The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.
Ralph W. Sockman
I have also heard this quote refer to the long shoreline as one of ignorance. I suppose both have their own place.
I thought about this quote this week after having a telephone consultation with a naturopath about what has been going on with my RA. I am lucky to have access to one free consultation through my work employee assistance program and although it obviously can’t replace regular visits to a naturopathic doctor, it still gave me some things to think about. But it also added to that long shore of the head scratching wonder about my health.
I have consulted with two naturopaths since my diagnosis in 2007. One I saw when I was still a student in London and although I really liked her, I was not at the place in my life to make all of the changes that were required of me. Rather, I chose not to be at that place. I was still in university and did not think that the strict dietary guidelines, detoxes, and her other suggestions were feasible at the time. I can’t say I did not benefit at all from seeing her but over the year or so that I went to my appointments I could have gained much better results I am sure had I actually followed her advice. In retrospect it ended up being a pretty big waste of money.
The second naturopathic doctor I saw was after I moved to Toronto. This was a much briefer period of time (I think I only had about 5 appointments) and while I think I was more committed to the process this time around, I ended up stopping the sessions mostly due to the financial aspect. I also didn’t quite gel with him on a personal level so I think that played a part in me deciding to stop seeing him.
I decided to take advantage of this free consultation because I have found that since starting to take Enbrel almost a year ago, I often feel like I am on the verge of getting sick. It very rarely actually develops into a full cold, but I have noticed that even if there is one or two nights that I do not get good sleep, or don’t eat well, I have a sore throat and an overall rundown feeling for a few days. Not fun.
The phone consultation was only about 45 minutes and in the absence of a full medical exam and thorough medical history everything was discussed at a very general level. Things that tend to help inflammation, things that aggravate it, things that help with digestion (and therefore the immune system), things that I should avoid doing. This last one is where it got very interesting. I had one of the previous naturopaths tell me to avoid things like Echinacea as herbs like that are meant to ramp up the immune system which in people like me (who have autoimmune disorders) this could actually make things a lot worse. This doctor repeated the same thing. She also told me to be careful with doing any sort of detox that involves herbal supplements. Many detoxes either directly target the liver, or indirectly influence its function as this is the organ that has the tough job of cleaning the toxins out the body. In anyone who is taking medication, the liver may already be strained because it has to process these additional chemicals. I was told that if I did a serious detox one of two (or both?) things could happen. My liver may either get overburdened by processing the medicine as well as the toxins being released from my system, or it could start to work too quickly and the medicine I take won’t have time to be absorbed before it is flushed out of the body.
However, there are many gentle ways to do detoxes that shouldn’t have any negative effects. Simply putting fresh lemon juice into the water you drink, for example, is a very good way to help stimulate the liver. Any sort of detox based solely on food is also ok. For example, the rule of thumb is that anything that tastes bitter is good for the ol’ liver. Think dandelion greens, dark leafy greens, etc. Here is a good list to use if you are interested in what foods are good for specific organs.
The bottom line is that if you have any sort of pre-existing medical conditions involving digestion and/or immune system (they really are one in the same – something like 60%+ of your immune system is comprised of lymph nodes located in your digestive tract), then exercising extra caution when it comes to any sort of herbal supplements is always a good idea. If you can afford it (they ain’t cheap) working with a naturopathic doctor is best. Since I am not quite in the financial bracket to do this, I am going to spend most of April doing food- and lifestyle-related changes to see what I can accomplish in terms of making my body feel better.
For the past two weeks or so I have been very disciplined with making a healthy green smoothie every morning and plan on continuing to do that for the month. This aspect of my plan got a lot easier today since I just discovered Simple Green Smoothies‘ 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge (IT’S FREE!). I know someone who did this same challenge a few months ago and loved it. Every week you receive new recipes and a grocery list for what you need to buy in terms of produce. I tend to take the “kitchen sink” approach to my smoothies which doesn’t always work out the best in the taste department so this should be a nice way to stay on track. Also, I will continue to post smoothie/juice recipes on my smooth-eeeeeez Pinterest board in case you are interested in trying any out. One more note in terms of equipment. While a lot of us would love to have a Vita-Mix or some equivalent king of blenders at our disposal, I assure you that a regular blender works just fine. You may just have to add more liquid and/or be ok with a bit of a thicker drink, but no need to run out and spend the cool $500 just for smoothie-related purposes. Of course if you want to give me the money so I can run out and buy a Vita-Mix, please be my guest.
I am actually feeling pretty optimistic about my April experiment (which also includes mega yoga, no alcohol, and some dietary restrictions) so I hope that I can a) stick with it and b) see the results I am hoping for. It is only a month, which may not be enough time to see very dramatic changes, but I am hoping it will be a great stepping stone on the path to (medicine free) health.
Baseball also starts this month, so you know that April will not be a write off no matter what :)