Category Archives: Fibromyalgia

Dangers of Modern Day Whole Wheat

Dancers of Modern Day WheatA few weeks ago I had a discussion with a friend whose son suffers from Crohn’s disease. He’s in his early 20’s now, but has had quite a battle with this horrible inflammatory disease since his early teens. He’s not alone and within this small circle of friends, I have another friend whose son has battled Crohn’s since early childhood. I also know many others who have lived with this horrible IBD for a good portion of their lives and all of whom are young people. Knowing this makes my heart heavy. It’s tough seeing beautiful people suffer.  This made me wonder what these families and individual sufferers have in common. Why are so many young people developing Crohn’s?  One thing that I continue to see among people who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases are major red flags in their diets. What they can’t see through no fault of their own, is that many of their healthy” food choices are instrumental in making them sick and keeping them in constant flare. Whenever I cross paths with anyone who has a chronic inflammatory disease, I always initiate a discussion about healthy eating, because I believe that there is a strong correlation between what we eat and how we feel. I also believe that with the growing number of chronic inflammatory diseases on the rise in not just young people, but people across the spectrum, that there is a direct link between chronic illness and our food source and is this continued exposure to “harmful healthy foods” that is responsible for making us sick and keeping a great majority of our population dependent upon pharmaceutical drugs.

In addition to GMO’s and dairy, my concern’s have always pointed toward wheat gluten and I’m not alone in my thinking. Preventative cardiologist William Davis, MD wrote a New York times best seller called “Wheat Belly” it is through his observation of over 2000 patients that he began noticing a connection between wheat and obesity, chronic inflammatory diseases such as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), gluten allergies like Celiac and  gluten intolerance such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other chronic conditions and diseases such as asthma, eczema and ulcerative colitis.

So, what’s the big deal about wheat? It’s an ancient cereal grain often ground into flour and used to make breads, pastas and pastries. Correct? It’s also packed full of vitamins such as Calcium, Iron, Vitamin B-6 and Magnesium. The most important part of this description is “ancient.” Yes, grandma’s wheat was healthy, nutritious and a great addition to a healthy diet. However, it is only the wheat of the early 20th century that we can refer to as healthy, because what we’re eating in our modern world is hybridized and bioengineered wheat, thanks to big agricultural on its quest for a higher yielding crop. We can’t even call what we eat today “wheat” perhaps it should be referred to as “beat” short for bio-wheat, “wheatio” “hybro-wheat, or perhaps more appropriately “inflammo-grain.” For those of us who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, IBDs such as Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis and IBS, this is another compelling reason to skip wheat based products and specifically wheat gluten protein, which has been altered through intense crossbreeding. The healthy amino acids and gliadin protein found in wheat has changed drastically over the years and it is this change that is potentially responsible for the 400-percent increase in Celiac disease that we’ve seen over the past 40 years. It is also modern-day gliadin protein that works as a powerful appetite stimulant and according to Dr. Davis this may also account for the explosion in inflammatory diseases that were are seeing on the rise.  Inflammo-wheat with its new biochemical code also causes hormone disruption that is linked to diabetes and obesity.

Bioengineered wheat doesn’t just make you hungrier and heavier, it can also makes you nutrient deficient. The combination of digestion-impairing components in the seeds of grasses exposes you to a collection of poorly digested toxic, allergic and disruptive agents. Since modern-day wheat is a cross between wheat and non-wheat grasses, (that’s right grasses) through irradiation of wheat seeds and embryos with chemicals, gamma rays, and high does x-rays to induce the desired mutations. Our body’s poor reaction to this process is no surprise, since we as humans are not suited to consuming anything from the grass family. Graminivores such as cattle, sheep, horses and rabbits can obtain all of their nutrition from grass seeds, but humans can not and fortification does not change this one bit.  All grass contains high levels of phytates and ironically many grain breeders also select high phytate strains of grains because of their improved pest resistance. The modern-day whole wheat , corn and millet contain 800 milligrams (mg) of phytates per 100 grams, that’s approximately 3 1/2 ounces of flour. It only takes 50 mg of phytates to slash iron absorption by 80 to 90 percent. Phylates also reduce absorption of Zinc and Magnesium. An over exposure to wheat increases our intake of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which is responsible for blocking the intrinsic factor protein produced by the stomach, which is essential for B12 absorption.

Wheat ingredients are found in most processed foods including candy, Bloody Mary mixes, lunch meats, soy sauce and wine coolers. It’s also in what people consider healthier foods such as pizza, pastas, whole wheat breads and cereals.  There are also grains which share similar properties of wheat because they contain gluten-like proteins, such as Rye, barley and oats. If you must include grain in your diet opt for quinoa, buckwheat, millet and wild rice, but only in moderation. A 1/2 cup is an acceptable amount to avoid triggering high blood sugar.

What should we eat in order to avoid chronic inflammation of the intestines, stomach and joints? My simple recommendation is always fresh organic fruit and vegetables, along with organic lean protein. Avoid wheat grain and all processed foods which might have wheat gluten ingredients and stock your kitchen with many wonderful grain-free substitutes such as: almond meal, almond flour coconut flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, almond milk, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut oil, olive oil, shirataki noodles, kelp noodles, dried fruit, seeds, nuts and seed & nut butters to mention a few. Having these items on hand not only provide great pantry substitutes, but they can also help to correct the above mentioned vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by high grain consumption. There are also many gluten-free resources available these days with the high number of Celiac cases, along with the fact that more and more people are discovering that they have gluten-intolerance. Your body is always the best guide for what ails you, observe, listen and eat well.

