Category Archives: Health

Checklist Endorphins??

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a list maker. There, it’s out. I confess – I have grocery lists, meal plan lists, homeschool lists, to-do lists, books-I-want-to-read lists, and this list I’ve made of lists I like to make could go on and on. (Does the word list look strange to anyone else after that many repetitions?)

I’ve been laughed at for my list making, and although it genuinely doesn’t bother me, you can imagine my delight the other day when I heard that checking boxes on a to-do list actually releases endorphins.

That’s right, those oh-so desirable, feel-good endorphins are actually released into our bodies when we physically mark an item off of our list. (Physically, meaning marking it out with a writing utensil on paper. The same effect was not found to be true when marking it off of an electronic device.)

It’s so exciting to me that there’s actually science to back up my list making habits now! But whether you’re a list maker or not, let’s look at this a little further.

What does this new knowledge of endorphin-releasing checkmarks mean for us?

It means the more we check off our lists, the more motivated we are to continue doing so. Endorphins are that boost we need in order to get into a groove so we can stay on task.

This new knowledge also means that it’s absolutely okay, and even encouraged, to write menial tasks on our lists entirely for the benefit of crossing them off.

“Get up.” Check!

“Make coffee.” Check! Sweet, I’m on a roll!

Let’s give ourselves some time to start releasing those endorphins with smaller tasks before attempting the meatier ones like exercising or paying bills.

I gotta say…this new information definitely reduces the amount of crazy I’ve felt for all those times I backfilled my list for the sole purpose of checking more items off.

It’s science, people!

Maybe you’re not a list person. Maybe lists make you feel confined or burdened. Maybe you’ll never be a list person. And that’s okay. (I guess.)

BUT, maybe it’s just time to try again. In this busy age of existence, information bombards our senses at all hours of the day. It’s certainly enough to make the important things slip my mind if I haven’t written them down.

List makers rejoice! The next time someone scoffs at us and our list making ways, we’ll be armed and ready with science to back ourselves up. You can’t argue with endorphins.

Non-list makers, fear not! Now is the time to try again, making sure to add several easy tasks to your list first in order to get that endorphin boost before you tackle the rest of the list.

And while this topic may not be quite as deep as many of my posts, I really do love a good nugget of health related encouragement. And I love lists. So, you know…win-win!

Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend and thanks for reading! I’d love to hear any comments you may have – feel free to post them below!

Good Health Can’t be an Idol…Right??

Let me be honest with you in regards to my lifelong food journey. Health was not on my mind the first 20+ years of my life. My mom was ahead of the curve in her knowledge of good vs. bad for you foods while she was raising my sister and me, so I had some advantage there, but there were still a lot of unknowns at that point. The internet wasn’t in our lives for most of my childhood, with it’s all-knowing wisdom and health guidance. Junk food and pop were the societal norm, which meant every time I was with my friends (which was a lot), junk was front and center on the menu.

I was blessed with good genes, and weight wasn’t an issue for me. I saw no need to consider the food I was eating at all as long as gaining weight wasn’t an issue. So I carried on my merry ways, eating pizza and candy, and guzzling Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper every chance I got.

Fast forward to age 23. Newly married, both of us working full time, living off cheap ground beef, lots of cheese, pizza, and pasta. Most fruits and vegetables usually found a place in the fridge where they would stay put until they were rotten enough to throw out. I laugh about it now, but really – what a sad picture of nutritional health!!

Fast forward a year…I get diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. With my mom on my team doing crazy amounts of research, we discover it’s recommended for people with MS to do a low fat diet. I buy every low-fat item at the supermarket but continue to eat crazy amounts of sugar because, guess what? Sugar’s low-fat! Lucky me – I can continue eating most of my candy and drinking my corn syrup laden pop since, of course, it’s fat free!

Fast forward another year. I’m slammed with MS symptoms. Something’s got to change. Apparently this low-fat diet isn’t the magic bullet we were hoping for. After much research, I change medication and begin taking Low Dose Naltrexone. (Oh, and I finally learn about healthy fats and begin adding them back in. About time.) The LDN is helping, but I feel like there’s more I can do.

The eight years following were a time of trial and error, reading articles, books, talking to doctors and friends. And then a dear friend introduced me to the Whole30. I knew something needed to change, and this was a way to see if any of the foods I was eating were a problem for me, and to sort of “reset” the body. I was immediately in.

For thirty days my diet consisted of meat, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and more vegetables than I care to remember. By the end of the thirty days I felt So.Good. I felt confident in my health. Confident. That was huge for me. I felt like I didn’t even have to wonder about when my next flare up would be. I felt like if I ate only those things I could CONTROL my health. Dun dun duuun….

Let me just stop here and mention this. Guys, it’s hard to eat that perfectly. Time consuming, ginormous grocery bills, hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables kind of hard. It basically became a part time job since, you know, raising and homeschooling three kids and church planting didn’t keep me busy enough. 😉

Over the past several years since that time, I have had periods where I’ve really buckled down and focused on eating as well as possible, and I’ve had periods where I think “I feel really good, so I’m sure I can relax my food standards and be just fine…” But inevitably, it comes back to bite me.

