. For example, I happily sit in denial of the affects of caffeine on my body. I went weeks recently pretending that my matcha blended tea was my new BFF. Loving the ritual, loving how it made me feel. Completely denying any fact that I was getting hooked, feeling more and more sluggish when I woke up, and that days without it were giving me headaches. So we had to break up. (BTW, I found a new morning beverage BFF - no caffeine and supportive of liver and detox pathways - Thank you Jessica at Delicious Obsessions!)
I also have a tendency to just drive through the pain. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, and I can handle quite a bit. But when I just go about life as if I don't have pain (or any other of my AI symptoms) I can get another good case of denial going! Really, I start numbing out to what my body is trying to tell me, and carry on as if nothing is wrong. Then my body rebels and pretty much forces me to take a complete day of rest!
So how does one deal with regression? I'll share with you what I am doing, in hopes that it will help some of you when you are in a deep valley or crevasse of your own.
- Admit there is regression in the first place. I know, this sounds a lot like the first step in a 12-step program, but frankly, its the starting point! You can't start to heal or start climbing you way out until you admit what might be happening. It took me a good 3 weeks before I admitted to myself that I was in full regression!
- Be kind to yourself. Even if you knowingly did things to get you into the crevasse (can we say sugar during the holidays anyone?), be kind to yourself. Meaning take time to relax, give yourself permission to need more healing.
- Clear your calendar and commitments. If you don't know by know, Im one of those that over-achieves the over-achieving! So when I feel great, its pretty much a sure bet that I have taken on too much, packed my calendar and signed up for 35 new courses to start on the new year! When I am in full AI regression, there is no room really for much other than sleeping, nourishing food and maybe some walking. Work tasks get minimized down to the absolute necessities.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Once I was able to admit there was a regression going on, I finally called my doctor. I requested additional lab work be done and reviewed those results with colleagues and my doctor. Once I had my appointment with her, immediately I started to feel better! Not only was there validation that something was wrong, but we constructed a new healing plan and actions for me to take to start to feel better! Such a relief to get some help!
- Examine your lifestyle. There are 4 key lifestyle areas that contribute to wellness: Nourishment (food), Rest (sleep), Movement (exercise), and Stress (ya know, stress!). This is a tough step mind you, I always hope that I can be a little less regimented with my lifestyle, but when I get too relaxed and let things creep in, inflammation creeps in! I had to get pretty honest with myself about these areas of my life leading up to my regression. The number one area where I was not managing well was S-T-R-E-S-S! I had fallen off the Headspace practice, taken on too many commitments, had to deal with too many negative people and stopped doing my weekly hikes in the forest. The other contributing factor was with food. I had let too much sugar and caffeine creep into my diet over the last few months. Plus I was trying to reintroduce foods from the AIP elimination. I really think that too many nuts (grain free baked goods during the holidays) were contributing to massive inflammation I was/am experiencing.
How do you deal with regression? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment below - would love to hear your ideas!
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Ever since the NuvaRing completely jacked my hormones, I have looked for other means of birth control. My husband and I considered *all the options* including elective surgery for either one of us and ultimately decided on using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). And while the FAM is a great way to both avoid and achieve pregnancy, it came with an added bonus: It allowed me to track my hormones without having to pay for expensive and lengthy lab tests!
How you might ask? Well if you are not familiar with the Fertility Awareness Method, I'll just sum it up. Basically you track three data points relating to a woman's fertility: basal temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position. Each of those data points are indicative of relative levels of various fertility hormones: Estrogen, Progesterone, Lutienizing Hormone (LH) and Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH). So by tracking the temperature and cervical fluid+position, you can get a pretty good picture of what is happening with your hormones each month.
While there are great lab tests out there that measure Estrogen and Progesterone throughout the month, typically through saliva samples, they are costly (~$250 each) and you have to collect saliva samples every other day for the full length of your cycle. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of expendable cash to do this every month, nor do I really enjoy collecting saliva that often!
Of course I have apps that track all this, right? You bet! About two years ago, I stumbled on an app called Kindara that allows me to track everything associated with the FAM. This is really what made FAM work for us - both of us can run the app and see high and low fertility times. Kindara really made it easy, and after a few months of charting in this way, I started to understand my body - and my hormones - on a much more intimate level. Kindara plus the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility really brought the hormones into light. Plus, I can send my charts to my practitioner so she can review whats happening with my hormones too!
So what is the next best thing? A companion thermometer of course! Kindara has just announced Wink. Wink is a discrete compatible thermometer that syncs automatically to the Kindara app making it all that much easier to track your hormones. Plus, it doesn't look like a thermometer - so no one has to know I'm tracking, or think Im sick when they see it. Wink is now available for pre-order and each time you refer someone else, you get $10 off your order price!
