Trusting My Body's Wisdom
In honor of Louise Hay, and her life's work, I would like to share a chapter, taken from my book "Finding My Way, Facing My Journey with Courage." It was a pivotal time in my life, when I needed to go within to find guidance on a challenging health issue. Through Louise's work, I learned the power is always within you, if you are willing to listen" That is the very essence my book. When we learn to get out of our own way, and tap into our own power, we are happier in all areas of our life.
I hope you enjoy.
Knowledge is power when it comes to our health. Learn not to settle; investigate all your options and alternative treatment therapies.
Two years after my cancer treatments, my doctor wanted to perform a bone density test on me. He explained that cancer patients could experience osteoporosis resulting from accelerated loss of bone mineral density caused by their treatment. My test showed borderline osteoporosis, so my doctor then recommended Fosamax, a medication designed to help menopausal women stop the progress of bone loss.
I was 46 years old and had loads of energy. Physical exercise was my top priority. I worked out twice a week with a personal trainer at a gym, along with doing two to three indoor cycling classes, long walks with my dog, and hours on various cardio machines.
About three months into taking Fosamax, I began to notice gradual, odd changes in my body. The joints in my hands hurt so much it was difficult for me to hold a pen to write. When I drove my car, my hands throbbed painfully while holding the steering wheel. Then my hips started aching; it was very intense when I got into or out of my car. Soon I started to feel pain and numbness simultaneously in my feet that would accelerate up my legs. It felt as if I was standing in icy water.
I stopped all my workouts. Scared and anxious, I thought this could be cancer returning, this time attacking my bones. My oncologist ordered lab work and a CT scan. I was relieved when all the tests came back negative.
As I relaxed a little, my mind became clearer, and I remembered that my pain started right after I began taking the new drug to combat osteoporosis. I mentioned this to my primary care doctor. He told me to stop taking the Fosamax, just to be safe, although he didn’t think my symptoms were related to that drug; however, I felt my symptoms might have some connection to taking this drug. That was my intuition trying to get my attention, so I decided to do a little research. I learned that a serious side effect of Fosamax was severe joint and muscle pain.
My physician referred me to a Rheumatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. I told the Rheumatologist what I learned about the side effects of the drug I was taking. He just dismissed it as being irrelevant. He felt I had all the signs of suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and ordered a series of tests to confirm that diagnosis. After the test came back positive, he explained that I would most likely have to live with this condition, and that taking medication would ease the symptoms to a tolerable level.
Hearing this diagnosis left me furious and confused. “How could this be?” I wondered. “A month ago I had lots of energy, and was working out every day. Now, I can’t even do a simple walk around the block with my dog without pain?”
Overwhelmed and distraught, and realizing my healthy body was losing its vitality, left me feeling distressed and helpless—downright powerless, actually.
“Never affirm or repeat about your health what you do not wish to be true.”--Ralph Waldo Trine
"I Would Not Accept Wearing an RA Label on My Back"
As I contemplated this latest diagnosis, I kept getting a strong feeling not to accept my new fate. I did what the doctor prescribed and my new RA medicine did help ease the pain somewhat, but I did not regain the level of energy and stamina I had enjoyed before I started taking Fosamax. I reported to my Rheumatologist every 3-4 weeks, while living with sporadic pain, although now it was somewhat contained by the RA medication. By this time, I had stopped taking Fosamax, and all the while, the same message kept popping into my mind, “This all started after you began taking the Fosamax.”
This is when I decided to listen to my inner guidance, and not just settle into my RA diagnosis without investigating my health challenge further. One of the biggest mistakes we can make when it comes to our health is not listening to our bodies, our own intuition. When something doesn’t feel right, learn to pay attention and question what’s wrong. Most of the time, our logical mind will come up with all sorts of excuses not to trust our vibes, and we dismiss our intuitive feelings as being silly.
Your doctor’s job is to uncover the reason for your discomfort, and offer you a diagnosis, in order to take appropriate steps and treat your symptoms. Usually it is with medication. This is what most of us are accustomed to, and believe to be our only option. This approach only masks symptom, rather than getting to the root cause. By uncovering the root cause, we can help reverse the disease and heal.
