How to Manage the Stress and Confusion About Health as We Age

The older I get the more confused I become about my health. That sounds odd coming from this midlife woman because we’re supposed to get smarter as we age. But my health issues have grown exponentially this year and I’m running in different directions searching for solutions to my problems.

Where to turn for help?

My health issues are not all MS-related, and as many of us know we should never automatically credit our disease for every ailment we have. That’s where the confusion begins. It’s difficult to know where to turn for help.

As I’ve written before I received four digestive diagnoses in 2017: acid reflux, hiatal hernia, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and a bout of diverticulitis. The last two were extremely painful and SIBO is chronic. Yes, another chronic illness to add to my cocktail.

My gastroenterologist gave me a few pamphlets, told me to focus on eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and sent me on my way.

Educating yourself when doctors don’t have time

Should I trust my doctor for sound advice? After all, I trusted him to perform colonoscopies, endoscopies and countless other invasive tests. Why shouldn’t I trust him again?

The answer is that not all doctors have the time or inclination to sit down for informative discussions on what patients need to know. Important information such as recent studies and research, recommended books to read or how to heal yourself using complementary medicine.

In today’s healthcare climate we’re lucky to have more than the allotted time for an appointment or abbreviated instructions on taking the doctor’s usual solution of relying only on traditional medicine.

A double whammy

I followed my gastro’s instructions. I ate loads of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but the wheat, unfortunately, caused excruciating bouts of stomach pain and ongoing diarrhea which, you can imagine, set my MS into motion. A double whammy.

I knew something was awry and decided it was time to put my advocate hat on again. I turned to Amazon for books on healing my gut and asked trusted friends with similar diagnoses for sound advice on healthy eating. Then I tested the waters of eliminating gluten, dairy, and sugar from my diet.

High amounts of stress

I also needed to manage the increase in stress because my MS was noticing my body’s reactions to food. My legs were weaker and more numb and I couldn’t think clearly. I felt sad and anxious and knew the high amounts of stress I was experiencing was not optimal for my health.

Once my stomach began feeling a bit better after my change in diet I went back to my daily walks at our local park. My slow pace and short distance would seem ridiculous to some, but being out in nature and getting any exercise at all made me feel like a million bucks.

But fate had other ideas for me. At the park, I felt a slight twinge in my left ankle and knee that soon turned into pain. I found myself back home resting in bed with an ice pack.

What should I do? Should I call my neurologist? Is this stress related? Should I phone the orthopedist? Internist? Do I go to a health food store for salve, cream or oil? Help!

The need for quality care in one central place

Several years ago a dear friend told me his dream about a place where patients could find quality medical care under one roof. A dedicated internist himself, my friend often witnessed the anguish he saw in patient’s eyes when, after a thorough examination, he advised they see a specialist miles away. Much like an MS comprehensive care center, his dream center would house every type of medical specialist in one building. Electronic medical records would be in a shared system, and the disability community would not have to travel long distances for the doctors they needed to see.

I only wish my friend’s dream became a reality. Our comorbidities illustrate the need to ease our MS journey by helping us find answers in one central place. If this dream came to fruition it could help us feel better, not worse, while easing our anxieties and fears.

A comprehensive health center to make our lives simpler. Wouldn’t that be perfect? It certainly would take some of the confusion out of our ongoing health equation.

Tips to advocate for yourself

But back to reality for now. When we’re faced with health questions we need to step into our advocate shoes. First, we need to breathe, breathe, breathe. Then:

  • Do your research
  • Communicate with others
  • Question advice given and ask for more information from the medical community (from a list of questions you create)
  • Explore websites from trusted sources on the condition(s) in question. Subscribe, if desired, to newsletters
  • Watch podcasts to learn more
  • Sign up for events of interest (Example: I recently attended a conference about gluten/allergy sensitivities)
  • Explore Youtube for trusted videos on subjects of interest
  • Try stress-reducing avenues such as meditation, yoga, walking and reading for pleasure
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings
  • Go outdoors to sit, walk, bike or run. Nature is restorative and healing
  • Contact Multiple Sclerosis organizations for names of local doctors, nutritionists, seminars or support groups, such as The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (nmss.org) or the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (mymsaa.org
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (7)
  • SuzyF.
    1 year ago

    Cathy, Do you have access to an HMO? Mine, (Kaiser Permanente) is GREAT in this regard. Although a referral to a specialist IS needed by the PCP (Primary Care Physician) or GP, once you get one, you’re “set” with them and they’re usually located in the very same building. Other GREAT benefits for me are that viewing test results, re-ordering prescriptions, making appointments, as well as emailing your doc can be done online saving time, money AND travel 🙂

  • potter
    1 year ago

    I remember when I was diagnosed, I thought I won’t have anymore problems with my GP telling me there is nothing wrong. I will finally get treatment and understood. WRONG If I have a problem my GP will tell me that it sounds like a MS problem see your Neuro. My Neuro will say doesn’t sound like a MS problem see your GP. So I do my research now and try and see if I can fix myself before I go to a doctor. Potter

  • rayche
    1 year ago

    Totally! My dream is to have a big work/live space for yoga and complementary therapy. Some nutritionists/homeopaths have tests for food tolerance. I got on my nutrition wagon a while back, but jumped off in frustration after abit. This happens with a multitude of things,So thats all of use I think from me. Thankyou for a good read though!

  • Julie
    1 year ago

    I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately. For the past 3 months, I’ve been going through all kinds of tests because I can’t seem to keep food in my body. I eat, it goes straight through me. Every test shows nothing wrong with me. I’ve never had this kind of problem. Three months of diarrhea can’t be normal or good for me.

    So after going through all the other doctors referred to me I set up an appointment with my neurologist. Surely since it’s nothing else it has to be MS, right? I told my doc about it and he said no, bowel problems with MS is only constipation. Why didn’t I do my research before I saw him? I came home and looked it up. It’s not as prevalent as constipation but yes, it can go the other way too. I shoulda looked first. UGH!

  • SuzyF.
    1 year ago

    Dearest Julie, I suffer not only MS but IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which they are finding could be linked. – Check this very site for related info. about :”gut bacteria” & MS. IBS can have either diarrhea OR constipation OR BOTH. Just so you know, in order for a definite diagnosis of IBS you usually must submit to many tests to rule out anything else. Then after ALL those tests where there is nothing which can be proven wrong they give you an “IBS” diagnosis which really means your bowels are not functioning the way they should. (they symptoms you describe are a part of it all. I urge you to go to the website “Eatingforibs.com” to get VERY vital info. in this regard. Good luck.

  • Nancy W
    1 year ago

    I just wrote in my journal to try to clear up some confusion about how I am feeling. Right now, I have MS and shingles. All I want to do is sleep. But a part of me thinks I should push myself, another part says take a break. The phone just rang. It was my hairdresser confirming tomorrow’s appointment. I let it go to voicemail. Because I just don’t know how I will feel tomorrow.

  • SuzyF.
    1 year ago

    Nancy, I “feel for you”. I suffer MS, IBS, post hepatic neuralgia (pain that stays after previous shingles), scoliosis AND now this summer “hot flashes” from menopause. (Sometimes I wonder if I just got in the wrong line when they were giving out bodies.) 🙁 None of these conditions has brought me to tears until the “flashes”, which for me are much MORE than uncomfortable. I take vitamin B-12 for energy every morning, and additionally as needed. Give it a try. 🙂

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