Learn How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally: Take the Free 10-Day Coronavirus Challenge

How to boost your immune system

Having a strong, healthy immune system has never been more important than it is now with the coronavirus threatening lives around the world. And for those of us who are high risk due to age and/or chronic illnesses, it’s even more essential that we do whatever we can to boost our immune systems. Because it’s a new virus and there’s not yet a vaccine, we’re left with only two things we can do to try to protect ourselves: (1) avoid exposure to the virus by following the recommended guidelines and (2) boost our immune systems to help fight off the virus if we do get exposed.

Learn How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

In an effort to try to help protect people in general, but especially those of us who are most vulnerable to the virus due to compromised immune systems, Ashok Gupta has developed a 10-day program called the Coronavirus Challenge. The purpose of the program is to teach us how we can strengthen our immune systems naturally. And he is generously offering the program to everyone free of charge.

Ashok Gupta

Ashok Gupta

Gupta, a former ME/CFS patient and founder of the Gupta Program and clinic, has been helping people successfully recover from chronic illnesses like ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, MCS and Lyme disease for almost 20 years.

Now, if you’re a skeptic like me, you may be wondering what the catch is. (There always seems to be a catch, right?) Let me assure you, I signed up for the challenge myself, and there really is no catch. You won’t get half way through and discover he’s trying to sell you something. He is genuinely trying to do what he can to help slow the spread of the virus by helping all of us boost our immune systems.

Although the Coronavirus Challenge is especially important for those of us with chronic illnesses, it is also very beneficial for otherwise healthy individuals who just want to make sure their immune systems are as strong as possible to protect themselves. In fact, the program has received enthusiastic approval from at least one celebrity. Oscar-nominated actress and Bond girl Naomie Harris said, “I’ve taken the pledge and have been following Ashok’s Coronavirus Challenge and I’ve learned so much about how we can all boost our immune systems against the virus, it’s great! I’ve been sharing it with everyone I know.”

The Coronavirus Challenge and the MEND Protocol

The Coronavirus Challenge is a series of 10 videos based on Gupta’s MEND protocol, a unique blend of mind and body techniques designed to strengthen the immune system against viral invaders like COVID-19 based on hundreds of research studies, which are listed in the challenge program.

M = Mind

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been bombarded with scary, negative news around the clock. This kind of ongoing stress can lead to fear, anxiety and depression, all of which can compromise our immune systems. Gupta teaches us how to use meditation to train our minds to be calm and anxiety-free, which studies have shown can boost the effectiveness of our immune systems and reduce the chances of contracting a virus by as much as 50%. Additionally, he provides several free guided meditations on his website as well as other practical tips on how to reduce anxiety during the pandemic.

E = Energize the Body

Physical movement is an important part of strengthening our immune systems because it increases the levels of antibodies in our mucus membranes and improves the flow of fluids through our lymphatic system, which helps clear bacteria, viruses and toxins from our bodies. However, if you have a chronic illness it’s also essential that you know and respect your limitations when it comes to physical activity. When I spoke to him about this article, Gupta specifically asked me to stress this fact and encourage those with a chronic illness to be very careful about pacing themselves.

N = Night-time Routine and Sleep

Numerous studies have shown the importance of sleep when it comes to fighting off viruses. Both the duration and quality of sleep matter when we’re trying to build and maintain a strong immune system. Why? Because it is during sleep that our immune systems are rejuvenated. Unfortunately, getting quality sleep can be challenging for many of us with chronic illnesses. Gupta shares 10 tips that can help improve the quality and duration of our sleep.

D = Diet

Did you know that even some small dietary changes may reduce your chances of getting any virus by 50% or more? We often don’t realize the huge impact what we eat has on our immune systems. Actually, the foods in your pantry and refrigerator can be better medicine than anything you have in your medicine cabinet. In the diet segment, Gupta shares which foods interfere with our immune systems and which foods boost our immune systems.

The videos are high quality, beautifully done and enjoyable to watch. Another benefit of signing up for the Coronavirus Challenge is you will have access to the Facebook forum where you can interact with others who are also working to strengthen their immune systems

For more information about the Coronavirus Challenge or to sign up, go to https://www.thecoronaviruschallenge.com/

The Gupta Program – A Powerful Neuroplasticity Program for Chronic Illnesses

In addition to the Coronavirus Challenge, Gupta offers a much more in-depth program for people with ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, MCS, Lyme disease or other chronic illnesses. The Gupta Program Brain RetrainingTM is a powerful neuroplasticity program through which thousands of people with these illnesses have gotten their lives back.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new neural connections and adapt or compensate for injury, disease or other life changes that may occur. Scientists have found that the brain can actually be retrained and regain its natural ability to heal the body. Gupta emphasizes that he definitely is not saying these illnesses are in the mind; rather he says they are in the brain (neurological not psychological), which means that they are normally out of someone’s control.

Gupta, who suffered from ME/CFS himself, managed to fully recover using the brain-retraining techniques he now teaches, and he has made it his life-long mission to help others recover as well. In his description of the program on his website, he says:

My 20 years of research combined with the latest findings about “neuroplasticity” lead me to believe these conditions are ultimately caused by abnormalities in brain function, which can be reversed using revolutionary “brain retraining” techniques. Despite what people may say, many people do recover successfully from these conditions, and the Gupta Program triggers the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

There is of course a fee for this much more extensive program, however, he offers a 28-day free trial to allow you to get a feel for how the program works and whether it is right for you. Additionally, he offers a one-year Money Back Guarantee with no questions asked, so there’s really nothing to lose if you think this might be right for you.

For more information, visit https://www.guptaprogram.com/

(ProHealth users get 15% off for the rest of the year using code PROHEALTH.)


Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in 1997 and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, then worked for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network before coming to ProHealth. To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.

Patchouli Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Contradindications

The smell of patchouli oil is so powerful and unique — you either love it or hate it. The mere thought of it, let alone getting a whiff, might invoke memories like hanging out at outdoor music festivals with friends. For some people, the smell of patchouli wafting through the air brings back those feelings of rebellion and excitement. 

But patchouli has many health benefits as well.  Also, aged and blended with other essential oils, its smell is more mellow. This article will cover some of the reasons you might consider including patchouli in your health and wellness regimen.

What Is Patchouli Oil?

Patchouli oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of a bushy herb native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia, whose scientific name is Pogostemon cablin. The plant is related to the herbs mint, oregano, and lavender. In order to distill the potent smelling, amber-colored essential oil of patchouli, leaves and flowers of Pogostemon cablin are dried for several days. Then, the oil is distilled using steam or carbon dioxide. As patchouli oil ages, the color darkens, and the scent becomes deeper and smoother.

Patchouli’s smell and medicinal properties come from the many phytochemicals contained in the oil, such as:

  • Alpha patchoulene
  • Beta patchoulene
  • Alpha bulnesene
  • Alpha guaiene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Norpatchoulenol
  • Seychellene
  • Pogostol

The oil can be used on the skin as a fragrance or for medicinal properties (usually diluted in a carrier oil). It can also be diffused in water using a diffuser. Some even take patchouli internally for health benefits – though this is riskier, so don’t try it without consulting your doctor. 

History of Patchouli Oil

Patchouli oil has been valued by humans over many centuries, both for its perfume and its medicinal properties. It was first used by the Tamil people of Southern India, and it traveled from there to the Middle East along silk trading routes — where the dried leaves were packed into crates containing textiles to repel moths. Supposedly, Napoleon introduced patchouli to Europe. Patchouli oil is still used in traditional Asian medicine, most commonly in China, Malaysia, and Japan.

Potential Health Benefits of Patchouli

Although more studies on humans are needed to better understand patchouli’s medicinal qualities, there have been promising in vitro and animal studies. Some are listed below:

1. Antimicrobial

Patchouli is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to combat both viral and bacterial infections. For example, a 2019 study explored patchouli alcohol’s effects in vitro and in vivo against the influenza virus. It was shown to significantly inhibit different strains of influenza in vitro, and when administered nasally, improved the survival rate of infected mice as well.

