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Health Tips

You will find the following topics are listed in alphabetical order for your convenience.

I’ve included the following CFS Health Tips to further support your healing journey with CFS, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Illness. The following topics may be covered in my book, Call For Soulwork; however, many are supplemental.

1. Adrenal Exhaustion
The adrenals glands, belonging to the endocrine system, are frequently exhausted in CFS/Fibromyalgia patients, and particularly are in people with stressful lives, traumatic histories, exposure to toxins or poor diet habits.

Common symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include: weakness and exhaustion (especially reduced ability to exert, and endurance), excessive thirst, and nervous exhaustion (feeling racy, nervous, and being mental alert at the same time as having fatigue and exhaustion). The adrenal glands are small organs sitting atop the kidneys. Their primary hormonal role involves releasing cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA, testosterone and estrogens.

I personally recommend testing if you suspect adrenal weakness. If low levels are detected, doctors typically prescribe cortisol or DHEA. Naturopaths may suggest hormonal extracts and nutritional supports instead. Vitamin C supports the adrenals and large doses (in the 1,000 mg range) may be a good idea. You can also strengthen the entire hormonal system with Chinese medicine, herbs, and energy medicine.

There are always numerous routes to take in healing. Most importantly, trust your intuition and go with approaches that align with your personal beliefs and comfort. Also, no matter what modality of healing you choose, find healers you trust. In my experience, my adrenals may become strong for a time, then after a stressful period, become weak again. You may need support for a while then be able to take a break. Again, trust your instincts and listen and try to feel them in your body. Become aware of the location of your organs and learn to feel them, talk or listen to them. You can know what is going on inside if you allow yourself to deepen in awareness and openness.


2.) "Being" versus "Doing"
We live in a do-do society where people are driven by adrenaline, their need to accomplish, work, get somewhere, and always go, go, go. Society is out-of-balance, and so are we with our chronic illness. The irony is that before CFS or Fibromyalgia you too were likely a busy doer, and now you can barely do a thing. Illness has caused you to move into being.

Being is a wonderful place to be if you allow yourself to drop into it, embrace it, and see what is there inside you, around you, paying attention to every feeling, thought, sound, and sight in this very moment. Being is about the present, being in the here and now without doing, having no needs, no obligations--just trusting. Being can occur in complete silence and stillness, but it's also possible to "be" while doing. To read and connect more to being, consider reading CFS is a Call For Soulwork.

As your illness makes doing harder, trust the being and let yourself go there. From being, you may begin to more deeply experience the beauty of life. You may connect more to yourself, nature, animals, your body, or spirit. In any of that, you will begin to find more peace. Being is truly a beautiful place to be.


3.) CFS Causes
Scientists continue to research the causes and theorize about them. Currently, the main recognized CFS contributors include: 1) viruses, 2) stress, 3) nutritional deficiencies, 4) hormonal imbalance, 5) parasites, 6) Candida, and 7) genetics.

From my experience, CFS causes are many, complex, and come from all aspects of life. They may be rooted in personal experiences with trauma, physical compromises incurred by a poor diet, exposure to toxins, excessive sensitivity to environment and stimuli, exposure to viruses when physically vulnerable, emotional sensitivity from trauma, and possibly some or all of the above, (with this list probably being incomplete).

What matters most about the causes of CFS, in my opinion, is not so much what your doctor says, but rather, what is your experience? What is your history? What happened to you: one year prior to CFS, two years, five, ten, even fifteen prior to its onset? Consider your diet, your life experiences (challenges, stressors, traumas, losses), your attitudes, your feelings about your life, your physical environment (emotionally, toxin-wise). Go back in time and really examine yourself and life. What you find are clues, even roots, to your CFS unveiling your CFS tree. In CFS is a Call For Soulwork, I talk about your CFS tree representing your CFS and all aspects of it. When you can see the tree clearly, it helps you understand and appreciate the complexity of your illness. It helps you see how complex its roots are, helping you to see what needs to be addressed in your healing.


