You can Lead a Horse to Water …

Nicci1drinkingNicci2notdrinkingNicci4turnedawayfromdrinkingNicci3protestingdrinkingNicci5drinking I knew exactly what I wanted to Blog about for this post … I’m frustrated this week! VERY frustrated … and I know better and that’s doubly frustrating. But it has to do with family and sometimes with family, everything you know goes out the window. 

My mom warned me, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown but I don’t turn my back on family. So what the heck am I ranting about? A close family member was just diagnosed with a potentially deadly autoimmune disease. And I have knowledge, experience and simple, natural ways to offer help.

You know the saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” … well, for this blog, I went out to my little herd of horses, picked one and led her to the water trough with the intention of taking a pic of her refusing to drink… but instead of just standing there, she seemed to say “Thank you, I think I will take a drink” … argh … so I waited and snapped a few more pics hoping you wouldn’t see the water dripping from her mouth and I even backed NIcci up in the 4th picture so it would look like she was refusing to come near the water but then she walked back up in pic 5 and said “Thank you again, I’ll take another drink” … so much for my picture sequence, even my horses appreciate the offer of help I give them … and being authentic means I couldn’t give you a fake picture – so that’s why I posted them all and am telling you the story behind them.

But back to my family member, it didn’t turn out the same way with him as it did with my horse unfortunately. I explained the metaphor of everyone in life having a bucket, some bigger than others due to genetics, and some filling faster than other’s due to the environment they live in and the life choice’s they make … but when the bucket get’s filled with life’s toxins (toxic food, toxic chemicals we clean with, toxic insecticides, toxic plastics leaching into our system, toxic air, toxic water, toxic relationships, etc etc etc) … well, then we get sick – depending on what way our body weakness leans, we get cancer, or we get chronic pain, or we get an organ inflammation, or an autoimmune disease.

This family member is young, only 20’s, and it may feel unfair that his bucket seems smaller and has filled faster than other peoples buckets BUT the good news is he can work on emptying the bucket … work on detoxing his body so that his immune system is less taxed and the self-healing mechanism of his body has the opportunity to kick in gear. Because this isn’t simply a pill, rarely will it be prescribed by a doctor … because it’s a lifelong work … it’s a lifestyle change. Very doable now a days because of public awareness, health consciousness, gluten-free organic foods and the whole “green” movement.

But lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming, so to be successful, you need to start slow and keep it very simple … building one success on another, feeling what one small change does to your energy level and moving on from there. I know that, so I recommended 3 things: 1) eat an apple a day (pectin helps to detox and the fiber is good for the gut which hosts a lot of the immune system); 2) ask your doctor about a supplement called Abzorb from HCP – because his autoimmune disease affects absorption of vitamins in his gut and this would be a natural way to increase absorption and I’d give him this supplement if his doc said OK; and 3) experience stress relief and detox naturally with a simple essential oil back massage – I’d teach him and his girlfriend how to do this for each other and it’d take about 5 minutes and I’d gift them with the oils.

All he had to say was “YES” he was willing to try these 3 simple things – eat an apple a day, give and receive a short massage a day with a loved one, and ask his doctor about taking a pill a day and I will gratefully support him with everything he needs to do this. But he politely said “no” – he didn’t feel he was under any stress.

OMG, why am I triggered by that? Not under any stress? I want to scream from the rooftops – “Honey, a body doesn’t get an autoimmune problem if there isn’t cellular stress” … somethings going on where the body is so toxic it doesn’t even recognize it’s own self anymore and the immune system, which normally protects you from threats, accidentally now see’s it’s own body as a threat and is attacking itself … I certainly don’t have all the answers and I’m very happy he’s working with a knowledgable doctor, but it feels really frustrating when I have help to offer, and I’m rejected and I have to watch this family member struggle.  It hurts, it’s painful on all accounts, even when I respect the fact that other people have a right to their choices and that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.

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Stress and Autism

Yes, a person diagnosed with autism certainly adds a component of stress to any family but doesn’t any chronic or developmental disability?  The thing I’ve seen on the surface with autism is it seems much more unpredictable and volatile. Which is why, I suppose, that many treatments use a behavioral approach. And I don’t deny that those can help but I’d like to share some thoughts or considerations I’ve been tossing around in my mind.

Stress and Autism. I’m trained in sensory and holistic occupational therapy and when a parent brings a child to me for therapy and the diagnosis is autism I put on my investigator’s hat and I ask my parents to consider the role of being a curious detective as well. Yes, we measure the behaviors in the 3 ways – intensity, duration and frequency … but I’m most interested in the trigger event and even the accumulation of triggering events. What has caused the child to come under stress to the point where their body entered the fight-flight stress mode?

The Canary? 

Why does it seem like kids with autism are more easily triggered by stress? Environmental stress of touch, sights, sounds and smells. Immune vulnerability to infections, inflammation, and vaccines. Gut and digestive problems assimilating foods and nutrients. Seasonal allergies and asthma.

They seem to have real pain and discomfort and the world must seem so unfriendly and unsafe to this group of kiddos. I ask myself, is it really fair to ask them to “behave” in socially appropriate ways when their own body is in this primitive survival state? But I know it’s not an “either / or” situation – the best answer is “both / and”… first we work on creating a relaxation response and then we work on guiding and teaching social behavior.

Why De-stress First? Basically, the stress response gathers body resources for short-term survival (to the fight-flight muscles) and blood is diverted from the thinking part of the brain and from the gut (digestion is for a time when you’re at rest), and the general cellular repair from the immune system is put on hold. Sleep is dangerous because under stress it’s important to be vigilant for the next threat. 

Just imagine trying to learn and grow and thrive when you have symptoms of sleep deprivation and lack of nutrients from difficulty eating and digesting.  But why is the stress response so easily triggered and staying on for these kids? I’m wondering if people with autism are more sensitive to an epigenetic response to toxicity? Mercury, aluminum, lead or other heavy metals; pesticides, hormones or genetically modified foods; radiation, electrical or energy excesses?

Whatever the factors, I’d like others to consider if they see a stress and autism connection too … and whether we are all on that continuum but people with autism are just more sensitive and thus are our metaphorical canary’s … and we all can look for ways to build the relaxation response into our lives!