Tag Archives: Sleep

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

Standard

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.

Accupuncture, Herbs, and Kooks

Standard

When I first began I knew nothing about so called “natural health”.  I ate a mostly organic diet, I believed, but this is as far as my understanding went.  Many years earlier, with the use of a book called Reversing Fibromyalgia, I had my only experience with ‘natural health’ and it included hundreds of dollars of vitamin and mineral supplements with unpronounceable names and throat gagging pills, powders and tablets.  I failed.  Even in Dallas 1999 did not provide a useable selection of organic foods and food allergy substitutes. The idea of going down this road again, even with access to many huge, well supplied Organic Natural Food stores like Whole Foods, was unpleasant.  But down it I went, taking my family with me.  Though my father, who lived with us at the time, did not choose to join us and continued to stock the house with his usual foods, the kids and husband were along for the ride.

I started by calling around town (Austin, TX) to find an acupuncture clinic that I could afford since my insurance did not cover such things.  It was days of tears and defeat as I called office after office to find that treatements averaged $75 per visit, and that they weren’t as likely to help unless I went at least every week, if not twice every week.  It was again a friend who told me about ‘group acupuncture’.  In a seedy part of town I found a low cost clinic that provided acupuncture to multiple patients during the same appointment.  We each arrived 15 minutes apart and were placed in cushy recliners behind japanese style screens in a large, perfectly tempered, zen inspired room.  Spa like music played quietly, everyone whispered, and the earthy smell of herbs floated around the darkened space.  There was nothing familiar about this experience.  I was afraid of the needles, afraid of the herbs, afraid of having a flare up during treatments, afraid that I would suffer for the rest of my life.  It took everything I had to go into this new world, but very quickly it became my world… my new comfort.  I was not alone anymore.  I could now give all of my fears to a person who did not share them, and believed, fully, in my ability to be free of this disease, even when I could not.

The treatments were working, but the improvements were short lived.  Sometimes hours, sometimes days, but they worked none the less.  Very quickly my acupuncturist discovered that I did much better with a very simple ‘opening’ treatment.  Complicated, symptom specific treatments were too much for me.  They overwhelmed me with sensations, energy, and sometimes flare ups, so we backed off of that and stuck with what worked.  I even began learning to meditate with the use of a favored guided meditation by Jan Bennett Collier.

With a taste of what could be possible and a growing belief that I may actually find a life of complete health I started moving forward with great intention.  I began trying every single thing that was suggested to me.  Faith healing? Sure!  Body Talk?  Why not! Chinese medicine?  Okay!  And why the hell not?  I no longer cared how kooky it seemed.  In fact I couldn’t care less whether or not I could believe in it.  I did it all anyway.  I did it all with complete commitment. The things that seemed to work got more of my time/money/effort, those that didn’t moved to the back burner and fit in where they could.

I started learning about sleep, the process, the theories, even the new agey stuff.  I started trying to pinpoint the place where sleep was going wrong for me.  I was consumed with discovering the answer to the deeper question… the question beyond the label of Fibromyalgia… What is wrong with me?  Then the real question, How do I fix what is wrong with me?

All the while I had to continue to tackle the now lessened, but still present, symptoms.  I started researching western herbalists and what herbs I could take to help me with the still flaring symptoms.  Susun Weed’s philosophy spoke to me, and I picked three herbs (in tincture form) that seemed right in doses that she recommended: Skullcap 3-6 drops, St. John’s Wort 25 drops, and California Poppy 15-25 drops.  I learned things about these plants, what they did, how they worked, what elements of them were being used to create bastardized and adulterated forms in prescriptions.  St. John’s Wort turned out to be much more that a mood lifter.  It was a powerful anti-inflammatory and treated nerve pain.  The Skullcap, also a nervine, eased the fear and stress present in every day life as well as in living with this disease, but it also treated nerve pain!  California Poppy?  Powerful, good stuff.  The more I took them the more I could start to see how they effected me, when my body needed them, and how I could use them best.  There was no road map, but in taking responsibility for my body, owning my own self, I started to trust, bit by bit.  Gradually I realized that my body was communicating with me in more subtle tones than just pain and tired.  There were are myriad of smaller, more specific symptoms that had blended into a huge noise that I called Pain and Fatigue.  Smaller, more specific symptoms that I could manage.

 

The Role of Sleep and the Successful (Banned) Prescription

Standard

Hi Everyone,

I always mean to write more, but as the years go on I wind up writing less and less.  I have a bit of a pile-up of emails and commented questions, so I want to try to answer some of those questions.  WhileI can’t tell you what to do, and ust tell you to always check with a trusted health care provide, I can tell you what I do, have done, experienced, and have learned.