2. Skin Health

TCM uses patchouli to balance skin problems such as eczema, dandruff, and acne. A 2014 study done on mice looked at the application of patchouli oil prior to UV light exposure. The study determined that the mice who received topical administration of patchouli showed less wrinkle formation and more collagen production after exposure to UV light. 

3. Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s immune response. However, especially in chronic disease, the inflammatory response can become problematic, and contribute to symptoms. A 2017 study looked at patchouli’s effect when administered rectally in rats with inflammatory bowel disorder, or IBD. (In TCM, patchouli is used therapeutically for IBD.) The study concluded that the patchouli significantly reduced damage to the rats’ colons and also reduced disease activity indicators.

4. Insect Repellant

Patchouli can be used as a healthy, non-toxic insect repellent or insecticide. It has been shown to be toxic to ants, houseflies, and mosquitoes when applied directly — though less so than synthetic pesticides. 

5. Pain Relief

TCM uses patchouli as a therapeutic approach to easing headaches. A 2011 study on mice determined that the application of methanol extract from patchouli was useful in lessening pain. The study concluded that patchouli’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties contribute to its analgesic effect. 

Contraindications for Patchouli Essential Oil

All essential oils are very potent. Talk with your doctor before you include patchouli in your health regimen (topically, orally, or inhalation) to make sure it’s right for you. Pregnant women, people taking blood thinners, or people with bleeding disorders should avoid using patchouli.

If you use patchouli topically, be sure to dilute it in a carrier oil such as jojoba or almond oil. Direct application of any essential oil can irritate your skin, or more rarely, cause an allergic reaction. Even in a carrier oil, test a small patch of your skin first before widespread use.

Ultimately, patchouli essential oil is a potent, fragrant oil with many possible health benefits. Experiment with using patchouli alone, or blending it with other essential oils in a carrier oil. You may discover a natural, non-toxic perfume you love, one that may improve your health and well-being.  


Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.

 

 

References: 

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How Ultrasound Therapy Can Help People with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, muscle stiffness, and impaired circulation are some of the most challenging symptoms to manage in people with chronic conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system. Ask any fibromyalgia or Lyme disease patient for a list of their symptoms, and you are likely to see at least several mentions of musculoskeletal problems such as muscle pain, stiffness, inflammation, and tenderness. While pharmaceutical interventions can provide much-needed relief for musculoskeletal problems, the relief is typically only palliative. Pharmaceutical interventions for pain also come with undesirable side effects and the potential to cause addiction. Body work modalities such as massage and acupuncture are great alternatives to pharmaceutical interventions, but these types of treatments often need to be done on a continuous basis in order to provide symptomatic relief and can become quite expensive.

Not long ago, in my own battle with musculoskeletal problems resulting from chronic Lyme disease and coinfections, I felt that I had reached a dead-end when it came to my search for effective treatments. I had been using intramuscular analgesics and receiving weekly massage treatment for months, yet I was still struggling to manage my pain. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I came across an amazing treatment modality that changed the course of my battle with chronic muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation. This particular modality is called “therapeutic ultrasound.”

Therapeutic ultrasound has helped me greatly not only in managing, but reversing, my chronic muscle stiffness and pain associated with chronic illness. I think many other people struggling with chronic illness-induced musculoskeletal problems could also benefit from this simple, quick, and effective modality as part of fibromyalgia or Lyme disease treatment.

What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?

Therapeutic ultrasound is a technique that has long been used by physical therapists for treating musculoskeletal disorders such as pain and stiffness, as well as for increasing blood flow and promoting tissue healing. It involves the use of an ultrasound probe that is placed in direct contact with the skin, along with transmission coupling gel. The transmission coupling gel is the medium by which the ultrasound waves are transmitted into the body from the ultrasound probe.

The gel-covered probe is swept along the skin, over areas of the body that are painful, stiff, or in need of repair. The ultrasound waves emitted from the probe are generated by something called the “piezoelectric effect,” which occurs when the crystals vibrate within the head of the probe. The ultrasound waves that pass through the skin from the gel-covered probe cause a vibration of the local soft tissues. The vibration affects the soft tissues through several different mechanisms, which I will discuss next. Therapeutic ultrasound has traditionally been used to treat muscle pain, muscle spasm, joint stiffness, and tissue injury.

Due to the mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound exerts its effects, it offers unique benefits for people with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and other chronic illnesses that affect muscle and connective tissue.

Mechanisms of Therapeutic Ultrasound

There are several mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound affects tissues. One mechanism is its ability to increase hemoglobin levels and thereby improve blood oxygenation. In a small clinical trial published in The Journal of the Japanese Physical Therapy Association, 11 healthy men were administered therapeutic ultrasound treatment at a frequency of 3 MHz, intensity of 1.0 W/cm2, and 100% duty cycle for just 10 minutes. After the 10-minute ultrasound treatment, oxygen and total hemoglobin levels were significantly higher in the treated men, than in the men who were allotted to placebo (“fake ultrasound” treatment) or control (no treatment) groups. Hemoglobin is the molecule that shuttles oxygen throughout the body, and oxygen is essential for fueling cells and their numerous biochemical l functions. Therefore, by increasing hemoglobin levels, therapeutic ultrasound increases oxygen transport throughout the body, improving oxygenation of cells and tissues.

In addition to increasing hemoglobin and oxygen levels, therapeutic ultrasound also has thermal effects in that it increases tissue temperature. The vibration of the crystals in the ultrasound probe, when transmitted through the skin to the tissues, causes a vibration of the tissues that leads to a rise in temperature. The increase in tissue temperature causes vasodilation, a widening of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood circulation through tissues. Increased circulation helps to remove waste products from tissues, and replenishes them with substances they need to function properly. Finally, therapeutic ultrasound also increases the extensibility of collagen fibers and reduces the viscosity of fluid in tissues. This can help reduce pain and stiffness, increase range of motion, and break up adhesions.

Therapeutic Ultrasound for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Lyme Disease

The mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound exerts its effects can be of great assistance to people struggling with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and chronic illness. Chronic illnesses such as these often lead to an accumulation of waste products in tissues, including bacterial metabolites and inflammatory molecules released by the immune system. Muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation are some of the very common, yet intractable, symptoms that can be caused by the accumulation of these substances.

Therapeutic ultrasound can help remediate these symptoms by increasing blood flow and tissue oxygenation, which helps to remove waste products. By increasing oxygenation, mitochondria are able to function more effectively, which may improve symptoms of pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia and Lyme patients.

Increased blood flow induced by therapeutic ultrasound treatment enables cells of the immune system to access tissues that were previously “closed off” due to poor blood flow, giving the immune system the opportunity to target covert pathogens.

Interestingly, ultrasound therapy has also been examined for its effectiveness in breaking up biofilms. Biofilms are a colonies of microorganisms that bond together and adhere to surfaces within the body; biofilms function intelligently, promoting survival of the pathogenic microorganisms within the colony while negatively affecting the health of the host. Biofilms play a major role in Lyme disease symptoms and other chronic illnesses with an infectious component, because the biofilm enables pathogens such as Borrelia (the pathogen that causes Lyme disease) to survive even in the presence of antibiotics.

Therapeutic ultrasound may be of huge benefit in the case of Lyme disease and chronic infectious diseases because the vibrations it produces have been shown to stress the bacteria in the biofilm, disrupting its integrity. In addition, when ultrasound therapy is combined with simultaneous light therapy, the light has demonstrated the ability to cause the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by cells. ROS target pathogens for destruction, helping to fight infections.

