Autumn is definitely upon us… the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and the leaves on the trees are turning all colours of red and gold. While I do love this time of year I normally dread the drudgery of winter (I’m a cold creature). But this year I’ve decided I’m going to try to embrace the Danish concept of hygge, which has been popping up on my radar quite a bit in the last few weeks. While I was vaguely aware of the term before, the fact that Denmark is often deemed one of the happiest countries in the world made me stop and take notice this year.
So what is hygge and how can it help achieve a healthy, happy glow?
The term seemingly comes from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing” and has now evolved into the Danish attitude to life. The best translation I’ve come across for hygge is “cosiness of the soul”.
Louisa Thomsen Brits, in her book The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well, describes it as “a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered…. It’s a feeling of engagement and relatedness of belonging to the moment and each other. It’s a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being not having. It can be found by asking yourself where you feel most at home, what are the activities and customs that anchor you, who makes you feel at ease, what is it that contributes most to your sense of wellbeing, what do you do to unwind, what do you reach for to create comfort?”
Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country says that hygge is about “being kind to yourself – indulging, having a relaxed, cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake or beer which can be good for the soul”.
I really like these concepts – connectedness with loved ones, being present, being grateful for the abundance in your life, being kind to yourself, relaxing, appreciating little indulgences and creating a cosy atmosphere at home where you want to nestle in! All of which go a long way to bringing more happiness and health into our lives.
So what will bringing some hygge into my life this winter look like?
Maybe it’ll be buying some new cosy cushions and throws for making curling up on the couch a little more pleasurable.
Maybe it’ll be making more time to relax with a great book while drinking a delicious hot herbal tea surrounded by candles with a beautiful scent, wearing something extra cosy.
Maybe it’ll be baking some home-made goodies (healthy versions of course) and eating them while watching my favourite movie under a duvet.
Maybe it’ll be having family or friends over for dinner and really being present in their company.
They’re pretty good for a start but I’m sure there are plenty more ways of embracing hygge. Maybe winter won’t be such a drudge after all this year!
Here are a few things I was loving in September:
Bone Broth from Alchemy Juice
As the weather is changing to being a bit chilly, I’m craving warming foods. Bone broth is like a warm hug in a mug and it’s so nutritious – loads of health benefits. It’s pretty easy to make but I’m a little lazy sometimes so it’s been handy to be able to pick up a cup of it in Alchemy (upstairs from where BT2 used to be) on Grafton Street (http://www.alchemyjuice.ie)
#SprinkleAwesome Masterclass with Linwoods
This last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to a Masterclass with Linwoods Health Foods (https://linwoodshealthfoods.com/ie/) in Medley in Dublin. The speakers were healthy cooks Roz Purcell, Susan Jane White and Madeline Shaw along with food photographer Joanne Murphy who gave us some hints and tips for food styling and photography. Susan’s demo for chocolate seed soldiers was pretty awesome: http://susanjanewhite.com/2016-chocolate-seed-soldiers/. Hard to believe that something that looks and tastes so delicious (that hint of orange!) is so healthy! Was totally inspired to start experimenting in the kitchen with recipes more suited to my own diet needs!
‘The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’
I love a good giggle (it’s good for your health!) and I’ve been having lots of laughs reading Amy Schumer’s ‘The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’. I was probably on the fence with Amy before reading this book as I find her comedy a bit too vulgar sometimes but I’m well over the fence now and a huge fan. Not only is she funny, she’s very smart, insightful and brutally honest. Totally recommend this book.
‘The First Monday in May’
Back before health and wellness was my passion, I was very much into fashion and design so I love going to costume design and fashion exhibitions (the V&A in London is awesome) and watching documentaries or films about fashion and design. The First Monday In May is a behind-the-scenes doc about putting together a costume design exhibition in The Met in New York and the infamous Met Gala that launches the exhibition every year. I was blown away by what goes into putting on such an exhibition and event and I developed a new found respect for Anna Wintour who features heavily in the film. A visit to The Met in NYC is now firmly on my bucket list.
Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Body Lotion
I’m experimenting with different body lotions at the moment and this month I tried Trilogy’s Ultra Hydrating Body Cream. It’s hydrating without being greasy, has a subtle scent and leaves a hint of a shimmer too so you actually have a little glow after applying it! Its ingredients include rosehip oil and Manuka honey which boost nourishment and help with repairing and hydrating the skin. While it has more ingredients than I’d probably like, there are a lot of pluses to their products – the company use natural, organic and non-GMO ingredients, don’t test on animals and support ethical trade production. https://www.trilogyproducts.com/uk/products/category/body/ultra-hydrating-body-cream
Looking for something to watch this weekend? Check out some of my favourite healthy movies below.
