A Different Kind of Doctor – Week 28

Since the beginning of the year I have been learning how to live a more holistic, simplistic and natural way of life. Knowing that healing begins on the inside, I decided to start the journey by addressing what was most obviously unhealthy in my life – with my diet and exercise. First, I began my learning about and incorporating more organic, clean, whole foods into my diet. Then, I began looking into specific foods to help with my specific health issues. One day, my mom drove past a sign with the number for a clinic of natural medicine and she passed on the information to me. Weeks later, I finally called and scheduled a consultation with a naturopathic doctor. At the initial meeting, she did a physical (and emotional) exam; we discussed my concerns, my treatment goals and a planned course of action. She explained how naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. She described how certain foods can harm your body, while nutrients from other foods can heal your body. She also talked about using food to help manage your moods and emotions. After a thorough discussion about my symptoms, she recommended some steps I could take immediately. These included beginning some vitamin supplements, making some drastic changes to my diet according to my blood type (including adding healthy protein, fruits and vegetables to my menu while eliminating soda, sugar, processed foods, cow’s dairy and red meat) and a homeopathic remedy.

I was able to make most of the dietary changes without too much trouble and started the supplements and remedy as suggested. At my follow-up visit about 3 weeks later, my doctor was impressed with some signs of internal improvement she could see from a second physical exam. It has now been about 5 weeks since I started this new regimen. It really is a lifestyle change – learning how to feed your body instead of your emotions or inner child – and some days are better than others. I can’t be sure if it is the vitamins, the food, the homeopathic remedy, or any combination of these and other steps that I’ve been taking to improve my health and happiness, but most days I feel like something is working. I feel myself getting stronger, feeling healthier and more hopeful, excited, and happy. I have days that I’m not so strong. Days I feel like giving up or just screaming at the world. But I know I didn’t get like this overnight and that I won’t achieve the level of success I desire overnight. Slowly but surely, though…one day at a time, I am becoming more the person I am meant to be.

A New View on Nutrition – Week 27

                A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I still don’t have a clue what foods I “should” be eating in order to be healthy. Yes, I know fruits and vegetables… but, to be honest, I don’t really like all that many. Yet, I insisted that I needed to change my diet in order to maintain a healthy, balanced life. Knowing that I need to eat healthy but not being sure exactly what “healthy” means for me, I thought about what I hope to achieve by changing my eating habits. I decided that what I really want to work on are all the symptoms that prompted me to begin this Holistic Challenge in the first place. So I began researching which foods and other natural methods are recommended for each of my particular complaints. I am hoping that combined with trying some other natural suggestions, changing my eating habits will begin to have a positive effect and relieve or ease the following symptoms:

            • Migraines
            • Anxiety/Depression
            • Acne
            • Unwanted hair growth
            • Stained teeth, unhealthy gums
            • Eczema and dry skin, frizzy hair
            • Stomach/GI issues (constipation, diarrhea, irregularity)
            • Anger/irritability/mood swings
            • Pregnancy symptoms – nausea, heartburn
            • Back pain
            • Fatigue, lack of energy
            • Poor appetite and sleep quality
            • Low libido
            • Low attention span

(Yes, I know we’re getting pretty personal here… but c’mon, we’re all human. And really, isn’t that the fun of an online journal anyway – talking about all the nitty gritty details of life with a certain degree of anonymity?)

I started by looking up which foods were best to consume for folks dealing with the above listed symptoms.

Chronic Headaches/Migraines

[  Water

Alternatives*: unsweetened herbal tea or decaf coffee and fat-free or 1% milk
Water rich foods: watermelon, berries, cucumber, melon, soups, oatmeal, tomatoes* and lettuce

[  Salmon

[  Eggs*

[  Olive and canola oils

[  Lean beef*

[  Whole grain fortified cereal

[  Mushrooms

[  Broccoli

[  Spinach

[  Sweet potatoes

[  White potatoes

[  Swiss chard

[  Fresh amaranth

[  Quinoa

[  Almonds*

[  Sunflower seeds, other seeds and legumes

[  Bananas*

[  Avocados

[  Dried apricots

[  Brown rice

[  Whole grains

[  Plain fat-free Greek yogurt*

[  Sesame seeds

*Conflicting opinions argue some foods, such as these, may actually trigger headaches instead of relieving them.

