I truly believe in using food, exercise, and things from nature to heal the body.
Finally, I have had some pain relief! If you have been following my story the last several months, you know I have been suffering with some acute pain. I am happy to report that I have not had numbness or pain in my arm now for three whole weeks!! Zip. Zilch. Nada. That’s not to say all is well or I have any answers. Really, more questions. But for now I am enjoying the long-overdue break from my neck/shoulder/arm pain. 🙂
“Relief is a wonderful emotion, highly underrated. In fact I prefer it to elation or joy. Relief lets the air out of the Tire of Pain.” ~ Adriana Trigiani
“Sleep is the Golden Chain that binds health and our bodies together.”
I fully intended to get this blog posted back in May during Better Sleep month but, as is often the case, life got in the way. I have struggled for years with getting good quality sleep. There are nights where I just cannot fall asleep, and others where I just can’t stay asleep. While the ideal amount is between 7-9 hours for most, I still average about 6 hours a night. More than 7 hours of sleep, and I feel out of sorts. Lately I have been much better about sleeping through the night, since incorporating some simple strategies.
Those who suffer withfibromyalgiasyndromeknow how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleep disturbances are one of the common symptoms associated with the condition, which then compounds the daytime fatigue. But allowing the body to rest and recharge at night is so critical to everyone’s physical and mental health, not just those with fibromyalgia.
“Sleep is the Golden Chain that binds health and our bodies together.”
~ Thomas Dekker
That old saying “early to bed, early to rise makes your body healthy, wealthy, and wise” is more than just an old wives’ tale. Here’s a list of health benefits from getting adequate sleep:
It can lower your risk for obesity and help you lose weight
It can decrease inflammation
It allows the body to repair itself from stress and ultraviolet exposure
“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” ― Arianna Huffington
Getting those Zzzz’s
While you sleep, your body is working to heal itself, build up your immune system, and recharge your brain cells. Now the struggle is that people with fibromyalgia have trouble falling and staying asleep. We often don’t reach that deep sleep stage required for all of the restorative health benefits. There are a myriad of underlining conditions that could be preventing you from getting a good night’s rest:
Health Issues such as allergies, sleep apnea, asthma, narcolepsy, or hormone imbalance
Physical Issues such as chronic or acute pain, or certain prescription drugs
Mental Issues such as depression, stress, or anxiety
Environmental Issues such as too much light in your room, drinking alcohol or caffeine, or performing shift work
So assuming you don’t need to have a medical condition checked out, how do you improve your sleep, to reap those benefits? Getting into a routine helps. Here are some simple strategies that might help you establish that routine:
Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
Set a regular bedtime routine.
Curb the electronics in the bedroom, that is no TV, iPad, etc. before bed.
Keep your bedroom comfortable, quiet, dark and cool.
Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime, and don’t eat 3 hours before bed.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Do not use tobacco.
“Golden Slumbers fill your eyes. Smiles await when you rise.” ~ The Beatles
As we age we need less sleep, but we still need good quality sleep. Uninterrupted sleep. One of the best habits is to take a warm bath or shower before bed. This raises the body temperature, and then allows it to cool down faster, which helps you reach that deep sleep. Couple that with some aromatherapy, and you should feel relaxed and calm for bedtime. I developed my routine after reading Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive that discussed redefining success and details her wake-up call. She has another book called The Sleep Revolution that undoubtedly has more information on the subject of sleep as well.
Here are some of my favorite bedtime and bath aids:
Lavender is an herb that is both beautiful and beneficial.
As November is Sleep Comfort Month, I thought I would write one more post about sleep. I have written about my fibromyalgia and difficulties sleeping (here and here). I have various sleep strategies I use, including using lavender oil or spray. So recently at lunch with a few girlfriends, one of them mentioned she hadn’t slept through the night since March due to various things going on in her life (stress!). Someone said, “Have you tried Ambien?” It’s really a shame that some people think first about a prescription medication to mask the problem, rather than trying easy at-home strategies first. I mentioned Lavender, Melatonin and Valerian root to her as a natural alternatives to try, but my favorite is still lavender.
There’s an Irish proverb that goes, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”
It’s no secret that we live in a world of always-on, information overload. I started this post earlier this week while I was out of town for work, as I was caught up in a self-imposed state of sleep deprivation. Easy to do because: 1) I don’t sleep well when not in my own bed and 2) I am not receiving the evil eye from my husband for spending too much time on my phone or tablet. But yet thanks to our ‘smart’ devices, our attention span is now worse than a goldfish. Smart devices making us dumb and taking us away from precious sleep, both directly and indirectly. So what can we do?
A little more about me today. If you are familiar with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, you might have heard the term “fibro-fog” describing those periods where you can’t think right, and sometimes suffer memory loss or have difficulty concentrating. It is a very real thing for us fibro-mates. I have experienced this feeling more times than I care to admit, and to this day my memory is not as good as it used to be. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2000, and have probably have had it since I was a teen.
