Chronically Healthy is an online community of people with invisible illnesses. We live in a world where it’s assumed if you can’t see it, it must not exist. This community is a place filled with love, health, happiness, and education.
Hey, Emily here! My friend and hairstylist Christina wrote this article as a response to the damage my hair and scalp experienced from Methotrexate and autoimmune disease in general. I’ve been implementing these tips for 5 months now and I can report a dramatic increase in hair health. Enjoy!
Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons. With age, everyone’s hair changes. Hair loss and thinning can be the result of stress, medication, illness, diet and plain and simple, genetics. Looking at your lifestyle and pinpointing the reasons behind why or how the hair loss is occurring is an important step, and there is no one size fits all approach.
Preventing & Treating Hair Loss
Try to avoid tight ponytails, braids, and anything else that could put pressure on the hair. Pulling causes breakage, especially in the hairline. The hairline is comprised of very fine hair and prone to breakage, so picture what happens when you pull that hair all the way to the back of your head into a tight ponytail!
Keep in mind hair stretches 30% when wet, so especially try to avoid pulling your hair back tightly when it’s wet.
Update your hair ties! Switch over from the old school rubber band ones to something less constricting on the hair. Goomees are a really great option. They fold into the hair so it doesn’t break or add too much pressure no matter how many times you wrap it around. You also avoid that tight ponytail headache! I’ve had girls in my chair who constantly put their hair in tight ponytails and have a band of frayed, broken hair on the area where they wrap the ponytail holder.
Avoid hats! Not to say never wear one, but if you’re really concerned about hair breakage/loss, it’s best to not do anything that will constrict or suffocate the scalp and pull on the hair in any way.
Shampoo & Conditioner
Avoid any shampoo like a Rogaine. You will see results but the product will train you to need it. The minute you switch to a different product you take yourself right back to square one. I would say even be aware of something like a Nioxin. A great product option is the Malibu C Pro line. Their Scalp Wellness line is a great, gentle option to start with. I love it because it’s completely Vegan and has ingredients like Rosemary and Spearmint Leaf which are both great for stimulating the scalp. Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and creating a healthy environment for hair to grow is imperative. This particular shampoo cleanses the hair follicle without clogging it, which can happen when you use drugstore shampoo filled with who knows what in them. Balancing the pH of your scalp is important to support new hair growth. I’ve had clients with Alopecia, post Chemo and during Chemo use it with success and no irritation. It doesn’t need to be this particular product but my point is do thorough product research-that advice is universal. It takes 27 seconds for anything your put on your skin or scalp to be absorbed into your bloodstream!
Curling irons, flat irons, etc.
It would be unrealistic to say never to use one but just be aware of the heat settings. Another hairdresser once told me “you cook pizza at 450 degrees, you shouldn’t be touching your hair with that type of heat.” If anything, please please please always use heat protectant.
I’ll always recommend talking to a doctor about this part but incorporating Biotin or Collagen into your daily vitamins and supplements might be something to look into. Your diet is also worth considering. Are you lacking anything? Is it high protein and maybe too low in fat? Everyone requires a different diet but just like anything else a balanced diet with lots of veggies and nutrients is great for your hair. If you haven’t already, maybe do a quick test at the doctor and see what vitamins your body may be lacking that could be having a negative affect on the hair. What is happening on the inside affects the outside!
Cucumbers have a cooling effect on the blood, which is why you see them so widely used in the beauty industry. They can help decrease inflammation while simultaneously providing a blast of hydration. Additionally, a cucumber is, on average, 20 degrees cooler than the air outside. Cool, right?
We love cucumbers even more because there are very few diets that dismiss them. For those of us with chronic illnesses, that's pretty awesome. We like the foods that require zero mental or emotional effort.
Side note: some people say that if you press a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds it will instantly rid you of bad breath.
Most importantly, they cleanse your liver.
Cucumbers support the digestive tract, including helping to cleanse the liver, which is our main detoxifying organ, by removing accumulated toxins and waste materials from the blood and gut. They’re also a natural diuretic food, which means they can help the body produce more urine to carry out toxins and waste.
Ready to chow down on this perfect refreshing food?
Ways to enjoy cucumber:
Cucumber juice supports liver function, which is a vital purifying organ in your body—add grapefruit or orange juice and ginger for a flavor twist.
Cucumbers are very hydrating (90% water), and are a nutrient dense food; meaning you take in tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for a low number of calories. Side note: we don't believe in counting calories, just sharing a cool fact!