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Practice stress management and relaxation techniques

[  Get plenty of sleep

[  Exercise and stretch daily

[  Pay attention to your body’s alignment (while working, standing, sleeping, etc)

[  Explore manipulative therapies (chiropractor, acupuncture, Reiki, Feldenkrais, the Alexander Technique, a personal trainer, etc)

[  Avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy, sugar and processed foods.

[  Stay hydrated.

Depression/Anxiety

[  Water

[  Whole grains & seaweed

[  Potatoes

[  Blueberries

[  Acai berries

[  Almonds

[  Pure dark chocolate

[  Maca root (powder)

[  Cheese

[  Peanut butter

[  Nuts

[  Sesame seeds  

[  Oats

[  Milk

[  Poultry

[  Bananas

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Herbal supplements such as kava and passionflower

[  Avoid processed foods, refined grain, sugar, caffeine and alcohol

[  Meditate

[  Exercise

Acne

[  Water

[  Salmon, mackerel and sardines

[  Walnuts, beans, flaxseed oil

[  Nuts

[  Avocado

[  Red grapes

[  Fennel

[  Artichoke

[  Brown rice

[  Garlic

[  Broccoli

[  Alfalfa sprouts

[  Green and herbal tea (burdock root, dandelion greens, milk thistle and red clover)

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Practice relaxation and stress management techniques

[  Stay hydrated

[  May need to avoid dairy

[  Supplement** with apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice

[  Green food supplements** (chlorophyll, spirulina and barley greens)

[  Tea tree or jojoba oil and/or oil cleansing

[  Baking soda, milk of magnesia, aloe applied to skin

[  Herbal steam facial

**Always consult with your health practitioner before using herbs and supplements. 

Unwanted hair growth (Hirsutism)

[  Black cohosh**

[  Saw palmetto**

[  Spearmint and green tea

[  Romaine lettuce

[  Onions

[  Tomatoes

[  Whole grains

[  Potatoes

[  Cinnamon

[  Crimini mushrooms

[  Apricots

[  Sunflower seeds

[  Licorice root

[  Wheat germ

[  Tuna

[  Barley

[  Skinless Chicken

**Always consult with your health practitioner before using herbs and supplements. 

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Plucking

[  Shaving

[  Body Sugaring (Natural Wax)

[  Threading

[  Avoid dairy

Stained teeth, unhealthy gums

[  Pineapples

[  Ginger

[  Carrots

[  Basil

[  Cheese

[  Sesame seeds

[  Skitaki mushrooms

[  Onions

[  Salmon

[  Broccoli

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Avoid coffee, tea & colas

Eczema and dry skin, frizzy hair

[  Salmon

[  Watercress

[  Apples

[  Sweet potatoes

[  Fish roe

[  Carrots

[  Turmeric

[  Red wine

[  Broccoli

[  Red grapes

[  Cherries

[  Citrus fruits

[  Raspberries

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Eliminate food allergens from your diet (can include dairy, corn, eggs, shellfish, wheat (gluten), citrus fruit & food additives and preservatives)

Stomach/GI issues (constipation, diarrhea, irregularity)

