Chronic Conditions

We have a lot of pages of content here. If you are looking for an article on a specific subject please try the site search above. If you can not find what you are looking for, drop us a line, via the contact us page and we will try if we can find the content for you.

3 Ways to Handle Stress of Illness

posted 7 May 2015, 10:09 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:29 ]

By Josephine Bila

Sometimes having a medical condition can be extremely overwhelming.  This week alone has presented me with a unique challenge to my health, family, and work life. My heart feels heavy as I write this. In fact, I would be lying if didn't say I wanted to give up .


The final straw came on Thursday. I felt overwhelmed at work, then went to the hospital for my monthly transfusion. There, I was told by my nurse that the blood set aside for me by the blood bank was incompatible with my blood type.


This has happened before, so I wasn’t devastated by the news. What made me feel hopeless was what the nurse said after calling the blood bank again to make sure she wasn’t mistaken. The nurse said, “They think you have a new antibody.”


Anyone who is chronically transfused the way that I am has to deal with their own immune system’s reaction to the foreign blood they’re receiving. My immune system is “very active,” according to my doctor. What this means is, my body creates antibodies in an attempt to destroy the donated blood that is saving my life. Ironic, isn’t it?


Needless to say, I became extremely afraid for my well-being. In that moment, my future and all of the things I hoped to one day accomplish seemed absolutely impossible to achieve. I wondered how much time I had left to live. I then wondered who I would spend that time with. In other words, I started to plan out the end of my existence.


My knee-jerk reaction to my thoughts was to sob like a child lost in a crowd. There I was, alone, sitting on a brown recliner in the corner of a small rectangular room with elderly cancer patients staring at me. I sensed that they understood the heaviness in my tears.


After being left unconsoled by the hospital’s staff members, I took a deep breath in and composed myself. I then called the two most reliable people I know. My mom and best friend, Mike. Each of them told me not to worry and that I would get through it. What else could they say?


Several minutes after hanging up with Mike, the nurse called the blood bank again and said to me, “False alarm. They must have been confused. Your blood is on its way.”


Those words traveled to my eardrums like a rainbow streaking across the sky. I felt a flood of hope and potential fill my heart. Then I thought to myself, “BLEEP… BLEEP, why can’t they get these things BLEEPing things right?”


My doctor came in shortly after to talk to me about some other things, so I mentioned what had happened and he got upset. He said, “99 out of 100 times, that type of problem will not be the case and if it does happen, we will deal with it.” His words were somewhat comforting. Of course, I wished that I didn’t have to deal with any of it and wondered how wonderful it would be to have the simple worries of a healthy person.


After the whole ordeal was over, I realized that there were three takeaways I could share from the experience. This is what I learned:


*Future Thinking Can Lead You Astray. What I mean to say is, if I had kept my thoughts in the present moment and surrendered fully to what was happening, I wouldn’t have suffered as much as I did. Since my thoughts took me out of the hospital room and into the mind-made fantasy of my future self, a conflict occurred. That conflict created pain that could have been avoided if I wasn’t so heavily guided by my ego.


*Have a Network of People Who Care About You and Are Available. I’m very fortunate to say that I have a number of amazing people who love and support me. Unfortunately, people have busy lives and few are truly available to pick up the phone at a moment’s notice. Even less are available to physically be there for you. That’s why it pays to be grounded in yourself. Though, you will benefit greatly by having people in your life who will love you unconditionally and be there for you whenever you need them.


*Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Doctor Involved. I could have avoided a lot of heartache if I had asked the nurse to get my doctor involved with the blood bank. Doctors can be great mediators and they’re almost always looking out for your best interest.


If you know someone who is dealing with an overwhelming health condition, please share this with him or her. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone in the struggle makes all the difference.



A wonderful resource for cancer patients and care givers

posted 7 May 2015, 10:08 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:30 ]

By Craig Ruvere

Up until recently, the only thing I knew about Jeannine Walston was her mother – whom I had the great pleasure of working with for the better part of a year.


I’m happy to say that we’ve stayed in contact since my departure from the organization we shared in common, and that’s how I eventually came to learn about her daughter Jeannine and her incredible cancer journey.


Mary Lou Kownacki once said that, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”


Isn’t it true that far too often our relationships are very superficial? We exchange pleasantries, but otherwise we shield ourselves from having to console or advise others on the struggles they deal with personally.


Many times it’s those unheard stories which help us re-evaluate our own priorities in life – even inspire us to inspire others. Visiting Jeannine’s site and reading her motivational articles has certainly caused me to examine my own pathways – detouring from a self-defeatist attitude that sometimes plagues my existence.


Many of us tend to believe that our lives are the only ones burdened with the trials and tribulations of life. Some of us are so caught up in a world of materials and social popularity that we forget about what’s truly important, and how grateful we should be every morning we’re able to start a new day with few obstructions.


