In my final year of dietetics, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto-immune disease where inflammation in the joints causes stiffness, severe pain and damage to the joint surfaces.
I remember over a period of time, I was feeling very unwell – much more tired than normal, with this numbing pain in my left arm and shoulder. I had been to various medical professionals, without any answers. They said it was because of my sitting position for studying and that it is normal to have aches and pains… Until one morning, I could not get out of bed. I could not lift my neck off the pillow, and could not lift my legs out of bed. My joints were swollen and sore. I knew that something was very wrong, and through a series of events, I was eventually diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Here is what I learnt:
- You know your body better than any doctor or health professional does (if you listen to it). I often tell my clients: we need to work together to figure out what your body loves and doesn’t love, because although there are guiding principles, every person is different and the biggest gift you can give yourself is to get to know your body! Spend time figuring out how your body works, and what works best for you. I saw many different health professionals after my diagnosis, including holistic practitioners, and all of them added a piece to my puzzle. Keep searching until you find answers.
- No matter what anybody tells you, your body has been designed with the incredible ability to heal itself. Think about when you cut your finger, and within a few days, it is completely healed. All we have to do is to give the body the right ingredients (not only food related). Give your body the space to heal, and it will.
- I worked hard to get my health back. The process included really learning to be strict with boundaries with other people and myself. I was vigilant about sleep, and listened to my body. Instead of working for 12 hours a day, I would sleep when I felt I needed to, without feeling guilty. I started swimming and walking, and doing exercise that I enjoyed. I spent time in nature. I started the process of dealing with my emotions, because let’s face it: we all have stuff we sometimes have to work through, and if not dealt with in a healthy manner, they can definitely weigh us down. Face whatever you have stuffed into the closet in the hopes that it will go away… I really believe that to some degree, the body holds emotional pain in a physical way.
- I started to nourish my body with what it needed. What worked before didn’t work any longer. My body would (and still does) instantly react to sugar and processed foods… so I cut them out. I did a gut repair program. I added in specific nutrients and eliminated possible triggers. I cut out alcohol and coffee, and removed toxins from my environment as far as possible. Nutrition is probably one of the key areas where I am continuously refocusing my energy and thoughts, as we have to be so vigilant in nourishing our body on a daily basis.
And so, after 5 years, my specialist tells me every time he sees me: “I cannot believe how well this disease is behaving itself in your body”. I have no more pain, and am able to live a fully functional life.
I have realised that health is definitely not an end-point, but rather a process and a journey, and if we search long enough and hard enough, we will find the answers needed to take us in the right direction.