When someone faces the diagnosis of a chronic illness, it can seem like the world is about to end. They face a lifetime of symptoms and medicines that could have side effects that feel as bad as the condition itself.
However, that future does not have to become reality. Counselor, published author, and healthy living advocate Dr. Kamilah Stevenson explains that lifestyle habits are the key to effectively preventing or reversing chronic illness.
Many people wrongfully assume that chronic conditions are “hereditary,” but lifestyle and diet play a predominant role in preventing and managing these illnesses. “Ultimately, it seems the condition itself is not the ‘genetic’ part, but the habits,” says Dr. Kamilah. “We are brought up in environments that expose and perpetuate toxic ways of living. This deteriorates the brain and body, which can eventually lead to the formation of chronic diseases.”
Doctors prescribe conventional medication to provide temporary relief from these conditions and their symptoms, but this approach rarely addresses the root cause of the disease. “Many doctors are simply not trained to deal with the actual causes of these illnesses, hence why they can’t do more to treat them,” Dr. Kamilah asserts. “When you take the time to understand the lifestyle changes that can affect chronic illness, you can come up with a process to more effectively reverse your condition.”
How chronic illness is affected by lifestyle habits
The progression of several chronic diseases is affected significantly by lifestyle decisions, meaning that these diseases could, in turn, effectively be reversed by changes in habits. Diseases like type-2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, acne, kidney disease, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, insomnia, IBS, skin allergies, metabolic syndrome, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer could be reversed by adjusting one’s habits.
Healthy sleep is one of the most important habits that can help prevent or manage chronic illness. Getting quality sleep is well-known to be one of the greatest ways to prevent and recover from chronic illness, whereas poorly-managed sleep can send your body into instability and interrupt its functional capabilities.
Similarly, stress has the power to kill you if left unchecked. “If there are no intentional recovery plans to destress, it can cause chaos to your mind and body,” says Dr. Kamilah. “Many people get stuck dealing with overwhelming amounts of stress. This will eventually break the body down because it is overworking itself and unable to balance itself out enough to allow the brain and body to restore themselves. This is why we see large amounts of anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, heart problems, and other chronic diseases.”
Furthermore, many people don’t understand the interconnected relationship between the mind and the gut, and how this dynamic is pivotal for the body’s state of well-being and ability to deal with chronic illnesses. “Without a healthy mind-gut relationship, your immune system will be damaged even if you are eating all the right foods,” Dr. Kamilah explains. “For foods to even properly digest, your mind must be in a state of well-being.”
Steps to overcoming chronic illness
It is essential to remember that every individual’s journey with chronic disease is unique, and there are some factors that will make it more difficult for some to recover than others. However, Dr. Kamilah believes that chronic disease can be reversed in many patients — it just takes an exhaustive investigation process that some might find too extensive for their abilities. “With the right resources, awareness, and education, most people can overcome their chronic illness,” she adds.
The first step to take to improve one’s habits to prevent or reverse chronic disease is to seek professional help. An experienced counselor can work with patients to develop a plan that is right for the patient’s needs, with the adjusted lifestyle practices proven to help overcome that particular disease. This will empower patients with the knowledge they need to implement this change.
It is also a good idea for patients to find or develop a support system to aid them in their journey with chronic illness. “Struggling with a disease is already difficult enough,” says Dr. Kamilah. “Making fundamental lifestyle changes can be even more emotionally challenging. Finding a community of people who have already experienced and reversed your chronic illness can provide hope and help you overcome the fear associated with your diagnosis.”
One habit that patients often have to change to overcome chronic illness is how their body uses insulin. “Many times, insulin is the culprit behind inflammation and disease,” Dr. Kamilah explains. “The quickest way to regulate how your body uses insulin is by reducing sugar intake, eliminating processed foods, and implementing fasting into your lifestyle.”
Dr. Kamilah also suggests that patients with chronic illnesses add extra nutrients to their systems in the form of vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. “Supplements can have significant positive medicinal effects on the body,” says Dr. Kamilah. “That being said, when exploring additional supplements, the primary aim should still be to create an eating regimen where the body can get as much of this nutritional value as possible. The right foods can be medicine to the body.”
Finally, those hoping to reverse their chronic illness must take time to create consistent opportunities for mobility, movement, and exercise, as this habit will be pivotal in the body’s vitality and ability to function optimally. Dr. Kamilah suggests a particular focus on resistance training because of the many benefits that adding and developing muscles has on the body.
By adjusting these lifestyle habits in a way that promotes better mental and physical well-being, people can be empowered to better manage — or even reverse — their chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses are no longer a diagnosis that patients must deal with for the rest of their lives, as improving these habits can help restore the body and mind to their optimal function.