Category Archives: The Do-Over

The Great Do-Over Pt. 2 – Sleep, Rosehips, Nettles, Lemon Balm and Digestion

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I have begun the process of re-prioritizing my health and the choices that I make which impact it.  The latter is a long list, sigh.  It’s a funny thing how the mind can convince you that just because you know better means you are doing right.  It doesn’t.   I know how to ensure quality restorative sleep.  I do  the opposite.  I know how to feed and fortify my body against disease and illness.  I choose to eat as much taxing junk as I can get away with.  I know how to release and protect against the serious damage of daily and circumstantial stress.   I act like every other over stressed, adrenally fatigued person I know.   I know how to use herbs to rebuild my body, but I fail to do much but forget them in my cabinet because herbs heal by shear proximity, right?
Step one has been to take a good look at all these moment by moment, day by day choices and see what reality I’ve created over the past couple of years, the proof being in the pain pudding.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been consistently replacing breakfast and lunch with a large mug of broth.  This is one that I thought would be difficult, especially with the whole family at home eating actual meals, but it hasn’t been difficult at all.  As I’m beginning this I am dealing with

  • one or two days of pain per month,
  • at least two weeks of heavy fatigue each month,
  • difficulty in falling asleep, difficulty in staying asleep,
  • difficulty digesting food (stomach bloating, churning)
  • several times per month I get a terrible electrical feeling in my body that is tied to intestinal irritation
  • sensitivity to gluten, guar and xantham gum, carageenan, corn derivatives, beans, tomato sauce/paste, potato and potato derivatives

These are all things that allow me to live my life, but limit it surely.  My goal is to regain complete health and freedom from all Fibro/CFS symptoms as I did for 2008/09.

To prepare I placed a bulk order with Mountain Rose Herbs.  I will outline each of the herbs as I add them to my routine.

To help with sleep I have begun using approximately 30 drops of Skullcap tincture along with 5 drops of Motherwort tincture, and 5 drops of Five Flower Formula.  I take it twenty minutes before going to bed.  Whenever possible I take a 30 minute long bath that is as hot as I can tolerate (meaning I have to ease myself into it very slowly and likely don’t lay down for several minutes – about 112 degrees) just before going to bed.  If I’ve done it right when I get out of the bath I will have the “I need to lay down and don’t care if I’m dry” feeling and will fall directly to sleep.  If I’m having a night where I feel certain that I won’t fall asleep readily I add a soothing essential oil to the bath like Lavender or Clary Sage (clary sage being my preference), and drink a night time tea that includes things like chamomile, passionflower, etc.  On such nights I play an effective guided relaxation/hypnosis/meditation by Jan Bennet Collier while I fall asleep.

Sleep is a top priority.  Nothing else that I can do will bring the heft of results that restorative sleep will bring.  This week’s goal is to regain control of my bedtime and what I do with myself in the hour leading up to it.  I long ago abandoned my nighttime routine and schedule to disastrous results.  This week I’m aiming for a consistent 10:30pm bedtime, with no stimulating media for an hour before bed.  This means that I will be staying off of the computer (or TV if I had one) and be skipping any books that are emotionally charged or cognitively stimulating, in favor of soothing, calming works like Shambhala Sun Magazine, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, etc.  These are things that bring me a sense of peace, quiet and certainty at the end of a day.  In fact I need to get back to reading them until I regain that place of keeping peace, quiet and certainty with me throughout the day.  If you read through the Cage Free Family archives you can see those things slip from my writing over time.  I regain them here and there, but I eventually lose them and lose my thread of writing altogether.

Of the herbs that I ordered I have introduced three of them into my every day, Lemon Balm, Rosehips, and Stinging Nettles.  I drink the Lemon Balm and Rosehips together as my morning tea, which I have with my cup of broth when I first wake up.  Together they make a really yummy citrusy tea with added honey.  I brew them, covered, for 15 minutes each morning.

The Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and is powerfully soothing to the nervous system treating everything from anxiety and depression to very tough viruses like Herpes and Mono.  It eases the heart and the mind (much like Motherwort) and is a wonderful tonic not just for those with chronic illness or sleeplessness, but for anyone dealing with daily stress.  It has long been absent from my routine, and I am better for having it back.

