I’ll never forget the moment they told me.

It was 2012, and I’d been experiencing excruciating abdominal pain and vomiting with some other graphic side effects (that I’ll spare you from) with no gauge as to what was causing it and why. After years of tests, hospital visits and colonoscopies, they finally diagnosed me with ulcerative colitis. Initially it was a shock — a disease as a kid in high school? I was terrified.

They describe ulcerative colitis as a disease of the intestines that causes inflammation, making the digestion of certain foods nearly impossible. From this moment on, my life as a normal pizza eating, ice cream fanatic was over. This dramatic lifestyle change became a challenge for me — even emotionally draining at times. My relationship with food, especially as an African American woman was not always prioritized, so there were things that I had to learn and unlearn.

The doctors urged me to get on medications that would alter the genetic make up of my body, and which, over time would deteriorate my organs. This chaotic newsflash was my introduction to holistic healing. Here are five impactful and proactive tips I learned after being diagnosed with an autoimmune and chronic disease:

Have a blood test done. Blood tests are so important when trying to identify the issue. A lot of times food is the connection to several diseases but most people don’t know that due to lack of exposure and information. A blood test is so vital because you could be consuming nutrients that are not compatible with your body and blood type. Please note, our body chemistry changes with time, so testing every few years is not a bad idea. The first blood test I ever had done was extremely thorough and gave me the levels of disruption each food group caused in my body based on my blood.

Use probiotics. Probiotics are game changers, because it’s putting good bacteria into your body. There’s a such thing as good bacteria and of course there are bad bacteria. Probiotics would fall into the good category. There are different kinds of probiotics for different issues, but most the most popular probiotics are known to aid in digestion. A lot of people assume they get enough in their yogurt or other foods, but it’s always good to have a daily probiotic in your routine to assist in functionality. The probiotics I take mainly focus on digestive reconstruction and healing of the gut.

Give holistic healing a try. Explore a visit with a holistic doctor. No, this is not witchcraft, or voodoo. This is someone who is dedicated to healing naturally. Doctors will prescribe medicines with horrendous side effects, while holistic doctors will create a natural compilation of herbs and probiotics fit to your body’s needs. In a nutshell, holistic doctors prescribe herbs and probiotics and super foods that do not contain the same side effects of traditional medicine. These doctors focus more on pinpointing issues by confronting the body rather than fighting an issue with a powerful and potentially damaging narcotics.

Detox, detox, detox. Now there are several different ways to go about detoxing. One of my favorite ways in particularly is through hot yoga, formally known as bikram. It’s so powerful because it has so many unexpected benefits. By attending one class you are likely to burn up to 1,000 calories. Each pose will not only help you gain strength and balance, but promote proper digestion, as well. Because the skin is the largest organ in the body this is the prime opportunity to sweat it out! With hot yoga, you combine cardio, stretching, sweating, and meditation. It’s a one-stop shop, but most importantly, you can take things at your own pace. Yoga studios should be easy to find wherever you are for the most part, but even if you don’t have one in your area, there are plenty of apps and videos that will walk you through getting started.

Reduce stress. Believe it or not, the body reacts to stressful situations. Negative energy, anxiety, and stress are all enemies to chronic illness. Some stress of course, you can’t avoid. However, any stress that you’re able to remove, is vital. This doesn’t have to be an expensive or dramatic process. Take a moment and think about the scents, sounds, or even colors that you like or intrigue you. Pick up a few candles, listen to that podcast you’ve been putting off, and maybe even do a little redecorating. Whatever it is, be one with yourself, love yourself, and listen to what your body is asking you for.

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