Parameters for Therapeutic Ultrasound

There are several parameters that are used in the application of therapeutic ultrasound. These parameters include :

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Treatment mode (aka “duty cycle”)
  • Length of treatment
  • Location of treatment

The frequency refers to the number of vibrations per second emitted by the ultrasound machine via the probe. A frequency of 1 MHz means that 1 million vibrations per second are being produced. Frequencies of therapeutic ultrasound range from 1 to 3 MHz, with 1 MHz used for superficial tissues and 3 MHz used for deeper tissues.

The intensity of the ultrasound treatment refers to the total amount of vibrational energy being applied per unit area; this is typically expressed as Watts per square centimeter. The surface area of a therapeutic ultrasound probe is typically 1, 5, or 10 centimeters squared.

The treatment mode, also known as the “duty cycle,” refers to whether the ultrasound vibrations are applied continuously or pulsed on and off over the course of the treatment.

Finally, the treatment time is simply the amount of time the ultrasound is applied, and the treatment area refers to the part of the body over which the ultrasound is applied.

Safety of Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is considered to be very safe. It is important to keep in mind that ultrasound probes do heat up over the course of treatment, but when properly applied, the risk of burns from therapeutic ultrasound is very low. Therapeutic ultrasound is contraindicated in the following instances:

  • A local malignancy.
  • A metal implant (such as metal screws in bone)
  • On the abdomen of pregnant women,
  • Over the eyes, skull, or testes

No cumulative dose has been defined for ultrasound therapy, so there are no specific guidelines as to how often one should receive ultrasound therapy. It is best to consult with your doctor or physical therapist to determine the appropriate treatment dose for your needs.

How You Can Try Therapeutic Ultrasound

If you are interested in therapeutic ultrasound, you can try contacting a local physical therapist or physiotherapist to see if they offer this treatment modality. Chiropractors and MDs who specialize in physical medicine or physiatry may also offer this particular treatment in-office. The cost of a therapeutic ultrasound treatment session is typically quite low, because a treatment session only lasts around 10 minutes.

If you have success after trying therapeutic ultrasound in a physical therapy clinic or doctor’s office, you might want to consider purchasing a therapeutic ultrasound machine for personal use at home. This will be an investment, but in my experience, it was well worth it. I have a small therapeutic ultrasound machine at home that was designed for personal use, and it has been a game-changer for me in terms of reducing my pain levels, breaking up muscle adhesions, and promoting circulation and tissue healing. I can’t recommend this treatment modality enough!

If you have been struggling with musculoskeletal problems related to fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or another chronic illness, give therapeutic ultrasound a try. It just may change your life.

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on January 18, 2017 and was updated on May 28, 2020.


Lindsay Christensen is a health writer and researcher with her B.S. in Biomedical Science and an Emphasis in Nutrition. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Human Nutrition, with the intention of becoming a Clinical Nutritionist. Lindsay’s passion for natural health and wellness has been driven by her own experience in recovering from a serious chronic illness. She blogs about chronic illness recovery and her nature-inspired approach to nutrition and healthy living on her website, Ascent to Health: Ascent2Health. In her free time, she can be found outdoors rock climbing and hiking, enjoying the beauty and healing power of nature.

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Psyllium Husk: A Fiber with Surprising Health Benefits

Most everyone has heard that including enough fiber in your diet is beneficial for overall health. According to Mayo Clinic, a diet high in fiber can help improve constipation and general bowel health, balance blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and generally help you live longer. Sign me up! 

A diet rich in a variety of plant foods can give you enough dietary fiber to reap these benefits. But if you’d like to supplement with extra fiber, psyllium husk is a good option. This article will cover what psyllium husk is, why it’s beneficial, and ways to incorporate it into your diet.

Soluble Versus Insoluble Fiber 

Fiber is the indigestible part of plant material and can be divided into two different categories: soluble and insoluble. Both are beneficial to human health, and most whole plant foods contain some of each. Psyllium husk, however, contains primarily soluble fiber.

  1. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes a gel-like substance as it goes through the digestive tract. We don’t digest soluble fiber, but our intestinal bacteria can digest it! Because of this, soluble fiber is considered a prebiotic – meaning it nurtures the beneficial bacteria that make up the human gut microbiome. 
  2. Insoluble fiber is not dissolvable in water and proceeds intact through the gut. We can’t digest insoluble fiber, and neither can bacteria – so its primary benefits are relieving constipation and improving bowel health.

An Overview of Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is mostly sold in bulk or capsules as a fiber supplement. It’s made from the husks of seeds from the Plantago ovata plant, which is a shrub native to Western and Southern Asia. Currently, India is the largest grower of Plantago ovata plants and produces 85% of the world’s psyllium husk. 

The soluble fiber in psyllium husks absorbs water as it passes through the digestive system, and becomes a sort of gel-like, viscous substance. Psyllium husk acts as a gentle laxative, adding bulk to stool and making it easier to pass. But relieving constipation is not psyllium husk’s only benefit.

Psyllium’s Benefits 

1. It Improves Microbiota, Especially if You’re Constipated.

A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences took a look at how psyllium husk affects the intestinal microbial community of constipated versus healthy subjects. The study used data from two separate, previous clinical trials. The trials noted increases in various beneficial intestinal bacteria in both groups after seven days of taking psyllium husk. However, there was a much more significant increase in beneficial bacteria in the group of people who were constipated. 

2. It Improves Blood Sugar Levels and Satiety.

Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can lower blood sugar and insulin levels by delaying food digestion. Fiber can also help you feel satiated after a meal, so it might benefit those who want to eat a little less to lose weight. Psyllium husk is especially good for this, as it’s gel-like consistency in the gut slows digestion. Take psyllium with food, if you are looking for these effects.

3. It Lowers Cholesterol Levels.

Psyllium husk fiber can bind to fats and bile acids in the digestive tract, which are then excreted. This prompts the liver to create more bile acids. In order to do this, the liver uses stored cholesterol, thereby decreasing overall cholesterol in the body. 

How Much Psyllium Husk Should You Take?

Talk with your doctor about the right dosage of psyllium husk for you, especially if you have specific health concerns you want to address by increasing fiber intake. 

Be sure to ask your doctor about psyllium’s possible interactions with any medications you’re taking. Everyone is different. Take time to experiment and find what works.

Ways to Incorporate Psyllium Husk into Your Diet

You can buy psyllium in capsules, and take whatever amount works for you daily this way. You can also buy it in bulk powder form. There are many ways to incorporate psyllium into foods, and if you’re sick of popping pills, you have options. Here are two user-friendly ways to include psyllium husk in food:

1. Smoothies

Blend whatever amount of psyllium husk you like into a fruit or vegetable smoothie. The psyllium will bulk up the smoothie a bit, especially if you let it sit before drinking. If anything, psyllium adds a slightly nutty flavor, which doesn’t tend to overwhelm the smoothie. 

2. Bake

Psyllium husks work well when making flatbread or biscuits; you can add about ¼ cup of psyllium husk to the batter — it mixes in easily. If you are using grain flour or paleo diet-friendly flours such as almond or cassava, psyllium’s nutty flavor pretty much disappears in baked goods.

Possible Side Effects of Taking Psyllium Husk

1. Choking or obstruction of the digestive tract

Because psyllium husk bulks up easily, it could get stuck in your throat, or possibly elsewhere along the digestive tract. Make sure you always take psyllium with at least one full glass of water or liquid (another reason to mix it in with foods). Don’t use psyllium if you have difficulty swallowing or any obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.

2. Gas or cramping

If you notice any gas, abdominal cramping, or discomfort from taking psyllium, stop, and talk with your doctor.

3. Allergic reactions

Allergies to psyllium are considered rare, but possible. Again, if you notice an allergic response such as a rash, itching or dizziness, stop and contact your doctor.

In Conclusion

Psyllium husk is a relatively safe and effective soluble fiber supplement that can benefit overall health in many ways. It’s pleasant to the taste and can easily be mixed in with various foods if you want to avoid taking one more supplement. Talk with your doctor before you add psyllium husk to your diet to make sure it is right for you and to determine the correct dosage. Then, experiment and enjoy.


Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.

 

 

References:

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How to Keep a Little Distance from Your Energy Boundary

With a chronic illness like ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), one of the most important things we need to learn is how to live within our energy envelope. Most of us try not to overextend ourselves because of our experience with unwanted consequences when we do. At the beginning of living with ME/CFS, we might also appreciate the wisdom of the recuperative nature of rest, but as our illness becomes chronic and recovery doesn’t come as quickly as we were hoping for, our focus tends to shift towards getting at least some semblance of a life back. When it comes down to it, pacing and living within our energy envelope is more often motivated by getting as much as we can out of the now, rather than a belief in the possibility of healing.

Living with ME/CFS and Hanging Onto The Edge

When life is so restricted, it’s totally natural to want to do whatever you can to get what little you can out of it, thus most of us play a dangerous game of skirting as close as possible to our energy boundary. The needs of our spirit often seem to be in conflict with what our body needs, and we often find ourselves dancing precariously close to the precipice of a crash, flare or relapse. Even if we get nimble enough to hang on to the edge as we fall, there’s always a risk that one day our fingers will slip.

There is no doubt that rest in itself is not a cure for ME/CFS, but because of this, there is a temptation to undervalue it as our illness becomes chronic. We refocus on doing what we can do to make the most out of the situation we’re in and tend to see rest as something we have to do in order not to feel worse.

This week I had an epiphany. I realized that with all my illness management skills, I’ve gotten really good at giving myself the best life I can with the energy that I have, but I get as close to my energy boundary as I feel I safely can in order to get the most out of life. Although I aim to be careful enough not to risk being pushed past my limits by unexpected events, I’ve been forgetting to save a portion of my energy for healing ME/CFS. My symptoms are very mild, and I have a good life, but I haven’t really been making a great deal of progress.

I do invest energy in healing. I invest it in meditation, tai chi, yoga, and preparing healthy food, but I tend to use all the extra energy I gain from these pursuits to live a bigger life at a sustainable level. But what if I didn’t use all that energy? What if I saved a bit more of it for my body? What if I allowed myself to rest enough not just so that I wouldn’t get worse, but so that I actually had a chance at ME/CFS recovery.

It’s my belief that hope for recovery of chronic illness shines brightest at the level of giving the body as much support as possible, so that one day it will find the answer itself. I trust that the human body understands the complexities of healing far better than any scientist, and that it is always doing its best to heal. I work on the basis of aiming to offer it as much support as I can in its healing efforts, but then when it comes down to it, I’ve been stealing some of the energy it could use for healing so that I can live a bit more of a life.

My goal now is to remedy that with extra rest, to make sure I keep a slice of my energy for my body to use on getting better.

It is so tempting to live life at the limits of our energy envelope, especially when we’ve been missing out on so much for so long. But we need to balance that against our desire for progress and recognize that a little more rest than we seem to need to get by could play a valuable part in that progress and reducing ME/CFS symptoms.

Do you keep enough distance from your energy boundary?

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on December 5, 2015 and was updated on May 21, 2020.


Julie Holliday is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people overcome their challenges and live a great life despite chronic illness. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  To find out if Julie’s coaching could help you live a great life despite chronic illness, book your FREE introductory consultation here. (10 available each month).

The Lyme Disease and Autoimmune Encephalitis Connection

In March, I had the privilege of interviewing  Dr. Elena Frid, a dynamic pediatric and adult autoimmune and Lyme disease specialist in New York City. You may recognize Dr. Frid from her bold, high fashion social media posts; she’s on an attention-grabbing mission to bring encouragement to the Lyme community and educate healthcare practitioners about this illness.

Frid began her neurology practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Within a couple of months, she began to see medically complex patients with no clear-cut diagnoses despite seeing multiple specialists at the country’s top healthcare institutions. “Well, what’s going on with [these patients]?” she asked herself.

Frid’s entry into treating Lyme disease is mainly due to the prompting of her patients. They began bringing her articles about the manifestations of Lyme disease and various autoimmune disorders, and she took notice. Then, one patient encouraged her to attend an ILADS (International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society) conference for further education and training – which she did four years ago — and began treating Lyme patients shortly after that.

A protégé of the renowned Lyme expert, Dr. Charles Ray Jones, Frid has become an outspoken advocate for Lyme patients, and she hopes to create a unified voice and bring guidance to practitioners in the community. Here, she shares her insights on Lyme disease treatment, the cutting-edge concept of autoimmune encephalitis, and reviving the idea that we can heal from this illness.

The Lyme Disease and Autoimmune Encephalitis Connection

Jenny Buttaccio (JB): Can you describe the types of patients you see in your practice?

Dr. Elena Frid (EF): Typically, the type of patients we see are young, healthy patients who all of a sudden start getting sick and can’t get better. They start accumulating diagnoses, and these diagnoses should get better with one or two treatment options or medications. But nothing seems to help them. We also see patients who have had Lyme disease for many years and been treated by other physicians in the Lyme community – they’re not getting better or have plateaued. Additionally, we see patients who have been examined by multiple physicians, and they still don’t have a diagnosis.

Symptom wise, we see a lot of cognitive issues and physical symptoms, such as difficulty walking and dizziness, which impedes day-to-day function. We also see a lot of intractable – meaning nothing is helping them — neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression or psychosis. In children, we see OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), tics, or regressed behavior that is not getting better with mainstream treatments.

JB: As a neurologist, what perspective can you shed on Lyme disease that might be different from other doctors?

EF: Lyme is a multisystemic illness, and, in my experience, it primarily affects people neurologically. That’s where a neurologist comes into play with this disorder. A lot of what’s happening with the patient is an autoimmune phenomenon. They have inflammation of their peripheral nerves; they have inflammation of the brain that’s known as “autoimmune encephalitis.”

This subspecialty in neurology is very cutting-edge. It was first described in Japan about ten to 15 years ago when I was in training. Initially, we thought this autoimmune phenomenon occurred mainly in patients that had tumors or certain types of cancers. But, over the years, we realized that only about 40 percent of these patients have some malignancy or tumor. And the rest, 60 percent, we don’t know what’s wrong or why this is happening to them.

What I’ve been noticing in my practice is that these patients have an infection-induced phenomenon. A lot of neurologists and autoimmune neurologists – even the CDC – talk about this infectious process. Why this is a problem is because if you don’t treat the infections in the patient – which is ultimately the driving force in this condition – you will be chasing your tail. Therefore, treating these patients, both for their infectious etiology and the autoimmune phenomenon, has to occur simultaneously. Lyme patients are seriously complicated patients!

JB: Thank you for your interesting explanation on autoimmune encephalitis. When working with complex patients, what advice do you give to them to stay the course of treatment?

EF: What’s the advice that I give to patients? Stay motivated. A lot of what I do for my patients is really therapy to stay with a treatment plan. Patients must realize that one needs to identify every infection that’s going on with them and every disease process that’s happening. If there’s an autoimmune phenomenon, it needs to be recognized, and it has to be treated all at the same time. I’m not a proponent of treating each coinfection (Babesia, Bartonella, etc.) one at a time. In my opinion, they have to be identified and treated all at the same time. For children, as long as I have a good rapport with the parents, and I explain my end result to them, I think it’s a little easier for them to remain motivated. With adults, some of them need help to understand that they may feel worse before they get better.

Obviously, the earlier you treat [Lyme disease], the better the chances are of recovery. I tell my patients they will need to be treated for one to three years. However, there are anomalies where it will only take a couple of months for people to feel well or longer than three years. Certainly, not everyone falls into that time frame.

JB: In what ways are you educating the medical community about Lyme disease?

EF: Part of what I’ve done this year is go back to my alma mater (Robert Wood Johnson Medical School) and tell [students], “You don’t all need to go into treating Lyme disease, but there’s a huge problem, and you’re all being taught wrong.”

