5 Ways To Support Our Bodies For Self Healing

Healthy self = Heal thy self | Supporting our bodies for self-healing
Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. They have many self-healing capacities, so let’s look at how we can support these to reveal our healthy self. Healthy self = Heal thy self!

Imagine cutting your finger

Here’s a scenario to consider. You are chopping some food, and you cut your finger. If you take care of it, cleaning it immediately and keeping it clean after the bleeding stops, the cut will heal itself in a few days. If it’s really bad, you might need some additional support like stitches, but it will still heal and will just take a little longer.

If you don’t support that healing, you’ll get into trouble. For example, if you rub dirt into that fresh-cut instead of cleaning it, the healing will be delayed. We need to support the body, and then its natural healing capacity can work.

But what if you cut that same finger every day? That constant damage and injury will mean that your body can’t heal itself. It will try, but that constant insult will prohibit healing.

1. Diet as a repeated injury
The same applies to chronic illnesses, rather than physical injuries. Just like the scenario of cutting your finger every day and it not being able to heal, if we “injure” our body every day by the way we eat and live, then we aren’t giving the body the support it needs to heal itself.

A diet without adequate nutrients is damaging to our whole body every day. Every day that we don’t eat well or sleep well, we are depleting our bodies. We aren’t providing an environment in which our body can heal itself.

Consider eating food that is inflammatory to you every day. It’s just like cutting your finger every day – more damage is occurring, and there is no chance for healing. And this damage relates to much more than just inflammation in our digestive system. If we aren’t getting the nutrients we need every day, this can affect all of the biochemical reactions going on in our bodies. Those nutrients – and the lack of them – affect all the systems of our bodies.

Eating a diet that is lacking nutrients is like injuring yourself every day. Instead, we need to support the body.

2. Medications as a ‘band-aid’
We might be tempted to try some medications to cover up the symptoms of an illness and make us feel better, at least temporarily, but frequently they don’t support self-healing because they have side effects too.

Let’s say that you have the symptoms of a cold – a slightly high temperature, and just not feeling great. So you reach for Tylenol or Aspirin every few hours. By reducing your temperature, the medication might make you feel better for a short while. However, the medicine has also interfered with the natural healing process, because your body was using that high temperature as a means to get rid of the virus. What might have been better would have been to relax, drink plenty of fluids, take a warm Epsom salts bath, and have an early night.

3. Active, not passive
Taking medications or over-the-counter pills requires very little effort on our part – we are quite passive – just popping our pills. But as the title of this blog post says, for a healthy self, we need to heal ourselves. That is an active process. We need to feel empowered to provide a favorable environment for the body. That means DESS – diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction, along with love, good relationships, and spirituality. When we put these things in place, then we are no longer cutting our finger every day, and the body can start to heal.

4. Inflammation is the language of discontent with our environment
We know that most chronic illnesses have inflammation at the root of them. This inflammation in our bodies – wherever it might appear – is the body trying to tell us that our environment is not conducive to self healing. It’s like a warning light coming on in our car. If that warning light comes on, we take the car to the garage to get it checked. When we have inflammation or symptoms somewhere in our body, how often do we either do nothing or just pop a pill? What we should do instead is…think that we aren’t providing what the body needs to heal. Think that there is something wrong with our environment. Think about what our body and our environment need instead of what we are providing…

Sometimes, it might be necessary to work with someone to figure this out. It might be that you need some tests to determine that, for example, you are deficient in Vitamin A, or that your hormones are out of balance. A natural health care provider (such as a nutritionist, lifestyle medicine practitioner, naturopath) might be able to help you find out what is out of balance in your environment. Is too much stress making those hormones out of balance? Is a polymorphism creating that vitamin A deficiency? They can then educate you in what seems to be going on. That knowledge can be very empowering.

5. Be empowered
When you understand the workings of the body, and what might be lacking in the body’s environment, then you can make changes and see improvement. Then you are ready to heal thy self. You take an active role and work to rebalance your hormones or eat foods containing vitamin A.

So if you are ill, take some time to look at what might be out of balance in your environment. Is something lacking, is something in excess? It could be nutrition, sleep, stress, difficult relationships – these can all prevent our body from healing itself. We need that good environment. Nurture yourself and be at least as good to your body as you are to your car when its engine light comes on! Take action. Don’t be passive. Let the body do what it is designed to do – heal itself.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we should never use pharmaceuticals. In some instances, especially acute illnesses, they are very important. Yet even if we do use pharmaceuticals, we should still check to see if they deplete the body of certain nutrients/vitamins/minerals, and continue to work to support our self-healing.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Mastectomy Scar – Test The Scar Tissue

Mastectomy Scar-Evaluating The Scar TissueBy: Denise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and Breast Cancer Occupational Therapist.