I can’t believe that this film is over 10 years old!!! It was the first documentary I watched about food and health. Morgan Spurlock filmed his experience of eating nothing but McDonald’s three times a day for an entire month (supersizing his meals of course!) and tracked his physical and emotional health, which deteriorated at a shocking speed. He also talked with other Americans who subsist largely on burgers, fries and fizzy drinks while showing how the fast food industry uses marketing to get us to consume more. An oldie but a goodie.
That Sugar Film
In sort of the same vein, That Sugar Film follows Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau as he embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body. The twist with this film is that he’s not eating fast food but rather foods that are looked on as ‘healthy’ but in actual fact are loaded with sugar – health cereals, juice, yogurts etc.
Another film about the ill-effects of sugar is Fed Up. Narrated by well-known US TV presenter Katie Couric, this doc delves into the role sugar plays in the obesity crisis and how big business is impacting the epidemic. One for people who don’t really understand just how much sugar goes into the foods we eat every day and how it affects our bodies. Eye-opening!
Food Inc. is a film that covers the food industry from a corporate perspective. It highlights how the way we eat and what we eat has changed over the last few decades and why. It lifts the lid on some of the world’s most powerful food companies and why they want to hide what’s in the food they manufacture. By the time you finish watching you’ll have a better understanding of the importance of food and how you can make the best choices in your daily life.
Hungry For Change
On a similar vein to Food Inc., Hungry For Change looks at the lies food companies tell us. Part expert advice and part first-person testimonial, you’ll come away convinced that giving up processed foods and eating clean will make a huge difference when it comes to your health (and waistline).
Food Matters discusses why our food is so important and how it can and should be our medicine. It highlights the amount of pesticides, gmo foods and pharmaceuticals etc we are consuming and why they aren’t in the true best interest of our population. It differentiates between managing symptoms with pharmaceuticals and healing our bodies with real health solutions.
Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
In this film Australian Joe Cross starts off fat, sick (and nearly dead) and decides to tackle his illness head-on with changing his diet and lifestyle. He embarks on a juicing challenge and we get to follow him on his journey back to health. There’s also a number of inspiring stories of people who get a new lease on life after redesigning their diet and exercise habits. Uplifting and will have you reaching for the green juice!
Jason Vale Super Juice Me
Also touting the benefits of juicing is Jason Vale Super Juice Me. Eight people with various illnesses are put on a juice fast in Jason’s retreat in Portugal. The results are amazing. I was particularly interested in this doc as there was an Irish girl who had Crohn’s disease who took part. It’s made me want to go to that retreat!
Forks Over Knives
This film focuses on the scientific proof that a diet full of plants and free of processed foods is the one that works best for our bodies. While it does take on some of the ethical principles of veganism, it’s more about the benefits of plant-based diets (and there are many eating styles that can be plant-based and not vegan).
While not about diet, this sweet and meaningful documentary looks into the history of happiness, how it differs from culture to culture, and what you can do on a regular basis to become happier, healthier, and more fulfilled in your everyday life. Feel good film!
Have you any recommendations for me? Always looking for inspiration.
Over the last few years I’ve put a lot of emphasis on cleaning up my diet, trying my best to avoid processed foods and pesticide exposure by choosing organic whole foods when possible.
But the endocrine disrupters in everyday cosmetics and toiletries can be just as harmful to our bodies. Our skin is our largest organ and its pores provide a natural way for the body to detoxify. So what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. Which is why I’ve been trying to switch to more natural products that lighten the toxic load on my body.
Here are some tips I picked up along the way that may help if you are wanting to transition to more natural beauty products.
Replace things as they run out
There’s no need to throw out your entire toiletry and make-up bag in one go. I would have found the idea too daunting (and expensive) so I’ve tended to replace things as they run out which gives me time to do a bit of research on products I want to try.
Prioritise products that stay on your skin the longest
If you are confused about what changes would give the most bang for your buck, I’d say start with switching out products that are used closest to your skin (and therefore definitely get absorbed) and that sit on your skin the longest. Body lotion, face moisturizer, deodorant and foundation spring to mind in comparison to shampoo and conditioner which are rinsed out after a couple of minutes.