I refused to wear that RA label on my back. Such acquiescence would prevent me from seeking alternative treatments. If I just settled into that identity, my beliefs, doubts and fears would produce symptoms that are more unpleasant and I would never find a way to heal.
I chose to take a more proactive approach, and questioned if there was anything further I could do—outside of the Western medical model. Our body’s natural state is to be healthy. Living with chronic stress and bad food choices can undermine our health and lead to disease. The design of our bodies works perfectly, if given the proper food and mindful lifestyle choices.
We do not have to live with chronic inflammation and pain. Excess sugar, processed foods rife with chemicals, gluten, dairy and hormone-ridden meat, can deplete the body of vital nutrients needed for optimal health. When we eat that way, our body needs to work in overdrive, as our digestive tract processes foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, which leads to chronic inflammation, damaging our healthy tissue.
Inflammation is an immune system response that tells us that something within our body is malfunctioning. Chronic inflammation is telling us that our lifestyle choices—the foods we eat, the medications we take, working long hours or sleeping too little—are destroying our bodies. Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation will look like this:
Ongoing joint and muscle pain
Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes
Chronic allergies or asthma
High blood pressure or blood sugar problems
Constant fatigue or lethargy
Chronic inflammation is present when a disorder associated with it shows up, like heart disease, cancer or autoimmune diseases such as MS, Crohn’s Disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I diligently researched and learned as much as I could on this subject since I knew very little about nutrition or alternative medicine. This led me to Ellen, a Reiki practitioner, who offered a wealth of knowledge on both. As I told Ellen my story, she looked me in the eye and said, “Honey, stop eating wheat, gluten and dairy.”
She explained how these foods could wreak havoc on your body, causing an acute inflammatory response. She then suggested I visit The D’Adamo Institute, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which was about an hour away from where I live.
Dr. James D'Adamo was a renowned naturopathic for more than half a century. He passed away in 2013, but his legacy and Institute live on. He trained in the United States, Germany and Switzerland and practiced in New York, New Hampshire, Toronto, Montreal and Europe. Known as the "grandfather" of naturopathy and a pioneer in the profession, he was instrumental in establishing guidelines for licensing naturopathic practitioners in the U.S.
His first book, One Man’s Food is Someone Else’s Poison, detailed his unique, individualized diet and exercise treatment methods based on a person’s blood type and RH factors. His second book, The D’Adamo Diet, outlined individualized needs for good health as determined by blood types, and the relevance of diet, exercise and even personality traits.
Naturopathic medicine uses the theory that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to help patients enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease by using diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting-edge natural therapies (www.Naturopathic.org.).
Now, I was on my way to healing myself. I met with Dr. D’Adamo and found out my blood type, which is type B. Dr. D’Adamo placed me on a strict diet, along with supplements. I mostly ate dark leafy greens and most vegetables, (I stayed away from nightshade vegetables, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. Nightshades are commonly associated with arthritis and joint pain), and ate lean protein and fish, fiber and protein shakes, and drank lots of water.
After examining me, Dr. D’Adamo told me my body was loaded with inflammation caused by a number of different factors. The leftover toxins from my cancer treatments, years of eating processed foods, gluten, cheese, dairy, and the Fosamax medication, had all triggered the detrimental immune responses that had been just waiting to happen. Another important ingredient that played a significant role in my inflammation stew was stress and sleepless nights.
I began a protocol of various cleansing therapies, which included colon-cleansing, sauna, and acupuncture to help release built up toxins in my body. At my doctors urging, I began a regimen of supplements to support my immune function and restore my body back to health. These treatments became my prime focus and required that I slow my life down, and demanded I pay attention to how I was taking care of myself, which gave birth to my desire to be mindful of my lifestyle choices to live a healthy life.
Be Open to Change
Prevention is the basis of Naturopathic medicine, an opposite approach from our traditional Western medicine methods. It’s about becoming mindful and aware of what we are placing in our body. It’s empowering us to take back control of our health, and understand that when symptoms arise, we should step back and evaluate what we’ve been eating and doing.
