Eczema is a skin condition that primarily affects infants and
children. It is a type of dermatitis which could be chronic or sometimes
relapsing. Eczema is skin inflammation that can cause itchiness, redness,
swelling, and pain, and can range from mild to severe. Although the exact cause
is unknown, overactive immune systems are known to be responsible for eczema.
However, it can also be genetic. Asthma and hay fever can also cause eczema.
Other skin disorders or disease, infections, or loss of moisture are also known
to trigger eczema.
The skin of children is more sensitive than adults, and children are more likely to be exposed to irritants as they drool, touch, and play with stuff that could have irritants on them. This makes children more prone to being affected by eczema.
The types of ezcema:
Contact dermatitis is caused when the skin comes into contact with the substances that harm the skin or set off allergies. The common triggers of this skin reaction are soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, and jewelry. Contact dermatitis can lead to infection if the area is repeatedly scratched and the area starts to ooze. This becomes a good place for bacteria and fungi to grow.
Dyshidrotic eczema causes blisters to form on your feet or hands. These blisters are itchy and can be filled with fluid. High-stress levels, allergies, excessive sweating, and staying for too long in water are the common causes of dyshidrotic eczema.
Nummular eczema manifests as circular spots or patches that form on the skin as a result of an injury, burn, or insect bites. These spots are often itchy and can be well defined. Nummular eczema is more common in adult men in their later ages, however, women in their middle ages also are at risk of developing it.
Seborrheic dermatitis generally occurs on the scalp, face, and chest. The common symptoms of this condition are scaly skin, red patches, and sometimes it could also appear in the form of dandruff on the scalp. Mild shampoos are generally recommended for treating this condition on the scalp.
Stasis dermatitis generally occurs when the blood circulation in veins is disrupted, and the blood leaks out of the vessels and into the skin. The most commonly affected areas are the legs. Swelling, dryness, and scaly texture are the common symptoms of stasis dermatitis. The condition is more common in women and adults who are in their fifties.
Foods that help manage eczema:
There are various natural remedies for eczema. Foods such as bananas, berries, salmon fish, sauerkraut juice, turmeric, lemonade, whole grains, probiotics, etc., can play a significant role in treating eczema naturally.
Beetroot is one of the highly recommended foods for managing eczema, it is said to boost liver detoxification and remove harmful chemicals that could trigger eczema. They are also one of the excellent purifiers of blood which promotes healthy skin. Vitamin C in beetroot can help in clearing skin blemishes caused by eczema.
Celery is filled with electrolytes and essential vitamins such as vitamin K and vitamin C, which are highly essential for promoting skin health. It is also a rich antioxidant that detoxifies the liver, which in turn can help improve the condition of eczema. Celery juice can also help in treating acne and psoriasis.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help fight inflammation related to eczema and other health conditions. It is also loaded with essential nutrients such as vitamin B and selenium, which protects and improves the overall condition of the skin. The other vital components of salmon fish also strengthen the immune system, which boosts the body’s natural ability to fight eczema from the inside.
Turmeric is one of the oldest remedies used in treating eczema and other skin disorders. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric reduce inflammation and help protect the skin from eczema. The natural antiseptic properties also inhibit any infections from eczema. Turmeric can help decrease blemishes, redness, and sooth the skin.
Probiotics. Foods containing probiotics or probiotic supplements contain good bacteria that are said to ease the symptoms of eczema. Probiotics also enrich the immune system, which could have been disrupted when the person is affected by eczema. Probiotics are also known to reduce inflammation, which is one of the symptoms of eczema. Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics.
Bananas are rich in vitamin A, which plays a vital role in moisturizing the skin and preventing dryness. Bananas are also loaded with essential fat that is used in many lotions that are used in treating eczema. Potassium in bananas also helps in soothing the effects of eczema.
Food can be used as a natural remedy in many other ways too, such as to treat conditions such as chronic diarrhea.
Foods to avoid:
While some foods can help manage the symptoms of eczema, others can trigger eczema and make it worse.
Listed below are some of the foods to avoid:
Gluten or wheat
While a healthy diet and lifestyle are vital in managing eczema, getting a proper diagnosis and treatment from a doctor is highly recommended. Especially when it comes to children, parents should not rely only on natural remedies to treat eczema. It could make the conditions worse. Natural remedies should only be used under a doctor’s supervision.
About the author:
Emylee is a wellness lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to natural remedies, yoga, and fitness through her writing. She currently writes for How To Cure. She can connect with others experiencing health concerns and help them through their recovery journeys through natural remedies.
I’ll be honest, writing this article made me feel a little uncomfortable. In the previous articles I have written, I have focused specifically on my chronic pain, and may have briefly mentioned my weight in passing. I have never written a piece specifically about my weight before. As an obese woman with a chronic illness, my weight makes me feel self-conscious. I want to lose weight, however, it is extremely difficult for me. I recently adjusted my diet and have lost a few Kgs so far this year, but it’s slow going.
Obesity is one of the biggest public health threats currently facing the UK. It is also the second biggest human generated burden to the economy, coming after smoking. Obese children are much more likely to become obese in adulthood than children who aren’t. This can lead to significant health issues as well as problems with self-esteem.
According to the RCPH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health), almost 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese when they start primary school. It is estimated that half of all children will be overweight or obese by 2020. While there can be many causes for childhood obesity, it has been found that there is a correlation between deprivation and prevalence in overweight/obesity. In 2015 and 2016, 40% of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared to 27% of children in areas that are not.
