2nd Shot at Acupuncture

This morning I drove half an hour to try Acupuncture again.  I had tried it once before for $50 at a Korean venue located near Hollywood, California.  That experience had been very relaxing.  The needles for the most part, didn’t hurt and I was hopeful that this could reduce inflammation in my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  At the time, I was taking Methotrexate and Prednisone.  Soon after my appointment, I started to flare up.  At that time, I knew nothing about how alternative medications can and often cause an exacerbation of symptoms.  My flare lasted three weeks and I did not go back.

In hind-sight I realize that my flare was just the healing process when using natural therapies.  It was just an average day and I felt like looking into acupuncture again because it’s something I wanted to try once more in the future.   Before I got to far into my research, I came across an acupuncturist who was offering services “at an affordable sliding scale”.  For me, I hadn’t even considered going back anytime soon.  My full time job has gone down to part time and I’m currently looking for more work.  But with services being offered for as low as $25, I took it as a sign that maybe I should go in for treatment.  After all, I don’t HAVE to have conditioner for my hair for a couple of weeks.  I could just survive on saved bottles from old visits to hotel rooms of both shampoo and conditioner.  I could cut back on spending for groceries, etc.  Reducing inflammation in my hands is top priority for me, so why wouldn’t I figure out what I could do to make it happen?  I decided it was worth the tighter squeeze in my budget to give acupuncture another shot.

I told Michael, the acupuncturist, about my previous experience.  He decided we should take it slow.  For this trip, he inserted needles only in my hands and feet.  He said that acupuncture is sort of like, “stirring up the mud in the water” and it gave me a clear vision of a shallow muddy pool being stirred up until it was a thick, murky brown.  I also told him that I had been taking conventional RA drugs when I tried acupuncture before and that now I was on supplements to control inflammation.  He felt that perhaps this time I would not flare up like I did because I have already spent so much time detoxing my body.

The visit: My experience before was in a large building, set with a receptionist, several doctors on hand, ringing phones, a waiting room, and when I went in, I had a diagnostic machine that claimed to tell me which organs in my body were not working correctly.  To this day I wonder if there was any truth to that.  Since that had been my first and only visit to acupuncture, I was surprised but not disappointed to arrive at a quaint town-house and I settled in to a cozy room.  It was personal, lovely and I felt confident that Michael knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish.  The needles were chose carefully.  Just a couple were inserted into the palms of my hands and a few to each of the tops of my feet.  Michael told me the needles in my palms were points specifically found to reduce inflammation in arthritic hands.

Next time we would do more, but for now, no need to stir up the mud in the water too much.  As I lied there, I could feel some activity happening.  My feet weren’t changing in sensations, but my hands were stirring up the mud.  They started to become a little stiff and I could feel pain starting in on my wrists.  I was amazed that just two little needles on each palm could have such a big effect.  (My hands generally don’t feel pain but used to before my change in therapy).  I was worried that I’d have very swollen hands and wrists for the rest of the day.  I took some deep breaths and told myself, “give into the process”.  I finally relaxed, settling into a comfortable state, listening to the beautiful music and enjoying the ambiance.  When the experience was over, I set up another appointment for next Saturday and drove back home.

I was a little more swollen on my way home, just in my hands.  But as the day progressed, the swelling ceased, and my hands feel a little less inflamed than usual.  It could be a placebo effect since I know that acupuncture usually doesn’t work this quickly.  Still, I’m happy about my experience and excited about the prospect of fixing the tail ends of my inflammation once and for all.  Maybe THIS will really work.  In the meantime, I plan on telling all of you everything about it!

My first journal entry on Daily Strength: Aug 8, 2007

To those of you who wake up every morning in pain, or sit for a few minutes and have trouble getting up……or feel weak, tired…. depressed…….. or have people who don’t really understand……… to those of you who keep trying everything you can to get rid of your flare, hoping to just get back to your normal self……….. and to those of you who are saddened that you can’t do the things you use to do……..like pick up a child, or open up that bottle of water, or take off your bra. Yes, there are days I can, but plenty of days that I can’t. And to those of you that read online things like, “arthritis is possibly caused by poor diets, lack of exercise, unhealthy lifestyle…etc.” and get frustrated because you exercise everyday, eat healthfully and always have, etc…………………

I can relate………and, I want to hear from you!!!

