Being Holistic: What’s the problem?
‘Imagine feeling ill day in, day out, perhaps deteriorating to the point you have to be in hospital, and no one knowing what is wrong with you. Imagine seeing specialist after specialist, each trying their own theory and treatment, and still being none the wiser, just getting worse.
Imagine finally getting a diagnosis, a label, a name… only to discover that there is no cure for that name, no drugs produced specifically for that disease, and no real agreement among the few medics who have heard of it as to what the causes of such a condition could be. Imagine being told the drugs that might help are too expensive for you to have.’
‘Imagine support agencies and benefits systems not recognising your invisible disease or its fluctuating, yet crippling nature. Imagine employers, friends, colleagues and neighbours thinking how well you look; society thinking how lazy you are; those who knew the healthy you wondering and not comprehending why you have changed or telling you that it will pass. Imagine being housebound; the simplest chores seeming mammoth, the smallest part of what used to be daily routine exhausting you. Imagine having to choose between washing up or washing your hair as you don’t have the energy to do both. Imagine never knowing what the next day will bring or how you will feel. Imagine life as you knew it, and all you took for granted, being shaken, and seemingly out of reach so often. For many, living with rare diseases, this is not imagination but reality. For those blessed with health… work with us, and imagine.’
The above words are those of Zoe Lovett, from Cambridge, who suffers from Behcet’s disease, a rare immune-mediated systemic condition, or in more explanatory terms, abnormal activity of the immune system affecting multiple areas of the body. It was Hulusi Behcet, a Turkish dermatologist who described the symptoms of recurrent mouth ulcers, genital ulcers and uveitis – an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. The bowel, lungs, muscles and joints can all be affected, too. Sadly the condition can be fatal due to complications from severe neurological symptoms such as thrombosis, seizures and memory loss, though this is in extreme cases.
In the same way unexplained stomach and bowel disorders are bundled under ‘irritable bowel syndrome’ and unexplained bouts of extreme tiredness under ‘chronic fatigue’, Behcet’s disease is a condition that causes shoulders to shrug and foreheads to be rubbed. Suzanne Morris also suffers from Behcet’s, though it took some time for her to receive a positive diagnosis. She tells me that it can be a real battle when from the outside you may look very well yet on the inside the body is turning on itself and everyday activities like brushing teeth, eating, talking and going to work seem like mammoth tasks. The unpredictable nature of the condition has a severe impact on working, parenting and family life. Suzanne suffered with huge mouth ulcers from puberty and at one time had around 13 painful ulcers inside her mouth. When she became pregnant, 23 years later, her symptoms increased and she was eventually given a diagnosis and has since been tried on numerous drugs to control her symptoms. Both Suzanne and Zoe met through the ”Behcet’s Syndrome Society” and are under the care of the same specialist who is a world expert in Behcet’s. Since striking up a friendship they have increased their emotional support because they have a mutual empathy and understanding of what the other is going through. And it is this emotional support that goes a long way to solving half the problem.
It is so important to seek help and reach out for a diagnosis when you feel you have been suffering in silence for so long. Whether it be a stress related symptom, a possible allergy, even an unexplained niggling doubt about your own body, go to your GP immediately and address the problem. Nine times out of 10, you will have nothing to worry about and taking that leap forward will resolve the problem by 50% straightaway. As mentioned in previous articles, stress is the biggest cause of illness and can manifest in such a way that your body is unable to cope and can result in sleep problems, lethargy, skin disorders or respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.
Take care of your immune system and keep it nourished and supported inside and out. Obviously the easiest way to do this is by eating the right food, removing any free radicals and supporting it with supplements. I won’t try and teach you to suck eggs by driving home the importance of eating your greens, cutting out cigarettes and alcohol and maintaining a good sleep pattern. I won’t bore you with ‘get more exercise’ and ‘stop stressing’. These are all easier said then done and we all have our own coping mechanisms and attitudes towards our bodies.
I have recently discovered an allergy to soya which I ignorantly dismissed as a minor inconvenience. Thinking it was mainly soya milk and the obvious products, I decided it would do not harm to get my finger out and conduct some decent research. I have now had an epiphany, discovering that the foods I have struggled with contain soya and my symptoms, which for many years I had attributed to IBS or just shrugged my shoulders at, are all related to a soya intolerance. Browsing a list of all the foods that contain this evil bean, I was astounded at the number I ticked off as I matched them to my onset of symptoms – bread, milk, biscuits, cereals, sausages, hot dogs and ice cream all leave me feeling worn out and bloated for days on end.
It is truly amazing how our bodies respond to all of these chemicals and substances – often good, more often than not, bad. The immune system is a complex mechanism and we understand very little about it other than it protects us from disease. Each of the trillions of cells within our bodies are important units in themselves; they digest food, expel waste, take in oxygen and reproduce. They form the tissues and major organs of the body, so what we put in to nourish them is vital. Taking a quality supplement like aloe vera, getting your five-a-day and drinking lots of water are all a very good starting block. Don’t be scared to educate yourself about your body and discover how it works and what makes you tick effectively then when a problem pops up, you may easily put your finger on it.
About the author:
Sarah-Jane Tepper, mum to a ‘little ball of radiant energy’, was inspired by her son to study energy and she is now a holistic therapist practising massage, reflexology and reiki. She wants to share her passion of all things holistic by encouraging others to maintain a happy and healthy state of well-being. Based in Hertsmere and Barnet, you can find out more about Sarah-Jane and holistic therapy at www.hertsholistic.com.
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Picture credit: www.proactee.com