Management of chronic illness

This article is written from my personal perspective about what has specifically helped me to manage my condition (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) for the past few years. My hope is that this information will be of benefit to others. Everything I’ve listed below I have experienced first hand. Please speak with your consultant or GP before considering modifying your treatment plan.

I have had severe and chronic ulcerative colitis for many years and I’ve personally found that conventional treatment was starting to become less and less effective for me and so in turn I became interested in the complementary health field.

Conventional medicine has been a life-saver for me on many occasions and I’m not about to negate any of its benefits. I have had my fair share of hospitalisations, immuno-suppressants, infusions, transfusions, drips and steroids, even surgery, however, in my chronic case I have found the medication to become less and less effective over time and more dramatic lifestyle changes have had to take place. This is what I hope to share here.

It took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to isolate what worked and what didn’t and for that reason I’ve decided to share the information and experience I have in the hope that somebody else might benefit from it. I am not a nutritional therapist, this is merely my own personal account of what worked for me.

  1. Reduced these foods – sugar, transfat, red meat, cheese
  2. Increased these foods – berries, fish/fish oils, green leafy veg
  3. For absorption, a digestive enzyme before I eat really helps, this also seems to help with bloating
  4. A probiotic supplement I found to be excellent was VSL#3, although it can be difficult to stomach as it comes in powder sachets. Taking this was very significant in reducing my symptoms however. It started to work in the space of a couple of days
  5. AVOID SUGAR (this made a massive difference to me, but read labels in supermarkets, there is sugar in items you wouldn’t think of)
  6. Eat organic and cut down on processed and deep-fried foods
  7. Reduced caffeine and started to substitute with some herbal infusions. Some that are good for the digestive system are peppermint, liquorice & ginger. I now only have caffeine in the odd Green Tea. Insomnia’s peppermint & liquorice is one of my favourite infusions and a lovely one for those of you with a sweet tooth
  8. Nettle Tea really helped me with the pain of inflammation (Women’s Fitness Infusion from the Yogi range is very good, has nettle in it, available in health stores)
  9. Reduce stress!! – reflexology is very effective here but it is most important you find the right therapist for you. What is reflexology?
  10. Aloe Vera Juice works well to cool and soothe (you can get a cranberry flavour one in the health stores as it’s quite bitter otherwise) It can really help to balance things out if you are suffering from diarrhoea or constipation
  11. A great book – Hard to Stomach by John McKenna
  12. Get checked for food allergies
  13. Breathing exercises – yoga belly breathing really helps
  14. Chew food thoroughly. Everything should be practically liquid before you swallow. This makes it easier to extract nutrients, is more gentle on the gut and lessens the side-effects if you suffer from leaky gut which can trigger an immune response.
  15. Lots of rest and keep the the lower back warm, maybe with a hot water bottle
  16. Avoid alcohol

How reflexology can help

Receiving regular reflexology worked so effectively for my condition it evoked a passion in me to learn more. A healthy balance of conventional and complementary treatment has helped me in the continual management of my condition.

The benefits of reflexology in the case of chronic illness are as follows:

  1. Reflexology significantly reduces stress. (Stress is usually a massive trigger for flare ups.)
  2. It aids digestion.
  3. It can help with pain relief.
  4. It gives the individual a greater awareness of their body and helps them to listen better to their body’s rhythms so that they can find solutions.
  5. Due to increased circulation, it helps nutrients and oxygen to flow more efficiently on a cellular level.
  6. It helps to move lymph and speed up the natural detox processes of the body. This can be extremely beneficial to a person who has had to take a lot of medication for their condition. Through this some side-effects of medication can be lessened.
  7. It can help to balance the emotions and spirit. Chronic illness does not solely affect the physical body.
  8. As reflexology only involves working with the feet or hands, it is far less invasive than other treatments. People who have spent a lot of time in hospital or with doctors may not be comfortable with the idea of touch or exposure. During reflexology the client is wrapped up warm and covered in a blanket with only the feet exposed.

Figuring out what keeps my condition in remission allows me the energy and strength to now enjoy meals out, play sports, do yoga, and help others to achieve the same.

I hope this helps!