Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

fibro-ribbonFor two decades May 12th has been designated as International Awareness Day for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalitis), Gulf War Syndrome, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Awareness Day for these illnesses has been combined based on commonality of symptoms which significantly compromises the health of millions of people.

In 1992, the May 12th date was chosen to honor the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the English army nurse who was a pioneer of the Red Cross movement. The historical description of her illness indicates that Nightingale battled more than half of her life with an illness similar to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, yet went on to inspiring accomplishments. She was founder of modern nursing and made outstanding contributions to the knowledge and improvement of public health.

Now Awareness Day activities take place worldwide in an effort to increase awareness of these devastating illnesses and allow patients and organizations to educate the general public, the media, healthcare professionals and government officials.

One of the most difficult aspects of having these illnesses is that most of the symptoms are invisible, which makes it hard for friends, family, and co-workers to understand. Since many patients appear healthy, their complaints are often misinterpreted as an exaggeration, or even psychosomatic. These illnesses are growing at epidemic proportions. Yet, even some doctors still do not believe they exist. The inability to detect a biomarker, the wide range of symptoms, and the heterogeneous community are just some of the difficulties that have perplexed physicians and researchers.

That’s one of the reasons that Awareness Day is so important!

Thirteen years ago, the Fibromyalgia Coalitional International (FCI), a nonprofit organization in Mission, Kansas, joined the call for increased recognition of these illnesses. By hosting an annual conference, FCI has made it possible for patients and healthcare providers to gain information that can make a difference in the fibromyalgia/CFS sufferer’s life. The 2014 conference, entitled What’s That Got To Do With Fibromyalgia? will be held November 14-15 at the Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Patients, their family, friends, and healthcare providers are urged to attend.

Only through increased awareness will early diagnosis and effective treatment become a reality. It is through the courage and determination of the patient community that we can inspire others to support, assist and truly understand our physical and emotional needs. Let’s all speak with a unified voice that shouts our passionate need to eliminate these devastating illnesses.

Your partner in health,

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Stress and Relationships

heartsSince Valentine’s Day is just around the corner I thought it might be a good time to discuss stress and relationships.

Stressful relationships are often not a result of a couple not being simpatico. They are often due to the stress and strain caused by outside factors. There are however, some basic relationship techniques to take into consideration. These apply not only to your spouse or significant other, but other relationships as well. Stress in any area of your life affects all areas of your life: your health, your wealth, your family, your spirituality.

Although outside factors are often the biggest issue, many people need to work on outside factors and internal relationship techniques simultaneously, particularly if the relationship has been strained significantly.

Many relationships are severely strained by outside influencers. No matter how hard you work at improving your relationship with someone, this kind of stress between you will eventually creep back in. This is why you must first address the root cause of the stress.

It can be:

  • Your job (or lack thereof)
  • An aging or difficult parent
  • Diminishing libido
  • Finances
  • Conflicts with children
  • Illness
  • Inattention…..

The list is almost endless. So what can you do?

The following 6 steps is an excerpt from The 14 Day Stress Cure, M.C. Orman, MD, FLP © 1991. All rights reserved.

How To Deal With Relationship Problems

Step 1: Define your problem(s) specifically – i.e. “My husband never talks to me,” “My boss hates my guts,” “I can’t stand to be around X for more than two minutes,” or “I’m in love with Y, but he/she isn’t interested in me.”

Step 2: Relate to each of your relationship problems as feedback – i.e. assume you are partly the cause of the problem.

Step 3: Identify the specific conversation and action patterns within you that are causing your relationship problems to occur or persist.

Step 4: Remind yourself that these hidden patterns exist in your body, not your mind.

Step 5: Take action to neutralize these hidden causes – i.e. challenge your stress-producing conversations; disrupt your automatic behavior patterns; create relationship-enhancing contexts.

Step 6: If your relationship problems don’t improve, repeat steps 1-5 and/or get coaching.

In summary, remember two keys to significantly lessen stress in your relationships.