Rosehips, which are actually the fruit of the rose bush, boast one of the most concentrated sources of Vitamin C available from plant or animal. In addition, they contain assimilable and high levels of iron.  Not by accident, the key to digesting and using iron is the presence of Vitamin C.  They strengthen the tissues of the body, support the vascular system, are cooling to the body and tonic for the mind, they treat chronic diahreah as well as stomach weakness.  Native American’s used Rosehips to treat muscle cramps, and they contain many vitamins and other beneficial supplements, including lycopene, essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, pectin, sugar, resin, wax, malates, citrates and other salts, tannin, malic and citrus acids, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zin c and vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, C, D, E and K.

For the all-amazing Nettles I make an infusion every night before bed and drink it all day.  Aside from it’s truly incredible list of balanced vitamins, minerals and protein (yes, protein!!) it is long renowned for it’s benefits for the kidneys (one of our toxin elimination pathways) and the adrenal system (what sick person isn’t dealing with adrenal stress, heck, what modern person isn’t?)   Herbalist Susun Weed says “A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.  There is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae; and nettle is much more reasonably priced than any supplement, especially if you buy more than an ounce or two at a time.”  It is amazing for increasing energy and general wellbeing.  For more info click here.

In addition to the herbs I am dealing with my poor digestion with the introduction of Betaine HCI and a pancreatic enzyme that contains amylase, protease, and lipase.  I have found that taking these with a meal eliminates the painful bloating and the hours of churning.  Both are available at any herb or natural food store as well as many sources online like Amazon.

Taking the Plunge – The Great GAPS Do-Over

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More than four years ago, with the help of the Gut And Psychology Syndrome diet I carried myself over the distance from merely keeping my Fibromyalgia symptoms in check to living wholly without symptoms and able to do anything that I liked.  It was a leap that I took like all the others before it from dropping the prescriptions to returning to my acupuncture appointment after my first experience was powerfully new and frightening… it was based on inspiration, an absolute need to be healthy, and shear guts, and it worked.  Better than I even hoped it would.

But, healthy is a tricky thing, or rather, the mind is a tricky thing when it comes to health.  When we are feeling healthy we are often feeling indestructible and brave. We are feeling certain of our enduring health. Like a teenager who believes in their own immortality we take risks, we test limits, we fall for lies, and we slip into the crowd.  I did just this.  After less than 6 months of pure health and freedom we took off for an epic trip around the country that would last more than a year.  The trouble began just four weeks later when we arrived in Taos, NM.  Lured in by the promise of “the most amazing pizza” we leaped off the wagon and never looked back.  From that point on we loaded our RV with healthy organic food, and ate out at every pizza joint we crossed (or could seek out) in 27 states.  There was a time in the summer of 2009 that I could eat pizza two times in a day and 7 times in a week.  Pizza.  From any kind of restaurant, from the hole in the wall sliceries to the fanciest pizzerias.  Made with god knows what kind of ingredients, and stuffed with gluten, hormones and preservatives.  Feeling strong I didn’t actually worry about it.  Then when there were no repercussions I we emboldened and moved out with wild abandon into my reckless crash back into the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet).

It was two months before I was willing to recognize that I was not feeling perfect anymore, but my psyche was all too willing to rationalize it away.  I was healthy after all… look at all the things I could do!

Four months after falling off the wagon ( a full 18 months before I should have even attempted to start adding foods back into my diet) I was having pain again and no longer woke easily in the morning.  I was heading in the wrong direction and clinging to the lies my mind gave me to make it okay.  I was living freely for the first time in memory.  I was traveling the country and wanted to experience everything with no limits, and so I did.  Here’s the kicker, the GAPS diet that I gave so little time to had given me so much healing in that short time that I was able to get away with this for more than a year, until my body succumbed to the major taxation of pregnancy and could no longer handle both things.  By the summer of 2010 I was again experiencing the full range of Fibromyalgia symptoms, with a new baby, a temporarily crippled husband and a house torn down for mold remediation and renovations, we turned again to a dependency on restaurants and easy foods.  I actually cringed when I watched myself feeding my children boxed organic cereals for breakfast, and there I met the end of my reign of health and perception of it.

I cleaned up my act.  We cut out all the major offenses from packaged and restaurant foods, to flours.  It was a definite improvement.  I felt my health return fairly quickly and regained a sense of control. But, since then I have had this lingering feeling of fatigue, sensitivity, and general poor constitution.  It follows me around at all times making me question what I am capable of… what I can get away with.  I have felt strained, anxious, weak, uncertain and afraid of the occasional flare ups.  It sucks.  It has sucked for more than two years now… that fear, uncertainty and doubt.  The hard but unlabeled limits to my health.