I’m certainly not going to loose hope that I can’t get back a semi normal lifestyle. Plus, with medical advancements, you just never know.

But for now, I continue on my journey wanting to hear from all of you……..in our quest to improve the life we have and to share with each-other R.A. which I truly believe no one understands until you have it.

For instance, I love to exercise and I always have. When I exercise I do feel better. But during a time when I’m not having a flare……..I still can’t do….say… yoga. There are just simply things I can not do. I can’t bend my wrists like I use to……and I’ve lost a lot of strength. When I’m not in a full blown flare, I excersize as much as possible while I can. When I am going through a flare (which I am now) and just so you know, I’ve been on prednisone for 8 months………and now I’m on methotrexate for the first time as well as still on the pred. I’m having of course nausea and hair loss. It sucks and I’m not sure I really want to be on this medicine. At first I thought I did, but I just don’t know anymore…….even though I don’t have any better ideas. But anyway, exercise baffles me. Because now that I’m flaring again hard core, I’m still going to the gym. When I get there it takes all of my effort to get myself moving. But once I start moving, it gets a bit better……and continues to improve slightly (never like it use to) but enough that I’m feeling more confident and happy. The moment I stop…..like literally take a step off the elliptical, I feel as though I’m right back to normal again, meaning pain and stiffness, and it takes all of me to get myself out of the gym and back in the car. Sometimes I have to pull on my legs to get them up on the elliptical.

How many of you have tripped on your way into the shower because it’s too hard to lift your legs? Or how about…..how many of you have worried about your driving skills now that it’s difficult to turn your head and the steering wheel? Any of this sound familiar?

On my last day to drink for a long time which was Sat when I went to this amazing wedding. I drank too much of course, champagne, etc. I exercised that day already so I could feel better in the evening. I took prednisone and plenty of pain killers. I know, I know, terrible on my liver. I didn’t start Methotrexate until last night which was on Doctor’s advice………he knew I’d be bingeing on sat. Anyway, my point: So there I was at the wedding, tipsy, dancing, and having a great time…..the most limber and energetic I had been in a while. And a woman I know who is a friend of mine and knows of my R.A………we were walking partners and with my last flare I had to stop the early mornings… Anyway she said, mockingly, “Your rheumatoid isn’t bothering you now is it?” and it felt so……….you know, like you must be faking this sort of thing.

O.k. now you heard me vent. Ahhhh, this is what a journal is all about.

Health before Wealth

Recently I was talking to my mom about the newest thing I’m thinking of trying. It’s suppose to balance the pH of your water, along with add electrolytes and minerals. (see link) She asked, “How can you afford to take all of these things?”

The truth is, financially I can’t really. I’m stretched as thin as a rubber band, ready to break at any moment. These are hard, economical times.

On the flipside, can I afford to NOT keep trying new therapies in hope that remission will soon be giving me a high five at my doorstep? Sure I’m feeling great in a sense that I’m completely functional with RA. But as long as I’m not in remission, there’s still damage being done. I’m thinking long term. It’s the same as keeping up on your teeth cleaning. If you don’t, you could end up with some serious tooth decay, along with heart conditions and toxins invading your body. What kind of damage is happening to my hands long term? And there’s no guarantee with conventional drugs either that you can skip out on the deformities. Just clue into a recent post and you’ll see that hand deformity is just like the disease itself in that it varies from person to person. So you have to do your best to get inflammation under control no matter what you’re taking. Even if you’re taking DMARD’s and Biologics, you have to consider that eating right and exercising would be a wise, helpful choice since these medications can raise cancer risks, among other things. Our bodies are long term investments.

