To those of you who know, and have read my earlier posts, about my ongoing recovery from fibromyalgia, and to anyone still feeling stuck in the territory, this post is a year-end addendum of some real newsworthiness and optimism. I really feel, and have pretty consistent evidence of, the fact I am reaching the final chapter of my recovery process; one which has been through a total ‘upping of the ante’ this year and so its particularly satisfying, as we reach the end of 2014, to feel that I am finally getting to the other side of what’s felt like a long swim.
I’ve already chronicled the most significant event of my year, being the safe removal of all of my mercury-containing dental amalgams over a period of three months in the summer. I am quite convinced that this has had a dramatic impact on my much-improved health today. Yes, their removal rocked my health boat temporarily in ways that have felt inconvenient – I have particularly experienced additional strain being put on my kidneys (and to some extent, my liver) since going through the process…which would have inevitably mobilised some of the stored heavy-metal toxicity from places in my body where its been hidden away for years…but have steadily improved (with the help of great diet and a medical herbalist) and these very minor issues feel like a small price to pay for such dramatic improvement in my overall health.
The big change is that I am well into the autumn~winter months, which are usually the most challenging time of my year, and yet am feeling the best that I have in this season for over a decade: that is, energised, mentally sparky, full of creative ideas (that I am both eager and able to follow through), experiencing less frequent and far less relentless or burningly intense pain or restriction and…a BIG one for me…an almost total absence of the brain fog that typically pulls me into myself, and out of the world, for roughly half of my year (a most inconvenient aspect of fibromyalgia) – yay!
My general stamina is impressively increased and my recovery time following strain or a period of overdoing things is much quicker. For instance, a recent day out (12 hours of combined train travel and walking around in the cold of a Christmas market) neither floored me that day nor knocked me off my perch the next and, with regular sit-down breaks and low expectations of doing very much the day after, I felt (yes, predictably tired but) generally fine and without the usual few days of compensating for the good time that we had. This is all quite new!
Other big players in this recovery can be summarised as great diet, innovative new supplementation and regular exercise (beyond just the daily walking that I normally do).
The great diet is one hundred per cent vegetarian (and has been for two years now) and almost entirely organic, devoid of any convenience meals and largely cooked from scratch. Its packed full of some really key players such as garlic, turmeric, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil (especially where heating the oil is called for), honey and pink Himalayan salt. I’m well past the point of having to think about avoiding high-sugar commercial confectionery and the typical deserts that restaurants and supermarkets churn out…I actively don’t like them now, its like my body has asserted itself to choose different for me through my preferences, so its no longer an issue for me and my one remaining ‘sweet’ inclination is the occasional piece of 70% or higher dark chocolate, often in its raw state, or some honey.
Himalayan pink salt has also made a huge difference to my mineral intake in the form of sole (pronounce so-lay) which is a saturated solution of Himalayan salt – instructions below – of which I take a generous teaspoon, diluted in mineral water, as my first drink of the day. Packed with 84 minerals and trace elements…the very same ones that are crucial to the smooth operation of the human body, this is the kind of salt that is about as far removed from the kind that has been branded ‘bad’ by the media as it could be and I heartily recommend it…I actually love, and find myself craving, its savoury taste (its an infinitely more complex flavour than white table salt). One of the first things I noticed within a few days of taking this regularly was how the whites of my eyes, previously often bloodshot or yellow-coloured, became so white and clear that it startled me…so, coincidence?
Another big-player mineral source that I now take daily is blue-green algae (I take E3Live) from Oregon…this stuff is incredible, I felt such an immediate uplift from day one that my husband also takes it daily, reporting feeling incredibly energised and clear-headed as a result. Whatever it is about blue-green algae that works, I intend to keep it as part of my daily intake.
The long-term key supplements that I wouldn’t be without – in other words, the ones I would grab if I had a minute to pack for an unexpected trip – are magnesium, MSM, l carnitine, high dose vitamin D3, olive leaf extract (an incredible antioxidant) and a top-notch multivitamin and mineral combo. There are other things that I take but these are the most important to me.
A breakthrough this autumn was starting daily yoga, under the guidance of a coach who works with chronic pain conditions and who sets me a routine that I continue at home, returning every six weeks for review. My routine might be almost laughably gentle but it has made all the difference to me, so much so that I was surprised at how much I looked forward to it from day one and so I have missed just 4 days out of nearly two months (even though my coach’s advisory was to ‘try and manage 3 times a week). On the days I don’t start with yoga, my body doesn’t quite get into its groove and my stamina wains more quickly, mobility is lessened, I seize up into pain far more quickly, I feel less ‘joined up’ from head to toe. When I do start with yoga, even on days when it feels like the very last thing that I want to do as I get out of bed, I notice later how my legs feel so well-oiled on my walk, how my hips and neck move and twist with ease and how I can bend down and stretch up doing chores without any of the old decrepit movements I was once so sadly accustomed to; in fact, my whole mood and inner state feels lighter, far more joined-up and less cranky.
My yoga routine starts with deep breathing – ujjayi breath – followed by the bija mantra, a toning exercise that works its way through all of the chakras and I find these especially powerful; can literally feel areas where energy has become congested or stuck and can then feel how I make the shift through the blockage into new expansiveness, like clearing an energy hairball in my plumbing, and all ‘just’ through use of the breath and sound plus the visualisations that invariably accompany these. Remarkably powerful stuff…I can see now why those who ‘know’ about yoga make such a fuss about it; this is so much more than ‘just exercise’ and works most profoundly at the quantum level.
