Health Update: Why I Attended A Clear Passage Clinic for my Crohn’s Disease

Why I attended a Clear Passage clinic for Crohn's Disease

I rarely go into too much detail on the blog about my current state of health but a lot has happened this year so thought it was worth a post or two.

I’ve suffered with my stomach since I was in my teens.  Told that it was ‘probably just IBS’ I put up with the bloating, spasms and vomiting for about 20 years until I finally got diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in November 2011.

Since then I’ve been taking a light medication (Imuran 25mg a day) and have drastically changed my diet and lifestyle to help with the management of the disease.

I’ve been tinkering with my diet since my diagnosis, firstly going off gluten and dairy and most foods that showed up on an intolerance test I did (out of 200 foods tested, I was intolerant to 80).  That got me so far.  Then I came across the paleo diet and did a Whole 30 (no grains, legumes, dairy, gluten, alcohol, refined oils, refined sugar).  That gave me a little improvement but it was when I went AIP (paleo without eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds) that I got the greatest result.  And for a few months I was doing really well until I started to get bloating again every day along with a feeling that something was festering inside.

I asked to be referred for a test to see if I had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as I had been researching what could be happening to me and sure enough the test was positive.  I was put on an antibiotic and sent on my way.  But the trouble with SIBO is that if the root cause of the overgrowth isn’t addressed, it can keep coming back.  To help prevent it rearing its ugly head again I had learnt from the research that a Low Fodmap diet combined with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet can prove useful so I started doing those diets combined with AIP.  This has helped me manage the SIBO and Crohn’s over the last year or so but it’s very restrictive and it makes it extremely difficult to eat out or travel.

This year I noticed that despite my best efforts with diet and lifestyle I started to get the old spasms again with a greater frequency that the last few years.  While I know what to do when I get the spasms (don’t eat, just drink liquids etc), they are very unpleasant and there’s always a chance of perforation which can be fatal.  I’m lucky as I’ve never been admitted into hospital but my consultant thinks that’s more to do with my high pain threshold and stoicism rather than my disease not being that bad.  I guess I’ve just been managing for so long that I just keep managing.

My consultant thought it was time to get another MRI scan done earlier this year and it showed that the scar tissue in my small intestines had gotten narrower.  While there’s a lot of things that Crohn’s patients can experience, it seems my ‘thing’ is strictures (narrowing of the intestines) which can lead to bowel obstructions which was the cause of my spasms and vomiting.  Strictures are also probably the cause of my SIBO.  Food can’t get through the intestine (or takes longer) due to the narrowing and therefore can start to ferment in a place in the gut it’s not supposed to (hence the overgrowth of bacteria there).

I get routine bloods done every couple of months and have been showing this year that certain nutrients are pretty low – in particular iron and albumin.  I also have low hormones and amenorrhoea which I saw an endocrinologist about who believed it was due to a low BMI.  While my BMI is low it’s not under what it should be.  I believe it is more a case of the scar tissue not allowing nutrients be absorbed resulting in the low nutrients and low hormones etc which then have the knock-on effect of fatigue, achy, tired legs and the amenorrhoea.

I was referred to a surgeon earlier this year who wanted to take out over 30cm of my ileum including the ileocecal valve and then do stricture-plasty (slice my intestines open and stitch them up again in a different way to give them a little stretch) in about five other places.  He told me I’d be off work and not allowed to drive for about two months.

Whaaaaaaat????  This sounded really serious.  I think for the first time since my diagnosis it really dawned on me how serious this disease can be.  I always thought I was a mild case and that eventually it would go away once I got the diet and lifestyle stuff figured out.  But even though I had been doing everything ‘right’, the scar tissue had gotten worse.

What I was most concerned about was the removal of the ileocecal valve.  It’s a valve between the small and large intestine that makes sure there’s no back flow from the large intestine into the small amongst other things.  This can lead to SIBO (there’s nothing to keep bacteria out of the small intestine) and chronic diarrhoea.  When I asked about these ‘side effects’ of surgery I was told there would be a medication I could take that would help me to manage it.   As I don’t even like taking the Imuran every day the thoughts of adding another med didn’t thrill me.

Surely there had to be a more natural way of healing internal scar tissue that wouldn’t involve slicing me up?  There are ways of healing scar tissue on the outside of the body, why not the inside too?  Maybe some supplements I could take or some exercises I could do?

I guess I’m lucky as I had time to research my options.   A lot of people have to have emergency surgery as it’s a case of life or death.  But every time I had a spasm I would worry that this would be the one that would have me on the operating table.

