Fibromyalgia is a complex condition of varying severities and no one fibromyalgia warrior has the same symptoms, which makes it very difficult to treat. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia and people may choose to manage their condition with naturopathic remedies, like myself, pharmaceutical remedies, or a mix of both.
For me one of my most painful symptoms are my IBS style symptoms, ranging from painful bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, abdominal cramping, back pain and shoulder pain. For this reason, and upon recommendation from one of my friends and colleagues I decided to check out Naturopathic Nutrition.
Naturopathic Nutrition is the practice of using whole and organic foods as medicine, which is a practice that completely outdates modern medicine by more than I care to guess. Many tribal and indigenous communities still use food as treatment, in the absence of being able to access modern medicine. It is well documented that when a many sufferers of a chronic illness returns to a diet full of whole organic foods, free of chemicals and artificial additives, they often begin to see a more marked improvement in their symptoms than they have ever been able to achieve with pharmaceutical intervention alone. Also it is completely non invasive, requires only a little effort in food preparation and mindfulness, and cannot cause any harm when done in harmony with listening to ones body.
I decided Naturopathic Nutrition would be worth exploring as it encompasses what I personally believe works for me as an individual, by not using chemicals and drugs as a first line treatment for a condition that nobody actually really knows how to treat successfully. Naturopathic medicine as a whole treats the patient as an individual and therefore is wonderfully holistic. Also, as my friends and family will tell you, I am notoriously stubborn when it comes to even taking paracetamol, preferring to seek other options before taking this road. This is mainly because I really do not tolerate medicine particularly well, the ibuprofen family of drugs give me stomach ulcers, opioids render me hopelessly high, antibiotics give me thrush, the flu jab sends me into anaphylaxis and A+E and many dietary supplements take me back to a time of hyperemesis in pregnancy.
I also firmly believe that when anything potentially benefits your health and gives you a sense of control and wellbeing has to benefit your condition overall, even if this may only be a minimally. For example, I am incredibly susceptible to viruses in the winter and when I do pick one up my symptoms of fibromyalgia become markedly worse. Eating the right foods to boost my immune system and prevent some of these viruses can only be of benefit and will decrease the days where my symptoms are awful because of opportunistic bugs just waiting for a willing host. not to mention it gives me all of the ‘right’ energy, and keeps my weight down when I’m not as active, like recently. This is partly why, just 2 weeks ago, I made the move to organic food.
So, as I have already mentioned, a kind colleague and friend made a recommendation to me, and suggested I attend the student clinic at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) in Central London. The student clinics run over many weekends throughout the year and here you can see a student, closely supervised by a qualified practitioner for many naturopathic treatments from nutrition to acupuncture at a fraction of the price it would normally cost. The price of the consultation includes a 2 hour appointment, assessment, and individualised nutrition plan with a follow up approximately 8 weeks later to see how you are getting on.
I attended my appointment a few days ago, excited of what may happen but also a little nervous, I’m always nervous before any appointment! I needed to do a little mindfulness on the way, and took a long walk purposely to get there. When you arrive you are directed to the waiting room, along with everyone else who is attending for the morning, and you wait there until you are called to see your student practitioner.
My student practitioner Lucy immediately put me at ease with her kind tone and manner. One thing that is important to emphasise is that as this is a student clinic the students are being observed by other students and also assessed as part of their study by their supervisor, and so you need to be comfortable with others being in the room (I had 6 altogether). Lucy made me feel so at ease, that honestly, I didn’t even notice the others in the room once we got talking and the time went very quickly indeed.
Over the course of the assessment, you submit a food diary that you need to fill in at least for three days before your appointment (I did seven), and you are asked A LOT of questions. Some of the questions are personal but it is really important to trust your practitioner and be completely honest so that they can help you as best as they can. As a midwife I can talk about things really quite openly, but it is amazing how once a good practitioner gains your trust that they can make you feel so at ease that you no longer think you are talking to stranger about all your warts.
From memory I think we covered hair and skin, ears nose and throat, tongue, digestive, endocrine, and reproductive systems, along with general wellbeing and a thorough medical history including family history and current medications/supplements. Now, except for The F Word, I like to think of myself as a relatively healthy person, and this took me 1hr 15mins. Be ready to open up, be honest and to talk a lot. Water is needed!
I was then asked to have a little break while the team came up with my personalised plan, so I went down to the on site cafe and had a rather sensible peppermint tea, avoiding all the goodies on offer (so proud!).
After 30 minutes we met again and discussed the parts of my food diary that were good and what needed improvement. I went into the appointment absolutely willing to give anything a go, and without this mindset it probably wouldn’t have been too worth going to one of these appointments. If you know deep down that you are going to either struggle or refuse to change the way you nourish and fuel your body then you are not going to get too much from the consultation. In my opinion, by going to the appointment you need to ready to take on the plan they give to the very best of your abilities. You may not be able to follow it by the letter, but you should give it a damn good go.
Without further ado, here is my plan!
- Start the day with warm water with lemon and ginger (gulp, turn back time to hyperemesis days!)
- Remove gluten from the diet (double gulp)
- Remove dairy from the diet (triple gulp)
- Alternate porridge toppings with fruits, nuts and seeds (can easily do this)
- Introduce vegetable protein meals – beans and pulses – for 3 meals a week, lunch or dinner (yep, this is fine)
- 3 portion of oily fish per week (again, happy to)
- Take the supplements recommended to help my plan – Magnesium, Vitamin B complex, Cranberry supplements for the awful urine infection times, and Bach Rescue Remedy to manage tough days.
So, as you can see, major diet changes afoot here, but I promised I would try my damned hardest, and that I will, in fact I already am! This is essentially following an anti-inflammatory diet, which will hopefully help with my bowel symptoms, and also the joint pain. I will be exploring anti-inflammatory diets in much more detail later in my blogging journey. Along with this I have also been advised to continue with my body balance sessions and even got a podcast suggestion which I will listen to soon.
Getting a nutritional plan with such major changes can be overwhelming, and honestly, my main concern was about eating out with family and friends, going on holiday etc, but after some very easy research I now realised I have absolutely nothing to worry about. Food intolerances are far more commonplace nowadays and so many places can accommodate. There is also a wealth of wonderful cookbooks around to inspire you and help you through your journey, like the one below I found just yesterday and have already used. Finally, share your news and I can guarantee that you will know more than one person who is already there and more than willing to help. Be brave, make a change, for “insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting different results” (sorry if I’ve quoted Einstien before, but it really is my mantra!)
For more information on the services and clinics offered by the CNM please visit naturopathy-uk.com where you can also find more information on the benefits of naturopathic nutrition.
The keep up with my food journey on Instagram, please follow @the_f_word_blog
Finally, these thoughts and opinions are my own and are not intended as professional advice. For more advice please see your GP or naturopathic practitioner.