4.) Digestion
Digestion is often compromised in CFSers. Intestinal Symptoms abound: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. The biggest culprit here is our diets. Most people don't eat enough fiber because they aren't eating many whole foods. Whole foods are non-processed, non-packaged foods that come from nature, for example: fresh fruits and vegetables, raw seeds and nuts, beans, peas, and whole grains.

I've found that as my diet has improved and I eat more fruits and vegetables, the better my digestion has become. Also, exercise, sleep, and fluids can affect digestion. I find that sleep deprivation or disturbances can give me constipation. So can stress. Also, water is key to good bowels and helping the body release unwanted toxins. The minerals, calcium and magnesium, can affect bowels too. Magnesium helps loosen stools whereas calcium tightens them, and together they work as partners. These minerals are essential and frequently low in CFSers. I recommend supplements with calcium, magnesium, and D. Consult a health practitioner and/or consider getting blood tests to determine needs. A test to consider may be the new "nutreval" offered by Genova Diagnostics at: www.gdx.net.


5.) Exercise
For people with Fibromyalgia and CFS, exercise can create a vicious cycle. On the one hand, exercise is immensely helpful to healing, and on the other, it can be too much for the compromised bodies of these sufferers. During my most difficult CFS period, I personally found that the easiest exercises to manage without setback were non-aerobic types, especially yoga, gardening, and walking. As I got stronger and my CFS lessened, I could do more and more and gradually added aerobic exercise.

Realize too that people are different regarding what works for them, and what they prefer. Some people naturally excel (when healthy) when they are pumped to the limit and engaged in rigorous aerobic exercise (running, dancing, team sports, skiing). Others prefer easier, but more endurance-demanding types (long jogs, hiking). Still, others may prefer stretching and strengthening, and slow deliberate movements as in tai chi or chi-gung, for example. CFSers and Fibromyalgia sufferers will likely need to start exercising with caution and proceed by trial and error.


6.) Fatigue Causes
It's helpful to understand just how many conditions can contribute to fatigue. In order to help you overcome fatigue, you may want to uncover the physical roots. By healing them, you will likely help yourself to heal.

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints to doctors and so difficult to assess because its many contributing factors. Consider many of the contributors, and try to uncover yours. Bring this information with you to your doctor. See if you can identify yourself in any of these, or consider evaluating yourself for them.

* Allergies
* Adrenals (weak)
* Weak thyroid, hypothyroidism
* Hormonal imbalance (for example, low progesterone)
* B12 deficiency
* Insomnia, sleep disturbances
* Sleep deficiency: less than 7-8hrs/night
* Neurotransmitter deficiency: serotonin, Gaba (Good reference: Mood Cures by Ross)
* Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle
* Lack of oxygen: high elevation, no exercise, pollution in air
* Seasonal Affective Disorder: change in light exposure affecting serotonin levels
* Poor digestion
* Candida
* Poor Diet
* Unhealthy Habits: cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sugary/refined diet
* Toxic medications
* Food allergies/sensitivities
* Parasites
* Over-exposure to toxins
* PTSD
* Chronic Stress
* Depression
* Disturbing Life Changes (death, move, job change, divorce)
* Too many responsibilities
* No personal time/care


7.) Fibromyalgia
I'm not going to be comprehensive here because this is not my area of expertise; however, I know from experience some about managing pain. You may not know, for example, how important magnesium levels are to relaxation, ability to sleep, and muscle relaxation. Without it, muscles remain contracted and can cause pain. This could be a contributor to pain for Fibromyalgia sufferers and CFSers. Consider supplementing with magnesium, calcium, and D3. They work synergistically. Also, acupuncture may be helpful in relieving pain, as well as simple yoga movements, guided imagery, and hot and cold therapy or water.

Recently, I was reminded just how important both the psyche and body are in pain experience. Pain is communicated by the brain to the body. Part of managing pain involves both identifying where the body may be injured and how to help the mind relax when pain ignites. Relaxation is nearly, if not impossible, in painful times. But if you can learn to relax, you're more likely to reduce pain. Breathing is essential to increase oxygen. More oxygen to the muscles helps reduce pain. Consider trying relaxation techniques that focus on the breath and help you to relax the muscles. For me, there's nothing better than a hot bath or hot tub to soothe aches and pains.

