Reducing Chronic Illness As We Age

Reducing Chronic Illness As We Age

by Harriet, Editor-at-Large

 
One of the most important preps I believe we can make is to stay healthy, or for those of us suffering the myriad of conditions that occur as we age, to improve our health. 
 
I am one of those unfortunate people who have had poor health all my life. As a child I suffered a lot of pain that was variously diagnosed. Mobility became lessened and physiotherapy twice a week was instituted. Later I suffered extreme fatigue, occasions of massive inflammation, much pain and disability. The labels don’t really matter as they changed from decade to decade. Sometimes I got a “respectable” auto-immune diagnosis. Other times they wanted to characterize it as a neurosis or psychiatric problem. But all that time I staggered through life, suffering and getting no help from the medical profession beyond occasional two week placebo effect from some of the pills. There were also occasions when the doctors insisted the drugs they gave me worked when they actually made me feel worse. For decades suicide seemed a good choice as I was given no way out of the pain and suffering.
 
As a result of this I became very interested in healing and unexpected recoveries from severe illness. I knew there were always some people who had recovered when they weren’t expected to from stories in the bible, to the miracles at Lourdes, to miracles claimed by the modern evangelical churches. So I set out how to find out how to make a miracle healing more likely and along the way have learned how to be healthier than I have ever been in my life.
 
I became a researcher in a university department of primary care and later got a PhD in medicine studying people who should have died but didn’t. It was difficult to get patients for my study as the doctors did not accept that miracles occurred. However when I suggested I was interested in people who had less than a 10% chance of surviving they came up with people for me to talk to. As a result of that quite major study I discovered the psycho-social-spiritual components of health that all the survivors had.
 
However when I was publishing the paper a decade later (it took me a long time to be able to write it up in a way that my medical colleagues would accept) I went back to my survivors to see how they were doing. Many of them had died in that time and I had to accept that there was something in the physical arena that I had missed. The psychological, the social and the spiritual components were not enough.
 
I realized that all of the people in the study had eaten a basic vegetable and grass fed meat diet with little in common with the Standard American diet (SAD) pushed by the current dietary advisors. Because that was the way we all ate it didn’t seem remarkable to me at that time. However more and more industrialized food was being sold and eaten. Was that the reason they died? I had no idea but from the perspective of my own health it was a good place to start.
 
After much thinking and researching and trialling of foods I came to realize that there were some ways of eating in which I developed good health and some which triggered my autoimmune diseases. I became vegetarian for a year which was good for my food budget but not good for my health. I ate a lot of legumes which left me very, very ill.
 
Eventually it came to me that the only time I have been healthy was when I had eaten meat and vegetables without any grains or legumes and with severely restricted sugars, including fruits. This is the paleo or primal way of eating. I now endeavor to eat only free range grass fed animals and wild caught fish – though I think I’m only about 50% successful, largely on the grounds of cost. 
 
I used to be fat, unwell, with increasing numbers of signs and symptoms. Now my latest autoimmune diagnosis has been retracted on the grounds that if I’m now better I couldn’t ever have had it, despite the diagnosis being made on the grounds of objective tests.
 
I have read reports of people with conditions as various as stage IV prostate cancer, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, manic depression (bipolar) disorder, depression, heart failure, and type 2 diabetes improving dramatically on the paleo diet to the point of seeming to be healed, not to mention obesity and the general blahs disappearing. Now many of the people added or subtracted various supplements as well and undertook many mind-body components along with the change in eating so I don’t think of the diet as a single magic bullet and there may also be other things that need to be done in addition to changing one’s diet as is suggested by Dr Jack Kruse (www.jackkruse.com) a neurosurgeon who treats some of the sickest sick. However the paleo/primal diet is a great place to start.
 
The paleo diet is often characterized as a fad diet, but it must be remembered that it is a diet that was eaten for probably hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of years before people started eating grains in quantity. Some dietitians and nutritionists get their knickers in a twist about leaving out whole food groups they have been indoctrinated into believing are necessary but my personal concern is what works for me.
 
Wheat flour, can set off my autoimmune eye disease just by eating two large slices of birthday cake leaving me in acute pain and unable to see if I don’t take the hint and stop eating things made with flour. Other grains give me other problems. Its just not worth it, so I try to cut them out.
 
“Yes, it might work for you, but everyone is different.” Apart from the fact that some people have to be stricter or add additional restrictions, or do some additional things first and some can be more lax, I beg to differ. I didn’t find that the psycho-social-spiritual components differed from person to person and it does seem that aiming for food that is as close to the natural state as possible and as close to what our forbears ate before farming is likely to work well too.  
 
So what does this mean from a prepping perspective? It means I have an extra freezer as I need to purchase the meat when it is cheap. It means I need a generator in case the power goes off. I have had people tell me they couldn’t possibly afford a freezer and generator and I’m sure that is the case for some. However being ill is horrendously expensive, eating up huge chunks of money in cash and insurance. If TSHTF and doctors are unaffordable or unavailable many people will be in a very bad way if they are totally dependent on them during a deep financial depression. 
 
Many people believe what their doctors say, “there is no cure, we will just have to manage as best we can,” or even worse, “cut out all fat and lose some weight and you’ll feel better.”  Well I cut out fat and kept putting weight on. It wasn’t till I increased my fat intake to 1970 levels and cut out grains and sugars and most overly sweet fruit that I managed to turn the tables on my weight and start to reduce instead of increase. 
 
Am I completely well? No. Earlier this week I was irritated that I couldn’t do as much physically as I wanted to. I went to a colleagues site where he has a huge list of symptoms and discovered that I’ve recovered somewhere between 80 & 90% of the range of problems I used to have. I felt much better after that. My health is improving and I have nowhere near the signs and symptoms of ill health that was my previous experience. 
 
Remember that it only takes one person to get better to disprove a doctor’s claim that something is incurable as if it is possible for one person to recover or go into remission there is a physiological pathway which means it is possible for another can recover as well. The primal, paleo and epipaleo diets are worthy of exploration.
 
So if you have health problems might I suggest you trial a paleo or primal diet. To keep it really simple just get one book and follow it. However if you are an information junkie, or if you have long standing health issues read Mark’s Daily Apple and Jack Kruse and their forums as long as you can cope with a whole range of information and lots of informed and uninformed opinion.

 

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