[  Water

[  Oat bran

[  Cabbage juice

[  Carrots

[  Lettuce

[  Pears

[  Yogurt

[  Fennel seeds

[  Flaxseed

[  Peppermint

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Eat smaller meals

[  Eat slowly

[  Exercise

[  Practice deep breathing & relaxation techniques

[  Take a hot bath or apply a heating pad or hot compress

[  Drink between meals instead of with them

With each new symptom I researched, I started to realize what this “holistic” journey actually is — an active and conscious process of changing each and every aspect of the way I live. This is more than changing what or how I eat, sleep and work out. It is developing an awareness of the self down to the very core. Physically, this means learning how my body works; it’s discovering what is lacking, where I am overindulging and how to use my strengths to my advantage. I am not any particular symptom; I am a whole person: a body, a mind and a spirit unified. This means there is no special food or fitness routine or relaxation technique that is going to help me with any individual symptom. No. Instead, I need to pay attention to what is going on with me as an entire being and then respond accordingly. Looking up these foods is great, but looking into why they are good for me is even better. I soon began to notice a link between the foods that were being recommended and their particular nutrients and vitamins. I also noted a pattern in the additional suggestions being mentioned for each symptom. Relaxation techniques, yoga and meditation, focusing on hobbies and positivity were all recommended. And one word in particular kept repeating in my search results: stress. While I recognized that I was picking up on a pattern, what I didn’t realize was that I was about to stumble upon a whole new part of my holistic journey…

DISCLAIMER: For informational purposes only. Always consult your health professional before making any lifestyle changes. 

Sources

Mind, Body & Spirit – Week 2

Last week, I focused on getting the ball rolling by making small changes to my nutrition and fitness regimes. Once I began my journey, I realized that these changes were affecting me in other areas of my life as well. The more I read and learn about holistic living, I more I recognize the importance of maintaining balance in all areas of my life simultaneously. This week, I am changing up The Method a little bit. Each week from now on, I will focus on my mind, my body and my spirit at the same time.

Body (Nutrition & Fitness)

What I’ve Done So Far

  • Began thinking differently about what goes into my body – food nourishes & water hydrates to give me the energy I need to live an active life
  • Increased consumption of raw, “clean,” and “whole” natural foods
  • Decreased consumption of sugar, salt/sodium and caffeine
  • Substituted agave for the cane sugar and artificial sweeteners in my kitchen
  • Stopped drinking Coca-cola like it was running through my veins! I switched to organic milk, 100% juices and water instead.
  • Began avoiding processed foods; traded foods with the words “hydrogenated,” “enriched,” and “high fructose” on the label for ones that say “organic,” “naturally raised,” and “no hormones added”
  • Made my first natural foods shopping trip, armed with a weekly meal plan and my Fooducate app

    So many fruits and veggies!!!

  • Joined the park district and borrowed P90X for at-home workouts
  • Began incorporating workouts into my weekly routine

How I Feel

I can feel quite a difference physically after making just a few simple changes. For instance, I used to drink 2 cups of heavily sugar-laden coffee on an empty stomach as soon as I woke up. This would usually curb my appetite so I would skip breakfast. Soon I would be queasy, which of course meant I had no desire for lunch. By the time the afternoon would roll around, I was famished and would overindulge on sugary and salty processed foods. This would drain the last of my energy and dinner would typically wind up being something fast and turn into another unhealthy meal.

Most days, I replace my coffee habit with tea or orange juice. I eat something for breakfast, even if it is small. I also make time for healthy lunches and plan healthy dinners in advance so I don’t even have to think about it. When I do these things, I don’t get nauseas in the mornings. However, I gave in to temptation more than a few times this week. Each time, I woke up feeling sluggish and sick the next day. You would think this would encourage me to stick to doing the things that are better for me, but fool that I can be, it sometimes takes me a while to learn my lessons.

Since I started working out more, I feel energized and strong. I have greater flexibility and more stamina. I have reawakened the dancer in my soul and refreshed my excitement for dance and music. I feel hopeful.

