Many people live with chronic illness. They’ve tried all kinds of treatments, even lifestyle shifts, but to no avail. And some have lost hope. But a personalized treatment may help those who just don’t seem to heal.
I believe I had undiagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome. My doctor said to change my diet and lifestyle. But, I, like many others, stood baffled. I didn’t clearly know how to change. I knew how to bolster my fitness, but I struggled with diet. I’d been chowing often on McDonald’s and pizza. But by good luck, a friend nudged me to read nutrition books. This helped me heal. “Without direction and support (which we’ll define as a therapeutic relationship that delivers clinical education and counseling), it can often feel overwhelming and often futile. (Seriously, why bother?)” (Nakayama, p. 17).
I was lucky. I responded to a spin-off of a Mediterranean diet. But fad or pre-packaged diets fail to help some people with chronic disease:
There are people who swear by their paleo diet, or their vegan lifestyle, telling you that everything changed for them once they started this new regime. By the same token, there are practitioners who subscribe to ONE diet or ONE protocol and have tremendous success with a lot of people …. 80% of people can get on that healthy train, start drinking a packaged shake or smoothie, do a video workout, and feel better. But then there’s that other 20%” (Nakayama, p. 6).
For those who don’t respond to canned diets, functional nutrition offers personalized care (Nakayama, n.d.). Functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama writes, “We’ve gotten seduced by looking for the quick-fix to a chronic problem … [T]he true … resolutions come from looking at a number of … factors” (p. 12). She says, “I’m concerned that we’re doing healing all wrong, and, as a result, leaving so many people behind—sick, tired, and suffering. And that’s not OK with me” (Nakayama, p. 9).
Her concerns touch on the power-play that keeps us in the dark: “There are myriad reasons for the absence of evidence for these natural remedies, and most”, she says, “have more to do with industry funding and politics than the power of food” (Nakayama, p. 44).
Like all functional nutritionists, Andrea Nakayama aims to “restore the optimum function of the … body and its organs … [by] resolving the root causes … with a highlight on … diet and lifestyle modification” (Nakayama, p.14). In other words, “It means that we help to eliminate the biggest inflammatory culprits in one’s diet and lifestyle before moving on to more complex measures …. This includes the elimination of refined sugar, gluten, and dairy to start” (Nakayama, p. 50). But it also includes modifying “habits and routines such as a set bedtime, meditation, ample hydration, community connection, and more” (Nakayama, p. 50).
Consider sleep and sunlight. I’ve healed through diet and lifestyle, but also through listening to my body. For example, my stomach gurgles when my sleep is off or when I miss out on sunshine. Sleep and sunlight play roles in regulating our sleep/wake cycle, called the circadian rhythm (National Sleep Foundation, 2019). And “when the [circadian] rhythm is synchronized with the day/night cycle it is termed a diurnal rhythm” (Hedge, Aug 2013). But, according to research, “disruption of diurnal rhythms is associated with disease in multiple organ systems, including the cardiovascular system, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skeletal muscle, endocrine system, immune system, and reproductive system” (Bastiaan et al, Jan 1, 2014).
Conventional medicine heals many, but for those it doesn’t, functional nutrition may offer hope.
As always though, be sure to consult your medical physician before deciding on any significant health based changes to lifestyle or medication.
Bastiaan C. Du Pré, Toon A. B. Van Veen, Martin E. Young, Marc A. Vos, Pieter A. Doevendans, and Linda W. Van Laake. (Jan 1, 2014). American Physiological Society. “Circadian Rhythms in Cell Maturation.” Vol. 29: Issue 1. PP: 72-83. Retrieved April 24, 2019 from https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physiol.00036.2013.
Hedge, Alan. (Aug 2013). “Biological Rhythms.” Retrieved April 21, 2019 from http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/dea3250pdfs/biorhythms.pdf.
Nakayama, Andrea. (n.d.). Field Guide to Functional Nutrition: Your Passport to Navigating the New Healthcare Paradigm. E-book.
National Sleep Foundation. (2019). What is Circadian Rhythm? Retrieved April 21, 2019 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm