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!

Mommy’s Little Helper

Four new little white pills have been added to my morning diet – Prednisolone.

Prednisolone is used to reduce inflammation in the body. Because I had an MRI on my feet, due to the incredible pains I have in my feet – does anyone else have this? – and it showed some inflammation, my doctor decided to prescribe this for me for a week. Basically, it’s a test. Whatever happens I won’t be staying on it, as it can cause huge weight gain and I already have too much of this problem. So, if it works to help reduce pain, my doctor will be trying to find another, similar agent to do the same thing. If it doesn’t work, then it’s on to the next strategy.

Prednisolene is a glucocorticoid, sometimes known as a steroid or corticosteroid. It is used to treat many illnesses, including serious illness, involving inflammation in the body, and to stop reactions known as autoimmune reactions which occur when the body’s immune system attacks the body itself and causes damage. It stops the body from producing a substance that causes tenderness, swelling and irritation. Ooh – sounds good!

In general this drug is used for allergies including severe allergic reactions, inflammation affecting the lungs (including asthma), blood vessels, heart, bowel, kidneys, muscles and joints (including rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever and systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE), eye, ear or nervous system.

They should not be confused with male or female steroid hormones, which are known for their misuse among athletes. So I will not be displaying giant biceps anytime soon.

After some internet research, I discovered one study that showed that Prednisone was found to produce no significant benefits when given to fibromyalgia patients. Bum! But I’ll still try it for the week!

But then, a Californian doctor had claimed that fibromyalgia can be treated by boosting stress hormone cortisol with low doses of hydrocortisone (Predinisone is about 4 times stronger than hydrocortisone). According to Dr Kent Holtorf, the treatment offers great health benefits with less risk, compared to other treatments for the condition.

Dr Holtorf believes that patients with fibromyalgia have low levels of steroid hormone cortisol, due to dysfunction in a brain system that regulates response to stress, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Of 500 consecutive patients treated with the steroid at his clinic, Holtorf says 94% showed some improvement and 62% showed substantial improvement by the fourth visit.

William C. Reeves, director of the chronic viral diseases branch of the CDC, believes that most patients with fibromyalgia could benefit from taking low-dose hydrocortisone, but he says the treatment is not without risks. Some patients have experienced side effects especially those administered with higher steroid doses.

Anyone any clearer on whether this is going to help or not?