Meditation and Relaxation for Fibromyalgia

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I’ve been meditating for about a month. What a great relaxation technique and so simple to do.  Why haven’t I considered meditation before? Wow, I’ve been missing out on something so simple to do that has a great impact on fibro pain.

Meditation keeps me focused and on track with my online business too.  Several times a day I take a few minutes to relax, meditate and re-charge.  I return to work refreshed and energized.

There are many ways to meditate. For me, it is important to not feel constrained by location or position.  It all depends on how I’m feeling. If I’m relatively pain free and limber, I might sit in the floor with crossed legs and straight back. More likely I’ll sit on the floor with my back resting on the wall.  Or, if I’m in a lot of pain I’ll just sit comfortably in a chair or on the edge of the bed.

I also like to add aroma therapy to my sessions, either by applying a mix of essential oils to my skin or by putting dried lavender nearby.

Any thoughts about meditation techniques? Any stories to share?

Broken Toe Makes Fibro Pain Kick in Again

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Wow, I was getting much too cocky!  I thought because my fibromyalgia pain had improved more than 50% there would be no going back to the daily agony.

Well, that’s not true.

On Monday I broke and cut my toe. I dropped a heavy stapler on the end, splitting the nail horizontally and pulling it up from the nail bed. And, the bone snapped in two!  (Yes, it’s really crooked and sticks up at an odd angle). The toe has been painful to move, bleeding heavily, and impossible to put into a shoe. Because I have to walk my two crazy terriers–while limping and moaning down the street to the dog lot–the pain has spread from my foot to the rest of my body.  Here comes that familiar cycle of pain…

If I need to leave the house I gingerly insert my toes into a flat sandal so that I don’t mash the offending appendage.  Thank goodness we are having a weirdly warm March, with temperatures in the 50s instead of the 30s.  Last night, though, the torrential rain felt icy and made my toe ache. The wretched dogs, who could care less about my injury, dawdled, whined and procrastinated while I huddled under the trees. Why do I have two terriers?

I am confident that as my toe heals and I stop limping the fibro pain will recede.  I’m not depressed by the increase in overall agony, just very surprised. Never get overly confident. It takes a sharp reminder now and then to keep this in mind.

An Eggless World for the Allergy Ridden

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When I was an art history professor at a small liberal arts college near Philadelphia, I would invite my seminar participants for a pot-luck dinner several times each semester. The students came from a wide variety of backgrounds and so they arrived at my house with an eclectic group of dishes. We gobbled tiny, spicy chicken meatballs made by a young man from Mumbai, inhaled strong, sweet tea brewed by a young woman from Thailand, and forked in gobbs of Slippery Ham
Pie, brought by a local student with Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

I always cooked something I thought might appeal to the group — often a recipe I had discovered in my travels.  These offerings usually focused on meat or seafood, and I soon noticed that the vegetarians not only couldn’t eat my food, they couldn’t consume most of the dishes brought to the table. The vegans had the fewest options and often left hungry.

One semester there were two rail thin, young women in the seminar who had become vegans only after leaving home for college. They seemed unable to cook and bake for themselves, even though they lived in an off campus apartment with a kitchen. They too often left our pot lucks hungry and we discovered that during the week they lived on peanut butter and bananas–something they didn’t have to cook and a meatless option they could pick up at the college dining hall. So, the group decided to teach them how to make nourishing, tasty food they could consume in their apartment, rather than forage in the cafeteria where there were few options. We came up with a recipe booklet with more than 20 dishes that had no milk, eggs or meat in the ingredients list.  One of the girls mentioned that she missed mayonnaise, something she had dearly loved in her past, carnivore life. During the following week, the fellow from Mumbai, who had not grown up eating mayo, took up the task of inventing a reasonable substitute. He lived at home with his parents, and with the help of his sister he came up with this recipe:

Egg Free Mayo: Makes about 1 cup of Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup of Water

1 teaspoon (or to taste) of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon of White Wine Vinegar, or any other type you like, as long as there are no additives

4 teaspoons of white rice flour (as finely ground as possible) I put my flour in a coffee grinder and re-grind

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, or to taste. I’ve found that Dijon mustard from the jar works well too

1 tsp arrowroot

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum, as long as you aren’t allergic to corn.

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

If you want to counter the tart quality of the recipe you can add a tiny bit of agave nectar, a 1/4 teaspoon of Truvia, or you can add palm sugar to taste. Like the other sweeteners, the palm sugar will not raise your blood sugar level.

To Make the Mayo:

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend for several minutes, until it emulsifies and thickens.  You may add more olive oil through the top of the blender cap, if you would like to alter the consistency.  Store the mayo in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  I’ve found that plastic containers impart a flavor to the mayonnaise.