At least, tell them there is a controversy and let students dive into that on their own and make up their own minds!

JB: Are there any other remarks or comments you’d like to say about Lyme patients?

EF: If a patient has a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, neurologic issues, or potentially even some learning disabilities, these may actually be symptoms of Lyme disease because it is a multisystemic illness. Keep digging and explore other possibilities. If you feel something is wrong, something is wrong.

Also, it’s very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially if you have had this illness for a long time. What I see on social media or in my office is that people are losing hope. Know the healing process does take time, but there is hope for those battling chronic Lyme disease.

Editor’s Note: If you’re searching for a healthcare provider, please contact ILADS to obtain a list of medical professionals in your area.  

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on June 20, 2017 and was updated on May 20, 2020.


ProHealth Editor and Content Manager Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is a former occupational therapist and certified Pilates instructor whose life was transformed by Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and interstitial cystitis. She is creator of the DVDNew Dawn Pilates: pilates-inspired exercises adapted for people with pelvic pain. Jenny is a health journalist who writes about her journey on The Lyme Road as she continues to pursue her personal healing with the support of her husband and two rescue pups. You can find her on Instagram: @jenny_buttaccio or Twitter: @jennybuttaccio

A New Look at 4 Old Drugs That May Be Effective Fibromyalgia Treatments

Fibromyalgia Treatment Possibilities

It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved any new pharmaceutical treatments for fibromyalgia. While there are at least four new fibromyalgia drugs in the pipeline, it could take years before any of these are available to patients.

In the meantime, the fibromyalgia community desperately needs relief from their daily pain and other symptoms! Fortunately, there are a few researchers who are looking for ways to repurpose older drugs for fibromyalgia.

4 Old Drugs That May Be Effective Fibromyalgia Treatments

These drugs will likely never be the subject of big clinical trials because there’s little profit to be made given their age. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.

In fact, all of the pharmaceuticals mentioned below perform just as well or better than the three drugs currently approved by the FDA to treat fibromyalgia. But since none of these drugs are considered first-line treatments for fibromyalgia, it does take both an open-minded doctor and patient to give them a try.

Ketamine

FDA approved: 1970

Original use: Surgical anesthesia

A growing number of pain clinics are now offering ketamine infusions for chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, but do they actually work? Early research suggests they may – at least temporarily.

In a small Swedish study, 11 fibromyalgia patients were randomly selected to receive either a low-dose ketamine infusion or a placebo infusion. Eight of those patients experienced at least 50% less pain using ketamine.

“There was a significant reduction in pain intensity with the ketamine infusion compared to the saline infusion during and 20-80 minutes after the test period,” reads a research review. “There was a decrease in tenderness and increased endurance.”

Two additional small studies carried out by some of the same researchers verified that ketamine is effective at reducing fibromyalgia pain. Altogether, 57% of the fibromyalgia patients in these three studies experienced at least a 50% reduction in pain from ketamine infusions.

That finding mirrors what I’ve heard from my readers at Prohealth.com and FedUpwithFatigue.com. Anecdotally, ketamine seems to work really well for fibromyalgia pain, but unfortunately the relief doesn’t last. The pain-relieving benefits of ketamine infusions tend to wear off within a few days or weeks, requiring the ongoing expense of another infusion.

But if someone has the disposable income and seeks temporary relief from their pain, ketamine infusions could definitely be an option.

Another alternative is taking ketamine in pill form.

“The use of oral ketamine for [the] treatment of fibromyalgia has not been widely studied; however, one study reported clinically meaningful responses in a small number of patients,” reads this review.

(Read more: Ketamine infusions for chronic pain | A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials)

Memantine

FDA approved: 2003

Original use: Alzheimer’s disease

Sometimes the brain fog caused by fibromyalgia literally can feel like early-stage dementia so it isn’t surprising that an Alzheimer’s drug might be helpful in treating fibro.

Memantine is frequently used for moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease, but two small Spanish studies have shown it may benefit those with fibromyalgia, too. In 2014, researchers from the University of Zarogoza reported memantine significantly reduced fibromyalgia pain when administered to 63 patients at a dosage of 20 mg per day.

Five years later, a second study involving some of the same University of Zarogoza researchers found memantine improved cognitive function, depression and illness severity among 10 fibromyalgia patients.

So how does an Alzheimer’s drug improve fibromyalgia symptoms? Patients with fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s both have been found to have elevated levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain. Excess glutamate also is associated with increased pain. Memantine works by preventing glutamate from adhering to brain receptors, thereby reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.

(Read more: Alzheimer’s drug shows promise for treating fibromyalgia pain)

Metformin

FDA approved: 1995

Original use: Type 2 diabetes

One of the biggest fibromyalgia-related news stories during 2019 was a University of Texas study that proposed using metformin, a popular type 2 diabetes drug, as a fibro treatment.

That study has since been retracted by the journal that published it, but the results still hint at a possible link between blood hemoglobin A1c levels and fibromyalgia pain. As part of the study, patients were given 500 mg of metformin twice a day in combination with “standard treatment” of either an antidepressant (amitriptyline, duloxetine or milnacipran) or an anticonvulsant (gabapentin or pregabalin).

“The subgroup of patients who had undergone pharmacological treatment of [insulin resistance] with metformin, in combination with the [standard treatment], experienced a dramatic decrease in pain scores,” reads the study. “Response to metformin plus [standard treatment] was followed by complete resolution of pain in eight of 16 patients who had been treated with metformin, a degree of improvement never observed before in such a large proportion of fibromyalgia patients subjected to any available treatment.

“In contrast, patients treated with [standard treatment] alone improved, but complete resolution of pain was generally not observed,” the study continues. “Interestingly, some patients responded only to metformin and not to [standard treatment] with [antidepressants] or membrane stabilizing agents.”

Although this study was small, the results are definitely promising! After years of reading fibromyalgia research, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen a study claim 100% pain relief, so the results definitely caught my attention. Hopefully, the researchers behind the study can fix the issues that caused their work to be retracted and repeat their finding with a new trial.

Low-dose naltrexone

FDA approved: 1984

Original use: Alcohol and drug dependence

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) is the dark horse of the fibromyalgia community. Very few patients and doctors know about it, and yet I frequently hear from persons with fibromyalgia who say LDN has changed their lives for the better.

An opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone has been used to treat alcohol and drug dependence since the 1980s at full doses of 50 mg or higher.

At low doses of 1-9 mg, however, “it is hypothesized that [LDN] causes [a] transient blockade of opioid receptors centrally resulting in a rebound of endorphin function which may attenuate pain in fibromyalgia,” reads a 2018 University of Southern California study.

In 2009, then Stanford University researcher Jarred Younger, Ph.D., conducted the first clinical trial of LDN as a fibromyalgia treatment. While the study only involved 10 patients, LDN “reduced fibromyalgia symptoms in the entire cohort, with a greater than 30% reduction of symptoms over placebo,” reads the study. “Side effects (including insomnia and vivid dreams) were rare and described as minor and transient.”

A second, slightly larger Stanford study involving 31 fibromyalgia patients confirmed the results of the initial pilot study.

Since then, a growing number of people are successfully treating their fibro pain with LDN. Anecdotally, I am continually amazed by how well LDN works in some fibromyalgia patients. It’s not unusual for me to hear LDN users say “it’s given my life back to me.”

(Read more: Review of therapeutic utilization of low dose naltrexone)

Now it’s your turn: Have you tried ketamine, memantine, metformin or low-dose naltrexone as a fibromyalgia treatment? Share your experience in the comments below!


Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.


References:

Sörensen J, Bengtsson A, Bäckman E, Henriksson KG, Bengtsson M. Pain Analysis in Patients With Fibromyalgia. Effects of Intravenous Morphine, Lidocaine, and Ketamine. Scand J Rheumatol. 1995;24(6):360-5. doi: 10.3109/03009749509095181.

