When I was 35, a doctor told me that I would be walking with a cane in ten years’ time. I was in pain—severe, crippling pain—but I also worked out regularly and looked like a healthy, vibrant young woman until my back pain flared up, and I couldn’t stand up straight. I was running (except when I couldn’t move!) in a vicious circle with no answers about the confusing contradictions of my body’s capabilities.
From the initial pain onset, I turned to doctors for support and answers only to be dismissed when I complained that my foot regularly fell asleep or that I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoe. Doctors told me that my problematic pains were in my head and didn’t offer much support, probably because I didn’t fit the standard profile of an unhealthy, older woman who was at high risk of severe, debilitating arthritis.
Over time, my pain became worse and treatment didn’t actually treat anything or help me feel better. How could it? Doctors were giving me prescriptions and injections for pain management they didn’t even believe I had! I felt so tired and weak that I gave up on working out and replaced my gym sessions with after-work marathon sessions on the couch in front of the TV. I even contemplated going on disability when I was advised to increase my medication to manage my mysterious pains even though those same meds would put me at extreme risk for kidney failure. That recommendation seemed incredibly contradictory to me, and I felt spent in every sense of the word: mentally, physically and financially.
When I hit my early 40s, I was worried about my current state of health. I feared what my quality of life would be like when I was 60. Not long after, my brother was diagnosed and died of Pancreatic cancer at age 49, just seven years my senior. His death rocked my world. I was planning how to manage my health into my 60s. Then, my brother died just one year before his 50th birthday. I was devastated and scared. I didn’t know exactly what to do differently to manage my health. But I knew something had to change.
I didn’t want to get sick or be in pain for the rest of my life.
How I Started Living Pain-Free (And How You Can, Too!)
In The Know
When I was complaining of back pain, arthritis, and constipation to my doctors, I was treated for those three health issues separately—each its own isolated illnesses. The manner in which I was treated is very common in standard. The Western medical model typically follows this pattern:
1: Various doctors identify or make best guess about disease/illness with little or no communication with other doctors.
2: Doctors treat disease/illness with medicines containing synthetic chemicals that have been manufactured in a lab by scientists.
3: Patient takes medication(s) that, if successfully used to treat the disease/illness, may need to be taken for an extended period of time if not indefinitely; or patient takes medication(s) that don’t effectively manage the disease/illness and then continues to experiment with various other medications until a drug is found successful to cure the ailment.
In short, many doctors practice health care like this: Disease -> Treatment
While I didn’t know it in the initial 5+ years of my pain management treatment, I am a prime example of the 125 million Americans around the country who are regularly treated this way and then ‘misdiagnosed’ by doctors and health care practitioners who treat symptoms, but don’t evaluate the root cause of many health problems: inflammation. At normal levels, inflammation supports the body’s immune and healing processes, but at high levels, it contributes to the below examples (and many others) of chronic pain, digestive issues, and auto-immune disorders:
|Chronic Pain||Digestive Issues||Auto-Immune Disorders|
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Type I Diabetes
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
After my brother’s death, I started educating myself about the relationship between food and disease. What I learned surprised me. I had absolutely no idea that what I was eating was severely affecting my health. It left me feeling incredibly frustrated with my doctors. I began to wonder, how I could have spent so many years in and out of doctors’ offices without being told that what I was eating and how I was living was making me sick.
“People are fed by the Food Industry, which pays no attention to health,
and are treated by the Health Industry, which pays no attention to food.”
When I started taking more responsibility for my own health, I learned that diet and lifestyle changes override medications as the cure for disease. The processed foods, sugar, and refined flours we eat and the high-stress, no-sleep lifestyles we lead contribute to inflammation that causes the disease we have. Today, I truly believe that the only ethical health care practice looks like this:
Disease -> Inflammation ->Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Learning what I needed to do to heal myself was exciting; I imagined the day that I could wake up pain free! But, thinking about doing everything—changing my diet, managing my stress, sleeping more, exercising regularly—to make myself feel better was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start.
My first step in caring for myself was realizing that I needed God’s guidance because I couldn’t do it alone. Why hadn’t I had faith in my health before, I wondered? Why only now, after being in pain for years, was I realizing that putting God in the center of my health care (and self-care) was an essential aspect of my wellness journey. With God as my guide, I knew that I could change my circumstances.
And I did.
For several years, one day at a time, I made changes that dramatically improved my health. Today at 49, I’m nowhere needing a cane to walk as my doctor had predicted. Instead, I’ve been regularly participating in Crossfit classes for the last five years even though I have three herniated disks in my back and two in my neck. I can confidently say that for the first time in my life I’m able to participate in a sport I love without pain.
Also exciting is that in the last year alone I’ve completed two triathlons and have completely weened myself off of all medications, including Aspirin and Aleve, both of which I considered a food group for years! I know first-hand that the majority of ailments can be managed with fewer or no medications than what is routinely prescribed by doctors if the root cause of the illness—inflammation—is managed and not masked.
If I can do it, so can you, but you must have Faith and a strong desire to change. While the process is completely worth it, it’s not always easy. Think about it: we can’t reverse 30+ years of our old lifestyles overnight. No one can—no matter what they tell you on Facebook.
What we can do, however, is make small, sustainable changes over time that empower you to
- eat a diet full of nutrient-rich, whole foods (yes, there’s still room for ice cream and French fries sometimes);
- make lifestyle changes that help manage your stress and promote adequate sleep, and
- rely on your personal relationship with Jesus for guidance and the strength you need to navigate your personal wellness journey every day.
With a focus on food, lifestyle, and God, I’ve dramatically changed my life. I truly believe that I am living the way that God always intended me to. One of the most rewarding aspects of my own health journey has been inspiring and helping others just like you to take the step to a healthier, happier, pain-free life. I know that if I can do it, you can, too.
Are you ready?
In health & faith,
Christina Grenga is a faith-based Certified Holistic Health Educator who works with Modern Christian women who are ready to quit dieting for good, lose weight naturally, and transform their life. Christina graduated from the world-renowned Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, and is a Certified International Health Coach. She uses a Christ centered approach to guide women to create a balanced, thriving life.
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