Research your favourite brands for any “Code Reds”
I found the American website Skin Deep by the Environmental Working Group really insightful and was shocked by how toxic some of my favourite products were. They colour code products like a traffic light system, green is ok but red means that there are a lot of toxins and they also rank the level of toxicity from 1 to 10 so you know just how toxic a product is.
While the site is for products sold in American and European regulations mean that products may vary slightly here, it’s still a good website to get an idea of what isn’t too bad and what should probably be tossed. I found out that the foundation that I’ve been using years and was feeling guilty about using isn’t actually too bad. While it isn’t the best choice possible it’s still in the green zone so I’m prioritising switching out other products first while still experimenting every now and then on more natural foundations until I can find one that I like.
Beware of Marketing
This is where I feel a lot of people are caught out. They look at the front of a product and they see “natural” and think they are making a great choice. But just because it says it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it is. There’s a strategy of “greenwashing” used in the cosmetics industry where some brands spend more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that actually make so. So take a minute and question what the advertisement and packaging is actually saying.
Get interested in the Back Label
Much like I tell clients to read the ingredient lists of food they eat, it’s good to have a look at the ingredient list on cosmetics and toiletries. I was surprised at how many ingredients went into making products and that I didn’t have a clue what they were.
Now when picking out products, I look for the biggest offenders: fragrance, parabens, sulfates and phthalates. If they’ve got any of these, I pass. Then I look at the other ingredients and the order they appear. This is a good way to see what the product is mostly made of as the ingredients are listed in order from most to least.
Have Fun Experimenting
I started looking for new products in my local health food store as I thought the chances of getting cleaner products there were higher. Between getting recommendations and doing research I was able to discover other brands and products that I never knew existed. Some worked out and have since become my favourites and some didn’t. It’s all part of the process and it doesn’t need to be stressful.
I had thought that natural products wouldn’t work as well, would cost a fortune or I’d end up smelling like incense but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the range, quality and price on offer. And things will only get better as the demand for more natural skincare grows. Some of my favourite products are sold in mainstream stores like Sephora now so it shows that things are changing.
I hope to write more about natural beauty on the blog here in the coming months (favourite products, new discoveries etc) as it’s still a learning curve for me and I’d like to share what I’m learning along the way.
Would love to hear your recommendations of natural products that you love. Do you have any favourites?
Staying healthy at the office can be a real challenge. I should know, I’ve worked in offices my whole adult life. Whether it’s grabbing food on the go, eating at your desk and loading up on coffee or indulging in muffins and biscuits at meetings, cakes at your colleague’s birthday or sweet treats somebody brought back from their holidays, it can be hard to make the healthier choice.
Our work days are usually pretty structured and is more or less a routine (get to work at a certain time, have lunch at a certain time, leave at a certain time, work at a computer most of the day etc.). You’d be surprised how much we go through it on autopilot.
However, with a little awareness, foresight and preparation, you can work some healthier habits throughout the day.
Here are five easy ways you can do just that:
- Drink a glass of water (or two) first thing in the morning. We’re often dehydrated in the morning so drinking some water will help hydrate your cells. Even better, squeeze some lemon into the water to help detoxify and give you a vitamin C boost.
- Make sure to keep well hydrated throughout the day. Leave a water bottle on your desk and set yourself a reminder to drink from it throughout the day.
- If you drink a lot of coffee (which is a diuretic), try swapping out some of those cups for herbal tea.
- Having a breakfast that has a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat should keep your blood sugars balanced throughout the morning, keep you satiated, give you energy and keep you from grabbing the sugar laden muffin at the morning meeting or eating all the things later in the day.
- A good example of a breakfast could be eggs (scrambled, hard boiled etc) with smoked salmon, spinach, butternut squash or sweet potato with some avocado on the side.
Take a Break
- It’s said that our sedentary lives where we sit at a desk for seven or eight hours a day are as bad for our health as smoking is! While some companies are bringing in treadmill desks or standing desks for their employees, for most of us this isn’t an option.
- So what can you do? Get up and walk as much as you can throughout the day. Take more bathroom breaks (you may need to if you are drinking more water), walk to your colleagues desk to ask a question (instead of emailing) or make sure to get out for a walk during your lunch break.
- Bring in your own lunch and swap your sandwich or wrap for a soup and salad, making sure to get a good balance of protein, carbs and fats to avoid the 3 o’clock sugar imbalance slump. Not only will it be healthier, it’ll probably save you money too.
