Write For Health

writingtohealth

“One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.”

It’s been 15 months since my official Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, almost 18 months since the symptoms began, and almost 15 months to the day that I wrote my first post on this blog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my sudden urge to blog – rather than simply journal, or continue writing creatively in hopes to get published – may have had deeper roots connected to my overall health. In two separate articles: Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write and Writing Your Way to Happiness, researchers have discovered a strong link between writing and improved mental and physical health.

No longer an outlet for the overly imaginative or heartsick, writing – especially about personal experiences/traumas – has surprising benefits, including spending “less time in the hospital, enjoy[ing] lower blood pressure and ha[ving] better liver functionality than [non-writing] counterparts” (Science Shows).  Additionally, writing has the power to “make physical wounds heal faster,” a serious plus for those of us inflamed, ulcerated and bleeding (Science Shows).

Why? Well each article has a slightly different take, but basically writing about yourself is cathartic, thereby stress-relieving, and ultimately, becomes a mirror: “by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health” (Writing Your Way). And let’s face it, people dealing with injuries and illnesses have a great deal to process, and subsequently a whole lot to vent about, sometimes on an hourly basis. If we’re journaling or blogging, at the very least we’re not abusing the sympathetic ears of friends and family. Either no one reads it – or a select few – or you can cast your message-in-a-bottle into the Cloud for everyone, or none, to consume. The point isn’t so much to be heard as it is to relieve your anxieties, reflect upon them, and move on. I took a several month break from blogging because it got to the point where so much of my Ulcerative Colitis pain, embarrassment, and hassle was behind me (a.k.a. remission) that I didn’t want to dwell. Blogging began feeling like taking a step back into a period of time that I’d rather put behind me. Now, having that distance, I can look back objectively, sans negative emotional memories and ties.

The key component in all of this? Don’t feel like you need IBD or heart disease as an excuse to blog about your health or life. Just because others are experiencing technically more “significant” ordeals (i.e., cancer treatment) doesn’t lessen the significance of what you’re personally going through. This isn’t a competition, everyone has their burden to bear and it’s not up to us to judge whose is “worse,” or more “worthy.” Struggling with weight loss? Blog about it. Hair loss? Back pain? Infertility? Get on it. Sit down at your computer, or grab a notebook and pen, and GO: “Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life” (Science Shows). So, what are you waiting for?

 

Can’t run thanks to Colitis? At least you’ll look younger!

Not running = forever young

Not running = forever young

Take heart those of us who can no longer run thanks to Colitis (or a Colitis flare). I read in the March 2014 edition of Marie Claire that running makes your face sag! All that high-impact bouncing and jouncing stretches muscles and ligaments, apparently giving us the face of a Basset Hound. The blog Walk Jog Run confirms it. The condition is called “Runner’s Face.” It’s recommended we use an elliptical, or try other low-impact exercises instead. But let’s not kid ourselves – if vanity is our goal, we’ll ace our marathon-ready competitors. We can’t eat much of anything, weight loss is par for the course. While our intestines might look like a war zone, we’ll (outwardly) look Utopian.

The “Healing Crisis”

It's going to get worse before it gets better.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

I found out the hard way that healthy healing hurts. And it’s supposed to. After my first acupuncture session I experienced what I later learned was a very common thing, a “healing crisis.” The blog Healthy Life has a great article on it titled “Healing Crisis: When It’s Good to Feel Bad” which describes this “crisis” as “a temporary worsening of symptoms that occurs when the body is going through the process of healing itself through the elimination of toxins. It occurs when the body ‘retraces’ old injuries, wounds, infections or other imbalances from its past.” Journalist and blogger Jennifer Chaussee also posted about her experience with a healing crisis in “Why Acupuncture Made Me Sick.”