Jeannine’s highly informative website (jeanninewalston.com) simply says, “Healing Cancer – Information and inspiration to support your optimal health and healing.”


Along with her cancer story, Jeannine’s articles on integrative cancer care explain improvements for quality of life, cancer survival and cancer prevention. Her site even has sections about integrative cancer care for the whole person in body, mind, spirit, social and environmental health – plus cancer treatment navigation and support to help cancer patients and cancer caregivers as they journey down this path.


Every article is woven together with Jeannine’s own scars in an effort to connect with and assist others.


She began her cancer journey when she was just 24 years old, and it was discovered that she had a brain tumor in her left temporal lobe – the part of the brain that controls speech, memory and sound.


From her website: “When my cancer journey began in 1998, fear of my own mortality rattled me to my bones. Now over fourteen years later, I’ve navigated through two awake brain surgeries with a recurrence, over 40 MRI scans, hundreds of integrative cancer therapies, other modalities, introspection, study, and resources to improve my quality of life and cancer survival. Through my course, I’ve learned to find quality information and a commitment to personal transformation. Along with tremendous knowledge, my mosaic of wisdom includes how I embrace adversity as opportunity, life as a spiritual journey, and illness with or without cancer as a vehicle for the soul’s evolution.”


Jeannine’s words are truly inspiring in a world which seems so overcome with negativity and despair. The sad reality is that many of us will come to know someone battling cancer – maybe it’s a friend, a loved one or maybe even yourself.


But the battle doesn’t have to be fought alone. Jeannine’s bravery comes through in her words and her commitment to guide you through this unfortunate storm – sharing her knowledge, resources and hope. Her professional work, research and personal experiences have given her expertise to help cancer patients and cancer caregivers in the journey for health and healing.


She also offers invaluable services, such as Cancer Coaching, for one-on-one support to coach and guide those in need.


I urge you all take a moment to visit her site – maybe you even know someone right now who could benefit from her inspiration, support and guidance.


Helen Keller once said that “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” We should all be grateful that there are inspiring survivors in this world who have made it their mission to help people do just that.


Craig Ruvere

Body image meets embodiment

posted 7 May 2015, 09:35 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:45 ]

By Brie Mathers

It's Not How You Feel About Your Body, It's How You Feel In Your Body


My eyes blink open to rays of light streaming into my bedroom through the sides of the curtain.  I roll over and scan the wands of the clock: 8:30.  Yes!  I'm awake in time for Diana's 9:15 am yoga class.  I glug back a litre of water, slip into a hot shower, throw my hair into a ponytail after yanking on last night's comfy clothes and am out the door in my bare feet, mat in hand, before you can say Om.


I haven't been a morning person since the days of Barbie, my-little-pony, and Belle and Sebastian, so getting myself out the door before 9:30 is cause for celebration in my world – especially when I can learn from one of the practiced senior teachers at Carmel Yoga Center:  Diana Balesteri.  


A light rain is falling as I scoot through the door of the yoga center, lay out my mat and begin to breathe, recalling the dream from which I was roused earlier this morning.  I am flying through the air, loving the exhilaration before opening a big wool Carmel Yoga Center blanket to use as my personal parachute.  We'll be working toward Hanuman pose, today.  Diana's clear, steady voice brings me back from my riverie and I delight in the theme and its connection to my dream.  Hanuman is the flying monkey in yogic lore.  The breath connects us to the present moment says Dianaleading us to sip our breath through the vocal cords at the back of the throat as we quiet into an Ujayi breathing chorus.


The moment is not new to me.  Since its discovery in a Zen monastery, I have been chasing its elusive-if-not-acknowledged ways, and there is an organicity about returning to noticing breath and body as a touchstone for my practice.


Body movement was not always this way for me.  In the days of long ago when I was a top Canadian runner I left the moment for the alluring realms of the mind.  Seduced by implausible beauty ideals, I smothered my life in a non-life-affirming nest of views.  A voice turned on in my head shouting at me in full blast to lose the fat newly forming just below my navel, as well as the coating lining my inner thighs, psychically assaulting the soft layer of me most deeply and essentially female.


I did not then realize that my mind had become my lying, tyrannical master and I its faithful servant, regardless of the profanities it hurled at me.  I ran harder, longer, faster against an increasingly diminishing caloric intake.  My muscles dwindled and a strangely undiagnosable exercise-induced asthma set in.   My heart rate plummeted to 36 beats per minute.  It took a very committed family to corral me into therapy and when they did, suffice it to say, the real games began.


At 16 I learned to question the inner dictator ruling my world.  At 17, on a Panama City Beach in Florida, awash in fears of not being thin and beautiful enough, an event transpired that initiated a new way of being, washing away my ancient pursuits in a burst of golden glow.  My eyes were grazing a line in my current self-help book, Your dream is God's gift to the world through you, when suddenly it happened.  The skies opened up and took my heart with them.  Bathed in a light whose source – the sky or my heart – I could not tell, I was overcome with a love I had never before known.  Grace had overthrown my inner dictator with her higher wisdom and fierce light.


