Monday, May 11, 2015

About Plexus, and Why I Don't

The times I've received messages on Facebook that begin "I've noticed you post sometimes about struggling with CFS" and go on to tell me the sender is an advocate for Plexus are plentiful. So much so, that Ryan had a brilliant idea when I was agonizing over yet another reply: I made a form response and saved it to my computer so I have only to copy and paste when another one arrives, not agonize yet again over how to be honest without hurting people's feelings... How to lay aside what can feel like anger at having to defend and explain my life choices and not come across as defensive or ungrateful that people care.

I am absolutely sure, my dear Plexus friends, that you care about me and my health. But please remember, your enthusiastic recommendations can feel an awful lot like product-pushing with a side of guilt at declining because you ARE my friends. Please keep in mind that people like me who live with chronic illness are constantly accosted by people and ads who claim they can fix us, all the while figuring out how to manage our symptoms and what works for us is an intensely personal battle we're already fighting. I know you're not meaning to be insensitive, truly. But market models that turn one's friends into ad men are exhausting. They can turn even the safety of one's friendships into places of even more intensity than an internet full of ads. I know you're not trying to guilt-trip me into trying Plexus every time you ask about my health, but it feels that way sometimes. 

I just need space to keep figuring out my own journey to health in the ways that are best for my body.

I confess, because of a year of navigating the supplement world and realizing it doesn't have much to offer me, when I heard about Plexus, I didn't give it serious consideration. Because rebuilding my body after an initial CFS crash as severe as I had is a long, slow progress. Anything that claims to be a cure-all doesn't land in my Serious Thought file because it's simply not how health works for me. Yes, sometimes this way is daunting because it's slow progress. But I absolutely am making progress. My body is stronger and I enjoy life more. As the last-weekend-in-January anniversary of my initial crash passes every year, I'm amazed at how much more fun life is than the previous year. 

But here's why I still miss social functions sometimes, can be energetic one day and absent the next, or cancel plans unexpectedly: CFS is a lifelong thing. I'll never again be able to do as much as I want to do. And it's not just the energy levels (or maybe "exhaustion levels" would be more accurate) I have to manage. CFS is a similar condition to Fibromyalgia, and sometimes whole weeks consist of operating under the blur of constant pain. You know how it feels when you stub your toe? That tingling pain? Sometimes, for days on end, it feels like I stubbed my entire body. And pain wears my body out, so the cycle starts again. During those long, dark weeks, it's hard to enjoy anything at all because everything takes massive effort. Even fun stuff. Which makes me mad because I liiiiiike to do fun stuff. (And Ryan says, "I know, but you need to know when to stop." He's the perfect guy for me. Amen.)

And nothing helps except rest and good nutrition. Which, after my nutritionist confirmed my hunch, is why I'm not signing up for Plexus or much of anything else. 

Things like Plexus can mask symptoms and keep my body from telling me what it needs. Pain? I need to rest more, even if that's not what I feel like doing or what our achieving culture expects from me. Weakness? I need more fat, protein, and probiotics in my diet. If my symptoms are suppressed by things containing the sorts of stimulants Plexus offers, I could be wearing out my body at an incredible rate and not know it. And spend a solid month in bed, helpless, as a result. I've been there once. It was unspeakable. I rely on my body to tell me what it needs, and (try to) listen to it vigilantly so I don't have a repeat crash. And so far, so good. I haven't had a true crash since my initial one, two years ago. Not nearly everyone is that lucky. 

The other thing that made me suspicious Plexus wouldn't be a good fit for me is the it comes in a drink powder form. Anything processed spells bad news for me. I can feel it as soon as I eat it, and today I'm in pjs on the couch because I caved and ate cookies containing white flour yesterday. I justify things sometimes, but I pay for them. 

As my nutritionist said, nutrients in simple (processed, powdered, or pill) forms don't build a strong body. Nutrients from food have to go through a complex set of pathways to be usable to your body. If nutrients are presented in simple forms, your body uses them instead because it's easier, bypassing the nutrient pathways. If they're unused, the pathways deteriorate, and your body is even less able to effectively use food beneficially. I got CFS because I wore my body almost completely out. I'm trying to rebuild it, so that means training it to use food well, and trying to eat whole foods that nourish me. Basically, food as medicine. My body feels restful and whole when I've eaten well, and I'd rather put money into good nutrition and organic food than into something that only makes it possible for me to wear my body out again. 

