How I’m beating autoimmune arthritis with lifestyle medicine (3).

Lifestyle autoimmune arthritis

Autoimmune disease is a bummer. Autoimmune arthritis is a bummer. And psoriatic arthritis – a form of autoimmune arthritis with psoriasis – is no exception.  Left to its own devices, autoimmune diseases take no prisoners in their destructive progression and conventional approaches can only leave the sufferer reliant upon toxic and hideously debilitating medications.

Believe me, it doesn’t HAVE to be this way!

IN THIS FINAL POST OF A 3-PART SERIES, I’d like to share with you the key lifestyle changes that are helping me in beating my autoimmune arthritis and keeping me off ALL medications. Changes like restoring restful sleep; reducing stress; taking regular breaks in nature to move my body; removing toxins from my home environment and learning to foster inner and outer connectedness.  And believe me, it’s working and I’m loving it!

How I wish I’d known then, what I know now!  As you read further, please, please bear in mind anyone who may also benefit and share this with them.

IN THE FIRST POST in this series I described how I pieced together the jigsaw that is autoimmune disease and and how good it felt to discover how much I could do, with food-and-lifestyle changes, to heal my autoimmune arthritis .

IN THE SECOND POST I shared my ‘if I knew then…’ moments, what I would have told my ‘younger-self’ and how traditional foods are essential to my healing-with-food ‘prescription’.

When I work with clients, I take a ‘food-and-lifestyle-as-medicine’ approach and that’s exactly what I’ve learned do for myself!

It took a while, for sure, but when I started to put a whole ME at the centre of the interconnected web that is a my WHOLE life, I gradually began to reclaim my body and my health from the ravages of autoimmune disease and autoimmune arthritis.

For me, food is our first and our best medicine, and health-wise, it’s often where we can get the quickest wins.  But through experience (and from clients) I’ve learned that food is by no means our only medicine: NO amount of perfect-for-you, nutrient-dense healing foods (or supplements, for that matter) will mitigate a dysfunctional lifestyle and the impact of a toxic environment!

A metabolically supportive diet is a necessary, but NOT a sufficient, condition for healing and for maintaining optimum health.  Restoring restful sleep; reducing stress; taking regular breaks in nature to move our body; and fostering inner and outer connectedness and removing toxins from our ‘habitat’ are ALL necessary too, if we truly want to create whole, happy and healthy life.

The key lifestyle changes I made to reverse autoimmune arthritis:

I prioritised my sleep (this was huge!)

Without quality sleep our body can’t repair from the daily toils of living, nor can it heal from disorder and disease.

Surprisingly, we need a lot of energy for quality sleep; it’s a time when our body is working really hard to repair from the physiological ‘damage’ our day-to-day living heaps upon it!  If we don’t eat enough energy-rich, metabolically supportive foods during the day, our body runs out of stored energy and enters ‘stress mode’ with cortisol rising during the night as our cells call for more energy.  Under-eating puts the body into stress mode, reduces thyroid function and further slows metabolism.  We get restless, toss and turn and wake up.  And because our hormones are disrupted, we can’t get back to sleep. And the longer this goes on, the more entrenched our physiological response and pretty soon our energy, vitality and health slides down the slippery slope…..

Sleep for autoimmune psoriatic arthritis

I’d slept badly for so long I thought it was a ‘normal’ result of ageing: stressful life events, periods of uncharacteristic depression, undiagnosed chronic hyperventilation syndrome, eating late, late nights, alcohol, no routine and joint pain all contributed to years of ab.sol.utely rubbish sleep.

In fact, rather than being a result of ageing, poor sleep is one of the primary factors in the process of ageing. The old adage of getting your ‘beauty sleep’ is supported by hard science:

“We found that the metabolic and endocrine changes resulting from a significant sleep debt mimic many of the hallmarks of ageing. We suspect that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss.”

Eve Van Cauter, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago

In the above study, sleep duration of only four hours each night led to striking changes that resembled the effects of aging or early diabetes. Sleep deprivation also down-regulated the secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone and increased blood levels of cortisol, especially during the afternoon and evening. Elevated evening cortisol levels are typical of much older subjects and are thought to be related to age-related health problems such as insulin resistance and memory impairment.  Van Cauter et al concluded that chronic partial sleep loss can reduce the capacity of even young adults to perform basic metabolic functions such as processing and storing carbohydrates or regulating hormone secretion.

