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Founder's Corner: The Pillars of Health and An Invisible Line

  [ 967 votes ]   [ 11 Comments ]
By Rich Carson • • February 28, 2007

Several people have written to us recently expressing their concern over the high price of the supplements they take for their ME/CFS and FMS. One gentleman complained that he spends close to $400 per month on this cause, none of which is covered by medical insurance. He did not know how he could keep going at that pace, and I don’t blame him for complaining.

I think now is a good time to take a step back and ask ourselves how important supplements are in supporting the health of patients suffering from ME/CFS and FMS.

First, let me make it clear that nutritional supplements are intended to supplement your diet. This means that the vast majority of your nutrients should come from the food you eat - not from a vitamin bottle. It’s your diet that provides most of the minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, co-enzymes, fatty acids, and countless other nutrients that your body needs and craves. They are not all going to come from those expensive supplements you take!

Let’s put supplements in perspective. A successful self-treatment program for ME/CFS/FMS must include sleep, diet, exercise, and stress reduction. Together, these are the pillars of health and healing.

Ignore Sleep, Lose the Battle

First, and I know this is easier said than done: You must get at least eight hours of sleep every night and get plenty of rest during the day. Most of us feel ‘wired’ late at night, and the thought of sleep evaporates into thin air; but sleep is the most important weapon in our battle against ME/CFS/FMS. Ignore the sleep component, and you have already lost your battle.

No Low Grade Fuel

The second weapon in your arsenal is diet. You need to eat mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, lean meats and fish. Your diet is critically important, and my bet is that your health won’t improve if you feed it a bunch of junk food - sugary soft drinks, desserts, processed food, fast food, and food laden with preservatives. No, I am afraid that in order to fight a disease as serious and complex as ours, we need to provide our bodies with nutrient-rich food devoid of chemicals, concentrated sugars, and hydrogenated fats.

You wouldn’t feel comfortable if you knew that the airplane you were flying in was running on cheap, low grade fuel; and you won’t feel good if you put cheap, low grade food into your body’s fuel tank. Guaranteed.

The Invisible Line

Your third tool is exercise - and it is a powerful and fast acting weapon against ME/CFS/FMS. Exercise, for most of us, however, is the quickest path to relapse and most patients avoid it like the plague. It seems logical to avoid something with such significant downside effects. But because you have these diseases, you have a greater need for exercise than someone who is completely healthy. Hear me out.

One of the hallmarks of ME/CFS is exercise intolerance; you exercise, you get sick. This is absolutely true, but only if you go over the ‘invisible line.’ The invisible line is the point at which the intensity and duration of your exercise exceeds your body’s ‘relapse threshold.’

Go over that line, and you relapse. Go up to it, and you benefit your body in countless ways, including: improved blood flow (especially brain blood flow - a big problem for ME/CFS sufferers); elevated levels of the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals - endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins - and these can be a great way to deal with the depressive aspects of chronic disease; improved lymphatic flow for improved immune function; increased bone density; improved muscle tone; improved joint flexibility; better posture; a healthier complexion; improved digestion and regularity; and the list goes on.

For patients, exercise does not necessarily mean running, jogging, swimming, bicycling, or other vigorous forms of movement. Those are great for non-patients, but for us, well, we’re talking relapse city. No, the exercise I am talking about is movement exercise - just moving your body, whether it’s stretching or flexing your muscles, moving your arms or legs, or walking slowly for short distances. The point is that you need to move and stretch your body…but always, always, respecting the invisible line..)

The Benefits of Chilling

Your fourth tool is lifestyle. Our endocrine systems are fatigued and dysfunctional - burnt out adrenals, low functioning thyroid glands, stressed pancreases, and a pituitary gland that is constantly receiving mixed signals and working doubly hard to keep up. Rock the boat with a stressful, overactive lifestyle, and you end up sick.

Like it or not, we need to recognize and honor the predicament that our fragile body is in. We need to adopt a lifestyle that includes stress avoidance and plenty of rest, relaxation, and quiet time.

In a nutshell, you have to be compassionate with yourself, and realize that you and your body are partners against a monstrous enemy that wants to wear you down and beat you into the ground. Be good to yourself, avoid stress, and pace yourself - always.

Supplements as Defensive Backers

And finally, we have supplements - which are very important for supporting our health in countless ways, especially in a time of health crisis. They can help with digestion, energy, sleep, joint health, mood, memory, endocrine function, and an almost never-ending list of other supporting roles. But as a weapon against a disease as complex and serious as ours, they are in no way as important as sleep, diet, lifestyle, and appropriate exercise.

It would be a mistake to rely solely on supplements, thinking that they are ‘good enough’. Supplements, alone, don’t cut it. Your most powerful ally in your battle against ME/CFS/FMS is yourself. It is your body, and you must honor and empower it by giving it the basic building blocks to carry on the fight and speed you to victory.

Wishing you abundant health,

Your Advocate,
Rich Carson

PS: There are effective ways to make the ‘invisible line’ obvious. One way is to monitor your own breath rate while exercising – fast or labored breathing indicates that you’ve crossed the line. Another technique, which is even easier and more accurate, is to use an inexpensive heart rate monitor such as the one available in our store, which measures your heart rate and sounds an audible alarm if you are overdoing it and nearing that invisible line. I use mine all the time and I wouldn’t exercise without it. (Note: This Founder's Corner first ran in February 2007. It is repeated in this issue by reader request.)