Also know that pain is a messenger. Try to pay attention and listen. It could be alerting you to a true injury that deserves attention and care, or it could be difficult to ascertain its physical origin and may require mental exploration. Always alert a physician to your pain, especially if it's chronic or severe.

Certainly, pain is one of the most difficult of symptoms. I am deeply empathetic to your suffering. Seek help, and know that your pain can be reduced and even eliminated over time.


8.) Highly Sensitive Person
I'm a highly sensitive person. I believe this trait may have contributed to my sensitivities, and made me more susceptible to CFS. Highly Sensitive People, or HSPs as Eron calls us, are people whose nervous systems are extremely sensitive to all stimuli, and we tend to react to environmental stimuli more easily than others (check out: www.highlysensitivepeople.com). This has both positives and negatives associated with it. On the good side, HSPs tend toward intuition, sixth sense, and creativity. They can walk in a room and feel the energy. On the less fortunate side, HSPs can be more easily startled, frightened, stressed, and overwhelmed. Their adrenaline systems are more easily triggered, and in an over-stimulated society like ours, that can mean being over-stressed too often, thus over stimulating our central nervous systems and igniting our "fight-or-flight" response. Over time, this will weaken our adrenal glands. That is why adrenal weakness may be common among CFSers and chronic illness sufferers.

I believe that many people with CFS and Fibromyalgia are probably HSPs. Eron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, says that about 20% of the population are HSPs. That means we're a minority and likely misunderstood. Could this characteristic be a contributor to these illnesses? It seems very likely to me. To test yourself for this trait, try: www.hsperson.com. I'd love to hear from CFSers and Fibromyalgia patients about your experiences or thoughts on this, as well as from physicians studying these populations.


9.) Insomnia
I struggled for over ten years with insomnia. Mostly, I'm now sleeping well, but I still suffer occasional insomnia. Making peace with this trait seems to help me sleep better and feel better about my situation. But, even better, is finding balance and healing my insomnia. I am doing that, and recommend to anyone with a sleep disorder that you make healing it your number one priority. It is likely one of the root causes for your fatigue.

Uncovering the causes to my insomnia has entailed a journey. Some of what has contributed to my insomnia has included the factors below. You may want to see if these are a factor to your own.

* Food allergies/sensitivity; healed by diet
* S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder); healed by sunlight and 5-HTP
* Protein deficiency
* Magnesium deficiency
* Serotonin deficiency: healed by sunlight
* Hypothyroidism
* Weak adrenals
* Low blood sugar
* Not sleeping (a vicious cycle that over-excites my adrenaline system and keeps me awake)
* Excitement, stress, project distractions, worries
* Discomfort from other symptoms: intestinal discomfort, cramps, and extreme fatigue


10.) Loss
In life, loss is inevitable. With CFS, loss is frequent. Loss is painful and heart breaking. To recover from the losses associated with CFS one must learn to grieve and allow what is being felt. It's hard to accept loss, and even harder to grieve it. But to grieve is to embrace and let go.

I'm sorry you are going through this. No one wants to lose abilities, relationships, a home, job, identity---whatever it is. No one deserves it. It just is. Allow the mourning. Know: soon new things will arrive, and the pain will subside. Trust this process and trust that God is not punishing you.

Everyone goes through loss. Loss is part of the cycle of life. Allow the pain. Mourn and grieve for a time. Acknowledge the losses. When the time is right, be strong and move on. All things in time. This is your time, time to care for yourself.


11.) Meat
If you eat commercial meat, please consider only eating organic meat or animals from the wild. (For more information about why, check out the sections on "Factory farming" and "Mad Cow Disease" at: www.downbound.com. Personally, I prefer you wouldn't eat meat at all, but of course this is a personal decision, one based on individual needs and beliefs. (Although, I think it is perfectly fair to also acknowledge that the choice affects everyone and everything given the vast consequences of such a choice on our planet's ecology, animal life, and human health.) If you do choose to eat meat; however, it is important that you eat little, if any, commercially factoried animals because of their hormone, antibiotic, and high fat content. Hormones given to farm animals to fatten them at unnatural speeds wreak havoc on the human endocrine system as well as the animals downstream from factory farms. Frogs, for example, living in streams near factory farms, have been found to have disturbed hormonal and reproduction systems.