When all this happened I don't think I even knew what yoga was – besides some vague pretzel-style Olympic feat concept.  But when, two years later as a university student I was to find myself on a mat in a room of 100 at the downtown Montreal YMCA, I would soon learn what it was to practice making of my mind a faithful servant.


It was not through a forced mental clearing that I relinquished the totalitarian regime inside my head, but rather, through a tried, true and consistent dedication of finding my mat or sitting upright on my Zen cushion.  Bending my body every which way, massaging organs in spinal twists, and balancing on one foot, I began to notice that yoga was doing more than teaching me to think positive, healthy thoughts about my body through its first limb, ahimsa, which means 'do no harm.'  It was changing what it was like to be in my body.  


More than a transformation of self-image, something was happening internally that was to have a lasting effect on the fabric of my experience.  My shoulder blades were melting down my back when I stood.  My eyes felt bright.  Energy felt like it was coming from inside my body.  My mind naturally began to feel like a still lake.  I spent many hours on my yoga mat and many more wall-gazing atop my Zen cushion to embody the shift that lights my days.  And I am beyond happy to share that I am no longer interested in the swirling fantasies of the mind, no longer interested in a never-ending story of lack or self-abnegation, no longer interested in berating my body for not living up to an unhealthy socially constructed ideal.


Now moved by the precious tender possibility of recognizing moment-to-moment that my life is not separate from the lives of all beings, I am moved to feel the breath, sit up straight and open to the magic of reality.  Because reality, when directly experienced, free of our stories and nest of views, is a wonderful place to be; and this body, its ever giving vessel, is a miracle to behold.  This has been the gift of making the shift from body image to embodiment.  When we give ourselves permission to release the thoughts, surrendering them one at a time, when we recognize that we already have everything that we need, life itself becomes the gift that keeps on giving.


I am brought back to my yoga mat in Diana's class.  I have just performed Hanuman pose – the splits – with not one but two bolsters beneath me against the crazy tight psoas muscles and relentless hamstring tension from running endless miles and perhaps not quite enough stretching to match.  I smile.  I am in Hanuman, the yogic flying pose.  I love how Diana's classes move slowly, so slowly that we are continually invited to drop into the spaces between the thoughts, the moments of silence between inhaling and exhaling.  I love how palpably sun and moon find their perfect union as our palms find anjali mudra at our hearts.  I love Diana's transmission, born of years of dedicated practice.


After class, I drive Harriet, a 94-year old yogini who has had operations on both hips to her Carmel home.  Harriet considers her secret to aging gracefully to be going upside down every day for three minutes.  She is a role model extraordinaire.  Like Diana, who is my mother's age.  These are the women I aspire to emulate.  Women who are showing up powerfully in the world.  Women who are an example of radical self care and inspired teaching.  Women whose practice ripples out to touch all beings.  I place my palms together to say good-bye to Harriet as she moves her  body, eternally in a forward bend, out the car door.  Namaste I say, grateful for the women who have come before me, grateful for this light that lives as all beings.


Brie Mathers

Costochondritis

posted 7 May 2015, 09:34 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 11:06 ]

By Louise Jensen

Costochondritis is inflammation in the joints between the cartilages of the ribs and is often the cause of chest pain, (although it can also cause pain in the back).


Cartilage attaches the ribs to the sternum (breastbone) and the sternum to the clavicles (collarbone). The joints between the ribs and the cartilages are called costochondral joints, and those between the sternum and clavicle are costolalvicular joints. Costochondritis is an inflammation of either, or both of these.


When we inhale the ribs (there to protect the lungs) expands. Cartilage allows for that movement. When this cartilage is inflamed any movement can result in pain and tenderness.


Symptoms of Costochondritis are pain and tenderness around the rib area (worse with movement and pressure), fatigue, and problems with voice.


This condition generally follows a viral respiratory infection, coughing, trauma or surgery but can be idiopathic (no cause).


Doctors’ state this condition should clear in about 6 weeks, but it can become chronic leaving suffers having frequent flare-ups years after their first diagnosis. This is especially common and reoccurring in people with fibromyalgia, arthritis and other auto-immune diseases.


Orthodox treatment will include anti-inflammatories and pain killers. For prolonged cases an intercostal nerve block may be recommended. For a more holistic approach try the following, monitoring your symptoms and pain levels.


Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet is recommended comprising of healthy and wholesome foods.  Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, hempseed and walnuts are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. In addition, other anti-inflammatory fats include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnut oil.


Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants are important. Onions, garlic, peppers and dark leafy greens, blueberries and strawberries contain inflammation-fighting carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E.


Refined carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory. Refined flour, sugar and foods high on the glycaemic index exacerbate inflammatory conditions. Omega-6 fats are inflammatory because they are metabolised into hormone-like compounds that actually promote inflammation and are found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils. Keep foods as natural and unprocessed as possible.