Since cucumbers are 90% water and mild in taste, they can make a great addition to a frozen drink. Try adding a cucumber to a smoothie with kiwi, or include a cucumber in our anti-inflammatory watermelon smoothie (in place of some of the coconut water).
First and foremost, try making this delicious spicy green sauce. We love the versatility of this sauce, and how simple it is to throw everything into a blender. It's great as a dressing on a salad, but also perfect for topping roasted vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, or a beautiful burrito bowl. Let us know what else it’s good on and tag us @chronicallyhealthy.
You can also use cucumber as the base for a salad. Cucumber and mango pair well together, and taste delicious with a lime vinaigrette (perhaps with some chili powder). Slice cucumber into rounds for a salad, or chop up small for a salsa that you can eat on tacos or spoon over avocado or fish.
Pro Tip: To prevent watery salad or salsa, lightly salt the cucumber, wait 15 minutes, then gently press with tea towel.
A Vehicle for your Favorite Dip
Try replacing some of your chips with cucumbers... they're obviously different but also satisfying—not to mention crunchy, hydrating, and full of nutrients. This is a particularly great tip for those with T1D who are looking for a lower-carb snack.
Pickles are a great way to get your salty, crunchy fix. We can't get enough of pickles...even better if you can find the raw fermented kind.
There’s something about a big glass straw that makes drinking water more appealing. We are obsessed with these! Added bonus: these are bigger than your average reusable straw and are much easier to clean.
You can even keep one in a little container in your bag and be that weirdo that pulls it out in public (aka me).
I was trained in TM a few years ago and really loved it at first. Eventually, 20 minutes 2 times a day started to feel overwhelming, so I quit. I moved on to headspace and that failed too. I’m on a 10 day streak meditating with Calm and I love it! I can’t explain why meditation is sticking this time when it didn’t before, but I’ll take it.
5. Chill CBD by Tonic
We love this company, we love the product, and we especially love how kind, caring, and knowledgeable the founder is. You can get 10% by entering code “chronicallyhealthy” at check out.
PS: Some of these are affiliate links and we receive a teeny commission when you purchase using the link. Know that you will never find something on our site that Emily or Sarah is not using and loving. It's a win-win. You learn about new things, and we can keep the blog running!
In the past few years of using essential oils, my diffuser has become such a source of joy. Yeah, I know, that sounds odd. Let me explain.
The act of waking up, scanning my mind and body, and choosing oils based on what I feel I need that day on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level has become an activity that not only promotes health, but it makes me really happy. This has becoming something I look forward to at the start of each day.
Diffuser blends can be a bit intimidating, especially in the beginning, so read on for tips and tricks for diffuser blend mastery.
Step 1: Scan your body
How do you feel, and how do you want to feel? Are you trying to relax? Invigorate yourself? Boost your mood? Is there a bug going around your house and you feel the need to purify your surroundings? Begin by determining your goal.
Step 2: Choose a few oils
After setting your intentions, pick a few oils that appeal to you. Use the oil charts below for inspiration.
Click images to enlarge
Step 3: Mix and blend
Once you have a few oils picked out, hold 2-3 bottles under your nose and see how they pair together. Keep trying and testing until you find a mix that appeals to you. You do not have to stick to oils from one category. Minty and earthy oils mix well, spicy and woody oils are a fantastic combination, and citrus mixes well with woody, spicy or minty oils.
Why we like essential oils
Essential oils are safe and effective, and a little goes a long way. Aside from their many household uses (replacing anything from cleaning solutions to perfume that we spray right on our adrenal and thyroid glands...) plant oils can allow us to send signals to our brain.
There are so many lovely oils to choose from, but to keep it simple, we love lavender for its calming effects, peppermint for its ability to help us focus, and a blend called Balance for keeping us peaceful and grounded.
If you're interested in several oils, the enrollment kits provide the best bang for your buck... some even come with diffusers.
A small kit comes with the top ten oils with 85 drops of each oil–that's potent! Plus, it includes membership for the year to be able to access the wholesale (cheaper) prices.
Since essential oils are extremely concentrated–50 to 70 times more potent than the plant itself, and much more potent than extracts–it's very important to use a high quality product. Often, even oils from health food stores are cut with synthetics or untested for impurities. Read more about oil quality here and be sure to check out the kits for the best value.
Remember, a little goes a long way! A 15mL bottle contains 250 drops, and you only need one drop at a time.