Reference:  “Wheat Belly” & “Wheat Belly Total Health” Interesting reading here on the The Positive Pear: Juicing, Healthy Whole Foods,

Always Rely On a Happy Mind Alone

“Always rely on a happy mind alone…. A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This quote comes from the book Universal Happiness by Geche Kelsang Gyatso also known as Geshe Chekhawa

Always-rely-on-a-happy-mind-the-positive-pear

A portion of this quote came to me yesterday during a conversation with a sweet friend who not only sufferers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, but who is also a practicing Buddhist. She mentioned  that her Buddhist guru often repeated this quote “Always rely on a happy mind alone”  This quote stuck with me forcing me to investigate it a bit further and upon doing so I discovered the other half of the quote  “A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This helped me to put the entire thought into better context. At first glance it can seem somewhat insipid, but I found myself holding on to it and truly working to determine if I’d grasped its full meaning and further, how I could incorporate this thought into my day and perhaps even my life.

These words really appealed to me as someone who practices mediation & yoga, as many Buddhist principles are intertwined. It reminded me of the importance of daily practice, which is one way that we can train our minds to withstand even the most difficult challenges in life, including physical and emotional pain.  Meditation would allow one to focus on the tools needed to work through our pain and yoga would allow us to release and let go of any mental, emotional or physical agony. Being happy doesn’t mean that we ignore our pain or turn our backs on suffering, but rather we embrace it with an open and loving heart. It’s not a denial of what is going on, but an embracing of our pain, sadness or fears and touching it with a loving hand and sending it on its way. This teaches us to better rely on the happiness that is cultivated from a heart of compassion.  This is incredibly powerful, as it teaches me that I have to work at letting go, so that I might better focus on the happiness that I’ve cultivated from compassion. I hope these words have just as much of a profound impact on your day as they did mine.  Be well! Peace, light & love to you.

Exercise Reduces Stress, Anxiety & Depression…Even When You Hate it!

Excerise-Reduces-Stress-Anxiety-Depression-The-Positive-PearA new study performed by the University of Colorado Boulder and published April 2013 in the European Journal of Neuroscience, shows that even when you dislike exercise, or you’re forced to engage in it by a doctor or fitness instructor that you will still reap the amazing benefits. Many past studies have shown that people who engage in regular exercise are protected against stress related disorders, but scientist wanted to know if the same results were present when the perception of control was removed. Why this study was needed I have no idea, but it’s nice to have additional scientific proof as to the benefits of exercise. In the study performed by researches to attain these results, it was noted that the sedentary rats, the rats who sat on the sofa and watched TV or surfed the web all day, froze when faced with stress. The longer they remained embolized by fear, the more residual anxiety they experienced. Those rats who ran on mechanized wheels, on a regular, predetermined schedule for a period of 6 weeks, never experienced the “deer in headlights” syndrome and managed their exposure to stress much better. What does the study prove? Well, if you are a healthy person who is exposed to high amounts of stress in your daily life, or you are prone to anxiety and depression as with those who battle Fibromyaglia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ankylosing Spondylitis and many other invisible chronic illnesses, you will find that you are better equipped to manage daily stress and symptoms such as anxiety and depression with regular & consistent forms of exercise. So Let’s Get Moving & keep it moving for a minimum of 6 weeks!!

Examples of exercises that are beneficial for various conditions

For You My Friend….The Holistic Healing Hug

If you or someone you know suffers from a  invisible chronic illness you may not always know exactly what to say, or you might be surrounded by friends and family members who may not always have the perfect words to encourage you, though they love and support you. I not only suffer from autoimmune disease and other chronic conditions, but I know of others who battle  invisible chronic illness well. There are times when I feel that I know precisely what to say because I’m a fellow sufferer, but there are also times when I’d simply prefer to just give these friends a huge hug to let them know that everything will be OK.  I also envision these hugs being powerful in their healing abilities, thus rejuvenating my friends and family members who suffer, so for one brief moment they’re able to put the symptoms of their physical ailments aside to deal with other matters of life which also need their attention.

I began to ponder how I could reflect the impact of such a hug in words, especially since many of my friends are in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world. This is when I came up with “The Holistic Healing Hug”  holistic meaning “whole body wellness” combined with a hug that heals….a perfect combination. To my surprise my family was not only excited that I’d come up with this idea, but they also seemed relived to have something prepared to give me when they felt compelled. My daughter printed out “The Holistic Healing Hug” and put it on the wall of my office and at that point I knew just how powerful these words could be for others out there who also have loved ones who battle  invisible chronic illness, so I’m sharing “The Holistic Healing Hug” with all of you. Please feel free to share this post or the picture with anyone you know who could use a “whole body wellness” healing hug to support them in a day of managing their chronic invisible illness. Lots of Love & Many Healing Hugs to You!!

For You My Friend….The Holistic Healing Hug

“I’m giving you this healing hug in hopes that it will sustain and support you through your day. Though it can not actually heal you, perhaps it can reinvigorate you while allowing peace to flow through you. Giving you the opportunity to mend that which is broken, while enabling you to harness the rejuvenating power which dwells within you. May you feel loved & supported by all around you through the embrace of this holistic healing hug.”

To share from this post simply click one of the “sharing” buttons below.  You can also place this picture on the wall or timeline of a friend via The Positive Pear Facebook Fan Page.

“Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” WAAD Chat Session with The Positive Pear

I’m a health, wellness and fitness professional & blogger. I also live with a form of autoimmune arthritis known as Ankylosing Spondylitis, as well as Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.  I blog about how to navigate the symptoms of these conditions naturally and holistically, while also maintaining a positive mental attitude. I created The Positive Pear as a resource, where it’s my philosophy that we can be “Chroncially happy, healthy, fit & fab” in spite of living with Invisible Chronic Illness.

“Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” has it’s own meaning for everyone. To many who are sick it’s a way of trivializing their suffering and to a small minority it’s this wonderful, peaceful state of mind that requires being completely oblivious to the realities of life. What does it mean to you?  Being positive does not come at the risk of ignoring the realities of life, while pretending to be happy.  It’s really about being as positive as possible in light of the circumstance, and that gives us the motivation and the ability to enjoy all that we can. I am an eternal optimist, I will always see the class have full and I will always find the positive side to any situation, but I am also a realist.  Naturally “being positive” does involve” some degree of  happy thoughts and smiling faces but that’s certainly not all. Being positive is a state of mind accompanied by appropriate action. Which if taken at the appropriate time will take us in the direction that we need to go.

I started the “The Positive Pear because I saw the need to encourage a positive mental attitude among people who suffer from invisible chronic illness, and more specifically auto-immune arthritis and aside from saying “be positive” I wanted to define exactly that meant to people who are battling chronic health conditions. While also providing  effective tools, to help with achieving this goal.  Those who live with chronic illness do not need permission or help with negativity.  It’s a natural state of mind that we can easily gravitate towards, when we’re suffering.  However people do need permission, encouragement and direction in terms of  how to being positive. Sufferers need to know that it’s ok to smile, be happy and enjoy life without the risk of trivializing their own suffering. They need to know that it is not a requirement to appear downtrodden to be taken seriously.

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh~

When I was asked by Tiffany Westrich, founder/CEO of the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement (IAAM) &  WAAD Event Coordinator, to host a the chat “Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” I was honored and very excited to have the opportunity to discuss a subject that I enjoy immensely. I also knew that I had my work cut out for me, because this is not an easy subject to tackle with people who are in pain. I thought I’d start by addressing a few misconceptions relating to being positive and living with invisible chronic illness by counteracting these misconceptions with a few truths.

Misconception #1) In order to appear positive I need to smile, be fake and pretend to be happy all of  the time:

Ok, let’s be real here, whose happy, or feels like smiling all of the time & who benefits from “fake” positivisty?? Absolutely no one. Though I’m often happy and I do happen to smile a lot, there are days when I simply do not have it in me. Some days you will not have it in you and that’s perfectly acceptable. We have to look at life realistically and accept ourselves for who are, where we are in our lives and how we truly feel. We are wonderful people who happen to be afflicted with a chronic illness. We have both good days and bad days and sometimes we feel wonderful and there are many times when we do not.  Self Acceptance is important one of the very first steps to being positive. If we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves, then it becomes very difficult for us to be happy and when we’re unhappy we can not be positive.

Misconception #2) I can’t complain, nor can I speak openly and honestly about how my chronic illness affects me:

This is a very common misconception. I think the mistake that many of us make is not establishing the proper support systems. We attempt to talk about chronic illness and our symptoms with people who do not understand and have no way of knowing what we’re going through, so they can not provide the proper encouragement that we need. As a result they inadvertently trivialize our suffering. If we can not find people within our families or within our communities, we have wonderful online communities filled with people who can understand what we’re experiencing. Sometimes you need to complain, other times you need to cry and it’s during these times that you truly need someone who will be there for you without judgement. We also want to make sure that within our support systems that we have people who are truly supportive. If needed, we have the right to remove toxic, negative people from our lives. Remember “Once You Remove Negative People Positive Ones Appear” & Be Positive & Surround Yourself with Positive People.  If you haven’t already, begin the process of establishing a good support system.

Misconception #3) Being positive means I must ignore the bad things that happen in life:

Another common misconception. As we roll with the ebb and flow of life it isn’t hard to miss that bad things sometimes happen.  Additionally, misunderstandings, disagreements and conflict also happen just like eating, sleeping and breathing. However, how we handle the bad things that we encounter is what truly matters. We must keep in mind our physical challenges and the impact that stress has on our symptoms and we’ll need to approach situation accordingly.  It is important to deal with whatever comes our way. If we’re upset, sad or even angry. It is important to acknowledge how we’re truly feeling, why we’re having such feelings and the best way of coping with these feelings.  Seek resolution, by addressing issues if and when needed, or by ignoring them if appropriate.  Most importantly being prepared to move on once an issue is resolved.  Harboring anger resentment or ill feelings do not benefit us.  Being positive does not come at the risk of ignoring one’s own feelings even the bad things in life. However, we can not remain in this “bad” place. We deal with our rough patch, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and forge ahead! During these challenging times, I like to refer to a poem entitled “Don’t Quit”  “When things go wrong, as they sometimes will” read it & refer to it, because it serves as a nice reminder.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh~

If “being positive” is none of misconceptions that we’ve discussed, then what is it? Being positive while fighting chronic illness means having a positive mental attitude, inner and outer strength, peace, contentment, wellness and ultimately happiness. After all, in spite of battling chronic invisible illness we also deserve happiness.  Be willing to let go of some of the self limiting belief systems and open yourself up to other possibilities. What are the best ways in which we can achieve a positive way of thinking? I’ve separated these methods into  (4) categories. Giving us the opportunity to briefly discuss the impact that adapting these methods will have on our frame of mind, health, well-being and over all attitude.