I just recently read that 70% of the antibiotics circulated go to farm animals. Those same antibiotics go into you when you eat them. There seems to be a direct correlation between antibiotic resistance and our society's overuse of antibiotics.

Know too that animals in commercial factory farms live out their days in crowded pens or stalls, unable to exercise and often never experiencing the sunlight or soil. Their muscles weaken as their bodies fatten. The fat on a factory farm cow is filled with the hormones and antiobiotics. These animals are far fatter, according to Christiane Northrup, MD (Whole Nutrition, Sounds True CD), than those raised on grass and pastures. These are just a few reasons to avoid or decrease meat consumption. There are hundreds more.

If you would like to reduce your meat consumption, or become a vegetarian or vegan, there are free started packs at: www.tryveg.com. Also, know that protein is easily derived from non-meat sources: beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, soy, and sea vegetables (kombu, nori, dulse). If you eat a wide variety of these foods you likely won't have to worry about getting enough protein. You may only be lacking in B12 (which is primarily derived from animal foods). To ensure you have enough B12, you can supplement or eat nutritional yeast. Also, you can add a protein powder to a smoothie or juice if you're lacking certain amino acids.


12.) Macronutrients
We all need energy from food in the form of the macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and different people need different combinations. None of these are bad in their own right, and all can be derived differently. What matters most here are the types and quality of the fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

We all need good fats, such as the essential fatty omegas (3,6,) from flaxseed, walnuts and fish (sardines, salmon, tuna) and mono-unsaturated fats (from avocado, safflower and olive oil). And it’s best to avoid getting many saturated fats, those highly concentrated in red meat, cheese, yogurt, and butter. It’s also critical that we avoid "trans-fats" (hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated), as these release free radicals in the body that cause cells to age and contribute to disease.

With carbohydrates, it's important to avoid the simple ones in sugary foods, such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, sugar, and most sweeteners in general. Healthy carbohydrates consist of the complex sugar chains that are broken down slowly. These will not cause the extreme rollercoaster effects of simple sugars. Complex carbs come from whole grains such as whole oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole spelt, whole wheat, and barley, as well as beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Any plant food is mostly carbohydrate, and all are needed and good for the body when they are in their whole form.

You must be careful not to be fooled by the many breads and cereals that try to trick you with words on the package like: "natural, healthy, and heart smart." Just because the bread looks brown doesn't mean it’s not full of processed flour. To our bodies white flour acts like sugar and offers little, to no, nourishment. Instead, look for the word, "whole" to ensure that you are eating complex carbohydrates.

Finally, what you're striving for with protein is to get essential amino acids that the body cannot make for itself. Many people think that the only way to get all of these amino acids is to eat meat and dairy. In fact, while meat and diary do contain all the essentials, you can obtain the same with a combination of one whole grain and a nut/seed/bean (and you don't even need to eat the two in the same meal to receive the benefits!). Or, you can get all the essential amino acids in quinoa (a delicious light grain), soy, hummus, protein powder, amino acid supplement, chlorella, or sea vegetables. When you eat whole grains and nuts and seeds regularly you rarely need to be concerned about not receiving your protein needs. But, people are different, so pay attention to how you feel and note when you’re deficient and weak, protein may be something to evaluate.


13.) Organic foods
What you eat as a CFSer can nourish or deplete you (true for everyone, in fact). Foods that contain artificial chemicals, colorings, and preservatives add to the physical challenges your body already faces. Foods lacking nutrients and containing chemicals, excess fat, sugar, or refined flours stress bodily systems already stressed. To help feed your body, give yourself as much whole, natural, organic, and/or local food as possible.

So-called "conventional" produce contains hundreds of pesticides/herbicides. They also may be irradiated, coated with wax, and genetically engineered. To get the least contaminated and most nutrient-dense foods, eat organic, and if you can, eat local. While this can be expensive, most produce at local farmer's markets or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are organic or near-organic, fresh, seasonal, and they also support local farmers—all of which benefits both you and the planet.