- If you can’t bring in your own lunch, do a little research and know where you can get healthy options on the days you need to grab and go.
- Make sure to be well stocked on good snacks to keep hunger at bay and to balance out your blood sugars throughout the day. Our willpower depletes as the day goes on from decision fatigue. If you have these options already prepped its one decision less to make throughout the day.
- Some good snacks include: prawns and avocado, an apple and nut butter, berries and coconut yogurt (or greek yogurt if you eat dairy) or a piece of fruit with some nuts.
What are your tips for staying healthy at work? Am always on the lookout for more health hacks.
During and following my Clear Passage therapy I’ve been instructed to drink isotonic sports drinks to help with oedema and to replenish my electrolytes. The only thing is that a lot of those sports drinks are full of sugar which I hated drinking because of the high sugar and they weren’t agreeing with me. So I was delighted when I came across these electrolyte drops which I can add to my water instead. The drops are going to last me ages so are way more cost effective than the sports drinks too!
I’ve always thought zoodles/courgetti etc were a great way of getting more veg into my diet and love how they add a bit of novelty to my lunches and dinners so I was excited to try out the Morphy Richards Spiralizer Express this month.
Normally I just use a julienne peeler, which means that the zoodling (I think I just made up a word there) options available to me are somewhat limited to carrots, parsnips and courgettes with my zoodles being all the one width and straight and only really as long as the vegetable (e.g. length of the carrot). I was pretty content with this until I tried the Spiralizer Express which opened up a whole new world of much longer and more curly zoodles! I could also spiralize a wider variety of fruits and veg including apples, butternut squash, beetroot and celeriac which wouldn’t have worked very well with my julienne peeler. The spiralizer has two options for width of zoodle – one thinner option (like spaghetti) and one thicker option (like linguini). It’s very quick and easy enough to use and clean once I got the hang of things and it came with a small recipe book which has given me plenty of inspiration for future dinners. I think my julienne peeler has been relegated to the back of the cutlery drawer!
Traveling always makes me very happy. I love the excitement of heading to the airport knowing that I’m heading off on a bit of an adventure (or at least a break away from my everyday routine). In early August I travelled to both Lisbon in Portugal and Kent in the UK.
Lisbon was hot and sunny, colourful and lively. We made the most of our short weekend visit and headed to the breezy coastal towns of Cascais and Ericeira, both of which have very different vibes. Cascais being a bigger, more glamourous town with big hotels and plenty of restaurants while Ericeira being a more relaxed fishing and surfing village with lots of white washed houses and narrow cobble streets. I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Ericeira – a little beach side shack that served fish. You picked the fish you wanted from their tank which was then grilled and served with lemon, salt and olive oil. No fancy dressings or marinades or spices. It was ridiculously fresh and tasty! With a side of broccoli, it was a filling and satisfying lunch and the views from our table weren’t too shabby!
Then in Kent I got to visit so many English towns and villages – from medieval Sandwich and seaside town Whitstable to bustling Canterbury with its famous cathedral to Dover where I hiked the stunning white cliffs. We got to eat al fresco a good bit that week which is always a novelty, my favourite place being a pub right on the beach with the cliffs of Dover as its background.
Travel is definitely good for the soul!
While in Kent, I picked up Better You Magnesium Body Lotion. I’m always keen to try different body creams and lotions and had been wanting to try one with magnesium for a while. Soaking into the skin, the magnesium is supposed to soothe and relax. I’m not sure if I noticed a huge difference on that end but I’m not too disappointed as not only does it contain magnesium oil but also shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil and vitamin E which are all fantastic moisturisers in my book. I found it to be nourishing but not greasy like some body lotions I’ve tried before and it’s been great on my sensitive skin too. One I’d buy again for sure.
In this blog I’m going to talk about the therapy itself and what’s been happening since I finished the therapy two weeks ago.
I was pretty nervous ahead of my first session but once I met my therapist I felt so much more at ease as she was such a warm and welcoming person. The 20 hours of therapy were broken down into 10 sessions – two hours every morning (9am – 11am) and two hours every afternoon (3pm – 5pm) except for Friday when the afternoon session was from 12.30pm – 2.30pm. I was told to have a light breakfast and lunch as most of the work would be on my abdomen and was told it was vitally important to drink isotonic drinks to replenish electrolytes from therapy.
