Since announcing that I consider my MS in remission I’ve been asked by a few “So how do you take care of yourself?” and I realized I’ve never formalized my current healthcare/self-care routine into a blog post. So voila…
My 5 Building Blocks of Health
I focus on 5 key areas of my life to thrive with MS as a sidekick in my life.
Nutrition & Supplements
I had always thought I ate “clean” but I hadn’t really been focusing on what was serving my body well vs. what I thought I should eat. I chose to tackle how I fuelled myself after an appointment with an RHN who mentioned that leaky gut can be a contributing factor to so many autoimmune diseases. After diving into the research and absorbing different books this has become a main pillar for how I take care of myself after realizing I had been ignoring symptoms like IBS for way too long.
One of the first books that were suggested to me after my diagnosis with MS was the Wahl’s Protocol and The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases. I then found the Auto-Immune Paleo website which is now re-branded as Auto Immune Wellness. This website is based on the Auto-Immune Protocol developed by Sarah Ballentyne of Paleo Mom.
The other 2 books I highly recommend are the AutoImmune Paleo Cookbook & the new AutoImmune Wellness Handbook. The handbook dives into more things than just meal planning which is a perfect way to start exploring more than just nutrition for assisting the body in healing.
The reason why I started with food is I knew this was something I could easily adapt into my lifestyle. I was already meal planning, food prepping on Sunday’s and ate fairly well so I didn’t have to overhaul anything drastically. It felt safe and easy to adopt new ways of eating and when I started to feel better in my body and gain more energy it was easier to then tackle other aspects of my life.
I also realized that I really needed to focus on healing my gut health and not just eating differently. I had lived with so many digestive issues (bloating, gas and loose poop) that I knew it was going to take a bit to heal my gut and lots of trial and errors meant I’d have to constantly have the patience for optimizing this area of my life. I did leaky gut testing in 2016 which revealed I don’t have it. This was amazing news to confirm how much I’ve done in healing the gut. I personally knew I was based on healthier bowel movements and less digest pain. While the test was great to prove all the good work I’ve done, I don’t think it’s necessary. If you’re poop isn’t healthy, heal your gut, once you start seeing healthier bowel movements it’s usually an indication you’re doing amazing things for your gut and your body and you don’t necessarily need a test to prove that.
Now supplements were something I was already familiar with and taking having met with a Naturopath, doing blood work and then optimizing my intake based on my vitamin & mineral levels in my blood and how I was feeling. After my diagnosis, I found a new Naturopath (for variety), and then another one once I moved to Ottawa and have consistently been optimizing my plan since then.
While my supplements have changed again in 2017 I will save that for another post. The message here is it’s very hard to get all our vitamins & minerals from food and if our body is deficient in certain areas supplementation is a great way to assist our cells in getting what they need to function at a better level. What I’m taking isn’t as important as working with a professional yourself to create the right protocol for you.
Exercise & Rest
I knew exercise was going to be important for me as it was already such a big part of my life. The only thing I started worrying about after reading about MS was that overheating could bring on MS symptoms. I was graciously gifted with cooling vests at the start of my MS journey and a Mission cooling towel (see below) that I use to this day to keep me cool when working out. It’s the only time I feel symptoms so having the cooling towel in my gym bag that gets easily activated with water is so wonderful to have around.
Rest was also a really important lesson to learn. In my first year with MS, I wanted to prove that I was stronger than the disease. I wanted to prove that I could still train and race in obstacle course races but in the process, I was pushing my body beyond what was healthy for me, which had a negative consequence on my adrenals. In 2016, I didn’t feel like training much or racing at all. I’ve been slowly feeling myself again now into 2017. For almost an entire year my body didn’t want to workout, I didn’t want to race and felt sluggish. I’ve definitely learned an important lesson in loving my rest days and truly taking them.
