Multiple sclerosis is no joke. It’s not the common cold that’ll just go away on its own or a sore throat that you can take some antibiotics for and be done with it. Nope. MS is a game changer, and as such, it requires a game plan.
MS is still a mystery to conventional medicine. They don’t know what causes it and they don’t know how to cure it. The best they can offer is to carefully track the progress of the disease with MRIs and physical exams, and to manage the symptoms and flare-ups – sometimes kinda successfully, sometimes not so much – with IV steroids, disease modifying drugs, and other pharmaceutical medications.
So if you have MS but you’re committed to feeling well, or you want to go for the gold of healing your illness completely, then you need to assemble a rock star medical team that extends beyond the reach of conventional western medicine and addresses your whole self. If you’ve done even a little bit of research into alternative treatments, you’ve discovered that many people are having success with therapies like diet, supplements, meditation and stress relief, exercise, acupuncture, functional medicine, and more.
But who should you listen to? Who’s selling the snake oil and who’s got the real goods? I’ve assembled this 9-step guide to help you build your team of badass healers and advisors and get you on the road to rockin’ health.
1. Find an open-minded neurologist you can trust. A kind, open-minded, and not too egomaniacal neurologist can be your most trusted partner on your journey to health. Your neurologist is most likely an expert in multiple sclerosis and can therefore draw on his extensive experience, high-tech medical tools, and pharmaceutical knowledge to help you assess what’s happening with your body and treat it. If your neurologist is open-minded enough to acknowledge that you are exploring various healing modalities, and he is willing to support you in that, then you are very fortunate. Just keep in mind that it’s both a benefit and a detriment to get his input on these alternative therapies – your doc is a scientist, and as such, anything that doesn’t have a double-blind study to prove its efficacy may not be valid in his opinion. But his scientist perspective and his objective tools for measuring your status may also help you to get clear on what’s working on and what’s not.
2. Add a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor to your team. Licensed ND’s and functional medicine doctors (who are MD’s) are trained to understand both conventional medicine and alternative treatments. But most importantly, they are trained to look at your body as a holistic system that is either in balance or out of balance, and they address your illness from this perspective. It is this holistic philosophy that prompts them to check your body for things your neurologist wouldn’t even consider looking for. For example, most ND’s and functional medicine doctors will do food allergy testing, test the level of toxins and heavy metals in your blood, and make assessments of what else might be contributing to your illness based on a detailed case history.
This holistic philosophy keeps your ND or functional medicine doc open to treatments that could make you significantly healthier, like detoxification, IV Vitamin therapy, and a specific diet that keeps the troublemakers like gluten, dairy, and sugar out of your system. Finally, building a relationship with a doctor who can prescribe you medication that your neurologist wouldn’t, like Nystatin and Diflucan to control your candida levels and Low-Dose Naltrexone for MS, is invaluable. (Functional medicine doctors are MD’s and can prescribe, but ND’s can only prescribe in the states in which an ND license is recognized).
3. Don’t limit yourself to just one source of input. If you only ever bought into your neurologist’s reality, you’d believe that nobody can heal themselves of MS and that your only options are pharmaceutical drugs and a long life of disability. On the other hand, if you only ever listened to your naturopathic or functional medicine doctor, perhaps you’d forget that there is a time and a place for steroids or an MRI to see what’s happening or some other drug that might help with your symptoms and improve the quality of your life. Even if you have a functional medicine doctor, and a separate naturopath, and you subscribe to a website to get MS information, you never know where the next great piece of advice will come from that could turn around your health. Sometimes I’ve learned about a new supplement from my functional medicine doc and sometimes I’ve gotten a tip from a website that’s made a huge difference. The key is to choose your advisors wisely, listen to all their feedback, and then decide what makes the most sense for you.
4. Find a spiritual/emotional/psychological advisor. Maybe 40 years ago you could get away with asserting that our emotional, psychological, and spiritual state has nothing to do with our physical condition. But today, we simply know too much. Thought leaders like Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Candace Pert, Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, quantum physicists, and many, many others have shared the evidence with us that what we think and feel affect how healthy we are or are not. So a rock star medical team without a spiritual/emotional/psychological advisor would be conspicuously incomplete. If you don’t have someone in your life who you can trust and seek counsel from in this capacity, you’re in luck that we’re in the year 2012. Go online and find someone you resonate with who can speak to your experience and offer you valuable insight as you walk your path. There are many people out there writing blogs to address this stuff. So give the inner you the attention and nurturing it deserves and think of it like your daily dose of medicine, because working on yourself, engaging in regular meditation practice, and practicing yummy stuff like forgiveness will absolutely move you farther along on your path toward health.