The first two hour session consisted of an overall body assessment. I learnt so much about my body. I had a lot of internal scarring on my lower right side (where my ileum was) which was to be expected, but I also had scarring on my left side and the top middle of my abdomen (just under my ribs). She said that this scarring caused restriction and referred pain. Seemingly both my uterus and bladder were being pulled over to my right side, my stomach and liver were stuck too high under my ribs and restrictions in my abdomen was causing my back and hip to overcompensate which then caused the aching in my legs. My hips were out of alignment, my pelvic floor was pretty weak and I stood in a way that put pressure on my back and hips.
The rest of the sessions went about working on everything using techniques from a sort of myofascial release, cranio-sacral massage, physio and many others. I was then shown a lot of exercises and techniques to use on myself at home. I won’t lie, some sessions were uncomfortable but she always checked in on my as to my pain levels and would back off on pressure if things were getting painful. She was surprised at how much I was able to take given that I had Crohn’s and was surprised that I didn’t flare during the treatment.
Seemingly on the third day it’s very normal to become bloated due to oedema and very tired. I didn’t experience the bloating and while I was tired in the evening I was exhausted. Some nights I slept better than others but I did notice I dreamt more which is to be expected. I also noticed I felt a little teary (for not apparent reason) on a couple of the days.
Before every session I had to complete a form that tracked a myriad of possible symptoms which I thought was helpful for myself to become even more aware of changes in my body.
I was told to walk after every session so it was a great excuse to explore the area especially as it was sunny and warm. We headed to loads of the local villages and seaside towns, went into Canterbury and even hiked the cliffs of Dover. I was so happy that I felt good enough to get out and about as I was worried that I may just want to go to bed after every session.
I thought the week would drag and it would be awkward being with one therapist so intensely. 20 hours is a long time but it flew by and we chatted the whole time. By the end I was both happy and sad it was over. I loved the routine of my day, the therapist and the therapy itself (some parts more than others), however I felt my body was just about needing a break.
I had another overall body assessment on the last day and the therapist was very pleased with my progress. She had expected a 50% improvement but in some places I was at 80% improvement. My alignment was better, my pelvic floor stronger, my stomach and liver had moved down and my uterus and bladder were back over to nearer where they should be. Instead of my organs being stuck I definitely could feel that everything was more fluid in their movement in my abdomen.
It’s advised not to fly for at least 24 hours after your last session has finished on the Friday so we decided to stay an extra night and to go to Greenwich for the day on Saturday before our late-night flight giving me well over 24 hours before flying. I had been feeling so well during the week that I think I was lured into a false sense of indestructability! But on the Saturday I felt flu-y. I was a little achy all over, my throat was starting to feel sore, I had a headache and I was feeling really knackered tired. I just wanted to curl up on a couch and sleep. Luckily it was a sunny day so we just took it slowly wandering around, sitting out in the sunshine and making sure I had lots to drink.
I felt a little better on the Sunday but during the following days I constantly felt like I was fighting off a cold the whole time and my energy was lower than normal. I kept up with my home exercises though every day.
Then on the Thursday I got a ‘flare’ (an obstruction). I had to head home from work and I still don’t know how I managed to get home without vomiting. The pain was excruciating, I was in a cold sweat and I felt like my insides were going to explode. I began wondering if I had done the right thing, if I just made things worse or if I had eaten something I shouldn’t have or had done the home exercises wrong. I got in touch with both the therapist in the UK and the doctor in the US.
The therapist reminded me of all the things I should do in the event of an obstruction and reassured me I had done nothing wrong. She checked in on me a few times that day and the following few days until I started feeling better. The doctor in the US rang me on the Friday and we talked for about 40 minutes. She explained that the oedema (water retention in the tissues) causes swelling so obstructions can happen after treatment as the body readjusts to not having such intense treatment every day and can happen until the swelling goes down and that it can take three months for that to happen. She said she was surprised that it didn’t happen during the treatment itself. In the meantime, I should stick to low residue and non-aggravating foods, drink plenty of liquids, replenish my electrolytes and make sure to do my home exercises every day.
I was impressed at the after-care and while it was really disappointing to get a flare especially so soon after treatment it was nice to have that support there.
Unfortunately over the following days the oedema bloating in my abdomen was getting a little worse and I was having the SIBO feeling of something just dying inside. Then on the Monday night I had spasms all through the night. I felt that the isotonic drinks may have been feeding the SIBO given the high sugar content and the fact that I don’t eat any sugar (other than from fruit I eat). On Tuesday I mainly stuck with liquids and the spasms subsided.
