26 Apr Episode 50 – Healing Chronic Fatigue
Hello and welcome! This week’s episode is a big one, because it’s actually my 50th episode of the Shiny Healthy You podcast, woohoooo!!! It’s also a big episode in a different way because it’s quite a personal one.
If you would prefer to listen to this post (Healing Chronic Fatigue) as a podcast, it’s now available by clicking the links below:
Otherwise… read on!
The topic of today’s podcast has taken me a while to get my head around. You see, at first I was kinda just hoping it would go away. But then, as I started to piece things together, I realised I had a bit of a challenge on my hands.
You see, it started out as a sore finger joint in November. I’d been surfing the day before, so I thought nothing of it at the time – I figured that in my excitement of catching waves, I must have hit my knuckle on the board, and just not remembered it. I wrote it off as a minor bump.
November passed and it was still sore.
I started to wonder whether I’d bruised the joint. I made a mental note that if it still hurt in a few weeks time, to get it checked out.
December passed in a flurry of work, Christmas, and summer activities.
In January, my finger was still hurting. I noticed that I couldn’t wear my favourite ring on that finger anymore.
I bit the bullet and went for an X-Ray and Ultrasound. Results showed nothing. However, a few raised autoimmune markers in my blood work landed me a referral to a rheumatologist (they’re the people who check you out for autoimmune conditions that affect the joints).
So anyway, I couldn’t get into see the bloke till March, after my Greece trip. By this stage my finger was hurting enough that even housework was becoming painful (well, that’s MY excuse anyway!). But seriously – a little too much pressure in the wrong directions and it felt like someone was sticking a hot knitting needle right through the joint.
But what happened next was a little unexpected.
The specialist was thorough. I mean – VERY thorough. I think I was in there for over an hour, answering a truckload of questions. He took me through questions about topics like energy levels, exercise tolerance, post-exercise recovery times, muscle pain, and joint pain (my knees, shoulders and hips have also got a history that I won’t bore you with, except to say, I feel like an old person some days).
Then he said the words “you have chronic fatigue.” He also said I was ticking some of the boxes for fibromyalgia, but that I didn’t have it yet.
Although in the back of my mind, this is something I’ve known for a long time, no one’s ever put a label on me, and because I manage my symptoms with diet and lifestyle, I’ve never felt the need to go and get a formal diagnosis.
But when someone said the actual words “chronic fatigue” to me, it was like my world comes grinding to a halt. I had a label. And it was one that was difficult to shrug off. As a naturopath, I also know that it can be one of the trickier conditions to deal with, as there’s no one solution that fixes everyone.
As I headed home, my head was reeling. For me, it was a weird label to be given. I mean, I can get out of bed in the morning. I can go to work. I exercise a few times a week. I look like I’m living a pretty normal life. If I put myself in the same basket as others with this illness, isn’t that kinda fraudulent, or disrespectful to them? I mean, I see a LOT of clients with chronic fatigue who can’t even get out of bed some days.
So I went home and did what anyone in my situation would do. I cried my eyes out to my husband. And then I drank a lot of wine (ok, it was just 3 glasses and then a Netflix marathon on the couch, with chocolate…).
It’s funny how a diagnosis can change your mindset. It wasn’t like when I found out I had pyrrole disorder, or MTHFR. They were empowering moments. I knew EXACTLY what I had to do to get better. I had an action plan ready to go. There were exact steps to take. But this time… for some odd reason, I was launched into a whole world of feeling sorry for myself. Which made me feel really really tired. So by being told I had chronic fatigue, it’s like I suddenly manifested a bout of chronic fatigue.
That was when I decided to change the way I looked at this. First of all, I resolved never to call it “MY” chronic fatigue. No matter how bad things got, I was never, ever, going to put the label “my” on it. Why not? Because I felt like it would then glue this condition to me energetically. By naming a condition as mine, then it’s like you’re married to it. Then how are you meant to get it to go away.
Side note – I see this in clinic a lot. And people don’t just do it with medical conditions, like “my arthritis” or “my endometriosis.” They also do it with food. Like “I could never give up my pasta.” Well no, it’s going to be extra hard for you to stop eating it, if you just named it as yours. Anyway… I digress.
