The SEEDS Protocol - my baby! I developed the SEEDS Protocol out of necessity. This became an easy way for me to remember all the things that were within my power to change, work on, and improve. This is what I mean when I keep saying that there are many things we can do, and this is just a starting point. Science and research have taken us in far more places than I will discuss here. These are just a few of the basics to master first.
SEEDS is an acronym for Stress, Exercise, Environment, Diet, Sleep. Five elements we DO have control over and we can work to improve upon. Let's take a quick look at each one of these.
STRESS According to the American Institute of Stress, stress has many different causes, and can vary from person to person. Some of the biggest causes of stress today are: work related, struggles with finances, issues in relationships, environmental irritants, change, and some stress is even self-generated.
While stress CAN be positive (like keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger), stress can also take us down. Stress is often times the beginning factor for many of us who suffer with autoimmune diseases. So keeping stress in check is very important.
Some stress reducing techniques you can try:
MEDITATION: Just a few minutes a day can help ease anxiety. If you don't know where to begin, there are many apps geared toward guided meditation. Research suggests that daily meditation will actually make you more resilient to stress. Meditating or meditation can take on several different forms. Find one you're comfortable with and schedule it into your day.
BREATHE DEEPLY: My favorite! I love this because you can do it anywhere, anytime. The more you practice deep breathing, the more in-tune with your body you will be and will be able to start feeling the calming effects. There are many different breathing techniques, but one that works pretty universally is what I call the 5-5-7 breath. You would begin by inhaling through your nose to the count of 5, try to fill your lungs to 2/3 capacity. Then hold for the count of 5 and exhale, through your nose to the count of 7. Repeat this at least 10 times to calm the body and put it into a parasympathetic state.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION: This is a fun one! Start from head to toe and squeeze your muscles individually and hold for 3-5 seconds and then release. Start with facial muscles,then your neck. Bring your shoulders up to your ears and release. Squeeze the muscles in your right arm and then your left. Do your stomach, buttocks, right leg and then your left leg. Do each muscle group twice, then repeat any areas that still feel tense.
GUIDED IMAGERY. I use this technique a lot in my practice. As with all of these, this takes practice. This works best with your eyes closed. Imagine yourself in a calm, relaxing spot: a meadow, a beach, a beautiful flower garden, or by a warm crackling fireplace. Focus on the sights, smells and sensations. Focus on every detail and picture as many as you can. Take your time and enjoy your escape!
RELAXATION TECHNIQUES. Relaxation isn't just about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is a process that decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body. Practicing relaxation techniques can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, slow breathing rate, reduce activity of stress hormones, increase blood flow to major muscles, reduce muscle tension and chronic pain, improve concentration and mood, lower fatigue, reduce anger and frustration and give you more confidence to handle problems. To get the most benefit, use along with coping techniques such as; positive thinking, finding humor, problem solving, time management, exercise, and getting adequate sleep.
EXERCISE When you're suffering from chronic pain, exercise can be hard to even think of, but it's essential for keeping your muscles strong. Exercise is often recommended as the first line of treatment, even before medication. Daily, moderate exercise, like yoga, tai-chi, or just simple walking, will safely bring oxygen to your muscles and will allow you some control over the amount of pain you feel. As your body allows, add more core strengthening exercises, it may seem strange, but exercise can really help improve your digestive health. Exercise will boost endorphins to help reduce stress, encourages a positive mood, and just plain helps you feel good. Start off with just 10 minutes a day and build it up to 30. You don't have to do it all at once. Break it up so you don't get too tired. Just make sure to schedule in some form of "movement" everyday.
ENVIRONMENT Environmental toxins are actually a big cause of leaky gut. Our environment indoors can actually be more toxic than outdoors! Whether it's indoor or out, cleaning up the environment around you and getting rid of toxins is a huge job, but there are many areas where you can control the level of toxicity. You just need to know where to find them. Toxic chemicals are hiding everywhere; in the air we breathe, in our water, personal care products, cleaning products, products for our lawn and gardens, our cookware, laundry detergents and dryer sheets. Even cash register receipts contain the chemical BPA - which is known to be an endocrine disruptor, and can be absorbed through our skin. Not to mention the 3000 chemicals added to our food supply.