While researching I came across Clear Passage and the Wurn Technique®, – a non-surgical, drug-free treatment which is a unique hands-on physio/physical therapy modality, developed over 20 years by Belinda Wurn, PT, and Larry Wurn, LMT.

From their website I learnt that adhesions are powerful bonds that the body produces to help injured tissues heal. Once healing has occurred, adhesions remain in the body, often binding tissues that were previously free to move naturally. When this happens, pain and dysfunction are the natural result.  There is a wide-variety of adhesion-related conditions including female infertility, endometriosis, hormonal conditions, post-surgical pain, and bowel obstructions.

Bowel obstructions?  This had me really interested now.  I had to learn more.

While doing more research on Clear Passage I came across a podcast with Dr Allison Siebecker (siboinfo.com) about SIBO and how the Wurn Technique was being endorsed as a possible way of helping if the root cause was bowel obstructions.

So Clear Passage could help deal with small bowel obstructions and help the root cause of my SIBO without surgery.  If they could help with the scar tissue, maybe I’d be able to absorb more nutrients again.  It sounded exactly what I had been hoping to find but was it too good to be true?  I found out that although Clear Passage are based in the US, they do have two locations in the UK which would be a short flight from Ireland.

Feeling quite hopeful (but still a little sceptical) I got in touch with them to see if they could indeed help me!   In my next blog post, I’ll talk about my experience with Clear Passage.

July Favourites

July Favourites

Here’s what’s been making me healthy, happy and glow in July!

Healthy

HEALTHY

Nobo Ice-Cream

It’s the middle of summer (for Ireland that means a lot of rain!) but we did manage to get some scorching hot days in July.  On those days it’s nearly rude not to have ice-cream.  I love the healthy, dairy-free, refined sugar free, Irish brand Nobo.  They’ve got a great range of flavours from creamy Vanilla to fruity Mango and Passionfruit, zesty lemon to decadent Salted Caramel to name a few of my favourites.  They’re made with a base of coconut milk and avocado and honey with no nasties!

 

Moringa Powder

I’ve to try to up my protein intake as my blood-work shows that I am low (it can happen with Crohn’s).  One way I’ve been trying to sneakily add in some protein is by adding moringa powder to my morning green smoothie.  Moringa is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids and contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and E along with calcium, potassium and protein.  I’ve been using Aduna Moringa powder which comes in a variety of sizes and I’ve also seen that they’ve a Raw Energy Bar too which I’ll have to try.

 

HAPPY

This month I’m loving the long evenings of summer, the milder weather, the abundance of produce at the farmers market and being a tourist in my own city and country.  I don’t know why but I do way more daytrips during the summer and I can see why tourists come to Ireland.  It’s a beautiful country.

 

GLOW

It’s the time of year when more skin is on show and as I don’t really tan naturally I love applying some fake tan.  My two favourites this month are Tan Organic and Lavera Self Tanning Lotion.

What I like about Tan Organic is that you can see the liquid go on so it’s easy to make sure there are no patches, it develops over a few hours into a very natural colour and it’s an Irish product.  However, it can be a little messy (dirty clothes) and you need to wash it off.  The Lavera Self Tanning Lotion on the other hand is just like a body lotion that you work into your skin and it develops over a few hours.  It develops to a lovely colour, you don’t have to wash it off, it doesn’t stain clothes and it actually smells nice.  It doesn’t go on as a colour straight away so you need to be mindful of making sure everywhere is covered.  I’d recommend a tanning mitt for applying Tan Organic and washing your hands very well after applying the Lavera lotion to avoid tan hands!

 

Have you tried Nobo ice-cream or moringa powder?  I’d love to hear recommendations for a nice natural fake tan.

Get Happy! Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

Get Happy Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

A new study from Australia which will be published in the August issue of American Journal of Public Health claims that eating more fruit and vegetables may actually make you happier.

Researchers found that people who switched from eating almost no fruit and vegetables in their daily diets to eating eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction over the two years of the study equivalent to what an unemployed person feels after finding a job.  The relationship between higher levels of life satisfaction and increased fruit and vegetable intake persisted even after the researchers accounted for changes in the people’s income or other life circumstances.

So not only is there a health benefit for eating more fruit and vegetables, now there’s a psychological and well-being payoff too!

We’ve all heard the ‘get-your-five-a-day’ guideline, but how can we sneak a few more fruits and vegetables in throughout the day to bring it up to the eight-a-day sweet spot?