So… I took a deep breath and took stock!  With a simple ‘Sleep Audit’ I reviewed my (terrible) sleep habits, made a plan for a healthier sleep routine… and made a firm COMMITMENT to stick to it.

I’d always thought myself to be a ‘night-owl’ happily staying up (and working) until 1am or later and dragging myself out of bed as late as possible!  Now, I rarely watch TV past 9.30pm, use amber lighting to read by in the evening and I try to be in bed by 10pm at the latest; achieving restful sleep between 10pm and 2am is the optimal period to enable the body to heal.

Over a number of years, I’d got into the habit of not eating (or not eating much) between a reasonable breakfast and dinner and it did me no favours.  Now, I make sure not to ‘under-eat’ during the day and to eat a balance of protein, carbs and fats with EACH meal.  I’ll often have a carby snack (like good quality ice cream (no, not the whole tub!), an OJ milk shake, or mug of hot milk and honey before bed (yeah… Granny always knew best!).

I never drink coffee after around 1pm, or eat chocolate in the evening since both keep me wide awake. Drinking alcohol into the late evening has me restless and provokes nocturnal palpitations.

Retiring early means I wake as early as 5.30am.  I use the early part of my day for reflection, contemplation, short meditations and listening to motivating podcasts – my work is so immersed in the written word, that I really enjoy listening to ‘voices’ whenever I can.

In my personal experience, adequate sleep is profoundly important for healing: If I haven’t slept well, or have gone to bed really late, my knees are the first let me know about it the next morning!

This post will show you a very simple sleep audit, together with some really useful tips and techniques to turn your nocturnal tossing and turning into 7-8 peaceful, restorative, healing hours!

But know this:  Making a plan won’t cut it; you have to take ACTION and prioritise your sleep!

I got serious about managing my stress (this was huge too!)

Stress is a killer.  The physiology of chronic stress not only promotes and underpins disease, but actually prevents the process of healing itself.  Stress and sleep are toxic bed-fellows; chronic stress disrupts our hormones and our sleep physiology, making restful, restorative sleep impossible.

The stressors that we have to deal with today are very different from those of our ancestors back in the day. While we no longer need to fear the occasional bear attack, we are inundated with emotional stress.  For example: lack of purpose; dysfunctional relationships; money worries; unfulfilling jobs; chronic busy-ness; and disconnection from family and community.

How does ‘stress’ hurt us?

A little ‘acute’ stress, used incrementally, a process called hormesiscan be a positive thing and can serve to make us more resilient  –  the body learns deal with small, incremental stressors and recover a little strong each time.

But, when our body is in a state of ‘chronic’ stress, (when we’re struggling with chronic illnesses, for example) we’re flooded with catabolic hormones, which breakdown muscle for energy, reduce our thyroid function and slow, or shut down, important metabolic processes – like digestion and elimination.  These hormones also provoke systemic inflammation, which further pre-disposes us a vicious cycle of disordered metabolism: leaky gut, hypothyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders and other chronic illnesses.

And here’s the thing: we’re not even aware of how hard our body is working to cope chronic stress, because it’s all done unconsciously by the complimentary actions of our very smart Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – the ‘fight or flight system‘ and the ‘rest and digest’ system.  So it’s really important to develop body self-awareness and learn to listen to your body, so you can recognise when things may be getting out of hand – and head yourself off at the pass!

As a psychology undergraduate, some 30 years ago, I studied Hans Seyle’s (a pioneering endocrinologist) work on stress and understanding the impact of the ‘stress response’ on human health and behaviour has been crucial in my work.  However, while intellectually and cognitively, I absolutely ‘got’ it – it remained as academic knowledge: it wasn’t until I was faced with the prospect of losing my health that I was forced to change behaviours and consciously learn to switch-on my healing ‘rest and digest‘ system.