Littlejohn G, Guymer E. Modulation of NMDA Receptor Activity in Fibromyalgia. Biomedicines. 2017 Jun; 5(2): 15. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines5020015.

Orhurhu V, Orhurhu MS, Bhatia A, Cohen SP. Ketamine Infusions for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Anesth Analg. 2019 Jul;129(1):241-254. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000004185.

Olivan-Blázquez B, et al. Efficacy of Memantine in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Double-Blind, Randomised, Controlled Trial With 6-month Follow-Up. Pain. 2014 Dec;155(12):2517-25. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2014.09.004.

Fayed N, et al. Changes in Metabolites after Treatment with Memantine in Fibromyalgia. A Double‐Blind Randomized Controlled Trial with Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy with a 6‐month Follow‐up. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2014 Nov; 20(11): 999–1007. doi: 10.1111/cns.12314.

Pappolla MA, et al. Is insulin resistance the cause of fibromyalgia? A preliminary report. PLoS One. 2019; 14(5): e0216079. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216079.

The PLOS ONE Editors (2019) Retraction: Is insulin resistance the cause of fibromyalgia? A preliminary report. PLoS ONE 14(12): e0226174. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0226174.

Metyas S, Chen CL, Yeter K, Solyman J, Arkfeld DG. Low Dose Naltrexone in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia. Curr Rheumatol Rev. 2018;14(2):177-180. doi: 10.2174/1573397113666170321120329.

Younger J, Mackey S. Fibromyalgia Symptoms Are Reduced by Low-Dose Naltrexone: A Pilot Study. Pain Med. 2009 May–Jun; 10(4): 663–672. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2009.00613.x.

Younger J, Noor N, McCue R, Mackey S. Low‐dose naltrexone for the treatment of fibromyalgia: Findings of a small, randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, counterbalanced, crossover trial assessing daily pain levels. Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Feb;65(2):529-38. doi: 10.1002/art.37734.

Toljan K, Vrooman B. Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)—Review of Therapeutic Utilization. Med Sci (Basel). 2018 Dec; 6(4): 82. doi: 10.3390/medsci6040082.

The Top 5 Natural Pain Relievers Worth Trying

Walk the aisle in a drug store, and you’ll encounter plenty of pain-relieving drugs like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. The store makes it easy for you to find.

Yet, not everyone wants to, or can, take drugs. Some people may not be comfortable with their side effects. Others may prefer natural alternatives to mitigate pain. Or, the store might just be out of stock. One way or another, when you have muscle aches, soreness, and pain, you need some helpful prospects.

Natural pain-relieving solutions might be the help you’re looking for. The challenge? Finding the best ones so that you can choose the right one for you.

This article brings together five of the top natural pain-relievers available, along with the research behind them and how to get the most from each one.

Natural Pain Relievers

1. Curcumin

Curcumin is the potent compound in turmeric, a common and popular spice well-known for its place in Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine. One of its ancient uses has been for the relief of swelling in joints, muscle pains, and sprains.

Perhaps one of the most widely researched natural substances, numerous studies report it helps control levels of inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-8 (IL-8) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). Cytokines are substances released by immune cells, each with a specific purpose. Injury and illness prompt immune cells to release cytokines that cause inflammation, which can cause the aches and pains you feel after a workout or when sick.

Additional research suggests curcumin helps regulate immune system response to support healing, even in cases of severe infection.

You can find fresh turmeric root and dried ground turmeric in most grocery stores. Cooking with turmeric can add flavor and color to your dishes, however, for maximum effect, you will want to use a curcumin supplement. Curcumin naturally breaks down quickly during digestion. Curcumin supplements featuring solid lipid curcumin particles have shown the greatest bioavailability, according to an article published in Nutrients.

2. CBD Oil

Medical marijuana may have gotten a lot of attention, but CBD from hemp has stolen the spotlight. The pain-relieving power of both comes from the effect of THC and CBD on our endocannabinoid system. THC brings relief from pain, with its well-known side effect of feeling “high,” but CBD brings relief without the high. 

Perhaps a little ironically, it was research into THC that led to the discovery of our endocannabinoid system. Researchers have discovered this system regulates many daily functions such as appetite, immune response, and pain. Our body produces its own natural cannabinoids, which are exactly how, and maybe why, CBD works so well.

Unlike THC, which binds directly to cell receptors, CBD moderates the activity of an enzyme (FAAH) responsible for breaking down your body’s natural cannabinoids. By slowing this process, your body remains better able to regulate inflammation and how you feel pain.

Many people swear by CBD for pain relief. Recent studies support these claims, finding CBD lowers inflammation, eases aches and pains in joints, and improves overall quality of life, even replacing opioids in patients struggling with constant pain.

CBD oil can be taken in a variety of ways: as a capsule, delivered via dropper under the tongue (sublingually), in CBD edible gummies, mixed with water or a drink, and rubbed on your skin.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium may be one of the most overlooked options for natural pain relievers. This simple mineral plays a vital role in more than 300 metabolic functions, relaxes muscles, and regulates nerve conduction, a key pathway of pain. In recent years, studies have revealed magnesium plays an important role in how we experience and feel pain. Low magnesium levels correspond to increased feelings of pain. But many people may be deficient in this critical mineral. 

Diets high in processed foods and soda, medications, and other factors deplete the body of magnesium. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can increase our magnesium intake to ensure you get enough. Magnesium occurs abundantly in grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, especially almonds, spinach, peanuts, black beans, oatmeal, and bananas.

Also, you can take magnesium supplements, although you want to follow the instructions closely to ensure you don’t overdo it. (The RDA for men 31+ is around 400 mg daily. For women, it’s 320 mg.) As a supplement, magnesium comes in different natural forms like:

  • Magnesium citrate, which is highly bioavailable, comes from citric acid and is often recommended by healthcare professionals. 
  • Magnesium glycinate, combining magnesium and the amino acid glycine, it is also highly bioavailable. 
  • Magnesium orotate, most often used by athletes and competitors as a natural performance enhancer.
  • Magnesium L-threonate, with its positive benefits for memory and cognitive health.

4. Boswellia

Also known as Indian frankincense, Boswellia is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and  has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural remedy for a wide range of ailments including:

  • Fevers
  • Coughs
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Skin wounds
  • Sore throats
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Menstrual pain

Additionally, modern studies find Boswellia a reliable reliever of pain, swelling, and inflammation. It inhibits leukotrienes, molecules linked to increased inflammation in the body. Boswellia is also a rich source of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that neutralize free radicals and other toxins that can make inflammation worse.

You can find Boswellia supplements in capsule form, either on its own or combined with other herbs. There are also topical applications you can use to address skin conditions and ease the soreness in muscles and achy joints.

5. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of attention for their support of heart and brain health. Now they are getting attention for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

One study reported omega-3 fish oils worked as well as ibuprofen for relief of achy joints. Together with curcumin, they show promise relieving migraine pain as well.

Omega-3 fish oil supplements have been shown to boost levels of special anti-inflammatory molecules your body naturally produces called specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), according to a study in Circulation Research. These molecules help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, playing a key role in pain management.

By controlling the production of inflammatory molecules, omega-3s support and balance your immune response and the inflammation that goes along with it. The omega-3 fatty acids supply the building blocks, and your body does the rest.

The only way to get omega-3 fatty acids is through your diet. Though your body makes a lot of fatty acids, it doesn’t produce omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These you must get from the food you eat. (It is worth noting that omega-6 fatty acids support production of inflammatory molecules.) 

Fish and other marine life offer the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids. You can get some from other land-based sources like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, but fish oil remains the top source. Fish oil supplements are also one of the easiest and most affordable ways to add omega-3s to your diet. Typically, you can get Omega-3 fish oil supplements in tablet form, although liquid forms are available too.