  1. First find and address the root cause of problems and difficulties together.
  2. Then, work at your relationship!

 Love and best wishes,

Founder and Executive Director
Fibromyalgia Coalition International

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Happy Holidays from All of Us at FCI!

holidays

Our wish is that you remember to take time for yourself during the holidays. Maybe you can take a walk and enjoy the beauty of the season. For some even a walk in the mall can be uplifting. Promise yourself that you will schedule some quality time to do things you enjoy!

Finding the Joy

As the holidays come round, inevitably hassles increase — exponentially. But just imagine you could handle every problem that comes your way. Long lines at the post office, delayed flights, family squabbles, illness — no matter the difficulty, imagine you could grit your teeth and overcome it. In the face of adversity, you could resolve every fear, and relieve any pain or stress.

Surely you’d be happy then, right? Not necessarily. According to psychological research, being able to cope with negative events has little to do with being able to find joy in positive ones. In other words, just because you’re not down doesn’t mean you’re up. And just because good things happen doesn’t necessarily mean you enjoy or appreciate them. Rather, finding joy is both an art and a science, and we can learn to excel at it.

A good place to begin? Try these four tips to enhance savoring the season:

1. Share your good feelings with others

Whether you’re clearing the table with family or close friends or walking through a meadow with your sweetheart, tell the person with you what you appreciate about the moment. Sharing is the strongest predictor of the level of enjoyment someone feels. In fact, studies of people’s reactions to positive life events have found that those who share their positive feelings with friends have higher levels of overall happiness than people who do not share their feelings.

2. Take a mental picture

You’re playing a rowdy game of Monopoly with your family. Pause for a moment and consciously take note of specific features you want to remember later: Aunt Mimi spewing milk at a joke, Grandma sneaking bits of food to the dog, or Cousin Leo getting sent to jail — without collecting $200. When building memories, happy people search for, notice, and highlight the things they find most enjoyable. In the process, they form clearer and more vivid memories they can more easily recall and share with others in the future.

3. Congratulate yourself

Your boss raves about your work in an important meeting—tell yourself how impressive this is, and remind yourself how long you have waited for this to happen. This style of savoring involves “patting yourself on the back” mentally and exalting in the warm glow of pride associated with a positive outcome.

4. Sharpen your sensory perceptions.

Take a bite of your favorite dessert. Close your eyes to block out visual distractions and concentrate on the rich taste to intensify the flavor. Sometimes competing sights, sounds, or smells can interrupt the flow of positive feelings and dampen savoring. In these cases, blocking out distractions can enhance savoring by sharpening your focus of attention on the pleasure itself.

Wishing you the best of health and a holiday season blessed with love and laughter (the best medicine of all!)

Sincerely,

Founder and Executive Director
Fibromyalgia Coalition International

P. S. Mark Your Date Book for Nov. 14-15, 2014!!

The Fibromyalgia Coalition International’s 14th Annual Conference/Health and Healing Retreat will be held at the magnificent Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

Registration begins in January 2014. Watch for further information on our website and in our quarterly Fibromyalgia Solutions magazine.

——–

Learning is not obtained by choice; it must be sought with ardor and attended with diligence.” ~ Abigail Adams

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Feeling Tired? Could It Be Fibromyalgia and/or Other Conditions?

I recently came across an article in the September 2013 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal entitled “No, Feeling This Tired Is Not Normal.” The article went on to list thyroid issues, anemia, low vitamin D, depression, fibromyalgia and hepatitis C as conditions you might want to rule out.

Until recent years, many people (including some healthcare providers) questioned the existence of fibromyalgia. So I was pleased to see fibromyalgia listed as one of the reasons for fatigue, but also I would like to point out how dietary changes have helped me.

The question I hear most often is: What should I eat? However, any article that I write on the subject usually gets comments expressing frustration.

Those of us with fibromyalgia are often sensitive to food as well as light, sound, touch, scents and taste. We may be sensitive to foods that are normally considered healthy and don’t seem to bother others – the list is endless. While the specifics of individual diets vary, what we eat has an effect on how we feel whether we have fibromyalgia or not. We are all different with unique nutritional needs.

Rather than focusing on what not to eat, let’s focus our attention on what to eat.

