RA from the Heart

Let’s Talk

I thought maybe we should talk. If you read about me, you already know part of my story, you know I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). What does that really mean? It means I live in pain daily. My joints are swollen and stiff. Parts of my body are now deformed. There are things I cannot physically do anymore. However, I am not here to give you the “poor me” story. What I hope to do is tell you some things my doctors did not tell me. I hope in sharing my experience that you will find hope, encouragement, information, and support.

The Beginning

The best place to start is the beginning. Since RA (now often being referred to as RD or rheumatoid disease) symptoms overlap with other conditions, it is often misdiagnosed. Plus the sed rate test is often inaccurate and gives false negatives. That is what happened to me. I spent about two months in occupational therapy, massage, and ergonomic evaluation because I was falsely diagnosed as having carpal tunnel syndrome. When the hand specialist realized I had no intention of having surgery, he declared me “better” and released me.

Despite his declaration, unbearable pain had now spread throughout the joints in my body. Most days I needed help to get dressed, and then I would cry all the way to work, only to turn around and go back home because I literally could not function. At the urging of my aunt (who happens to be a nurse), I went back to my family doctor and asked her to run more tests for anything related to lupus. That is how they found the RA.

I remember when the doctor called me. She told me it was rheumatoid arthritis. I cried. I cried because I was thankful I wasn’t dying, and I cried because there is no cure. My doctor set up an appointment with a rheumatologist, and she helped me fill out the necessary forms to take a leave of absence from work through the FMLA Act.

The whole experience had left me depressed and exhausted.

So, my first piece of advice is you know your body better than any test or any doctor. If you are not getting better through whatever treatment you have been prescribed, get a new treatment, or get a new doctor.

 

Treatments

In the course of 17 years of war with my body, I have taken nine medications, tried several diets, tried several natural remedies, and acupuncture. Chances are, if you see a rheumatologist, you will be put on a TNF blocker (also called a biologic) and methotrexate (which is actually chemotherapy drug). TNF stands for tumor necrosis factor which is a small protein that helps cells communicate in immune responses to inflammation and infection.

I am not a doctor. I cannot give you a medical opinion about medications, but I can share my experiences. If a TNF blocker works for you, you will feel absolutely like a new person. Unfortunately, I tried three different biologics and my body does not respond to TNF blockers. The last rheumatologist I saw told me honestly that I should not waste my time on anymore medications that are TNF inhibitors.

My experience with methotrexate was so bad, I will never take it again, nor do I wish to ingest any other chemo drug in my lifetime. A second drug similar to methotrexate called Arava was prescribed. It has less physical side effects, but it also made a nice bald spot on the back of my head. As if I wasn’t depressed and losing self-esteem daily as it was, knowing I had a bare patch on the back of my head pretty much made me want to crawl into bed and never come out. Except, I had a daughter.

Thank God, I had a daughter. I had to show her that no matter how bad life sucks. You show up. You do your best whatever that might be. It might be getting dressed and sitting in a chair. It might be working four hours a day, coming home and taking a nap. Whatever your best is, you do it. You never give up. (My second tip.)

But, here, here is where I start to get irritated with doctors. My third tip: find a good multi-vitamin. Between your disease and your meds, your body is depleted. Prednisone zaps your calcium and your vitamin C. You probably have low levels of iron and vitamin E. No doctor ever told me this. I researched it on my own.

Next, stop eating sugar, and change the type of carbs you eat! I was not ingesting a lot of sugar, so I thought. I had one pop (soda) a day, a bowl of ice cream here or there, a few cookies. Nothing major. Now facing diabetes caused from the steroid, prednisone, I changed my diet and carb intake. The inflammation in my body decreased dramatically. Sugar causes inflammation. An average meal should only have around 60 carbs. You know those delicious little snack cakes we put in our kids’ lunches? They have on average 35-40 carbs! That’s almost a whole meal’s worth of carbohydrates! So that would be my fourth piece of advice: sugar is evil.

What Works for Pain?

I’d like to tell you that I have the ultimate answer for pain. Unfortunately, I don’t. Acupuncture is great, but usually not covered by insurance which means I cannot afford to go regularly.

Probably you have noticed that it is getting harder and harder to obtain pain medications due to the opiod issues. It seems to me that no one is concerned about those of us who have to live in chronic pain, but then that’s just my humble opinion. This has led me to search out some alternative solutions to pain.

Use the cold, hot, cold method. Ice pack, heating pad, ice pack for 15 min each. Alternating cold water and hot water also works (only as hot as you can stand it; Don’t burn yourself).

Some essential oils are great. I personally enjoy soaking my feet in Epsom salt and essential oils. I found blending a combination of oregano, peppermint and lemon great for massaging achy areas. Many essential oil producers have blends for pain as well.

I have tried other natural/herbal supplements without much benefit. My chiropractor had me try a product called InflamX which I did have some good results with.

I am now trying some CBD oil products. In fact, I found a pain cream I absolutely love. Just this week I started taking CBD in a capsule. It can take week or two to build up in your system, so I am not sure what results I will have yet.

I wear slippers a lot.

My thoughts on pain are that we all tolerate pain differently. We cannot be expected to all react to any treatment exactly the way someone else does. That is the main problem with Western Medicine. They treat the symptoms, not the individual. Find what works for you. Find a doctor that listens to you. This is your body and your journey. The doctor works for you.

My final piece of advice: YOU’RE WORTH IT! Ever notice how we’ll spend money on clothing, entertainment, etc? But, ask us to invest $50 in our health, and all of a sudden we’re broke. You, my friend, are worth it. You deserve to be healthy. You deserve to be happy.

Leave me a comment. I’m happy to share my experiences with you.

 

 

 

CBD,THC, & Hemp: What do they all Mean?

CBD oil is gaining in popularity and brings with it plenty of new jargon as well. It can be down right confusing. Let’s find out more about CBD oil and sort out these new terms.

Background

Cannabis oil (CBD) is thought to have been in use for 3000 years, maybe longer. There are two basic types of cannabis plants. One plant we commonly call marijuana. The other plant we refer to as hemp. Yes, my friends, there is a difference.

Hemp (Cannabis indica) plants are bred to produce oil, rope, and fabrics.  Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plants are used for religious and recreational purposes.

Cannabinoids

Cannabis contain unique compounds called cannabinoids.  One such cannabinoid is called THC.  (Approximately 60 canniboids have been identified so far.)  THC is credited with producing the high obtained from marijuana.  Hemp produces very little THC, and can, in fact, be used to counter the effects of the high.  Hemp produces more of a cannabinoid called CBD.  Marijuana produces more THC.

This is an important point because the CBD oil (made from hemp) is not going to give you a high.  The purpose of the oil is to assist in maintaining health and to promote healing.

Why It Works

One reason CBD oil is effective is because our body has cannibinoid receptors.  These receptors (part of the endocannibinoid system or ECS) are involved in many physiological processes including appetite, mood, pain levels, and memory.

The ECS appears to regulate hormones in reproduction and stress.  It has also been shown to have an impact on brain function, the endocrine system and the immune system.

Testimonials

People are singing the praises of CBD oil.

A friend of mine has a neurological disorder and an autoimmune disease.  Doctors were at a loss at how to help her, so she became her own health advocate.  CBD oil has made a huge difference in her quality of life.  She no longer lives in pain.  She no longer suffers from seizures.

I have seen interviews with people who claim that CBD has put their cancer in remission without chemotherapy.

Out of curiosity, I decided to see what all the hype is about. I ordered a pain cream. As you know from my other posts, I suffer daily from rheumatoid arthritis. My feet and hands are deformed from the disease. Because of the deformity, my have developed painful sores and callouses from the way my shoes rub and how I walk. It is very painful.

I’m not going to lie. My reaction when I opened my order was, “Shit! That’s an expensive little jar. It better be good stuff.” (Knowing the company offered me a money back guarantee, I opened the jar.) I put a pea-sized dab on my finger and rubbed it on the bottom of my feet. I decided to try it twice a day: morning and night. After two days, the most amazing thing happened,  my feet stopped hurting.  The relief lasts about 12 hours!

This is not the first thing I have ever used for pain. However, it is absolutely the best pain cream I have ever used. I am excited about how well it worked. I am excited because there are other products I can try that might give me relief from this dreaded disease. Relief that medications have not given. (I have tried nine different medications to date and that does not include muscle rubs and pain medications.)

Please, if you haven’t tried CBD, try it! It will change your world.

(At this time the FDA does not confirm these findings.)

Conclusion

CBD has been found a safe and legal way to support your health using nature and not chemicals.  (If you are taking medications for any reason, please check with your doctor, before stopping them.  I am not a medical professional, just an amazed customer.)  Don’t forget to leave me a comment, especially let me know if you use CBD oil and how it’s working for you.

