Based on my experience with having an autoimmune disease, I have created the following list. Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning. Remember everyone is different, so some of my tips may not work as well for you but it’s worth a try (and as most of my readers know, I recommend keeping a daily log of your diet and activities and stress level). Here are “Dede’s daily tips” as follows:
- You should eliminate all sugar from your diet.
- They say no alcohol or coffee, but maybe a tiny bit of black tea, or half a cup of coffee with boiling water a day. I also have one or two drinks over the weekend. Vodka tonic or gin and tonic; sometimes I have a light beer.
- No dairy. That said, I do allow myself 1 tablespoon of half-and-half in my tea or coffee per day. That’s my only luxury!
- No grains at all! Focus on big salads (with avocado and organic vegetables and a hard boiled egg in the mix—make your own dressing with pure olive oil and a little bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar)), and chicken, fish and eggs (all organic and the fish should be cold water/wild caught), and chopped nuts and dried fruit.
- Start drinking green, organic Moroccan mint tea in the afternoon for a little pick me up, and snack on carrots and hummus. At night, always drink a cup of chamomile tea with a little honey. This will help you de-stress your body. And mind.
- Try to get out and exercise, usually walking (or slow jog), 3 miles per day. When you come back, do gentle Rodney Yee yoga for about 20 minutes, and then do guided meditation for about 1 to 5 minutes. When you do guided meditation try to focus on healing and forgiveness and bring the breath from the top of the head down the spina. Focus on the breath. I always do a cleansing mantra that goes like this: white light healing inflammation gone.
- Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night
- Take a hot bath or shower and use lavender in the bath before you go to bed. Try to read a book before you go to bed to take your mind off social media, etc.
- Get acupuncture once a month. Get a massage once a month (I know this is expensive, but it’s worth it!)
- Take a really good quality probiotic every night before bed. I usually take the Jarrow brand with the highest count of lactobacillus and acidophilus.
- Take omega-3, a multivitamin, vitamin C, hi high-potency turmeric/curcumin, and some liquid vitamin D drops every day.
- When you feel a tiny bit of a scratchy throat or rundown, add an immune booster homeopathic liquid (usually it’s about 30 drops in water) once a day before going to bed. Note: when I’m really feeling sick, with actual symptoms like cough or fever, I take goldenseal and echinacea in liquid drops.
- Carry a small spray canister of Bach Flower Remedy in your knapsack or purse. When you really feel rundown or stressed, just spray twice in your mouth. It really helps!
- As far as this list goes just try it for three months and see if it helps, then continue for three years (!). But really do it carefully! You can make things using almond flour and coconut flour (homemade tortillas, yum—black beans are okay in moderation and I mix them with roasted veggies/roasted potatoes).
- I forgot to mention that I love coconut milk—unsweetened—that you can use for breakfast. I usually mix bananas and nuts with dried fruit and cut up melon or strawberries in a bowl and add coconut milk to make a kind of morning cereal.
- Drink tons of water every day as well! I think that’s it… but I hope it helps.
Try to plan some kind of trip, and remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive or involve air travel which can add to the stress. Just a trip to the beach or a hike with a friend or loved one is a great way to relax. Going out in the woods every day is amazing.
Happy Spring! I would love it if readers shared their own tips in the comment area.
It is our hope that our readers have benefitted from the New Year, 3-month, Plan for Wellness. Here are seven painless and simple at-home acupuncture steps you can do to maintain good health and vitality. I recommend acupuncture and we had a wonderful guest blog post a few months ago that a lot of our readers thanked us for.
My naturopath also has me on a total “detox” regimen that includes castor oil packs, meditation (I use Rodney Yee’s “AM Yoga” DVD, or try Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wonderful collection of relaxation CDs), skin “sloughing” before shower (which entails roughing up your skin with a loofah sponge from your extremities toward your heart and encourages new cell growth), drinking plenty of water, regular exercise and daily yoga, counseling with a social worker or psychotherapist, weekly (free) REIKI and monthly massage visits, acupuncture sessions monthly, and physical therapy with integrative manual therapy-healing. A good attitude also helps. I regularly repeat to myself positive messages like:
“Don’t let this disease rule your life and get you down, but when you need to, ‘Ask for Help!’”