I tend towards ‘over-analysis’, so I have to work hard on not sweating-the-small-stuff and on re-framing stress positively: In an interesting TED Talk, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal has described research showing that stressors may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case.  Where possible, it’s encouraged me consciously to to remove or avoid situations (and people!) that wind me up; why go there if you don’t have to?!

Walking autoimmune arthritisBeing conscious of my surroundings while walking in nature (the green exercise) is particularly de-stressing and invigorating.  If I can’t get down to the Lakes, I yomp a couple of laps around the farmer’s field opposite my house reciting positive affirmations out loud (luckily, no-one has yet heard me… yet!).

Inspired by the work of Dr Kelly Brogan (a holistic psychiatrist and pioneer of functional medicine, who abandoned the use of all psychiatric medication and prescribes food & lifestyle changes and Kundalini yoga), I’ve recently taken up Kundalini classes locally.

The goal in Kundalini is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.  The practise incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation and the chanting of simple mantras.

At home, listening to music and finding appreciation in my home & garden is relaxing and uplifting too.

This post explains in more detail how the stress response works and the positive changes that will ‘flip-the-switch’ and help you avoid the damage that chronic stress will wreak on your body.

KNOW THIS: Making a plan to manage stress won’t cut it; YOU have to take action and make the changes!  

I committed to moving my body

We were born to move. We humans have been pushing (as every mum will know!) and pulling, squatting, lifting and climbing for millions of years!  Movement is so important to our health that regularly moving our body calms our ‘fight or flight’ system, and reduces our stress load – including lowering blood pressure and levels of LDL cholesterol; increasing our levels of helpful HDL cholesterol; and improving our blood flow and basic heart function and even in preventing and helping us to recover from cancer.

In combination, these physical changes reduce our body’s stress response and help to flip-the-switch over to ‘rest and digest’ allowing our natural detoxification and healing mechanisms to get to work.

Our lymphatic system is critical element in the process of detoxing.  The production of lymph fluid starts in the digestive system.  However, although it’s part of the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no central ‘pump’ – it depends primarily on our moving our skeletal muscles to transport the lymph fluid around the body to ensure lymphatic drainage.

Our body is much wiser than we are (thankfully!) and given the right inputs, it works in synchrony. So, re-setting our natural detox pathways for optimal detoxification also means ensuring optimal digestion, resetting our digestive strength (through increasing our metabolism, getting better sleep and managing stress) and moving our body.

If exercise came in pill form, we would only be too eager to take our keep-fit medicine. Movement is medicine, even small doses extend longevity and can prevent and treat disease. Movement truly is a polypill.

Darryl  Edwards 

This post and this post explain why and how movement (especially if we make it playful, natural and enjoyable) is SO critical for healing and for our general and mental health too – and give a wide a range of suggestions for simple, natural and functional ways of exercising (at leisure and at work) to heal.  No, we’re NOT talking the high intensity stuff that further stresses a struggling body!

I chose to ‘green exercise’ (physical activity performed in nature – like walking, cycling, boating, conservation activities) because it’s been shown to have a very positive effect on several stress-related states like anger, confusion, depression and anxiety.  In Japan, Forest Bathing – visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile, antimicrobial wood essential oils – has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity.  Its health benefits and sensory effects on sight, sound, smell and touch are being studied.

I live near several small lakes and canal-side paths so I started walking there (painfully, at first) each day.  I bought some nordic poles to help support my knees (where the damage from autoimmune arthritis has taken its worst toll) and focused how lucky I was to be able to walk in such beautiful surroundings  At first I walked for just half-an-hour every other day, then every day and then little further each week.  As the months went on, my legs and muscles got stronger, my tendons and ligaments more supportive and the pain in my knees got less.  It felt so good to be able to walk without pain.

Walking for for autoimmune psoriatic arthritis


Incidentally, I’m not alone here… read Sara’s Story here  – she’s a client who also has beaten autoimmune diseases (psoriatic arthritis) into submission and is in remission!

Last weekend, I walked for three hours (unaided by the poles) over local hills; I cannot describe the a sense of achievement I felt!  Yeah… my knees were a little sore that evening, but a good night’s sleep soon sorted that out!

Progressing to body weight workouts at home (I move the furniture out of the way in my studio) are improving my strength, muscle tone, increasing bone density and burning body fat – and I don’t need a gym membership!