I was 7 years old when I was first told I was overweight. This was around the time my chronic pain was starting to become concerning to my parents (it had been continuously brushed off as “growing pains” by doctors). From then on, I struggled with my weight throughout my childhood. I had chronic gastro reflux and I would comfort eat in an attempt to escape the chronic pain I experienced every day (which we now know is the result of Fibromyalgia). I didn’t seem to be able to process when I was full. This made managing my weight as a child very difficult.
It was when puberty hit (about the age of 11) when my weight started rising at what seemed like an uncontrollable rate. My pain levels had risen to a level that I was now disabled, and I was being trialed on heaps of different medications from tramadol to gabapentin in attempts to control it. By the age of 12, I had become obese. I became very self-conscious about my body, a lot of that due to the bullying I received from other students. I was called names like “whale” on top of the bullying I had received for having an invisible disability.
My issue seemed to be that I had a large appetite without having the ability to exercise to balance it out. Simply put, I ate too much, despite my parents trying to control my portions. I still do eat too much. It’s a habit I’m working very hard to overcome. My weight fluctuated throughout my teen years. It seemed that whenever I got settled into an exercise plan and lost a considerable amount of weight, I’d become sick with a pain flare and gain it all again, plus more.
Stereotypes About Obese Children
I have seen many posts on the internet where people say that if a parent “allows” their kid to become obese, then they should be charged with child abuse. I find this ridiculous. My parents did everything they could to try to teach me about healthy eating habits. It is through no fault of theirs that I became obese. Families with obese children need help, not judgement.
Before my chronic pain became a disability, I loved to be active. I did rock climbing, swimming, played netball and enjoyed playing sports like soccer and hockey during P.E. class. I was a part of a marching team (not a marching band, more like army marching) from the age of five until the age of twelve that had weekly training, so I was getting plenty of exercise. I even did child Zumba.
However, my weight kept increasing. One stereotype about obese children is that they sit around playing video games all day. Sure, maybe some do, but I certainly didn’t. In fact, my parents refused to buy us any form of gaming console. We never had an Xbox, a Wii, or a Play Station. We were encouraged to play outside as much as possible, and I definitely did. One thing I have learned from being chronically ill is that you can’t tar an entire group of people with the same brush.
Things I believe may help.
One thing I never learned in school was how to grow my own food. Buying vegetables and fruit can get very expensive, so I would love to have learned how to grow my own food in a garden. Sure, I could do my own research (and I plan to) and learn that way, however, I feel that it would make a huge difference if children were taught this stuff growing up so that by the time they’re adults it’s second nature.
All children should learn how to cook. Some schools teach children to cook as early as 11 years old (if not earlier), which should definitely happen everywhere. Of course, I don’t think children should be forced to become mini master chefs, however, if a child shows interest in what’s being cooked for dinner, they may be more conscious about what they eat.
As said above, obesity in children is likely to result in obesity in adulthood, as it did for me. In order to lose weight lifestyle changes must be made. However, if you are hindered by factors such as budget or chronic illness, that may be easier said than done. All children deserve to be happy and healthy, and I believe that as a society, we can work to change childhood obesity rates as one of the things that challenges that.
Amy Clements is a 20-year-old who has lived with chronic pain, the result of Fibromyalgia, since childhood. In her teens she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in her wrist, which was the result of a netball injury. Amy lives in New Zealand and studies Business part-time at University. She enjoys reading novels and writing. She especially enjoys writing about her experience with chronic illness.
If there is one love that has remained constant throughout life, then that is food. But did you know that certain foods can cause cancer? Well here’s a piece of heartbreaking news, from today onwards you need to keep tabs on what you eat and what you ditch from your daily diet. Read on to find out more about cancer-causing foods and why you should avoid them.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease that is caused by the uncontrolled cellular division in the affected part of the body. Amid several factors that cause cancer, one of its leading causes is the type of food that you eat. Foods that are genetically modified, spiced or smoked or pickled, canned, processed, and subjected to chemical treatments are carcinogenic. Consumption of such cancer-causing foods can cause severe damage to health and well-being. The best alternative is to incorporate organic and fresh foods to stay healthy and prevent cancer.
Top 10 Terrible Cancer-Causing Foods that you Need to Avoid
Genetically Modified Foods
The production of genetically modified food has exponentially increased, and most of the healthiest foods in the agricultural sector like soy and corn are genetically modified.
Experts have sadly declared that most of the genetically modified foods are not adequately tested. This insufficiency in testing implies that no-one is sure about the long-term effects of the consumption of such diets on health and well-being.
Diet experts recommend the consumption of fresh, organic, and non-GMO foods to avoid cancer.
2. Microwave Popcorn
From its storage bag to its composition, microwaved popcorn is one of the most toxic foods that can cause cancer. It is one of the leading causes of lung cancer.
The kernel of microwaved popcorn is genetically modified, and it contains artificial butter and synthetic flavors that release poisonous diacetyl fumes.
3. Canned Goods
The cans which hold the food contain bisphenol-A which is a highly carcinogenic chemical. Extensive experiments reveal that the chemical composition of the boxes can genetically alter the brain cells of rats.
Preserve your health and protect your DNA against unnatural genetic mutations by eating fresh and organic vegetables and fruits instead of canned goods.
4. Grilled Red Meat
Grilled meat is perhaps the king of delicious foods, but sadly it is the king of cancer too. The process of preparation of grilled red meat releases heterocyclic aromatic amines which is a dangerous carcinogenic compound.
Grilling the red meat changes its molecular and chemical bonding structure, and the resulting structure is harmful to health.
Experts recommend the consumption of baked, broiled, steamed, and stewed red meat for the maintenance of good health and body weight.
