Chronic illness is never the result of just one factor or one imbalance. Our bodies are always working toward balance. If there was only one factor to address, the imbalance would be corrected quickly.
Chronic illness happens when our systems are burdened and can’t keep up with the demand to re-establish balance. For this reason, your healing strategy needs to address multiple factors. Let’s break them down.
Can you say that your nutrition is working with you when it comes to addressing a chronic illness? Or at the very least, can you say that it doesn’t slow down your process? Do you avoid eating lots of inflammatory foods? The most common culprits for people with chronic illnesses are wheat, dairy, and sugar. But in my experience, most people who struggle to see improvements in a chronic illness have undiagnosed food sensitivities.
Are you having a minimum of one bowel movement per day? With our bodies working hard to reduce inflammation, in chronic illness, there is often additional cellular waste to clear, so daily bowel movements are crucial. When dealing with constipation, many people think of increasing fibre, but there are other causes of constipation to consider such as dehydration, not enough healthy fats in the diet, food sensitivities, or lack of movement (more on that below).
Addressing nutrition for chronic illness usually requires making changes in increments. Don’t expect to do it all at once or you’ll be overwhelmed, you may not stick with it long term, and if you do manage to tackle it all at once, you won’t know what helped and what didn’t.
During sleep is when a lot of healing happens. When your body isn’t focusing on all the things it needs to do when you’re awake, it can pour more energy into reducing inflammation. Working on your sleep is non-negotiable. As long as you’re not sleeping well, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with chronic illness. But don’t despair, there’s a lot you can do to improve your sleep!
Are you getting your full 8 hours? And do you feel rested upon waking? If the answer to either of these questions is no, some changes will need to be implemented so that you can see improvements.
Movement without aggravating your chronic illness
As mentioned above, chronic illness comes with an extra dose of waste to clear. Movement is an important component of waste management.
So what do I mean by movement? Others may call this exercise, but I worry that using the “E” word gives the wrong idea. Most people think of exercise as lifting weights, going for a strenuous run, or doing a ton of chin-ups. This kind of exercise can do more harm than good for many people with chronic illnesses.
If you feel depleted on a daily basis, I don’t want you to spend what little energy you have. I really just want you to get some gentle movement. The goal is to help your lymphatic system move cellular waste over to your waste excretion systems.
Much like sleep, stress management is an absolute must when it comes to addressing your health. There’s no getting around it.
The nervous system can elicit a stress response (sympathetic response), which is an important way to activate a fast reaction when you’re in immediate danger. This response helps ensure that your body’s resources are heavily invested in saving your life when needed. However, this is also the part of the nervous system which is the most activated when people experience daily stress.
Healing happens when the body activates its relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system). Because your resources are not going toward ensuring immediate survival, when you’re relaxed, your body can focus on repairing tissues and reversing inflammation.
The good thing about stress management is that it can be a lot easier than we tend to think. You’re not expected to flip your life upside down to remove all sources of stress. You’re not expected to change your perspective on life overnight. You really just need to implement 30 second strategies to help reactivate your parasympathetic nervous system when needed.
One could definitely say that stress management is a component of mental health. And while that’s true, mental health management is a more complex issue. Your perception of stress may vary from one day to the next and is easier to influence than overall mental health.
Inflammation is a tricky little bugger. It makes people more prone to issues like anxiety and depression. However, the lower energy that many people with chronic illness experience can make it particularly difficult to implement strategies to turn this around.
Ideally, in order to improve your mental health, I would love for you to make little improvements in your daily self-care (such as taking a shower or doing your dishes), making sure you have social connections in place, and that you take part in some kind of creative endeavour on a regular basis. I know perfection on all these fronts isn’t always going to be possible. I really just want to know that you’ve been able to make little improvements that will help you exponentially in the long run.
Looking for support to address your chronic illness? I’d love to help! Book your acupuncture treatment in Ottawa today!