1) Brain Food: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~Buddha~ What we feed our minds is just an important as what we feed our bodies. Feeding our brains positivity and encouragement while help us to feel both positive and encouraged. This is why you’ll find beautiful picture with inspirational messages in many of the posts on “The Positive Pear”. I think we need constant reminders, because we have the distraction of our symptoms to contend with.  We also want to surround ourselves with positive people who can reinforce the type of thinking that we like to have.  Just as we’d surround ourselves with successful people, if we were striving for success. Also having reasonable expectation of ourselves, while accepting ourselves for who we truly are and where we are in our in our lives. May is Mental Health month and a reminder to those of us who suffer from physical conditions.  We must be mindful of the impact that our conditions have on our mental and emotional health as well. Keeping an eye out for symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Educating ourselves about our conditions, all of it’s symptoms and the appropriate treatment and all treatment alternatives not just medications.

2) Healthy Nutrition:  Our bodies are working to hard to function as they should, in spite of having compromised immune systems and numerous symptoms.  It is important to feed our bodies whole food nutrition and “real food” (chemical-free)  focusing on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruit and vegetables, drinking ample water and eat healthy protein. While reducing simple carbohydrates such as: cakes, cookies, pizza, pasta excessive amounts of sugar and completely avoiding processed foods. When eating carbohydrates make sure they are complex carbohydrates, such as those found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. A good rule of thumb, when “eating for healing” is that if you can’t grow it, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. Though that only roughly covers it:) Have you considered juicing? It’s a wonderful way of getting massive amounts of anti-inflammatory greens into our system without reeking havoc on the digestion system. (check out TPP’s Organic Juicing section) Additionally we want to limit our chemical exposure such as insecticides and pesticides, by buying organic whenever possible and keeping a good fruit & organic/chemical free fruit/veggie cleaner on hand. We also want to avoid GMO foods where the DNA of the food has been altered to grow these precise chemicals within the foods themselves. What we feed our bodies is incredibly important when battling invisible chronic illness, because we use food as fuel and what we put into our bodies can exacerbate or symptoms.  We want good fuel, because we want to feel good as often as possible.

3) Exercise: Exercise is crucial to all, especially those of us who suffer from chronic illness. Staying fit can even help us to manage certain symptoms, such as depression, stiffness and chronic pain. What are some exercises that are helpful? For Autoimmune Arthritis Sufferers, strength training is incredibly important, because strong muscles relieve stress on the joints. Yoga is a wonderful way of maintaining flexibility, detoxifying the body, and fighting depression. Dance-Fitness such as Zumba, Salsa, Hip Hop Cardio, Hula Hopping are typically low-impact, incredibly fun and a wonderful way to sneak in weekly cardiovascular exercise without feeling like you’re working out. Also Swimming, Pool Aerobics, Biking, Hiking & lastly Walking which is something that everyone can do and it’s something that you can incorporate into a weekly fitness routine. Exercise reduces stress, allows us to maintain our mobility and it also releases endorphin’s which helps to regulate the pain centers in the brain.

4) Symptom Management: Using a well-balanced approach to managing our disease and chronic conditions is incredibly helpful. Eating well, getting proper amounts of rest and reducing your stress levels are incredibly important in reducing symptoms such as flares. Using healing methods such as exercise, yoga and meditation, natural and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, TENS, MENS, chiropractic treatment (for those without musculoskeletal conditions) herbal supplements, food based supplements such as protein powders which are high in amino acids can be a great way to supplement current treatment methods. Though this falls more under “brain food” educating yourself about your medications and all potential side effects and making changes if needed is also helpful for symptom management. Is your condition something that can be managed naturally and holistically? Consider it as an option and if not, further consider adding a few of these alternative therapies & unique healing elements to your overall care.

Brain Food, Exercise, Healthy Nutrition, Symptom Management are (4) of the key areas to helping us in working toward balance.  Being balanced is crucial to achieving and maintaining a positive mental attitude and our positive mental attitude allows us to maintain our hopeful outlook on life.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post on how to “Be Positive When Living with a Chronic Illness” and thank to those of you who also joined us for the WADD “World Autoimmune Arthritis Day” Live Chat hosted by The Positive Pear. It is without question, very possible to live “Chronically Happy, Healthy, Fit & Fab” in spite of battling chronic invisible illness.

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be, for I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” First Lady ~Martha Washignton~

(All rights reserved.  Please feel free to share this article in its entirety, excerpts or links provided full & clear credit is given to The Positive Pear Blog)

Be Positive & Surround Yourself With Positive People….