And so, after years of hemming and hawing about it I am going to take the plunge and begin all over again with my eye on utter and complete health… fearless freedom in my physical existence.  I have tried all things on the scale from deep disease to absolute health and every compromise in between.  I think I needed to know the limits.  I think I needed to know the truth about my choices.  I know now.  No amount of food freedom is worth living with the threatening shadow of disease.

I am going to do my best to document the whole process here.  I’ll include the good, the bad, and the (inevitably) very ugly.

Let’s go ahead and begin with where I am: The Preparing/Planning Phase.

On the intro diet of GAPS I will be limited to bone broth and boiled meats and vegetables.  Last time we had the whole family on the diet.  This time, for now, I will be going it alone.  Each week, as always, I will make a breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack menu for the family, but I will plan a different menu of broths and soups for myself.

Since I know that I have digestive issues I will be taking both a Pepsin-HCI supplement as well as a pancreatic enzyme supplement.  I have been taking Bio-Kult brand Probiotics, so I will continue with that with the goal of adding in fermented veggie juice to my broth and ultimately fermented vegetables like homemade pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut.

In addition to the probiotics, and enzymes I have tinctures of Skullcap (a nervine), St. John’s Wort (an anti-inflammatory) and California Poppy (for pain).

Over the next couple of weeks I will build up a supply of meaty bones (for soups/stocks).  Right now we make (and use) around 17 quarts (4.5 gallons) of bone stock every 7-9 days.  When I am eating in for all three meals a day and snacks I will likely need more as I will be consuming around three quarts per day.  To manage this we buy our organic bones in bulk from a local rancher and have a 9 gallon lidded stock pot to brew the 4.5 gallons of stock in.
I will also be ordering (discounted) bulk amounts of celery, onions, and garlic from the farmers at the local farmers markets.  Luckily I have a ton of carrots, beets, tomatoes and squash growing our our gardens to add to the soups and won’t need to purchase these for a few months.

I have also purchased 5 lb bags of Celtic Sea Salt and Organic Peppercorns.  I will be using these along with dried herbs to flavor broth and soups.  This week my order of 2 gallons of organic unrefined coconut oil arrived with my 5lb bags of Nettles, Raspberry Leaf, Oatstraw, Horsetail, Comfrey, Elderberries, Rosehips and others that I will outline in another post that includes their useful properties and their preparation.  Many of these provide essential vitamins and minerals in addition to their ability to ease certain symptoms.

What I am presently lacking is a supply of detox bath ingredients.  I did not do detox bathing last time, but I would really like to do it this time to ease the process.  Baths have long been my safe space, if I am feeling ill, overwhelmed, nervous, tired, angry, sad, anything, you will likely find me in the bath.  It eases all ills.  This time I will be adding things like sea salts, baking soda, and clay to the water to draw out the toxins that will be looking for a way out once I begin the healing process and cutting out the foods that supply these toxins into my body.

Right now I’m feeling a little more powerful and certain a shift that always comes when I shift from worry to action, but I am also nervous about managing the cost, dealing with the cleansing symptoms, sticking to my prescribed diet while my family eats my favorite foods, and remembering to take my supplements consistently.  I can not afford enough Fermented Cod Liver Oil to keep a consistent supply of it, so I will take it when I can and forget about it when I can’t.

For right now I will be going without the acupuncture support that I had last time, as well as the medicinal marijuana to manage the die-off and cleansing pain and panic attacks.  This cleansing and healing of the gut can have pronounced effects on the way that the world feels, looks, seems, so it can create some very intense emotions.  For this I will be turning to herbal teas, a safe space to work through intense moments and support from my husband when I need the reassurance that I will need, for even having experiential knowledge of how this works and what it feels like and how it will turn out in the end, in those intense moments it can all go out the window in a quick panic.  I want to be prepared for that.

One last thing.  I have obtained a prescription for eight  5/325 Hydrocodone from a local clinic.  These are my last stronghold against the fear that can cause me to fail to begin or to quit when the going gets tough.  The goal is to not take them at all since they will extend the cleansing, healing process, but I have them for peace of mind.  Whenever I feel that fear, that worsening (before bettering) of symptoms I will have my silent promise to myself:  You can handle this, and if you can’t you won’t suffer it.  This is a choice, not a sentence.  This is a choice, not a sentence.  Make the right one.