Yesterday, in response to a comment left by a reader of this blog, I started discussing natural methods of healing. Many of you have explored this route whether as a supplement to current medication regime, because you do not have health insurance, or simply because you want to try natural healing before taking, or instead of a medicinal approach. In my last post, I mentioned that natural healing comes down a combination of nutrition, supplements, exercise, stress reduction and adequate sleep. Today’s society is busy, and as a result, we ignore the basic necessities for our human survival. We assert that these things are difficult without making the effort to realize how simple they are.
Losing My Way
Before I start preaching about the necessity of simple things towards feeling well, I want my readers to understand that I, too, am human. I, too, often get busy in my own life and get off track, and I, too, pay for it later. As a matter of fact, this morning I am dealing with the effects of the non-healthy choices I have made the past week.
This past week as been a combination of job interviews, school shopping for both my son and my younger brother who left this morning to a college two hours away, and trying to deal with a now vacant property because our tenants failed to give us any notice of moving until the rent was done. As I result, I have missed doses of my medication and supplements, lost sleep, became stressed out beyond belief, lost sense of my nutritional philosophies, and now, my joint pain and symptoms are a reminder of my ignored responsibilities towards my health.
Last night, at the millionth trip to the mall this month to pick up a few last minute items for my brother, we stopped to eat dinner in the food court. About six months ago, I made a decision about eating out, and that involved knowing exactly what I put in my body and even asking how food was prepared. But last night, I went against my own philosophy and ordered Chinese food from the Food Court at mall. I should have ordered something from Subway, but stupid me was craving Chinese food. The mall’s food court is the last place anyone should order Chinese food from especially someone with food sensitivities. I asked my brother to grab some bourbon chicken with veggie fried rice and an egg roll while I got my kids situated. From the minute the meal arrived at the table, I looked my brother and said, “What did they do? Dump an entire bottle of bourbon in this.” I ate about half a cup of the food that was in front of me and then proceeded to dump it into the trash.
Within a half hour, I was plagued with dizziness and nausea. My skin started to swell and my head started to pound. I am one of those people that are MSG sensitive and for five seconds, my cravings forced me to forget. I also had not taken my vitamin B6 supplement because I had a busy day so the Chinese food hit me like a slap in the face. I have ordered Chinese food before, in particular at a restaurant in my office building but that restaurant does not use MSG and ordering from there never makes me sick. However, as I was reminded, ordering Chinese food from the food court in your local mall is a big mistake when you suffer from conditions that render you sensitive to certain foods. Last night, I slept with ice packs on my head, under my head, and underneath my lower back. It was a combination of an RA and FMS flare-up.
My choices this week left me in a vulnerable position and adding the Chinese food to the mix was not a good choice. Lesson learned. With that said – natural healing with whatever approach you take – is simpler than your think. It goes down to a combination of five things – nutrition, supplements, exercise, stress reduction and adequate sleep and with those come many excuses, including my own. I hate to admit it, but when I was first diagnosed, I thought I would never make time to incorporate all these things into my life and, the hardest of these for me have been adequate sleep and stress management.
Nutrition – But my life is too busy to plan!
I love nutrition excuses because I have made them for nearly fifteen years. “My life is too busy to plan” my meals – that was my favorite excuse that I made about eating healthy. Understanding that my symptoms can either be greatly reduced or gone was my motivation to want to change. I now understand that food does not have to be my enemy and that it can be the best medicine that I offer to my body.
My suggestion is to stay away from foods that you believe are allergens. The most common food allergies are wheat and gluten containing products. Milk and other dairy products, sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, soft drinks, food additives (MSG!!!) and colors, preservatives and peanuts are also foods that cause flare-ups. Further, caffeine, alcohol and sugar make you more fatigued, increase muscle pain, and interfere with sleep patterns so it makes sense for your overall health to reduce intake or cut it out completely (Coffee has been hard for me to give up but I have been able to give up soda drinks and sugar and I am not an alcohol drinker). Minimizing your intake or completely ridding yourself of these things can greatly reduce the number of flare-ups and inflammation you may have as a result of your food sensitivities.
Your next question is “what is there left to eat then?” Well, I am glad you asked. Eat a diet that is high in raw fruits and veggies. Fifty percent of your foods should be in raw state. This may seem difficult think about it this way, eat a salad with your lunch and with your dinner and add fruit with your breakfast. Snack on veggies, raw nuts, seeds and fruit throughout the day. For some people, nightshade vegetables have to be given up depending on your tolerance. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water per day, fresh vegetable and fruit juices, and herbal teas. What is good about fresh juices is that they contain enzymes that reduce inflammation and pain and provide your cells with energy and help your body to heal. Veggie juices are best but if the taste bothers you, add an apple to the juice to give a sweeter taste. I read somewhere that apples are particularly good for fibromyalgia sufferers because they contain malic acid which creates cellular energy.
Eat four to five smaller meals rather than three larger ones. This will ensure that you are taking a steady supply of nutrients for proper muscle function.