5. Refined Sugar
Refined sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, is worst in the list of cancer-causing foods. Brown sugar is refined white sugar with little molasses added for color and flavor.
Foods made of refined sugar are the primary causes of insulin spikes that trigger the growth and spread of cancer.
Ditch the cancer-causing foods that contain refined white or brown sugar and switch to organic honey, maple sugar, coconut sugar, and other such natural varieties of sugar to thwart cancer and fight against its ill-effects.
6. Smoked, pickled, and salted foods
Foods that are smoked, pickled or salted almost always contain nitrate compounds that are added to enhance shelf life. The synthetic additives of the different foods accumulate in the body and wreak damage in the form of cancer.
Cooking of smoked foods leads to the conversion of nitrates into nitrites which are toxic and far more dangerous for the body than nitrates.
7. Carbonated Drinks
There have been numerous health debates that discuss the adverse effects of carbonated beverages like soda and coke. These drinks contain genetically modified high-fructose corn concentrates, artificial colors, synthetic flavors, and other chemical additives that cause cancer.
Sodas are one of the worst cancer-causing foods that are not only devoid of nutrients but are also known to deprive the body of nutrients.
Diet sodas are worse than regular drinks. They contain aspartame which is a chemical that is as toxic to health as a bottle of rat poison.
8. White Flour
White flour is refined flour which is flour that does not contain any nutritional values. The refined flour is bleached with chlorine to make it appear whiter and visually appealing.
White flour possesses a high value of the glycemic index. It makes the blood sugar level spike high without providing the body with any nutrients.
Excessive consumption of white flour can trigger insulin resistance which can lead to cancer.
9. Farmed Fish
Fish is cultivated commercially in a crowded and controlled environment to raise vast quantities of it. The commercially farmed fish go through a variety of chemical treatments like pesticides, antibiotics, and other carcinogenic substances to control and prevent parasitic, viral, and bacterial infection of the fish.
The chemical treatment of the farmed fish makes it one of the most toxic cancer-causing foods. Farmed fish are also devoid of essential nutrients and do not possess omega-3 fatty acids.
Experts recommend the consumption of wild salmon and organic fatty fish to stay healthy and prevent cancer.
10. Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated oil is vegetable oil with chemicals and synthetic additives for color, flavor, scent, and appearance.
These oils possess toxic omega-6 fatty acids that can alter the cellular structure of body membranes and wreak cancerous damage.
A few tips to fight against cancer
Strictly avoid the foods that are labeled as “fat-free,” “light,” or “diet.” Such types of foods contain more chemicals than the regular variety.
Eat fresh and organic food
If fresh and organic food is not available then eat it clean frozen or raw. Avoid processed food and junk food.
Cut down on the consumption of refined sugar and grains to stay healthy.
The key to a healthy life is healthy eating. If you can adhere to a strictly balanced diet of fresh, organic, raw, and steamed or baked foods, then no disease in the world can bring down, not even cancer. So dump the cancer-causing foods and fight cancer with healthy foods, courage, and positiveness.
I didn’t know I had celiac disease, also know as a gluten allergy, until about six years ago, and now I have to be careful eating everywhere I go. Gluten can be anywhere, even hidden in places that you wouldn’t expect it to be. I have had to become a food label detective in order to keep myself as well as my daughter safe. When you have a gluten allergy, or any food allergy for that matter, there are some things you need to consider in order to remain safe.
Think and Prepare Ahead
Recently, I was visiting my friend, Hemme in her home. She knows me very well and is aware of my dietary restrictions, so prior to my visit, she asked me for a list of foods that will be safe for me to eat during my visit. I sent her a list of foods that are generally okay for me to eat, and she actually did a great job accommodating my gluten allergy. Even still, I nearly had a reaction.
She was preparing fish with a breading and thought that she could simply make mine without the breading and I would be fine. What she didn’t realize is that by having the fish on the same tray or even in the same vicinity, cross-contamination could occur. This is a huge problem people with gluten allergies commonly encounter. She was really happy I caught her and called this to her attention before I got sick, but such realizations are not so easy when dining out in a restaurant.
Then, Hemme was going to prepare some pasta. I eat lentil pasta because I can’t have the corn or rice that is often in other kinds of gluten-free pasta. She consulted the list I had sent her prior to my visit and bought lentil pasta for me to eat with my fish. Hemme bought frozen lentil pasta instead of fresh or dried. I read the package and sure enough, it contained cornstarch and rice flour, so I could not have that either. Sometimes things that seem like they are safe at first glance really aren’t.
The Packages are Lying!
I’m sure we have all been to the grocery store and have gotten lured in by all the different packages. We look at the front of the package and pick which variety of a product to buy. It may list a few key ingredients and maybe some nutritional information, but that’s just the beginning of the story. In order to get the full picture, you have to turn the package over to the back. That is where you’ll find the rest of the information: all the ingredients and nutritional information.
Sometimes, you even have to be a scientist or detective to find out exactly what you are eating. Especially with more processed foods, ingredients may go by different names or contain additives to make foods shelf stable for longer periods of time. Sometimes you almost need to recognize the elements of ingredients or certain key words to know if something is safe to eat. It can be very deceiving. For example, something that does not typically contain corn may use corn syrup as a sweetener. If you can’t have corn, then you also can’t have corn syrup or corn starch, and therefore this product is unsafe to eat.