And spending so much time sitting at this keyboard isn’t ideal for arthritic (or indeed any!) health conditions – so my computer gizmo makes sure to stand up, stretch and move about very regularly – my body soon tells me when I’ve been ignoring its needs!

KNOW THIS:  Commit to moving your body daily – MOVE it, or you’ll lose it!

I started to ‘optimise’ my habitat (no woman lives in a bubble!)

Our body’s chronic, ‘fight or flight’ stress response isn’t only provoked by our emotions and behaviours, but by our modern, toxic ‘habitat’ and the environmental stress from pollution; the side effects of toxic pharmaceuticals; cosmetics, personal and home care products.  And our very food can be a stressor too; there is truth in the wisdom that “we are what we eat” and the foods that stress our body are highly processed, chemically contaminated and adulterated ‘fake’ foods, grains, vegetable and seed oils and fluoridated water…. the list goes on. Multiple food sensitivities and intolerances used to be an exception; now they’re becoming the norm as more and more of us cut out important nutrients and whole food groups because our bodies are not longer able to recognise and process them.

Indeed, our rapidly-evolving ‘modern’ life has introduced so many variables into our lifestyles which ‘clash’ head-on with our much, much slower-evolving body’s need for a more natural environment. From un-natural and extended light/dark cycles; exposure to emfs and chemical pollution; toxins in synthetic clothing and bedding; contamination from personal care products; chemicals given-off by our cooking equipment, to the thousands of chemicals and technological innovations which didn’t EXIST even 50 years ago… we live in a very toxic environment!

And here’s the thing: our body can’t distinguish environmental stressors from the proverbial bear, or the failed relationship, or that slice of pizza, or chronic poor sleep, or that blue night-light from our radio-alarm – all provoke the stress response, so managing our immediate ‘habitat’ is really important too.

Toxic chemicals autoimmune disesase


toxic chemicals autoimmune disease










And hold this thought: when zoo animals get sick, the first thing that zoo keepers look at is their environment: their cage, their food, their climate and their ‘entertainment’!  Switched-on zoo keepers know that for animals to be healthy in captivity, they need a habitat which reflects what they would have in the wild – so the first thing they do is make changes to the animals immediate environment.  We human ‘animals’ are no different.

These articles on the impact of environmental toxins on our heath are a starter for ten – check them out here, here, herehere and then start making changes!

My top ‘clean-up’ moves for reversing autoimmune arthritis

My first move was to transition to whole, organic foods wherever possible. I reduced my supermarket shopping list (and shopping bill) drastically, cutting out nearly all processed, pre-prepared and convenience foods.  I bought a large freezer and a domestic vacuum-packing gizmo.  I research local producers who sell directly to their customers and national producers who sell on-line, and I buy in bulk from local and national producers.

I share the cost with family and friends (whom I’ve gradually converted!) and bulk orders are usually free of delivery charges.  I also make sure to make the time to collect from favourite producers and suppliers like Fordhall Organic Farm, whom we love to visit regularly, as it keeps us connected to the sources of our food and its production.  It keeps US real!

We bought hens and enjoy their fresh, organic eggs daily – and if we run out, we source organic free-range eggs from a local small-holding.  We (try to!) grow our own veggies (no Percy Throwers or Monty Dons here, sadly) and do swaps for eggs or home-made organic five-seeded sourdough with our greener-fingered neighbours.

I cook from scratch and we’ve curtailed eating out to maybe once or twice monthly – most restaurant food is constructed from highly processed ingredients or is ‘ready-made’ for caterers.

Yes, it’s not easy.  Yes, it can be a pain.  Yes, it takes planning.  Yes, it takes commitment.  And yes, sometimes we get a takeaway (and then regret it).  But, there IS wisdom in the saying: “What you put into your mouth can be your BEST medicine, or your WORST poison“.

Next, I threw away nearly all my personal care products: soaps, shower and bath gels, shampoos, toothpaste, body lotions, face creams, hand creams, sun-screens and the like.

I made myself use fewer cosmetics and those I do use I source carefully to avoid the nasties.