For all the research I did on acupuncture, how it can cure Colitis (among many other illnesses and injuries) and what to expect during a session, I somehow never came across this until I started Googling “feeling sad after acupuncture” and other phrases. Then I found a plethora of information on this phenomenon. For one, symptoms range from a worsening of actual physical symptoms (blood and cramps for me) to emotional symptoms such as sadness, irritability, or feeling “down.” After reading more than a dozen articles, I also learned that a healing crisis isn’t just the result of acupuncture. Even things as seemingly benign as a new diet can bring one on, and they’re equally common with meditation, chiropractic treatments, biofeedback, intense massage and–as one might expect–psychotherapy. Why?

In Chaussee’s words: “apparently, your body holds grudges better than your relatives. as it stores layers of fat over the years, that fat stores trace amounts of the various viruses and toxins and whathaveyou that have visited your body at one time or another. so all the colds you’ve had, the flu’s, the hangovers, the emotional crap you put yourself through in the past is literally stored inside of you in remnants and when you detox the idea is to release all that built-up crud. . .but during the release, those toxins are released into your blood stream from the fat they’ve been hiding in. if you don’t have enough water in your system or you just have a lot of crud built up in your body over time, you can essentially re-live all those toxins all over again. that flu will come back. you’ll be hungover. you’ll be thinking of that fight you had, those things you said, revisiting that memory you’d thought you’d seen off long ago.” [sic] Ah-ha!

When I returned for my second round of acupuncture, I was prepared. Instead of being blind-sided by overwhelming emotion (or fatigue) I was alert for it, welcomed it, and found that it was definitely not as intense this time as it was the first time. Instead of lingering for 2 days it was gone by this morning (and I went at 6:30pm last night). I read elsewhere that if the condition you’re primarily trying to address is more acute, such as my 6-month bout with this first flare, your healing crisis will be intense but brief, and likely won’t affect you as severely after 2-3 treatments. That is the case here. So, acupuncturees take heart – the needles aren’t painful and the fallout from your first treatment or two is normal and actually desired. If you’re not experiencing any kind of “healing crisis” then likely you either need more frequent treatments, or what you’re trying–whatever it is–isn’t working. No pain, no gain.

My 1st Acupuncture Experience

acupuncture2

So in follow-up to my earlier acupuncture post, I had my actual appointment today. (This was after the first place I’d wanted to go “lost” their acupuncturist, and I needed to look around for another reputable site.) The minor delay was totally worth it. I walked in not knowing what to expect, but with an open mind. I walked out with my mind blown, in the best, most relaxed calm of my entire life. This “peace” makes all the relaxation I’ve felt with various massages feel negligible in comparison. The needle insertion was slightly uncomfortable – while certain needles went in entirely without me feeling a thing, some did “pinch” a little, or were accompanied by odd sensations. She warned me about each one if they were going to feel a little weird, and the sensation passed almost immediately. (And at no time was it like receiving a shot at the doctor’s office, or giving blood. Those actually hurt, this does not.)

She also cautioned that a “heavy” feeling, or minor “dull aches” and sensations along those lines were entirely normal while lying there. I relaxed for about an hour, during which time I was transformed. I experienced a highly meditative state, and also a lot of strange, fascinating sensations, particularly in my lower abdomen. At times it felt excessively warm, at other times I felt dull cramps – things I either haven’t felt at all or haven’t felt in quite awhile, thanks to the Remicade. I also experienced bizarre muscle twitches and sensations in other parts of my body, which is also apparently very normal, as acupuncture treats the whole body, not just whatever you’re trying to address.

When she removed the needles my limbs felt like jelly, and I felt like I’d just come off a two-week vacation on some tropical island paradise. It was an incredible 180 from the way I’d walked in. Throughout the rest of today I’ve had some unusual cramping, but I was also warned that a return of symptoms is normal, and actually indicates the process is working. And, even though I went in to begin “curing” my Ulcerative Colitis, other ailments would inadvertently be “cured” as well, such as any muscle pains I might be experiencing, anxiety, fatigue, et cetera. Typically patients report easier digestion and longer, deeper sleep following a session. Fingers crossed that’s the case, and that this finally gets a handle on my IBD so I can get off the mouse poison!

