Sue Ingebretson is an author, blogger, speaker, and certified holistic health care professional with a passion for helping those struggling with fibromyalgia.
She not only pursues this passion by writing her own blog, publishing her own books, and running her personal health coaching practice, but also by partnering with outside businesses and organizations.
She works as a patient advocate, treatment program development director (for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton), fibromyalgia editor (for ProHealth.com) and fibromyalgia consultant (for the Alliance Health community of health conditions website).
Every avenue Sue can find to reach out to and help those fighting fibromyalgia symptoms, she takes and inspires us every step of the way!
Here, Sue answers our questions about fibromyalgia, her passion for it, her perspective on tackling chronic conditions and the meaning of true wellness!
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This is part of Nutrishatives’ Ask an Expert Series, where we chat with movers and shakers in health, wellness, nutrition and medicine about their careers, their current work and their expert opinions on… well… their area of expertise!
Your work focuses primarily on working towards health and wellness for people struggling with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For our readers who don’t know, could you explain a little bit about what fibromyalgia is?
Sure! Fibromyalgia is a systemic imbalance in the body. It can happen suddenly (such as after an accident, injury, or trauma) or creep up slowly.
Multiple systems of the body are affected which results in fundamental widespread problems such as pain, fatigue, cognitive impairments, digestive dysfunction, and more.
Your site suggests it was your own health journey that inspired your career. Can we take that to mean that your passion for fibromyalgia relief and healthy living come from a first-hand experience with the condition? Or were you drawn to fibromyalgia, in particular, for some other reason?
I absolutely have a first-hand experience in healing my own body from the disabling symptoms of fibromyalgia.
I never say, “cure,” as I still have fibromyalgia and am susceptible to the symptoms. However, I live with a fraction of the symptom intensity that I used to. For example, most days I have little to no pain, my energy levels are fine, and I have healed my digestive system.
There are so many unique ways to spread health and wellness information! As a health and wellness website that works with the written word, we’re curious what made you dip your toe into blogging? Did you have a background in writing before starting your blog?
I started my blog after I wrote my first book, FibroWHYalgia. I wanted to continue the conversation with my readers and write about additional topics.
While you clearly put a lot of love and time into your blog, that’s by no means the only way you work to spread healthy living and fibromyalgia information! You’ve done interviews on TV, been a guest on radio programs and authored entire books and offer personal classes! How do you choose which programs you’d like to be a part of? Do you have a favorite way of interacting with people who want to learn about fibromyalgia and healthy living?
I actually don’t have a favorite way.
Each time I’m teaching a workshop, I think, “THIS is my favorite thing to do.” Then I work one-on-one with a client and help them achieve a health breakthrough and I think, “THIS is my favorite thing to do!”
I get that “favorite feeling” whenever I feel I’m helping.
As far as the selection of where to focus my time, it’s based more on opportunity than anything else.
When I’m offered the opportunity to teach a workshop, I grab it.
When I know that an interview will reach the readers who need to hear the good news of healing from chronic illness, I make myself available.
Hope that answers this tough question!
You’ve made the difficult journey from, in your own words, “chronic illness” to “wellness”. Could you talk a little bit about what that journey looked like for you? What were the biggest “ah-ha!” moments that you had that pointed you towards a healthier life?
I’m a natural-born researcher and I self-experiment all of the time. Because I was nearly disabled from my fibromyalgia symptoms (I walked with a cane and believed my life as an active person was over) I had nothing to lose.
I jumped into the field of nutrition first and studied everything I could get my hands on.
Through my research, I learned of the powerful benefits natural food has to offer as well as the catastrophic impact fake foods have on our bodies. Changing what I ate had the biggest impact on improving my health.
And then, fitness activities (detoxing), and mindset shifts went along hand-in-hand. They allowed everything to work together and continue in a healthy pattern. So, nutrition definitely had the biggest impact, but mindset shifts were the most impactful long-term.
We’re curious about what you mean by “wellness”, here. After all, chronic diseases, by definition, can’t really be “cured”. So, “wellness” can’t mean “total health” the way many people might assume, can it? How do you define “being well” for yourself?
As I mentioned above, there are three key areas of healing. I call them the Restoration Trio.
