how the new "normal" for children's health has become chronic illness a rise in chronic inflammation in children leading to eczema, allergies and asthma
gut health and immunity
honouring the body's innate ability to heal
how to get started
You would most likely notice allergic reactions which can cause a noticeable type of immune response which can also be life threatening types of immune response and or at the very least are mildly irritating. An allergy is a damaging immune response to a substance to which one has become hypersensitive and is what we are likely to be most familiar with. Allergies are caused by exposure to certain substances like foods (like nuts, eggs, dairy, soy etc), organisms (mould, dust mites), plants/pollens (ragweed etc), chemicals, medications and others. Symptoms can appear within a few seconds to a few hours.
Food sensitivities and intolerances, on the other hand, are often what we miss out on. The symptoms present themselves in so many different ways and you could experience any one or more of the symptoms listed above or not notice anything at all. How your body reacts to different foods and triggers is highly individualistic in nature. Food intolerances usually occur when the body is unable to digest certain foods (such as dairy, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners, MSG) or when your digestive system becomes irritated by them. Enzyme deficiencies are usually the cause in many cases of food intolerances.
Please keep in mind that for some people, there may be no digestive symptoms whatsoever inspite of having food sensitivities! That is a major reason why we are not able to connect the dots between what we eat and the health issues that we are suffering from.
Why you need to do an Elimination diet
There are trillions of commensal bacteria in our gut (large intestine) and whose health is crucial for optimal gut health. These bacteria along with other microorganisms are collectively called our “microbiome” and are directly responsible for our weight, health and disease. An emerging body of research shows that any alterations in our microbiome play an important role in the development of food allergies and sensitivities. Once there is an imbalance in the number of beneficial bacteria, it can impair immune tolerance in allergic sensitisation or food sensitivities. You can read about this in details in a post that I have written earlier on this topic here.
Food remains the most important piece in the puzzle and the first step towards improving our gut health. By eliminating certain trigger foods which are causing your symptoms by creating chronic inflammation in your body you can begin working on healing your gut. The best way to discover your food sensitivities is to complete an elimination diet where you take out the most common inflammatory foods like for a period of at least 6 weeks (preferably 3 months) and then add back the foods to your diet one at a time to see if you have a reaction.
The most common food sensitivities are to the following foods
Gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and barley (including products like maida, rava, suji and baked products like breads, biscuits/cookies, pastas etc)
Dairy products like milk, dahi (yogurt), paneer (cottage cheese), butter (ghee is usually not an issue)
Oranges and citrus fruits
Yeast (baking yeast, vinegar)
For this reason, elimination diet remains a cornerstone in my practice of guiding my clients towards better health.
An elimination diet...
Helps uncover hidden food sensitivities- It uncovers your hidden food sensitivities and is considered the gold standard for uncovering food sensitivities so there is no more second guessing about which foods are causing your symptoms. During the reintroduction phase, you'll bring back the foods you eliminated one by one, so you notice exactly what foods don't agree with your system.
Helps calm inflammation- Many chronic health problems, from weight gain to fatigue, involve one common cause: inflammation. An elimination diet, by taking out triggering foods, gives your body a chance to calm inflammation in your body and help it to heal.
Supports a healthy microbiome- By taking out inflammatory trigger foods, the elimination diet helps by providing healthy and wholesome foods. This is the first step towards healing your gut by providing your body with foods that are rich in anti oxidants, vitamins and minerals
Boosts your energy- By removing the trigger foods and lowering inflammation in your body, your body gets a chance to reach its optimal energy levels
Is not an anti food programme- On the contrary by consuming nourishing, healing and wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, you are nourishing your body while at the same time having delicious foods.
Allows you to customise a food plan that works for YOU- Once you have completed the elimination phase and start reintroducing foods once again, not only do you uncover your food sensitivities, you also realise which foods your body thrives on. This allows you to customise a food plan that is right for YOU and frees you from ever having to follow a "diet" again.
Increases body awareness to food- During the elimination and most often in the reintroduction phase, many develop an increasing awareness of foods that trigger symptoms in the body. Being on the Elimination Diet for even a few weeks can lead to changes in the taste buds and a greater level of sensitivity about which foods cause changes in the body. This helps us to become more mindful of the foods that we eat and also learn how to make certain changes from time to time depending on our body's requirements.
Food can be both problematic or healing depending on how you handle it. When you learn to identify the foods that are good for you and crowd out the ones which are a problem, you are on your way towards creating health.
As you learn to love and have foods which are good for you, you start seeing the results- losing excess weight, eliminating aches and pains and increase in energy levels.
I have been meaning to write a post on all the things that I am grateful for in my life and I find that the beginning of this new year is a good time to do just that. This sense of gratitude was reinforced multifold today morning as I started clearing out some old documents from my home office. As I went through some old documents including bank statements, invoices, school notices, old prescriptions from the years past I came across a folder containing some medical reports and hospital discharge papers.