Now for the really innovative new addition to my recovery toolbox, and the one that spurred me off to write this blog with such enthusiasm this morning. My christmas present this year was a far infrared sauna; the size of a phone booth and newly installed in our (also brand new) yoga space. Tell people you’re getting a sauna for christmas and you start to sense that some of them are thinking ‘how pretentious’ or ‘that will be next year’s un-used resell on eBay’ but, actually, this sauna is no fashion-trend or frippery but, rather, a relatively low cost (especially compared with the expense of all the treatments I’ve been having for years), extremely solid investment in my imminent recovery.
The volume of anecdotal information ‘out there’ about the benefits of far infrared for fibromyalgia is growing daily so I won’t repeat it all here (though I do attach some links) but the logic behind all this is pretty sound. Far infrared is the kind of heat we enjoy from the sun on a perfect summer’s day, dozing in a deckchair, without the harmful rays that affect our skin (and I already know that my heath peaks when those kinds of days are available to me…I spent some deeply therapeutic days, this summer, just lying in the sun). A sauna using this kind of heat achieves more sweating, at lower temperatures, than a traditional sauna – which makes it far more tolerable for those in chronic pain – and it penetrates deeply into the cells of the body, to a depth of approximately an inch and a half below the surface, which means it impacts organ tissue, where it has the potential to release toxins stored in some of the very deepest places. My combined reading suggests that the many processes that are triggered by the introduction of far infrared heat to the body amount to a combination of deep cellular cleansing with the regeneration of some of the body functions that have become sluggish or halted altogether as a result of long-term chronic illness. The effect of being in this kind of heat, for twenty minutes or so at a time, is not unlike dozing in a sunny deckchair…you can literally feel yourself getting well!
Since toxins are then released through the skin by this method, this sparks off the kind of detoxification process that is often the lynchpin to recovery from chronic illness without adding further strain to the kidneys and liver and also brings about some of the speediest detoxification imaginable. I have to admit, having put up with months of temperamental kidneys and with the daunting prospect of chelation from mercury still ahead of me, this comes as something of a relief as it holds the potential to bypass both.
So, does it work…does far infrared really do all this? Well, already, its laughable to me how my husband can step out of our new sauna and say (in the most understated way) ‘that was really relaxing and pleasant’ and then just get on with his day, yet to me it is all that but also like the aftermath to a workout combined with a deep tissue massage; there’s no question, I REALLY feel like its done something to me at the deepest level as my muscles feel smooth yet tender (not in an unpleasant way) and I experience the kind of swooning not-to-be-ignored tiredness that you’d expect after a day out of doors. I then sleep like a log and wake feeling profoundly different in my body (a little more different each time). Keeping water and mineral uptake high during periods of use is essential, along with a shower straight after a session to flush all the toxins away, as is the avoidance of any additional strains on the body’s waste processing…which is a particular challenge at Christmas time but, then, not as much as it once would have been since I ‘drink’ very little and wouldn’t dream of using the sauna straight after food or wine. I also find that doing some gentle stretches while I am in the sauna – rotating my neck gently to its maximum point on each side, a little further each time, and pulling my arms behind my head to stretch beneath the shoulder blades, for instance…gains the maximum benefit from the session as the heat encourages the myofascia to let-up its usual vice-like grip for long enough to work beneath that layer into the muscles.
Cold and damp are the achilles heel of someone with fibromyalgia or myofascial pain; it doesn’t seem to matter how warm I make myself or my environment – as soon as the weather turns cold or rainy outside, my body seems to lock up in pain – but the far-infrared sauna delivers the kind of heat that counteracts that deep cellular ice-chill that can feel so all pervasive, which makes it particularly useful at those times…especially after a cold/wet walk…whatever the time of day. That being said, the most effective time to use the sauna, by far, seems to be just before bed…knowing I can then succumb to the continued repair process that it feels like it has set in motion while I am sleeping.
So, this was my year-end share of a handful of really helpful modalities that back-up my long held opinion that fibromyalgia is as temporary as you choose it to be and that recovery is a mindset; an intention that can be set and them manifested as your new reality. Its still very early days on the sauna…and I am sure I will be sharing more of my experiences with far infrared further down the line. Its positive beginning has certainly fed into the feeling of an exciting and optimistic new beginning launching for me as the new year approaches – which has also made me particularly mindful of, and grateful for, how very far I’ve come since a year ago, which is when I set an extremely determined intention to be feeling so much better by the end of 2014. Its sometimes felt like a very long swim to the other side of chronic illness but the warm sandy shore is clearly in my line of vision now and feels well within reach; I’ve also noticed that there are times when I feel quite sublime in my body these days and that they are becoming more and more frequent. The fact that, when I set out to bookmark some useful articles today, I created a new ‘health’ sub-folder for 2015 and (instead of calling it ‘Recovery 2013…2014’ etc., as I’ve always done before), unthinkingly called it ‘Recovered 2015′, tells me a great deal about where I am now at!
How to make Himalayan salt sole – one of numerous articles out there celebrating the many benefits
Bija mantras – use of sound to unblock energy
Except from a medical review of far infrared benefits for fibromyalgia
Video about the use of far infrared for fibromyalgia
Excerpt from Dr Sherry A Rogers book ‘Detoxify or die’ on the benefits of far infrared
Article about fibromyalgia and far infrared sauna benefits
Fibromyalgia and far infrared – an example recovery story (I’m not advocating this brand of saunas particularly – mine came from a company in the UK)
There are many other articles out there (this is just a random taster) – if anything I have shared has piqued your curiosity, I recommend you do some further reading and research.