I’ve discovered that I am allergic to eggs, milk and gluten. Now that I’ve cut these things out of my life, my fibro pain has lessened by 50%!  Food allergies are  common contributors to fibro pain, so it is important to get tested in order to pinpoint the foods that might cause a flare up, or worse. Whether you are allergic to eggs or not, the mayo recipe is worth trying, since it is probably much lower in calories and certainly lower in cholesterol than traditional mayonnaise.

Overcoming Blocks For Maximum Wellness: Breaking Away From The Herd

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Since I’ve begun to wean negative people from my life I’ve found that I’m careening down the road to wellness at a break neck pace. One of the major roadblocks to health, for me, was the adversarial attitude of those who were threatened by my determination to live the best life possible.  While it is true that it isn’t feasible to avoid all negativity–that received from spouses and other relatives, or employers–I’ve tried to limit contact with naysayers and focus on spending time with those who embrace life.  Many of the non supporters of my new-found health program have been purged from my life–cut from the herd–and I haven’t looked back.

When I began to consult Dr. William Pawluk, a naturopathic doctor, I met with immediate resistance from many of my friends. Why couldn’t I make do with my Internist? Why did I want to stop taking prescription painkillers? Even though it wasn’t expressed to me directly, it became apparent that many of my pals wanted me to just live with fibromyalgia and not burden them with my happiness and enthusiasm. They missed the “old Pam.” Well I don’t!

When I added pulsed magnetic therapy to my treatment plan, the negativity increased.  Now, most of my friends thought I had gone crazy and were talking behind my back about the “health cult” I’d joined. The magnets seemed too “fringy,” and they wondered why I would be foolish enough to buy into something they had never heard of in order to deal with pain.  It’s just pain after all.  Most pain can be alleviated by taking a prescription drug, right?  One co-worker, who also suffers from fibromyalgia, actually asked me if I thought I was “too good” to visit a regular internist.  When it came to fibro issues, why couldn’t I just live with them like she did?  I finally understood.  These “friends” were not so much against the new therapies as they were threatened by my improved health and my new, positive attitude. Two acquaintances actually stopped communicating. Thank goodness.

I now take a wide array of vitamins, minerals and other supplements, and I also limit the prescription drugs I consume each day.  I’ve cut out all pain pills, mood stabilizers and antidepressants, and just rely on a few meds that I need for an under active thyroid and low cortisol levels.  I sleep with my C-Pap machine, exercise as much as I can, eat healthy food, and feel better and better. I have more energy than I’ve enjoyed in decades.  Best of all, I’ve come out of the fog.

I no longer care what other people think about my health decisions. I’m forging ahead with my more natural therapies and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the future. I’ll be testing my endurance and pain levels this fall when I go off to Rome for a few weeks to recharge.  My old “friends” will be sitting on their decks hashing over their latest pain flare with a cup of tea in hand, while I’m relaxing on a Roman balcony–hoisting a glass of wine to salute the day’s activities. Life is good.

Eating Gluten Free To Help Alleviate Fibromyalgia Pain

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120w x 600h Gluten-Free Mall for Gluten-Free Foods

About one year ago I cut gluten out of my life.  It was a difficult decision at the time, since my husband and I love to cook, travel and collect recipes, and make homemade pasta and bread.  I was not happy about the prospect of never again biting into a buttery croissant, or a thick, yeasty slice of homemade bread, or tucking into a steaming bowl of pasta.  I was miserable, though, and so I decided to give gluten-free eating a 2 week test. If I didn’t notice a change in the intensity of my fibro pain or the capricious nature of my digestion, I’d go back to eating all the things I love.

I cut gluten out on a Saturday.  By Monday my digestion had improved. I had far less gut pain and the horrible, raw burning sensation I had long blamed on diverticulitis had all but disappeared.  I itched less too!!  For decades my ears, eyes, hands and feet itched and burned, and sometimes I felt prickly all over.  I had learned to live with all of these issues and didn’t think they were all that bad.  How sad.

The best thing that happened to me was that my brain fog started to clear in a few days, and in about 2 weeks I was 50 percent less “foggy.”  My eyesight also improved dramatically. I attribute this to less inflammation, which must have made my eyes feel “gummy” and out of focus.  My fibro pain was also less intense.

None of these symptoms cleared up completely by cutting out gluten, but they certainly improved to the degree that I haven’t returned to eating gluten laden foods.  I have cheated only twice. One slip happened during a trip to Paris when I watched my husband eat a crispy, crunchy, buttery croissant each morning, while I made do with a little fruit.  The smell of his croissants  drove me crazy, but I was determined not to succumb.  By the end of our two-week visit, though, I broke.  On our final day in Paris I ate one of the coveted pastries for breakfast and savored every bite.  I slowly nipped off very tiny pieces and chewed them carefully, rolling the bits around in my mouth to extract all the flavor possible. I loved it.