Add ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic and onions to everyday meals to fight inflammation. Pineapple contains bromelain a chemical which prohibits swelling. Celery contains over 25 anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as providing massive amounts of potassium. Try celery seeds either raw or cooked.


Herbal supplements

Turmeric – A great natural pain reliever as well as being anti-inflammatory. Turmeric contains Curcumin and Curcuminoids which act in the same way as prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Turmeric needs to be supplemented to reap the full benefits but can also be used topically and added to food.


Nettles – Nettles amazingly contain boron, magnesium, calcium iron, phosphorus, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B, C and D, protein and silicon. Nature really knew what she was doing when she created this humble plant.


Omega 3s – Vitally important for a strong immune system and fighting inflammation.  There are vegan options available (such as flax) especially important if you are sensitive to animal fats.


Burdock Root – Burdock contains anti-inflammatory fatty oils and is great as a natural pain reliever.


Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera boosts the immune system and energy levels, providing the body with the right agents to restore and repair itself.


Omit food intolerances

Costochondritis can be linked to Celiac disease. Along with gluten there are foods that are known to trigger inflammation such as animal fats, dairy, red meat, alcohol and fried foods.  However before embarking on an elimination diet, I recommend having a food sensitivity test, either through a qualified Kinesiologist or a saliva test can be carried out via post.

 

Healing teas

Many teas contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that reduce inflammation and limit free radical production and are a natural pain relieving sedative.  Try Fennel, Hop, Ginger, Rosemary, Alfalfa and Green Tea.


Sleep

Sleep is the body’s natural healer. It can be more painful to lie flat with Costochondritis so experiment with pillows to raise yourself up if needed.


Therapies

There are certain stretches that can help with this condition. See a physio with experience in treating sufferers.

Relief can be found through osteopathy or chiropractic techniques.

Sufferers have reported positive results with acupuncture and massage.


Temperature

Although heat can cause inflammation, heat packs can be very soothing and aid breathing. Ice packs can help reduce pain. Try both to see what works for you.


Tens

A tens machine can be used for pain relief. Many hospitals and chemists hire these so you can try before you buy.


Avoid stress

Quiet, relaxed breathing can help ease the pain. Daily meditation practice is ideal for regulating the breath and releasing stress within the body.


Quiet time

If it hurts to talk – don’t. People will understand if you email, text or communicate via notes during bad spells to aid recovery.


Rest

If you are doing anything to irritate your ribs, stop. Many forms of exercise can worsen this condition, slowing down your recovery rate. It can seem like a frustratingly long time until you can get back to your normal routine but taking care of your ribs now means faster healing.


Stay warm

The cold and damp can irritate your lungs, increasing your breathing and creating more movement in your ribs. Wrap up warm in layers.


** ANY FORM OF CHEST PAIN MUST BE INVESTIGATED BY YOUR DOCTOR **


Louise Jensen

Is there an ultimate anti-cancer diet?

posted 7 May 2015, 09:31 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:34 ]

By Liz Butler

I’ve worked as a nutritional therapist supporting people with cancer for the last 12 years. And during this time I’ve studied the full range of diets claiming to provide THE answer when it comes to delivering ultimate nourishment to those living with cancer. This has been a fascinating and enlightening journey but has it led me to the one perfect diet for all those with cancer? ………..err no, absolutely not.


What is has done though is lead me to several powerful conclusions that I will share with you here in the hope that they will shed some light on your personal path of nutritional discovery.


1. Diet is an incredibly important part of the cancer recovery process. I imagine as you are reading this blog that you may have already come to this conclusion yourself. But let me bring the point home to you even more strongly. I have witnessed first-hand the power of nutrition to transform the health and the lives of hundreds of people with cancer. I’ve seen how food has helped to recharge an exhausted body, cleanse a toxic body, rebuild a broken body and soothe a suffering body. I’ve seen how the amazing gift of food can bring joy and excitement when days are otherwise cloudy and grey. And yes, at times I believe I’ve witnessed how a change in diet has provided the missing puzzle piece that has led to a complete recovery.


2. Nutrition is just 1 part of a bigger picture. The term ‘holistic’ is branded about here, there and everywhere these days to the point that it’s become associated with anything vaguely health-related. However, for true healing the importance of this term, which means to take account of the complete person and recognise the whole as greater than the sum of its parts, is fundamental. The whole person consists of body, mind and soul and each aspect must be appreciated and supported. Nutrition has the capacity to nourish body, mind and soul as do physical activity and detoxification; all 3 areas are important and require attention. However, the area I believe is most critical for restoration of the whole person is emotional healing. This aspect of recovery is for many the most difficult, yet it just can’t be ignored. Without focus on emotional well being, nutrition is unlikely to bring about deep healing; I’ve seen this to be the case many times.