From time to time expense comes up as a topic in my RA support group. The idea of going organic, buying fresh food vs packaged, and taking supplements that can improve overall health seems too expensive to some. Most people embrace the burden of the extra costs, but a few need encouragement that long term, investing in the right foods and supplements will save money. This is particularly tough when a lot of us, including myself are living paycheck to paycheck. What you pay now at the grocery mart will help determine the costs of your future medical bills. Just like I am spending money on supplements, rather than movies or haircuts, I’m figuring that the money I spend now could make for a less expensive health bill in the future. Not only that, but the better I feel and the more that I can do, the better chance I have at making more money in the future, simply because I’ll be able to keep up a career and hopefully advance in that career.

So my motto is, when you’re trying to decide what to eat for lunch and your choice is a hamburger on the doller menu or that organic salad with grilled, free range chicken that were raised without antibiotics….. choose the latter. Because in my opinion, you’re going to be paying for your health in one way or another.

Trusting Your Doctor

I was speaking with a friend who just got results from her doctor, saying her liver enzymes were raised. The doctor advised her not to drink any alcohol. I immediately asked, “Are you taking Ibuprofen?” I knew her knee had been hurting her, and she wasn’t one to avoid over the counter medications. Her response was, “but my doctor said Ibuprofen would not raise my enzymes like that.”

I feel like I’ve heard this type of story a hundred times. You or a friend go to the doctor and something is wrong, and the doctor never gets to the bottom of it. Why? In many cases, I think the reason is because some doctors fail to listen or ask questions. They’re on a time schedule. They do a quick assessment. They make assumptions.

Though I’ve had some great doctors in my life, I’ve been disappointed just as many or more times. One of these visits was when I was fifteen. I had my wisdom teeth out. They weren’t quite in yet, but because of previous braces,it was suggested to remove the roots of the wisdom teeth before they formed, so my other teeth wouldn’t become crooked again. And despite how many times I went to the orthopedic surgeon to tell him I was in severe pain and something wasn’t right, he disregarded it, handing me heavier pain medications. He gave me codeine. The codeine didn’t help much, the pain was so severe. Finally, on my last visit, the surgeon realized I had an infection.  After a few days of antibiotics, my pain was gone! Had I simply believed the doctor was right and my pain was just a result of recovery, what could have happened if the infection had lasted longer?

For my friend, I knew she had gone in to see the doctor because her knees were bothering her. She’s a dancer and her dancing is very hard on her knees. I asked her how much ibuprofen she was taking each day. Knowing painkillers don’t work that great when you’re having chronic severe pain, I knew it was highly likely she was taking too much. It turned out she was taking over the maximum dosage. If the doctor had taken the time to really listen to his patient and ask questions, he would have figured this out. Instead, a patient with ill advice will continue taking the high dose of ibuprofen, further damaging her liver and her intestinal tract, later to find other chronic diseases up ahead.

I feel like our health system severely lacks preventative care. Without a doctor’s listening ear, problems go on unnoticed and as a result health care rises because ailments continue to spike. And when someone gets an ailment such as damaged intestines due to too much NSAIDs usage, autoimmune diseases like “leaky gut syndrome”, IBS, Crohn’s, Lupus, Fibromialgia and RA might be the result. Then what comes next? More painkillers, steroids and other various drugs that will further damage the body, causing more and more harm.

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what’s best. And because everyone’s chemistry is different, it’s hard to say how some people will react. But I do think that other choices are out there before you hit the drugs. Exhausting those choices first, in my opinion, is your best bet. For my friend, I can think of a few options off the top of my head that could help. Strengthening the muscles around the knee offer as a natural knee brace. I would suggest that she stops the painful movements in her dance class for a while and instead, works on reinforcing the muscles surrounding her knee. I would make this physical therapy a top priority and a continuous effort. Next, I would use a cream that’s great for the knees and will help bring down the inflammation. And when she’s resting at home and in pain, I would recommend that she elevates her leg and wraps an ace bandage around her knee to help push the swelling out.

Beyond that, of course there’s supplements that will reduce the swelling in her knee instead of using painkillers. For her liver, I would suggest considering three supplements that help the liver function. That I know of, those are milk thistle, N-acetylcysteine and SAM-e. SAM-e is particularly great because it would help her knee and her liver. N-acetylcysteine is a little more complicated because it pulls out toxic metals and requires additional vitamin C. Taking a supplement like Ultra Antioxidant from pro-health would cover the basics of what’s involved with this supplement in particular.