Learn to clean with water and essential oils. Learn natural way to control weeds and pests. Make your own personal care products, or purchase ones made without chemical additives. Check out what kinds of pots and pans you are using.
We need to educate ourselves and take action. we can start by boycotting the foods and products that are destroying our health.
DIET Hippocrates claimed over 2000 years ago that "all disease begins in the gut." I don't know if he knew how accurate he was, but since 70% of our immune system is in our gut, we need to stand up and take notice. Gut health could be the turning point of your disease.
The definition of diet is "habitual nourishment." I wonder how different your grocery cart would look if you asked yourself "will this nourish my body?" before you put the item into your cart. I would venture to say the box of Twinkies wouldn't make it to your cart. I know I grew up questioning only whether or not the food tasted good, that was all that mattered. I didn't worry about how much sugar, trans fats, or chemically altered substances where in the food. I had no idea how to know if something I ate was nourishing me or not. It was never discussed.
I have now adopted the saying from Hippocrates to "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." But in order for food to be our medicine, it has to be clean, organic, nutrient dense, non-processed, non-GMO, simply described as REAL FOOD!
For those of us suffering with an autoimmune condition, making sure what we eat is actually "real food," and nourishing our bodies can be a huge asset to our health. For me, personally, I think this was one of the biggest factors for my remission. While you may not have to go as hard core as the AIP Diet, I truly believe its a great place to start. There is so much you can learn by giving it a shot. As always, follow the advice of your doctor. But if your doctor claims your diet doesn't have an impact on your health, I would respectfully ask you to do your own research and you may discover its time to find a new doctor.
SLEEP According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults aged 18-60 years of age sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.
The immune system keeps those with chronic inflammation tired for long periods of time. The trouble with sleeping isn't just due to the illness, but because the sleep regulation system is affected. Studies have shown that circadian rhythm disruption can trigger gut leakiness. Leaky gut can be a major cause of intestinal bacteria, and intestinal bacteria has been shown to be a primary trigger for inflammation.
It's difficult to always follow the circadian rhythm with the changes of the seasons. For instance, here in Michigan, in the winter time the sun goes down between 5-6:00 p.m. Usually before most people get home from work, so it's not quite possible to get yourself to bed that early. One trick that can help are to wear orange sunglasses after dark that block out the blue light. According to Harvard research, blue light exposure after sunset can disrupt the circadian rhythm and suppress the production of melatonin.
If you're having trouble sleeping, try establishing a nightly routine and gradually winding down several hours before bedtime. Besides wearing the orange sunglasses, try soaking in a tub of Epsom salts. Do this for at least 15 minutes to give your body time to absorb the magnesium. Use relaxation techniques. Avoid TV, computers and electronics before bed. Listen to relaxing music. Play white noise as you fall a sleep.
If the reason you are having trouble sleeping is because you're preoccupied with problems, try setting aside some "worry" time. Write down all the worries and what you will do about them, make an appointment with yourself for the following day to handle some of the worries. Train the brain to relax.
Eliminate caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as they are all stimulants.
Check your medications for side effects of sleep disturbances.
Try diffusing Roman Chamomile, Lavender, and/or neroli Essential Oils or sprinkle them on your pillow.
Drink a cup of relaxing herbal tea.
Take melatonin or valerian root an hour before bed.
When all else fails, amino acides L-thanine or L-tryptophan are sometimes helpful.
And of course, prayer, meditation, and deep breathing are also great for slowing the body down.
This protocol is difficult, I'm not going to kid you. This is where you need to dig deep and Find Your Strength Within. You can do this!
Nine tips for success:
- Begin each day with meditation
- Journal everyday Journal what you ate, how you're feeling, what exercise or did, how much water you drank, etc. Journaling everyday will help you stay on track. And the progress you'll see will give you encouragement.
- Reduce Stress This is a tough one. But the brain is very powerful..Use the techniques you learned to calm the body.
- Exercise This is your key to success. There are lots of differant kinds of exercise or movement that you can engage in. you do not need to buy expensive exercise equipment. The key is to MOVE.
- Clean Up The Environment
- Dump the junk! Clean out the pantry and fridge. Remove all the processed, chemical laden foods.
- Plan out your meals for a week and go grocery shopping.
- Spend a couple hours prepping food for the week.
- Get adequate sleep