Look for foods that nourish the body at the cellular level such as quality protein, veggies and healthy fats. By providing the vital nutrients that are typically missing from our diet, the body is better able to create a healing environment. Since I switched to real food, organic or locally grown when possible, avoiding most boxed and packaged foods, I have been free of fibromyalgia and fatigue for over 15 years. (I had a couple of the health issues below and there were a few others that had to be resolved as well.)

Many fibromyalgia sufferers I know have improved when properly treated for other illnesses such as those listed in the Ladies’ Home Journal article. After reading the article, here are my thoughts on how fibromyalgia interconnects with these other conditions:

  1. Thyroid– Fibromyalgia and thyroid issues are often connected. People with fibromyalgia may experience hypothyroid symptoms such as feeling cold all the time, weight gain (despite your best efforts), dry skin, thinning hair, brittle nails and constipation and/or frequent bowel movements, and heart palpitations, as stated in the article. But they may also experience other problems that do not occur in hypothyroidism, such as restless legs syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), numbness and tingling in the extremities, and morning stiffness.
  2. Anemia – Most people with fibromyalgia have nutritional deficiencies. A study published in 2010 showed a significant difference in serum ferritin (iron) levels between healthy people and those with fibromyalgia. Researchers concluded that low iron created a 6.5-fold increase to the risk of fibromyalgia. Some of the study participants had iron-deficiency anemia, but there were also some who were at the high end of what’s considered normal. One thing we should be aware of is the possibility of low iron, which can lead to a type of anemia.
  3. Low Vitamin D – Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiencies to many illnesses. After a 2011 Saudi Arabian study that looked at 100 female patients who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the relation between vitamin D deficiency and fibromyalgia syndrome, they concluded that vitamin D deficiency has to be considered in the management of fibromyalgia syndrome. Follow-up assessments, done one month after treatment with single-dose injection and two months after treatment with tablets, found that treatment with vitamin D3 improved all fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria scores except cognitive functioning problems.
  4. Depression – The close association between fibromyalgia and depression can be a sensitive issue for people with fibromyalgia because many of us have been told, “It’s all in your head.” However, an article from the website UpToDate, which is highly respected and widely used by doctors, explores psychological disorders in fibromyalgia, as well as other illnesses. The rates were higher in fibromyalgia than in the other conditions. But the article recognizes that having a condition such as fibromyalgia may contribute to depression and anxiety but it doesn’t say that fibromyalgia is caused by depression and anxiety.
  5. Hepatitis C – Fibromyalgia and hepatitis C infection share many symptoms including musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. According to a study found on www.Hepatitis-Central.com, the frequency of musculoskeletal pain in hepatitis C was 91 percent. While the two conditions do not always accompany each other, some symptoms may be unique when a person has both. One study found that people dually diagnosed with fibromyalgia and hepatitis C exhibit symptoms such as inflammation around a joint, bursa and/or tendon, and blood or lymph vessel inflammation that are not seen in hepatitis C negative people with fibromyalgia.

There is a cause for everything including fibromyalgia! If you suspect you have one of these conditions, you may want to seek an evaluation and treatment that could improve your most frustrating symptoms.

Whatever the illness, a healthy lifestyle can’t hurt and may actually help more than you can imagine. For information on how you can feel well again email support@fibrocoalition.org.

Your partner in health,

This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

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Signs of Dehydration

Summer is here! The temperature is predicted to be in the mid-90s inKansas Citytoday.

If you live in the South, Southwest or MidwestU.S., chances are it is really hot outside. Heat exhaustion is a real possibility in weather like this.

Unfortunately, thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water. (If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.) One indicator is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

Following are more signs that you may be dehydrated.

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens.
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Lack of sweating
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels (the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Every cell in your body needs water. Coffee, tea, soda and juice are NOT water. Before you turn to sugar or caffeine, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens.

Whether you’re working outside or have a desk job, your body needs ample water to work well and keep cool. A good rule of thumb is ½ oz. of water for each pound of body weight (i.e., 150 lbs. = 75 oz. of water a day). If you’re working outside you will need more.

Remember, drinking water is even more vital in the heat.

Your partner in health,

This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

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Savor the Flavor

Although summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, the “delicious season” is already here.