Then I binned nearly all my chemically-laden home care products: bleaches, bathroom cleaners, detergents, fabric conditioners, floor and window cleaners, air fresheners, furniture polish, fly-sprays.  You name it and out it went!  I Googled for ‘natural’ products (often expensive) and ‘recipes’ to make at home (always way less expensive) until my eyes fell out and found a sensible balance between home-made and shop-bought.

Now, my personal and home care stand-by ‘ingredients’ are: Dr Bronner’s soaps products (last for ages!), bicarbonate of soda, bentonite clay, sea salt, white and organic apple cider vinegars, organic coconut oil and shea butter, organic olive oil, and a range of 100% pure therapeutic essential oils.

I save a SMALL FORTUNE on the toxic, chemically-laden commercial products I used to buy and I have to hold my breath when walking down the cleaning product aisles in the supermarket!

I began slowly replacing my non-stick, teflon coated cookware with ceramic and stainless steel.  This was hard, as I had bought good quality, brand new kit for the Once Upon a Cook Cookery School.  But the fact is, that although convenient, many types of non-stick compounds are extremely toxic and highly reactive within the human body and the wider environment. When exposed to heat, most non-stick cookware becomes a source of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a fluoridated chemical compound (see below) that has been linked to a frightening range of health problems including thyroid disease, infertility in women, organ damage and developmental and reproductive problems.

We installed a whole-house fluoride water filter: We can’t live without drinking water – but we CAN live without fluoridated drinking water!

Much of the drinking water in the USA and the UK is fluoridated – we’re told it’s to protect our dental health against cavities, but it’s always been a controversial issue.  The use of fluoride (hexafluorosilicic acid) began in the 1940s in the USA when community water supplies were fluoridated to prevent dental cavities and acceptance of this measure by the World Health Organization meant it was soon adopted world-wide. Today, around 6 million of us in the UK receive drinking water with added fluoride – and our household was one of that number.

However, fluoridation remains a highly controversial issue and, in a recent critical review of the effects on human health of ingesting fluoride, UK public health researchers found that the risks associated with chronic fluoride ingestion out-weighed any modest (and limited) dental health benefits.  These risks include:

Dental fluorosis (where teeth become mottled and discoloured) – the first sign of fluoride toxicity; skeletal fluorosis a chronic, crippling, metabolic bone disease; low IO in exposed children; hypothyroidism (every cell in the body has thyroid hormone receptor sites; iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormone, but fluoride binds to iodine receptor preventing its uptake by the cell); and uterine and bladder cancers.

“Fluoride has modest benefit in terms of reduction of dental caries but significant costs in relation to cognitive impairment, hypothyroidism, dental and skeletal fluorosis, enzyme and electrolyte derangement, and uterine cancer. As part of efforts to reduce hazardous fluoride ingestion, the practice of artificial water fluoridation should be reconsidered globally, while industrial safety measures need to be tightened in order to reduce unethical discharge of fluoride compounds into the environment. Public health approaches for global dental caries reduction that do not involve systemic ingestion of fluoride are urgently needed.” 

Professor Stephen Peckham (2015)

So first, we transitioned from tap water to bottled water for all but bathing purposes, comforted by the fact that our chosen brand used BPA free plastic bottles; BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical, releasing chemicals which have oestrogen activity (EA) into the water.  Instead, our bottles were made from PET – claimed to be “completely safe” by the UK’s National Hydration Council.  However, subsequently I discovered research showing that:

“Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.”

With this knowledge  – and mindful that much fluoride ingestion comes from our absorbing it through the skin, via shower and bath water – we had to bite this bullet too; we saved up and installed a whole house water filter.

By the way, if you’re wondering… boiling your water will not rid it of fluoride and the body will ingest fluoride via the skin from showering and bathing – together with chlorine, another proven thyroid hormone disruptor.

The net result is a wonderfully pleasant tasting, healthy drinking water (we keep drinking it ‘neat’ and friends ask for bottles of it!), which we know isn’t disrupting our hormone levels and we’ve said goodbye to skin and eye irritation from the chlorine!  A result.