My Next Challenge

  • To keep learning how to live healthy
  • To drink more water and take my vitamins regularly
  • To develop consistent daily routines for eating & working out
  • To develop a better self image by getting into healthy self care routines

Mind/Spirit (Relationships, Faith, R&R and Emotional Wounds)

What I’ve Done So Far

  • Acknowledged a connection between some childhood wounds and my life today
  • Learned:
    • that I need to spend some time, money and energy on myself
    • that in order for me to be truly happy, I must release my contempt and resentment to God and forgive those who have hurt me
    • that in order to become the woman I envision, I have to find a way to soften my heart, allow myself to be more vulnerable
    • that I must forgive myself and learn to accept my authentic self
    • that I must learn to love Me
    • that I am supported
  • Started working on relationships with those whom I am closest
  • Began reading the Bible and developing a clearer picture of my faith and personal values/beliefs/morals
  • Recognized that I need and deserve time for myself and that I need to stand firm in gently claiming that time
  • Started taking time to go to the gym

How I Feel

As weird as it may sound, I kind of feel myself maturing ­- literally growing – in all areas of my life. For the first time since childhood, I am forcing myself to open my mind, so I can erase my preconceptions and dispel my naïveté in order to become a wiser, healthier and happier woman. I am wrapping my head around the concept that there are going to be things along the way that I simply will not understand or will not be able to control. All that I am tasked to do is to go with the flow of the universe as I follow my own life path.

My Next Challenge

To keep it up. Consistency has never been my strong point.

My Weekly Reflection

The first steps on this incredibly arduous journey have been 1) recognizing all of the challenges that lie before me and 2) beginning to change the way I think about life. I have learned that I am hiding from the truth about myself, which is that I hold onto a lot of guilt, shame and self-blame. If I am going to heal, I need to start on the inside. I know that this journey is not going to be easy. I have fallen off the wagon more than a few times. It is hard to stay motivated, especially when I mess up. It is easy to find excuses and rationalize until the appeal of poor choices outweighs that of good decisions. (Seriously, why does organic *natural* food cost so much??)  But despite the obstacles I will inevitably continue to face along the way, I am determined to discover what living a healthy life feels like and I am still convinced that I am on the right track. I’m just going to keep taking it one day at a time and letting myself find smiles and fun in all the corners of those days.

Silly Smiles

THE THEORY

First things first: In order to solve a problem, it needs to be addressed at the root… Why does it happen in the first place? I believe that for me, these problems and my responses to them can be attributed to a number of factors:

1.)   Poor health: inadequate nutrition, exercise, sex and sleep

2.)   Poor parenting: witnessing unhealthy coping mechanisms during childhood as well as not being taught healthy & proper ways to experience & express negative feelings

3.)   Traumatic childhood experiences

4.)   Immaturity: my young age, lack of wisdom/knowledge/experience

5.)   Weak spiritual life

6.)   *Possible chemical explanation/genetics: i.e. brain chemistry or hormone imbalance

While I have sought help with this “illness” that resides in me from medical professionals in the past, I have never before taken a “whole person” approach to my health. Instead, I looked to these “experts” to “cure” whatever it was that is ailing me. What I didn’t understand before is that there is no magic cure. It is up to me to improve my health and well-being. In order to achieve a better life, I need to take all of me into consideration. I need to change my entire lifestyle: my thoughts, my words AND my actions. Enlightened with this realization, I began researching holistic healing.

After a bit of studying, I developed a theory: I believe I can lead a balanced, healthy and happy life by using simple, all-natural and smart {cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, modern} methods to treat my mind, body and soul. I believe that by maintaining positive thoughts & words and making positive changes in my lifestyle habits, I will be able to “cure” my body of most, if not all, its ailments without the use of prescription medications.

While I strongly believe a solution like this exists, I am skeptical of many holistic products and services on the market today. My hope is that this project will not only lead me in the direction of true wellness and good health, but that it will also help differentiate between fact and fiction in holistic health and healing for others. In short – I’m looking for natural healing that really works and that anyone can use. I want to learn how to live a healthy life so that I can teach American Dream Makers across the nation that they, too, can live healthy, happy and balanced lives.

*I invite you to follow my journey over the next 6 months in what I am dubbing “The ME Project: A Skeptic’s Search for Holistic Healing” – my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pursuit for health and happiness.