You can find many affordable, nutritious foods at your farmers market or local health food store, or even at the corner grocery. With a little creative use of your dollar, you can enjoy the best foods while getting the most “bang for your buck”.

Half the fun of frequenting markets and their festival-like atmosphere is following the rhythm of the seasons.

You will find a state-specific seasonal produce guide with produce by season or region at http://localfoods.about.com/od/searchbystate/
State_Seasonal_Produce_Guides.htm

How to Find a Farmers Market in Your Area

Farmers markets are popping up all over the country. In theU.S., no matter where you live, chances are you’re close to a farmers market. With a fresh supply of produce and specialty foods, farmers markets offer items that can be hard to find at other times of the year.

Local Harvest www.localharvest.com has a searchable database of farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainable grown food, which offer produce, grass-fed meats and other foods. Farmers, market managers or owners of businesses related to locally grown foods are invited to add their listing, at no charge, to the directory.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has a thorough collection of U.S.farmers markets in your area by state and city at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/farmersmarkets.

Your Best Source for Fresh Produce

The first rule of healthy eating: Eat foods that are indigenous to the area where you live, in the season when they are available. This is how we ate for the thousands of years before big agribusiness and the food manufacturers came along.

Look for locally grown foods in stores and at farmers markets.

In order to avoid pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics, choose organic foods, especially meat and dairy, whenever possible. Organic foods can be found at many grocery stores, health food stores, and farmers markets or directly from organic farmers.

Check out http://naturallygrown.org for a list of farmers in your area that participate in growing organic produce.

The season is fleeting, so plan to take advantage of tasty summer cuisine. And choose locally grown, organic produce when feasible—your body will thank you!

Your partner in health,

This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

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Fibromyalgia: Problem SOLVED?

I subscribe to several online newsletters including Health Central.com.  Recently Karen Lee Richards wrote about an article she came across in the March 2013 online issue of Prevention magazine entitled “Problem Solved: Fibromyalgia. What’s new, what’s natural, and what’s tried and true?”

The Prevention article lists 12 treatments for fibromyalgia – five were classified as new treatments, three as natural remedies and four as tried and true methods.  In Karen’s article, Fibromyalgia Treatments: Problem NOT Solved she says, “You can imagine my reaction to the title – Problem Solved?! Really?  Tell that to the more than 12 million people in the U.S.alone who continue to suffer with the pain of fibromyalgia every day.”

While some of the treatments listed in the article may be helpful for relieving symptoms none are new. Some have been used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms for decades. I have been writing article about natural treatments since 1998, right after my recovery from fibro and chronic fatigue, including articles on those new treatments.  Here are my thoughts:

New Treatments

  1. Magnesium – I’m glad they mentioned that people aren’t getting enough magnesium—found in green leafy vegetables, meat and milk.  Magnesium with malic acid was one of the first supplements I took when I started my natural road to recovery in 1997.  My niece had used this for relieving her fibromyalgia symptoms before that.
  2. Yoga – Yoga has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries and became popular across the Western world in the 1980s.  During my recovery, I used a variation of Yoga designed by Mary Moeller, LPN.  Mary had suffered with fibromyalgia since she was a child and used stretching exercises during her recovery.  Instructions for this gentle stretching routine are in Mary’s eBook “Fibromyalgia Cookbook: A Daily Guide to Becoming Healthy Again!” found exclusively in the FCI bookstore. NOTE: Even though it does contain a few recipes, it’s a step-by-step guide which I found easy to follow even with fibro fog.
  3. Biofeedback and breathing – Biofeedback can help produce a relaxed state; the physical responses of skin temperature and muscle tension can provide information.  However, as Karen points out, biofeedback has been used to treat fibro since 1987.  Breathing properly, so we get more oxygen into our body, can help reduce pain.
  4. Tai chi – Tai chi, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a relaxed movement that is designed to improve healing and help with muscle strength, posture, balance, sleep and coordination.  As far back as April 2001, FCI wrote about the benefits of tai chi in newsletters and magazines.
  5. Acupuncture – This treatment has also been around for centuries. An article in FCI’s Apr. 2004 newsletter mentioned “one small but well-designed acupuncture study showed promising results for fibromyalgia, which are probably due to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.”  Acupuncture has been mentioned in FCI publications every year since.

