My 7 Steps to Health

So, I've had a lot of improvement in my health after being diagnosed with PBC and NAFLD (Fatty Liver Disease). People have asked me how I did it, so here's a little more detail. I organised it into 7 steps. Also, if you click on my name Chynablue it takes you to my profile and you can read my posts there to follow my journey.

Keep in mind that I caught PBC very, very early. I had no damage to the bile ducts yet. I also started addressing the fatty liver disease before significant scar tissue had formed. I do have some spots and nodules that show up on my MRI scans, but not enough damage to be cirrhosis. But, even if I were in the more advanced stages of disease, I would have followed the same path and seen improvements.

1) Diagnosis

Someone on the internet was quoted as saying "If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution." That's what diagnosis helped me do. I had symptoms - fatigue, digestive distress, abdominal swelling, high liver enzymes, etc. But no matter what I tried, I could not figure out how to make it get better.

I went to doctors, but a lot of them were not helpful because either A) they don't really know what to do, or B) these are general complaints that a lot of people have - its not like I am dying, need surgery, or have cancer. It was not until I fired my doctors and found new ones that I discovered that not all doctors are competent and have the problem solving skills and intelligence to offer any real solutions.

2) Education

Its not ok to leave it all up to the doctor because "they are the experts". There is no one-size-fits-all method that is going to cure people. Everyone's health is extremely unique to them. No one knows your body like you do, so you have to be the one that directs your care. Doctors work for you. You hire them for their opinion, even if insurance or the government is actually paying them. You have the right to disagree or question why they say what they say.

The only way to really be in charge of your own health is to understand what is going on - that means how does the body work? How do my organs work? How does the immune system work? How does the digestion work? All of it. Know it. Read and research and google search until the cows come home. Finding good sources of information is a huge tool in your arsenal, like the PBC foundation, the British Liver Trust, the Mayo Clinic, the National Institutes of Health, and most importantly: other people that have gone through the same kind of stuff that you are facing. If a website is selling something, chances are, it is biased, so maybe skip those.

I guess the quote here that would be most appropriate is "Know thy enemy". What are you fighting against, exactly? How does it work and how can you turn it around? Another quote that would be fitting here: "Seek and ye shall find".

3) Ursodiol and Vitamin D

Upon my doctor's advice, I stopped taking all supplements and started Ursodiol for PBC and Vitamin D because I had tested with Vitamin D deficiency. I researched everything on my own before agreeing with my doctor, just to make sure I knew what to look out for. I started feeling much better within a few weeks. There was an adjustment period to the medication, but it was temporary.

4) Detox, Stress Reduction, and giving the body a break

My diagnosis and research all pointed to one thing - my body was very sick. Not as sick as others, but way sicker than I realized. So many systems were dysfunctioning and my body was really hurting from it. Its not just about my liver. I needed to focus holistically on my entire body and mind. I had gotten used to feeling like crap everyday, I don't really think I understood how good I could and should feel on a daily basis. It was time to reset my health.

For some reason, I find it hard to be kind to myself. I don't think I am alone in this. There's always a reason to push yourself to do more and more. And that's not such a bad thing, but there needs to be a limit. When I think about taking time off from my responsibilities or removing things from my to do list, or removing friends that are demanding and drag me down, I feel guilty. Like I am being self centered or lazy. So, I ask myself, if you saw a child or a little baby with the same health problems as you, would you talk to that child the way you talk to yourself? Would you look at a fatigued child and yell at them to get up and get this stuff done? Or would you tuck that child into bed and make him some nourishing soup, maybe sing a lullaby? Show the same kindness to yourself.

So, I looked into revising my life to remove everything that stressed my body - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I edited out all the things that were not worth my time. My liver is struggling to do its basic job, so why make it harder by asking it to digest wine or a big steak or a stack of pills or deal with normal meals after only getting 5 hours of sleep? I looked into yoga, saunas, meditation, hypnosis, visualization, I tried a bunch of things. Some were stupid, but some surprised me and made me feel much healthier. I weeded out my "friend garden". Some people were not even really my friends, I had just been giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were better quality people than they really were. I cancelled lunch dates and obligatory family dinners and opted to spend time in nature or gardening or at the spa.