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Holistic medicine
Posted by: ravenpaige
Feb 28, 2007
Thanks for your very clear article about the importance of looking at the whole being. Some herbal practitioners I know have described it as concentric circles...first you treat illness with the foods you eat (the large circle), then add a few supplements (the smaller circle), then finally add prescription medicines only when the rest has not proven effective. But perhaps Hippocrates said it best, "Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food."
Reply Reply

Holistic medicine
Posted by: knittycat
Aug 22, 2007
I love your metaphor of the concentric circles. It's basically the diet philosophy I've been following for years, so the picture was instantly clear.


Supplements and food
Posted by: halyna
Feb 28, 2007
Good article and theoretically correct, but how do we balance this view with the following reality: seeds are planted in ground that is depleted, fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe in order to transport to stores before they start rotting (they don't get the full benefits of the the soil/sun ripening and all vitamins they should be providing us), the pesticides/herbicides with which produce is overloaded and the genetic engineering of growing food? I completely agree that a healthy diet should be our base and am tired of supplements. But, how do we go about getting the nutrients we need from our diets?
Reply Reply

Supplements and food
Posted by: knittycat
Aug 22, 2007
There are ways to ensure that you get quality nutrition from your food. The first one that comes to mind (since it's now harvest time)is gardening. If you're willing to can and freeze, you can have a significant improvement to your diet year round. If you use milk, you can look for a farm within driving distance that sells good milk; you can check it out to see if the cows are on pasture whenever possible and whether the farmer uses antibiotics. The same farmer might also sell fresh eggs. Some farmers are willing to raise a pig or a calf or a lamb for you, and you could confirm the healthiness of the situation. And finally, if those options aren't open to you, you can buy organic food at the supermarket; but you still need to be canny - read the labels: One brand of crackers at my local store claims to be organic and lists partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient - and unfortunately you need a big purse.


How to estimate max heart rate?
Posted by: minnesota
Aug 21, 2007
Heart rate monitors such as the one in ProHealth's store provide instructions to help you determine your safe target exertion zone. Also, an article titled "A Primer on Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia Patients" in the archives( a simple way to roughly estimate maxiumum heart rate.
Reply Reply

Supplements in Perspective
Posted by: mkate
Aug 22, 2007
HI - I am "lucky" to be functioning atabout 70%, but not so lucky in that I cannot function well enough to keep a full-time job or have a reliable social life. I find that supplements are my "lifeline" to at least a quasi "normal" life and help to keep some equalibrium with my body...while it isn't perfect I do significantly notice if I miss taking them regularly. I found your comments to be quite condescending. When most of us with CFS are not so lucky to feel nearly "fully" recovered -- and are doing EVERYTHING Known to stay relatively heatthy: Sleep regularly, try not to overdo exercise -- eat well, etc.....AND pay attention to daily exersion levels...... The supplements are only one part of the equation - but to assume that just because we are spending the money on them, that we aren't paying attention to the other key factors in some sort of "maintenanc" is quite least for me. I am weary of 15 years of this. I am weary of hopefulnees, without really getting much more quality of life. I am weary of others giving advise that really doesn't meet the need. I cut my expenses from $400 to $200 by coming to the ProHealth site to buy. I have also discovered new research and new vitamins that have significantly supported my maintenance and improved my health to some degree. I would be MUCH worse without them. Please do not preach. Thank you. MKATE
Reply Reply

Thanking Rich Carson
Posted by: DeborahLynn
Aug 22, 2007
I'd like to thank Rich Carson for this well-put article! When people find out I have ME/CFS/FMS, many will introduce a "cure-all" product, eagerly urging me to buy it. Most are sincere; however, some are out to make money. His approach is refreshing and absolutely true. I appreciate that Rich isn't pushing his products as cures, which, in his position and influence, he could have easily done. It makes me feel he is trustworthy, and makes me more ready to try the supplements advertised at ProHealth! The article also encourages me to keep doing all the things he's mentioned, all of which I don't need extra money to do. Since I am not able to work, I need all the helpful suggestions I can get! Thank you, Rich Carson! Debbie Gearhart
Reply Reply

Is "normal" maximum heart rate good for those with CFS?
Posted by: sick~kitty
Aug 22, 2007
These days it seems like everything under the sun triggers a relapse for me. I'm not at all sure that exercising at or near my maximum heart rate is a good idea. The problem is, I have no idea at all what would be a safe rate to avoid getting sicker, or in other words, just where to draw that invisible line for myself.
Reply Reply

Rich Carson?
Posted by: Shirleend
Aug 22, 2007
Okay, I can't resist the urge to post a thoughtful comment regarding the integrity of the Founder's corner opinions on supplements. He is a company for profit, not a non-profit, who is not only selling these supplements that in many instances can be purschased less expensively elsewhere, but he is the producer of these supplments, so he makes money on the front and back end of each purchase. Yes, he does give millions to research and worthy causes, but the question that I believe needs to be asked and answered is that he is making many millions more than he donates. If he truly was operating this website and selling the supplements for the benefit of mankind, he would form a not for profit organization, he could still earn a very well paid income, but it would be more ethical and have my respect and maintain his true integrity. I am sorry, but I will not purchase or contribute to the wealth of a few at the expense of those suffering.
Reply Reply

Pillars of Health
Posted by: Aberlaine
Aug 26, 2007
If Rich Carson is only interested in selling his supplements why was his article all about sleep, stress, eating right and exercising? He even writes, "It would be a mistake to rely solely on supplements, thinking that they are ‘good enough’."

Yes, I buy his supplements, but I don't for a minute believe that they alone will help me battle this disease. I can make the choice to buy them or not, and where to spend my money.


Pillars of Health
Posted by: checkpoint
Aug 23, 2007
This article was very well written. In other words just change your diet and forget the pricey supplements.
Reply Reply

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