3. There is no 1 diet that best serves every person with cancer. When you think about it for a moment this conclusion seems so obvious. How could there be one way of eating to suit all people with the many different diseases that are termed ‘cancer’? And how could one diet serve a group of people each with a unique genetic profile and chemical exposure, with different medical histories and treatment programmes and with varying levels of physical activity and emotional stress? We are all unique and special in our own way and as such, we must find the foods that perfectly complement our individual needs. And yet, as many of you may have discovered, there are numerous dietary programmes claiming to be the one and only answer for people with cancer. This is not the truth and never will be.


4. Finding the perfect way of eating requires listening to our inner intelligence. If you accept that the perfect diet for you won’t be found in any book or on any website you may be wondering where you will find the answers you need. You may imagine they’ll come from a nutrition expert who will tailor advice to meet your needs. Well, this could certainly guide you in the right direction but ultimately the answers you’re seeking won’t come from the mind of any health professional either. In case you’re feeling a little anxious now, don’t despair. The answers you seek do exist but they’re lying quietly in a place we’re seldom encouraged to search. If not ‘out there’ the only other place the answers to our nutritional and health dilemmas could be is inside us. We are all blessed with innate healing intelligence that continually guides us, like a radar system, towards those things that support our well being. For example, when we cut our finger the body knows exactly what must be done for full healing to occur, without any conscious thought or intervention from us or anyone else. If our actions do not support our well being the body will let us know, it will communicate to us through our emotions and physical symptoms. While most of us are unaccustomed to listening to the body’s signals we can all learn, quickly and easily.


This is not to say we should abandon our external search for nutritional information. There’s a wealth of fantastic material in the places already mentioned: books, Internet, health professionals. The key is to use these resources to become educated and informed but not as the source for your ultimate answers. Always come home to yourself, check in regularly and ask the question: ‘does this piece of information fit for me’. To be most effective, ask this question in a state of relaxation and once asked let the question go along with any worry, and then remain alert for the answer.


I wonder if any of you reading this have resistance to the last point I’ve shared with you? I expect so, many people want to hand over their health problems to an expert and be told what’s best for them. If you feel that way that’s fine and it’s perfect for you. Just ponder this for a moment though, by deciding you didn’t like my suggestion to listen to your inner guide, you’ve gone ahead and done just that. You tried on that piece of information and decided it didn’t fit for you. Well done, that’s exactly what I’m talking about!


So to conclude my round up of conclusions, I want to encourage you whole heartedly to embark on a journey of nutritional discovery. But don’t limit it to nutrition, make it a lifestyle journey. Consider how other aspects of your lifestyle affect your well being and most of all please be brave and take an honest look at your emotional health. Finally, the best piece of health advice I can give is to ensure you make a regular date with your source of inner wisdom. This intelligent guide will never let you down, just ask the questions and listen closely for the answers. I wish you all the best for your journey of discovery and hope it leads to place of abundant health and happiness!


Liz Butler

The healing power of belief

posted 7 May 2015, 09:30 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:36 ]

By Dr David Hamilton


I recently read about an amazing story of the power of the placebo effect. It was recorded in 1957 and demonstrates just how powerful the human mind can be.


A patient had advanced cancer of the lymph nodes (lymphoma) and was told that he had no more than a few weeks to live. He couldn’t get radiotherapy or chemotherapy because he was anaemic but he had heard of a new experimental anti-cancer drug called Krebiozen and begged his doctor to give him some. So the doctor gave him an injection of it. Within a few days of the injection he was out of bed and walking about the ward at the hospital. Very quickly the tumours, which had been the size of oranges, had shrunk and were now golf ball sized. His rapid improvement continued and he was soon released from the hospital totally free of cancer.


But about 2 months later there was a story in the papers saying that Krebiozen was no good. The man read it, believed it, even though Krebiozen was working for him, and within days his cancer had returned and he was back in hospital.


His doctor, realising there were few options, then told him a lie because he believed that the patient’s recovery might have had a lot to do with his belief in Krebiozen. So he told him that the papers had got it wrong and that the drug really was a great drug. The doctor told him that the cancer probably came back because the batch of drug he got had gone off a wee bit while it was sitting in the hospital pharmacy. He told him that a new batch of double strength Krebiozen was due at the hospital soon and he could get an injection of it.


Of course, there was no double strength stuff. The doctor made it up. A couple of days later, pretending that the double strength batch had just been delivered, the doctor gave the patient the injection. But it was an injection of pure water – a placebo. You know what? The cancer rapidly disappeared. The man was healthy and free of cancer once again.


But, once again, about 2 months later the papers ran another story, this time giving Krebiozen a death sentence. Apparently the trials had shown it to be useless. This proved to be the last straw for the patient because his tumours quickly reappeared, he was taken back into hospital, and he died 2 days later.


So if ever someone tells you that something can’t be done, or that you can’t be healed, maybe there’s a little voice inside that says you can. I believe that faith can move mountains.