I’m that girl who really likes having the newest piece of technology. I see something shiny and I want it. I need it. I rarely end up being able to swing said item, but I’m super attracted to new and shiny. No matter how hippie-chick I get, the sparkle will always draw me in.
The desire for new technology is even more intense when it comes to diabetes life. If something promises improved quality of life and better control, sign me up!
We all know how it goes with insurance companies. Oftentimes, and especially in the U.S., we are stuck with diabetes technology until our current system is out of warranty. That five years feels like an eternity when you are disappointed with your current set up, and you know something better is out there waiting for you.
No insulin pump is ever going to be a cure, but pumps can drastically improve quality of life.
I’ve been on many different systems in the past 19 years of life with Type One. Many of these pumps and monitors are no longer available, but I figured I’d write out the pros and cons of each one that is still available for purchase.
The Omnipod ended my five year stint of manual injections and poor control. My teen self didn’t want to wear anything. Once college started I was like “this is dumb and I’m making my life so much more difficult, grow up and get a pump”. It was great for a while, but eventually I outgrew it and wanted more advanced features.
PDM has a built in glucometer
need external remote to use (super scary to leave it at home)
I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about the tslim. It was an amicable break-up between the two of us. He was so great to me, I just needed more… I needed features he just couldn’t give me. Which brings us to our next pump…
It took me a while to switch to this bad boy. Partially because of insurance, and partially because of the horrendous reviews this pump has. Upon further investigation, I realized there are plenty of positive reviews for each negative, and the people who truly love it are out living their lives and not talking about it online.
Fellow diabetics, if you take pretty good care if yourself, you will not lose toes. It's that simple. You don't even have to have an A1C of 5... you just have to care. A few iffy days here and there won't lead to chopped off toes.
Keeping that in mind, there are a few things you can to do help keep your feet in tip-top shape with type one diabetes.
1. Keep 'em clean.
This probably goes without saying, but keeping your feet clean is pretty important. On the chance you get some sort of cut or scrape on your foot, clean feet will help prevent infection.
Rinse your feet after a long day. You can even use wipes to clean your feet after taking off your shoes if you feel the need.
Treat yourself to a simple foot spa using a glass dish or bowl (if it fits, I sits) or even one of these.
To a foot bath, add in epsom salt, vitamin E oil, and essential oils for extra benefits. I usually use Aromatouch, because of it's ability to promote circulation in the body.
Dry skin leads to cracking. Cracking leads to possible infection. Infections = no bueno for diabetics (or anyone, really...).
Keep feet soft and smooth with something like Bag Balm, especially during the dry and cold months. Bag Balm is simple, non-toxic, and really works. Put some on underneath socks before sleeping or leaving the house and you’re golden.
Drastic temperatures aren't the best for our feet. For starters, as we age we lose some of the feeling in our feet. If we are in an area that is too cold or too hot, we can cause permanent damage. For those of us who don't have the tightest blood sugar control, circulation can also become an issue. When your feet become too cold, circulation slows down even more.
Invest in some waterproof boots that actually keep you warm…or your stiff feet will rebel!
Have enough thick socks clean each week so that you’re prepared when running out the door.
Fit Flops | @fitflop “I was just diagnosed with RA […] I bought a pair of Fit Flop flip flops and have loved them”
Vibram | @vibram “you may not like looking at them but I wear Vibram 5 finger shoes. They are excellent for walking, training, etc.” “New Balance has a Vibram sneaker that I love—I can’t wear the ones with toe separations so they are perfect for me”
Have you ever thought about protecting your feet? If so, what do you do?
When buying CBD, it’s important to look at the way the plant was grown and processed. Just like when we talk about essential oils, CBD oil is a very concentrated product that could contain pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants that counteract all the good you’re trying to do.
Make sure to buy organic products that have been third-party tested for impurities.
Hemp is not yet a USDA certified organic product, so find a company you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Support local companies when possible!
Try a Tincture
The number of CBD products available is blowing up. There are simple CBD tinctures or capsules, as well as candies and jams, and a myriad of topical products like soaps, lotions, and salves. The possibilities are endless, but we like a tincture for fast absorption.
There are many companies doing great things in the CBD world, and right now we are really loving Tonic CBD tinctures.Tonic is a woman-owned company extracting CBD from their own sun-grown organic hemp. They put their blends through two rounds of third-party testing to ensure purity and CBD concentration.