I get a lot of questions about the prescription that is on a split ban in the US, so lets start there, because it is my sincere hope that you may be able to learn something helpful from my struggle.  The drug is called Xyrem as a prescription.  It is a chemical drug called GHB (Gamma Hydroxybuteric Acid/Sodium Oxybate) and is both a Schedule I and Schedule III drug here in the US, so it must be prescribed by a doctor who is certified to prescribe it (a process they must go through) and will arrive via Next Day FedEx directly to the patient’s door from the one central pharmacy with the license to make it.  Currently it’s only on-label use is “excessive daytime sleepiness” as experienced by people with Narcolepsy.  There was a trial (I believe by Orphan Medical) to make Fibromyalgia an on-label use, but as far as I know this bid was denied by the FDA.

Let’s touch on why I wanted to take this drug first.  In my years of research I found some mentions of a failure to achieve the deep restorative sleep, previously called Delta Wave or Stage IV Sleep, by Fibromyalgia sufferers.  In tests research subjects who’s delta waves were repeatedly disrupted developed widespread pain and fatigue.  One study suggested that the FMS pressure points became activated as well.  Essentially, delta wave disruption seemed to be causing FMS in previously healthy patients, but when the subjects were no longer interupted by teh researchers they returned to normal sleep patterns and the symptoms disappeared.  This was a big flag to me as a person with lifelong sleep disruption and insomnia.  I had been through may years of sleep inducing and assisting prescriptions as well.  As I began researching this idea further…  how to achieve this elusive stage IV sleep… I came across a number of works that suggested that nearly all, if not all, sleep related drugs were disruptive to the sleep patterns, blocking or interrupting the all important delta waves.  This spoke worlds of truth to my tired body that had been so long drugged with sleep assisting pills and was yet, thoroughly exhausted, never refreshed.   It was my father that called me one day to tell me that he had heard a short story on PBS radio about a drug that was being tested to treat delta wave disruption and included a quick note about Fibromyalgia.  It was years later that I finally found the right string of words in my Google searches that gave me Xyrem.

Once I knew the name I was able to take it to my doctor and begin the pleading process.  He did a bit of looking and returned to me with the news that it was roughly $500 per month and that even if he did write it on-label there was a good chance that my insurance company would not pay for it, but after a long discussion we went for it anyway.  A couple of weeks later I finally had the prescription in my hands, but alas, there were no instructions for use.  No dosing information.  Nothing.  It was going to be a stabbing in the dark process with a drug that I had been repeatedly warned could easily kill me.  Fun times, y’all.

It was brutal to put it shortly.  It was months before I found a dose that did not make me vomit, wet the bed, or live in a constant state of nausea and dizziness.  The headaches were long lasting as well.  It was frightening and miserable, but it did eventually work.  The pain slipped away under my distraction with the extreme exhaustion and ever present symptoms.  I lost 60 pounds during the first 3 months, dropping to 105 pounds, and living in a blur of sleep and half sleep.  Ultimately it was a friend of a friend of a friend, who had experience with recreational use of GHB, that suggested that Cannabis/Marijuana might aleviate the dizziness, nausea, and food aversion, enhance the sleep time, and be a safer drug combination than another prescription.  I had talked with my doctor already about an additional prescription, but with so little known in the medical community about GHB, no one wanted to combine anything with it.  I had to turn to the recreational users who had a wealth of information on dosing and combining.

To say that I was terrified would be an epic understatement, but I had a gut feeling and I followed it to success.  My doctor could not comment on what I was doing, and only reminded me that he had nothing to go on that could allow him to advise for or against my choices.  He simply asked me how I was feeling.  Very well.  Like a real person, I told him.  And I did.  Once I found the right combination, a much lower dose of GHB and a much higher dose of Medical grade Marijuana, I had a life.  I was skeletal, no muscle and no fat left, but I had a place to start and learned to jog and start to build strength.  I lived in this way for 11 months until I became pregnant with my second child.  Then the gig was up.  I couldn’t take it while pregnant or nursing, so I was quite suddenly facing years without access to what had finally allowed me to escape this miserable disease.

The video, Healing Fibromyalgia, was filmed just before and after my daughter’s first birthday, when the drug was still unavailable to me, but I could not take the return of the pain or other symptoms.  They were worse than ever before.  This is where the alternative healing treatments entered my life.  Unwilling to wean my daughter to take drugs again my doctor suggested that it was in my best interest to walk away from Western Medical and try something else.  He suggested Acupuncture.  After a few days of crying about the utter unfairness of it all, this is where I began.