Super Stress-Busting Hormone!

A new study by York University researchers finds that practicing yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with FM (sorry but no particular reference to men – does that mean men don’t do yoga? Or that yoga doesn’t help men?)

The study is the first to look at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in women with FM. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.

Previous research has found that women with FM have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. According to the study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks.

“Ideally, our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep,” says the study’s lead author, Kathryn Curtis, a PhD student in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. “The secretion of the hormone, cortisol, is dysregulated in women with fibromyalgia” she says. “Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis.”

Participants completed questionnaires to determine pain intensity pre- and post-study; they reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition, and were less likely to ‘catastrophise’ over current or future symptoms.

“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences. “Yoga promotes this concept – that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain,” she says – this is extremely useful in the management of pain. ,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”

Due to all my rehab appointments (and then this wonderful holiday – Hee! Hee! I’m in Bali!) I haven’t been anywhere near a yoga class in quite a while. And unlike my friend, Thais, I am not yoga-knowledgeable enough to just do it all by myself. But, after all of this, maybe I had better get back into it ASAP!

C if it Helps

Yesterday, I went to Mommy’s diet doctor – no, I’m not adding weight loss to my list of things to fix about myself; that can just wait! No, the reason I went to see him was that Mommy had spoken to him about my Fibro, and it seems that he suffered from Chronic Fatigue and just wanted to chat to me.

Doc and I spoke about all the things that are wrong with me (long conversation) and what I was doing to help my body fight this battle. He was impressed with how involved I am in my own recovery but had two extra suggestions: more meditation (how weird is that coming from a ‘normal’ Western doctor?) and Vitamin C therapy.

I’m not talking about the little orange flavoured tablets that we all like chewing; he was talking about Vitamin C powder. There is now solid evidence that vitamin C, one of the primary antioxidants, is essential for optimal functioning of the immune system.

It is vital to the health of white blood cells and their production of antibodies, as well as the manufacture of interferon which acts as an antiviral.

Vitamin C also reduces pain and inflammation. It is also vital to the adrenal glands which are located above the kidneys.

Thus, Vitamin C supplementation offers both immune and adrenal support which are two critical components in any program to reverse FM.

Therefore, massive doses of vitamin C are useful to both bolster the immune system and to provide an ongoing supply for free radical destruction.

So, I came home, had a quick internet investigation and discovered that recommended doses can be anywhere between 500-9,000 mg a day of vitamin C in divided doses. The Doc recommended for me to take one teaspoon (= 5,000 mg) dissolved in juice preferably (he said it tastes pretty crappy) 3 to 5 times a day. He said that if it is too much, my body will let me know.

And, supposedly, I will feel immediately better (not just the Doc’s words but also other internet comments). Anyone else tried this? I’ll let you know how it goes for me.