Self-Experimentation: What the Numbers Say

Wellbeing Mindmap
This weekend I ran some correlation analysis on all the data I have been compiling since the onset of my ulcerative colitis and my self-experimentation program to deal with it. The mindmap above shows the statistically significant (>0.7) correlations between the variables I’ve been tabulating:

  • My self-assessment of overall well-being (scale of 1-10) correlates strongly with four other variables: a positive mood. absence of pain, absence of other digestive ailment symptoms (you don’t want to know), and my sense of resilience to stressful surprises.
  • My self-assessed overall positive mood (scale of 1-10) in turn correlates strongly with six variables: my physical appearance, aerobic and musculo-skeletal fitness level (posture etc.), overall energy level, level of exercise and quality of diet*, and (since the disease onset) dosage of 5-ASA (mesalamine, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory) and dosage of prednisone (a steroid). This would seem to confirm my begrudging acknowledgement that the steroid has ‘mellowed me out’, and that as I taper off it I will need to find other means to sustain this ‘high’.
  • My physical appearance correlates strongly with how close my weight is to my ideal (140 lbs.), which in turn has been affected by exercise and by my Shangri-La Diet program, and also correlates strongly with how rested I feel (which is not always the same as how much sleep I’m getting). My fitness level is a function of both my exercise and diet, and my new yoga, meditation and physiotherapy programs. My energy level is also a function of exercise and diet, and also the amount of iron I am consuming (both dietary and supplemental).
  • While I was using codeine to deal with the early colitis pain, the data clearly shows that the 5-ASA was effective in reducing pain but the prednisone was not. Likewise, the data provide compelling evidence that the 5-ASA and the substantial Omega-3 I am now consuming (both dietary and supplemental) have alleviated the other colitis symptoms, while the prednisone has not.
  • My sense of resilience to stress (I’ve had three significant pieces of bad news since the disease onset, though none nearly as bad as the news that precipitated the disease symptoms in the spring) correlates strongly with three variables I’ve been tabulating: my consumption of Omega-3, my ‘ambient’ level of stress at the time the news occurred, and the amount of rest I had been getting. I described my program to lower my ambient stress level in an earlier post, and it appears that exercise, diet, B12/folic acid consumption and my yoga, meditation and physiotherapy programs have been most effective at lowering this stress level.
  • The amount of rest I’ve been getting correlates strongly with the absence of insomnia, though it is not the same as the amount of sleep I’ve been getting. Here lies the paradox of prednisone — insomnia is a very common and serious side-effect of this drug, and when you’re also suffering from pain and other serious disease symptoms the insomnia is intolerable, enough to drive you mad. But the prednisone, as noted above, also mellows you out (by suppressing adrenaline production), so in the absence of other symptoms you can actually feel very rested with only three to five hours of light (dreamless) sleep spread over a 24-hour period. In my case, on balance, I strongly believe taking the prednisone was a mistake, and I’m getting off it as quickly as possible (six more weeks of tapering). I’ve also found, as Seth Roberts did, that working standing up (especially when I’ve been working outdoors) is tiring in a pleasant way, and increases ability for both relaxation and sleep.
  • Strangely, there is no strong direct or indirect correlation between my overall sense of wellness and (a) amount of time I’m spending in social activities, generosity activities and ‘fun’ activities (b) amount of time I’m spending listening to music, (c) amount of time I’m spending in nature (including time with a certain wild grouse), or (d) my consumption of probiotics or multi-vitamins. The first three of these are important ‘stress discharge’ outlets, and I’m going to continue them regardless. And it’s possible that (because I started taking them at the same time I started taking high doses of Omega-3) I’m giving too much credit to Omega-3 and not enough to probiotics and vitamins for the improvement in my digestive system and stress resilience. I’m going to continue all of these things anyway, even though the (statistical) jury is still out on their benefits.

The purpose of all this is to try to find drug-free ways to dealing with colitis flare-ups, to prevent those flare-ups from occurring, and ultimately to help others find a diet and life-style that will enable them to avoid getting this, and perhaps other autoimmune hyperactivity diseases (AIHDs) and autoimmune deficiency diseases (AIDDs) in the first place, despite the toxins in the air, water, soil and food, and the nutritional paucity of the modern industrial food system, which would seem to be behind the epidemic growth of these diseases.

Of course, the challenge is that we tend to change our diet and life-style only when we must. Taking preventive wellness steps, it seems, is not in our nature.

* I’m using a variety of exercises: A 5 km run two days out of three, lots of walking, my brief hourly stretching routine, etc. In addition, my yoga, meditation, physiotherapy, and my new habit of working standing up four hours per day provide some important and diverse additional exercise. I have not changed my diet since I cut out caffeine, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks and most alcohol and processed foods, and greatly increased the variety in my diet, in the spring. The mindmap confirms the common sense that exercise and good diet are integral to wellness and programs to restore it. The irony is that (perhaps because my body was anticipating and preparing me for the onset of colitis) I had (subconsciously?) implemented these changes a month before thedisease first presented itself. A little too late, I guess.

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2 Responses to Self-Experimentation: What the Numbers Say

  1. Julie says:

    Thanks for the great ellucidation of Intentionality – LetSelf Change is a good reminder of allow, while aspiring or intending towards…which I find I remember to do mostly when in ‘good health’. The Mind map and expalinations were also great.Mostly I liked the puc puc and tummy rub grousing.Julie

  2. Valla says:

    Dave,I am glad that you are feeling better. I know that the diagnoses is like being dumped in the ocean and not nowing how to swim.. Some days i still feel like that 2 1/2 years after my son was diagnosed. Since i am a new reader to your blog, (I found it google the condition) i have read some older post and noticed that you have been having back pain and skin issues for some time. My son also suffers from transient joint pain and skin ichys that drive him insane some days. his doctors says that these are part of the process. sometimes the classic symptoms are the last to show up…I think that the biggest lesson we have learned is that we can never be complacent with this, because when we do thats when it slaps us silly…

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