#2 Can Disease be a Part of the Healing Process?
Before we jump into the juicy details of this blog post, let’s talk about what autoimmune disease really is. I had a very murky understanding of what ‘autoimmune’ meant when i was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, so this is for all of you out there scratching your heads. Autoimmune disease is generally understood to be any immune system disorder, where the body ‘mistakenly’ attacks itself. Autoimmune disorders are widely misunderstood and therefore not much research has been conducted on them. The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association reported that 1 in 5 or around 50 million people suffer from an autoimmune disease, and that’s just in the U.S. alone. Of those 50 million people, about 75 percent are women. This begs many questions! Why are these diseases so under researched? Why are they so mysterious? Why aren’t autoimmune diseases considered a women’s health issue when so many women are suffering from them?
During my period of illness, I felt so betrayed by my own body. Afterall, all of the information I could find on autoimmune disease had told me this was the case! That there was no clear explanation for my disease, that these things just happen, and that dealing with it was going to be a lifelong commitment that I had no choice but to accept. It left me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. So none of my actions caused this and there was no action I could take to fix it? To fix myself? I felt broken and confused and frustrated.
After my decision to become vegan, I still had a lot of questions about food; about what was safe to eat. I turned yet again to the fountain of knowledge that is the internet. Are grains easy to digest? Can people with UC eat nuts? Are all vegetables safe to eat for people with IBD? What I was looking for was basically a step by step guide on what to eat. Even though I knew I was improving my health just by going vegan, I still had many unanswered questions. In the midst of my food research, I stumbled across a book. I figured I would give it a shot.. I think anyone who’s suffered from an illness can agree that you’d try just about anything if there was a possibility it could help. I believe the book, although titled ‘Self Healing Colitis & Crohn’s’, can benefit almost any person suffering from an autoimmune illness. It’s almost a little corny how much the author, David Klein, writes about the healing power of the human body, but there is no doubt this book has extremely valuable information.
This book opened my eyes to the idea that disease isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Okay, I know what you’re thinking ‘how can disease be anything but bad?’. I don’t mean that the chronic pain and plethora of unpleasant symptoms are all fine and dandy.. The point i’m trying to make is that disease is a natural bodily response. Disease is viewed as a flaw, a mistake. Essentially, disease is a dirty word. By shifting our perspective, we can start to see disease as a powerful tool that our bodies turn to in the most desperate of times. To quote T.C Fry (whose work is quoted throughout Dr. Klein's book), “Disease is not, as is commonly supposed, an enemy at war with the powers of the living organism, but is itself a remedial effort-- a process of purification and repair. It is not something to be destroyed, subdued, suppressed, killed or cured, but an intelligent body action to be cooperated with.”
This quote really struck me. The thought of disease being a tool used for healing allowed me to exhale a huge sigh of relief. It became much easier to stop feeling guilty, as if my own body was trying to hurt me, and really allowed me to assess the food and lifestyle choices I was making, and the repercussions they might have on my health. Concerning my own disease, my body went through an extreme elimination process (flashback to running to the bathroom 40 times a day), in order to rid my digestive system of the toxic material inside of it. Think about it… what’s the first thing your body does when you contract a virus like the common cold? It floods your nasal passageways with mucus and then slowly forces the body to eliminate it (nose blowing, loogie hawking, etc).
Autoimmune illness is in desperate need of further research, and those women and men suffering deserve more information on the diseases they’re afflicted by. Disease is a complex and mysterious anomaly. With the little to no information I was able to find concerning my own illness, I chose to believe that the symptoms of my disease were the warning signs I needed to begin affecting change in my lifestyle. By doing so, I’ve built a relationship with my body that has given me a sense of peace and sparked healing within myself. Remember: your body is built to regenerate and if you provide it with the right things, it is more than capable of restoring itself.
For more stats on autoimmune disease checkout the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association website here
You can purchase David Klein’s book Self Healing Colitis & Crohn’s here