There is now neuroscience research that support yoga’s positive effects on anxiety, stress and depression. As the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga does this mean that one day your doctor just might prescribe yoga for what’s ailing you?
We’ve heard about the amazing healing effects of meditative techniques such as relaxation, meditation and yoga for many years, including how these reduce the activity of the autonomic nervous system, alleviating stress-related maladies, including migraines, anxiety and depression, among others. Now there’s additional medical research available to back these claims. Dr. Chris C. Streeter Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine practices yoga and conducts research on its effects.
Dr. Streeter conducted a study with doctors of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, comparing two groups of exercisers (group 1) people doing yoga and (group 2) people walking. After 12-weeks, those in the yoga group showed greater improvements in their mood and anxiety levels compared to the walkers, and there was a positive correlation between increased Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA levels were measured through brain imaging, and improved mood. The results of her study latest study is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinein 2010.
There is an estimated 20 million Americans practicing yoga. It’s no wonder that yoga and alternative therapies have shown up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country, including Boston University, Dr. Rob Saper of BU a former burned out medical student in the 80′s took a year off to study at Kripalu, the yoga retreat in western, Massachusetts, which he says, inspired him to “try to change medical education and medical care in a way that’s more wholistic” with an emphasis on self-care. Medical students at BU learn of yoga’s research-based benefits, in hopes that these future doctors will be able to exploit their knowledge to help patients as they become comfortable enough to include this alternative therapy in their evidence-based practice (EBP), perhaps one day prescribing yoga as they would Prozac or even pain killers.
Thanks to much research, the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga among other natural and alternative healing methods, this is a wonderful news for those of us with who live with invisible chronic illnesses, and their multitude of symptoms, and many of which we might choose to manage naturally. Yoga is also great for chronic pain, it also lowers levels of inflammatory proteins, and helps with many other ailments. As an avid yogi and sufferer of Ankylosing Spodylitis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction, I for one look forward to seeing yoga or even acupuncture appear on doctor’s electronic prescription pads. Perhaps doing so will garner even more support from insurance companies, hopefully making alternative treatments affordable and accessible to everyone.
Zingiber Officinale also known as Ginger Root, has been used as medicine in parts of world such as Asia, India, and Arabia as herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years.
Ginger is an incredible herb with powerful anti inflammatory properties. I can attest to this, as I use this herb regularly to manage inflammation associated with an autoimmune disease that I have known as Ankylosing Spondilitis. It’s also good for approximately 100 other arthritic conditions including Osteoarthritis. Because Ginger is a natural and very powerful (cyclooxygenase) Cox-2 inhibitor, just as NSAIDs and aspirin are, it is also quiet effective for pain. I find it incredibly helpful for the pain associated with AS, as well as the widespread musculoskeletal pain associated with having Fibromyalgia.
There have been studies on ginger comparing its efficacy to that of aspirin and not only did it take smaller dosages to accomplish pain relief, there were also no known side effects. In further comparison to aspirin, it is common knowledge that doctor’s recommend daily usage of aspirin to inhibit the blood thickening enzyme which can lead to clogged arteries. The only issue with taking aspirin daily are the potential side effects, such as stomach upset, bleeding ulcers, joint discomfort and a potentially compromised immune system. Other studies show that regular aspirin consumption increases the rate of mortality, and this would include the use NSAIDs. One way to successfully accomplish the effects of aspirin without the harmful side effects, is to substitute with the use of Ginger Root. A cardiology clinic in an Israeli hospital now recommends that all of its patients take 1/2 teaspoon of ginger daily in place of aspirin. Ginger is quickly becoming the “wonder herb” because of its incredible healing effects on the circulatory system, even transcending the potential of many modern cardiovascular drugs. Heart disease is the #1 killer in United States, and individuals are becoming more “heart health” aware, wanting positive results without the harmful side effects, so its no wonder that ginger is growing by leaps and bounds in its popularity.
A group of researchers from Cornell Medical School published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 confirming that ginger did in fact inhibit the life-threatening process of platelet aggregation. Because of ginger’s many physical healing properties, it offers synergistic cardiovascular effects, such as antioxidant, strengthening of the heart muscle and lowering serum cholesterol. Ginger is known to actually prevent cholesterol biosynthesis.
