*This post is written by Diamond, our guest blogger.
Every chronic illness sufferer knows that his or her relationship with food is a complicated and turbulent matter. Many conditions are intrinsically linked to diet, and subsequent allergies and intolerances are likely. On the other hand, nearly everywhere you turn there are fad diets and magic superfoods that are supposedly able to heal you overnight.
Throughout my diagnoses period, and for a while after, I have been prescribed many diets from doctors, experimented with alternative healing through food and – most importantly – relentlessly searched for anything I could eat without feeling sick. I’ve been gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, low FODMAP and even vegan a few times. Suffice it to say, I found little success. It wasn’t until I stopped listening to the advice and started listening to my body that things began to improve.
While it becomes increasingly clear that there is no “one-size-fits-all” quick fix for diet and chronic illness, it is possible to regain control. Instead of attempting to force yourself into someone else’s ‘perfect diet,’ this guide covers ways you can develop your own.
Google Is Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy
Being chronically ill in the modern age is actually something of a luxury. We have such an incredible wealth of information at our fingertips that we can easily research and understand our conditions unlike ever before. It’s simple to access crucial knowledge from fellow sufferers and even trained doctors via the internet.
There are endless recipes, diet plans and tutorials available that can walk you through different methods and theories on curative eating. Because of this, Google is a great first stop for creating a nutrition plan. You can search based on your particular condition or target certain symptoms that might be particularly difficult to manage. Taking to Google can also help you get a more objective view of the problem. By searching in incognito mode or using an equivalent external software, you can access results that aren’t personalized to your location, interests and recent search.
However, it’s important to consider the dangers of self-diagnosis. While the internet is awash with helpful advice, not all of it can be trusted. Articles can be rehashed numerous times until the original meaning is lost, and writers very often make statements without having enough evidence. It’s easy to get fooled by unreliable click bait to try to be mindful of the sources you choose! Google is a fantastic place for your research to start, but it does not provide the complete answer.
Doctors Are an Essential Reference Point
In my experience, Doctors do not have the answer when it comes to diet and chronic illness. As so many conditions present similarly and often diagnostic tests are not available, it’s hard for them to get a realistic picture. One of the most important lessons I have learned during my chronic illness journey is that you are the master of your own condition.
However, this fact does not mean you should stop seeing your doctor. There is no way you will ever be able to rival their medical knowledge, and it would be dangerous to think otherwise. To get the most from discussing nutrition in your appointment, there are a few easy rules to follow.
- Take your pre-considered ideas to discuss.
- Use a food and symptom diary to summarize the issues.
- Don’t take “no” for an answer if you aren’t improving.
It’s so important never to start a new diet or home treatment plan without consulting a medical professional. Using your Doctor as a reference point is the ideal way to test out and discuss your own research, theories and observations about your health and nutrition plan.
Common Sense Goes a Long Way
Nutrition isn’t rocket science; the basics of healthy eating are something they instill into us from a young age. No matter the complications and intricacies of your chronic health conditions, there are a few golden truths that apply to everyone.
- Eating fresh helps you get the most out of your food. Over-processing not only reduces nutrient content but it also uses chemicals that are an irritant for many.
- Diets low in sugar, salt and fat will help ensure optimum health. Don’t cut them out altogether, but pay attention to daily allowance recommendations.
- Nutrient dense food is the best way to support your immune system and help your body heal. As a general rule, foods that are darker in color usually have more vitamins and minerals.
- Healthy snacking is an easy and quick nutrition hack. Opt for fruit and nuts over chocolate and chips.
- Buying organic has been proven to improve general health drastically in a number of studies.
- Cut out the bad stuff: alcohol, smoking, and caffeine are unavoidably bad for your health and always will be!
Trust Your Body
At the end of the day, the most reliable source for working out your ideal diet is your body. You can research an entire plan, confirm its affectivity with your doctor and rigidly stick to it, but if your body isn’t happy, then it will tell you.
It took me three attempts of forcing myself into a Vegan diet – once that is stereotypically ‘super healthy’ – before I finally accepted that my body just can’t cope with such a high amount of fiber.
There are many ways you can tune into your own physical needs and monitor its reactions to food. I’ve already mentioned using a food diary, but another great tactic is meditation. Taking some time to quiet the mind allows your body the space to highlight any symptoms and discomfort. When combined with exclusion diets, this is a great technique to start a dialogue with yourself about what foods do and don’t work for you.
In short, creating the perfect diet plan to help manage your chronic illness can be thought of in four points:
- Personal research to gain a broader understanding of your condition and the impact of certain foods,
- medical support to make sure any diet experimentation is backed up with fact,
- common sense
- and self-awareness.
No matter what your chronic illness is, follow these tips and you can create a nutrition plan that is appropriate and personalized for you. You might even be able to eat without feeling sick if you can find the perfect combination!
About the Author: Diamond has dealt with a multitude of chronic illnesses all of her life. Over the years, she realized that she had to take her health into her own hands. After becoming an expert on her own disease, she has become an active health blogger to inspire and help others to do the same.
Main photo by: Ekologiskt_Skafferi / 44 images