The Dangers of Cross-Contamination
My daughter also has celiac disease. I have to educate people as to what is safe for her to have when I am not with her. She went to my friend’s house one day to play with her daughter. I’ve eaten there many times before and have never gotten sick, so I thought she would also be safe eating there. My friend is always very careful about how she prepares food, but she had gotten her some fries from a takeout place. Well, later that night, my daughter wasn’t feeling well and I recognized her symptoms as a reaction to gluten. I was really surprised. I thought maybe I hadn’t cleaned the oven well enough after my boyfriend used it to make regular (non gluten-free) bread. I questioned my friend about what my daughter ate when she was with her, and she told me about the fries.
What my friend didn’t understand at the time is that even though the fries themselves might be safe, if they are fried in oil with other things that contain gluten, this can cause cross-contamination. That’s why when we go out to eat somewhere, we have to be sure that if she orders something like fries, they are the only thing the oil is used for. The restaurant using the same oils to fry something like chicken nuggets can result in an allergic reaction. Similarly, cooking areas and utensils need to be sanitized or designated as for gluten-free use.
Allergy Vs. Intolerance
Some people may not have a true allergy to gluten, but are rather just gluten intolerant.
When you’re gluten intolerant, you may get sick when you are exposed to gluten. Your stomach may hurt, or you’ll feel tired and just generally may not feel well. With a gluten allergy, also know as celiac, your body will actually attack the enzymes of gluten within the body creating an autoimmune response. This can often lead to other health issues as well. While not confirmed, I suspect that some of my other health issues may actually stem from having celiac disease and eating bread and pizza for 30 years.
Gluten is Everywhere!
Gluten is a group of proteins, termed prolamins and glutelins, stored with starch in the endosperm of various cereal grains. It is found in wheat; barley, rye, and oats as well as products derived from these grains such as breads and malts. It’s is found in many of the most common foods we all enjoy eating and can be very difficult to avoid. It’s in breads, cookies, cakes, pizza, cereals, and many other places that you wouldn’t suspect.
You always have to check the back of the package when you are trying to avoid gluten because, like I said before, the front of the package lies and the back of the package actually tells you what’s inside. You have to make sure that it says that it doesn’t have any wheat or wheat derivatives in it and that it actually says, “gluten free”. Gluten can be in unexpected places, even in foods you’d think would be safe, like chocolate or hamburgers. It is necessary to become a food detective and read what exactly goes in to a given product. This can be tricky as it can vary by brands of similar products and even by different varieties of a particular brand.
While I focused on gluten allergy and intolerance, as that is what effects my daughter and me, the same potential dangers exist when addressing any food allergy or sensitivity. Always consult the back of labels when addressing any food allergy or sensitivity. Even things that appear safe at first glance may not always be. Beware of cross-contamination. Taking these steps will help keep yourself and your loved ones safe and free from food-related reactions.
In November 2008 I found out I was expecting my first child, and both my husband and I were over the moon. Life was peachy… Until I started suffering from strange symptoms, which at first I put down to the pregnancy. Slowly but surely the symptoms worsened. I was dashing to the toilet over ten times each day, losing blood, and was in lots of pain around my stomach and back. I became terrified that something was wrong with my baby. I went to visit my GP, who quickly came to suspect that I may have Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The confirmatory tests could not be done due to me being pregnant, so I was given foam enemas to help the inflammation. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and could then finally be booked in for the Colonoscopy I needed in order to reach a diagnosis.
In late 2009 I was diagnosed with Proctitis, which is a form of Ulcerative Colitis affecting the lining of tissue of the inner rectum. I initially kept it under control with medication the doctor offered as the first port of call, and because my disease was mild at this point it worked. Naively I totally underestimated the severity of my disease, and I thought my medication had cured me. I often didn’t bother taking it and generally did not look after myself. I ate too much of the wrong things, drank too much and weighed a lot more than I should have.
Fast forward to 2015 and I became incredibly unwell. I was diagnosed with Pan Ulcerative Colitis which meant the disease was now throughout my entire large bowel and I was flaring terribly. I became housebound and was no longer able to work as a Forensic Science Lecturer, which is a job I adored and had worked so hard for; I had just achieved promotion. My consultant put me on a biological drug treatment called Humira, where I had to self-inject weekly at home.
After a while, it was clear the injections alone were not completely working. I felt a bit better but still not right. I was still not able to go out for long periods. After trying many different diets which didn’t work I decided to try to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. The combination of my new medication and ditching dairy and meat worked. I got my life back, I lost weight, and I could go out with my family again. I even dared to go on holiday. However, I had lost my job, a job I had spent effectively five years qualifying for and just having qualified with my masters, this was a huge blow.
A Fresh Start
I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than teaching, but I had to
try to remain positive. I clung on to the fact that not working meant I could
be there for my children during the school runs, the bath and story times, and
all the school plays and assemblies. I also had the exciting thought that I
could potentially do something for myself, something I had always dreamed of
doing but had never thought was possible.
I decided to go for it, and thought ‘what better way to earn a living than to work doing something I love?’ Clearly, I love food… (a little too much, but I’m working on it). So far I’ve lost four stone but still have two to go. I set up Glow, a meal delivery business, in January 2017. After a slight blip with my medication after it failed in October 2017, I seemed to settle on a new regime of eight weekly infusions with a drug called Vedolizumab that was administered at hospital. Again, I felt well, the combination of a plant-based diet and the vedolizumab made me feel great. I continued to drop the weight and found myself falling more and more in love with the vegan way of life! I have now switched all beauty products, cleaning products and clothes over to cruelty free brands and even my children decided to come on board in February 2018 and they became (mini) vegans too.