Fighting Fibromyalgia - Natural tips on managing this condition

posted 7 May 2015, 09:28 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:38 ]

By Louise Jensen


Researching this article the first description to appear on the search engine was “Fibromyalgia is a fairly common long-term (chronic) condition that causes widespread muscular pain. It is not inflammatory or degenerative so it won’t cause permanent damage to your muscles, bones or joints. It is not life threatening or progressive”.


This may well be factually correct but the people I have seen in my clinic suffering with Fibromyalgia will tell you it is so much more than that. I find that although this is a common condition it is shockingly undiagnosed and the extent of suffering caused is not, generally, fully acknowledged.

 

Fibromyalgia is debilitating and frustrating. Although musculo-skeletal pain is often seen as the main ‘symptom’, it can also cause chronic, disabling fatigue; tender spots on the neck, shoulders, back and hips; constant aches; general stiffness; sleep disturbances; depression; allergic rhinitis, and occasionally cardiovascular problems.


Research has shown that the painful muscle characteristics of fibromyalgia are due to lowered energy production and a reduction in the ability of muscles to relax.


Orthodox treatments may include pain killers, low level antidepressants which relieve muscle pain, sleeping tablets and muscle relaxants. However there are some natural methods you can try to reduce your symptoms. As is usually the case with holistic help there have been studies into these methods showing positive results, but not conclusive or widespread enough to be accepted by orthodox practitioners. I have found the results in clinic encouraging and balancing hormones, adrenal glands and the thyroid can greatly decrease the unpleasant symptoms of fibromyalgia.


Try the tips below (not all at once!) and see what works for you. I recommend keeping a journal to document methods you try and the impact on your symptoms.


Supplements

Magnesium - encourages muscles to relax.  


Vitamin D - levels have found to be low in people experiencing fibromyalgia and may be responsible for some chronic pain.


Omega 3s - to improve mood.


Selenium - for optimum immune function.


A good quality multivitamin.


S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) - SAMe is a naturally occurring substance throughout the body and has been shown to relieve depression and chronic pain. Some studies show that taking SAMe may reduce fibromyalgia symptoms of pain, fatigue, and stiffness.


5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) - the supplement 5-HTP is thought to work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. There is preliminary evidence that it may reduce the number of tender points in people with fibromyalgia, possibly by effecting pain-modulating systems in the brainstem.


Vitamin B12 - a Swedish study demonstrated low levels of vitamin B12 in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Take to increase your energy levels.


Topical remedies

Topically apply Capsaicin (a natural pain reliever found in chilli peppers). When applied to a painful area of the body, it stimulates the release of a body chemical called substance P. As substance P is depleted, the pain sensation seems to decrease.


Teas

Try Chamomile or Valerian tea before bed to aid your sleep.


Diet

Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods such as green vegetables, nuts and seeds.


Keep foods as natural and unprocessed as possible. Eat in season and keep your diet varied.


There have been numerous small studies showing improvements in fibromyalgia patients’ pain levels, sleep and flexibility following a raw food diet.  Eating raw means the heat hasn’t destroyed the nutrients in the food and the body has to process less food to gain essential nutrients.


Eliminate food intolerances

There are foods such as the Nightshade Family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine), wheat, dairy, MSG and artificial sweeteners that are thought to be linked to fibromyalgia flare-ups.  Try getting tested for intolerances (through a lab or kinesiologist) or eliminating foods (one at a time) and documenting any change to your symptoms in your journal. Radical changes of diet are best carried out with the supervision of a qualified nutritional therapist.

Holistic therapies

There are numerous therapies that may help manage your symptoms including acupuncture, massage, kinesiology and reflexology. Try asking fellow sufferers via on-line groups what has worked for them.


Relax and reduce stress

Physical symptoms can be caused and aggravated by our emotional states although we may not be consciously aware of any such factors.  Therapies such as TFT, Mind Detox Method, NLP and CBT may be helpful in eliminating any negative beliefs or emotions which may be contributing to your condition.


Daily meditation is essential and proven to calm the pain experiencing areas of the brain and boost the coping areas.


Exercise

Although this can be tough when experiencing severe fatigue, certain types of gentle exercise within your means can be beneficial.


Psycholcalisthenics exercises involving precise breathing patterns are effective in improving health without exacerbating the fatigue felt in this condition.


Qi Gong and yoga, both body awareness forms of exercise, are gentle, will encourage you to breathe correctly and calm the mental chatter.


The above is not intended to replace medical advice. The Happy Starfish recommends that you speak to your doctor before trying any form of self-treatment.


Louise Jensen

Rheumatoid Arthritis - alleviating symptoms the natural way

posted 7 May 2015, 09:27 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:40 ]

By Louise Jensen


Rheumatoid arthritis is a potentially debilitating autoimmune condition, generally affecting the hands, feet and wrists causing pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. It is caused when the immune system attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint) and can cause permanent damage to the joint, cartilage and bone.  Flare ups can happen without warning leaving the sufferer feeling fatigued and generally unwell.