Our lives can sometimes be a reflection of our attitude, actions and the choices we’ve made. We are all too familiar with the term “Karma” and how it relates to the type of energy that we put out into the world and much like a boomerang, that positive and/or negative energy can return to us. Knowing this encourages many to live a life that includes being kind to others, while others in spite of knowing this, still choose to be harmful at every turn. A good person recognizes the powerful forces of Karma, but their lives accurately reflect what is truly in their hearts, even without the existence of these universal principles.  There are of course exceptions to the rule, because we know that are times when good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  This is proof that not everything in life is a direct reflection of cause and effect, or action and reaction. These are examples of things in life that we simply can not control, but we can control the type of energy that we choose to exude and pass onto others. We can also choose the type of energy in which we surround ourselves through our association, by perhaps selecting people with a higher sense of consciousness, rather than allowing some to simply fall into our lives by default. When choosing to add people to our support systems, we want to make sure that these individuals are in fact supportive, loving, kind, selfless and above all, positive in their thoughts and deeds.  I also think that these individuals poses inner peace, greater awareness, intellectual & moral enlightenment, profound knowledge and a strong sense of personal growth. These are the types of people who are full of and surrounded by positive energy, rather than a cloud of drama. They have positive attitudes which allows them to cope rationally with just about anything that comes their way. These individuals are not victims in life, they get angry but they choose not harbor resentment and as a result, you’ll never see them engaging in competitive, vindictive or spiteful behavior.  They live & love by the high standards of their personal code and they enjoy all that life has to offer. Yes, they get knocked down, but they easily recognize that there is an ebb and flow to life, so they recover in tact and often better and stronger than they ever were.  We all desire a life that is full of love and we all truly want to be loved by all around us. We have the power of choice to make this happen and we can take one major step toward living this loving and very fulfilling life by being positive, and surrounding ourselves with positive people. Sending peace, light & love to you wonderful, healthy people who read this blog. In addition, positive healing energy to all of the beautiful people who are fighting the difficult battle of  living with Invisible Chronic Illness.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is mental health awareness month. Our mental health is an aspect of invisible chronic illness that we can easily overlook, because we’re busy focusing on the pain, discomfort or numerous other symptoms that accompany our autoimmune disease or chronic conditions.  We must keep in mind the importance of paying close attention to our mental and emotional health, as well as our physical well-being.  Depression is not only a symptom of conditions which affect the brain, such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or a symptom of  conditions that affect mobility such as autoimmune arthritis,  it’s also one of the leading causes of disability effecting approximately 120 million people worldwide.  Being able to recognize the signs of depression and having a well established support system is incredibly important. Symptoms of depression include: anxiety, persistent sadness and hopelessness, loneliness, sense of loss, withdrawal from friends & loved ones, isolation, loss of interest in activities, enjoyment, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, sleep disturbance, disruption in appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.  There are ways in which we can manage our own symptoms of  mild depression and these methods also work with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Such as exercise, yoga, meditation, lifestyle management, stress management, balanced whole-food nutrition, and nutritional & herbal supplements. Within our support systems it is incredibly important to also include a mental health professional who is capable of easily recognizing when depression exceeds our ability to self manage, in which case medication or psychotherapy might be needed.

It’s hard to believe that this awareness effort has been underway since 1949, especially since mental illness was incredibly taboo until recent years. We are so fortunate to live in society where advocacy is alive and well. Education is at our finger tips and we can openly discuss invisible chronic illness in all of its forms.  Along with Depression & Major Depression also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) & clinical depression,  there are numerous other mental disorders which fall into the category of mental health and require awareness such as: ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder GAD, Panic Disorder, Eating Disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Dissociative Disorders, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Phobia, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia, Self-injuring Behaviors, Social Phobia and Tourette Syndrome.

1st week in May is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

The entire month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Eat Foods High In Amino Acids to Feel Great & Manage Symptoms

Amino Acids are protein building blocks and proteins are the building blocks of life itself.  There are 20 which are crucial to human heath, relating to growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues.  Nine of these amino acids are considered essential and required through proper nutrition, which will enable the body to produce the required protein.   These are: leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine.  The eleven non-essential amino acids are arginine, alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Many non-essential amino acids may not be required for protein building, but through much research it has been discovered that they are instrumental in healing and relieving symptoms of many conditions, thus used therapeutically.  Many with chronic health conditions often have deficiencies of both essential & non-essential amino acids. Conditions and symptoms such as,  Allergies, Ulcers, Anemia, Osteoarthritis, Autoimmune Arthritis such as Rhumatoid Arthritis & AS, lupus, cerebral palsy, certain cancers, depression, cognitive issues,  insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, associated with CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), musculoskeletal pain and discomfort associated with Fibromyalgia, Ankylosing Spondylitis, IBD, ADD (attention deficit disorder) & ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as well as others. Amino acids work synergistically with many drugs and treatments, so interactions are not ordinarily a concern, but if you have decided to supplement with amino acids, your doctor should be informed.  A few Therapeutic aminos are L-histidine, L-Carnitine, L-Taurine & L-Tyrosine.  L-Trosine is often low in individuals battling depression, as well as those suffering with kidney disease. L-Theanin is found in green tea and is said to help relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety, while enhancing focus and concentration. Which is perfect for those who are cognitively challenged, as with ADD & ADHD, Chronic Fatigue & Fibromyaglia.

Nine of the essential amino acids can be found in protein rich foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits and grains, will only provide some of the nine essential amino acids. For this reason, a vegetarian diet should be balanced to ensure  that amino acids are derived from all parts of  the diet. Vegetable sources of protein such as nuts, beans, and grains are incredibly healthy, because they not only provide amino acids, but additional nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and C.

If you are able to eat and digest protein rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood & dairy products then you are more than likely getting your required amounts of amino acids.  However keep in mind that many chronic health conditions can prevent absorption of many vitamins, minerals and amino acids through food intake, so supplementing might be required. Since our protein requirements are actually lower than most people consume, below are many fruit & vegetables sources of amino acids which you can easily add to your existing diet:

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a low-starch or low-carb food friendly list, rather its to provide overall information on foods which are high in amino acids.

Alanine – Main source being alfalfa, but also found in: celery, carrot, lettuce, cucumber, turnips, green pepper, spinach, plums, apples, guavas, grapes, oranges, almonds and strawberries.

Arginine – alfalfa, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beetroots, cucumber, celery, lettuce, radishes and potatoes.

Aspartic acid – carrots, celery, radishes, cucumber, mint, tomatoes, turnips, lemons, grapefruit, apples, plums, pineapples, melons and almonds.

Cystine – alfalfa, beet roots, carrots, cabbages, cauliflower, onions, garlic, apples, pineapples, raspberries, raisins.

Glutamic acid – found in carrots, turnips, cabbages, celery, beetroots, mint, lettuce, spinach and papaya.

Glycine – carrots, turnips, celery, mint, alfalfa, spinach, garlic, potatoes, figs, oranges, raspberries, pomegranates, melons and almonds.