One of the most profound things I learned from this experience is that whenever I am experiencing aches and pains, or feel like my energy is low; I need to assess what I might be doing wrong. Am I getting enough sleep? How is my stress level? Am I being mindful of the foods I eat?
Most of the time I live by the 80/20 rule when it comes to food; eighty percent of the time I eat whole foods, organic fruits and vegetables and high quality meats and fish. The twenty percent is when I may have an occasional slice of pizza on the weekends, or when dining out, a few fried calamari. Those are my small indulgences that I don’t want to give up, and I don’t have to. I have complete control and awareness throughout the rest of the week, eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and eggs, high quality fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, almonds, and organic meats, turkey, chicken, beef and fish.
I check all food labels to find out how much sugar is in every product. Sugar feeds cancer cells. I learned that four grams of sugar you see on a label is equal to one teaspoon. This is a good illustration of the simple sugar composition of most beverages and foods and it is easy to visualize. For example, a glass of orange juice may sound like a healthy option. Using this example of 33 grams per 12 oz. serving you can easily get the number of teaspoons contained in one serving by (33 divided 4). That’s 8 ¼ teaspoons in one serving! Yikes! We’re talking about added sugar, not sugar from naturally derived foods such as fruit. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American consumes around 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar every day. An adult women's recommended sugar intake is 5 teaspoons (20 grams) per day, adult men's recommended sugar intake is 9 teaspoons (36 grams), and children's recommended sugar intake is 3 teaspoons (12 grams). To put that in perspective, a can of soda alone can have as many as 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
To prevent eating excess sugar, I gave up all processed foods, salad dressings, fruit juice, cereal, and much more. I eliminated carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes, and grains from my diet due to the severe joint pain, and low energy, which was my inflammatory response when I ate those foods. The natural and wonderful side effect of eating my new way was, of course, weight loss.
The following are steps that I learned to help bring me back to health:
I started paying attention to the foods I ate. Were the foods I ate nourishing my body, or depleting it? Did the food come from a box, with a list of ingredients a mile long, some not even pronounceable? If so, the food is processed and is full of toxic ingredients. The same is true for sugar in foods. Excess sugar is not only detrimental to good health, it’s highly addictive.
When buying produce, there will be times when buying organic makes sense, and other times when it’s not possible. Organic is usually more expensive, but in the long run way worth it. A great website is the Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org/foodnews/. On this website is listed the “Dirty Dozen” of highest amount of pesticides on certain fruits and vegetables. Anything on this list is off limits. Alternatively, they list the “Clean 15” produce that is safe to purchase conventionally.
When buying meats and fish, I pay attention to the quality. If purchasing ground beef or red meat, I feel it is best to look for grass fed, organic meat. I look for organic, hormone free, free-range chicken or turkey. I am aware that when a package says “All Natural,” it does not always mean a high quality product.
Periodically, I do a 5, 10 or 21 day detox cleanse. There are many options available. I have worked with a qualified clinical nutritionist, who offered one-on-one support. I also use all of the information I gathered as a launching pad to healthier food lifestyle choices. Having a friend join me on this quest makes the journey much more fun.
Working with a Naturopath, helped me gain access to holistic remedies, which helped me get to the root cause of my illness helping me to alleviate symptoms, without using medication and in some cases, reverse my symptoms altogether. To find one in your area, visit www.Naturopathic.org.
One of the most important things that I did on my health journey was to implement a practice of mindful eating. Stress can cause us to be fatigued, and living our life on autopilot, we lose self-awareness of what we are placing into our bodies. It’s hard work, but can begin a practice of intentionally choosing to take care of ourselves. This is when a journal of all the foods I ate was helpful. I have something to look back on and see where I may be slipping.
By the end of that summer in 2008, I was symptom free. By this time, I had ceased my RA medication. This experience proved to me the importance of becoming my own health advocate.
Contact me for a free Discovery Session to explore how I can support you on your journey towards a healthy lifestyle, and how to become your own health advocate.
Coming soon… Finding My Way Notes of Inspiration, a compilation of quotes and notes of inspiration taken from Finding My Way, Facing My Journey with Courage. Will be available on Amazon soon!
To your health and happiness,
Donna Markussen www.FindingYourHealth.com info@FindingYourHealth.com 781-354-4075