So, what’s the plan? This is in no way a substitute for professional medical advice, but a series of pointers to get you on the right track of treatment for you. In hindsight, this is the plan that I would pursue:
1. Find a good practitioner
There is no substitute for a good practitioner that you can trust and feel is giving you the advice and support you need to diagnose and treat your symptoms. If like me you have been through all the NHS testing, and come out the other end with nothing more than a sham diagnosis of ‘IBS’ or ‘non-specific gut dysfunction’, then it’s time to go private. There are plenty of nutritionists and private practitioners who can help. Dr Sarah Myhill’s website lists some ecological medicine practitioners, which is where I found my current doctor, Dr Jens Rohrbeck, who is trying very hard to figure out the concoction of random symptoms that have stumped every other practitioner I’ve come across.
Dr Sarah Myhill’s website is also an incredible resource on medical conditions and their treatment, and includes one of the most important books I have ever read, ‘Diagnosing and Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome‘
2. Get appropriate tests
I put off a full range of tests and regret this profoundly. I was given advice not to spend too much money in the first instance in case some initial treatment yielded results. After over a year of unsuccessful treatment I decided to get a full blood work up and it was this set of tests that identified some severe nutritional deficiencies that needed to be addressed before anything was going to change for me. SO, it’s a double edged sword. Get some initial broad testing in the first instance to make sure you are on the right track, but don’t wait too long to get more tests if things are not moving in the right direction in an appropriate timescale. This is where the advice of a good practitioner is invaluable. Check out Dr Myhill’s website for examples of tests, their procedure and costs.
3. Choose a diet to suit your symptoms
There are so many diets for so many different conditions. In the end it’s best to just suck it up and go the whole hog. Don’t choose the easy option – you will only end up failing and needing to do a stricter diet anyway, so I figure, you may as well do it right in the first place and then it will be over quicker – hopefully! It is likely that life long changes will have to be made with diet if you have serious digestive symptoms, and at first it seems impossible, but time and experience will get you there. Believe me, I thought I would never be able to live without bread, cheese and beer, but it’s been 16 months without all three now and I’m still alive… just! It can be done, and if you are motivated to be well, you can do it. It is best to make changes slowly if a big change is likely to lead to failure or cheating, like cutting out certain foods over a few weeks and gradually changing cooking habits to build up a new repertoire of cooking and eating skills. I will be posting separate blogs on each of the diets that I have tried and their ups and downs!
4. Write up a nutritional regime timetable and stick it to the fridge
Routine is really important when treating digestive disorders and Chronic Fatigue, and this may include supplementation and drugs, especially in the early stages of treatment, So write up a daily timetable listing time and amounts of food and supplements and drugs so that you get into the habit of taking everything in at the right time in the right quantities. Organise!
5. Change your life
Just a small thing then, changing your life… but to make serious health changes usually involves changing your lifestyle. What, when and how you eat, supplementation, detoxification, rest, relaxation, comfort, support and routine could all need to change drastically, not alone work, family and interests. Some serious decisions will be made. And then you have to stick to them. It’s not easy, I wish it was better news, but if you are determined to regain health there is only one road there. Call in every favor and ask for help, you’d be surprised how willing people are to pitch in when you most need it.
The posts on this blog will cover my experience of changing everything about my lifestyle to deal with debilitating digestive problems and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After spending two years researching, and thousands of pounds on different practitioners and books and supplements and treatments, hopefully some of the things I have found out along the way will be helpful to someone out there…