This simple YouTube mindfulness video by Jon Kabat-Zinn is wonderful, and Dr. Kabat-Zinn was one of the first to bring mindfulness into medicine!
The suggestions I receive from my naturopath are an attempt to enhance my body’s natural elimination processes through the digestive system, kidneys, skin, liver, and lungs. All are essential to help me optimize elimination with minimal aggravation while also undergoing specific treatment suggestions with my gastroenterologist. I have found this support team and naturopathic/acupuncture treatment to be extremely effective as an aid that can dramatically lessen the physical effects of inflammatory bowel disease.
These seven relaxation techniques are really easy to do at home. I do them before my shower daily! Foot massages are also very beneficial, which I do before bed with some moisturizer (I add a bit of organic apricot or sesame oil to the Pure Essentials moisturizer to thicken it up, and I also put cotton socks over my feet if calluses are bad), as well as candle-lit hot baths with lavender oil drops in the water.
- Brush your gums and tongue. Spend at least 5 minutes each time you brush (longer is even better). Set a timer because 5 minutes may seem like a very long time at first. The acupuncture points along the gums match with the entire body system, as does the tongue.
- Brush your scalp. Remember when moms insisted that we always brush our hair for 50 strokes? Turns out, there are hundreds of acupuncture points on the scalp itself. For a quick session, massage the governing vessel 20. This point is located at the very top of the head, the point of 100 meeting points, which enables you to access several channels at once. Spend time massaging your scalp with your fingernails and even while you shampoo.
- Push back your cuticles on your fingers and toes. Just the act of pushing back your cuticles stimulates acupuncture points that go directly to every muscle and tendon in the body, bringing on relaxation. Need to keep a small child quiet at an event? This works like a charm. Plus you can trace every finger front and back as well.
- Loofah your body. This is a hard sponge that softens with use. Loofah plants can be grown, and are much softer than those found at most department stores. (Note: when purchasing a loofah, be sure it says ‘loofah’ on the package.) Use the loofah wherever there is skin. There are thousands of acupuncture points all over the body. If you find a sore or itchy spot, spend extra time there. It is likely that it is an acupuncture point that needs stimulation. Electricity is accumulating there and stimulation via massaging or using a loofah disperses this accumulation. Before showering, use the loofah sponge to aggressively rub from the extremities toward the head, beginning with the arms, then working up from the feet. After you rub all the dead cells off your body, an invigorating shower further energizes you and allows for the stimulation of new cell growth.
- Moisten your nasal membranes. When you splash water on your face, keep water on your little fingers. Put your little fingers inside your nose and moisten all around. You do not need to sniff water up into your sinuses. Moistening your nasal membranes increases your chi (your body’s bio-electrical energy).
- Breathing exercises. Most of us are chest breathers, rather than abdominal breathers, so we tend to breathe shallow most of the day. On inspiration (breathing in), push your stomach out as far as you can. On expiration (breathing out), let your stomach fall back to neutral. This is very difficult to do at first without thinking about it. When you breathe with your abdomen it forces the diaphragm to drop and thus increases your lung capacity. This is why singers practice breathing so that they are able to sustain notes much longer. Breathing leads to more oxygen, more chi and more energy.
- Massage your face, hands, feet, and ears. You can do this yourself, but it is more relaxing and fun if done by someone else. These areas also treat the entire body individually.
(Grateful to Patricia S. Wesley, D.C. for her support)
Daily massage and stimulation will increase blood flow, help improve the effectiveness of your current therapies, improve mood, decrease inflammation, and promote healing.
Remember to think positive, and here is a wonderful quote and photo from the XIV Dalai Lama.
We like to hear from our readers, and thanks for helping spread the word about our book and recommendations!