So I decided not to call it “mine.” And I made a conscious decision to leave no stone unturned in my quest to fix this. That’s when the Googling started.
- Autoimmune Paleo Protocols
- Vegan Detox Diets
- Gut Healing
- Low Histamine
- Alkaline diets
And then I remembered something.
I’m an effing naturopath! I see this stuff day in, day out! If someone was sitting in front of me with the same issue, where would I start?
I would start with the liver and the gut, and work my way up from there.
And I would ask my client a question – When’s the last time you felt REALLY well? Is there a time you can think back to when you felt like you were on top of your health?
That time for me was in 2005 when I embarked on an 8 week anti-candida diet.
The actual diet was hell. I absolutely LOVE food and I was forced to eat the most bland, average meals for 2 months. No sugar, no natural sugars, no fruit, no tomatoes, nope, not even avocados. No bananas – so bye bye smoothies. No sweet veggies with seeds on the inside, like pumpkin or capsicum. No gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, no fun. I remember I felt like a social reject for 8 weeks.
At that time, I basically just lived on meat, fish, chicken, eggs and veggies, with a bit of brown rice. It was over 10 years ago so we didn’t even have quinoa back then. I just ate really basic food. I also took a bunch of herbs and supplements to kill the candida, boost my immune system and heal my gut.
And you know what? It’s the BEST thing I ever did! It was the hardest thing I ever did, but the results were off the chart goodl. Candida – gone. Joint pain – gone. Skin – clear. Head – un-foggy. Period pain – gone. Cellulite – gone. Tummy – flat. Nose – stopped running, even on cold winter days. And my bowels were as happy as can be.
It’s funny how we can talk ourselves into thinking that we don’t need something. And I’ve been putting off doing another round of this diet because it’s just so bloody hard! But the time had come to bite the bullet, so I started. The week before Easter. Yeah – pretty dumb timing I know.
No wine. No chocolate eggs. No hot cross buns.
But seriously. It was freakin’ BLISS. I know – you might think I’m weird! But I felt so good about the choices I’d made for my health that there was very little room in my mind for feeling deprived.
And guess what? My body started to bounce back. Fast. The arthritic swelling in my knuckle (that’s been there since November) started to go down. My tummy went flatter. My head is less foggy. My mood is calmer and I’ve been able to concentrate better. Hellooooo, sweet clarity!
“Why over Easter?” I hear you ask.
Er… because it’s my birthday in the first week of June, and I wanted to give the diet at least 6 weeks to work – and if I didn’t start it now – no birthday treats for me! It’s all about priorities, people! And I prioritised birthday over Easter eggs.
By the way – full disclosure here, I caved on Easter Sunday and had one plain croissant. Because I was out and about and hadn’t planned ahead. And I was at this epic bakery. And it was better than eating the other choices on hand, which included chocolate croissants and cake. And you know what? My finger flared up the next day. So that’s the last croissant I’ll be eating in a little while.
So I guess the moral of the story here is that sometimes even naturopaths need to pull their finger out and do a bit of a detox. And there’s never the perfect window of opportunity for these kinds of things. There’s always something in the way – a birthday… Christmas… a wedding… whatever. There will always be a reason to put it off. But I decided to put my health FIRST, and Easter chocolates SECOND, on the scale of What’s Important to Jules.
So tell me – are you putting yourself first right now? What are you putting off doing that deep down, you know you have to start? Maybe it’s as simple as just going gluten free. Maybe it’s giving up sugar. Or maybe it’s the whole gut healing, nuke the candida shebang like I’m doing.
But really – how long are you going to put off your wellness for? Because in the end, that’s actually what you’re doing. You’re putting off feeling better. My advice? Look past the short term inconvenience or pain, and look forward to a place where you know you’ll be glad you did it. Because 2 and a half weeks in, and I’m already there.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t craving wine last night. Or chocolate on the weekend. But I popped my favourite ring back on my now not-quite-so-gammy finger, and it fit, so now have it there as a reminder of WHY I’m doing this, and also a gentle reminder of what’s at stake if I don’t look after myself.