If your tap water is fluoridated, my strong recommendation is to at least install a counter top filter (but make sure its one that filters fluoride) and consider a bath or shower filter too. If your budget will stretch to it, consider a whole-house water filter – many (including our model) can be removed if you move home.

Even if you don’t have fluoridated water, then please consider fitting a chorine filter to your bath taps and shower head, to protect your thyroid and skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis.

And, before we leave the subject of fluoride, bear in mind that significant fluoride exposure also comes from toothpaste and fluoride dental treatment gels, MOST processed foods, US grape juice and wines, tea (especially processed tea products), non-stick pans, pharmaceuticals and mechanically de-boned chicken products.

I began to nurture inner and outer connectedness (no woman is an island!)

In mathematics, ‘connectedness’ means ‘all one piece’. When a mathematical object has such a property, we say it is connected; otherwise it is disconnected.

And we too, are designed to be ‘all one piece’ and are, fundamentally, an organic ‘object’ – a big blob of organic matter made up of very smart cells creating energy, organised into a system of systems… all hard-wired for connection.

“Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to life…neurobiologically, it’s how we’re wired. But, people’s stories are about disconnection”

– Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability

And our disconnection seems to be the scourge of modern life; in recent years we’ve seen an explosion of self-help, personal development and spiritual enlightenment books, websites and on-line communities seeking to guide us towards a sense of connection, purpose, fulfilment, peace and happiness.

This post explains why we need other people to be healthy and happy; why social support is a stronger predictor of survival than physical activity, body mass index, hypertension, air pollution, alcohol consumption, and even smoking fifteen cigarettes a day!

Whether we’re in a conventional or non-conventional ‘family’, have a partner or are single – belonging to a club or interest group, socialising with friends, volunteering to ‘give back’ – we need connection in some form. Indeed, social connection matters throughout life: singletons at every age have poorer health outcomes than do those who nurture supportive relationships; and isolated elderly people don’t live as happily, as healthily, or as long as do those with strong family or social connections.

So, building our ‘tribe’ – whatever that looks like for each of us – is important, healthful and unsurprisingly, it’s enjoyable! And we women are particularly good at it!

But does ‘inner‘ connectedness matter?
Dr Kelly Brogan, a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, puts inner-connectedness at the very centre of women’s physical, emotional and spiritual health.

She has this to say:

“Personally, professionally, nationally, and planetarily, we have all bought into the mindset that tells us we are here to dominate, to win, to master, to fix. That includes our bodies, nature, and each other. Every man and woman for themselves. To do lists. Email. Facebook. Appointments. Commutes. Packing lunch. Making that call. Hustling for that deadline. Ignoring the elephant of your sexless marriage, looming in the corner of the room. Feeling inadequate. Feeling like it’s too much. Like you don’t care. But also like you can’t stop caring. The frenzy of productivity and functionality. The busy. Is this what it’s really all about?  Until we die?

We fell in love with our minds, with the promise of expansion, growth, and accelerated evolution that led us down a path away from our essential selves.

Women have been brought deep down the path of the masculine principle: thinking, doing, organizing, planning, achieving, mastering instead of feeling, being, touching, dancing, loving, connecting, creating.

But we feel its absence. The absence of our wildness, and we are being called to reunite with it. This is waking up. We must listen to the call … wake up from our slumber… and feel the wrongness of this disconnection from ourselves.

We have been normalizing abnormal. We wither, we starve, we get depressed, tired, flat, stuck, contracted, scared, hopeless, lost.

This is burnout, and I am here to tell you that burnout is nothing more than a mismatch with this natural order of self, other, and nature-connectedness.“

Nurturing inner and outer connectedness is an absolutely critical part of self-care for everyone and particularly for women; our roles, based on ‘Archetypes of the Mature Feminine‘ (Queen, Mother, Wise Woman and Lover) are challenging and hugely demanding and we’re particularly good at putting other-care before our own!

This post shares how self-love and self-care is just as important as caring for others.

For me, taking time to STOP THE CLOCK ON BUSY to make time to build and maintain relationships with people I love – my partner, family, friends, neighbours, even our new chickens – has become hugely enjoyable!

Taking the initiative to smile and acknowledge (and chat to) people I meet when walking, or shopping is a good feeling.  Saying ‘thank you’ for a kindness is a good feeling; showing compassion and making random acts of kindness is a good feeling.