I was so happy with my new-found wellness and lifestyle, I should have known it was too good to be true… Once again, my medication failed! It also left me with horrendous joint pain which was later diagnosed as Inflammatory Arthritis, and also Erythema Nodosum, which is a painful condition where the fat cells under the skin become inflamed. This results in tender, red lumps, usually on the shins. In my case both my shins became terribly inflamed and painful. Once again I had had to face losing the career I had worked so hard for and had built up to a point I was very proud of, simply because I couldn’t stand for periods long enough to complete my cooking and I couldn’t leave the house to complete my deliveries.
A Fresh Start… Again
I became so poorly in December 2018 that I decided to cease trading with my meal delivery business, thinking I could start up again when I felt better and was settled on new medication, or having had surgery if it was necessary. These plans were not meant to be, in January 2019 my Dad who had suffered for many years from Parkinson’s and Vascular Dementia passed away. Despite him being poorly, his passing was still a huge shock as he had been physically well up until only a week or two before he was taken into hospital.
When such a life-changing event happens, it makes you re-evaluate your life and what is important. I thought a lot about what Dad would have thought about the situation, and I had found myself in and listened closely to the opinions of my close family members. I realised I had been continuing with my business far longer than I should have, simply to keep up appearances. I didn’t want to lose face and for people to think I’d failed. When Dad passed away I realised I could not give a damn what people think anymore! I needed to do what was right for me and my family. I knew I needed to create a career that works for me, one I could still run from home but could do sitting down, or even laying down if I needed to. But the question was, what?
I have always enjoyed reading and watching other people’s blogs, facebook pages, and inspirational talk videos and wondered if it was something I could try myself. I was lucky that I had made a friend in the chronic illness world who runs the wonderful blog A Balanced Belly, a blog all about Jenna’s life with Crohn’s Disease and how she helps her gut health through a gluten and dairy free diet. After chatting things through with Jenna I decided to give it a whirl, what did I have to lose?
I still needed to earn a small wage, so I started buying and selling clothes, again something I can do from home. I set up my little blog House of Herbivores, which is all about life as a mum to vegan children. I share plant-based recipes, review vegan products, and also chat all things Ulcerative Colitis too. My recipes prove really popular with vegans and non-vegans alike, as the meat-free food movement becomes ever more popular and families are incorporating more and more meat-free meals into their weekly menus. It’s very early days, but things seem to be going really well. I have had lovely feedback on my fledgling site and have had my writing published on other blogs. My aim is to be able to monetise my blog in the near future, but I am still very much in the early stages of my plans.
It has been quite the journey over the last ten years with Ulcerative Colitis. I count myself as incredibly, incredibly lucky. Yes, I have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, but that does not define me! Over the last ten years, I have also had two wonderful, intelligent and compassionate children. I qualified as a teacher and completed my masters (yes it nearly finished me off but that’s beside the point, and is a story for another day). We have moved into our forever family home and added a silly puppy dog into our family. I have made such happy memories with my family and friends, been on holidays I will never forget, and have made new friends thanks to Colitis and Veganism too.
I am constantly fighting for wellness and will never stop.
I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunty and a friend. That is what defines me, and it is for those wonderful reasons that I will get through the challenges that inevitably lie ahead on this crazy journey that is chronic illness.
Always try to find the positive.
Emma is a freelance writer and cook who created the blog House of Herbivores – a vegan family blog. Emma was inspired to switch to a plant based lifestyle three years ago for health reasons as she suffers from Ulcerative Colitis, inflammation of the bowel. Emma shares her family favourite recipes, vegan product reviews, tips and tricks for the new vegan and insights into life as a vegan family.
Obesity and weight loss can be major challenges for those of us who struggle with chronic illness. Unlike healthy people, we can’t just hit the gym harder and work off the excess pounds. So what can we do?
Below is a list of tips to consider if you are trying to manage your weight.
1- Visit your doctor.
Weight gain can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical issue. There are thousands of things that can be impacting your weight. Thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance and certain nutritional deficiencies can all cause you to pack on the pounds, despite diet and exercise. If you are struggling to lose weight, talk to your healthcare provider, request lab testing and rule out any medical condition concerns.
2- Eat right.
Eating right is different for everyone. You have to decide what is best for your body, your health and your lifestyle. Two people can be on the same diet and have completely different results. Certain health conditions can inhibit your tolerance to specific diets. For example, those who have chronic kidney disease are discouraged from diets such as Adkins or the Keto diet due to the high amount of animal protein consumed. People with endocrine conditions such as diabetes or hypoglycemia are discouraged from intermittent fasting due to unstable blood glucose levels. People with mental health issues, depression and anxiety sometimes struggle with low carb diets due to the lack of serotonin. You have to figure out the diet you feel best on. The goal is to eat as naturally as possible. Avoid refined sugars, saturated fats and artificial ingredients such as aspartame, MSG, preservatives and artificial coloring.
3- Stay Active.
Obviously, not everyone is a marathon runner or power lifting champion. Those with chronic health conditions may not be able to perform extensive exercise, however it is still important to stay as active as possible. Simple exercises such as walking or swimming are low impact and beneficial to the body. Don’t think you have to torture yourself to stay active. The old saying is true, If you don’t move it- you lose it. Little things like walking up and down stairs, climbing in and out of a bathtub or bending down to pick something up are ways we move our bodies without even realizing it. If you are struggling with exercise, start with 15 minutes of low impact stretching a day. Conditioning your body is a slow process. The point is just to keep moving and stay as active as possible!
How many of our calories do we consume unnecessarily through sugary drinks? Do not drink your calories. Sugary coffees, sodas, milkshakes and slushies are wasted calories. Our bodies are not meant to process high amounts of sugar all at once. Consistently drinking these beverages can cause insulin issues and lead to Type Two Diabetes. Water is what your body is made of. We need to stay hydrated to stay as healthy as possible. Drink adequate water and avoid the sugary drinks!