 

Carboholic Help: Choosing a Diet

I really, really enjoy carbs like bread and pasta, sweets, and don’t forget potatoes! My favorite meal is a bowl of mashed taters topped with some cheese and sour cream. Oh, man!

Busted

So, here I am just enjoying my carbs when BAM! My doctor tells me, “You have Type 2 Diabetes.” I was busted and more than a little depressed. In fact, there have been tears shed. I was (and still am to some degree) mourning the loss of my emotional refuge: food.

I understand. I’ve been there. It’s confusing and overwhelming. I am here to offer the carboholic help in choosing a diet. First, let’s look at carbs: What are they? Do we need them?

You Need Carbs

Carbohydrates are the foods that sustain our energy. The body breaks them down making glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose fuels every cell in our bodies, and most notably the brain. Because of the high number of neurons or nerve cells contained there, our brains use over half of the sugar energy in our bodies. Functions like thinking, memory and learning have been closely linked to levels of glucose.

Too little glucose can cause a reduction in the neurotransmitters breaking down the communication between the nerve cells. However, too much glucose can cause lapses in memory and deficiencies in cognitive function.

Not all carbohydrates are good for you, so it’s important to choose carb sources wisely. Carbs include grains, beans, potatoes, fruit, milk, candy, cookies, and soda (not the diet ones).

Knowing that my body needs carbs to function properly, I wanted a diet plan that made sense to me. One that I would stick to that would help me control my diabetes. I looked at four plans. I will share them with you and you can decide if any are right for you.

Paleo

The Paleo diet is based on the idea that we should be eating like our forefathers who were hunters and gatherers. For me, this diet was a big fat NO. It is expensive, first of all, because it focuses completely on fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. No frozen or canned. I live in a rural area. Going to the store daily is not an option that works for me.

The second thing I didn’t like was that there is no dairy, no grains, no legumes (peas, peanuts, etc.), and no potatoes.

To be fair, my chiropractor followed this diet plan. He lost weight and the inflammation in his joints went down. There are definite health benefits to be had, if you chose this diet plan. Besides that, there are cookbooks and plenty of websites to offer guidance and support.

Mediterranean

Yep, the Mediterranean diet is still around; although, it’s not in the spotlight as much these days. I have read two books by Dr. Don Colbert who highly recommends this diet. (The books are: What Would Jesus Eat and Reversing Inflammation.)

The plan is mainly focused on plant based foods: whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Greek yogurts and some cheeses are approved. Poultry, fish, and eggs are also allowed.

Watch out though if you’re diabetic! Combining grains, beans and dairy can be a carb overload.

Keto

Keto is the new fad. The classic Keto diet was originally developed to treat epilepsy. It emphasizes high levels of fats and proteins, and very low carbs.

My biggest concerns with this diet is, in fact, the fat intake. Heart disease is closely linked to diabetes, so I have to be careful from what sources I am getting my fats and oils. Plus, I already confessed, I love my carbs. I don’t want to give up bread and pasta completely.

Another thing that kind of bothers me is the recipes.  Many of the recipes substitute coconut flour or almond flour for regular flour because of the lower carbs.  Well, I don’t like coconut so that leaves that one out.  Almond flour is outrageously expensive.  It’s like twelve bucks for three cups of flour.  (I could be exaggerating, but not by much. It is expensive.)

However, the diet does work for weight loss.  A friend of mine has lost 20 lbs with Keto.  I’m just not comfortable with diets that suggest eliminating all of something our bodies need, and I need

Atkins

I really like the Atkins diet. The emphasis with the Atkins plan is whole foods and fresh foods. It includes some dairy. Some phases of the plan include limited starchy vegetables (POTATOES), and whole grains. They emphasize healthy fats which is what my diabetic counselor also recommended like butter, canola oil, and flax seed oil.

Atkins says no to refined sugars, fried foods, breaded foods, and partially hydrogenated oils. All of which are not good for a diabetic anyway.

The Atkins website is like a one-stop shop. They have a mobile app to help you track your carb intake. I use the website a lot because I like the layout. The food tracker, helps me see my carb and calorie intake. I can track how many cups of water I drink, and chart my weight and exercise goals. There is a community for support and recipes for each phase. Plus, a shop for all things Atkins.

Besides the website, finding Atkins products is easy. Even in a rural area, I can pick up my favorite Atkins snack at the store or even find them on Amazon. They have been around a long time. There are many books and cookbooks available. Best of all, they have a good success rate without my having to give up all the things a carboholic loves.