5) Plant based diet

Veggies are where it's at. I threw away everything I had learned about nutrition and started over. Low fat, calorie restriction, calories in - calories out, low carb, no carb, "healthy" frozen entrees, the food pyramid... a bunch of misinformed garbage, the whole lot of it. There's tons of information out there - people are rightly pissed off that the government and the medical field either ignores nutrition or sends out bad information about recommended diets that is biased towards industries that fund all these "nutritional studies". I'm sure you will find some great sources of real information, but I really like Dr. Campbell and his China Study. He showed that rats with tumors that were fed a 20% animal protein diet kept their tumors. Switch them to 5% animal protein diet and the cancer was turned off. Put them back on 20% and the cancer comes back.

There is a direct link to the amount of animal protein in your diet and diseases that take advantage of your body when you are not healthy like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, auto immune diseases, etc. The same thing goes for processed foods and sugar. A plate full of processed foods like bread, mashed potatoes from a box, pasta, frozen potatoes, and poor quality meats is a plate full of dead materials with very little nutrition. Sure, it has protein, carbs, and calories, but compare it to a plate full of colorful vegetables, fruit, nuts, healthy fats like olive oil, maybe some good balsamic vinegar. Now here is a plate of foods that are alive and full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and things that promote cellular health and repair in addition to protein, carbs, and calories. Which one is going to help your body and which one is going to be a stressful chore to digest?

I started adding the highest quality foods into my diet in addition to fresh plants like goji berries, seaweed and spirulina, Camu Camu (1 teaspoon has 1000% Vitamin C), raw organic cacao, green tea, lemon water, cucumber water, almond milk, cashews, avocados, and other super foods that make the most impact on my health. When I eat them, I imagine how nourished and supported my cells are as the nutrients circulate in my body, repairing cells and carrying out toxins. I bought a cheap juicer and did Joe's 10 day reboot plan, which is all plants for 10 days. It's free - google it. It was smoothies, fresh juices, soups, roasted veggies, etc and it was delicious. I haven't had cravings for crap foods since I did that. It detoxed my taste buds!

Now when I eat a processed meal or something high in sodium or high in animal fat or made from crap ingredients, I feel very noticeably bad. My body hates it!

6) Adding back gentle exercise when fatigue improved

It doesn't stop when I lose a few pounds, liver enzymes go back to normal, and I see about 30% improvement in the way I feel. I mean, that's a great improvement, but I want to feel 110%. That means I keep going, adding one or two goals per week to target the aspects of my health that bother me the most.

I saw lots of improvement after Ursodiol, Vitamin D, Stress Reduction, and high quality diet. As my fatigue started to fade, I added in exercise. I always thought exercise meant to run, sweat, breathe heavy, and push yourself farther than you feel like you can go. What was wrong with me? I don't have to run 3 miles straight 3 times a week. No wonder I hate exercise! I mean, yes high intensity workouts can be great but it's not required. Any activity is exercise. Yoga class is very relaxing, and it is great for the body. And it works better for me because if I push myself too hard, my body produces more stress hormones like cortisol that starts a chain reaction of inflammation, and I go right back into fatigue for several days. That is exactly what I need to avoid. I joined a gym and I try different things - yoga, pilates, spin class, walking on the treadmill. And I do things at home or on weekends - explore a park with walking trails, kayak down a gentle river, start a small garden in the back yard, organize a cluttered closet, etc.