Histidine – radishes, carrots, cucumber, beetroots, celery, garlic, onions, turnips, alfalfa, spinach, pineapples, apples, pomegranates and papaya.

Hydroxy glutamic acid – carrots, mint, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, raspberries, plums.

Hydroxy praline – carrots, lettuce, beetroots, turnips, cucumber, plums, cherries, figs, radishes, grapes, olives, pineapples, almonds and coconut.

Lodogorgoic acid – carrots, celery, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce and pineapple.

Isoleucine – papaya, olives, coconuts, almonds, apricots, pistachios and walnuts.

Leucine – coconuts, almonds, apricots, papaya, olives, pistachios and walnuts.

Lysine – carrots, cucumber, beetroots, mint, celery, spinach, turnips, alfalfa, germinates soyabeans, plums, pears, papaya, apple and grapes.

Methionine – cabbages, garlic, cauliflower, pineapples and apples.

Norleucine ( NLE a form of lucine)

Phenylalanine – carrots, beetroots, spinach, mint, tomatoes, pineapples and apples.

Proline –carrots, beetroots, lettuce, turnips, cucumber, plums, cherries, figs, grapes, olive, oranges, pineapples, coconuts and almonds.

Serine –radishes, garlic, onion, carrots, beetroots, celery, cucumber, mint, spinach, cabbage, alfalfa, papaya, apples and pineapples.

Threonine – carrots, green leafy vegetables, alfalfa and papaya.

Thyroxine – carrots, celery, lettuce, turnips, spinach, tomatoes and pineapples.

Tryptophane – beetroots, carrots, celery, spinach, alfalfa and turnips.

Tyrosine – alfalfa, carrots, beetroots, cucumber, lettuce, mint, spinach, green pepper, plums, strawberries, cherries, apples, melons, figs and almonds.

Valine – carrots, turnips, sweet gourd, celery, mint, beetroots, tomatoes, apples, pomegranates and almonds.

When supplementing  look for free form amino acids and you’ll want products with a full amino acid profile, many will read “amino acid complex.” such as with protein powders or protein drinks. Amino acids work synergistically with vitamins and minerals, thus working naturally with our bodies. Though it is preferred that we obtain vitamins, minerals, as well as amino acids through our diet, when we are chronically sick or have malabsorption issues such as those related to chronic inflammation & IBD, supplementing  just might be required. Be careful of taking excessive amounts of amino acids and be sure to follow label instructions.

Braggs Liquid Aminos

Food based Amino Acid Supplements: Braggs Liquid Aminos NON-GMO soy (contains 16 amino acids/8 essential.) This product is great to use in place of regular and potentially GMO contaminated soy sauce. Should not be cooked or heated.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut Aminos by Coconut Secrets contains 17 naturally occurring amino acids. Nutrient-dense, certified organic, dairy free, gluten-free, soy-free and raw-vegan friendly.

By ensuring that you are eating foods that are high in amino acids, or that you are supplementing via a well balanced protein powder or free form amino acids, you are improving your chances for optimal health, greater energy, strength, recovery, improved muscle definition, beautiful skin, better mood, better memory and enhanced brain function. Incredibly beneficial in combating fibrofog, pain and stiffness relating to Ankylosing Spondylitis and the multitude of symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, including depression.

Amino Acids, Angelo P John research based on amino acid cancer therapy, amino acid, amino food guide courtesy of Naturopathy for Perfect Health. The Healing Power of Organic, Real Food, Superfoods & Whole Foods, Nutritional, Gluten-Free, Diary-Free, Low-Starch & Inflammation Friendly Recipes

Hello 2012 & Hello to Coping with Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia & CFIDS!

Since I’ve lived with the physical symptoms of Invisible Illness for many years, 2012 is really about coping emotionally and mentally with the idea of living with more than one.

I was devastated upon discovering that I have a chronic pain condition known as Fibromyalgia, along with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS).  In addition to overwhelming anger, frustration and a sense of loss. Realizing that it was now highly unlikely that I would return to being my old self again.  The person who was healthy, vibrant, full of life, strong and athletic.  I think that most people would be thrilled to finally have a name for conditions that plagued them for many years, but for me I have been there and done that.  Nearly 8 years ago, I was ecstatic to discover the name for the chronic inflammatory condition which had plagued me since childhood, Ankylosing Spondylylitis. I felt relieved to finally know and to have a course of treatment.  However that excitement was short-lived, because I had no way of knowing that a long time acquaintance, but newly found friends Fibro & CFIDS would sneak in to steal my joy.

The Fibro & CFIDS diagnoses did not yield the same excitement, because I’d been waiting out what I thought was a long bout with active AS, hoping that it would go back into remission as it had in previous years and I would quickly return to being my old self.  Its quite interesting what keeps you going and when you no longer have that small bit of hope to hold on to, it can be quite devastating.  Awareness is crucial, because upon realizing that the many symptoms, even things that I didn’t realize were symptoms, that I”d lived with for as long as I can remember were not in fact normal, I could easily trace fibro & CFIDS back to my teens. Only a few short years after my first AS flare.  However, as with my AS the Fibro & CFIDS symptoms had gone into remission several times.