I do take a few supplements. My nutritionist said there are three nutrients that are hard for anyone to get a sufficient amount of via diet: Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, and magnesium. For someone like me, those deficiencies show up a lot faster because my body has fewer reserves. Taking B-12 in the morning makes a massive difference in how much I'm capable of, after a night of not eating or drinking my trusty ionized Kangen water. With good food, good water, and those few supplements, I'm learning how to live so that I can enjoy the things I care most about. 

A side caution on Plexus or any other supplement: companies can label their products as "natural" if the substance is one that occurs naturally. This does not mean that the nutrients in the product are naturally sourced. Unless the sources are listed or the product is labeled "naturally-sourced" (which a shocking amount of "natural" products are not), the things you're eating or drinking can be as synthetic as they please. 

If Plexus is working well for you, please don't hear this as judgment of any sort. But here's why my nutritionist recommended I not try it: 

"I would definitely not recommend Plexus. It seems to primarily be promoted as a weight loss product with many people taking it for energy. It does not supply the basic nutrients that most people are deficient in. This product should not be used in place of a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. I am concerned about the high levels of chromium, which may be fine till someone's levels are restored but then after that could create a toxic burden. I am also concerned about the Garcinia and the Hoodia which are metabolic stimulants. stimulants are okay for some people but when your are depleted and you whip your body with stimulants there is potential for harm. Weight loss / metabolic stimulant products are responsible for almost all significant harm caused by nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, even Red Bull is classed as a nutritional supplement."

And as far as anything the promises a cure goes, I'm made peace with not shooting for a cure. CFS and other chronic illnesses aren't cure-able. I have by no means given up on life or health, but making peace with the fact that it's here to stay gives me my own permission to make life changes I need to in order to live with it. I can't watch or do things that makes me tense for too long. I cut another day of work because having to be places at particular times and perform whether or not I feel well is grueling. In other words, I'm learning self care for the first time in my life. 

From me and others who deal with chronic illness and navigate the "cure" craze, thank you for respecting our decisions and respecting that we do know what's best for our bodies.


Jamien Beiler said...

Wonderful Becca... I like what you said.:)

Joanna said...

An excellent, informed, and wise response. Thank you for sharing it with us all. I admit, there are a few friends on my Facebook list that I've been tempted to un-friend because I don't hear about their LIFE anymore; Plexus has overrun their news feeds. I miss the real them.

Renee Shafer said...

Yes!! This. "Food aa medicine." I love this...and you!

Unknown said...

I think we all believe what we want to believe. Some people have the same aversion to kangen water as you do to plexus. I'm glad you have found some one who can help you make wise choices on your way to recovery. Cathy m.

Esta said...

I have a get well card I immediately wanted to send you, when I read this.
But since, clearly, I only know you through the internet, that seems weird and intrusive :)

So in true internet love I will give you the link instead. Pretend I sent it too you!

Melanie said...

I don't know you personally but I really appreciated your gracious spirit in this post... You have a gift with words and sound like someone I would enjoy knowing in real life. :) Also, I can so identify with a lot of what you wrote having lived with CFS for about 8 years. It was a time of learning so much about nutrition & diet, doctors & remedies, "quick cures" (or the fact that there are none!), rest (and that's a loaded word),self-discipline, healthy boundaries, God, self-care, and more! HARD years, yes, but I see the mercy of God in them as well. I learned some crucial life lessons and skills... things I'm still learning really! And I did regain a certain measure of health after the initial crash. For me, Plexus came as an answer to prayer - "God, should I just accept this level of "functioning" or is there some way to experience more healing?" With some experimenting I found that Plexus (with the blood sugar stabilizing effects of the Slim and the gut-healing properties of the Bio products) was the piece of the puzzle that was missing for me. In fact, that piece has transformed my present life. Because of that, I feel compelled to offer Plexus to everyone I know... in the same way that I share what I've learned about clean eating and rest, etc, etc. I'm not hurt if they don't accept my offer or if they make different lifestyle choices than I do. In fact, a simple "no thanks" is all it takes for me to "bug off". I don't want Plexus or any of our other differing choices to interfere with our relationship. But if I can live CFS symptom free after 8 years, I can't stay quiet! :) I respect the fact that we all have to make our own choices and the Lord uses different ways and means to heal people... and many times chooses not to heal on this earth. And I wonder sometimes how to share my excitement and the gift I've been given without pushing guilt, obligation, insecurity, or frustration on my friends. If you have more insight on that I would enjoy hearing from you or anyone else!