Three Natural Remedies

  1. Massage – The article mentions a study that shows Myofascial Release to be helpful. The John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach® is considered to be very good for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.  Jan Kelly, OTR/L, LMT trained extensively with John F. Barnes, founder of the Myofascial Release Approach. She has utilized Myofascial Release since 1998 and has been an assistant instructor with John F. Barnes at Myofascial Release Seminars nationwide. She will be speaking at FCI’s Health Retreat in October. Find an MRT practitioner here.
  2. Weight loss – Various research has shown that the average weight gain in fibro patients is 25-35 pounds during the first year after diagnosis!  The author mentioned a theory that “elevated levels of inflammatory substances … can trigger pain and heighten sensitivity to it.”  Dr. Gloria Gilbère, author of Pain & Inflammation Matters advocates reducing inflammation to relieve fibro symptoms.  She will give a cooking demo with tasting and handouts at the FCI Retreat in Oct.
  3. Movement –The author of Problem Solved must have heard that many fibro patients do not like to exercise (they refer to movement).  But remember, lymph carries waste and toxins from the cells of your body. (Your heart pumps the blood but lymph doesn’t move until you do!)  If fibro patients do not keep moving, they become stiffer and pain will increase. I used to take a comfortably hot shower before doing my stretches to prevent discomfort (see Yoga above).

Four Tried & True” Methods

  1. Antidepressants – The antidepressant amitriptyline was one of the earliest medications used to treat fibro.  I took it during most of the 1990s.  Now, two of the three drugs approved for fibro, Cymbalta and Savella, are antidepressants.  Some healthcare providers in the FCI’s Practitioners Alliance say these only work for 15 to 25 percent of their patients.
  2. Talk therapy – The author uses the term to describe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  While CBT has been helpful for many fibro patients, support group meetings are also helpful.  FCI support group meetings provide an informal forum for anyone needing information, education, and support.  If there is not a positive group in your area, why not consider starting one?  Contact me for tips on starting a support group.
  3. Anticonvulsant medication – The first drug approved by the FDA to treat fibromyalgia was the anticonvulsant, Lyrica.  There are other anticonvulsants such as neurontin that are prescribed off-label.  These are designed to block the transmission of pain signals, but like antidepressants they often do not work for patients – at least not long term.
  4. Prescription painkillers – As I explained in my previous blog, Fibromyalgia and Compartment Syndrome, pain relievers are transported through the blood and since there is no blood in the fibrous tissue, pain meds only help if the pain is somewhere other than the fibrous tissue.

I have used several of these treatments, and while some helped, they are not what put fibromyalgia into permanent remission for me.  There is one thing that holds true for all of us—if we want to get better, we need to eat nutritious food—fruit, vegetables and meat or other types of protein!  Increased awareness about the food we eat leads to improved health and a better quality of life.

What about you?  Are you willing to do what’s necessary to get your health back?  Then let me know and I will do my part to steer you in the right direction.

Your partner in health,

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Fibromyalgia and Compartment Syndrome…

And what in the heck is compartment syndrome?

Two weeks ago I said the same thing.

My hubby (and love of my live) recently had open heart surgery. Immediately after the surgery he had extreme swelling in the calf of his right leg, started complaining with excruciating pain, and could not stand to put weight on that leg.

Three days after his open heart surgery he was diagnosed with compartment syndrome which required emergency surgery.

Suddenly I learned more about compartment syndrome than I ever wanted to know! Muscles in the forearm, lower leg and other body areas are separated into compartments by fibrous bands of tissues. Strong webs of connective tissue called fascia form the walls of these compartments. This fibrous tissue is very inflexible and cannot stretch to accommodate the swelling. Thus, excruciating pain!

The hallmark symptom of compartment syndrome is severe pain that does not go away even when you take pain medication. (Sound familiar?) Pain medication does not reach the affected area

Having previously suffered with fibromyalgia for more than 13 years and counseling over 15,000 fibromyalgia sufferers during the 15 years since my recovery, I immediately made the connection between the pain my husband was experiencing and fibromyalgia.