These were from 2013 from the time when our daughter had been hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit for about a month with a severe life threatening infection. Her hospitalisation was due to a drug induced reaction which resulted in her battling for her life. She had been on various systemic immunosuppressive medications for the past year or so to keep her extremely severe eczema under control. The new medication had been started just 3 weeks earlier after the necessary precautionary tests but which nonetheless had had a disastrous effect on her immune system. It was the most harrowing time in our lives as she struggled to overcome the infection with the help of antibiotics and other medications. To cut a long story short, she overcame this phase in her life, celebrated her 7th birthday while in the hospital and 2 weeks after her birthday, she was discharged. This year proved to be a turning point in my life even though I did not know it at that time.
As I went through those papers today, those memories came rushing back and my breath got stuck in my chest. Earlier, I would have also been likely to experience a rush of fear, anger, uncertainty, sadness whenever I would think of what our daughter had been through, what all of us had been through. But time had healed many wounds and assuaged many fears.
I felt a sense of.........GRATITUDE
I realised that I had finally stopped waiting for her eczema to return for some reason or the other; in other words, I could stop waiting for the "other shoe to drop"; I felt a sense of ......RELIEF
I knew that I had the strength and the tools needed to deal with such difficult situations in the future as well; I was surrounded by a sense of....... BELIEF
I knew that in spite of my best efforts and intentions there would be times that I may fail or make mistakes and that I would forgive myself; I found in myself a sense of......... COMPASSION
As I discarded the papers which I had been holding on to for 5 years, I realised that I was truly ready to move on. That particular phase of our life was behind us now. And while I would never have asked for such an experience had I been given choice, I also realise that it has been a truly TRANSFORMATIVE phase in our lives.
MOSTLY I realised that finally today I was ready to....... LET GO
Our struggles and our learnings during those difficult years have shaped us in many ways which are most precious. As a family, we experienced the love and support of our friends, family and the medical professionals who guided us along this difficult journey. Personally, I was forced far beyond my comfort zone to a place of strength I never knew existed deep inside of me. This strength combined with love propelled me on a journey that I could have never visualised for myself. I had to find ways to nourish and heal our daughter's body, mind and spirit. I did so by focussing inwards rather than outwards.
(I have written a three part series on self care which you can read using the links given below-
As I found ways to know myself better through self care, meditation, movement and other modalities, I found ways to help heal our daughter. I found that as I became more grounded, it helped me make better decisions regarding her care and treatment. It also helped me to prioritise and focus on what was truly important instead of getting carried away and becoming distracted all the time. In other words, my own growth as a person helped in our daughter's healing journey
Embarking on a journey to help our daughter led to me the doors of Functional Medicine and in 2015 we started her on this mode of treatment of finding and addressing the root cause of her eczema. As we supported her body with the nutrients that it needed and removed the obstacles standing in its way, her body started to heal from within. Over a period of 2 years her eczema gradually disappeared and in October 2017 she went off all her medications. She is a living example of how we can truly heal ourselves if we know how and believe in ourselves.
But that is not all. Our daughter's life is also an example of how one person's experience can touch and impact so many other lives.
It is because of this experience that I am able to
Share my gifts with you as a Health Coach
Stand by you as you find your way back towards health and healing
Point out to you your strengths which can aid you in your healing journey but which you may be unable to see at this time
Show compassion towards you if you fall off the bandwagon so that you learn to forgive yourself and get back on track as soon as you can
Uphold your belief in your own power to heal as you struggle through your darkest days; to let you know that you are not ALONE
And so from a place of despair, we can slowly but steadily move to a place of strength and true healing ....TOGETHER
As someone had said, "Sometimes strength comes in knowing you are not alone"
I wish you and your family HEALTH and HAPPINESS in 2019!!
(This is the first of a three-part series of posts on self-care. While I had originally intended it to be only one post, I realised while writing this that there was a lot I wanted to share and I did not want to cut any corners. I will be publishing the remaining posts in the next few weeks)
When was the last time you felt that your health was completely in your hands?
That you had the power to decide the outcome of your health goals?
Do you often feel powerless in front of medical authorities when you meet them for your health issues?
This is not confined only to doctor visits though.
This can happen to any of us anywhere and with anyone that we chose to give away our power to. We often knowingly or unknowingly give away our power over our own lives to authorities outside of us and to the circumstances in our lives.
When we hear the word Power we usually think of it as something lying outside of us.
A powerful car.
A powerful businessman or leader.
A powerful speech.
A powerful motorbike.
A powerful doctor that everyone listens to.
This can also be in the form of thinking that-
If only I had that dream house, I would be able to settle down and be happy
If only I could find someone who finally understands me and loves me, everything would be fine
If only I could have enough money, I would take that long vacation and finally be happy
Does this sound familiar to you?
