Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Breaking the Cycle

Treating dysautonomia is often a game of trial and error. The autonomic nervous system is dynamic and complex, and the reasons for its dysfunction can be varied and not easily pinpointed. One person might have a genetic predisposition. Another person's case might be due to a trauma, surgery, child birth, Lyme disease, or a viral component.

The origin of my illness was likely due to exposure to toxic mold and then subsequent pesticide exposure. Though I could limp along and appear to function for a while, it took years for my symptoms to manifest in a way that completely incapacitated me. A flu virus pushed my already weak body over the edge, and after collapsing, I could no longer go on with my daily life.

Treating my dysautonomia has been difficult. Mostly, I am told to live life within my limitations, take in plenty of salt and fluids to maintain blood pressure, and to perform mild exercise as I am able. These treatments have only taken me so far, and so I sought the opinion of a specialist in chronic illness last fall.

This physician urged me to try a new diet free of sugar and carbohydrates, based on her diagnosis of "leaky gut syndrome." In her opinion, my past mold and chemical exposures caused damage to my intestines. The cells lining the intestine are normally very tightly knit together so that only nutrients and vitamins can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, with increased intestinal permeability, the gaps between these cells widen, allowing larger particles, toxins, and bacteria into the body. As she explained, this creates a cycle of inflammation and inappropriate immune response that manifests as systemic disease, fatigue, stomach problems, aching muscles, and even autonomic nervous system dysfunction.

Trying to break this inflammatory cycle is difficult and requires me to make positive choices almost hour by hour about what I will put into my body. If I put in the wrong foods, my gut won't be able to handle the onslaught, ultimately leading to more inflammation and increased symptoms.

When I woke up from a recurring dream last night, the fight to keep my thoughts from dwelling on the dream reminded me of my struggle with leaky gut syndrome. Every time I tried to quit thinking about the dream, it came back again. I knew from past experience that if I allowed these thoughts to permeate into my mind that I would have a full-blown assault on my emotions, which would lead to "spiritual inflammation" and losing my sense of peace.

It occurred to me that areas of weakness in my thought life create a "leaky mind."

For example, I am often tempted to compare myself to others. I'll be consuming a diet of Facebook photos when suddenly one will trigger an envious response. I'll feel like less of a person compared to what that person has. I'm also tempted in other ways - to fear, to not trust God, to covet, to dwell on the past, to feel guilt and condemnation, to be discontent with what God has given me - just to name a few. All these areas of weakness are like gaps in my spiritual defense. Negative thoughts leak in through these weaknesses, and before I know it, more unpleasant thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to a full-blown spiritual attack. Then I feel defeated, like I can't even lift my head. It takes a lot of encouragement to come back from a blow like that, so the best way to head it off is to break the cycle at the beginning. This starts with diet.

Just like my food diet, I have to be disciplined to make good choices every minute and every hour about what I "consume" mentally. I am responsible for what my eyes take in, for what I hear, for what I choose to dwell on, and if I repeatedly choose healthy thoughts, I lessen the chance of a tempting idea taking me down into an all-out defeat.

The similarities of my physical and spiritual condition are fascinating to me. We as people are consuming all the time in order to exist. We must eat food, and we must consume ideas, philosophies, and thoughts that bombard us on a daily basis. Our minds can only filter out so many negative things until we are overloaded. I have realized during this time of trial that my mind is extra-sensitive to negative input. It's my job to repeatedly reject those unbiblical thoughts before they leak in and reignite the cycle of spiritual inflammation.

By repeatedly rejecting wrong thoughts and instead pursuing a diet of right thoughts, I've found that I can live at peace spiritually, even in the midst of temptation and trial.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1 Peter 5:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

1 comment:

Corrine said...

hi just moved to a smaller house last week, people are still renovating and boxes are everywhere. Just read through your email, I'll have to read it again etc....

Tell me about the anti inflammatory diet stuff. Inflammation just wipes me off my feet, my gut is shot from all the meds. I have been wanting to learn some natural ways to deal with it.

Your email is bang on... my head is more difficult to treat than dysautonomia some days.

take care