7) Monitoring

I'm at a good place with my health now, but I want to steadily increase my health more and more over time. Every day I assess how I feel and why I feel that way. Every week I pick one or two goals to address the weakest part of my health. For example, this week I am meeting with a trainer to add some weights to my weekly exercise routine. Nothing major, just show up to the gym and leisurely use some machines and a few dumbells for about 45 minutes every now and then. Expert nutritionist Tana Amen says the biggest indicator of whether or not you will survive and thrive after a major illness (cancer, broken hip, etc.) is how much muscle mass you have because it acts as a reserve when you really need it. Last week, I tried 3 new smoothies with high doses of vitamin C because I had a bit of a cold. 3 of us in the office had the cold. Only one of us was smiling (it was me!). 2 weeks ago, I started taking SAM-e for brain, liver, and joint health. I am shocked at how well it works for my body. Next week, I am trying some new supplements. When my body was weak, supplements were not something I felt my body could handle. But I'm feeling strong now and I'm going to try it out, see how it goes.

Every 6 months I go to the liver doctor to check on my liver enzymes and maybe do some imaging. I feel so good in comparison to when I was first diagnosed, I want to continue this path and get better and never ever go back to the sad shape I was in before!

I hope this is helpful. If it is, make sure you share your journey, too so others can find their way!

32 Replies

  • Thanks Chynablue ...this is a very inspiring post. I'm a firm believer in trying to heal yourself. I'm trying to cut out processed foods as they generally make me feel lethargic. I was particularly interested in your comments about exercise. I've been an avid exerciser for the last few years and it was my declining fitness despite following the same regime, that made me go to the docs for a check up. I couldn't understand why I seemed to be getting less fit, even though I was still doing a lot of exercise...that prompted the blood tests and confirmation of PBC. I do sometimes feel fatigued a day after a particularly hard gym session...maybe I need to change my exercise plan a bit!

    I might look into some of those superfoods you mention...haven't heard of some of them!

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you stay on this positive road.

    Hilary x

  • Thanks Hilary! Share your exercise ideas if you get a chance.

  • I tend do circuit training a few times a week...they're an hour long. I used to do 4 times but now it's either 2 or 3. I also try and get to the gym at the weekend, or go for a run. I'm only doing about 3 miles at the moment because I've got a problem with my toe. It's a bugger cos I love running and it really keeps the weight down. When I go to the gym I try and do weight training as it's supposed to be good for strengthening the bones. I wish I was a bit more determined with the weight training but I find it a bit boring! I'm lucky in that I don't suffer with fatigue too much now and itching is hardly ever present. But I do notice that if my diet isn't too good I suffer with tiredness and itching...which motivates me to eat plenty of salads.

    I'm also taking kefir...which is a probiotic milk/yoghurt which I make myself so I have that on my muesli for breakfast with fresh fruit...really sets me up for the day and keeps me full...which stops me snacking on the never ending biscuit sat my work! I also try to keep processed foods to a minimum and hardly ever eat red meat. And I usually takes herbal tea before bed, flavoured with honey. Oh and I take a herbal tincture twice a day. My friend is a herbalist and she makes it up especially for me and the PBC in mind. I think it's all helping as I feel heaps better than a few months ago. I've got my fibroscan in a couple of weeks so hopefully that'll show I'm ok!

    Sorry...rambled on a bit!

    Take care and stay well

    Hilary xx

  • Great ideas! I met with a trainer so I can start doing weights. My goal is twice a week weights and twice a week cardio plus a stretching class like yoga or pilates. We'll see how that goes! I know weight training is boring, but I kind of look forward to going to the gym without having to do anything strenuous. We'll see how that goes as well... that feeling might not last!

    Kefir is a really good idea. I tried probiotic supplements once and it really upset my digestive tract. I think it was too concentrated or something. I'm not sure if I am up to making it myself. How do you do it?

    Thanks, Hilary!

  • The kefir is super easy to make! I bought the grains from happy kombuccha and you just add fresh milk to them I. A glass jar with a lid (mason jar)...let it ferment for a day then strain off the fermented milk and reuse the grains. Over time they multiply so sometime you have to take off some of the grains...they're not really grains more like little lumps of jelly. It took a couple of weeks for the fermented milk to taste better than just sour milk...which I flavoured with stevia sweetener. Now I've been fermenting for a few weeks the yoghurt/fermented milk tastes more like sharp natural yoghurt, although it's a little bit thinner. But I don't sweeten it anymore just add it to my muesli and the fruit sweetens it. Apparently, when you first start on probiotics your gut can have a bad effect...wind, flatulance and feeling a bit sticky, but this settles down quite quickly. I didn't really get too much of that. I love my kefir now but it ferments in about 7 hours so I just pop it in the fridge to slow it down! It does make fab smoothies which if made with sweet fruit takes the sharpness away.