Here are just some suggestions broken down by meals and snacks!

Breakfast:

I have clients who eat a bowl of cereal or a couple of slices of toast for breakfast (hello beige) so there is plenty of opportunity to have a more vibrant colourful breakfast and get extra fruits and vegetables at this meal.

  • Have a salad – this citrus, fennel and avocado salad from flavorthemoments.com looks delicious and is breakfast-worthy
  • Sweet Potato / Butternut squash hash – this sweet potato hash recipe has the added bonus of having kale too. It can easily be made AIP-friendly (leave out paprika) or SCD-friendly (sub butternut squash for the sweet potato).
  • If you can tolerate eggs it’s very easy to throw some veggies in as you are making your scramble like spinach, onion, butternut squash etc. Having it with a side of avocado and berries will boost your fruit intake.
  • Smoothies and smoothie bowls are a tasty way of packing in a good amount of fruit and vegetables. Check out my Green Smoothie and Acai Smoothie Bowl recipes

Acai berry smoothie bowl

Lunch:

Sandwiches aren’t a great way of getting veggies.  A lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato doesn’t even make one of the eight portions.

  • Opt for lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches
  • Veggie soup (can be cold or hot)
  • Leftovers – this is what I do a lot of the time. I cook once in the evening and make enough veggies to do me for breakfast and / or lunch the next day

citrus-fennel-and-avocado-salad1-flavorthemoments.com_ Photo:  flavorthemoments.com

Dinner:

Instead of ‘meat and two veg’ why not raise the bar and have three or four veg?  There are some easy ways of doing this:

  • Swap out spaghetti for courgette / zoodles
  • Swap out rice for cauliflower rice
  • Try a cauliflower base instead of a normal pizza base
  • If you are making mince or meatballs sneak some extra veggies in with the meat

Snacks:

  • Cruditees with pate
  • Try kale or brussel sprout crisps
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Sliced apple and nut butter

I’d love to hear any tips on how to get more fruit and veggies into your day!!

How Touch Can Lead to a Greater Healthy Happy Glow

How Touch Can Lead to a Greater Healthy Happy Glow

In a bid to avoid surgery to deal with strictures (narrowing of intestine) due scarring from Crohn’s disease inflammation I am going to travel to the UK in a few weeks to undergo physical therapy which is supposed to break down the scar tissue.  I’ll blog about my experience and why I chose to try this non-conventional treatment in a future blog.

Needless to say, in the past few weeks the healing power of touch has naturally been top of mind.

Decades of research has shown that human touch is essential for babies to develop and thrive. But it’s been discovered in recent years that it’s just as vital for adults as it is for babies.  And it’s so much more than just a way to “feel better” as it can actually help the healing process and there are many ways it can help get a healthy, happy, glow.

Healthy

Physical contact can:

  • Increase the number of white blood cells therefore increase immunity
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce headaches

Massage can detoxify the body by boosting the lymphatic system while many hospitals offer massage therapy to ease the pain of patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and several other painful diseases.

Happy

Physical contact can:

  • Lower stress hormones
  • Increase happy and feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine as well as endorphins which can improve mood
  • Decrease anxiety

Glow

Facial massages are a great way to get a glow as they:

  • Prevent wrinkles by relaxing muscles and getting rid of any built up tension. Massage combined with a hydrating moisturiser can help minimize lines and dryness.
  • Increase circulation and encourage blood and oxygen flow to the face.
  • Increase collagen production (from increased oxygen) which gives a healthy and natural glow to the complexion.

Ways of getting more physical contact:

  • Greet friends and family with hugs and/or kisses.
  • Snuggle with your children or partner.
  • Offer to give a friend or loved one a back massage – then switch.
  • Get your hair washed in a hair salon.
  • Go for a therapeutic massage – e.g. back and shoulders or head.
  • Go for a reflexology treatment.
  • Try cranio-sacral massage.
  • Get a manicure and pedicure that includes a hand/foot massage.

Recipe: Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt

coconut yogurt

I’ve always loved yogurt so when I had to go dairy free a few years ago I really missed it (and ice-cream!).  So when I discovered dairy free (and vegan) coconut yogurt I fell in love hard and fast.  I love it with fresh berries or adding it as a topping to green smoothie bowls or even as a layer for fruit smoothie parfaits.  Great for breakfast, snacks or dessert.
Recipe dairy free yogurtPhotos from Instagram @ahealthyhappyglow

As I got a yogurt maker for Christmas I decided that it was about time that I tried making it for myself and to my surprise it was much easier than expected.  I’ve now got it down to a fine art and it doesn’t take much prep work at all.    I have the Severin yogurt maker which has seven jars so the recipe below will make seven jars worth of yogurt.

How To Make Dairy-Free Coconut Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of coconut milk (I like Aroy-D as it has two ingredients – coconut and water – no emulsifiers)
  • 2-4 probiotic capsules
  • 4 – 7 sheets of gelatin (4 will make thick and 7 will make really thick – nearly jelly like)

Equipment

  • Yogurt maker and glass jars with lids
  • Bowl with water to put the gelatin sheets in
  • Medium saucepan
  • Whisk

Instructions

  • Sterilize the jars by filling them with boiling water.
  • Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan: Whisk until the milk is smooth and uniform.
  • Place the gelatin sheets in the bowl and cover with water. Leave for 5 – 10 minutes (or whatever is recommended on the packet).
  • Heat the coconut milk over a medium heat until the coconut milk starts to simmer.
  • When the gelatin is ready, add it to the hot coconut milk and continue cooking the milk on low, whisking occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat and cool the milk until it’s just warm to the touch (a little warmer than room temperature).
  • Add the probiotics: Twist open the probiotic capsule and pour the powdery contents over the milk (discard the capsule’s casing). Whisk to combine. Alternatively, whisk in 4 tablespoons of the coconut yogurt.
  • Empty the jars (the water will have cooled down by now).
  • Pour the coconut milk into the jars and screw on the lids.
  • Place into the yogurt maker and turn on.
  • I usually leave it for 24 hours without disturbing.
  • After 24 hours place the jars in the fridge and chill for a few hours.
  • The yogurt will become thicker as it chills. After this stage, you might find that the mixture has separated with a translucent layer at the bottom. Stir to recombine.
  • Keep the coconut yogurt in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.

Notes:

  • 4 tablespoons of store-bought coconut yogurt (like CoYo) can be used instead of the probiotic tablets as a starter. CoYo is AIP compliant but it is not SCD compliant (due to the tapioca starch).
  • Agar agar flakes or tapioca starch can be used instead of gelatin but neither are SCD compliant and agar agar isn’t AIP compliant.
  • I like to leave a few tablespoons of my first batch of yogurt and add it when making the second batch along with the probiotic tablets / store bought yogurt. I find my yogurt gets better and better the more batches I do when I do this.

June Favourites

June Favourites

I love looking at other people’s monthly favourites so thought I’d start a monthly series of my own under the headings healthy, happy and glow.  Here we go:

June Favourites

Healthy

Irish strawberries

There’s nothing like an Irish strawberry – sweet and juicy with the most amazing smell!  It’s one of my smells of summer that transports me back to my childhood when one of my favourite outings was to the local strawberry patch to pick our own strawberries!  They’re at their peak at the moment so are pretty amazing.  I love having them with blueberries for breakfast, in salads (with chicken, rocket and avocado) or on their own as a snack or dessert.  They are especially good with my next favourite:

Home-made coconut yogurt

I was given a yogurt maker for Christmas and now feel that I’ve totally found my groove for coconut yogurt making.  It’s extremely easy to make (three ingredients – coconut milk, probiotic and gelatin) and I’ve perfected it to my taste (thick, creamy and tart).  It’s a super way to get more of those good probiotics into my day too!   Can’t. Get.  Enough!

Happy

Travel

I was still on vacation at the beginning of June.  I went on a road trip from Las Vegas through Death Valley, up to Yosemite and across to Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and LA before driving back to Vegas.  It was a lot of driving but it was amazing to go from desert heat, scorched earth and sand dunes one day to snowy peaks and crystal clear lakes the next.  There’s definitely something about connecting with and appreciating natural beauty that feeds the soul.  Being out of my day-to-day routine was restorative and discovering new places, sights, smells, sounds and tastes was inspiring.  It also helped to get a dose of sunshine!!  Travel definitely makes me happy.

Happier With Gretchen Rubin

I’ve been listening to this podcast since it started over a year ago but I still get nuggets of wisdom in each episode for simple ways of cultivating more happiness in my live.  Gretchen presents the podcast with her sister Elizabeth and I love their friendship and dynamic as they are quite different.  I’ve learnt that I’m a ‘Questioner’ so I’ll do things, but only if they make sense and I’ll often be crippled with analysis paralysis as I seek more and more information (me to a T).