—Dede, a Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis patient perspective—post surgical removal of ileum, large segment of Sigmoid colon, and fistula/granuloma mass—symptom-free for the past eight years, but still a Crohnie/uc-er by definition…
Greetings from Vermont. I am the co-author of Living With Crohn’s & Colitis: A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness (with a nationally-known naturopath, Jessica Black, ND). Our book has helped so many people afflicted with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, part of the growing auto-immune diseases that cause diarrhea, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and cramping. These inflammatory bowel diseases, and other auto-inmmune disease are on the rise exponentially across the world, especially in the developed countries where processed food is available.
Think about it: There are certain behaviors that cause body/mind stress: We address this in the book, but I want to tell you that I am a patient/survivor of a stress-induced flare-up in 2006 that almost killed me. On my 5 foot 8 frame, I weighed 117 pounds. I spent a month at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. I was 45 and very sick, with 3 children at home and a business to run.
Stress was the way I worked, and I was on autopilot without taking time for myself. That has all changed, and I have been in clinical remission for the last 7 years! Let me tell you more….
As many readers know, I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota this past May to have a complete second opinion. I spent two days of my weeklong stay, at the wonderful stress reduction clinic.
Here are some of my tips gained from my research, and how I try to keep my disease in remission:
A lot of us have low level stress. Most of us don’t live in the hyper-aware world, and we suffer the autopilot behaviors that contribute to what I call “the slow burn of stress response.” Our heart rate and blood pressure might be elevated, and our breathing and muscle tension is like this — shallow breathing and knots in muscles. There is an area at the base of the brain called the amygdala. This is the seat of our emotional reactions, or “flight of fight” response to stress. Many Americans live with this elevated, but low level elevation daily… a little bit of “Flight of Fight” stress is really okay, but not on autopilot.
Look at our brains — In our pre frontal cortex, there is an area responsible for relaxation, and it is not easy to stimulate and not an adrenal release, as per the amygdala part of the brain.
First we need to be aware of this pre frontal cortex We have to explore our own behaviors and habits, break out of autopilot, and participate in a personal practice. There are some things you can’t control, like weather or traffic jams; however there are some things we can control, and are important… An example from the workshop was if you have an overbearing mother (don’t worry, Mom, not YOU!), and how you need to take care of yourself first and use the excuse of health, and scale down. Awareness helps, and limit your exposure to stressful people and situations. It’s a process… keep boundaries in your mind, but “caring boundaries.”
Unhealthy responses to stress in our life are anger, etc. It is important to develop a healthy exercise routine, learn and use relaxation techniques (see below), and take care of yourself. This neural pathway gets easier and easier to tap into (see diagram at right). For example, my body knows and relaxes immediately when I walk into my home “yoga area” where I have a TV, and a carpet with a yoga mat. I use Rodney Yee’s DvD, “AM/PM Yoga,” and do the exercises every day… it gets easier and easier to tap into the relaxation part of my brain, and it is replenishing.
After a stressful day:
- Call a friend
- Read a book
- Walk the dog
- Ride a horse
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Play the piano
- Do some gardening
In order to break out of autopilot, do a few things on this list on a regular basis.
Benefits: Concentration, Problem solving, Sleep…
We need to be participants: This involves “letting go of the wheel,” loosening your grip, and takes time and experimentation.
In the wonderful workshop, our instructor gave the analogy of flying on an airplane, and how you put the oxygen mask first, then help the child.
Talk therapy is another way to help relinquish the autopilot lifestyle… A regular monthly session with a trained, recommended therapist will do wonders for helping to care for yourself, establish boundaries, and feel safe.
Evaluate your stressors and prioritize your time, as you move forward in the break from autopilot.
Give yourself permission eg., “Be kind to yourself and ask for help.”
Often we don’t think about our career as a choice made for healthy reason, and it might be time to reevaluate what we do for work.
It is important to spend time with friends, develop hobbies…. Hanging out with people who make me laugh is a goal. A hospital study involved a control for two groups with the same malady: One group watched funny movies every day, and got out of the hospital faster.
It’s a process, and it is important to practice positive self talk.