The term “fibromyalgia” derives from new Latin, fibro-, meaning “fibrous tissues”, Greek myo-, “muscle”, and Greek algos-, “pain”; thus the term literally means “muscle and connective tissue pain”.

Any muscle, tendon, ligament or fascia in the face, neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles, feet, arms, legs and chest may be involved.

The take home message

Pain medications usually do not reach the affected area, which would explain why they do not stop the pain of fibromyalgia. The FCI recommends addressing root causes rather than just trying to mask symptoms. As underlying conditions are addressed, symptom management is often no longer needed.

Your partner in health,

References:

http://www.medicinenet.com/compartment_syndrome/page3.htm;
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/828456-media;
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001224.htm;
http://chronicfatigue.about.com/b/2010/06/12/1850.htm;
www.prohealth.com/library/showArticle.cfm?libid=12920&site=articles

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10 Tips To Help You Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Happy New Year! May your year be filled with love, laughter and 365 nights of restful sleep!

Do you lie awake at night, wondering why you can’t go to sleep? Fibromyalgia can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, and yet sleep is essential for people with this chronic illness.

A great night’s sleep is not out of reach. Following these simple steps will help you attain a restful night and wake up feeling relaxed and rested.

1. Check your diet. What you eat, drink, and do around bedtime can affect your chance of falling—and staying—asleep. Caffeine, sugar, and tobacco stimulate the body and mind.

An hour and a half before bed: No alcohol or nicotine; and no exercise that makes you sweat. Stimulants such as tobacco should be eliminated in order to get a good night’s sleep. Likewise, sugar stimulates the brain, keeping you awake.

While some people think alcohol will help them fall asleep, it actually does more harm than good. As the alcohol is absorbed into the system, the body goes through a mini-withdrawal that fragments and destroys the second half of sleep—and you are likely to wake up after the alcohol effect has worn off.

Three hours before bed: No caffeinated beverages or pills, and no eating (this helps avoid reflux issues that can disturb sleep). Remember that caffeine stays in your system six to eight hours after you consume it, and it does fragment sleep.

2. Exercise regularly. This does not mean running the Boston Marathon! Gentle exercises can be beneficial. A good tip for nodding off easily at night: moderate exercise in the morning. Even stretching for a few moments in the morning will get your blood moving and make your body feel better. Taking a gentle yoga class just once a week, for example, will give you ideas of ways to stretch at home and relax before bed. Set small goals for yourself and pay attention to how exercise makes you feel as you are doing it.

3. Prepare for a good night’s sleep. Excessive light exposure in the evenings prevents your body from releasing the melatonin that makes you feel sleepy. Light exposure not only refers to lamps and other lighting, but also to television and computer screens.

A warm bath will help you relax and cooling down afterward will help prepare your body for sleep. Wait at least an hour after your bath to go to bed so your body has time to cool down. Adding a cup of Epsom salt will help muscles relax and prevent cramping during the night.

Remove any makeup and slip into comfortable, non-restrictive clothing before reading or doing something relaxing such as knitting. Try to keep from thinking about work or things that upset you. This time is about relaxation. Turn down loud music and turn off TVs and computers about an hour before bed.

4. Prepare your bedroom. Ideally, the bed is for two things and two things only. (You know what we mean.) If you have any other type of stimulus in the bedroom, such as computers, work or TV, you’re not sending your body the message that it’s time for sleep. If you want to answer e-mail, pay bills or watch TV, do that elsewhere—especially since the screens’ flickering light keeps your brain in wake-up mode.

Arrange your bedding so it offers you the most comfort. Taking proper care of your mattress, such as rotating and flipping it every season, is also important for keeping the bedroom prepared for optimum sleep.

Light and dark signal the brain when it is time to sleep and awaken. Window treatments should be heavy enough to block out light. Allowing light into the bedroom during times you should be sleeping causes your brain think it is time to be awake. Not all window treatments can block out light. Wearing an eye mask can prevent light from interfering with your sleep.

If you need to go to the bathroom during the night, try not to turn the bright lights on as light may fool your brain into thinking it is time to wake up. A small flashlight is good for this.