Denial has no place in chronic illness, as I recall a conversation with my Rheumatologist several years ago. It was exactly 1 year after being officially diagnosed with AS, discovering NSAIDs, exercising several days a week, eating well and being in a very good place  both mentally & physically.  I was unfortunately in a terrible car accident, which totaled my car leaving me with a concussion, severe case of sacroiliitis, an arm that I could barely use and severe, chronic hip, neck & back pain.  A car accident is your worst fear as an AS patient, because of the risk of exacerbating your AS symptoms.  Shortly after the car accident, I lived with chronic musculoskeletal pain that NSAIDs were no longer helping, along with severe fatigue and stomach upset (IBS), my Rheumy told me that it sounded as if I might be developing Fibromyalgia. However, I had no knowledge of Fibro at the time, so I could not agree or disagree, on weather or not I felt that my symptoms were a match. I was also in a bit of denial and did not want to take on managing another chronic illness. My Rheumy further stated that it was not uncommon for AS patients to go on to develop Fibro and especially after experiencing trauma, such as my recent car accident, and this was more than likely a conversation that we would continue during future visits. Unfortunately, my Rheumy passed away, so there were no future conversations. If only I’d been aware that the multitude of symptoms that I’d lived with for many years, were related to one another and related to both Fibro & CFIDS I would have had my answers much sooner.

Honing in on my chronic and incredibly debilitating fatigue is what finally began to give me answers.  I’d also been coping with being cognitively challenged for many years, long before the car accident,  but during the last 9 years many of my symptoms were getting worse.  Old symptoms were returning like migraines and tension headaches, while others symptoms were bringing no relief, such as the severe neck and back pain, muscle spasms, food intolerance & chronic pain in other areas of my body. It was only very recently that I myself began to connect the dots.  After much research,  I could see that they were many overlapping symptoms, AS overlapped with Fibro, Fibro overlapped with CFIDS and so on. I could also see that I had symptoms relating to hypothyroidism, due to unexplained weight gain, cold intolerance, dizziness, fatigue, etc and due to the progression of what I now know to be Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, I also discovered that I had IBS which was aggravated by diet, food intolerance and stress.  My monthly cycles were also unbearable (since my teens), while many symptoms of both Fibro & CFIDS were in full effect. (the entire list below)

I’ve always been a very private person, even refraining from sharing some of my symptoms with my doctors and honestly I never thought tell my Rheumy that I had insomnia, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety & stress, nor did he ever ask.   I’ve only recently begin speaking publicly regarding my health issues and many who’ve known me for years, were very surprised that I had a condition and others who I’d confided in were surprised that I began to share.  I found that writing about having Ankylosing Spondylitis proved to be incredibly therapeutic. Once I began sharing my AS symptoms publicly, I began to realize that many of my symptoms where not AS related at all.  Though a few AS symptoms do indeed overlap with Fibromyalgia & CFIDS , these are ugly chronic conditions all their own. It took many years to arrive here, discovering that CFIDS needed to be addressed by an Internal Medicine Physician, while Fibro needed a diagnoses from not just any Rhumatologist, but one very knowledgeable about and experienced with Fibromyalgia. It also helped that I could clearly articulate my symptoms, while understanding how they overlap and how they differ:

My Symptoms of Fibromyalgia :

Profound, Chronic & Widespread Pain

Stabbing/Shoot Pain/Deep Muscular Aching, Muscle Spasms, Throbbing & Twitching

(Nerological) Numbness, Tingling & Burning

Symptoms Aggravated by Cold/Humid Weather

Non-Restorative Sleep

Physical & Mental fatigue following excessive physical activity/Physical inactivity

Reduced tolerance to exercise & Muscle pain after exercise

Fatigue, profound exhaustion & poor stamina

Sleep disturbance/ Stage 4 deep sleep/interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity

Fibromyalgia & CFIDS/CFS Overlapping Symptoms::

Dizziness/Lightheadedness/Vertigo (Hypoglycemia)

Migraines & tension headaches

Vision Problems/Visual blurring

(Parasthesias) Numbness & Tingling face, arms, hands, legs and feet

Sleep Disturbance/Insomnia

Not feeling rested upon waking

IBS (abdominal pain,  gas, bloating, nausea, constipation/diarrhea)

(Nocturia) Bladder disturbance (overactive/irritable)

Cognitive dysfunction Impaired Memory & Concentration (Brain-Fog *Fibro Fog)

Anxiety/Stress/Depression/Panic Attacks

Impaired Coordination

Skin sensitivities/Outbreaks/Rashes

Dry Eyes/mouth

Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)

Worsening of symptoms due to extremes in temperature

Restless Leg Syndrome/Leg Cramps

My Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome CFS/CFIDS/ME:

Relapsing & Debilitating Chronic Fatigue

Weight Gain/Hypothyroidism

Extremely painful menstrual cramps

Allergies & Sensitivities to chemicals & medications

Sensitivity/Intolerance to: noise/sound, odors, bright lights, foods & cold

Multiple sensitivities to medicines, foods, and chemicals

Tender lymph nodes in the neck & underarm area

Dyspnea (labored breathing or hunger for air) on exertion

Frequent Flu like symptoms

Chest pain, Nausea & Cough

Frequent sore throats

Frequent canker sores

Alcohol Intolerance

Night Sweats

Low-grade fever

Low body temperature

Tachycardia/Palpitations (rapid heart beat)

Personality changes & mood swings

Swelling or the feeling of swelling in hands & feet

Tightness & weakness in the limbs

Joint Stiffness

Muscle & Joint Pain without redness or swelling

Fibromyalgia, CFIDS/CFS & Ankylosing Spondylitis Overlapping Symptoms:

Chronic Fatigue

Musculoskeletal pain

Joint stiffness

Glute, Neck & Back pain

My Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis :

Chronic Fatigue

Muscle & Joint Pain

Pain & Stiffness of spine & joints

Chronic Inflammation, neck, back, knees, ankles, heels, hips & chest wall

Sacroiliitis

Plantar Fasciitis

Photophobia

Potentially HLA-B27 Related IBS

Other Related/Unrelated Conditions that I have:

Hypermobility syndrome (potentially unrelated but suspected to be linked to AS)