There’s nutrition, fitness/body movement, and what I call Emotional Wellness (where issues with sleep, stress, trauma, negativity, etc. are addressed). When ALL of these areas are addressed – at the same time – the body can begin to rebuild and restore. This re-establishment of fundamental health is where wellness comes in.
The body is designed to heal (that’s my favorite news to share). When we begin to restore things at the root level, healing takes place.
Wellness may mean different things to different people, and the goal is to reduce symptoms and perhaps even eliminate them. Levels of healing depend on many factors which are unique to each individual.
For me, being well means I’m not hindered in any way by my susceptibility to having chronic illness symptoms. Because I eat well, move my body in healthy ways, and take care of my stress levels, I’m able to maintain a status quo that’s perfectly suited for me.
If I’m under stress, injure myself, or have some other setback, it’s just a temporary concern. Yes, my symptoms can return, but my bounce-back to health is very rapid.
If one of our readers is sitting at home right now, suffering fibromyalgia pain and feeling overwhelmed, desperate and maybe a little hopeless, what would you say to them?
First off, I’d want her (they’re typically female) to know that she’s not alone. Many others are out there feeling the same symptoms and dealing with similar issues. It’s also very likely that my symptoms were similar to hers. I know what it feels like and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I’d then share the good news that healing – getting to a better place than where you are – is not only possible, it’s probable when you begin to make consistent healthy shifts in your life. I’d encourage her to review what I’ve shared here about the Restoration Trio.
Also, whether she reaches out to me for help, or to any other practitioner, it’s important to know that healing can be faster, more efficient, and definitely more fun with support. I’d encourage her to not feel she has to suffer alone. Finding a support partner can be a key step toward a new and improved life.
What about someone suffering from a different chronic illness? Or even just a general sense of ill health or unwellness? Would your answer change?
Actually, my answer would not change. We live in a world where our medical system has divided every illness into thousands of categories and sub-categories. That’s for the purpose of applying a medical remedy. This division doesn’t apply in the natural healing world.
The great news about natural remedies is that we’re using the intelligence of the body to heal. When given half a chance, the body has an innate ability to rebuild and restore.
Natural remedies (such as food, some supplements, body activities, and stress management tools) work synergistically with the body to support it doing what it does best. Therefore, the basic info I’ve shared here can benefit anyone who’d like to feel better than they do.
Fibromyalgia is a really new diagnosis and there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it means to have it. What is the one misconception about fibromyalgia that you wish you could correct, the world over?
I have two answers for this; one representing a worldview and the other, mine.
The fibromyalgia community has fought (that’s a problem in and of itself) very hard for validation. Everywhere you turn you’ll see the terms “fight,” “battle,” “warrior,” and “struggle.” The community at large wants recognition and understanding of this complex issue.
Insinuations about fibromyalgia being made up, “in your head,” or exaggerated are extremely insulting. I completely understand this. In the past, people told me these things. But the opinions of others, in this area, no longer bother me.
I know exactly what I’ve gone through. No one else can tell me what I have or have not experienced in my own body. I no longer care what others think and that includes medical “authorities.”
My greater concern is for those who deal with the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic illness day-in and day-out. There the greatest misconception I see is the notion that nothing can be done. This is SO far from true! There are many, many things that can be done and I wish I could round up every single person in pain and share this good news of health and healing.
If you could get everyone in the world to make a single healthy lifestyle change, what would it be and why?
Oh, this is a toughie. I’ll cheat and give you two answers.
The first would be to get everyone to make a mental shift from the “there’s no hope” belief to “there’s a world of opportunity waiting for me” belief. This isn’t an easy shift, for sure, but DECIDING that you want something better than what you have is the crucial first step.
Next, I’d encourage everyone to shift from packaged, artificial, fake, and nutrient-empty foods to natural, whole, nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods. That shift alone would change the trajectory of health care for the better in this world! 😉
What impact would you like to have on the world?
I hope to have an impact on the chronic illness community by just being who I am. I’m just a just a regular person who figured things out on her own.
I struggled, I fell flat on my face. I tried a lot of things. And, I figured it out. — I believe this is powerful because I know if I did it, others can, too. And, as I shared above, while I believe wholeheartedly that anyone can do it alone, why should they?
There’s a LOT of resources and help out there. Decide to go for that brass ring and reach out and grab it!