5. Regulate temperatures. Scientific studies have found temperature plays a major role in sleeping. Cooler temperatures in the bedroom will foster good sleep. It is best to keep the room between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your feet are cold, use socks or a grain-filled pad heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes to ensure your feet are not the reason for your insomnia. (The FibroFrog® in FCI’s store is a very good foot warmer as well as for soothing aches and pains.)

6. No pets allowed. No matter how much you love your pet, you may need to banish it from the bedroom so its whimpering, jerking limbs, snoring, or other sleeping activities will not disturb your sleep.

7. Use aromatherapy. Scents such as lavender and vanilla are calming. These can help the body relax. Since leaving aromatherapy candles burning while sleeping is dangerous, add a few drops of essential oils to a room humidifier, spray the oils on your pillow, or leave the bottle open on your nightstand. Probably the most effective way to use aromatherapy is to rub small amounts under your nose and around the temples; then run your fingers across your scalp and around your neck in a relaxing self-massage.

NOTE: People with multiple chemical sensitivities may not tolerate the use of essential oils.

8. Establish a routine. Set a time to fall asleep and a time to wake up. Stick to this schedule, even on weekends and holidays, so your body becomes accustomed to sleeping during those hours. Sticking to a regular schedule, or at least rise within an hour of the time you get up during the week, will help set your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) and train you to stay on schedule even if your rhythms happen to wander, such as when you’re traveling.

Don’t sleep excessively during the day. Naps should be less than half an hour long, so you don’t have enough time to enter REM-stage sleep. If you nap too long and do enter this stage of sleep, you may have trouble falling asleep at night.

9. Relax from head to toe. As you are ready to fall asleep, consciously relax your body starting with your head and working your way down to your toes. Concentrate on relaxing one part of your body at a time including your ears, jaws, eyes, fingers, etc. You may be amazed at how much tension you are holding without being conscious of it.

10. Get Up When You Can’t Sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, get out of bed, but don’t immerse yourself in an activity that requires a lot of concentration. Go to another room (be sure it’s notbrightly lit) and listen to some soft music, or do some type of relaxing activity. When you start to feel sleepy, head back to bed.

Now, the only other thing left to do is drift off to sleep.

Sweet dreams!

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How To Avoid Overindulgence During The Holidays

Optimal Health Begins with You

When it comes to the winter holidays there can be so many parties, get-togethers, dinners, shopping, cooking, wrapping, etc., — it just goes on and on.A good diet, exercise and relaxation can help you stay on the path to optimum health.

No More Candy Canes

 

Holiday eating is known as a time of overindulgence. For some people, this may just result in very full tummies and some extra hours on the treadmill. But this kind of eating can be very detrimental to your health.

Most people with fibromyalgia cannot properly handle a large amount of sugar. It is important to stay away from the white sugars that are very prevalent around the holidays. Bring your own diet-friendly dish to share with everyone! Alcohol and sugary punch bowls are other important things to stay away from at holiday parties. Try seltzer water with a raspberry in it to stay in the holiday spirit! Also steer clear of the gravies, and stick to white meat with no skin.

Take advantage of the high-starch vegetables that are traditionally served around the holidays, such as green beans and broccoli! Steer clear of high-calorie sweets like cookies and cake. The trick to this is to balance your plate and remember to limit the amount of high-calorie carbohydrates, while incorporating a small amount of sweets.

Candy canes and cookies, while closely associated with holidays, are not the true reason we celebrate. It’s about being together with people you love and finding the real meaning in the season.

Here are some ways to remember the real reason why we celebrate the holidays, and take the focus off the food:

  • Start a new tradition. Instead of bonding over dinner, play a family game after dinner or take a nature walk with the family and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Do a crafting project. Make an ornament or holiday wreath with your loved ones.
  • Share holiday memories. Make a memory book with your family.
  • Reduce stress. Plan ahead, stick to a budget and every once in a while, take a moment for yourself. Read a Christmas book or go through an old photo album.

The holidays are always a time to gather together with our families and friends. That is always an opportunity to educate them about fibromyalgia, the need for awareness and research for a cure.

Have a merry Christmas and happy, healthy holiday season!

Sources: Community Health Charities, American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

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