By that afternoon I felt as if I had swallowed a brick. My gut hurt and I was nauseous.  By that evening, when I was supposed to pack for our return trip, I couldn’t move.  What I didn’t understand at the time was that I had not only reacted to the gluten, but I had also compounded my problem with the butter in the croissant.  I would later find that I am allergic to milk and eggs and so the butter must have contributed to my pain.   To make matters worse, at lunch I ordered a buttery 3 egg omelette in a futile attempt to soothe my stomach!

If I had any doubts about my sensitivity to gluten I was completely convinced at Christmas time.  At a friend’s party I ate several foods that I was assured included no flour.  Within the hour I felt horrible, and the hostess confessed that wheat flour was used in all her recipes.  She thought it was silly to quit eating gluten, and believed that people just couldn’t be allergic, or sensitive to foods like bread and pasta!  Needless to say our friendship has cooled.

Now that I’m gluten, egg and milk free my life has changed dramatically.  I have far less pain, the sores in my mouth have disappeared, the itching is gone, and I feel almost fog free.  I usually prepare lean meat or fish, and  fresh fruits and vegetables for my meals, but I like to eat crackers now and then with my goat and sheep cheese.  I also like to indulge in pasta once in a while.  I’ve spent countless hours in local food stores and online, searching for gluten-free prepared foods.  I’ve found that the Gluten Free Mall offers many products at a reasonable price, and best of all everything is guaranteed gluten-free.  You can purchase what you want from one site and have it delivered to your door. I now save hours not driving from store to store reading labels. Check out their products by clicking on the picture at the top of this post and see what you think.

Top of the Line C-Pap Machine for Sleep Apnea

Dieter has arrived!  I knew I would be jealous, but I had no idea just how much I would covet my husband’s new C-Pap machine.  It is manufactured by Fisher and Paykel, the company that makes high-end dishwashers and refrigerators.  He is sleek, silver in color, capable of telling time, wakes up the user with an alarm, and he also has a smart card that can be removed and inserted into a USB drive to send information to the company or to your MD.  Just pop the card in your computer and they can tell how often you use the machine and whether you are using it for a sufficient number of hours each night.  Since Dieter automatically decides how much air pressure you require, minute by minute, the smart card also lets them know the state of your breathing and severity of the apnea.   The machine also has a built-in humidification system, which is easy to use and is a standard feature.  And, you can heat the humidified air if you like.  Dieter also has a digital clock and alarm!

I’ve been reading more about sleep apnea since my husband was diagnosed and there is a link, sometimes, to fibromyalgia.  This is something I’ll explore in my future posts. If you snore a lot and if you feel exhausted when you wake in the morning, you should be tested for sleep apnea, a life threatening condition.

Sleep Apnea Conquered with a C-Pap Machine

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HENRY WHEN HE FIRST CAME INTO MY LIFE

I’ve been using a C-Pap machine for ten years to deal with my sleep apnea. When I was tested in a sleep lab I found that I stopped breathing more than 30 times per hour!  No wonder I dreamed about oxygen bottles all the time and could no longer drive without falling asleep. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t make the 40 mile commute without nodding off.  Yes,  I developed narcolepsy and there just wasn’t enough coffee in the world to keep me awake for the long drive home.   When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday that year I begged for a portable oxygen bottle–and meant it!

Then my pulmonologist prescribed my machine, or “Henry” as I fondly call him.  He’s been my faithful companion for a decade and I’ve returned to driving with confidence.  I love Henry.  Now he’s getting a companion. This afternoon a medical supply company rep will deliver “Dieter,” my husband’s brand new friend and state-of-the-art C-Pap machine. I understand that his new sleek, European designed, silent partner will make Henry look like a drudge.  I’m trying not to be jealous, but since Dieter will deliver air only when needed, and at a return rate that will be tolerable from the beginning, I find myself gazing at Henry with a critical eye.  He looks a bit disheveled, with his stodgy brown, rectangular case and tattered face mask.  Poor Henry, I suspect that Dieter will leave him in the dust with his sleek, bright blue, super comfortable mask and his streamlined, silver case.  Henry is a reliable, dull Chevy, while Dieter has been touted as the BMW luxury sports car of the C-Pap world.  I know I shouldn’t lick my lips when I think of Dieter, but mine are so chapped from the draft that escapes from Henry’s worn mask…

Dieter arrives in three hours

Commit Each Day to Increase Happiness and Fulfillment

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Well, today is Valentine’s Day and I’m up for change.