More often than not we fail to realise we have given our power and in turn our happiness to people and circumstances which lie outside of us. This holds true for all aspects of our lives including our health issues
Instead of turning deep into ourselves, trusting our instincts and listening to what our body is trying to tell us, we usually ignore or otherwise medicate our way out of the symptoms. Medication, of course, has its right of place and is life saving when used properly and for the right reasons. However, when medicine is used as a substitute for self care and leading a well balanced life, it can end up creating a lot of problems in the long run.
"Selfcare is how you take your power back"
Our body is a truly amazing and miraculous thing. Too often we fail to give it the support that it needs on a daily basis to take care of us and keep us healthy. We forget that our bodies have an innate ability to heal provided all the right ingredients are present.
Taking the time to really get to know yourself and who you have become and in turn what your body needs at this point in time, is one of the first places to start. This does not happen in one go and neither does it happen overnight, so we need to deliberately take out the time for self care from our busy schedules on a daily basis.
But before we can begin moving towards changing the way we treat ourselves, we may need to recognise the ways in which we have been giving away our personal power.
We need to...
Blaming others for our health condition and take responsibility for the choices that we have made
Giving so much to others that we start feeling empty and resentful inside
Holding onto anger and grudges against others who may intentionally or unintentionally have hurt us
Letting other people's behaviour dictate our emotions and how we feel about ourselves and others
Take the time to sit down with ourselves and learn to truly listen to what we need at this moment
Take responsibility for our own life, feelings and actions
Face our fears and learn to accept the dark and unwanted parts of ourselves as gracefully as we do our strengths; once we are able to do so, they lose their power over us
Nourish our mind and body with positive thoughts and energy by eating the right foods and taking out time to take care of our emotional and physical needs on a daily basis
Most of all, we can get to know ourselves as we would a new friend
In getting to know ourselves, we may...
get to know what we want and what we do not want in our lives, what our likes and dislikes are
find that what we were looking for was within us all the time
find that we need to forgive and move on, and many times the person who needs to be forgiven is ourselves
We can then finally start reclaiming our power and move towards our health and other life goals...
I have mentioned in my earlier post about how chronic conditions are increasing worldwide. And inflammatory chronic conditions like autoimmune conditions, allergies, asthma and arthritis are increasing at dramatic rates. Hidden food sensitivities, stress, toxins, inflammatory foods and poor lifestyle are usually the real reason for these inflammatory conditions.
Autoimmune conditions prevail when your body's immune system attacks it's own tissues rather a potentially dangerous foreign substance like an allergen, bacteria or virus, a toxin. The immune system fails to differentiate between the foreign molecule and parts of your body and develops antibodies against itself rather than the intruders. In some cases it’s your thyroid under attack, in others it’s your intestines, or your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. There are more than 100 types of known autoimmune diseases that have been classified. For instance rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease among many others.
Various symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions (but not limited to) are
joint pain, muscle pain, weakness or tremor
feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance
dry eyes, mouth or skin
difficulty focusing or concentrating
weight loss, chronic diarrhea
The role of chronic inflammation
Apart from a complex genetic component, research shows that all autoimmune conditions have an epigenetic component as well. That means that a large part of the risk for developing an autoimmune disease is due to lifestyle factors; in other words, how much you move, what you eat, how you live your life, your social connections and your exposure to environmental toxins play a very large role. Due to this reason, chronic and systemic inflammation due to the misplaced immune response is an underlying factor for many autoimmune conditions. The good news is that by finding out source of the inflammation can help in managing the condition. This is where Functional Medicine can play an important role.
There are only a handful of Functional Medicine practitioners in India as of now; you can find them on the Institute of Functional Medicine website. There are many medical professionals (based in the US and UK) who are trained in the Functional Medicine paradigm whom you can reach out to as they do consultations online.
Some things to think about
Since autoimmune conditions develop due to the body's immune system going rogue, the solution lies in getting the immune system back under control. I will discuss this in more details in a separate post later, but there are some basic steps that you can take today to move towards health and vitality-
Consume a maximally nutrient-dense diet and avoids foods that you have a sensitivity towards (this can be identified by doing a comprehensive elimination diet)
Reduce your toxin exposure
Move your body and activate and use your muscles.
Control your stress hormones using restorative practices (yoga, tai chi, massage, deep breathing) and meditation
Maintain or build social connections with supportive people
My role as a Health Coach
My role as a Functional Medicine certified Health Coach is to guide and support you in taking the steps mentioned above. Even with knowing what needs to be done, it is not always easy to make the necessary changes. Keeping the principles of Functional Medicine in mind, I guide my clients through the process of making important lifestyle and dietary changes.
In my coaching sessions you can expect customised guidance and support on
– sleep and relaxation
– social relationships and connections
– mindfulness and stress management
If you are interested in knowing more about how I can help you, please feel free to contact me using the form below