In the end, it’s important that you trust your doctor. If your doctor is not listening and not asking questions, life is too short…find one who will!

The Ripple Effect

Getting older is tough enough.  Watching your body change as you get older is a gradual process.  A gray hair here, a gray hair there.  A wrinkle here, a wrinkle there.  As the days move forward, at least you know everyone else is in the same boat.

But getting older with an autoimmune disease, in my opinion, is far more difficult.  You plunge head first into a scary world, and you imagine this must be what it feels like to be 90.  Losing abilities, taking pills daily, watching your body change at a very fast rate can be not only frustrating and painful, but detrimental to your mental health.  Each day is different.  You might notice new rashes on your skin, new bumps or bruises, or another task left uncompleted because of lost ability or weakness.  I remember clumps of hair falling out in the shower.  I felt sort of like a cancer patient.  The kinds of things you go through are just not meant for daily conversations.  So you feel alone and trapped in your own skin.

Luckily however, I have been able to get my Rheumatoid Arthritis under control with alternative medications that don’t have side effects.  My hair no longer falls out in clumps.  I rarely get new bumps or rashes.  And I am able and agile enough to once again live a full and productive life.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  This post is about the unknown and that gripping fear that although everything seems ok at the moment, the likelihood that more problems are in your future, especially as you grow older, is likely to occur.  And don’t say that I’m living life with a glass half-empty.  I am optimistic that whatever arises, I’ll be able to handle and possibly even get control of by taking more supplements.  But my point is, is that it is likely that if you get one autoimmune disease, there may be more to follow.

My first autoimmune disease was a skin disease.  It’s located on my shins and called Necrobiosis Lipoidica.  At first I was told it was Granuloma Annulare and the doctor showed me a picture of a woman with it all over her body.  This conclusion of course, was horrifying to me because for the next five years, I worried I’d be covered with shiny, scaly scars.  Fortunately, the doctor was wrong and instead, I was diagnosed later with Necrobiosis Lipoidica, which is a skin disease that only affects the shins.  Both skin diseases usually accompany diabetes, so the doctor was confused why not only did I not have diabetes, but it did not run in my family.  Later, in my research of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I learned that Necrobiosis Lipoidica sometimes is associated with RA.  Around those same years that I developed this, I also got pleurisy, which is a painful inflammation of the lining between your lungs and your ribs.  Antibiotics seemed to clear it up and it was probably a result of living in such polluted air.  Pleurisy, however,  is a frequent symptom of Lupus and it sometimes accompanies RA.  Fast forward four years and I’m diagnosed with Hypothyroidism.  My gynecologist caught it, otherwise this would have probably gone on for years without me realizing.  Then seven years later I was diagnosed with RA.

The reality is, most people with an autoimmune disease like RA or Lupus, usually have many more autoimmune diseases.  It can be a ripple effect.  Whether it’s the diseases themselves, the lifestyles that accompany the diseases, or the medications, more and more seem to pile up.  I’m glad to be on alternative medications because I know I’m taking things that might just possibly reverse the disease process.  But there’s always that side of me, that terrified side, like a voice in the back of my head that says, “What’s next?”  This time at least, I know that I’m doing all that I can do.  I’m armed with knowledge.  I’m taking supplements that improve my health.  I’m eating better, sleeping more and consuming fewer toxins.  There’s nothing more that we can do besides enjoy every day for what it is, knowing life is uncertain, so whatever each day may bring, let it be the best that it can be.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Olé!!

I got this video from “Creative Chronic Babes” and found it appropriate for just about anyone. Elizabeth Gilbert is funny, soothing and inspiring. Although you may not end up ROFL, it’s still a must see if you enjoy a great speaker and want to feel inspired. Sit back and enjoy.

Lactoferrin, A Miracle Supplement

LactoferrinI have always been on the lookout for a natural supplement that can do what an antibiotic does. But wait, Lactoferrin does so much more. The amount of information out there on Lactoferrin is unbelievable, and I’m wondering why it’s taken until now for me to even hear about it. Read on and you will discover Lactoferrin is a supplement you should consider if you want to fight viruses, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and inflammation in general. And for those who are tired of taking supplements or popping any more pills, I have the answer for you too. Bioactive Whey is a great source for Lactoferrin. Scoop it up and serve it in your favorite drink. Your immune system will thank you later….