I have long considered myself a “highly functioning” fibromyalgia sufferer because no matter how crappy I felt, I have always tried to push through. I rarely take sick days so if I do, you know it’s bad. There have been plenty of “mack truck mornings” in the last 15 years, but THANKFULLY those days are fewer and fewer for me.
I still have flares occasionally, but they are not as bad or as long lasting as they once were. After years of various medications and trial and error, I believe I have found what works best for me. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I have not received any sort of compensation from any of the people/sites I mention later on. I have just done lots of research and been to my fair share of doctors. But I am a firm believer in a more natural approach as I seem to have severe reactions to many medications I am prescribed. I believe in letting the body heal itself – this is what works for me. These are my opinions.
A few weeks ago I remembered a time when I was 16 that we thought I had mononucleosis. I was suffering from extreme fatigue and had lost a lot of weight. My mother took me to the doctor where they ran tests for mono, strep, etc., and treated me with ampicillin for some infection I cannot recall. At the time I was a vegetarian too, and I can remember my mother telling me that if the doctor thought that was why I was sick, I was going to have to eat meat again! I ended up quitting my part-time job for several months due to the fatigue. I think this illness at 16 must have been my trigger for fibromyalgia, or the first bout I had with it.
About 8 years ago I heard about Dr. Murphree from a friend whose wife also has FMS. I looked him up and signed up for his email newsletter. I listened to a few of his teleconferences and started researching vitamins and minerals that I needed. I ditched all of the medications and started taking various supplements morning and night. This seemed to help, but I was starting to experience more frequent digestive issues and had a series of health issues from 2011-2012. In 2012, one of Dr. Murphree’s newsletters led me to JJ Virgin and her book The Virgin Diet. Now I have always been relatively slender and I work out regularly, but the premise of her book – ditch 7 foods for 7 days and lose 7 pounds – intrigued me.
It wasn’t so much the possibility of losing weight as it was finding those foods which trigger bad reactions and are most likely to cause the inflammation in my body. Since my teens and 20s I have had various reactions to what I thought was yeast – breads, cakes, and later wheat beers. Turns out it was probably the gluten and sugar. So I did the trial and found that wheat, sugar, and dairy are definitely triggers for me. For the most part, I have ditched gluten and dairy, but I do occasionally cheat. And my stomach will pay the price.
So what has helped me lift the “fog” and keep my symptoms at bay:
1. Exercise. I exercise daily if possible, usually first thing in the morning. I walk on the treadmill or elliptical, walk the dogs, do yoga or pilates, and use light weights. I aim for 30 minutes a day for at least 6 days. There’s usually one day a week that I am so tired I cannot get up to work out during the work week.
2. Diet. As I said I avoid certain foods and artificial ingredients. I also prepare most of my own meals and rarely eat out. Sundays are a big meal prep day for me. And they wear me out. But it’s worth it.
a. My breakfast is usually a protein smoothie with almond or coconut milk, pea protein powder, fruit, kale, and chia or flax seeds stirred in at the end. Also 1-2 cups of black coffee.
b. My lunch is usually chicken/veggies/rice or a chicken salad or leftovers or hummus and veggies.
c. Dinner usually contains lean protein, veggies, and rice.
d. I drink a lot of water. Hot water with lemon. Iced water – plain or fruit-infused.
e. I usually allow myself some dark chocolate or homemade protein balls or granola bar, and usually almonds and fruit are my snacks during the day.
f. At night I sometimes drink hot herbal tea to help with digestion.
3. Accountability. I use a FitBit fitness tracker and MyFitnessPal app. These two items help me be accountable to myself.
4. Supplements. At night I have reduced the number of supplements I take, as I don’t feel the body can absorb all of those things and it is better to get them through your food. I take Calcium + Vitamin D (otherwise I wake up with ferocious leg cramps, plus it’s good for my osteoporosis), Fish Oil (to help with the inflammation and brain health), and a probiotic (for digestive health).
5. Not trying to do it all. I have had someone else clean my house since right after being diagnosed. I don’t get my nails done. I don’t eat out. I would spend a day or two in bed after cleaning my house, so this is my splurge. My husband and kids do their own laundry and help with chores around the house. They understand my condition and don’t demand things of me – I am the one putting pressure on myself to try to do it all.
6. Attitude. Again, I have had my fair share of being sad and depressed about feeling like crap and not being “superwoman,” but attitude is a powerful thing in the battle of one’s health. So I choose JOY. I smile. I try to always believe that my glass is half full.
Notice I didn’t mention sleep, because that is one area where I am still lacking. Six hours of sleep is a great night for me, but five hours is the norm. And it’s even better when I can sleep straight through. This is an area I am working on, but for now life is good.
I hope this helps give you some ideas about what has helped me with my FMS struggles. (Click the links for additional reading.) Do you have other things that have helped you?