    Good luck with the gym


  • I'm going to try it! I found a lot of great info on happykombucha and Dr. Axe's website. Its been almost a year since I tried a probiotic supplement, so maybe I should give it another try. Thank You :)

  • If you can get hold of raw ie unpasteurised milk that's the best...but it's not easy getting it. Raw goats milk or pasteurised goats milk is good too, but I just use ordinary cows milk as raw is difficult to buy. You can also use nut milks, but I didn't like those!!

    Good luck let me know how you get on xx

  • Just thinking about what you said and upsetting your digestive tract, my friend who makes and sells kefir, said that you get a bit worse before you get better. She suggested it could take a few weeks for your digestive system to right itself. That's what probiotics are supposed to...rebalance the bacteria in your gut, and sometimes you can experience wind, upset tummy and bloating while this rebalancing occurs. I must say I didn't get too much of this but everyone is different.i certainly feel it helps me xx

  • Thank you for such an inspiring post! I've just started doing some of the stuff you mention and some days just want to give in to the fatigue. Now I've read this, I know I need to keep on doing what I'm doing to get to where you are now. Thank you.

  • That's awesome, Cathie!

  • Absolutely fantastic post! Thank you so much for writing it. The best part for me is the section on diagnosis and firing your doctors.

  • Thanks, Tinypixie! I hope you are doing well!

  • Chynablue. It is encouraging to read your story. I am also a firm believer of eating the right stuff. You, or either I missed it, did not write whether you are still taking gluten stuff. I also try and eat as simple as possible, not always possible if you get invited for a meal. I have a very healthy appetite, suppose it is because of the good plain food. It is just for the itching there seems to be no solution. Fatigue has never really bothered me. I have been walking this road since 2009 (could have been for longer, only the itching triggers it off). In the beginning I also struggled with loose stools, but no longer and I am positive the reason being cutting out gluten, but it is not easy as almost every food item consists of gluten, spices etc. So glad you are so positive and keep on doing what is good for your body. Only you know that body of yours. Keep well

  • Hi Rockie,

    I used to be very sensitive to gluten, but after starting Ursodiol I found that I can digest it. I still categorize gluten as a junk food, though because even though I can process it better now, I still think it contributes to inflammation in my body. When I my goal is to detox or eat 100% clean, I avoid gluten. But I also avoid the "gluten free" products because a lot of them are highly processed and just as bad for my system!

    But, when I am just eating a normal, healthy diet, sometimes I do eat some gluten, mostly for convenience like when we go out for dinner. I wouldn't consider myself 100% gluten free, although it is a good idea.

    And thanks for all your contributions here! I enjoy your posts! :)

  • I found your post really helpful, informative, encouraging and refreshing.

    After reading it I started making notes about my life. How to keep as healthy as possible by carrying on eating well, trying to incorporate exercise into my daily routine (which I find hard because of fatigue) filtering out stressful problems, friends and family members that upset me and upset my increasing positive attitude and mental well being. I intend to keep this going and look forward to reading your blogs.

    Thank you again

    Tricia X

  • Hi Tricia! Keep us updated on your progress! I know you will do great!

  • Hi Chynablue. Simply wow! You certainly took the cow by the horns (and put it back in the field!!). I don't eat meat at all either, but do eat fish albeit not in huge amounts so fairly veggie - hopefully that'll stand me in good stead. I'm an avid walker and try to do some light jogging a few times a week if I have the energy and get up early enough (prefer mornings - bright, fresh and less traffic and pollution). You're certainly dedicated and the results speak fro themselves. Best wishes. Adele

  • Thanks, Adele. To be fair, I do eat some meat, and I love fish. But I used to eat it for every meal of the day, which was not helping me at all! Now most of my meals are plants with a small amount of healthy, lean meat usually at dinner. I need to start walking more like you. Especially when the weather is nice.