5- Assess your medications.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the medications you are taking. Certain medications cause weight gain. Steroids and anti-depressants are notorious for causing weight gain. No one wants to be on medication and sometimes they are absolutely necessary. But check with your doctor to see if there may be alternatives to your prescriptions that could be causing weight gain. If not, don’t fret. What’s the point of looking good if you don’t feel good? Take the medications you need for the best quality of life possible. Don’t beat yourself up if they have caused you to gain weight. The point of life is to live to the fullest every day, and if medications help you do that, the extra pounds are a small price to pay.
Adequate rest and sleep are essential to being healthy. When your body is run down, exhausted and tired it cannot function at 100%! Your body will be stressed out and that can cause increased cortisol levels and lead to weight gain. Rest when you are tired. Sleep the recommended amount of at least 8 hours a night.
7- Manage Stress.
If you are constantly burning the candle at both ends, your body is going to react to that. If your body goes into survival mode, it is going to slow your metabolism, store fat and not work properly. High stress is one of the worst things you can do to your body. Weight loss won’t happen until you get your stress levels under control. Practicing healthy habits like meditation, having a positive mindset, avoiding negative people and performing relaxation techniques are great ways to manage stress.
Preparation is the key to success. Planning your meals, grocery shopping and meal prep are essential to successful weight loss. You cannot lose weight if you are constantly eating fast food and consuming poor-quality nutrition. Meal plans can be found for free online and there are thousands of diet books and resources available. Your health is an investment and you must take the time to invest in it. Plan your meals, learn to cook at home and avoid fast food.
9- Get a Support System.
Losing weight is a difficult process. It helps to have people that will support you along your weight loss journey and keep you accountable. Join a support group, go on a healthy diet with your spouse or best friend, exercise in a class at the local gym or YMCA. Find people who will help you reach your goals. Avoid negative people who don’t support you. This is your life, your health and your goals. Align yourself with people who will lift you up and not tear you down.
10- Love yourself.
Ultimately, you are not defined by your looks or your weight. The goal of weight loss should be to feel better not look better. Weight loss is about being as healthy as possible. If you are miserable on a certain diet, don’t torture yourself. Some people go into severe depression on low carb diets while others have success. You have to know what is best for your body and love yourself for who you are. Your weight doesn’t define you, your heart does. All you can do is your best and that is enough.
Best of luck with your weight loss journey.
To read more from Winslow, feel free to visit her website
Though it’s hard to generalize tips for everyone, there are well- and widely-accepted dietary guidelines for health, and these especially apply when you are facing a mystery illness or a chronic illness diagnosis. Food is delicious, and a comfort, yes. But food is more than something yummy. It’s information that turns our genes on and off. The right foods contribute to our wellness and healing by providing the right kind of information to our cells, while the wrong foods give our genes and cells the opposite message. But what are those right foods? They are unique to your own body and constitution. If you take the time to really delve deep to answer this question for your own body, your ability to manage or heal your health challenges will get easier. Most of us eat several times per day, every day. If we are continuously eating food with low nutrient density, lots of chemical ingredients, or foods our bodies are reacting to, we feed the fire of symptoms and inflammation. But if we choose properly prepared foods that our bodies evolved to eat and avoid the foods that feed inflammation for our unique body, we give ourselves a fighting chance to repair damage already done, and to recharge our wellness reserve so we can move towards healing. Because I practice functionally, and believe whole-heartedly in bioindividual solutions for each unique individual, not ALL of the following tips will be useful for you. I will note which tips should be used with caution, and in which circumstances. It’s always a good idea to consult with a practitioner who is familiar with your case before adopting a new change. I know for many, this list may seem impossibly long, or new and confusing. Never fear. I’m willing to bet that one or two of the items really stood out to you. Start there. Your life with chronic illness is a marathon, not a sprint. Begin with something that feels manageable and work it into your life. When you feel really comfortable with that, add something new. Doing a little something is better than doing nothing. Each of these pieces pays dividends, and the more you add, the more momentum you will build. Here are my top 15 tips to use food-as-medicine for chronic illness.
Ditch the gluten
Gluten is the number 1 food I ask my chronic illness clients to remove. Not only are many people sensitive to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, and barley, but gluten by default increases intestinal production of an substance called zonulin. Zonulin increases intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. A leaky gut is one of the necessary conditions for developing autoimmune disease. Some researchers and scientists believe that all disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease begins with autoimmune reactions. Because gluten is ever-present in commonly-available foods, truly avoiding it can be a challenge to get used to, but I can almost guarantee that removing gluten will help your symptoms improve, and support your body in heaing.
Pro Tip: Eliminate gluten entirely. Check food labels carefully, it hides in plain sight, with confusing words. Check out the list available at www.glutenfreesociety.org. Only avoid the items starred if you are diagnosed or suspected celiac. Use gluten free substitutes, whole gluten-free grains, or even try ditching grains altogether.
Ditch the dairy
Right next to gluten is dairy. Some people DO tolerate dairy just fine, but many others do not. And if you are continuously eating something your body doesn’t like, you may not be showing any overt signs of sensitivity. People can be sensitive to the protein in dairy (casein), or the sugars in dairy (lactose), or they can have an allergic reaction to dairy proteins (IgE sensitivity). Some reactions can be delayed by 1-4 days after ingestion. Many people who react to gluten also react to casein. This is common in people with a variety of chronic illnesses, including thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, and autism. A good way to test for dairy sensitivity is to do a complete elimination for 3-4 weeks, and then trial various dairy products one by one, waiting 3-4 days in between, while tracking symptoms, including changes in your stool. Use a Food-Symptom Tracker to help.