14.) Self-Care
I'm consistently surprised how many people don't know how to take care of themselves. So many of us are taught to think about others before ourselves, or simply to run ourselves ragged, doing everything and expecting endless performance from our bodies, all the while not taking care to give ourselves adequate rest, relaxation, serenity, and treats.

For CFSers and Fibromyalgia sufferers, your body is crying out for self-care. Chronic illness cries out to us to: stop, pay attention, and focus on ourselves for a while. Self-care is about loving yourself. It's about honoring your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

How you care for yourself is completely up to you and can look very different to different people. That you do it will be very helpful to your healing. Some ways to give yourself self-care is to make sure you get plenty of sleep or rest. For CFSers this is paramount. At a minimum, try and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. That's just a minimum, and everybody is different. And of course, many of you have insomnia or sleep disturbances so this may be difficult or impossible. If you're not sleeping, maybe you can be resting, meditating, or engaged in visualizations. Even these activities can provide many of the benefits of sleep. Regular exercise is another form of self-care. So is having time just for yourself to do things you enjoy, or simply to have time to "be" everyday without demands or interruptions. Self-care is about doing things that nourishi your soul. You may love creative pursuits, listening to music, watching movies, talking to a friend, or writing in a journal. Whatever activity or non-activity you choose, so long as it's all about you, is self-care.

Self-care means saying "no" to activities or demands that feel like too much. Self-care means shutting the door on the world and turning off the phone and computer and completely disengaging when you need down time. It's about honoring your needs and limits emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Everything in life is energy. Some energy is good and other energy is bad (in that, some energy will create drains and other energy will stimulate more energy). Self-care is about minimizing the energy-draining (to coin coach and author Cheryl Richardson, www.cherylrichardson.com) activities from your life, and increasing the energy-stimulators.


15.) Toxicity
We live in a toxic world. This is the tragedy of modern society, and a tragedy we all contribute to everyday by our choices in consumption and how we live. Though this truth is depressing and even numbing at times, it is truth and this truth impacts our very bodies and health every moment. For more on just how polluted the planet is and how it affects us check out: www.pollutioninpeople.org. For solutions to this toxicity and to evaluate products, peruse the Environmental Working Group's (a public interest watchdog) website at: www.ewg.org.

Thankfully, there are ways we can limit our exposure. Sadly, there also exist elements residing outside of our control. Some of what you can do about toxicity: You always decide what you buy and which products you use and expose your body to. You can buy products filled with synthetics and chemicals or with natural plant sources. You can decide to have clean water in the home by filtering or purchasing large bottles of purified water. You can purchase organic produce and toiletries. For some ideas about what to use, visit: www.greenlivingnow.com. You can choose paper and feminine products that are natural in color or bleached without toxic dioxins. You can avoid smoking and places where people smoke. You can open your windows to let air circulate. Countless choices empower you to live healthier.

But still, there will be those elements you have no control over, such as: car exhaust, the fertilizers your neighbor sprays that go in the ground water, pollutants from factories, power plants, refineries and so on. So what do you do about these? You accept what is yours and what isn't. You do the best you can with what you know and what you're able to do. You make choices that help you avoid additional toxins by being a conscious consumer and eater. You bless the beauty around you and focus on what is healthy and right with the world. You feel good about doing what you can and trust the Divine to do the rest.


16.) Women & CFS
Have you ever wondered why so many women suffer from CFS (and chronic illness, in general)?

Women are exhausted, and I don't just mean those of us with CFS and chronic illness. Women, in general, are over-extended, frenetic, trying to do and be all, all the time. Is it any wonder so many of us get ill?

Women by our very nature and environment are encouraged to be sensitive to others. This sensitivity heightens our reactions to what we see and feel around us. We may be more aware of the pains of the world, the toxicity, and the suffering. We may want to heal not only our friends and family members, but also the world at large.

This sensitivity is both our strength and weakness. It is what makes us great healers and teachers and mothers, and it is what makes us sick and tired. We are needed in this world, and when we learn to find the balance between awareness and nurturing others and ourselves, that is when we will be healed and will be able to heal. That is our gift.

 

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