When thinking back on when I discovered that I had AS, the feeling was similar to a long walk in an open plain, with daisies, great music, skipping and fun dancing.  When discovering that I had Fibromyalgia it was more like those scenes in the movies where the main character is walking around, interacting with the world around him, only to discover at the end of the movie that he’s really dead. What’s worse is that he appears to be the only one who didn’t know.  I’ve obviously seen far too many of these movies, because this is what continually flashed repeatedly through my mind, Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense,” Anne Hathaway in “Passengers” and Nicole Kidman in “The Others.”  As all of the clues relating to their demise, which we of course miss throughout the movie, now flash through their minds and on the screen.   This is precisely how I felt, I missed the clues about having Fibromyalgia & CFIDS and there were many, but at least now I know and I can continue to move forward.  I will however mourn the loss of my former self, while also mourning the loss of my Rheumatologist. As it is difficult traveling my Fibro & CFIDS journey without him, my doc and my friend.  It’s also difficult to imagine my life without the old me.  This is solely a mental adjustment, because I have not been my old physical self in quite sometime, but in 2012 I will gladly step up to the challenge of reinventing myself.  I am an eternal optimist, I will inevitably make lemonade out of this proverbial Fibro & CFIDS lemon and I will continue to advocate & share my natural, holistic and healthy approach to living with Fibro & CFIDS and subsequent progress as I do with my AS. Through my own very unique journey, I’ve learned that having an  invisible chronic illness, or two or three, though incredibly challenging is not at all a death sentence, but another way of living life.  Here’s to an amazing 2012, where we will continue living “Chronically Happy, Healthy, Fit & Fab” while coping with Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome CFIDS.

The Best Medicine for Stress is an Inner & Outer Smile

Controlling your anxiety and stress levels might be helpful in controlling inflammation, as well as ward off aging related chronic illnesses.  When we are in a constant state of worry relating to daily life such as work, school, finances, family etc; our bodies begin to recognize this continued exposure as a threat. Thus Immediately activating the stress response by switching the body’s systems to “fight or flight” mode, a physiological response normally reserved for dangerous situations. The hypothalamus gland in the brain sets the response in motion by triggering the nervous system,  which in turn alerts the adrenal glands to release a huge surge of stress hormones known as epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and cortisol directly into the bloodstream which causes several physical changes in the body.  Including increasing the heart rate, elevating blood pressure and boosting our energy supply. Cortisol the primary stress hormone, also increases our levels of glucose in the bloodstream and enhances the brain’s use of glucose, which allows us to think faster to plan an escape.  The release of cortisol also minimizes the use of crucial functions of the body. Functions such as the immune system, digestive system and reproductive system, rendering them temporarily useless, which would allow us to flee a truly dangerous situation much more quickly. Because several areas of the brain are alerted, this physiological state also effects our mood among other things. In a real life emergency these responses would be beneficial, but imagine what’s happening to the body each time you are under mental, physical or emotional stress. Being exposed frequently to stressful situations creates a constant release of these hormones and over long periods of time can be incredibly be harmful to the immune system.

In a real “fight or flight” situation the body completely returns to normal after the perceived threat has been removed.  Stress hormone levels  decrease, cortisol levels drop, heart rate returns to normal, blood pressure returns to its original level and body functions such as, the immune, digestive and reproduction systems resume their normal routines. However, with the continued exposure to stress, the body remains in constant “fight or flight” mode with the inability to regulate itself. The continued release of these stress hormones can lead to an impaired immune system.  Thus breaking down the body’s ability to discern allies from helpers. As a result, the body begins to view everything as a threat causing immune malfunctions such as chronic inflammation.  Which is the number one contributing factor to aging related diseases and major symptoms and conditions such as allergies, chronic headaches, obesity, diabetes, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, heart disease, strokes, insomnia, digestive issues, depression and memory impairment.  It can also trigger the inflammatory response in the body, which would naturally effect chronic inflammatory diseases of the joints (arthritis) and skin (eczema). Imagine what the continued exposure to stressful situations can do to someone battling an autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory conditions such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, or a syndrome such a Fibromyalgia which is directly effected by stress.

We are living in very stressful times, but stress does not have to dominate your life. If you learn to master healthy stress reducing techniques now, you can limit your risk of chronic illness, aging related disease or the risk of exacerbating symptoms associated with diseases or conditions that you may already have. There is one technique that we can employ at anytime allowing us to reap immediate positive health benefits, while allowing us to regain control of our minds & bodies and that would be to adapt both an inner & outer smile.  It sounds far too simple to actually work, but you can have confidence in knowing that by putting on an immediate outer smile, in spite of whatever stressful situation that you might be experiencing, it forces an inward shift.  Which then becomes an inner smile or a positive mental attitude. This chain reaction then tells the body that everything is going to be ok.  This causes the body to then immediately stop releasing stress hormones, which returns the blood pressure to normal, while also allowing the immune and digestive systems to regain their normal functions.  It also releases endorphins which is a natural pain killer and serotonin which is a mood enhancer.  By simply utilizing this little technique we can immediately create a positive mental attitude, which not only allows us to problem solve more effectively, but when used regularly combined with a healthy lifestyle can also extend our lives.  Remember when you are under stress, remove yourself from the situation, close your eyes, take a deep cleansing breath and immediately adapt both an inner & outer smile. Have several each day and share a few with friends. Wishing you many beautiful and stress free days ahead “The Positive Pear” Blog:)

Other natural stress management techniques here on the positive pear.

(All rights reserved.  Please feel free to share this article in its entirety, excerpts or links provided full & clear credit is given to The Positive Pear Blog)

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