Charting gives you insight to all sorts of fertility-related issues: PMS, PCOS, peri-menopause, menopause, difficult periods, and more. It does take a few months to get the hang of charting, and you may need to re-read a couple of chapters in the Taking Charge of Your Fertility book, but once you get the hang of it, its a very cost effective method of knowing your hormone status!
Any of you chart your cycles this way? Have you noticed a difference? Leave a comment below - would love to hear from you!
So many of us today forget what vitality feels like. Don't get me wrong, we all have good days and bad days, but it seems like the majority of us are going about life, tackling our tasks, and forging forward despite any nagging symptoms or aches and pains. Our bodies are incredibly adaptive, and before you know it, those symptoms, aches, pains and signs are common place. So much so that they feel like "normal" and so when people ask us how we are doing, we respond with "good" or "not bad". But how often do you hear people respond with a resounding, "great!" or "outstanding"?
I got curious about this and did an informal social experiment and asked friends and family to describe what it felt like when they felt their best. The results of that are shown in the word cloud above. The larger the word, the more people expressed that emotion or feeling. Energy and energetic topped out the list, but happy and peaceful and grateful and love were all in there too!
So the real question is, how often do you feel this way? Im not talking about those days you're jacked on caffeine or are running around on a sugar high. For a lot of us, its only once in a while. For those of us in the throws of autoimmune disease, this is seldom and rare. When I was at my worst, I would have one of these days every 3-4 months! But then I started working towards healing with a functional medicine practitioner and making changes to my lifestyle. I tracked my progress in the number of days that felt like the above and they started happening more often. Now, I can honestly say that I have these days the majority of the time. I still have my low days, don't get me wrong, but I am no longer giving up on the idea of feeling good again. I transformed my vitality.
If you find you don't have days of vitality on a regular basis (remember, coffee doesn't count), I can assure you its possible. It takes a bit of investigation, probably some lifestyle tweaks and adjustments, but its attainable. Limitless energy, mental clarity, focus, strength... the list goes on. My recommendation is to start working with someone: a coach, a functional nutritionist (hint: go to my Free Consult page), a integrative physician to see if they can help you find out what it is that might be keeping you from the vitality you could have every day. Together, you too can TRANSFORM YOUR VITALITY!
Those of us that are using functional medicine to get better, know that part of that process involves ordering lab work - sometimes a lot of it. For a functional medicine practitioner, it's critical to get an understanding of what is going on in various system functions, in addition to cross-referencing that with client symptoms. However, taking lab results at face value may not be so wise.
Lab reports usually come with an actual value of the molecule or substance being measured. Then the lab will show you a reference range and sometimes the lab will indicate if your value is within this reference range. Easy enough, right? Not so fast! You really want to make sure your functional practitioner knows if that is enough.
So how do you know that your functional medicine practitioner knows how to interpret the labs? One of the first things they should do is educate you on reference range and what it really means. Each laboratory establishes their own reference range. It's the range of values they get from all the people they test and they determine what is normal for that population. However, keep in mind, the people who often get tested are people who are not feeling well and already showing disfunction in their body! Further, since each lab has their own reference range, you may get lab work done at two different places and have two different reference ranges! Makes it not so valuable as a reference, right?
What your practitioner should then explain is that each value has an optimal range. Optimal range refers to the values that healthy, vibrant, full-of-energy people have. I don't know about you, but *that* is what I want. Most practitioners have been able to identify what this is from their own years in practice, and a lot of this information is now made available through functional medicine training (like the FDN course I am taking). This optimal range does vary on the individual somewhat and may be above, below or equal to the statistical medians reported in the reference range.
So lets take an example. In the image above, there is TSH (the first lab result). TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone and this is something that many doctors test to get an idea of Thyroid function. (TSH alone is not the whole thyroid picture, and that is a whole different story - you can learn all about that in the Thyroid Sessions) The reference range here is 0.45-4.5 mU/L. However, most functional practitioners now know that the optimum range for most people - those that feel great - is between 0.5 and 3.0. And for me, I know that I feel best when my TSH reads just under 2.0 like it does in the image above.
So, to summarize, if you have a functional practitioner who accepts lab results at face value and doesn't immediately educate you on what optimal ranges are, it's time to find a new doc. If all this is old hat to you - then keep calm, and carry on!
Would love to hear from you what impact this information (whether from me or from your own health advisor) had on you when you learned it! Share in the comments.