“It’s an effective anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer agent and immune-boosting powerhouse. The FDA felt confident enough to approve its use as a spray on beef carcasses to kill E. coli 0157:H7, a particularly virulent disease-causing bacteria.”-Raw Milk Facts

Although further research needs to be made, Lactoferrin is believed to be helpful for the lungs whether they are inflammatory conditions such as Sarcoidosis, Cystic Fibroisis, or cancerous lungs. “Lactoferrin is a protein that is found naturally in milk, tears and saliva and can stop the growth of bacteria by preventing them forming ‘biofilms’ (when bacterial cells group together on a surface, such as the lining of the lung).”-European Medicine’s Agency

Lactoferrin (LF), also known as lactotransferrin (LTF), is a globular multifunctional protein with antimicrobial activity (bacteriocide, fungicide) and is part of the innate defense, mainly at mucoses……….The combination of iron and lactoferrin in mucosal secretions modulate the ability and aggregation of pathogenic bacteria, and inhibit both bacteria and viruses by binding to host cells/viral particles. This inhibits the ability of bacteria and viruses to attach to cell membranes. It is also an antifungal agent.”-Wikipedia

If you’re taking drugs like Enbrel, Orencia, Humira, Amevive, Epogen Remicade or Herceptin, these are inhibitors of tnf-protein. The problem with these drugs is they come with a wide range of side effects, including some rare, but very serious ones which can be even more serious than the condition that you’re taking them for. “Lactoferrin released at sites of inflammation interacts with mononuclear cells (16) and suppresses the production of inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha ) and interleukin-1 (IL-1) (6).”-Clinical and Vaccine Immunology

The possibilities of Lactoferrin seem endless.

Immunity:

“Lactoferrin is found throughout the human body and occurs in all secretions that bathe mucous membranes such as saliva, tears, bronchial and nasal secretions, hepatic bile, pancreatic fluids, and is an essential factor in the immune response. Lactoferrin is concentrated in oral cavities where it will come in direct contact with pathogens (i.e. viruses, bacteria, etc.) and kills or greatly suppresses these pathogens through a variety of different mechanisms. In fact, there are specific receptors for lactoferrin found on many key immune cells, such as lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages, and is known to be directly involved in the upregulation of natural killer (NK) cell activity. “-Life Extension

Anti-Viral:

“Lactoferrin has been found to both directly and indirectly inhibit several viruses that cause disease in humans. It directly inhibits viruses by binding to viral receptor sites, thus preventing the virus from infecting healthy cells. For example, in vitro studies have found that lactoferrin strongly binds to the V3 loop of the gp120 receptor on HIV-1 and HIV-2, resulting in inhibition of virus-cell fusion and entry of the virus into cells.10 In addition, lactoferrin indirectly kills or inhibits viruses by augmenting the systemic immune response to a viral invasion. It’s interesting to note that there is a systemic deficiency of lactoferrin in people with HIV infection.”-LifeExtension

Anti-Cancer:

“Perhaps one of the most promising uses for lactoferrin may be in its potential as a nontoxic adjuvant cancer treatment agent. Extensive in-vitro (test tube) and in-vivo research with animals has shown lactoferrin to be a powerful anti-cancer agent.”-LifeExtension

Colon and Lung Carcinomas:

“Sekine et al. have demonstrated in vivo prevention by bovine LF (bLF) of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and colon carcinomas in rats pretreated with azoxymethane and Bezault et al. found that injection of human lactoferrin (hLF) markedly inhibited tumor growth of solid tumors derived from v-ras transformed fibroblasts and a methl-cholanthrene-induced fibrosarcoma as well as lung colonization by the B16-F10 melanoma in an expermintal metastasis mode.”-Clinical & Experimental Metastasis

Anti-microbial:

“One study looked at lactoferrin as a “natural antibiotic” and found that lactoferrin both in-vitro and in-vivo strongly inhibited the toxic bacteria helicobacter pylori. They stated “It is concluded that bovine (cows) lactoferrin has significant antimicrobial activity against helicobacter species in-vitro and in-vivo.”(16) Another study using both in-vitro and in-vivo methods added lactoferrin to the drinking water of mice and subjected them to the toxic microbe staphylococcal. The study found that the mice getting the lactoferrin as 2% of calories reduced kidney infections by 40% to 60% and reduced bacterial counts 5- to 12-fold. They concluded “the results suggest a potential for the use of lactoferrin as natural anti-bacterial proteins for preventing bacterial infections.”(17)-LifeExtension

Antioxidant: “‘Several studies suggest lactoferrin reduces oxidative stress. Diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and AIDS are all closely related to oxidative stress either as a causative factor or as a factor in progression of the disease. One study that examined the role of whey proteins, multifermented whey proteins and lactoferrin in oxidative stress made the bold statement, “We can conclude that whey protein, lactoferrin and multifermented whey are good candidates as dietary inhibitors of oxidative stress and should be considered as potential medicinal foods in various pathologies as HIV infection and cancer.'(21) “-LifeExtension

Skin:

  • Repairs and purifies the skin
  • Reduces itching
  • Increases the skin’s defence mechanism
  • Reduces red and burning skin

Healthy Gums:

“A wide range of research institutions are focusing on and conducting research into lactoferrin. Through exhaustive gene expression analysis and administration studies, Lion was able to find out that lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a pathogen produced by periodontal bacteria, not only stimulates the progress of periodontal disease but also increases the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, a condition known as “dyslipidemia,” which is one form of metabolic syndrome*. “-LION

Anemia:

“It is relevant in the battle against anemia because it appears to improve iron absorption from food and helps transport this essential mineral to wherever it’s needed.”-HF

Candida and Ecoli:

“Lactoferrin possesses two known direct anti-microbial peptides called lactoferricin B and lactoferrampin. Researchers exposed cells of Candida albicans and E. coli to lactoferrin and then watched what happened under a high power laser-scanning microscope. The lactoferrin was taken up into the cell membranes of both organisms within a few minutes, and then proceeded to disrupt the integrity of their cell membranes, which either kills them directly or enables the immune system to fight an easier battle. The researchers observed that it was the lactoferrampin peptide that disturbed Candida, whereas the lactoferricin B disrupted E. coli. This indicates that lactoferrin uses multiple strategies depending on the type of problem.”-Wellness Resources

Arthritis:

“We have recently shown that resistin is a key mediator of arthritis accumulating in the inflamed joints and exerting its pro-inflammatory properties independently of TNFalpha. Here we evaluate neutrophils as a cellular source of resistin. Human neutrophils were subjected to subcellular fractionation where the presence of resistin was assessed using western blot, ELISA, and mass spectrometry. Presence of resistin on the neutrophil surface was visualized by flow cytometry. More than 95% of the neutrophils in circulation and in synovial fluid express resistin on their surface. Stimulation of mature neutrophils with fMLF induced release of resistin into supernatants and increased expression of resistin on the surface. Resistin is mobilized simultaneously with lactoferrin, a protein found in specific granules, and with granule-stored CR3/CD11b. Subcellular fractionation of human neutrophils demonstrated the presence of resistin in azurophilic and in specific granules. Here we show that neutrophils have two pools of resistin, the major one exists in specific granules, and the second on their cell membrane. Release of resistin from the neutrophil granules probably serves the main source of resistin at the site of inflammation.”-PubMed

Crohn’s, Colitis, Irritable Bowl Syndrome and other Intestinal Issues:

Perfect for a disease like Chron’s, “Lactoferrin also inhibits gut inflammation….”-Journal Of The American College of Nutrition

“The observation that lactoferrin can inhibit local inflammation by inhibition of TNF-{alpha} mediated immune responses predicts that lactoferrin exerts a similar antiinflammatory role at local sites of immune defense where the protein is expressed (e.g., the gastrointestinal tract, lung, uterus, etc).”-Journal Of The American College of Nutrition

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