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

Some songs just get you ‘happy’ and this is one is my current favourite.   Regardless of my mood, if I hear this song it just gets me in a great mood and makes me want to stop what I’m doing and dance!

Glow

Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil

I’m slowly but surely changing my cosmetics and toiletries to non-toxic versions where I can.  Our bodies have to deal with so many unavoidable toxins in our environment on a day to day basis I feel it’s important to make more natural choices and reduce my toxic load where I can.  Having said that, I still want my products to work and give me good results.   This month I’m really loving my oil cleanser from Josie Maran as it ticks all my boxes – it works brilliantly, feels so luxurious and is formulated without parabens, sulfates and phthalates.

So that’s a little of what I’m loving this month.  What about you?  What’s been making you happy this month?

Staying Healthy in Vegas

Staying Healthy in Las Vegas

I’m recently back from a vacation in the U.S. (a week in Vegas followed by a road trip through Death Valley and Yosemite to Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and LA and finally back to Vegas).

While I’m following a combination of different diets for my Crohn’s disease (Autoimmune Paleo / Specific Carbohydrate Diet / Low FODMAP) which I’ll go into a little more in an upcoming post, I felt that being so restrictive on my vacation probably wouldn’t work.  I’d either end up not eating or I’d be so stressed that it would be counter-productive.  So while I said I’d relax my regime a little, I would try to stick to my diet as best I could knowing what I could probably get away with and what I couldn’t (e.g. gluten and dairy).  I was a little concerned about how I’d manage a week in Sin City but I was pleasantly surprised.

As we were staying in Vegas for a week before heading on the road trip we made sure to book accommodation that had a kitchen.  We stayed in the Signature at the MGM which was perfect.  There was a fridge/freezer, cooker, microwave, dishwasher etc.  It was a little strange that the kitchen wasn’t stocked with anything and we had to request cutlery, utensils, cookware, crockery etc.  I’ve also stayed in other places where they supply cleaning products and some kitchen basics which we didn’t get here but these were minor things.  On the whole it was fantastic.

I like having a kitchen as it means that I can at minimum make my own breakfast every morning.  And if we weren’t out and about I could also make my own lunches too.

The options for buying groceries on The Strip aren’t great.  There’s a big Walgreens that does stock food but that’s more food-to-go like sandwiches and sushi but they do have salads and fruit which was handy.  I found a great Wholefoods Market just south of The Strip in the Town Square shopping centre near the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  I used to get the SDX bus http://www.rtcsnv.com/ridethestrip/routes.html from outside The Exalibur which took less than 10 minutes.

Wholefoods was a great place to pick up fresh produce (mainly salads and fruit), green juices and smoothies, bacon and deli meat (I really liked the Applegate Farms meats), kombucha for some fermented goodness and I also found some yummy coconut milk ice-cream that I loved (not AIP but had the least amount of crappy ingredients of the ice-cream options and I gotta have ice-cream on holidays!).  They also had a great variety of sushi and sashimi which we got one evening (3).

I was really impressed with the variety and quality of food options in Vegas.  Here are some of the highlights and places that I thought really catered to my intolerances:

Las Vegas

The Buffet at the MGM (2)

Vegas hotels are known for their buffets.  The one at the MGM was pretty impressive.  There was a huge amount of variety.  Lots of salad options (plenty without dressing), cooked veggies and meat and fish.  I opted for leafy greens and cucumber with olive oil, steamed green beans and broccoli and oven roasted carrots with roast beef and chicken.  The buffets are all-you-can-eat so can be pretty good value for money.  Go hungry!!!

Maggiano’s Little Italy (5)

I knew this chain from Orlando last year and remembered that they were really accommodating to my requests.  They made up a delicious grilled salmon salad for me which was really tasty.

RA Sushi (6)

RA Sushi was perfect after doing a little shopping in the Fashion Show Mall.  The sashimi platter was so good.  Great variety of fish and value for money.  It was part of a bento box which included rice and miso soup but I got them to hold both of those.  They gave me plenty of ginger which I loved!  Can never have too much ginger.

Chipotle

I came across Chipotle in the Miracle Mile Mall in Planet Hollywood.  While it’s definitely not AIP, it’s a good SCD or Paleo option.  I just had chicken, greens and guac which was so tasty.  Not something I’d be able for every day but it was worth trying.

Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr (4)

Gordon Ramsay has a few restaurants in Vegas but we love burgers and were hankering after one so had to try this out.  It’s in the Planet Hollywood casino and I was surprised at how relaxed and casual the place was.  I was able to mix and match items from the menu so had a burger with avocado, salad, grilled pineapple, olives etc.  There was also an option for sweet potato fries which I passed on (good for a paleo / AIP option but not good for SCD / Low FODMAP).  The burger was tasty for sure and it was well worth trying but I’ve had nicer burgers elsewhere.

Top of the World at the Stratosphere

The views of The Strip from this restaurant were amazing!  The restaurant revolves but it does so very slowly so you hardly notice you’re moving.  I didn’t have very high expectations for the food (thought it was all about the view) so I was thrilled that my wagu steak and roasted rainbow carrots were absolutely delicious.  One of those ‘when in Vegas…’ experiences!

Pressed Juicery (1)

I found a Pressed Juicery in the Aria hotel which I was delighted to find as I was able to pick up a few green juices and some healthy snacks.  I particularly liked their packets of baked banana’s which is one of my favourite sweet treats at home.

Exercise

While our hotel had a gym I didn’t use it.  For the most part I walked everywhere on The Strip and easily racked up 27,000 steps a day.  I got to realise that although places seemed close on a map they were in fact pretty far apart.  Even walking from our hotel into the main MGM complex took about 20 minutes.  The hotels are huge!!!  So my advice is to wear flats and leave the heels for when you are cabbing it (from car to bar!).

Had I been staying in the MGM on a Sunday I would have availed of their free yoga class they do every Sunday morning.  Next time!!!

 

Can a Spring Clean Lead to Greater Happiness?

Spring Clean

Thankfully spring has sprung and we’re starting to see the end of winter.  I often feel like I’m coming out of hibernation at this time of year and am ready to start afresh.  I itch to spring clean my home, open doors and windows to let fresh air in and the stagnant energy out, plant new flowers on the patio and put away my winter woollies and resurrect my summer wardrobe.

But can my annual ‘spring clean’ lead to more happiness?

Recently I read Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’, the best-seller that every second person and magazine is talking about.

Marie’s premise is to examine all your possessions and ask yourself do they spark joy.  If they don’t, you get rid of them.   Everything that is left should have a proper home so you should never have to tidy.  She is very systematic about the order you do things starting with clothes then books, then papers and so on.

I definitely believe, for me, that outer order leads to inner calm.  I’ve noticed that a low level of anxiety can creep up on me when I’m around clutter.  Marie says that clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong.  Obviously I would feel better if I de-cluttered my space and gave everything a home and got into the habit of returning everything to its rightful home when I’ve finished with it.   So a spring clean is definitely in order.

The book got me thinking about my possessions and why I actually have them and the two biggest take-aways have gone beyond the realm of my spring clean of possessions:

The first take-away is to ask does it spark joy.  Such as simple question to ask.  The answer of which should come from a feeling in your heart rather than the head.    I’ve not only started asking myself the question when it comes to my possessions, but I also ask myself the question when it comes to making purchases and when it comes to doing things in my life.  It’s made me have a think about what actually does spark joy and happiness in my life and to look for ways of doing more or having more of those things that spark joy!

The second take-away is with regards hanging onto things out of guilt or obligation. Marie says: “think carefully about its true purpose in your life.  That necklace you loved in the store but never wear, served its purpose of giving you a thrill when you bought it.  The hideous vase your aunt gave you as a wedding gift has done its job of conveying your aunt’s love and good wishes for you.  It’s okay to let it go now”.

I really loved this as you are basically giving yourself permission to let things go.  You acknowledge what their purpose was, thank them and then let them go.  Again, I feel this can be applied to things outside the realm of possessions.  I’m looking at people in my life and questioning why that person is in my life.  Do they drain my energy?  Is the friendship passed its sell by date?  What about the experiences and activities that make up my days?  What do I do out of obligation or guilt?  What can I let go of?

So without the physical clutter and the possessions/relationships/experiences that suck my energy, it leaves space for the things, relationships and experiences that do spark joy and bring happiness.

Can you imagine coming home to a space that just lit you up?  That rather than having the ‘I’ve nothing to wear’ feeling as you stare at a wardrobe bursting with clothes, you have a wardrobe of clothes that make you feel fabulous?  That all your relationships filled you up with happiness and that your days were full of things you enjoyed doing?