Red Wine (Yes, Wine) Kills Cancer Cells

Cab Franc, you're my hero.

Cab Franc, you’re my hero.

Raise your glass and rejoice! Red wine–and yes, actually wine this time, not just its properties, like resveratrol–kills cancer cells! In the article from Wine Spectator, “Wine Kills Lung Cancer Cells in Lab Tests,” Canadian researchers discovered that “red wine possesses anti-cancer properties.” For the test, “the team decided to measure red and white wines’ impact on non small-cell carcinoma lung cancer cells. They exposed samples of lung cancer cells to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Riesling . . .They found that both red and white wines halted the spread of lung cancer, but the reds were more effective. Red wine effectively stopped the spread of cancer cells, when compared to the control group, at 2 percent concentration. For white wine, similar results didn’t happen until 5 percent.” The article goes on to say that the “next step is to use doses of wine that correspond to moderate wine consumption in humans, one to two glasses per day, and examine the effect on tumor growth in mice. . .if we see a significant reduction in tumor growth with wine then we will have strong evidence that will justify the need of a clinical trial, a study in cancer patients.” Read more here. So the next time someone tells you that all that hype about red wine is nonsense, refer them back to this article and tell them to show a little respect.

Red Wine + Colitis = No Colitis?

Get your lifetime supply today!

Get your lifetime supply today!

My friend mentioned that she read an article about how resveratrol, found in red wine, suppresses Ulcerative Colitis. “Red wine may be the silver lining here!” she wrote. I want to believe that, but is it too good to be true? It’s the real deal, according to the article “Resveratrol suppresses colitis and colon cancer associated with colitis” from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Now, they’re not saying to guzzle bottles of red wine–you’d have to drink about “1,000 a day” to receive the necessary concentration–but they are saying that resveratrol supplements are a good addition to an IBD-sufferers diet: “Resveratrol. . .is a naturally occurring compound, often derived from the Japanese (bushy) knotweed, but is also found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine…Resveratrol has been shown to suppress several autoimmune diseases, including experimental encephalomyelitis, arthritis, myocarditis, and diabetes. The capability of resveratrol to suppress chronic inflammatory diseases associated with a high cancer risk, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), has only been explored in rats by one other group…[in this study] resveratrol administered in the basal diet suppresses DSS-induced colitis and colon cancer associated with colitis in mice.” Read more here. In the meantime, if you can stomach it, pour yourself a nice glass of pinot noir. Studies show it has the highest concentration of resveratrol of all the red wines (white wines are not made with the grape skin, thus they have little to no concentrations of resveratrol). And for those of you following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you’ll be pleased to know that dry red wine is permitted!

Acupuncture as a Treatment for Colitis

A needle a day keeps the doctor away...

A needle a day keeps the doctor away…

My therapist recommended acupuncture as a possible alternative to my heavy Remicade treatments, and also as another avenue for stress relief. Normally I don’t like needles, but after being stuck pretty much once a week since September–most recently four days ago–I’m kind of immune to them now. I found a place close to where I work, so I’m giving them a call first thing tomorrow in hopes that I can get in for a consultation. Of course that made me wonder, exactly how will sticking needles into the outer layers of my skin relieve my colitis symptoms and help get me into remission and stay in remission? In Googling, I found a great blog article: Can Acupuncture Help Cure IBD and IBS? from the site Living With Crohn’s and Colitis. It delves deeper than just the usual “yes it can” response, outlining how Chinese medicine approaches diagnosis and treatment: “However, with Chinese Medicine, the patterns are based off of the symptoms the patient is currently experiencing as well as their history, their facial color, body odor, general demeanor, abdominal diagnostic, pulse diagnostic and tongue diagnostic. All of this information is compiled which leads to one of many “diagnostic patterns” to which the according acupuncture points, herbal formula, diet and lifestyle is prescribed. Chinese Medicine is a powerful therapy that can help treat severe cases and help keep mild cases and patients who are in remission stay in remission.” The article goes on in greater detail from there. I highly recommend clicking on the link above to read more.