After years of insomnia while I was in a toxic relationship and getting at most maybe 5-6 hours of sleep I aimed for the elusive 8 hours of sleep to assist in the healing process. There are a ton of great resources out there on why you should be getting great quality and quantity of sleep. This just intuitively felt like a great next step to focus on. If I still wanted to get my morning workouts in by waking up at 5 am I knew I’d have to go to sleep at 9 pm to make this happen. Here are three things I did for myself to make this happen, get deeper sleep and feel more rested.
- Fall asleep to a guided meditation or white noise. I love the Headspace app and now use Relax Melodies.
- Put your phone on airplane mode and move across the bedroom and off the night stand. This one is still a work in progress for me.
- Invest in a better bed. We ended up purchasing an Essentia mattress last year and I don’t know how we sleep anywhere else. The bed is organic and non-toxic, perfectly supportive and actually has temp regulating properties so that Mike can have a perfect night sleep and actually doesn’t run hot while I don’t run cold in the bed.
Emotions & Stress
Another book that led me to go back to therapy (I had used therapy to help heal after calling off my wedding and leaving the relationship back in 2012) and doing a lot of emotional work was When The Body Says No. This was a great suggestion by my Naturopath in Toronto.
I came to realize that my overachiever, workaholic, suppressing emotion ways weren’t serving me in any way. In some of my therapy sessions, I started exploring how I deal with emotions, stress, and anxiety and how it shows up in my body.
Since my diagnosis, I came to understand that pushing for achievement and always doing more was wearing me down. It’s something I’m still working on but I’ve definitely learned when to let things go because they aren’t serving me. My tool for decision making around doing less has simply been creating a spreadsheet and listing out the activity (hobby or side hustle), the hours I spend on the activity, if it’s income producing and on a scale of 1 – 10 how much do I love doing it. This isn’t a science because something may be high on the income producing side but may score super low on the passion scale. This has helped me give up certain brand ambassador gigs as well as certain freelance projects where I was ghost writing for other blogs because they just weren’t bringing me pleasure and causing me anxiety to produce high-quality content, on time and efficiently.
The key health care team members that I see to assist me now with stress reduction is a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist. I mix in energy healers as well into the mix and have been exploring reflexology and an emotional blueprint practice recently (that will probably be a whole other blog post).
While doing research on what causes a person to be on the autoimmune spectrum I came to understand and realize that there are so many ways that our bodies can become “confused”. Understanding that if we help clear the confusion we can support our bodies to heal. If there aren’t toxins in my body my fighter T cells won’t have a reason to attack and then they won’t attack the myelin sheath around my CNS. It’s simple science but it was the easiest way for me to grasp why I needed to remove toxins from my system.
I started simply by cleaning up the makeup that I put on my face, then beauty products, the water that I drink and finally the cleaning products I use in our home.
Makeup: I started shopping at Terra20 in Ottawa even while I was still in Toronto. I have experimented with different brands and I’ve also supported Beauty Counter direct sellers by purchasing from this company. I’m still experimenting but I really do love what Beauty Counter is doing in the world and the products they are putting out.
Beauty Products: When dōTERRA launched their Spa line after Convention in 2016 I was excited to be able to purchase products that were already pre-made vs. always having to do DIY projects. I still make my own dry shampoo but love the ease of grabbing shampoo, conditioner and things like body lotion on my monthly orders!
Water: We currently use a Santevia filter at home and I have one in my water bottle at work. My next phase of empowered self-care will be to research a system I can bring into the home over and above the filters.
Cleaning Products: This was the last area I cleaned up and I did this as I started to run out of certain items. I switched to dōTERRA laundry detergent (and make my own every now and again), then hand soap (I now purchase the foaming one from dōTERRA), then cleaning sprays (all about the DIY here). Last but not least I’ll be switching over dishwasher pods and toilet cleaners in the near future.
This area of our lives can be super overwhelming to overhaul as we have so many products. I simply made a rule for myself that I would change one thing a month so I didn’t get overwhelmed.
This was actually a really fun post to write. It was neat to go back into the archives and see what I’ve documented in my healing journey and the evolution of my thinking and health care. This isn’t the end of my journey with MS but I truly do hope that by reading this post you are inspired to tackle all building blocks in your life or at least start with one 🙂