Sounds very appealing.  While I realise it won’t happen overnight, it’s definitely food for thought.  I think if I keep asking myself ‘does this spark joy’, I’ll tune in to myself and learn what is working for me and what isn’t.  And that awareness is the first step in that life changing magic.   In the meantime, I’ll start tackling those winter woolies!

Who knew that a spring clean could be so beneficial!

International Women’s Day – Women Who Have Inspired Me on My Wellness Journey

international women's day

With today being International Women’s Day, it got me thinking of the women who have been instrumental in my wellness journey.  I’ve never met any of them but through their books, blogs or talks I’ve learnt so much about health and happiness that’s been invaluable to my healing journey.

Sarah Ballantyne – The Paleo Approach

It was through Sarah’s book The Paleo Approach and her blog The Paleo Mom that I learnt so much about autoimmune disease and the autoimmune paleo protocol (AIP).  I feel that the protocol has been the main reason that my gut is healing (slowly but surely) and that inflammation has been keeping away.  What I love about Sarah is that she goes into the science behind everything she talks about – it’s an education.  Plus I love that the protocol not only talks about the foods to take out of the diet but what must be added in and that a huge piece of the puzzle is lifestyle factors – sleep, exercise, fun etc.

Gretchen Ruben – The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books including The Happiness Project and Better Than Before.  The Happiness Project showed me that I could be proactive in making my life happier and that increased happiness was indeed attainable.  I read it when I was grieving my Dad’s passing and it gave me hope for happiness.  I love her weekly podcast Happier which she does with her sister Elizabeth Craft as there are great insights and tips for good habits and happiness.

Gabrielle Bernstein

Gabrielle Bernstein is a motivational speaker, life coach, and author and teaches primarily from the metaphysical text A Course In Miracles. She teaches a practical application of the Course’s principles emphasizing self-love, forgiveness, and a holistic approach to spirituality.  I saw her speak last year in London and she was brilliant, I actually didn’t want her talk to end.  She’s very real when she talks, she’s relatable and is very cool.  I love her book May Cause Miracles and she’s the spiritual guru for the modern girl for sure!

Jess Ainscough

I found Jess’s Wellness Warrior blog probably in early 2012 soon after I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  I wanted to be proactive about my health and learn more about wellness.  Her blog and vlogs were brilliant.  She was a twenty-something cancer patient and advocate of alternative cancer treatments.  She was honest about her journey, curious about different ways of healing and so so informative.  I learnt so much from her and she was the reason I decided to study with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as she had taken the course herself.  I was so sad when she passed away in early 2015 but I’ll always be grateful for what she taught me.

Jill Carnahan

Dr Jill’s recovery story http://www.jillcarnahan.com/my-story/ from cancer and Crohn’s is so inspiring.  She uses functional medicine to help patients find answers to the cause of their illness and addresses the biochemical imbalances that may be making them feel ill.  I’ve listened to numerous interviews with her and her compassion and empathy for her patients and passion for what she does is palpable.  She’s definitely inspired me to be curious about my condition and to never give up.

Lissa Rankin, MD – Mind Over Medicine

Passionate about what makes people optimally healthy and what predisposes them to illness, LIssa is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual, but also uplifts the health of the collective.  Her book Mind Over Medicine was a real game-changer for me.  It gave me an insight into what our bodies are actually capable of doing and that healing was indeed very possible.

 

9 Things Having Crohn’s Disease Has Taught Me

Things Crohn's Disease Has Taught Me

1 Health is a journey not a destination

While some people go into remission for years and say ‘I’m cured’, I personally don’t think you can ever say you are ‘cured’ of a chronic condition.

I like to see health as more of a continuous journey than a particular destination (i.e. cured).  When reaching a destination there’s a sense of something being over and done with and I don’t think with health you ever get to a stage where you are over and done with it.  It takes mindfulness and effort to stay on course.  While I may go into remission (and hopefully a long lasting remission) I’m still always going to be susceptible to future flares especially if I don’t look after myself.

The same could be said if somebody is trying lose weight.  You may reach a particular goal weight but you can’t just say ‘I’m done’ and go back to doing what you did before as you’ll just end up where you were before.  It’s better to see reaching the goal weight as a milestone along a journey rather than a destination with an end point.

2. Everybody’s journey is different

I have yet to connect with or read about somebody else with the exact same Crohn’s symptoms and experience as me.  Similar? Yes.  But the same? No.  Some people get the disease when they are children and some later in life.  Some people go into remission really quickly and some never go into remission.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  It’s very easy to get disheartened or frustrated in your own situation when you may not be doing as well as others or recovering as quickly etc.. but everybody’s journey is different.  There are so many facets that make up your life and health.