Rheumatoid arthritis generally first occurs between the ages of 40-70 and is three times more common in women than men.  There is evidence to suggest that oestrogen may be involved in the development and progression of the diet although this has not been conclusively proven.

 

Although there is no known cure orthodox medicine can relieve symptoms or slow the progress of the disease through medication. Joint surgery is sometimes offered to correct joint deformities where appropriate. However there are many natural methods you can try. A supplementation programme using herbs that help stem inflammation and aid the body to detox, along with a natural anti-inflammatory diet, should see some relief in this condition. It is a good idea to keep a journal to record the foods you eat to monitor the severity of your symptoms.


Below are some initial recommendations you can try but by no means an exhaustive list. Please feel free to email me if you would like further advice.


Natural Nutrition

An anti-inflammatory diet is recommended comprising of healthy and wholesome foods.  Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, hempseed and walnuts are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. In addition, other anti-inflammatory fats include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnut oil.


Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants are important. Onions, garlic, peppers and dark leafy greens, blueberries and strawberries contain inflammation-fighting carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E.


Refined carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory. Refined flour, sugar and foods high on the glycaemic index exacerbate inflammatory conditions. Omega-6 fats are inflammatory because they are metabolised into hormone-like compounds that actually promote inflammation and are found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils. Keep foods as natural and unprocessed as possible.


Add ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic and onions to everyday meals to fight inflammation. Pineapple contains bromelain a chemical which prohibits swelling. Celery contains over 25 anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as providing massive amounts of potassium. Try celery seeds either raw or cooked.


Reduce Stress

The mind/body are interlinked and any prolonged negative emotional state can cause physical symptoms and aggravate existing conditions. Eating well will help balance blood sugar and hormone levels which in turn will help to keep your moods stable. Daily meditation can halt any negative mental chatter, lift mood, calm the pain experiencing areas of the brain and boost the coping areas.


Super Supplements

Turmeric – A great natural pain reliever as well as being anti-inflammatory. Turmeric contains Curcumin and Curcuminoids which act in the same way as prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Turmeric needs to be supplemented to reap the full benefits but can also be used topically and added to food.


Nettles – I use Nettles A LOT, both personally and in clinic. Nettles amazingly contain boron, magnesium, calcium iron, phosphorus, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B, C and D, protein and silicon. Nature really knew what she was doing when she created this humble plant.


Omega 3s – Vitally important for a strong immune system and fighting inflammation.  There are vegan options available (such as flax) especially important if you are sensitive to animal fats.


Burdock Root – Burdock contains anti-inflammatory fatty oils and is great as a natural pain reliever.


Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera boosts the immune system and energy levels, providing the body with the right agents to restore and repair itself.


Omit food intolerances

There are foods that are known to trigger inflammation such as animal fats, dairy, wheat, red meat, alcohol and fried foods.  However before embarking on an elimination diet, I recommend having a food sensitivity test, either through a qualified Kinesiologist or a saliva test can be carried out via post.

 

Fancy a Cuppa?

Many teas contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that reduce inflammation and limit free radical production and are a natural pain relieving sedative.  Try Fennel, Hop, Ginger, Rosemary, Alfalfa and Green Tea.


Exercise

Gentle stretching within your limits (try a Yoga class with a qualified instructor who can guide you) opens the joints and aids the distribution of synovial fluid which lubricates the joints. Gentle exercising at the pool allows the water to support your body taking the strain off your joints.


Complementary Therapies

Holistic healthcare cannot cure arthritis. It can, however, in certain cases, relieve the symptoms and promote overall health and wellbeing. Always check any therapist is fully qualified and insured and ask whether they have experience in your condition.  Most credible therapists will be happy to answer any questions you may have and refer you on if they feel you would be better trying a different modality.


The above is not intended to replace medical advice. The Happy Starfish recommends you consult with your doctor before any form of self-treatment.


8 natural ways to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder

posted 7 May 2015, 09:25 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 11:08 ]

by Louise Jensen

It’s getting to the time of year again when I start to see an increase of clients in my kinesiology practice suffering from S.A.D.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression which can cause a loss in energy and concentration levels, a change in appetite, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, carbohydrate craving, weight gain and general sadness.  


The human body uses light cues, such as those provided by the sun, to time certain functions. When natural light exposure is minimal it can have a dramatic effect on our circadian rhythms (circadian rhythms regulate mood, sleep, wake, appetite, digestion and energy). The days of many of the population carrying out manual work out of doors are long gone, meaning when the hours of sunlight decrease between September to April people tend to go to, and come home from, work in the dark.


When we miss daytime light, it affects the nerve messages sent from our eyes to certain points in our brain which affect chemicals and hormones, particularly serotonin and melatonin which govern our mood.


SAD is usually diagnosed after suffering from a depression for two consecutive years which lifts in the spring.  Your doctor may choose to treat you with anti-depressants once diagnosed.