Pro Tip: Eliminate dairy for 3-4 weeks, and reintroduce one at a time, checking for symptoms.
Ditch the sugar
Though sugar rarely causes allergic-type reactions or sensitivities, it does tend to aggravate or flare many chronic illness symptoms. One possible reason for this is because sugar requires vitamins and minerals to be processed by the body, and in this way acts as an “anti-nutrient”. If we eat a lot of sugar, including natural sugars such as maple syrup, turbinado, and coconut sugar, our body uses up magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, chromium, and calcium to deal with them. Magnesium is a key co-factor in hundreds of detox and maintenance functions in our body, and can be badly depleted by sugar. Vitamin D and C are key immune supports, and are especially important nutrients for succeeding in healing chronic illness. Chromium is an important nutrient for balancing blood sugar, and balanced blood sugar is key for keeping inflammation in check. Guess what fuels chronic illness? If you guessed inflammation, you get a gold star!
Calcium is, of course, important for maintaining bone integrity as we age. Calcium deposition requires Vitamin D, so the depletion of both is a double whammy. Vitamin D is also essential to our immune function, especially people trying to heal from autoimmunity.
Pro Tip: Check for added sugars on your food labels and don’t buy foods with added sugar. Rely on sugar in its pure, complex forms: fruits, vegetables, winter squash, sweet potatoes, whole grains.
Reduce or eliminate refined carbs
This tip goes hand in hand with quitting sugar. Carbs, no matter their source, elevate blood sugar. Whole sources of carbohydrates, such as nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits contain fiber. The fiber prevents the carbs and complex sugars from elevating blood sugar too quickly. But refined carbohydrates, or simple carbs (including grain flours and starches, high glycemic fruits like mango, and high glycemic vegetables like potatoes) can spike blood sugar as badly as refined sugar. Elevated blood sugar creates inflammation in the body. Your body reads this as irritation. Not only does this reduce the effectiveness of insulin over time, which can lead to adult onset diabetes, it irritates the lining of blood vessels and is a huge contributor to heart disease and cancer.
Pro Tip: Obtain your carbohydrates from whole food sources, such as whole grains, whole vegetables, whole fruits, and nuts and seeds. (All if tolerated, of course!) Remove or minimize processed carbs, such as bread, crackers, pretzels, baked goods, pasta, and tortillas from your diet in favor of whole carbohydrate sources.
Choose the right fats and oils, and support healthy fat digestion
Despite the bad rap fats have received over the last 50-60 years, we need healthy dietary fats to maintain our brains, joints, and hormones. Fats also help us feel satiated and full. Americans generally consume way too much Omega-6-rich vegetable oils, such as canola, soy, and cottonseed oils, and not enough Omega-3-rich oils, such as from fatty fish, grass-fed meat, and nuts and seeds. This balance of oil intake is inflammatory, and the combo of refined carbohydrates (often gluten based) with high omega-6 oils is a recipe for massive inflammation. Also, many foods are still manufactured with hydrogenated oils, which are extremely damaging and inflammatory to the body. Contrary to public opinion, we do need saturated fats. A moderate intake of these fats is also important to maintain brain and hormone health. Along with using the right fats, we also need to select the proper fats for cooking to avoid oxidized and rancid fats. Heating the wrong oils creates inflammatory oxidation, which can contribute to the inflammatory effects. And though the vegetable oils like canola have a higher smoke point than say, olive oil, they go rancid easily after pressing and processing into snacks and processed foods. They are also often highly sprayed with pesticides. And though incorporating a lot of healthy fat into your diet is a great thing, it’s important to maximize fat digestion. Fats are broken down by enzymes secreted in saliva and from the pancreas, and bile from the gall bladder. Many Americans have sluggish (or missing) gall bladders! Be sure to support fat digestion with your additional intake.
Pro Tip: Avoid hydrogenated fats and industrial seed oils such as canola, cottonseed, soy, and safflower oil at all costs. Stick to olive oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee, lard, duck fat, or avocado oil, and sesame oil. For cooking, keep to avocado, butter/ghee, or coconut oil, as their high smoke point allows for less damage in cooking. Olive oil should only be used at low temp or as a dressing. Same for sesame oil. If you are someone who struggles with fat digestion, incorporate some gentle liver support, such as enzymes containing ox bile or lipase, castor oil packs, digestive bitters, or gentle liver massage.
Fiber not only prevents blood sugar spikes by slowing glucose’s entry into the bloodstream, it also helps feed the ecosystem of bacteria in your gut. If we want to encourage a healthy population of good bacteria in our gut, we need to provide them with food. Similar to when you provide some form of fertilizer or compost to your soil in your garden for your plants, you need to do the same for your bacteria. Some people do not tolerate fiber well. This may include people with IBD, IBS, SIBO, or other gut conditions. There are different types of fiber, and in this situation, you will need to experiment with which fiber-rich foods are tolerated.
Pro Tip: Increase fiber by including raw or cooked vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains (if tolerated) into your diet. If you are some one who reacts to raw or cooked vegetables, a good place to begin is by exploring the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or the low FODMAP diet.
Include probiotic foods
Maintaining and restoring our health from chronic disease almost always has a digestive element. People with chronic illness commonly have mild to severe gut dysbiosis. If you’re already including lots of fiber (food for your good bacteria), then you can also add in probiotic foods to help populate your gut with beneficial gut bugs. Most traditional societies included probiotic foods in their regular fare. They are an insurance policy against intestinal illness and help keep us well. Some beneficial gut bugs are also responsible for creating some of our vitamins, or translating them into a form our body can use.
