When you're first diagnosed with a chronic disease, or have been told you need to make some lifestyle changes or you'll develop a chronic disease, it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? And, how do you know what to focus on first?
I struggled with this when trying to manage my autoimmune disease. I'm a healthcare professional and I was still confused. Not until I began researching functional medicine/nutrition, did I really understand how to prioritize and get myself feeling better every day. The steps below can get you going in the right direction:
Step 1: Believe that most chronic diseases can be reversed with nutrition and lifestyle changes. It has been proven over and over and over. People are curing themselves every day, just by making healthy choices for themselves. Just believing your situation can be cured is half the battle!
Step 2: Find a functional medicine/nutrition practitioner. A conventional physician or dietitian can only take you so far when it comes to chronic disease prevention and management. A professional who has studied how to find root causes is your best option if you want to solve the problem, as opposed to just treating the symptoms. The Institute for Functional Medicine can point you in the right direction for finding a provider in your area.
Step 3: Read and research for yourself. I went to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and was able to get a great start on curing my autoimmune disease. However, it wasn't until I did the research myself that I was able to maximize my results. I have become best friends with Pubmed.gov
Step 4: Keep track of your symptoms before your functional medicine appointment. You'll likely be filling out some detailed paperwork prior to your appointment. However, it's easy to forget symptoms. Even symptoms you don't consider to be important can provide your practitioner with valuable information about where to start treatment.
Step 5: Be open minded. Some of the recommendations may seem sort of "out there" based on your usual habits. But, every recommendation is important and you owe it to yourself to make the best effort possible. You won't be able to fully recover if you don't give it your all.
Step 6: Get Started Today. While you're waiting for your functional medicine appointment, you can get started on leading a more healthy lifestyle. You can make healthy changes in the areas of nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep and your interpersonal relationships immediately. These things are FREE to change!
1. Stop with the junk (sugar, high carbohydrate/low nutrient foods, comfort foods, etc...)
2. Focus on vegetables with every meal
3. Avoid artificial sweeteners other than stevia
4. Avoid fast food
5. Purchase healthy cookbooks and teach yourself how to make healthy meals and snacks
6. Drink mostly water
7. Avoid vegetable oils and choose olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil instead
8. Increase sources of healthy fats (nuts, responsibly sourced fish, avocado, etc...)
1. Cardiovascular exercise 5-6 times per week (walking is perfect)
2. Strength train twice per week
3. Stretch daily
1. Practice meditation
2. Practice Yoga, Qigong, or Tai Chi
3. Learn time management skills and how to say NO
1. Create a healthy sleep routine (go to bed at the same time every day, wake up at the same time every day)
2. Avoid screens (TV, Phone, Computer) within 1 hour of bedtime
3. Sleep in a dark, cold, quiet environment
4. Do not eat right before bed
5. Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime
1. Become part of a group
2. Remain connected to friends and family
3. Create healthy relationships that make you happy, not sad
Being diagnosed with a chronic disease is not a death sentence. Remember that most chronic diseases are just symptoms of a root cause, which can be reversed. The key is to find the right practitioner and the right combination of lifestyle factors to address. Every person is unique and thus requires a personalized plan. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I provide a functional nutrition approach to chronic disease and offer free 15 minute phone consults to determine if my plan is appropriate or if a referral to another provider is required. Contact information provided on our website.