Because for me, it’s not just about the pain in the knuckle. That pain was and is a warning sign, to let me know what’s going to happen if I don’t change anything. I don’t want to wait until another knuckle joins the pain party, or a knee, or any other part of my body.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering… YES I do think this is all related to pyrrole disorder. You see, when pyrroles are elevated, then your zinc levels drop. When zinc becomes deficient, your copper levels can go up (zinc and copper sit on a bit of a seesaw). And guess what? Copper LOVES candida! Yep – everything’s connected. That’s why I’m going back to basics – I believe everything begins in the gut.
This chronic fatigue diagnosis also changed the way I look at my lifestyle. For years, I’ve been the kind of person to just push through. I would be hard on myself for not bouncing back after events. Whether it was a live speaking gig, an overseas trip, a sporting event (like a volleyball tournament), or just a busy week of launching a program, I used to just tell myself it was mind over matter, that I was weak, that I needed to take my supplements and toughen up.
You know the weird thing? I would NEVER, EVER treat my patients that way. I would tell them to STOP, to rest, to give themselves time to heal. But I’d been treating myself different.
The GOOD thing about a formal diagnosis of chronic fatigue is that I can’t ignore it anymore. I can’t get frustrated with myself for not being able to push through.
I absolutely LOVED what Penny Murden said in last week’s episode about how she still does all the things, like mountain bike events, but she actually schedules in a day or two of downtime afterwards. Scheduled rest. Proper days off. Now THERE’S a new concept for Type A personalities!
Sometimes my clients are my greatest teachers, and Penny has been no exception. I believe that as Michael Franti says, “When the hard times come, the teacher’s in the room,” and I’m learning so much from a fair few of my clients right now. And you know what? I have clients who ARE recovering from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia! They ARE improving! But you know what? They’re the ones who are taking stuff off their plates, who are committed to doing LESS, and who are being kind to themselves.
Because the whole concept of “me time” is bullshit if you flog yourself the rest of the time.
So I’ve already started saying “no” to things that I don’t really have time to do, things that don’t serve me, or that I just don’t really want to do. And it feels weird and selfish at first (it feels like I’m letting people down!), but I think it’s like a muscle – a “no” muscle – and the more I use it, the easier it will become. And it’s already leaving me with more space to focus on what’s important right now – my health, my work, my clients, and putting more time into education and research.
So I’ll keep you posted on my progress. This will just be another chapter which makes me stronger. Coming through this will help me to have a greater understanding when other people come my way with the same issues. I actually hope it will make me a better and more empathetic practitioner in the long run.
If this episode resonated with you, and you’d like to work with me, I’d love to work with you too! There are 3 awesome options to choose from.
- Start with my simple kickstart program called 7 Days to Gluten Free. It’s full of yummy meals, a shopping list, meal plan and heaps of tips and tricks for living a healthy, gluten free life.
- Then there’s my signature program, Shiny Healthy You – Fatigued to Fabulous in 12 Weeks. It’s picks up where 7 Days to Gluten Free leaves off, and we continue with the amazing food, which is all gluten, dairy and cane sugar free, but we take you to the next level with meal planning, stress relief, mindfulness, a little gentle exercise, and loads of information and education to empower you. This is the program for you if you need to get back on track to find your old energetic self again (I know she’s still in there!). It’s also perfect if you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue.
- If you have underlying issues which you think are affecting your health, if eating clean’s not making enough difference and you need to figure out what’s really going on. I’m also available for one on one consultations, both in person, in Bangalow, NSW, or via Skype or Phone. I have a special interest in adrenal fatigue, pyrrole disorder, MTHFR, candida and gut health. I also offer a range of pathology testing to get to the root cause of your problems, so that we can come up with a personalised game plan to help get you back on track. Click here to book now.
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That’s 30% off both programs, and consultations. But only until the 3rd of May, 2017. So if you were thinking of working with me, now’s the time! Choose the product you wish to buy, and when prompted, enter the code “podcast.” That’s all you need to do – enter the code “podcast” to grab the special price.
Whew! What a massive episode! Wow, I feel like I’ve bared my soul to you guys. I hope you enjoyed the insights. If you’ve got something to share in return, don’t be a stranger. Hit me up on my Facebook page here or shoot me an email to email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.