Is less, MORE?

In her fascinating book ‘Cure – A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body’, science writer Jo Marchant describes the amazing amount of cutting-edge, scientific research that is being conducted in the area of mind-body medicine.  Her book is packed with striking and compelling examples of how our minds influence disease, prognosis and health outcomes.

She describes lifestyle of the Nicoyans – a ‘Blue Zone’ in Costa Rica – where the population lives in poverty, yet enjoys exceptional longevity.  Their simple lifestyle is active, even into old age; they have a strong religious belief; go to bed at sundown and sleep eight hours; drink heart-healthy, calcium rich water and eat anti-oxidant rich fruits.

But the key predictor for the Nicoyans’ longevity (as measured by the length of their telomeres – an essential part of our cells which affect how quickly cells age) appears to be social connection:  Nicoyans are less likely that other Costa Ricans to live alone and more likely to have weekly contact with a child. Researchers found that the telomere length difference halved amongst those who didn’t see a child each week and those living alone lost their advantage completely.

KNOW THIS: Is less more?  My response is a resounding “YES!”

No-one likes change and making quite radical lifestyle changes isn’t easy for the individual (or the family) concerned; it can often can provoke a negative, or critical reaction from others, and changes can be perceived as over-the-top, neurotic, obsessive, paranoid, contrarian… get the picture?  When (and it’s not too often) I encounter this I no longer try and justify myself to others – “well, each to their own‘ I’ll say kindly, but firmly…  and then I change the subject.

BUT KNOW THIS: Committing to making the food and lifestyle changes that stop the clock on my autoimmune psoriatic arthritis and has been the key to reversing it and to making the rest of my life the BEST of my life!

In the meantime, if what you’ve read here has raised issues for you, or someone you have shared with, please feel free to contact me for a chat.

Food, Health & Lifestyle Coaching for Women

Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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12 Responses

  1. carolyn says:

    Izabella, that was such an inspiring article to read. I am so impressed at the dedication you have shown to healing yourself and your desire to share that information with others. I am going to read that all again and take notes of what I would like to do. I have recently started walking/cycling out in nature and I agree how brilliantly it makes you feel. You have a wealth of information to share. x

  2. Jo Romero says:

    This is great, Izabella! I’d agree with this, too – sleep and stress are huge triggers for my psoriasis. I spent a lot of time fixing my diet and didn’t actually bother with the lifestyle changes too, in the early days of my healing. When I did, there was a huge acceleration in my getting better. Fantastic!

    • Thanks Jo! Yep – I think it’s fair to say that while food is our best medicine, it’s certainly not our only medicine. Making changes to diet (even quite radical ones) is often much less disruptive than making significant lifestyle changes! But, it’s GOT to be done! Well done you, too!

  3. Hi Izabella
    How amazing. Well done! This is particularly useful information as my mother-in-law suffers from exactly the same thing and is on loads of medications. I have shared with her and keeping my fingers crossed she will take some of this on board (although she will probably need a bit of translation help as she is Italian!) x

  4. So knowledgable and a great resource. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Much appreciated!

  5. Donna says:

    Izabelle, I love your articles, they are not only highly informative but also so inspirational. Thank you so much for posting this!

    • You’re welcome and thank you Donna. I do believe that it helps others, when we in the health and wellness field, share our personal experiences and let people see we too, are struggling. It’s so easy to come across as “I know it all” – but here’s the thing: everything we think we know is only theory – some theories are more robust than others!

      At the outset of my journey back to health, I consulted a well qualified MD who practised homoeopathically. He our began our first consultation by saying this: “You need to understand that we (doctors) know nothing; the more we understand, the more we understand the more we know what we need to understand”. I was really taken aback at his honesty… but now, after years of study myself, I know he was bang on!

  1. June 10, 2020

    […] in restores your energy, feeds your microbiome, and de-stresses your head. Check out the post ‘How I’m Beating Autoimmune Arthritis with Lifestyle Medicine’ to see how it helped me! If you enjoy your lunch break you’ll return revitalised and ready to […]

  2. October 7, 2020

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