Whatever your health journey, it’s unique to you.

3. No one diet fits everybody

I’ve done a lot of research into different diets that have worked for people with Crohn’s.  From raw vegan to ketogenic paleo, from Macrobiotic diet to juicing to alkaline diet to low residue to sugar-free, gluten-free etc. You get the picture.  There’s a lot of conflicting information out there that is mind boggling but you know what I realised?  While it’s fabulous that a particular diet has worked for somebody else, it doesn’t that mean it’ll work for me.  The best diet to follow is the one that works for you.

At the moment I’m using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol and Low FODMAP diet as a template and am being a detective about what does and doesn’t work for me.  For example SCD allows some dairy I know it doesn’t agree with me at the moment so rather than be dogmatic about following the protocol to the letter, I leave dairy out.  And while AIP allows for a lot of starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, I know that they don’t suit me at the moment so I eat butternut squash instead which is both SCD and Low FODMAP compliant.

And what works for me now might not work for me in the future which means I’ll have to tweak things a bit along the way.

4. Healing is more than just food

Yes, what we put in our mouths has a huge impact on our health but it’s not the full picture.  I’ve learnt that stress, worry, lack of sleep, lack of movement, bad relationships etc have as much (if not more) of an impact as food.  Adequate and quality sleep, daily meditation, yoga and exercise, laughter, doing more of what you love and good relationships go a long way to good health.

5. Let it go

I’ve had to learn to ‘let go’ of people, situations and expectations that don’t serve me and my health.  This one is possibly the thing I’ve struggled with most.

I was always a worrier and especially worried about pleasing other people.  Having assessed my relationships I was able to spot the ones that probably took more out of me than nourished me and had to let them go.  Not in a dramatic way, but rather I just took a step back and didn’t put any huge amount of energy into those relationships anymore.

The same goes for situations and expectations.  I’ve always been quite hard on myself.  I’ve had to let go of what I thought my life ‘should’ look like and what I ‘should’ be able to do.  I’ve had to let go of my Type A tendencies and embrace the fact that me and life aren’t perfect and don’t need to be (this is definitely something that need constant work).

6. Prioritise What Actually Matters

I’ve learnt the hard way that I can’t do everything as much as I’d like to.  Having to prioritise my health has made me look at the other things in life and assess whether they are priorities.  If I ever feel like I’m getting a little overwhelmed I always ask myself ‘what are my priorities?’ and ‘is this really a priority at this moment in time?’.  If I concentrate on what really is important in that moment and let go of what’s not as important it definitely reduces stress levels.  With an unusually busy January and February, I’ve not been able to blog as much as I’d have liked but I know I will get back to more regular posting when other things calm down.

Usually what I find is that I actually end up being able to do more as I’ve quietened the chatter in my mind of ‘so much to do’, ‘how are you going to do it all’, ‘you have to do x,y,z’ and have that energy to do other things.

7. Consistency is key

I realised that I do best with a consistent routine.  Daily effort with mindfulness, movement, amount of sleep, bed-times, morning and evening routines, diet etc has a huge impact for me.  There’s a lot of science backing the benefits of routine which I may blog about in the future.

8. Patience and compassion

While it’s great to have consistency, stuff happens and sometimes my routine goes out of whack.  I may veer off my diet when there’s no choice available or I may have days when I don’t meditate or sleep as much as I should.  Rather than beat myself up I remind myself that it’s a marathon not a sprint and I just have to have a little compassion for myself and my situation and get back on track again.  I can’t be perfect all the time and have to do the best I can and be kind to myself.  Obsessing over bad choices sometimes does more harm than the bad choice itself.

Sometimes it can be frustrating when other people can eat / do things I can’t or sometimes I may have a flare and feel dejected.  These are the times I need a little patience with myself and the process.  It took me a long time to develop Crohn’s so I can’t expect to have miraculous results overnight.  Patience is key.    And to be fair it is definitely paying off.

9. Gratitude

I actually am grateful for my Crohn’s as it’s part of who I am and where I am in life.  I’ve become passionate about health and wellbeing and am a qualified health coach and am currently studying to be a Nutritional Therapist.  I don’t think I’d have gone down this road if I hadn’t been diagnosed with Crohn’s.

I never take feeling well for granted and express gratitude every day for my health, for my lovely life and being able to do all I can do.

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