Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lessons From My Cat

I own two cats, and they never stop teaching me things. One cat, however, has taught me about things I didn't want to have to learn. His name is Dude. He is one of those man's man, male cats, but fixed, of course. In the cat world, he would be the dominant male, yet you can do anything to him - hold him upside down, throw him up in the air - he loves it. But, if you try to medicate him, even if it's natural, watch out! Not only does he react by physically doing all he can to get away, but his body has a strong reaction to chemicals both unnatural and natural. So anything to treat fleas, mites, or even therapeutic oils to help him get over a cold are a no go. When he developed itchy ears, I had no idea what I was in for.
It started a few years ago. His ears were getting itchy and I thought it could be mites. I attempted to drop mite oil in hes ears, but getting it in his ears posed quite a battle, so I let it go for a while. Big mistake. Soon he moved on to pulling the fur on his back out and was getting very jumpy and itchy. I believed he was developing allergies to his environment, so I stopped using harsh chemicals. It seemed to keep things down to a dull roar... until we moved. This stress and who knows what in his new environment sent him over the edge. The fur pulling got worse, the jumping and itchiness got worse, then his chin turned purple and began to ulcer. I though he was going to die. He hid most of the day, was depressed, his fur was greasy and yuck and it was becoming hard for him to swallow. In the mean time, I started reading up on what could be going wrong. It looked like a yeast overgrowth problem and incorrect diet. So out with the junk (foods containing grains and a lot of starches - bad for cats, worse for yeast) and in with a species appropriate diet. No more dry cat food... at all. Add in a few herbs, garlic, it is a big antimicrobial player, coconut oil, another major antimicrobial with great anti-fungal benefits, and some probiotics to repopulate his gut with good flora and push out the yeast. The turn around was remarkable. He wants to be loved on again, he is playing with his brother again, he is eating well again, and he is behaving more like that man's man cat again. Is he all better? No. It is going to take time a diligence to get him back to proper health, but this is a good start.
Why do I tell his story? A lot of us are in similar boats. We are heavier than we should be, unhappy, depressed, suffering from things like rashes and illnesses we don't need to be suffering from, masking symptoms with medications or waiting things out to see if it gets better on its own. One of the biggest culprits for our problems? Poor diet. It has been drilled into us to eat in an unhealthful way. It's also cheaper to eat those foods that are not good for us... so we do. How do we turn it all around? How do we get our bodies and minds back? How do we get our happiness and energy back? Slowly. One step at a time, and it begins with what we put in our mouths.
Some tips and even a trick. Like Dude, it's going to take time. We didn't get here overnight and it's not going to resolve overnight. A great place to start is with what we drink. Replace one drink at a time until all sugary, artificially sweetened and caffeine filled drinks are replaced with water. Then it is time to move to the foods we eat. Replace one junk food a day with a vegetable until all junk foods are gone and vegetables are eaten instead. Make sure to get at least one leafy green serving per day by the time replacing is done. Corn is not a vegetable, it is a grain. Also leave out white potatoes for now, they can be added back in later when cravings aren't there anymore. Next, work on grains. Start by making the amount eaten in a sitting no larger than the size of a fist. When that is under control, start replacing with whole grains, then with non-gluten grains. If gluten doesn't bother you, then it's okay to get those a couple of times a week. Just vary your grains. What about meat. Many of us need it, many of us don't. If you need it, work on getting your serving sizes down to the size of the palm of your hand, then begin switching to organic, free range meats and dairy, if you do well with dairy. Dairy is often a food area we need to omit to feel well. Just try a couple of weeks without it and see if you feel better.
Want to jump in with both feet? Do what I had to do with Dude... no sugar, sweeteners, starches, or grains of any kind for at least a week. See if it doesn't lessen your cravings for these foods. Implement the above suggestions when the week is over.
This is only a place to start. There is so much more to feeling better than just food, and even just dealing with the food changes can be difficult. Get help. You need support, and there are plenty of places to get it. Groups, friends, even family can all be great sources of support, but if you need support and want help figuring out what works best for you, your body and your lifestyle, consider hiring a health coach. A health coach is a person who is on your side to help you navigate your choices and decisions, to support, guide, and hold that space for you to move into a life and style that works well for you.
Jennifer M. Clark is the owner of Nurturing Wellbeing and creator of YOUR Body Reset. She is a certified Health Coach and is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a Holistic Health Practitioner.

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