What do you say when someone tells you how you can easily cure or treat your chronic illness?
I’ve always struggled with this, more so now it’s not in my native language.
I get people telling me how I can fix my illnesses all the time.
But I don’t know how best to respond without hurting the person’s feelings or pushing them away.
How do you respond?
Syndromes and hidden illnesses - "it's all in your head"
When I say I have fibromyalgia, or sinusitis, or endometriosis, or now rheumatism everyone has an opinion about how it is best treated or what causes it.
The common opinion here in Germany seems to be that fibromyalgia is either stress and a psychiatric illness, or muscular rheumatism. That the treatment for is exercise and psychotherapy.
Luckily the doctors no longer have this opinion! Because over the last several years, researchers have found that muscular rheumatism is only a co-morbid disease, and fibro is really a chemical imbalance in the brain that changes how pain signals are processed.
For endometriosis, I usually get told to eliminate dairy and meat, and go on an antioxidant-rich juice diet. Tried no dairy and meat, high fiber and vitamins (and antioxidants) for many years, it didn’t work.
It’s most important to surgically remove the endometriosis, maintain a healthy weight, and take ongoing hormone-suppression tablets to get the endometriosis to a manageable level - it never goes away. I do believe you can reduce the growth rate a little further by limiting extra estrogen intake from conventional dairy, conventional meat, parabens in cosmetics, and hormone disruptors from plastics.
Rheumatism isn't rheumatism isn't rheumatism
Last week, I was diagnosed with a rheumatism that affects joints. I don’t know what type yet - another month or so for additional test results.
When most hear rheumatism they think arthritis. And everyone has an opinion on arthritis, especially older people. While I value and seek out my friends’ opinions because I know they also read research papers, I don’t appreciate advice from 20 to 40 years ago.
Gout treatment has changed in the last 3-5 years
The rheumatologist suspects I might have gout in my big toe in addition to the rheumatism.
Gout is a very old disease. Everyone knows how to treat it, because they have known someone long in the past who had it.
But the incredibly restrictive low purine diet for gout is no longer best practice.
These days, a tasty, balanced, higher-protein diet that encourages maintainable weight loss, plus moderate exercise, is recommended.
Recent research has shown that a high-protein, high purine diet - one that should make gout much worse - actually improves gout substantially more than the traditional gout diet, which no one sticks to. In fact, a traditional gout diet is terrible for diabetes, and a large percentage of gout patients also have diabetes.
Avoiding beer and fructose-sweetened drinks, losing weight, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle - with a range of foods and regular exercise - is recommended by expert rheumatologists worldwide to treat and prevent gout.
What do you say when someone tells you how you should treat your illness?
Perhaps educate them gently?
I love learning, especially in cases where my previous knowledge is outdated or wrong. When someone tells me about new research, I appreciate it!
So, thinking people are like me, I often try to explain to those with outdated views, that there has been continual research over the last many years. Treatments, medications, and therapies have changed since they learned about the illness.
Unfortunately, I have found that most people hate being told that they are wrong or outdated.
In the beginning, I printed a resources from non-profits, a few research papers and sometimes the Spoon Theory.
But no-one wanted to read anything.
They just wanted to give their advice and feel good about providing you with the information to be cured.
Since then, I’ve found a verbal emphasis on “research in the last couple of years” can occasionally get people to listen.
But it seems few people will accept that they may be wrong, even in the face of current research.
Especially not in a face-to-face discussion where they want to quickly provide advice that will fix your illness, and move on.
You can’t educate stubbornly closed minds.
Nod, smile, and move on?
This has been my standard for a while now, as I’ve been low on energy to try to explain, and didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
It’s similar to the standard response to “How are you” – “Fine, thanks”.
No one really wants to know how you are.
So I usually thank them for their advice, and we move on to other topics.
But now I’m faced with being served very unappetizing (and unhealthy) food, because that’s what they truly believe will cure my suspected gout, and they think I’m too young, inexperienced and uneducated to understand this illness.
How do I explain that this food is not healthy for me?
What would you do?
Please do share your stories and your advice!