Start a simple practice of Tai chi and chi gong
Walk around with a gentle smile on your face and try to share it with strangers—you use less muscles and tension when you are not frowning, which can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and a way to focus on releasing the internal stress caused by being on autopilot…
I have found this “small smile” technique that is practiced by Amit Soud, MD, the head of the Eastern Medicine Section of the Mayo Clinic to be essential as a way to lessen internal stress.
TAI CHI AND CHI GONG: These ancient exercises are easy and relaxing, often available in small towns across the United States. For example:
We breathe with about 40% of our lungs. If we can learn to take slow diaphragmatic breaths, we can effortlessly lesson our stress levels. These exercises are the foundation and essential for relaxed breathing.
A simple exercise I learned at the Mayo Clinic:
Take in a slow deep breath,
and fill your lungs so even your belly sticks out;
hold for a couple of seconds;
pretend you have a lit candle and exhale
so that the candle flickers.
Note to reader: it might take 8 weeks or so to start seeing results.
I have used mediation and mindfulness steadily since my bowel resection six years ago, and I have made a daily practice of morning yoga and mediation.
When I sit at the end of my yoga session (I use the gentle Rodney Yee DvD, “A.M. Yoga,” I let Rodney’s soothing voice guide me into a place where my breath is quiet, my mind quiets (that can take a while with me!), and my shoulders and ears and limbs are relaxed (look at statues of sitting Buddhas, and you will notice the elongated ears, the fingers in the lotus position, the downcast eyes…).
I chant “Om,” before and after I sit, and I have a visualization that I let pass through my body from my head down through my spine, and out my lower back—it is a ball of white light. While this luminescent ball moves down my spine, I have a mantra I chant over and over that goes like this: “White light healing inflammation gone.” It is amazing to me how grounded and refreshed I feel after each morning session.
I have recently become influenced by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn—the founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He also travels across the country teaching workshops on stress reduction and mindfulness.
I also like this book, as a good starting point for introducing mindfulness and meditation into your daily lives… As I prepare to go to the Mayo Clinic next week, I will reread this book, and meditate… Just 10 minutes a day for starters, and I hope you will join me. I’d love to hear what others have to say about introducing mindfulness into their lives, and what the do and recommend.
This post was also published by Len Saunders in Your Health Journal, today! I am honored to be a part of this healthy outlook website, and glad they used my meditation tip for #198!
My quest to lower inflammation in my body, actually throughout my body but focused on the enteric nervous system, is ongoing. Since the enteric nervous system is intertwined with the lining of the gastrointestinal system, it makes sense to pay attention to the one hundred MILLION neurons in the gut, home to the “second brain.”
Another little-known fact is that more than 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut. My own experience is that I function better when I am actively releasing and secreting serotonin, which, for me, is achieved by riding my bike, and/or running, mostly.
I like to think that the gut needs to be toned, like a muscle; it is fact loaded with muscle and the lining is multifaceted and complex. When inflammation occurs in the gut, usually a combination of things contribute to a build-up of this, and the white blood cells and helper cells that normally race to an infection can’t do their job properly, and things get out of balance.
The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system is a complex, and sometimes emotional, system within a vertebrate body. I often go to a physical therapist who specializes in a technique called Integrative Manual Therapy. Her name is Deborah Feiner, and I consider her a kind of healer. I have benefitted tremendously from working with this type of therapy. I relax totally on the table, and we often joke about the rumblings of bowel sounds that immediately occur when I relax (these are good bowel sounds, not the loud rumblings I had before my surgery!). During my session, a kind of toning occurs along my intestines, and she guides her hands around my stomach, almost intuitively. It is amazing, I would never have done this before my surgery, when my life changed totally. I would have been too insecure.
I will leave off this entry with a photo of me, with another photo of Debbie behind me by Phil Innes.
I was going to post a recipe… But will do that next time! I have been getting lots of sleep, exercise, and doing daily gentle yoga (Rodney and Colleen Yee) and guided meditation. I also take the ground flax seed and probiotics every night after dinner…. I am regular in my bowel movements, and much less stressed in my daily life: it seems to be working!