In my last update I mentioned that I was now focusing upon managing my symptoms rather than seeking out some miracle cure. Today I am going to begin documenting the various things I will be using to help manage my illness.
There are two reasons why this is important now. Firstly, and most obviously, I have very little quality of life as a result of the symptoms I am currently 'enjoying'. If I can lessen the severity of those symptoms by as little as 20% I will significantly increase the range of activities I can take part in. Small things to most people but things that I've lost the ability to do for myself like fixing a meal or walking to the end of the street. Secondly, I need to be very mindful of the impact of my illness on my internal functioning. Statistically I am now likely to die of a heart attack at 58 (rather than 73 if I didn't have this illness) and I have a much higher likelihood of strokes, diabetes, organ failure and cancer. Cheery stuff huh?
So, it's important I do as much as I can to sway the odds of reaching a ripe old age in my favour. That is the long and short of my treatment plan. It is accepting I am unlikely to cure myself but it is making use of established clinical outcomes and robust scientific trials to give myself as many small advantages as I can. I mentioned previously about the dilemma of spending time, money and hope on treatments or just letting things take their course. I'm determined not to just give up and so the treatment option is the right one. However, I will apply a strict qualifying criteria to every potential treatment option. It has to be proven to have shown positive results and, just as importantly, it has to be free from excessive risks or side effects. Most prescribed medicines that attempt to treat many of my symptoms have other unwelcome impacts upon the way my body manages itself and those will not be considered by me.
For anyone following this who does not currently have the same illness as I do, I should also mention that 90% of what I end up doing or taking will apply just as much to general good health. Each part of the treatment plan plays a part in addressing basic imbalances within the body.
The first two elements I want to mention are both examples of what I previously considered to be champions of marketing rather than truly beneficial treatments. However, after a lot of reading and understanding the science behind them and how they change things within our bodies I am convinced both are vital.
Firstly, probiotics. I'm not going to cite individual studies as there are too many to mention but suffice to say that I am now satisfied that maintaining a healthy gut flora is definitely worth the effort and expense. We still don't fully understand all of the benefits of doing so but what is understood is impressive. A good probiotic can, amongst other things, regulate blood sugar levels (good for avoiding diabetes), boost our immune systems (good for fighting off viral infections - 80% of our immune strength is controlled via the gut), control yeast levels (good for breaking free of cravings for sugary processed foods etc) and can even help our waistlines! (sugars and starches are converted to short-chain fatty acids which are used for energy).
The emphasis has to be on a GOOD probiotic though. It is my belief that the heavily-marketed yoghurts are ineffective as the bacteria is unlikely to make it past our stomach acids. Similarly, the popular drinks are likely to be heavily processed and contain too many sugars and starches to have enough benefit. That leaves two choices - either grow your own bacteria and top it up with some sort of milk product (not as hard as it sounds, people have been making their own yoghurt for a long time and it's the same principle - a kefir starter kit can be bought for about 6 quid) or find a good probiotic in the form of gel tablets (they will make it past the stomach acids).
Secondly, I need to keep careful control of cholesterol. By that I mean keep levels of 'bad' cholesterol as low as possible and raise levels of 'good' cholesterol as much as I can. My heart is not working as efficiently as it should at the moment and is under more strain from minor exertion (standing or sitting in my case) so it's important I don't make matters worse. I don't want to mention brand names but I am introducing a well-known spread that is proven to improve cholesterol levels. I used to think this was another example of clever marketing as a means to sell expensive products but I have changed my mind. I have now read enough independent studies to suggest it not only works well but it works impressively quickly. In fact, more quickly than taking what is usually prescribed for high cholesterol levels (statins - they have lots of nasty side effects such as supressing some of our bodies' natural functions).
So, that's the first two parts of the treatment plan. Neither is very exotic or earth-shattering and both are widely available. The combined benefits are proven and significant enough to justify the cost and are especially important to someone like me whose natural functions are presently haywire. As I've said though, a GOOD probiotic and an effective plant-based cholesterol management food (such as a margarine) will also have huge positives for almost everyone.
Ok, that's long enough for now. Next time I'll start to go into some detail about some of the vitamins that are important and why most people waste their money on supplements!