  • What a great post, I would do all of that if I was younger and had more will power - as it is I do a lot of the things you mentioned except exercise! You are what you eat, Ive always believed that. I am beginning to wonder about supplements though, and the benefits, if any. Thankyou for your very interesting post Kandiepat


  • Thanks, Kandiepat! I supplement my Vitamin D because it came up low on a blood test. And I started supplementing with SAM-e because my moods are low most days and the Vitamin D wasn't perking me up all the way. It works really well for me. I did a bunch of research and turned down a lot of supplements, but the SAM-e sounded like it would fit my needs so I tried it as an experiment. I'm glad I did!

  • Hi Chynablue,

    I've been recommended SAMe for my joints. Have you found a good brand?

  • I read reviews on Amazon, and there seems to be major problems with quality and consistency in the SAM-e supplements. I was afraid to try something expensive because I just wanted to see if it works. But I didn't want to get something cheap because then I wouldn't be able to tell if it was poor quality or if it didn't work for me.

    I saw some reviews that said Spring Valley, which is the Wal-mart brand, had good quality. People who have been taking SAM-e a long time can tell if a brand works or not, so I tried that one and it works. I can feel it.

    But, I want a more reliable brand with quality standards, so I ordered Dr. Amen's brand I think its called Brain MD. Its expensive, but not the most expensive brand out there. I'll let you know if it works well for me.

  • Thanks Chyna. I too, had doubts about quality / consistency with SAMe. It not readily available in the UK - got to search for it.

    I read a useful check list of criteria to possibly use when evaluating supplement manufacturers (if anyone has the time and resources!).

    In no particular order:

    1. Customer reviews - from a large seller eg Amazon. Look for volume of complaints and moans, not just good reviews.

    2. Has the company been certified as manufacturing to good and safe standards by the countries manufacturing control body?

    3. Does the company voluntarily conduct clinical trials on it's products on multiple subjects before releasing a product for sale?

    4. Look at the proportions of listed ingredients and the ratio of effective ingredients to 'filler' substances that are added just to improve profit margins as fillers are much cheaper. Examples for fillers include stearic acid, magnesium, stearate, gelatin. Higher ratio indicates higher quality.

    5. Has the company received any warnings or audits from the countries regulatory authority or administration - if the country has one?

    6. Bear in mind that in many countries, manufacturers of supplements are not required to prove their products are safe or effective. So treat with extreme caution any claims on packaging. In some countries they can print certain claims if someone else has proved the claim, in which case the wording of the claim should be very specific.

    it would be great if there was a website that evaluated all the particular countries supplement manufacturers for us. Here in the UK I don't think there is anything, but it is sorely needed!

    Thank you Chyna for your post.

  • Great info badpiglet!

  • Thank you so much and I too, am doing something very similar to what you are doing. All Natural Foods and vitamins. I also never eat gluten. I am taking selenium, milk thistle, Alpha lipoic acid, vitamin d, vitamin B complex, probiotics and vitamin C. I have been off of the urso for well over 6 months and feel much better. I will be going for blood work within the next month. I have fired two gastrointestinal doctors due to them wanting liver biopsies and disregarding my side effects from the urso. In my opinion, there is no need for them to aggravate my liver any further. One day at a time, but I feel great now. Like you, mine was caught very early as well. Best wishes to you all.

  • Hi Donna, Good to hear you are taking charge of your health! A lot of people have trouble tolerating Urso. If this goes well for you perhaps others can find relief following your example. Awesome!

  • Inspiring, thank you for sharing. Here's to your continued healthy journey! X

  • Thanks Pange!

  • This was very helpful, thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thanks, Littletonya :)

  • Thanks for the awesome post! Very inspirational to me as I am totally doing very similar things and thank goodness, for now, I feel really good too. Hope I can keep it up as I get older!! :-)

  • That's great, Lizzy!

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