Why assess mastectomy scar tissue?

  1. To help communicate your concerns clearly.
  2. To help decide the need for specialized breast cancer rehabilitation services.
  3. To evaluate the effectiveness of protocols used to treat mastectomy scar tissue.
  4. To reduce chronic pain experiences.

There are frequent reports of a higher rate of arm and shoulder dysfunction and pain experienced by women after mastectomy compared to women after breast conserving surgery. There is a sound research hypothesis or clinical question to this finding:

Does reducing abnormal tight /thick scar tissue at the mastectomy site reduce shoulder and arm dysfunction?
Based on my clinical experience, the answer to this question is YES- if the scar tissue is properly assessed and a suitable rehab program undertaken. Let’s look at assessment first.

Are there medical assessments to evaluate the level or degree of mastectomy scarring?
MRI was used to evaluate a group of women with radiotherapy fibrosis after mastectomy in 1994 and no reliable connection was found between MRI findings and the woman’s scar experience. In 2005, the Vancouver Scar scale was tested by a small group of women (59) with breast cancer scars and was compared to a scar self- assessment rating and a pain scale rating.

The recommendations from this research were:

  • The Vancouver scar scale (VSS) is reliable
  • There was agreement between the VSS and patient’s self- assessment rating on scar pliability and colour.
  • Patient satisfaction was linked with the self- assessment rating of scar pliability and pain, but not with the measures of the VSS.

The Vancouver scar scale was then compared to a Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale (POSAS) with a small group of women with breast cancer (line) scars. This research suggested that the POSAS was valid, reliable and more comprehensive: it matched better with patient’s ratings.

The POSAS has a rating scale with 2 parts (free download at http://www.posas.org/downloads/):

  1. Patient assessment: a self –assessment.
  2. Observer assessment.

The areas you can rate your scar are:

  • pain and itching
  • color
  • stiffness and thickness
  • irregularity and your overall opinion

If you are looking for a way to measure, compare over time or communicate how your mastectomy scar impacts on you or to ask about treatment options, then the POAS scale may be suitable.

Download the scale, rate your scar and use this in your discussion with your breast cancer team member. If the ratings are high in the specific areas of pain, stiffness and irregularity, there are clear reasons for you to request rehabilitation treatment to improve these experiences.

Is there a more specific self- assessment test for mastectomy scar tissue?
The good news is that patient assessment has been recognized as a bench mark to compare new tests to. I am going to suggest that we increase this benchmark – by increasing self-assessment skills. The self- assessment techniques described below have been used in my clinic for many years and are based on detecting mastectomy scar tissue barriers. The important feature of this test is that the mastectomy scar line and the mastectomy chest scar are evaluated:

  1. Assess the mastectomy chest scar first. Assess the tissue in 4 areas:
    a.  above the mastectomy (surgical) scar line
    b.  below the mastectomy (surgical) scar line
    c.  outside both ends of the mastectomy (surgical) scar line – this will be two separate areas.
  2. Assess the mastectomy (surgical) scar line next.

Mastectomy Assessment
The assessment uses a flat hand to assess the stretch of the soft tissues at any direction and at any depth. The assessment will be able to detect where there is a lack of stretch as you will be able to compare to the stretch in other places on your body.
This self- assessment is safe as long as there are no open wounds.

If you like the concept of being able to assess your mastectomy scar tissue using a “hands on” scar tissue barrier approach, then your next step is to contact your specialist rehabilitation provider to get training in the use of this technique at different levels on the mastectomy chest scar area and the mastectomy (surgical) scar line. It is my experience that this type of testing is not general knowledge and does require training and support to learn the technique at deeper levels. Your therapists will also be able to provide barrier release treatments and instruct you in your home treatment program.

Barrier release techniques are not the only treatments that can be used for tight mastectomy scar tissue. Kinesiotape, low level laser, gentle cupping, yoga and stretches are additional treatments used by breast cancer rehabilitation or exercise specialist service providers.

Next Blog: mastectomy and cording (AWS).

Denise Stewart Breast Cancer Occupational TherapistDenise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and an Occupational Therapist trained in Australia at University of Queensland. Her career started at a major public hospital, providing rehabilitation to people with very serious and chronic illness and injuries.

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