With an estimated 10% of the population suffering and a great deal more affected by ‘winter blues’ (a milder form of SAD), it is a good time to look at how we can bring our body back into balance. Thankfully there are many natural ways of doing just that.  


From a holistic point of view there are many contributing factors to SAD including adrenal stress syndrome, blood sugar imbalances, food allergies and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  After consulting your doctor, try these natural methods below: -


Fabulous Foods – A healthy, balanced diet is essential to regulate our hormones and avoid blood sugar crashes.  Eat natural, non-processed food and include regular snacks to avoid hypoglycaemic episodes. If your diet needs an overhaul consult a nutritionist.


Amazing Amino Acids - The carbohydrate craving common in people with this disorder is thought to be caused by decreased levels of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin. Increasing intake of the amino acid Tryptophan may increase the body's production of serotonin thus improving your mood. Tryptophan-rich foods are fish, poultry, milk, and egg whites.


Super Supplements – As above L-Tryptophan can be supplemented.  Vitamin B12is instrumental in the production of serotonin which elevates mood. Vitamin B6 enables the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP. 5-HTP is precursor in the biosynthesis of serotonin from tryptophan.  Magnesium is also needed for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP.St Johns Wort has been shown to be as effective in treating depressive disorders as an orthodox anti-depressant. Omega 3 fatty acids role in the synthesis of serotonin and has been successfully used in the treatment of depression.  It is recommended you talk to your doctor before starting a supplement plan as there can be contraindications with any pre-existing conditions and medication currently being taken.


Curb Coffee - Caffeine may give you a brief lift, but it can also cause anxiety, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal problems. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant, which can further exacerbate your low mood.


Maintain Movement - Exercise releases feel good endorphins, which lift mood and alleviate anxiety.


Sync your Schedule - Keep your body's clock in sync by rising and retiring at the same time each day, even on weekends or days off from work.


Mindfully Meditate - Regular meditation practice will curb the negative voices in your head and help instil feelings of peace and tranquillity. Meditate each day preferably out of doors or by a window to increase your natural light intake.  Two birds, one stone – what’s not to love?


Love the Light-box - Lack of light causes an increase in the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night), and a reduction of serotonin, (the lack of which causes depression). The exposure to bright light therapy reverses the process, with the additional benefit of being drug free. Light boxes are available in many forms including a ‘dawn simulator’ which simulates sunrise by switching on as you wake and gradually growing brighter and brighter.  Light boxes need to be at least ten times the intensity of regular lighting.  There are situations where light-boxes should be avoided, e.g. if have an eye problem or if you are particularly sensitive to light; or if you are (or have been) taking antidepressants or medication against epilepsy.  For that reason please consult your doctor before undertaking any form of light therapy.


Louise Jensen

Mental training vs physical training

posted 7 May 2015, 09:24 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:45 ]

By Dr David Hamilton

In my book, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, I wrote about gaining strength by using our minds to imagine exercising and I have spoken about the subject in many talks and workshops.

I jokingly suggest that we can lie in our beds instead of going to the gym and just do the workout in our minds. So I was excited to learn of some very recent scientific research that showed just how much we can replace actual training with training in our minds. The research was carried out the Institute of Sports Science at the Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany and led by Mathias Reiser and published in Frontiers in Psychology in August 2011.

They compared 5 groups of people. One did 100% of a training program physically, one group did 75% of it physically and 25% of it in the minds, another did 50% physically and 50% mentally, yet another did 25% physical training and 75% mental training, and the last group did no training.

The training consisted of 12 sessions where they did 4 sets of 2 maximal isometric contractions – physically or mentally.

Incredibly, there was only a very small difference in strength gains between doing 100% of the training in the gym and doing just 25% in the gym and doing the extra time mentally. You really could lie in your bed on a cold, wet morning instead of going to the gym. They thing is, though, you’d need to do the whole session in your mind. But research of this sort really does show the incredible potential of the human mind.

The authors concluded that ‘high intensity strength training sessions can be partly replaced by mental strength training sessions.’ Is that a loud cheer I hear from those who love the feel of a warm bed on a Saturday morning?

This is meaningful for people who are not able to do any physical exercise, perhaps through illness or injury, because they can offset some loss in strength by working out in their minds. Neuroscience research shows that the same areas of the brain are activated regardless of whether a person does actual training or simulates it in their minds. And, incredibly, the amount of force produced by the muscles is directly proportional to the degree of activation of the brain area. In other words, the more you activate the brain through mental work, the stronger the muscle.

Research of this type is highly encouraging, for people with illness or injury, for people in competitive sports, but also for most people who do recreational exercise to keep fit.

It lays to rest any ideas of the mind as an impotent ghostly thing, whose only role is to think thoughts and to analyse life circumstances.

It is time we recognised the power of the mind and put it to good use in our lives.

Dr David Hamilton

1-10 of 12

Comments