Pro Tip: consume small amounts of probiotic rich foods, like sauerkraut, beet kvass, water kefir, cultured pickles, kimchi, or dairy kefir and yogurt (if dairy is tolerated) regularly to keep your gut well stocked with healthy good gut bugs. If you are someone prone to bloating, or have SIBO, you may not be able to tolerate probiotics or probiotic rich foods until you sort out the root causes.
Eat real foods
By now, you can likely tell I’m advocating that you eat a fresh, REAL food diet, free from rancid or hydrogenated oils, processed carbohydrates, sugar, gluten, dairy, and this includes chemical additives. The best and cheapest way to do this is to prepare your own food, or choose pre-made foods that contain nothing but whole grains, grass-fed or wild meat, poultry and fish, healthy oils, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. Subject your food to the “grandma” test: If your grandma could have pronounced and understood all the ingredients, you are on the right track. If there are weird words she would have no idea what they mean, it’s best to avoid it. These are the foods our body was designed to eat, and gives your cells the information they need to repair function and heal from the inside out.
Pro Tip: If you don’t already know how to cook, try a local cooking class. Or check out the WHOLE30 cookbook by Melissa Hartwig for ideas. You could try meal preparation services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Sun Basket, which send ingredients and instructions to prepare a meal.
Unless you buy organic food, your food has likely been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and other potentially harmful chemicals. Many of these chemicals haven’t been adequately tested for human safety, and some are known carcinogens. I still find it confusing that I need to recommend this, and that our governmental agencies haven’t seen fit to generally outlaw toxic chemicals being sprayed on our food. Though it’s impossible to avoid all chemicals in today’s world, a simple action you can take to protect your health, and support your body in healing is choosing organic. If you can’t afford to buy ALL organic food, choose organic meats and dairy products, stick to the Clean 15 produce list, and avoid the Dirty Dozen list, put out by the Environmental Working Group for produce choices.
Identify trigger foods and stop eating them
I’ve covered a lot of the common food symptom triggers earlier in this article, but any food or ingredient can cause symptoms. One of the greatest empowering skills for gaining control over your experience with your chronic illness is in correctly identifying your food or behavior-related triggers and removing or stopping them. For example, I have found that chocolate, no matter the form, triggers gut pain for me. As much as I LOVE chocolate, and would love to eat it daily, I’d rather be pain free. So unless it’s a really special occasion, I avoid it.
Pro Tip: Use a Food-Symptom Diary to track your food, supplement, and medication intake alongside your symptoms and your stool to identify possible culprits. Behaviors to consider as symptom triggers include exercise, sleep habits, hydration habits, and stress habits.
Calm eating space
Digestion is the center of good health, and our bodies are designed to eat at rest, without stress. If we eat on the run, in the car, standing up, while reading political news, or about children dying somewhere, our digestion will be less efficient, and this will not support our healing.
Pro Tip: Eat while sitting down, in a calm state of mind. Take a few cleansing breaths before eating. Center yourself and give thanks for your food.
Chew your food
Digestion begins in the mouth with our chewing. The act of chewing mechanically breaks down our food, but it also mixes it with saliva, which begins the process of breaking down the complex carbohydrates and fats in the food. In fact, the longer people chew, the more they find that it their food releases sweetness.
Pro Tip: A guideline is 25-50 chews per bite. Chew until the food is well liquefied. This act of meditative chewing also helps you bring your body into the calm state necessary for good digestion.
Cook in bulk
All this eating of whole, unprocessed food can mean a lot more cooking, and many people, especially if fatigue is part of their symptom picture, struggle with this piece. Cooking in bulk is a strategy for dealing with this. Make multiple servings of a dish, and freeze or refrigerate for later extra servings. Make use of a crockpot or rice cooker. Make a huge pot of soup. Prepare the staples for your diet in bulk, and then whip up a fresh veggie side dish, stir fry, or meat to go with it.
Pro Tip: If you seem sensitive to leftovers, you may have a histamine intolerance, as foods tend to increase their histamine as they’re stored, especially meat and fish. Avoid bulk cooking and leftovers in this situation.
Bone broth is slow and long-cooked broth with a little bit of vinegar. The vinegar helps draw the calcium out of the bones, and the slow cooked fats and gelatin dissolve into the broth. These elements make bone broth very healing for a damaged or leaky gut.
Pro Tip: Make a large pot of bone broth. Store 1 quart in a jar in the fridge, and sip with your meals, and freeze the rest to add as stock to soup, or for plain eating. Bone Broth may not be suitable if you are struggling with SIBO or histamine intolerance.
Though food can make a profound difference in how you feel, and your ability to heal, it’s often only one part of the equation. For years, I made the mistake of thinking that if I changed my diet, I would heal completely. Diet is really and truly only one piece of the puzzle. If you are struggling with complex, chronic symptoms, find a skilled practitioner trained in Functional Nutrition or Functional Medicine to work with who can help you untangle the web, and find a path to recovery.
About the Author
Amanda Malachesky is a Functional Nutrition Coach, who helps people solve their chronic or complex health mysteries so they can heal at the root cause level. When her lifelong health issues took a sudden turn for the worse after the loss of her best friend to cancer, she had to unearth the root causes of her condition herself, because conventional medicine failed to offer anything useful. She is the owner of Confluence Nutrition, a virtual Functional Nutrition Clinic, and works with clients one-on-one and in online group programs, is a teacher and speaker in her local community, and is the host of the private Facebook group Hope for Healing Chronic Illness.