Summary

Pain, regardless of its cause, negatively impacts your quality of life. It’s no surprise the pain management industry offers so many different options in the form of over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and even opioids. Perhaps due to their side effects and potential risks, it’s also no surprise many people are looking for non-pharmaceutical alternatives.

The five natural pain-relievers presented here offer different approaches to address pain. The research shows that they can take the edge off the pain and bring some degree of comfort.

As with any therapy, you have to find the right one or combination for your own unique situation. If you have any questions or concerns about whether taking these or any supplements are safe, you should always consult with your doctor.


Peter Rufa writes for a wide range of clients but specializes in health. He has written for doctors, supplement providers, healthcare, medical, and fitness organizations and businesses throughout the United States.

References:

Continue reading “The Top 5 Natural Pain Relievers Worth Trying”

When It Comes to Your Illness, Who has a Right to Know?

When you have an invisible illness like ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), it is difficult to know how much you should explain and to whom. Some people choose to keep their illness secret (often to protect their jobs). Others, myself included, tend more toward openness, but there are still questions about whom you tell, how and when you tell them, and what you say.

One of my first encounters with these challenges came shortly after my ME/CFS diagnosis  in 2003. I had been horribly ill for an entire year and had finally found a new doctor who recognized that I had ME/CFS. I was struggling to come to terms with my new status — I was now chronically ill.

Around that time, my husband and I attended my 20-year high school reunion. Although I was excited to reconnect with old friends (this was before Facebook!), I was also very nervous. A couple of my closest friends whom I’d stayed in touch with knew about my illness, but most of my old classmates did not. I found it very awkward when someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years said, “So, what have you been up to?”

So what did I say? Everyone else was chatting about careers, vacations, etc. It just didn’t feel right to say, “I spent the past year lying on the couch horribly ill.” It was a festive occasion, and I didn’t want to bring people down. On the other hand, it felt like I was lying to smile and pretend everything was OK (plus, I had to sit a lot, couldn’t drink, and had to leave early). At the time, I didn’t even yet feel comfortable myself with my diagnosis, and I found it very difficult to explain to others. I ended up just stumbling through the evening, explaining to closer friends, sticking to safe subjects like my kids with people I knew less well, and feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing.

Now, 12 years later, I am much more at ease with my illness and with explaining it to people. I am looking for understanding, not pity, so what I say sets the tone. Although these are very personal decisions and everyone is different, here are some guidelines I have come up with for myself that have worked well:

What to Say to Others About Your Chronic Illness

1. Close Family and Friends

Those closest to me knew I’d been sick with some mystery illness for over a year, so they were eager to learn of my diagnosis. I sent out a group e-mail to my family and closest friends, explaining that I had a diagnosis but it was a complicated illness, so e-mail was the best way to explain it to everyone at once. Some of the points I included:

  • The various names for the illness: CFS, ME, and at the time, CFIDS.
  • It is an immune system disorder and has some similar symptoms to MS, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases.
  • My main ME/CFS symptoms include: post-exertional relapses, sleep dysfunction, extreme fatigue, flu-like aches, and recurring sore throats.
  • Cause unknown, no cure yet, but there are some treatments.
  • I would need to change my lifestyle: restrict activity, stay within my limits, don’t overdo, rest more, avoid stress.
  • Resources for anyone who wanted to know more – links to websites and recommendation of a book I’d read.
  • I thanked everyone for their concern and support since I’d gotten sick.

I received a lot of positive, supportive responses from friends, and many of them thanked me for explaining. That e-mail gave me a foundation for moving forward. The people closest to me now understood (to some degree) what I was dealing with and knew to expect that I would have to be careful not to overdo.

2. Casual Friends or Acquaintances

It gets more difficult with people you don’t see often (as in my reunion) or those whom you aren’t as close to. So, what do you say when you run into the parent of one of your kid’s friends, an old friend you haven’t seen in years, or to the person asking you to volunteer for their charity event? If they ask how I’ve been, or seem interested in catching up, then I will say something like, “I have an immune system disorder that can be quite debilitating, but I have found some treatments that help and have learned to live with it.”

Whether I explain more or not depends on the person’s response: glazed eyes and silence and I’ll just change the subject. If someone is truly interested, though, I will tell them more or answer their questions. I might explain how the illness has affected me (briefly) or that I can’t stand for long because my blood pressure drops and my heart rate goes up (these are measurable things easily understood by anyone). I try to be very matter-of-fact and positive, to put the other person at ease.

Many people, after hearing that vague first line, will ask the name of the illness. Always a tough one with ME/CFS! I will usually say something like, “Here in the U.S., it is often called chronic fatigue syndrome, but in the rest of the world, it is known as myalgic encephalomyelitis.” Why even mention the dreaded CFS name? As much as I hate it, it has become somewhat recognizable in the past few years here. By explaining it and using the name, I am helping to educate people that it is a serious disease and not as trivial as it sounds.

If I am responding to a specific request, say, to volunteer for a PTA function or participate in a charity run or even to come to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, I will explain what is pertinent to the request. I might say, “I have a chronic illness, and I need to nap in the afternoon” or “ I have a chronic immune disorder and have very low stamina” (or can’t stand for long, can’t exercise, etc.).

It has taken me many years to become comfortable with these kinds of situations – who to tell, how and when, and how much to say. Of course, there are still some awkward moments here and there, but it is much easier now that I am accustomed to life with a chronic illness myself. Having some go-to phrases and explanations that I can rely on has really helped. When the people in my life understand my limits, it is a whole lot easier and more comfortable for both me and for them.

What do you tell others?

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on October 31, 2015 and was updated on May 14 , 2020.


Suzan Jackson is a freelance writer who has had ME/CFS for 13 years. Both of her sons also got ME/CFS, but one is now fully recovered after 10 years of illness and the other is in college. She writes two blogs: Learning to Live with ME/CFS (with an emphasis on LIVE!) and Book By Book. 

10 Ways to Prove that Fibromyalgia Is a Real and Serious Disease

Reprinted with the kind permission of Cort Johnson and HealthRising.org.

Doctors sloughing you off? Friends don’t understand what you’re dealing with? Studies finding problems with the pain producing parts of the central nervous system in fibromyalgia (FM) date back well over ten years. They indicate that FM is a biological disease, yet the questions about how real or serious it is still persist in parts of the medical community and the public.

The fact that so many websites still feel compelled to emphasize that yes, fibromyalgia actually is a real condition indicate that the FM field itself and people with this disease still, at times, struggle against outmoded stereotypes.

In its very title, a 2016 scientific Journal article, “Not the Last Word: Fibromyalgia is Real“, made it clear the controversy over FM in the scientific community lingered. In 2017, Medical News Today asserted that the #1 FM myth in the public arena was that somehow it’s not real. The Cleveland Clinic gave its take on the fibromyalgia reality question that year, as well, and just last year, VeryWell Health felt it was time to once again ask: “Is Fibromyalgia Real?“.

It’s frustrating to have to battle ignorance as well as a difficult disease. To help out with that, here are ten reasons, all based on scientific studies, which you can use to convince skeptics in your circle (including your doctor) that FM is not only a real disease but a serious one to boot.

#1. Very Painful!

The third myth that Medical News Today pointed out was that “the pain (in FM) is minimal and does not affect daily life”.

Oh contraire. Studies indicate that fibromyalgia is actually one of the more painful diseases there are. A large North American study which contrasted the pain levels in juvenile FM patients with those of young people with other rheumatic diseases found it was no contest: pain levels were significantly higher, and functioning and well-being levels were significantly lower in the kids with FM.