Because of Ginger’s stimulation of immunity and inhibition of platelet aggregation, it has a positive influence on cancer patients. Ginger also soothes the stomach and aids in digestion, so for this reason its great for symptoms relating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), flu, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, even chemotherapy related nausea. It also eases cold symptoms, and works as a catalyst for other herbs making their effects stronger, so for this reason you’ll want to be mindful of other herbs and medications that you decide to use with Ginger. Because of Ginger’s effects on the circulatory system and its ability to regulate blood sugar it is great for diabetics and for those looking to give a boost to their reproductive system. Researchers have concluded there is a significant increase in the sperm swimming ability and sperm content associated with ginger consumption, so with this being said Ginger has the ability to increase fertility.
Ginger is good for:
3) Stomach upset/Digestion
5) Morning Sickness
6) Chemotherapy Related Nausea
7) Heart Health
10) Blood Sugar
12) Cold & Flu
Ginger Root is great in many forms, Tea, Herbal Supplements, Liquid drops, Herbal Powder and Fresh Ginger. Do not exceed 4g of ginger per day. Recommended dosage: 2 ginger capsules, or 90 liquid drops, 1/4 Fresh Ginger, 1 pre-packaged tea bag or 1/2 tsp of Ginger Root Powder. Take 3x times daily or every four hours as needed for many of the symptoms mentioned above.
Contraindications and Precautions Ginger Root:
If you have any of the following, please consult with your doctor before taking: Food Allergies, Medical problems associated with your Heart , Gall Bladder (gall stones), Brain or Nervous System. Do not take Ginger if you have a bleeding disorder, taking heart medications, on a blood thinning medications such as Warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin or NSAIDs.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine. Side effects from ginger are rare, but if taken in high doses the herb may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth. Many of these side effects are avoidable if Ginger is take in capsule form, but remember it is highly recommended that you not exceed 4g of Ginger Root Daily.
The Kellogg Report: The Impact of Nutrition, Environment & Lifestyle on the Health of Americans, Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Medicinal Qualities of GINGER: Common Spice & Wonder Drug 3rd edition, Chart page 64, The Aspirin Myocardial Infarction Study Research Group. “The aspirin myocardial infarction study: Final results.” Circulation 62 (6, Pt 2.) (Dec. 1980): V79-84, Dorso, C., et al. “Chinese food and platelets.” New England Journal of Medicine 303, no. 13 (1980): 756-57, Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan ginger 2005 byYakugaku Zasshi, A Literature Review Of Ginger, The joy of ginger.” American Health, Bioscience Biotechnology biochemistry: Induction of neutrophil accumulation by vegetable juice by Yamazaki M, Nishimura T, Ethnopharmacologic investigation of ginger (Zingiber Officinale) 1989, Biomedical Reviews (Bulgaria)-Pharmacological effects of spices
Inevitably the start of a new year has everyone resolving to get fit, improve their health or to lose weight. I love January, because it gives me the opportunity to meet and interact with many wonderful new people, however even with the best intentions, by April many have unfortunately returned to their sedentary or incredibly busy lives. Here are a few recommendations that I give to my clients who want to begin an exercise program and stick with it beyond the typical six to eight week duration.
1) Visit your doctor and get the OK to exercise: One common reason that people fail to stick with an exercise program is the existence of a major, or even minor health issue that they are usually unaware of, but quickly become familiar with in their first exercise class. Those living with existing health issues also want to check in with their doctors to ensure that new symptoms or physiological changes will not interfere with a new exercise program. Everyone can benefit from exercise, but finding the right type of exercise for you and your specific condition is crucial. You’ll also want to inform your instructor or trainer of your health issues, so they can provide modifications if needed.
2) Select your workout days in advance: You have the motivation, now look at your schedule and select the days that you can commit to exercise. Do not leave it up to chance and let nothing stand in the way of you participating in daily or weekly workout.
3) Figure out what you enjoy doing: Walking, running, yoga, dancing, jumping rope, skating, lifting weights, swimming, bike ridding etc.