I decided to do a Low Fodmap and SCD reset diet to quieten down the overgrowth and I sourced some electrolyte drops to use in water so I could ditch the sugary isotonic drinks. After a couple of days I could really notice the difference. The SIBO feeling went and even the oedema started to go down a little.
So it’s now been two weeks since I finished therapy. I had a follow up call with my therapist a couple of days ago and we talked about all that was going on in my body since the therapy with another call scheduled for the coming week.
I wasn’t expecting so many after effects but it shows me that I actually got something done. I think if I didn’t feel any different I’d probably wonder if they did anything. While it’s frustrating and disappointing to have the flares, once I know that they can be expected and know the things I can do to reduce the chances of them happening and what to do if they do happen I feel a little more in control.
Finally I’m really impressed with the after-care and follow-up. I didn’t expect so much and feel like I’m definitely not left to go it alone which is reassuring.
So I guess it’s just a matter of waiting for the oedema to go down to really see what improvements have been made…. Let’s see what I’m like in three months time!!!
In my previous blog post I talked about why I went to a Clear Passage clinic for my Crohn’s disease. In this post and the next I thought I’d talk about my experience of dealing with the clinic, the therapy itself and how I’ve been getting on post therapy. It’s pretty long which is why I’ve decided to do it in two parts.
After sending on an initial email requesting more information a representative in their head office in Florida rang me and we chatted for about 45 minutes. She gave me an overview of the therapy, the locations it could be done, the cost etc. She was a pleasure to talk to so I got a good first impression. She knew I had more questions especially relating to my personal situation with Crohn’s scarring etc. so she said that all potential patients have a consultation with their Doctor and also with one of the founders Belinda Wurn.
She then scheduled a call for their doctor to ring me to go into my health in more detail. Before this call I had to get bloods done and send over the results (along with the last couple of bloods I got done) and any MRI reports I had from the last few years.
My fiancée was a little sceptical about the treatment (especially given the cost) so I said to him to sit in on the call and we would see if they were the real deal. The call lasted about an hour and they went through everything. She was great at describing things that the MRI scan showed that my own consultant never told me. Based on my bloods she also told me I needed to really up my protein to help bring up my albumin and help with gut repair. She recommended I take b12 drops to help with my fatigue, to drink LOTS of water and to take a multi-vitamin. She gave me the helpful tip of taking liquid or children’s chewable supplements to increase the chances of absorption. She went into the details of how Clear Passage therapy could help with my internal scarring and answered any question myself and my fiancée had about the treatment. By the end of the call I was more confident in the therapy and my fiancée was totally on board.
The next phone call was with Belinda Wurn who told us about her experience and the history of Clear Passage. She also answered any questions we had. Again the call lasted about an hour and we never felt rushed or that any question was too insignificant. I came away from the call feeling like she really wanted to help people.
Never one to make decisions quickly, I chatted with my Crohn’s consultant who wasn’t convinced (she thought it was an ‘expensive experiment’) but said she’d prescribe the necessary antibiotics I’d have to take. I also discussed the therapy with a Nutritional Therapist I know who had surgery for Crohn’s and a family friend who is a GP and has had Crohn’s for many years. Both thought if the therapy could help me avoid surgery then it was worth trying.
I then felt I had nothing to lose (other than some money). If I did the therapy and it worked well that would be absolutely amazing. And if it didn’t work, well then I could go into surgery knowing that I had tried the alternatives.
Booking the treatment was the next step. I decided on the Canterbury location as it was a short flight from Dublin and I was told it was a lovely part of the UK. I paid a deposit to secure the treatment and then paid the outstanding balance a week before the treatment started. I had to send in bloods again a week ahead of the treatment starting and three days before the treatment I had to start a course of Rifaximin antibiotics. I believe this was to help with counteracting SIBO during the treatment.
Once I reached Canterbury I knew I had made the right decision on location. It was the quintessential English countryside. Lots of little villages with Tudor-style houses, thatch cottages and English pubs and little coffee shops.
The location of the therapist was about a 15-20 minute drive outside Canterbury. We rented a little cottage less than a five minute drive from the clinic. The clinic itself was on a farm and was surrounded by fields and you had to drive up a very narrow road to get to it. It was so peaceful you would be hard pushed not to relax but I was a little nervous about what the week held for me.
Read Part 2.
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.
Here’s what’s been making me healthy, happy and glow in July!
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!
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.
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.
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.