5. Find the blogs and books that inspire you and read them every day. The best medicine is being in an inspired, excitatory state. The kind of state where you’re sorting for what’s possible for you, not how you’re limited. And one of the best ways to make sure you’re operating from this expansive state is to consistently feed yourself input that gets you inspired. Consider it a chiropractic adjustment, but for your soul. My bedroom bookshelves are filled with books that I could pick up and turn to any page to get a dose of possibility. So, as soon as I recognize that I’m thinking negatively and feeling fearful or doubtful, I grab a book off the shelf or check out a favorite blog. And when I do, I can almost hear my soul saying “ahhhh, thank you” as I experience the relief of my body and mind moving back into a more generative state.
6. Know that you are your best doctor. No matter how many years of medical school and medical practice a doctor has, he or she can never know your body better than you do. It is essential to trust yourself. You are the expert on you. If you feel that something is “off” and your doctor says it’s in your head, find another doctor. If you’ve eliminated certain foods from your diet and you’re feeling healthier, but your doctor or someone close to you says that’s nonsense, trust yourself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be receptive to your team’s feedback – that’s what you hired them for – but always check it against the feeling in your gut. Does it feel true for you? Does it feel like the right choice? Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into doing something that doesn’t feel like a fit for you because of someone else’s fear or belief. Know that you are your best doctor.
7. Don’t use money as an excuse to not build your team. It’s expensive to be sick. We all know that. And most of us are probably familiar with the added anxiety of wondering how we’ll pay for all the necessary organic food, supplements, and medications we need every month. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by financial considerations and fall into a mindset that it’s simply impossible to get the resources you need. That’s why I’m here to remind you that the internet is a massive resource rife with people wanting to help you, and much of the information you need can be gotten for free or at prices much lower than you’d pay a professional in their office. Excellent diet plans and the latest tips and info from published authors and MS experts like Dr. Terry Wahls, Ann Boroch, and George Jelinek are available online or for the cost of a book, webinar, or online course. You don’t even have to leave your home and you can connect with and learn from many people who are excited to share what they’ve learned to help you on your journey.
8. Don’t trust anyone who tells you that healing MS was easy and happened practically overnight. I debated over whether or not to include this step. My hesitation was because I want you to put your faith in people who are offering valid and real solutions, but I don’t want you to think that if you’re not struggling, you’re not on the right track. But, there’s yet another school of thought that’s very prevalent in spiritual circles that says if you feel like something is a struggle, it must not be right. However I don’t think that’s true either, and in fact I believe that can be harmful advice. I have seen people take this input and run with it, using the “if it’s a struggle it must not be right” concept as an excuse to not face the discomfort of doing the personal work they’d rather avoid.
So while it’s important to not hang your hopes on a magic bullet that can heal your illness, it’s also important to realize that sometimes it is a struggle, and it feels that way because you’re making massive changes to a body that’s been headed in the same unwell direction for a very long time. Some of the greatest rewards are often won through struggle. But sometimes the greatest work we can do is allowing ourselves to let go and be undone. It’s a subtle dance – knowing when to struggle and when to let go – and I suspect it may take a lifetime to master.
9. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your own child. Know that you’ll make mistakes. You’ll eat the wrong thing, you’ll hire the wrong doctor, maybe you’ll take a medicine that didn’t work for you, maybe you’ll spend months being angry at someone. These are hard lessons to learn when we’re going through them, but don’t expect anyone else to show you the compassion you need. Give it to yourself. Last summer, after my mom died, I agreed to my neurologist’s suggestion to try IV steroids to help reduce the symptoms I was having. Unfortunately, I had a very negative reaction to it and it was possibly the worst month of my entire life. I was suicidal, and in the moment, it was very difficult to believe that there would ever be a time when I felt good. I got through it with faith and forgiveness for myself for making a mistake. So love yourself and trust that no matter what the present moment looks like, you have the power to heal.
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