Reclaiming My Health
A Brief Story on How I Took Responsibility For My Health
By Shawn Mack
Giving Away Power
Have you ever felt somewhat helpless regarding your health and wellness as if you have no control at all? Almost like there isn’t much you can do about your health? This type of mindset, for me, I realized, was a product of years of conditioning rooted in a victim mentality with health and wellness. A sense of helplessness, and a lack of self-awareness had me in a state of reactiveness instead of proactiveness.
This mindset, I realized, was one in which I was fully dependent on professionals and so-called experts to dictate what was good for me and what wasn’t. Without questioning much and blindly following, I gave away my power. The power to heal myself.
I once heard the phrase:
“if you don’t change nothing, ain’t nothing gonna change”.
This reminded me of a significant time in my life where I really had to scrutinize my lifestyle that I thought was pretty damn healthy. To not only re-think my perspective on health and wellness, but how I operated and engaged in the world.
An Undesirable State
In the beginning of 2018, I began to experience some pain in my groin area. I thought that I had a hernia at first because I was always lifting heavy weights and barely could touch my toes which reflected my utterly non-existent flexibility.
I went to my doctor’s office to get checked out, and they sent me to see a Urologist. They did bloodwork, X-Rays, examinations, and even a sonogram to make sure that all my organs were functioning properly and that there were no cancerous cells developing. Luckily, there were no tumors or signs of cancer. So that was a relief.
Eventually the doctor whittled it down to an inflamed prostate. I was like “whaaat? Prostate? Isn’t that old dude problems”? He told me that indeed I was a bit young for prostate issues, but it could be genetic as well. He didn't say much else regarding this.
I asked what else the cause might be and he said “it just happens as you get older”. Remember, at this point in my life I’m under 40 years old and so called “healthy”.
So, the doctor prescribed me an anti-inflammatory medication and said to take it for a few weeks to see if the inflammation went down. Then we could revisit to see how I was afterwards. So, I did, and the pain started to get better within a week.
After a few weeks of pill popping, I ran out of my prescription as planned. But a few days after my prescription ended, I noticed the pain started coming back slowly. That dull and consistent pain.
Mind you that I hadn’t changed anything else in my life at that point. Not the way that I worked out, my diet, or anything. I wasn’t told to change anything about my lifestyle by the doctor. Just take these pills. And so, I did.
In a short amount of time it felt like someone had kicked me in the junk again. So back to the doctor I went.
After some similar check-ups, I was prescribed the same medication again. I asked the doc “so does this mean that I will have to continually take medication”? He said, “probably so”.
We repeated this cycle, and I returned to the doctor’s office once again for a re-up of dead ends and meds.
I felt like at that moment something wasn’t right. It couldn’t be. I couldn’t accept taking medication the rest of my life and only treat the symptoms and not get to the root of it all. I had been through the same scenario before, but with mental health, and this had all my Spidey senses tingling.
I couldn’t accept this state as something desirable or a normal routine for the rest of my life. I needed to take my health into my own hands.
Demanding The Return Of
After my last trip to the doctors with meds in hand, I couldn’t help but hear this voice inside. Something that just kept saying to me “You. Need. To. Take. Your. Health. Back. Into. Your Own. Hands”. At the time, I didn’t know it, but it was probably my higher self communicating with me.
I took the meds briefly to reduce the immediate pain. While I did so I began to do some research. Not just google, but I used my school’s library to find research articles and peer reviewed papers with scientific studies.
What I found was that inflammation within my body was causing my inflamed prostate, and that there were holistic ways to which I could treat it.
This was the first time that I learned about the several types of ways inflammation affects the body. Before I only knew of joints being inflamed and you take ibuprofen to reduce it. I had no idea about chronic inflammation and how it affects so many parts of the body. Including organs like the prostate.
I also learned that inflammation was caused by environmental factors, food and diet, stress, increased weight (obesity), hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, and yes also with age (NCBI, 2020), but typically later in life. Maybe it was just age, but why settle for that answer when all of these other variables could be at play?
Food for thought
One of the re-occurring themes in the research was how inflammation and food were intertwined. Many of the foods that I deemed healthy before, in time, with consuming too much of it, would contribute to inflammation. Some of it quicker than others, like sugar, processed foods, meat, and dairy.
My choice to eat chicken over beef wasn’t really that much healthier since the source I was getting it from was typically mass-produced factory chicken pumped full of antibiotics and god knows what else. Also, the many things I ate that contained sugar in it contributed to my internal inflammation. But on the outside, I thought it was all good.
What I found in the research was that a lot of reducing inflammation pointed to either a complete plant-based diet, or one that was about 80-90% whole foods plant based. And that remaining 10-20% had to due with quality, and reduction or elimination of sugar.
Other holistic ways recommended to specifically reduce prostate inflammation (and many other types of inflammation within the body) were through yoga, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and stress reduction.
After finding out this research, I quickly began to change my diet and how I exercised. I really changed my perspective on self-care, and what it meant to be “healthy”. I began to look at health holistically, and not separate entities that lacked interconnection.
I was actively taking steps to demand my health be better.
To Regain Possession of
With some newly found information for me, and a little hope that I could take steps towards reclaiming my health, I started to incorporate new practices into my life.
Plant-Based Eating - I transitioned progressively through a six-month period by phasing out foods systematically. First red meat. Then turkey, chicken, fish, dairy, and lastly the hardest of them all, cheese.
I also used a harm reduction approach as opposed to complete abstinence, since this greatly increased my chances of making changes that last by reducing shame from any “slips” or setbacks I had with my diet (like cheese lol).
Yoga - Yoga became a regular thing at Root3d with several different amazing teachers. A mixture of Vinyasa Yoga which proved to be great and gentle on my body, and Ashtanga Yoga taught by Amber Rangel Mooney . In a short period of time, I noticed myself getting stronger and more flexible. Especially in the hip flexors, core, and hamstrings which helped tremendously with my overall physical health.
Acupuncture- I sought out an Acupuncturist and connected with Leah Rainer . Years earlier I had briefly gone to another acupuncture practitioner for pain in my hands and had success, so I was familiar with the experience.
Needless to say that this practice dating back thousands of years carries with it ancient wisdom and healing modalities that my body responded well to.
Herbal Medicine- Leah also incorporated some Chinese Herbal Remedies that coincided with my acupuncture therapy. These were a mixture of herbs that helped with the reduction of inflammation and promoted prostate health.