Your remaining food choices should include brown rice, pasta without wheat or white flour, legumes, and meats especially lean proteins such as fish and poultry. Seafood such as trout, cod, halibut, mackerel and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids that act as inflammatory. Include flax seed into your diet because flax seed contains essential omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid that also helps with inflammation. Alfalfa can be eaten for pain control because it contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that work to reduce arthritis pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
Supplements – A Surprising Benefit
I stopped taking Lyrica for Fibromyalgia and went back on Gabapention on my own accord and without consulting my doctor. Up to 14% of those taking Lyrica reported weight gain and I was one of those people. I had all these great goals in mind and Lyrica was taking them away from me so I made a choice and the pant size smaller that I have become since stopping Lyrica is proof that I made a good choice. My goal is to completely be medication free for fibromyalgia and later this month, when I see my doctor, I will be discussing the game plan with her. In part 3 of natural healing, I am going to discuss “taking control of your health” and this Lyrica discussion will be revisited. However, the reason I bring it up now is because I made a choice to figure how to use supplements to keep from gaining weight and to further weight loss.
The worst part about struggling with fibromyalgia was the constant feeling of swelling and puffiness all over. Some of it was retention of fluid and other times the feeling of swelling and puffiness was there even without inflammation and swelling being actually present. Needless to say, it was a miserable way to live. Truth be told, (and I am sure that other chronic pain sufferers- in particular, the newbies can agree) this type of pain and swelling makes person wish that they could just die. I am glad that that dark period of my life has passed but for those you who have symptoms of an “unknown” illness that no one is able to diagnose or if you are a new sufferer, there is hope. In addition to medications (or without medications, if you decide that course), nutritional supplements can provide relief.
Nutritional supplements, in addition to providing relief, can help the body to heal. I already mentioned omega 3 fatty acids, Alfalfa, and flax seed. I have not tried the alfalfa but I do take an omega 3 supplement containing flax seed. You can use flax oil cold pressed (never heat it) as a dressing for salads, baked potatoes or other cooked veggies. Omega 3s and flax oil work to promote healthy cells and the immune system. In addition, I take a Vitamin B6 stress complex supplement daily which has been a Godsend to me. Mine comes from Nature Made and is relatively cheap and contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B-6, folic acid, Vitamin B-12, biotin, and pantothenic acid, along with Vitamin C.
Malic acid and additional Magnesium can help those with fibromyalgia to support the muscular system and energy production at the cellular level. Those with FMS tend to be deficient of Malic acid and Magnesium. I have also heard about liquid oxygen for oxygenate cells, providing trace minerals and enzymes which help to cleanse the body of toxins. However, I do not have any recommendations and the link provided is only for educational purposes. If anyone has a recommendation for a product, please post that in the comment box. I have done body wraps which I have found helpful in removing toxins, but they are rather expensive to incorporate often. Other supplements that can be used include willow bark, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, multienzymes, bromelian (pineapple enzyme) and pathothenic acid. Again, my knowledge is only limited to what I have read about these products so please do your own research and figure what works best for you because this is different for everyone.
Exercise – I don’t have time to work out three times week!
I work in the legal field. I wear suits and dress clothes nearly everyday. As a matter of fact, I only own one pair of jeans, one pair of sweat pants, a few t-shirts and one pair of tennis shoes that does not fit on the days my feet are swelled. I am not the physically active type nor do I dress the part because more often than not, I am wearing dress shoes or dressy sandals. It is the person I have evolved into as a result of my career choices which come to play in all aspects of my life. Even when I go grocery shopping, I am often dressed in a business casual way. It is part of who I have become (My husband says I am classy; my sisters say I am boring) because of my career choices and while I am very proud of that, I am not the person you will see during your afternoon jog, or your aerobics’ class, or even at your local gym.
The person I am will never change and truth be told, I do not have time to work out times a week at my local gym but I am the person who walks everywhere. I take the stairs every time unless I am having serious pain and symptoms. I park my car the furthest away so that I can walk from my car to my destination. I play with my kids when I can and I take an afternoon walk when the day at the office is not busy. To me, this is active. I am constantly moving when I am at home and I do not sit down until my head hits my pillow at night. I am never going to be a top-notch fitness junkie but I am content with the physical activity I make a part of my daily life. I am not lazy either because I make a choice to be as active as I can be considering my daily physical pain.
Those with fibromyalgia and pain conditions refrain from exercise because often, it worsens their symptoms. That has been a big deterrent for me, but I also understand that over time the lack of exercise causes less blood and lymph flow through the body and this worsens your symptoms. So many us fall in this category and our excuses are many. My advice: start exercise slowly, keep moving, and do what works best for you.
To be continued…stay tuned for part 3 where I am going to discuss stress reduction, adequate sleep, positive thinking and taking control of your health.
* * *
If you like have a question related to rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia that you would like me to answer, please feel free to either leave it in a comment box anytime (leave your email/website link so I can notify you when it is answered) or send me an email to email@example.com. I will do my best to answer your question. See disclaimer.