4) Do your homework to find the right program for you: Ask friends and family, search the web and check out news articles on the latest trends. You never now, you might find a hot new fitness program that incorporates something that you truly enjoy. If you do not LOVE your workout regimen, you are less likely to stick with it.
5) Figure out if you are a gym person or fitness studio person: Come January people often end up in the wrong places. Studio people end up at gyms and gym people end up at studios. Decide before you sign a contract. Try out a few classes, meet a few people and ask for their opinions. Sometime the gym atmosphere can appear to be pretty hardcore, finding yourself surrounded by lots of unfamiliar equipment, with many people who are incredibly dedicated and serious about exercise. This can be a great motivation for some, whereas others might find this somewhat intimidating. Fitness studios are often smaller, consisting of participants who are serious about getting into shape, but who prefer a community like atmosphere where they can also make friends and socialize. In addition, studios tend to specialize in particular programs or a specific fitness genre, as a result you might get more of what you love. Whereas gyms offer many different types of programs in hopes of appealing to a broader group of people. Gyms typically prefer memberships that require at the very minimum a 1-year commitment, whereas fitness studios allow for more flexibility in payments, by offering class cards.
6) Decide how you will hold yourself accountable: People often make the mistake of thinking by locking themselves into a 1-year contract that this will automatically hold them accountable. Yes, this works for a very small group of people, but for the majority they simply end up making monthly donations to their local fitness facility. What will motivate you to workout? One idea is to find a small group of individuals who share your workout interests. Yes, having a single workout partner is great, but what happens if they decide to sleep in or skip a workout day, or several? Having a few individuals that you can count will keep you motivated, setting you up for success.
7) Have reasonable expectations & set reasonable goals: If you’re going from sitting on the sofa and watching TV after work to jumping into a new workout program, you are less likely to workout 5 to 7 days a week. Start out with a reasonable goal of perhaps exercising one day a week for 1 month, then adding an additional day by month two and so on. Weight loss is usually the number one motivating factor for wanting to get into shape, loosing 60 pounds in 60 days is a pretty lofty goal. A more reasonable goal is loosing 1 to 2 pounds per week, a much healthier approach to weight loss, that you are more likely to keep off.
8)Take a good look at your diet: People often make extreme dietary changes this time of year and unfortunately the more extreme the diet, the less likely you are to stick with it. Plus, if you are starving yourself, you will not have the energy to workout. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all eating plan that everyone can follow. You can however make a few small dietary changes that can set you up for success. Rather than eating fewer, larger meals, or adapting to an extreme calorie restricting diet plan. Eat 5 to 6 meals smaller meals daily. Two of those meals can be fruit or a protein drink and make sure each of your meals are balanced with protein and complex carbohydrates.
9) Drink plenty of water before during and after your exercise program. Dehydration is another reason for a lack of success and A failed exercise regimen. If you feel miserable during or after exercise, you are less likely to have the desire to do it again. In one hour of exercise the body can lose approximately a quart or more of water depending on the activity. Be sure to stay hydrated to avoid dizziness, fatigue, nausea and body aches
10) Chart your progress & reward yourself: Take before pictures and make note of your before weight, along with your daily and weekly progress. This will help you to stay motivated, plus you’ll have great moments to refer back to once you’ve achieved your goal. Be sure to also reward yourself weekly, for even the smallest of accomplishments. In addition to having a big reward for yourself when you’ve accomplished the weight loss or workout goals that you’ve set out to achieve.
Here’s to great health and fitness in 2012!
“Brought To You by The Positive Pear & Shake Fitness
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
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::
Migraines & tension headaches
Vision Problems/Visual blurring
(Parasthesias) Numbness & Tingling face, arms, hands, legs and feet
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)
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
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
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
Muscle & Joint Pain without redness or swelling
Fibromyalgia, CFIDS/CFS & Ankylosing Spondylitis Overlapping Symptoms:
Glute, Neck & Back pain
My Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis :
Muscle & Joint Pain
Pain & Stiffness of spine & joints
Chronic Inflammation, neck, back, knees, ankles, heels, hips & chest wall
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.