So yes, I’ve learned that I feel best when I eat my best. Simple, right? To that I say HA! If only.

Every day is a struggle. Although the sugar addiction is gone, praise Jesus, I never stop wanting it when it’s available. I never stop dreading spending hours in the kitchen prepping healthy food. There always seems to be a food related battle going on in my mind.

I begin to have thoughts like “Well, if God hasn’t healed me from MS, I guess I have to take matters into my own hands…” And then I proceed to feel guilty about every bite I take that is not actively making my body healthier. I become meticulous and sometimes obsessed with what I eat and what I actively avoid eating.

I begin to trust in my own ability to heal my body from the inside out with food. Food is medicine, right? That’s what they say, at least. And I believe it’s true. To a point.

But when does healthy eating become an idol? You know, one of those pesky things warned about in the Ten Commandments, which is to be avoided lest it be honored more highly than God himself?

I’m sure there are scholarly answers to this question, but let me tell you my personal answer. Healthy eating becomes an idol when you find yourself trusting it more and more and trusting Jesus less and less. When you feel like you’re in control of yourself instead of God.

Yes, we need to be responsible about what we put into our bodies. Our bodies are temples – dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. That’s a big deal. So we do need to be smart here and play our part responsibly…just not to the point of trusting food for our wellness more than we trust God for our wellness.

Knowing this makes it easier for me to be okay with doing my best and resting in his grace and provision for the rest. Some days my best looks pretty impressive, food-wise. And some days my best looks like choosing chicken nuggets and unsweet tea in the drive-thru between my son’s ninja class and our church group, instead of that greasy double cheeseburger and Dr. Pepper that’s calling my name.

It’s when we proceed full speed ahead by our own wills and leave Jesus trailing behind that those idols appear. It shouldn’t take long to discover there’s a giant idol in our path, blocking our view of our trustworthy Lord. And when we finally knock that idol out of our way, we have an open path to Jesus’ outstretched hand. As long as we proceed in partnership and relationship with Jesus at our side, we can find the rest and strength we need to keep doing our best.

 

 

 

Uncertainty and Anxiety with MS

For anyone who doesn’t already know, (and be thankful if you haven’t been forced to learn, haha!) MS is a very unpredictable disease.  It looks different for everyone, so there’s no way to know how the future will unfold.  I happen to have a fairly mild form of it – for now, that is.  I’ll go through a few years or so where I feel great, and then will have a flare up as if to remind me not to get too cocky about feeling so good.  When I do have a flare up, it’s usually pretty intense and may last several months.  Needless to say, this pattern can cause quite a bit of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear – if I allow myself to think too much about the possibilities!

It seems as if every time I search for something MS-related online, or flip through an MS Society magazine, all I get are visions of canes, wheelchairs and bladder control problems.  If I search MS groups and message boards online I inevitably find person after person voicing their health struggles and woes.  And these people have legit problems – I have great compassion for them! However, I often have to remind myself that (in general) the ones posting these tragic stories are often the worst off.  They find themselves in a dark place and they get online to reach out, share their stories, and search for hope.  But for those of us who are actually doing pretty well, it can paint a  frightening and hopeless picture of the future.

After the birth of our third child (6 years ago), I had a flare up that was so bad it basically halted my life.  I could do extremely little to help my kids, husband, or self.  I basically stayed in our bedroom for weeks having spasms while my family and friends cared for my children.  I’ll admit – I did resist medical treatment for a few weeks in order to nurse my newborn; if I had sought treatment sooner, it surely wouldn’t have been quite so dramatic.  And yes, I have been known to be stubborn once or twice. (Insert my husband’s laughter here.)

The reason I mention that specific flare up is because, although I’ve never been professionally diagnosed, I’m almost certain I have some level of PTSD because of it.  Obviously, there are many people who have been through worse situations. I almost hate to use the term “PTSD” because I don’t want to take away from their stories – war, abuse,  etc.  But honestly, those months were intensely painful for me, as well as crazy emotional since I wasn’t able to care for my newborn or other children.

That being said, each time I feel the slightest twinge in my leg that reminds me of that time, anxiety floods my mind and body.  My mind immediately goes to the worst case scenario and I start planning ways for my family to do life without my participation.  Not to brag or anything, but as a homeschool mom of three, my involvement is fairly crucial to our days functioning smoothly!  CBD oil helps me a lot, but it’s not enough to work on a deeper, spiritual level.

So then I have a choice.  Do I let myself get sucked down the trail of doom in my mind?  Or do I deliberately choose to speak truth and hope into my life?  Truthfully, it’s a mind battle between the two, but so far hope and truth have always won out in the end.  But only with Jesus’ help.  Honestly, oftentimes in those situations my first and most prominent prayer is simply: “Jesus.”  So much meaning behind one name.  And since God and I are tight, I rest easy knowing that he knows what I mean.  I don’t say it as some do, out of frustration.  When my prayer is simply “Jesus” what I’m really saying is:

“Help me, God.  I don’t have the strength for this.  I’m too tired.  I’m  scared. I need you to carry this and take it away.  I need you to be by my side as I go through whatever I’m about to go through. I need your peace so I’m not terrified and defeated.”