One website that cites seven distinct kinds of pain found in FM indicates what a pain artist the disease is. It’s not easy, after all, for a single disease to produce seven distinct kinds of pain, but if you really want to know about pain, you have to go to FM patients themselves. Check out some of their descriptions of pain:

  • “blood vessels feel like they’re on fire”
  • “It feels as if someone is blowing up a balloon in my head and it’s about to explode”
  • “pain that’s like fire ants are swarming through my veins and biting, along the way spreading their venom and pure burning inflammation”
  • “I feel as if I have been thrown off the Empire State Building with resulting crushed bones and then had my entire body roasted by a blowtorch and then submerged in subarctic water”
  • “someone spread finely crushed glass into all my muscles (and then I moved)”
  • “it feels like an army of thugs is belting me continuously with baseball bats”
  • “like little bugs are taking little tiny bites into my nerves and muscle fibers”.

From “In Their Own Words: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Patients Describe Their Symptoms“.

That sounds pretty real to me. It’s just the beginning of the story, though.

#2. Central Sensitization Disorder Means Widespread Pain and Trouble

Fibromyalgia has been called the prototypical central sensitization disorder, but what does that mean? It turns out that it means a lot of trouble. The fact that major pain producing pathways in the nervous system have gone on hyper-alert means the pain for FM patients isn’t confined to their hand or their arm or their leg – it’s widespread. In fact, the 2010 criteria for FM require that people with FM experience widespread pain.

Plus, the pain pathways in the spinal cords and brains of FM patients can become so hypersensitive to stimuli that even a touch, a bright light, or an innocuous odor can produce pain.

Unfortunately, it’s not just pain that’s widespread…

#3. Widespread Symptoms Mean Trouble Virtually Everywhere

Pain is the just beginning of the many issues that people with FM typically face.  FM also produces high rates of fatigue and problems with sleep and cognition. While the physical manifestations of the disease outweigh the psychological ones,  depression and anxiety may be present as well.

So, besides experiencing widespread pain, a typical person with FM feels sleep-deprived, fatigued, experiences difficulty thinking and may be dealing with depression or anxiety. Still think FM is a nothing disease?

#4. Quality of Life Often Severely Impacted

Studies indicate that even by the standards of the medical profession, people with FM are having a tough time.  A review of dozens of studies found that FM had a similar or greater impact on both the physical and mental health of people with FM, when compared to people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, myofascial pain syndrome, primary Sjögren’s syndrome, and others.

Another study found lower health-related quality of life scores in FM than in people with rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis, and a 2018 study found that fibromyalgia impacts a person’s quality of life as severely as does multiple sclerosis. That paper stated: “FM is a disorder that ‘in itself’ can have a devastating impact on an individual’s life.”  

If you haven’t gotten by now that FM is a real and serious disease, I don’t know what it’s going to take, but there’s more.

#5. Can Be Quite Disabling

It’s difficult to understand how a “fake” disease could produce disability. A bit of fatigue, some discomfort, worry and anxiety – yes – but high rates of unemployment and/or disability? No.

Fibromyalgia does, though. A 325-person study found that over 50% of FM patients were either on sick leave or not working and that 23% had some degree of permanent work disability pension. In a study of the costs of chronic pain in the European Union, FM was found to produce the highest unemployment rate the most disability claims, and the most days absent from work of any pain condition.

That’s pretty bad, but it doesn’t get any better. It turns out that FM is a challenging disease to treat as well.

#6. Not Easy To Treat

If a treatment works, you’re going to keep taking it, right? The fact that three FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia exist might seem like a cause for celebration, but no one should think FM patients are on easy street. Far from it.

The truth is that the drugs approved for FM work well in only a relatively small subset of patients. A large year-long Israeli study (n=@4,000 patients) found that less than 30% of people with FM filled their prescriptions twice and less than 10% were described as very adherent.

A study of juvenile FM patients over time found that youngsters’ sense of well-being tended to remain the same over time or worsen, and concluded that “the symptoms of juvenile pediatric fibromyalgia syndrome remained persistent and disabling for many patients.” In a survey, less than half of Canadian rheumatologists agreed that any of the current treatments for FM were effective.

While treatment programs can certainly help fibromyalgia patients, their outcomes tend to be modest. One recent review, “What You Can Do for Your Fibromyalgia Patient“, advocated a “multifaceted, long-term strategy” that was focused not on relieving pain but on simply making a person with FM more functional.

High rates of widespread pain, hypersensitivity to stimuli, fatigue, sleep and cognition problems, low quality of life, often disabling, difficult to treat: how much worse could it get? How about a tendency to come attached with other diseases as well?

#7. High Comorbid Disease Rate

It turns out that because FM likes to cluster with other diseases, people with FM often face other health problems as well. Check out the long (but probably not complete) list of other diseases that FM patients have an increased risk of picking up somewhere along the line.

They include: chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines and headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint syndrome, adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis.

#8. Fibromyalgia Makes Other Diseases Worse

Then there’s the flip side of the coin: people with chronic pain conditions have an increased risk of coming down with fibromyalgia. That’s called “secondary fibromyalgia” and when that happens – watch out!

One large study of people with rheumatic disorders found that having FM as well as another rheumatic disorders “had a remarkable impact on the severity of symptoms“.  The impact was so large that the authors reported that FM essentially took over, with FM now becoming the patients’ main concern.

The same generally held true for migraine. Migraine patients with FM had worse headaches, suffered from more disability, had more problems with depression, and the risk of suicide was increased compared than people with migraine only.

The economic impact appears to be equally large with the medical costs of rheumatoid arthritis patients with FM nearly double (@ $19,000/year) that of RA patients without FM (@ $10,000/year) – which brings up economics.

#9. High Economic Costs

Given that fibromyalgia is believed to affect from 4-10 million people in the U.S, the economic costs it imposes are, not surprisingly, large.

One review, “The Iceberg Nature of Fibromyalgia Burden: The Clinical and Economic Aspects”, reports that the clinical and economic costs of FM are comparable to such major and well-known diseases as diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis. It states that the mean annual direct medical costs of FM range from US $2,274 to $9,573 or more. That doesn’t include costs due to lost productivity and disability which could be 3-4x’s higher.

#10. Ignorant Doctors Make Everything Worse

We’ve established that FM is bear of a disease, but what makes everything worse, and what can make every a visit to the doctor like tiptoeing through a minefield, are doctors who don’t get it, and don’t want to hear about it.

Good and caring doctors are certainly out there, but rheumatologists, in particular, are notorious for their aversion for treating fibromyalgia patients. A recent Canadian survey indicated that many doctors don’t even know how to diagnose FM.

“In general, the results are unsurprising and reflect the lack of knowledge about this common pain condition. Many patients who are referred to me with chronic pain problems are wrongly diagnosed with fibromyalgia or are wrongly diagnosed as not having fibromyalgia.”

Another stated:

“I think most physicians are aware of fibromyalgia, although many still don’t believe in it and communicate this [lack of belief] to their patients.

A survey of Canadian rheumatologists found that 30% believed FM was a psychosocial – not a medical – condition, and only 27% believed FM could get so bad as to stop someone from working. Despite the fact that FM falls under their specialty, half of them stated they would refuse consultations with FM patients. Given that most rheumatologists apparently threw the survey in the trash (42% response rate), this was probably a significant undercount.

Conclusion

By all markers – symptom severity, the multiple symptoms the disease produces, quality of life measures, disability, its many comorbid diseases, economic impact, etc. – fibromyalgia is clearly a real and serious disorder that has the ability to impact virtually every area of one’s life.

Many doctors, unfortunately, choose to ignore the evidence before them. It’s not just doctors, however. Everyone – patients, doctors, researchers – would be helped by a better understanding of this disease. Unfortunately, the largest medical funder in the world, the National Institutes of Health, apparently doesn’t believe FM is a serious disorder either: it spends about $12 a year per patient in FM research – one of the lowest ratios of any disease.


About the Author: ProHealth is pleased to share information from Cort Johnson.  Cort has had myalgic encephalomyelitis /chronic fatigue syndrome for over 30 years. The founder of Phoenix Rising and Health Rising, he has contributed hundreds of blogs on chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and their allied disorders over the past 10 years. Find more of Cort’s and other bloggers’ work at Health Rising.