Since we personally use the product and love it, we asked the founder for a discount code for you guys. Keep reading for more info on concentrations and how to buy.
For 10% off Tonic CBD, use code chronicallyhealthy at checkout. Scroll to the end for product price comparison.
Tonic tinctures taste herbal and delicious and are sweetened very lightly with organic maple syrup sourced down the street from their hemp farm. One whole tincture bottle contains only 7 grams of sugar, spread out over at least 30 doses (if you fill the entire dropper). So our T1D buddies need not fear a sugar spike.
Just like all CBD products, tinctures come in different concentrations, so keep that in mind when purchasing. We’ll walk you through how to compare products… some products are just as expensive as others but contain much less CBD! So make sure to take a look at the label.
As a gague, we recommend starting with a half dropper of a 700 mg strength CBD tincture (~12 mg CBD dose). Depending on your body and situation, you might need to play with your dosage to get it right.
For trouble sleeping or high pain, go for a full dropper (23 mg).
It’s usually worth it to buy a higher strength tincture, since you can take smaller amounts and make it last quite a while. Some tinctures (like Tonic O.G.) contain added ingredients like ashwaganda, which heightens the sensation and has its own major benefits.
Since we personally use the Tonic tinctures and love them, we asked the founder for a discount code for you guys. For 10% off use code chronicallyhealthy at checkout.
Many people in the chronic illness community use CBD oil to curb pain, reduce inflammation, ease anxiety, induce restful sleep, and so much more. CBD allows you to reap the benefits of cannabis while being able to work and drive without being…well, stoned.
There’s a difference between hemp and what we generally call marijuana. Both are part of the cannabis family, but industrial hemp is widely legal since it contains a negligible amount of THC (the party of the plant that gets you high). That’s why hemp-derived CBD oil—and a ton of other CBD products—are increasingly available.
Fun fact, hemp has many widespread uses, including being spun into fabric fibers for jeans and other clothing (like Ralph Lauren, Armani, Calvin Klein). Hemp can also be used to create bio-diesel fuel, biodegradable plastics, paper, and rope.
When we talk about cannabis, we’re generally talking about the cannabinoids CBD and THC. These are the two most talked about compounds, THC being the psychedelic one.
Did you know your body also naturally produces its own cannabinoids to regulate many basic stress and pain-related functions?
That’s right, your body already produces chemicals that interact with the same receptors as cannabis, which regulate pain-sensation, anxiety, inflammation, and other physiological responses to different forms of stress.
You know the pain-relieving euphoria known as runner’s high? That’s your body’s natural endocannabinoid system in action. CBD stimulates those same receptors.
Your endocannabinoid system gets its name from the plant that led to its discovery, but it is actually a very normal and important network in the human body.
Fun fact: cannabinoids are also found in black pepper, clove, rosemary, and very richly in a Brazilian tree called copaiba. Read more here.
We love hearing stories from the Chronically Healthy community and beyond about how CBD has helped curb pain, reduce inflammation, ease anxiety, induce restful sleep, and so much more.
When I finally got to hold my son Sebastian for the first time, I was in awe. I had done it. I had created life. A part of me was now alive inside this tiny, little human.
I don’t think I was much aware of the tears that poured down my face as I gazed at that beautiful little bundle. He immediately filled our lives with love and happiness, bursting with the joy of being a new parent. Never did we imagine just how much fear and challenge would come with that joy.
Sebastian was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1).
NF1 is a genetic condition that allows tumors to grow on the nervous system throughout the body. The severity ranges drastically from person to person, and there is no way to know how serious, or not, it will be for him. Many people with this disorder live a relatively normal life. And many others are stricken with chronic illness. Tumors sometimes form on the optic nerve, causing blindness, or in the brain or spine causing a host of other problems. In addition, NF1 can cause deformation of bones, like scoliosis and tibial dysplasia, behavioral disorders like autism, seizures, an increased risk of cancer, and more.
Sebastian has been lucky. “Luck” isn’t something I believe strongly in, but in this case I don’t really have another word for the random chance that hits one person and not the next. NF1 occurs every 1 in 3,000 births. Half of those are inherited from a parent and the other half are spontaneous mutations. No one else in our family has the symptoms, so that means Sebastian won the genetic lottery. Regardless of the odds, so far the NF1 hand he’s been dealt has been a relatively good one. His biggest struggles have been with gross and fine motor skill development and occasional headaches. It really could be a lot worse. Some kids with NF1 have already required things like chemo or multiple surgeries by Sebastian’s age. And our second son Oscar has shown no signs of the disorder. So we consider ourselves “lucky” in this scary game of life we’re playing.