Choose Wisely

Everybody is different and our dieting needs and goals are a reflection of that fact. That is probably why there are so many diet plans to choose from. I chose Atkins because it fits the best with my goals and what I enjoy eating. Hopefully, you can find a diet that fits your needs and your goals.

As always, leave me a comment or a question. Tell me , what is your go-to carb?

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Essential Oils

One of my goals at Healthy You Healthy Me is to look at current popular health trends. Essential Oils are all the rage right now, but do they work?

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photo by:By Blagoj Nikolov – Own work

What are Essential Oils

Essential oils are usually extracted from flowers, peels, grasses, barks and resins. Most commonly, they are extracted by cold pressing and steam distillation.

How They Work

There are three ways to use essential oils: aromatically, topically and internally. But, let’s face it, what we all want to know is, “Do they work and how do they work?”

The truth about essential oils is yes; yes, they work. However, they do not work the same for every person. A scent that I find calming and relaxing may cause you to become restless. One drop of lavender oil might calm me down, but it might take three drops to have any effect on you.

Essential oils have been around and in use since Biblical times, and there is science to back up their claims.

Dr. Scott Johnson, a naturopath, says that essential oils directly impact mood, memory, emotions and cognitive function. Using essential oils increases brain activity and impacts the nervous and endocrine systems of the body.

Here is why essential oils are so effective: they are lipid soluble. This means the oils can pass through the cell membrane in a process called passive diffusion, the same way oxygen and carbon dioxide enter the cells.

Essential oils effect your body on a cellular level. Wow!

(Essential oils have not been regulated nor studied conclusively by the FDA. However, Young Living’s vitality line of essential oils do follow FDA recommendations and are food quality oils, meaning they are safe to consume.)

Purity

If you want to try essential oils, look for a pure oil brand. I personally have chosen Young Living Essential Oils because I agree with their Seed to Seal philosophy and their efforts to be good stewards of the land.

Young Living is so dedicated to protecting plants and the environment that they grow their own plants to be used in creating the oils.  In fact, rather than endanger rare plants, they will discontinue an oil until such time as they have grown enough to produce it in a large quantity again.

The point of using the oils is to get away from the chemicals and preservatives all around us and to avoid the side effects of medications. ( I am not advocating for anyone to stop taking their prescriptions. DO NOT replace any medication without first consulting your doctor.)

What I am saying is that if you use an oil, make sure it is a quality oil.  Avoid any product that adds fragrance, preservatives, dyes, or other types of chemicals.

In My Experience

My personal use of essential oils began when I ran out of ways to help my daughter overcome her nasal congestion. Her doctor would not give her any more medications due to the fear of over using antibiotics. Allergy medications helped some, but the poor child could not sleep. We tried vapor baths, menthol rubs, humidifiers, etc.

Finally, in desperation, I purchased Thieves oil blend on a recommendation from a friend, and I diluted it with a carrier oil as instructed. I rubbed it on my daughter’s chest. I also made a line from each ear to her jaw. In 15 minutes, thick white gunk oozed out of her left ear. It was amazing! (And pretty gross, too.)

Another way we use essential oils is as a hair detangler for my daughter.  Just mix 1 1/2 cups distilled water, 1 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar (use 2 Tbsp for frizzy hair), and 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oils. I really like lavender and rosemary together.  Plus if you have kids in school, rosemary repels head lice. Pour the mixture into a clean spray bottle.  It’s a good idea to shake it gently before each use.

For more information about Young Living Essential Oils and to become a member go to myyl.com/nellbell71 .

 

Business Plan

Besides helping you on your wellness journey, oils can be a lucrative business venture. Young Living claims, “If you love it, share it.”  You would earn a commission from the purchases of the people who become members under your sponsorship, just as your sponsor would earn a commission from your purchases.

Young Living offers a ton of video training guides, and many tools to get you started in the right direction.  You will also find a community full of  lots of friendly and energetic people to support you in your business goals.  The community is definitely committed to helping people live with less toxins in their homes, and they love their oils.

Let’s Review

The truth about essential oils is that they work. They may not work as effectively for some as they do for others, but it is still beneficial to use them. I have had some success with oils in maintaining my health, supporting my fight against seasonal allergies, and even occasional relief from a headache.

Commonly, you might hear a distributor say, “I have an oil for that.”  They’re not kidding. Essential oils support health issues ranging from common colds, digestion, headaches, and even mood, just to name a few.

Have you had a positive experience with essential oils?  Tell me about it.  As always, let me know if you have any questions.  I’ll do my best to give an honest answer.