When I first received a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, I felt ashamed that I had not taken better care of myself sooner. It’s not like the warning signs that something terrible was going on with my body weren’t there! Yet, I’ve always had the ability to be philosophical when bad things happen, and being a natural optimist, I accepted my diagnosis as the excuse I needed to do whatever it took to reclaim my health, no matter how strange or unconventional it seemed!
Whatever your reasons are for wanting to reclaim your health, you may have to be willing to be a little weird! For many people, standing out from the crowd is a challenge, especially when you feel like crap! So, whether you’re newly diagnosed with a chronic disease, or have been suffering for years, or if you’re currently healthy but wanting to avoid future illness, setting out to heal your life can require you to take some extraordinary measures that could be viewed with suspicion by family and friends.
Food verses pharmaceuticals
The risky business of deciding to treat your disease naturally can be unsettling for the people that love you. My sweet husband was shocked when I declined the harsh biologic drugs indicated for Crohn’s, in exchange for a real food, paleo diet and radical self-care. What's more, going up against the conventional wisdom of my doctors was pretty hair-raising, but I stood up for what I believed in, and ultimately got what I needed. By sticking to my guns, and to my new healing lifestyle, my doctor was impressed with my progress and agreed to safely wean me off of Prednisone after only three months. Whatever your situation, always consult with your physician first before making any medication changes.
Whether you choose to go paleo, primal, gluten-free, dairy-free, ketogenic, low-carb, no-carb, vegetarian, or vegan, your new style of eating is likely to confound those around you. For me, I love the paleo lifestyle, but this ends as soon as I leave my front door. Eating out at restaurants is only done with a measure of trepidation, and family gatherings and parties can be equally as perilous for someone with food intolerances! I have learned to eat before I leave home so I’m not very hungry and just order something ‘safe,’ like a burger with no bun. At gatherings, I’m always the weirdo who brings their own food! As you can imagine, saying ‘no’ to your your host’s sumptuous spread is frequently an awkward experience, but often a necessary evil to avoid ingredients that cause harm.
By following this new path, you are doing much more than healing your body, you are healing your life! In doing so, you will likely need to make some major lifestyle adjustments that require a balance of giving up old behaviors that keep you sick, and taking on new ones that promote healing. The biggest risk I took was quitting a stressful, soul-sucking job, giving me space to establish some new patterns of radical self-care, and some time to rethink the direction of my life. The definition of self-care is unique to each person, but it's practice is necessary for relieving stress, renewing energy and thriving in life!
A new language
When you embark on a healthy, healing lifestyle, you often find yourself using new a vocabulary loaded with health and nutrition related words! My conversations these days are now littered with new terminology like “nutrient density” and “leaky gut,” and I can speak with the authority of an expert on new subjects like ancestral health!
Be your own best expert
Having a disease of the digestive system, I often joke that I have become an authority in all things bowels related! I encourage you to educate yourself on your own diagnosis, and explore all available perspectives. Listen to the messages your body is sending you, as only you can really know what's going on with it! Be an active member of your treatment team, and insist on getting your needs met to your satisfaction. Going the unconventional route can feel isolating when others don’t understand your methods, but you are not alone. You can easily connect with others on similar healing journeys in online support groups, such as those on Facebook. This has been extremely helpful for me, especially in the early days when I was first starting out!
Be courageous and keep the faith! People who know my story have been impressed by my tenacity to stay the course, and inspired by how my choices have changed my life for the better! Today, my health is still an exercise in trial and error, but I am thankful I followed my heart. Go on! Be willing to be weird for your health’s sake! It can only improve your quality of your life and is completely free from side effects!