I’ve been on a roller coaster ride to good health and well-being with my new doctor’s help.  I’m taking my supplements, two prescriptions, and I’m feeling much better with far less pain. Life is so good.

I still fall into a minor funk, now and then, when I pay too much attention to the job market and my futile search for meaningful work. It is always possible to make money, but it is not as easy to find a job that you love. That said, I should be grateful that I enjoyed more than 12 months working closely with the amazing staff of a historic house. I was their consulting art historian, and I’ve  never had a better time and received so much pleasure and satisfaction from a job.  So, even though I’m not falling quickly into another position, I’m still grateful for having had this incredible opportunity.

I’ve decided that with a slight attitude adjustment my life will continue to improve and I’ll reach the physical and mental well-being that I used to enjoy — before fibromyalgia entered my life. I know that good things tend to come my way when I’m in a very positive frame of mind. Yesterday I read a list by  http://crowingcronebewell.com/ of four commitments that she plans to make each day to improve her life.   You should read them for inspiration!  I’ve made my own list:

1. Wake up in the morning and take a few minutes before getting out of bed to focus on happiness

2. Select my major tasks of the day with care, and consider how much happiness and well-being they or I will generate before committing

3. Take a half hour each day to meditate, and afterward think carefully about the small things that would improve my life and the lives of those around me

4. Decide each day who I want to spend time with and focus on family and friends, whenever possible

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Drinking Purified Water vs. Distilled Water

The health benefits of drinking purified water are well documented.  So why did it take me so many years to finally purchase a good water purification system?  Well, one reason is the cost.  I thought the really efficient systems were those connected to the water pipes that come into the house—and that would require hiring a plumber.  I imagined that a good purifier would cost upwards of a thousand dollars, including installation.

Well, after listening to my friend Linda rave about her Berkey water purifier, and seeing firsthand how she easily set one up in her apartment, without using electricity or water pressure, I broke down and bought their smallest gravity model.  I couldn’t be happier.  I spent $230 on the “Travel Berkey,” which I set up and began using in 10 minutes.  I now have a source of safe clean water for drinking and cooking, and best of all the Berkey system does not remove the healthy minerals that give water its great taste.  The ideal water for the human body should be alkaline and this requires the presence of minerals like calcium and magnesium.  Berkey’s purifiers do not remove minerals– just the pathogens, bacteria, chemicals and additives.

I had thought of drinking distilled water, but distilled water has no minerals and can even be detrimental to your health if you drink it for an extended period.   In an online article Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses the problems with distillation.  He notes:   “Distilled water is an active absorber and when it comes into contact with air, it absorbs carbon dioxide, making it acidic. The more distilled water a person drinks, the higher the body acidity becomes….According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “Distilled water, being essentially mineral-free, is very aggressive, in that it tends to dissolve substances with which it is in contact.”

Evidently it is safe to drink distilled water for a couple of weeks, when using it to fast for example, but drinking it for longer periods of time just isn’t safe.   To read Dr. Mercola’s article and to sign up for his online blog see:    http://www.mercola.com/article/water/distilled_water.htm
GetBerkey.com Water Filters

Berkey Water Filter Systems: Amazing purification system for a reasonable price

GetBerkey.com Water Filters

I recently purchased a Berkey Water Filter system and it arrived today!  Since there are just two of us in our household, I ordered the smallest model that is designed for families with up to four members.  I plan to use it in the kitchen, where it will fit into a small closet next to the refrigerator.   The system is also easy  to take along on camping trips, or even when you travel by car. We plan to bring ours along in our CR-V when we make a family visit to Chicago this spring.  Chicago water just does’t taste all that great.  Imagine the impurities?

Our Berkey came with two water filter cartidges, and has a 1.5 gallon storage capacity. It really is portable and only weighs a bit over 6 pounds when it is empty.  So, if full it must only weigh about 15 pounds. Not bad, when you consider it will provide healthy, filtered water–whenever and wherever.

I had heard about the Berkey system from my friend Linda, who has one in her apartment.  The Berkey filter system removes viruses, pathenogenic bacteria, cysts and even parasites, as well as chemicals, and heavy metals such as mercury and lead.  All these pollutants are removed without taking out the beneficial minerals that are not only good for your health, but also add flavor to your water.   Berkey dominates the water purification industry, and provides the the highest level of water purification — all at a very reasonable price.  Our Berkey system cost about  $228.  We even received free shipping with a coupon.

The Berkey was a snap to set up.  Just pour in the water!  Best of all, the taste of our water is amazing.  I will probably save a fortune by using the Berkey system, instead of buying cases of bottled water.