And then the anxiety eases.  And maybe it comes back five, twenty, or forty five minutes later, and I whisper another “Jesus.”  And it eases again.  Lather, rinse, repeat indefinitely.

If I don’t have the confidence that comes with knowing Jesus is always with me no matter what, loving me and helping me as I go, then I will always be anxious and scared when a flare up (or any other stressful life circumstance) occurs.  But since I do have this confidence, I know that I will ultimately get to a point where I say, “Whatever happens, God will be with me to help me and provide for my needs and my family’s needs. He always has and he always will.” And it’s after I’ve gotten to this point where I can truly move on with my day and live without fear for the future.  It’s at this point I can live the life I have and not the life I fear I’ll have one day.

Multiple Sclerosis Trial and Error

I was diagnosed with MS in 2005…one short year after getting married.  Obviously, our world was rocked. Thankfully, my getting diagnosed wasn’t a drawn out ordeal like it often can be. One day I woke up with double vision and (thanks to my awesome hubby for not taking no for an answer on the phone with healthcare providers), a few days later I had a diagnosis.

The first two questions out of my mouth to the neurologist were: “Am I going to die from this?” and “Can I still have children?” The short answers were no and yes. I was satisfied. Still freaked out for sure, but satisfied that there was hope.

I immediately began taking Rebif, which my neurologist said was the the best option. One year later, after experiencing tons of random symptoms and feeling generally off, my mom had had enough. I trusted what the doctor told us (that Rebif was the best) so I figured we had no other better options.  My naïvety at that time is almost amusing now! Thankfully, and unbeknownst to me, my mom and aunt discovered and researched something called Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) while I was busy having drop-me-to-the-floor-in-pain spasms.

I bought in to LDN immediately, and after a search for a doctor who would be willing to prescribe it (since it’s not considered an official MS treatment), I began my journey with LDN. Fast forward to 2018 and I’m still happily taking it. LDN has given me my life back.

It seemed too good to be true. I didn’t change a thing except for stopping Rebif and beginning LDN. I ate tons of junk food back then, not even thinking about what I was putting into my body. I’m appalled when I think back. But I took it and felt great through two pregnancies and nursing two babies. Pregnancy three came around and I still felt great until I got a terrible sinus infection right when baby was due. Natural treatments weren’t cutting it – onto antibiotics I went (which I hated). Soon healthy baby #3 came into our lives and I went downhill fast. I’m talking several months of debilitating spasms. There were days I couldn’t change position at all without having a spasm. Tricky business when you’re supposed to be parenting your 4 year old, 2 year old, and newborn. We couldn’t have gotten through that time without amazing family and friends stepping up and seeing us through. Seriously, they (and my husband) deserve awards.

And that was the end of my LDN bubble. Apparently it wasn’t a magic pill after all. But did it still work? Yes. There just happened to be a perfect storm of poor health/hormone shifts/sleep deprivation/stress, and LDN wasn’t enough.  So now what??

Food as medicine. Who knew that what you put into your body affected how your body would feel/act? Somehow I had missed that memo. Or maybe I was in denial. Either way, it wasn’t long before I was having food allergy testing done and being very deliberate about what I ate and drank. Turns out I have a handful of food sensitivities. I feel best when I eat mainly vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meat. I did the Whole30 and I felt better than I ever had in my life. Confident in my overall health, even. I’m not as strict now, but at least now I know how to eat right for my personal optimal health.

It can be- no, it IS- stressful and overwhelming trying to eat perfectly All. The. Time.  Even when you know the benefits. So I do my best and hope for grace. Last November I started feeling the weird spasms-are-on-their-way feeling in my leg on and off. After an appropriate amount of time to freak out in my head and worry about the future, I got down to business. I perfected my diet to the best of my ability and took all the extra supplements my awesome naturopath recommended. It never got bad (thank you Lord!), but it did take awhile to go away. Too long, in my opinion. But what other option did I have?

CBD oil. This is my new find, my new hope. I started taking CBD about six weeks ago and have for sure noticed a difference. The thing about MS is that you can never be really, truly sure what is helping since symptoms come and go as they please. But if nothing else, it has helped with the anxiety that accompanies symptoms. The anxiety can get so bad it actually triggers more symptoms, so I can say with confidence that it has improved/disappeared. Time will tell what other benefits it offers.

With MS, there are always new treatments being discovered. Hopefully in the near future there will even be a cure.  But for now, I’m taking what I can get. Ultimately it’s my faith in a good, gracious God that gets me through. Having him by my side in the pain and in the good is better than both LDN and CBD. I’m thankful he led me to them, but I’m even more thankful to have him with me each step of the way…through all the years of trial and error and through the (no doubt) many more to come.