But lucky doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s something that parents of kids with chronic illness don’t talk about.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that my kid has to struggle harder than others. It’s not fair that my kid will likely never be good at sports, or running, or jumping. It’s not fair that he has to focus so hard just to write a few sentences. It’s not fair that my kid might spend his life suffering from something he was born with. Something he didn’t ask for, something he doesn’t deserve. It’s not fair.
But parents of kids with chronic illness don’t bring it up. We feel it. We think it, every time we watch our kids try to race against another.
Every time we see how awesome other kids are at soccer or baseball or basketball, at writing a story or drawing a picture. We try to remind ourselves not to make comparisons. There is no comparison when the starting point is so different. We remind ourselves not to be jealous or angry, because it’s not our fault. There’s no one and nothing to be angry at. Because there’s no one person or thing to blame. It just is.
Life is rarely fair. That’s always been true. But when I received the diagnosis for my child that told me his life, and mine, would be a much bigger challenge than I ever dreamed, I was rudely reminded of the injustices of life.
When the reality of the diagnosis hit me, I grieved. Because the person I loved more fiercely than anyone is going to suffer more than the average person, a hell of a lot more than my naive, optimistic parental fantasies had wished for.
Any optimism I had about parenthood was quickly crushed by grief. Any confidence I had that I knew what I was doing and how best to take care of my baby, was quickly replaced by doubt and fear. It was, and often still is, a roller coaster of emotions. I wanted to believe I had some measure of control over his health. So we upped our efforts to keep him as healthy as possible. We tried at least one visit to all the doctors that were recommended to us, and even one or two that weren’t. Most of them weren’t necessary but all of their assessments went towards reassuring us that we were doing everything we could. When you’re worried about your child, it’s hard to feel like you’re ever doing enough.
But really, I know that we are. I’m too strict about bedtime. I’m too strict about screen time. I’m too strict about how much sugar he eats. I’m a tough mom. I worry about how hard I am on him sometimes and others I worry I’m not hard enough.
And we are just as hard on his brother because I want to treat them as similar as possible, regardless of their differences in health. I’ve heard enough criticism from other parents over the years to know that the perspective on these issues is different when you have a healthy kid versus a potentially sick kid. Maybe other parents can let the non-stop video games and candy overload slide because it really doesn’t harm their kid as much. Maybe their kid isn’t as susceptible as mine. And the fact is, no one knows for sure what will, or won’t, affect a disorder like NF1. So maybe I’m being tough for no reason. But no matter the criticism, one thing is certain in our minds as his parents. Keeping him, and teaching him how to be, as healthy as possible, is his best chance at having a good life.
When your kid has a chronic illness, it makes you question things you wouldn’t normally question.
When a healthy kid has a minor struggle with developing some new skill, nothing really scary crosses your mind. You think, they just need a little more time. And that’s often the case. But if your kid has any diagnoses that could be to blame, you’re immediately concerned this could be a sign of something worse. Because you never know what will happen. If they’ll remain healthy or if they’ll suddenly take a turn for the worse. I often remind myself that could happen to anyone, even those without a diagnosis. But it’s hard when you have one looming over your kid’s head. It’s hard to put it completely out of your mind. It’s like the boogie monster, always lurking in the dark, waiting to strike when you let down your guard.
But as I’ve worked through my fear and grief, I have found a place of peace. I learned to accept that while life isn’t fair, there is balance and support. Sebastian might have to struggle for some things in life, but other things come amazingly easy to him.
He loves to learn new things and is excited to go to school every day, read books, and play games. He has to be the most social person I have ever met, which means making new friends is a piece of cake for him. He seems to care about everyone, whether they’re nice to him or not. He has such a big, beautiful heart. I wouldn’t trade the person he is for anything.
So yes, my child has to try harder than many. But not all. And he’s not alone. And as his parents, we are not alone. There are millions of other parents fighting the same battle. Struggling with the same stress, worry, and bone-deep fear. The fear of not knowing. And while the unknown will always be scary, for every parent of healthy and sick kids alike, it is there for a reason. To remind us to hug our kids tight. Give them one more kiss. Read them one more story. Take them on as many adventures as you can manage. Always tell them you love them and are proud of them. Appreciate them and the gift they are to your life.
Written by Melanie Rickmann. To see more of her story: