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5 Ways to Prevent or Reverse Hypertension

Blog post written by Dr Eugene Kongnyuy, author of No Pills, No Needles, launching 25th May.

 

10 years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension). As a physician and researcher, I decided to self-experiment. My aim was to find out what could successfully reverse my hypertension so that I could stop taking blood pressure (BP) medicine. I tried over 70 different things including salt restriction, meditation, stress management, different dietary regimens, weight loss, walking, etc. After 5 years of self-experimenting, none of the things worked for me and I felt disappointed.

In order to keep fit, I decided to run or jog for 1 hour every morning. Six months after I started this programme of 1 hour per day of regular exercise, I took my BP and it was very low. I stopped the BP medicine and the hypertension was gone.

One hour of regular moderate to high intensity exercise per day may be what you need to reverse your high blood pressure. Over the years, I have kept with 1 hour of exercise per day while tracking my BP and I have learned a lot more. Here are some of things that I have learned that can help you either prevent or reverse hypertension.

 

  1. Exercise regularly

Exercise is the centrepiece for the prevention or reversal of high blood pressure. Experts recommend 150 to 300 of moderate exercise (or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise) per week. This is what you need to prevent hypertension. In order to reverse hypertension, you would probably need a lot more. To reverse hypertension, I had to do 1 hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day (or 420 minutes per week).

First, aerobic or ‘cardio’ exercises cause repetitive contraction of large muscle groups which in turn forces the heart to work hard and pump blood to the muscles. Regular ‘cardio’ workouts, such as jogging, brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga, dancing, football, golf, hiking and basketball, increase the heart rate and train the heart muscles[1]. You need to train your heart muscles to pump blood more efficiently and this takes time. The longer the duration of each exercise, the better the results. Cardio training over several months causes a significant fall in blood pressure.

Second, exercise causes the endothelium (inner wall of blood vessels) in exercising muscles to produce nitric oxide and prostacyclin, both of which promote enhanced vasodilatation by relaxing the smooth muscle cells in the blood vessel walls[2].

Third, exercise blocks the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), a hormone system that, when stimulated, raises blood pressure by increasing vascular resistance and causing sodium retention by the kidneys. This causes the blood vessels to widen and the kidneys to flush out sodium.

Fourth, exercise blocks the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This causes the blood vessels to relax and widen, which in turn reduces the blood pressure. The SNS is one of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system (the other being the parasympathetic nervous system – PNS) that is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response among other things. The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions, such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response in the eyes, urination, and sexual arousal. The SNS activation causes BP to rise. Once activated, the system fires electrical signals that lead to the release of the hormone adrenaline by the adrenal gland. Exercise blocks the SNS and therefore lowers the BP.

 

  1. Get active

Exercising plus being physically active throughout the day is more effective than exercise alone. I realised that each day when I came back from work, I did between 1000 to 2000 steps. I spent most of the day sitting. I decided to change my desk to a standing workstation. I remained standing while working, reading emails, writing, and I held standing meetings. The number of steps I did per day increased from 1000-2000 to 4000-5000 steps. I observed that my systolic BP was about 10 mm Hg lower during the day than it would otherwise be when I wasn’t physically active. I also find gardening, cooking and cleaning very helpful in keeping me physically active. There are many other ways to be physically active and each person can figure out what he or she can do to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

 

  1. Get sweaty

Sweating lowers blood pressure by causing the dilation of blood vessels under the skin as well as loss of water and salt. I found that exercise that caused me to sweat was more effective in lowering my BP than exercise that didn’t. With sweat-inducing exercise, my systolic BP was about 10 to 20 mm Hg lower than exercise that didn’t cause me to sweat. Sweating is a natural method the body uses to control body temperature. When your body starts to heat up, whether because of exercise or outside temperature, it releases sweat from the more than 2-4 million eccrine glands spread out across your skin, pouring liquid through pores to lower body temperature. Sweating induces a ‘diuretic’ effect by causing increased loss of salt, including sodium, and this lowers blood pressure[1]. For those who can afford it, having a sauna at home could be an easy way to get sweaty.

 

  1. Keep warm

I found that my BP was generally lower in warm weather (such as summer or being in a hot country) than in cold weather (such as winter or a cold country) independent of sweating. Numerous studies have found a correlation between temperature and blood pressure, and have also generally shown higher blood pressure during winter. The explanation is that cold weather activates both the sympathetic nervous system and the renin–angiotensin-aldosterone system. Warm weather does the reverse as well as inducing sweating[1]. Therefore, following the sun when booking holidays can therefore be a good way to manage your hypertension.

 

  1. Lose weight

Weight is important if you want to say ‘goodbye’ to your antihypertensive pills. Studies have shown that by losing 5 kg (8.8 pounds), your systolic and diastolic blood pressure can drop by 4.5-3.2 mm Hg respectively[3]. If you have mild high blood pressure, weight loss alone can be sufficient to control it. Weight loss improves blood pressure, although exercise has a greater impact. This is the reverse of what I found for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is affected more by weight loss than by exercise. In my case, I estimate that my BP was treated 80% by exercise and 20% by weight loss and my diabetes 80% by weight loss and 20% by exercise.

 

In conclusion, by combining regular exercise with being physically active throughout the day, doing something what makes you sweat, keeping warm and losing some weight, you can prevent or reverse hypertension. In this article, I decided to focus on my experience. But it’s important to note that there are other ways which, although they didn’t work for me, could work for other people. These include salt restriction, healthy diet, quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake and managing stress.

One of my self-experiments was to find out the effect of altitude on my BP. It’s well known that the higher you climb, the higher the BP. However, I found that the effect of exercise and sweating was so strong that it completely overrode any effect of altitude on my BP.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learnt self-experimenting which helped me reverse both hypertension and type 2 diabetes. After hesitating for several years, I finally decided to put my experience in writing because I felt it could help many people, or at least the methods I used could be applied by anyone to find out what works for them. I have written down all my lessons in a book No Pills, No Needles which is coming out in May 2021.

 

[1] Rosenthal T. Seasonal variations in blood pressure. American Journal of Geriatric Cardiology 2004; 13(5): 267–272.

[2] Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular effects and benefits of exercise. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine 2018; 5: 135.

[3] Fortenberry K, Ricks J, Kovach FE. How much does weight loss affect hypertension? Journal of Family Practice 2013; 62(5): 258–259.

 

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Coping with osteoarthritis during Covid-19

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis

 

The Covid-19 pandemic is the number one health issue everywhere, but despite that we still have to manage osteoarthritis. According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, Covid impacts on osteoarthritis in a couple of ways:[1]

  • There is more likelihood of being hospitalised when suffering from the virus if you already have osteoarthritis.
  • OA sufferers are likely to have additional pain in the joints when they contract Covid.

A key recommendation in the BMJ article is that physical activity is extremely important, regardless of age. Although this would seem to be difficult during a severe outbreak of the virus, it is feasible if the symptoms are mild. Also, all activity keeps us healthy and more able to fight illness.

I emphasise the importance of exercise in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, in order to keep us active and mobile and enjoying a good quality of life. A glowing statement from Professor Sir Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets, Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, and a board member of NHS Clinical Commissioners, who wrote in his foreword for my book: ‘This book should be prescribed on the NHS by all doctors. It can’t be, but if you have osteoarthritis or want to live a happier and healthier life, buying this book is the best investment you could ever make.’

Professor Sir Sam’s involvement in the social-prescribing initiative increasingly being adopted by GPs (pre-Covid) would account for his enthusiasm. The main message in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis is taking responsibility for your own health through:

  • exercise
  • weight management
  • healthy eating
  • supplements
  • complementary therapies
  • practical tips (shoes, keeping warm, bathing, etc.)

Even in lockdown we can walk locally and there’s no limit to how long you can stay out. If you are used to doing yoga, Pilates or other classes, there is a wealth of sessions being provided online either free of charge or for a nominal sum under £10. For those people who find exercise very hard due to chronic arthritis or other conditions, Chair Yoga provides a good alternative and that too is available online.

Finally, try not to overeat when confined at home and stick to the Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Recognised by doctors as the best diet for all conditions, it can also help us to keep our weight down, an important factor for reducing pressure on weight-bearing joints. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D are essential for supporting the immune system, helping all conditions and giving us a fighting chance against Covid.

 

[1] https://ard.bmj.com/content/80/2/151

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What Survivors of Major Illness can Teach us

Blog post written by Dr Jerry Thompson, author of newly released Curing the Incurable: Beyond the Limits of Medicine.

Could we have underestimated our ability to heal ourselves from even the most serious of diseases? Could our innate powers of recovery be far greater than we realise?

This book examines healing from an unusual angle: it looks at those remarkable people who have recovered against the odds? I believe they have something absolutely crucial to tell us. Whether we have a serious illness or we just want to keep illness at bay they have information that can make a profound difference.

But how did they succeed? What did they do after their doctors told them they had an incurable disease?

I have been fascinated by these people that I call “survivors” for years. This book explores their stories and what they did. Recovering from a life-threatening illness is no small feat and you can be sure they did not get better by chance. They achieved it by following certain fundamental principles of health. And it is these fundamental principles of health that this book explores.

They used four main strategies, typically in combination. The book covers each one.

Few will be surprised that one of those principles, eating healing foods and avoiding harmful ones, was a popular and successful strategy amongst survivors. Combining information from case studies, research on the effects of food extracts on cancer cells and population studies this section gives us a useful guide on using food to heal.

Many know that our minds can powerfully impact on health but can mind power cure a life-threatening illness? In fact it can and there are many examples using many methods. We can use our mind to up-regulate our immunity, to go into healing mode or to create health. The case histories in this section are some of the most extraordinary in the book. The methods may surprise you and many are simple to use.

Mainstream medicine largely ignores toxicity but survivors cannot afford this luxury. How many carcinogens and neurotoxins do we meet in an average day and where do they come from? Which are the most dangerous? How can we reduce our and how can we excrete our accumulated chemical load. All this is covered in the book.

Changes in our energy field precede disease. They also precede healing. So understanding energy makes sense.

Again the stories could surprise: cancers the power of groups to bring about extraordinary healing, how lethal cancer can be cured from thousands of miles away, cancers disintegrating in minutes, and energetic blocks to healing that could prevent a good treatment working.

What emerges from these many remarkable accounts of recovery from major disease are basic and powerful principles of health and healing. Using them can make the difference between health and disease and many of are surprisingly easy to put into practice.

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The Perrin Technique Second Edition – Coming Soon…

We have some exciting news to share about The Perrin Technique. This was first published in 2007 and since then has sold over 11k copies, helping very many people with CFS/ME (including the HHB publisher’s son) back to health. Author Dr Raymond Perrin has been working on a new edition for some years but had found clinical commitments plus invitations to lecture and train abroad worked against his completing this major work. Now with lockdown he has been able to finalise the second edition of his book and this will be available towards the end of the year.

It is greatly expanded and now includes all the latest research that sheds light on the importance of the lymphatic system and lymphatic drainage in health. While in 2007, the connection between cranial lymphatic blockage and chronic fatigue was a ‘hypothesis’ that was supported only by the results of treatment with the Perrin Technique; now the science exists to transform hypothesis into knowledge and to explain the diverse symptoms of CFS/ME.

Because the second edition, with the new sub-title  ‘How to diagnose and treat chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and fibromyalgia via the lymphatic drainage of the brain’, is greatly expanded (it will be around 500 pages) we will have to increase the price considerably but will ensure there is a more reasonably priced eBook as an alternative.

We are announcing the second edition now because copies of the first edition have run out and we can no longer offer it for sale. You may be able to find it online from some vendors and the author also has some copies remaining and can be contacted via info@theperrinclinic.com for anyone who can’t wait for the second edition – and the eBook continues to be available here. 

If you wish to leave an expression of interest with Hammersmith Health Books regarding a pre-publication special offer, please contact us via info@hammersmithbooks.co.uk and you can pre-order from Amazon and other booksellers. Please bear with us while we complete work on this large, complex and highly illustrated book. We can’t wait… but we have to get it right!

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Coronavirus – what you need to know

coronavirus

By Dr Sarah Myhill

Introduction

It now seems inevitable that sooner or later we will all be exposed to coronavirus. This is because people can be carriers of this new virus without showing any symptoms. The strategy to slow and treat therefore is FIRST slow the rate at which the epidemic grows so that medical services are better able to cope. SECOND, reduce the loading dose of infection so that the viral numbers take longer to build up in the body and so not overwhelm the immune defences. THIRD, start to improve the body’s immune defences now before you are exposed to the virus. FOURTH, kill the virus directly with vitamin C (well known for its antimicrobial actions as it is used widely as a food preservative) and iodine (a disinfectant with long pedigree)

We know that coronavirus, like the flu virus, will kill some people. However, the vast majority will live – survival is determined by good immune defences. So:

  • Act NOW to improve the body’s immune defences (our standing army)
  • STOCK UP NOW with ascorbic acid 500 grams (at least), Lugol’s Iodine 15% (30 ml) and salt pipe

Before you show any signs or symptoms of illness

The severity of any infection partly depends on the loading dose of infection. Take action to keep this loading dose low so that it takes longer for the numbers of viral particles to build up in the body. This gives the immune system time to generate an effective immune response. At this stage do not suppress symptoms with medication since this inhibits inflammation – the very tool the immune system needs to fight infection.

Make sure you have this package in place:

What Why
Eat a low carbohydrate diet, ideally paleo-ketogenic High blood sugar encourages all infections (diabetics are especially susceptible to infection)
Take a good multivitamin/mineral supplement The immune system cannot function without raw materials
Vitamin D at least 5,000 iu, ideally 10,000iu daily We get more infections in winter because we are at our most deficient then
Vitamin C at least 5 grams daily This vitamin contact-kills all viruses – the key is the dose – you have to take heaps!

For more detail see– ‘Groundhog basic’ in my book The Infection Game: life is an arms race

If there is any hint of possible exposure, keep the infectious load down with:

  • Good hygiene – wash hands regularly. After washing rub iodine oil into your hands. You can make an iodine oil yourself using 10 parts of coconut oil to 1 part of Lugol’s iodine 15%. Iodine contact-kills all microbes, as I have said; it is the best disinfectant – ask any surgeon – this is what is used before surgical incision and to prevent post-operative wound infections. Yes, your hands will be stained slightly yellow but then you will know the iodine is there.
  • Sniff and inhale Lugol’s iodine 15% 2-3 times a day using a salt pipe. I suggest 2 drops in a salt pipe sniffed up into the nose and inhaled 15-20 times. Iodine is an effective topical disinfectant. It is also volatile so when inhaled kills or substantially reduces the numbers of all microbes threatening to enter the airways.
  • And/or …possibly use a face mask, drizzle 2-4 drops of Lugol’s iodine 15% on to the lining. for the same reasons as above. Re-apply Lugol’s three times a day.
  • And/or …smear iodine oil (made as above) round the nose and upper lip three times a day. Yes, it does stain the skin yellow temporarily but it slowly evaporates from the skin to generate a disinfectant cloud of iodine. This is good for kids who may not be able to use a salt pipe or tolerate a mask.

For much more detail see my book The Infection Game: life is an arms race

At the first sign of any infection (runny nose, sore throat, cough… you know!):

Strike early and strike hard with…

What Why
Take 10 grams of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid powder) in 500 ml of water every hour until you get diarrhoea – this is called ‘bowel tolerance’ This is of proven benefit – see references below.

You must take enough vitamin C – you can only fail by under-dosing. Vitamin C is completely safe and you can do no harm with it. As one of my comic patients put it ‘Premature crapping is preferable to premature croaking.’

Inhale Lugol’s iodine every two hours. I suggest 2 drops in a salt pipe sniffed up into the nose and inhaled – this may slightly stain the inside of your nose – but then you know the iodine is present. You will know the iodine is in the right place because you can smell it. Iodine is non-toxic to humans and all mammals (but if you are allergic to iodine then you should not use it)
Good nursing care – go to bed, wrap up warm and allow the body to run a fever Heat kills all microbes
Tell everyone that you are ill so that… …they can put in place all the above to reduce their loading dose and deal effectively with the virus
To quote the poet Dylan Thomas ‘Do not go gentle into that good night….’ Fight hard and stay alive!

For more detail, see ‘Groundhog acute’ in my book The Infection Game: life is an arms race

Advice for children

  • The principles are exactly the same.
  • And no-one has ever had serious side effects from vitamin C – perhaps use 5 grams every hour to bowel tolerance – or less depending on size.
  • Use vitamin D at proportionate body weight – use the 10,000 iu but perhaps every other day or every third day – the capsule can be chewed in the mouth.
  • Really important to use topical iodine oil over the nose and upper lip as this reduces the infectious load when inhaling and exhaling
  • What is interesting is that the Chinese babies whose mothers have had coronavirus have survived fine. I suspect this is about the immune system – with very high viral loads, the immune system over-reacts and it is this over-reaction that kills. It is called a cytokine storm. This is why the very sick patients are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as paracetamol, NSAIs and steroids (which you would think counterintuitive. There is a place for these drugs but not with mild symptoms). My guess is these Chinese babies do not have the immune reserves for a cytokine storm and so have survived well.

Very sick patients

Very sick patients will of course need hospital treatment with anti-inflammatories (for the cytokine storm), oxygen and respiratory support (for respiratory failure). The Chinese doctors are currently treating severe cases of covid-19 with additional intravenous vitamin C and seeing excellent results.

Support for the use of high doses of vitamin C

Follow the links below for more information about the science and clinical experience behind using high-dose vitamin C:

From 1943 through 1947, Dr Klenner reported successful treatment of 42 cases of viral pneumonia using therapeutic doses of vitamin C. This was administered by mouth, intravenously and intramuscularly. See:

And there is lots more good science and practical detail at Ascorbate Web

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Using Pro-Resolution Nutrition To Control the Coronavirus

Virus

This post originally appeared on DrSears.com. It is written by Hammersmith Health Books author, Dr Barry Sears, author of The Mediterranean Zone

Viruses and bacteria were here long before we were and will definitely outlast us. So, when a new pathogen crosses from its natural animal reservoir to infect humans, what are you going to do? One choice is the ancient approach to quarantine infected individuals until the disease runs its course. That method was used in fighting the Black Death that started in 1348. Actually, the first appearance of the Black Death occurred about 800 years earlier when it was known as Justinian’s Plague and is estimated to have killed between 30 to 50 million in the Roman Empire. When it re-emerged in the fourteenth century it killed about half the population in Europe or approximately 75 million people. However, it didn’t immediately disappear as it continually reappeared in Europe until about 1660. The most effective interventions against the Black Death were draconian measures ranging from closing the borders, use of quarantines in both international trade (i.e., preventing ships from entering ports) and in domestic travel, and finally in keeping citizens confined to their towns to await their fate.

Newly emerging viruses can even be worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the first appearance of the influenza virus in 1918 infected about 1/3 of the world’s population, killed between 20 to 50 million worldwide including 675,000 in the U.S. between 1918 and 1920 (1). There were no vaccines, no antibiotics to treat secondary infections at this time, just quarantines and good personal hygiene.

Today, the modern way to treat pandemics of bacterial or viral infection is to simply surrender to the power of pathogens and use vaccines and antibiotics and modern medical care (i.e., ventilators, etc.) for the infected until the patient either survives or dies. According to the CDC, we are still not doing a good job in the U.S. as in the 2018-2019 flu season, it is estimated that more than 35 million Americans were infected (about 9 percent of the total population) with the flu, and 34,000 Americans died even though we had vaccines and antibiotics (2). While those numbers are definitely better than they were in 1920, but don’t bode well for future new viruses.

So, how are we handling the current coronavirus since we have no vaccine? The Chinese are using the ancient method of strict quarantines. It is highly unlikely that type of iron-fisted population control will work in the United States and Europe. And without a vaccine, the spread of this virus into an immunologically naïve population can rapidly expand. Is there another approach?

I believe the answer to that question is a definite yes. I call this the immuno-nutrition approach. The body has a powerful internal system to fight viral and bacterial infections. It’s a combination of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. The innate system is ancient and primitive as it reacts quickly to chemical structures. It works as our first responder to any type of microbial invasion. The adaptive immune system is more sophisticated in that it uses immune cells that digest the microbial invader and hopefully remember its structure when it might return. The adaptive immune system is slow to response (especially to a new biological invader) because it needs the innate immune system to prime it. However, unlike the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system is under strong dietary control and that’s where immuno-nutrition comes into play.

Immuno-nutrition is not simple advice to eat a healthy diet, but requires following a highly defined nutritional program to optimize the innate immune system to make the adaptive immune system more responsive to all microbial invaders. The key feature is your ability to optimize the Resolution Response™. The Resolution Response is your body’s internal healing response. It is composed of three distinct dietary interventions to reduce, resolve, and repair the damage caused by an injury including those caused by microbial (i.e., viral and bacterial) infections such as the coronavirus (3)

Without going into great detail in this blog, any injury causes an initial inflammatory response to alert your immune system that you are under attack. The more inflammation you have in your body, the less likely you can optimally activate your immune system to respond to this microbial challenge. This is why your first goal is to reduce excess inflammation in the body, not by taking an anti-inflammatory drugs (which are also anti-resolution drugs that inhibit the next step of the Resolution Response), but by following an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Zone diet (4-6). That is only the first step. Next you have to resolve the inflammation induced by the microbe by increasing the production of a group of hormones known as resolvins (7,8). This can only be done by consuming high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet to maintain a low AA/EPA ratio in the blood. What is the right dose of omega-3 fatty acids? Your blood will tell you. If your AA/EPA ratio is between 1.5 and 3, then you are taking enough (3). Most Americans will require at least 5 grams of EPA and DHA per day to reach that ideal AA/EPA range since the average AA/EPA ratio for most Americans is about 20. Finally, you have to optimize the innate immune system using high-dose polyphenols that are water-soluble so they get into the blood to activate the gene transcription factor known as AMPK. How many polyphenols? Enough to keep your levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) between 4.9 and 5.1 per cent. This will take about 1 gram of water-soluble polyphenols per day with delphinidins being the best choice (9).

Of course, the more closely you follow the Zone diet, the fewer water-soluble polyphenols or omega-3 fatty acids you will need to optimize your internal Resolution Response (3). Such water-soluble delphinidins that can activate AMPK are found in low levels in blueberries or in far higher concentrations in delphinidin extracts. Once AMPK is activated by these water-soluble polyphenols, then it begins to orchestrate your immune system to attack and neutralize the microbe. This is definitely a team approach. If any one of the three steps (reduce, resolve, and repair) is not working at optimal efficiency, your ability to control the outcome of the microbial infection (in this case the coronavirus) will be inhibited.

This could mean the difference of either having runny nose or being on a ventilator because the likelihood you will be exposed to the coronavirus is great due to globalization. The choice of the outcome of that coronavirus exposure is yours.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html
Sears B. The Resolution Zone. Zone Press. Palm City, FL (2019)
Sears B. The Zone. Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
Bell SJ and Sears B. “The Zone diet: An anti-inflammatory, low glycemic-load diet.” Metabol Synd and Related Disord 2:24-38 (2004)
Hotamisligil GS. “Inflammation, metaflammation, and immunometabolic disorders.” Nature. 542: 177-185 (2017)
Serhan CN. “Pro-resolving lipid mediators are leads for resolution physiology.” Nature 510: 92-101 (2014)
Morita M et al. The lipid mediator protectin D1 inhibits influenza virus replication and improves severe influenza. Cell 153(1):112-125 (2013)
Jin X et al. “Delphinidin-3-glucoside protects human umbilical vein endothelial cells against oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced injury by autophagy upregulation via the AMPK/SIRT1 signaling pathway.” Mol Nutr Food Res 58: 1941-1951 (2014)

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How to Cope with Family Gatherings When No One Understands Your Illness

family dinner

The holiday season can be filled with moments of love and joy, but it also can be stressful for those of us living with chronic illness. This is especially true if your family doesn’t understand what you are going through day to day. If you are worried about managing the holiday season with your family this year, here are five do’s and don’ts to help you navigate family gatherings when feeling misunderstood.

  1. Let people know what to expect. If you don’t tell your loved ones what you need, they won’t be able to help give it to you. A close friend of mine keeps a live Google Document with a current health status, a list of foods she can eat, and a couple tips on how to best support her. Try making a guide like this of your own and share it with you family before you get together – more often than not, when people know how to support you, they will.
  2. When it comes to food, make something you know you’ll enjoy. One of the most challenging things about navigating the holiday season with a chronic illness is sorting out dietary restrictions. Before you get together with your family, spend some spoons on preparing a dish you know you can eat and will enjoy. This ensures that you aren’t left out of the family meal. If you aren’t able to make something for yourself, ask a friend to help you prepare before you connect with your family.
  3. Find an ally. Whether this is someone in or out of your family, find someone you can touch base with through the day. Family gatherings can induce anxiety for those of us battling illness and having a friend or ally checking in with you can make a real difference.
  4. Decide on a safe space to rest before you arrive. This is a big one. Make sure you have somewhere quiet and calming that you can retreat to. This might be a guest room, a study, even your car. If you have somewhere safe and comfortable to rest, you may have more stamina for the day.
  5. Try not to over-extend yourself. Family gatherings are exhausting even for able-bodied folks! Try not to give more of yourself than it is healthy to give. Does it make sense for you to come in before a meal and hang for an hour before going home? Do it! Even if they don’t understand your day to day life, most families want to love and support each other. By making choices that take care of YOU, you’ll be able to better invest in moments of positivity throughout the gathering.

Every family is different, and every illness experience is different – some are shaped by more toxic support relationships than others. But if you can communicate clear expectations, find support where and when you need it most, and be able to take yourself out of the situation when you need to – you’ll be able to manage your next family gathering with grace, positivity, and strength.

Blog post written by Allie Cashel, expert patient featured in the book Lyme Disease, medical myopia and the hidden global pandemic. Available from Hammersmith Health Books. 

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My Journey to Managing Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis

One Step Ahead of OsteoarthritisIt crept up slowly with a little niggle here and there, and a bit of stiffness in the joints and then I wondered why my knee seemed to hurt when I played tennis. So I went to the doctor and was referred for an MRI, worried that I might need to have an operation. So it came as some relief to be shown the scan and see that it was osteoarthritis, no damage, and no need for an operation.  I was told to carry on playing tennis and do other exercise.

After a couple of months I was back to playing tennis with a support on my knee and that was eight years ago, and I haven’t had to stop since.  But then my thumbs started hurting, and the joints in some of the fingers felt swollen.  I was wary of arthritis in the hands as I’d seen my mother’s gnarled fingers and didn’t want the same to happen to me.  So I had them X-rayed and sure enough it was osteoarthritis.

I am a health journalist and I follow a natural lifestyle, so that seemed to be the way to go. And to be honest the doctor didn’t really offer any alternatives. They tell you to take Ibuprofen if the pain is bad, but strong drugs are reserved for chronic pain and due to the side-effects they certainly don’t hand them out to anyone who has a bit of osteoarthritis.

I also take the view that with many health issues there is so much you can do yourself that it’s not necessary to suffer.  So I started researching the subject and found out that I needed to make my diet more alkaline and much less acidic as acidity in the body is a problem for osteoarthritis (and many other conditions).  This simply involved some adjustments to what I ate, but no major changes.  I almost cut out certain foods  like tomatoes, aubergines and potatoes, and decided to drink much less wine.

I was already exercising quite a lot – tennis, tai chi and yoga – but I added some specific exercises for knees and hands and made sure I did some every day.  Tennis clubs are full of “older” people wearing knee supports yet doctors seem to think that it’s a good idea to continue with any exercise that you are used to doing.  Tai chi and yoga are both very good for osteoarthritis, and classes are often manageable for the less mobile.

I experimented with different supplements, that are known to be good for osteoarthritis (glucosamine, chondoitrin, rosehip, and more) but settled on turmeric and (no-blush) Niacin or Vitamin B3).  I took cider vinegar in water every day and gradually things began to improve, although I should emphasise that you can’t actually cure osteoarthritis but you can reduce inflammation and pain.

By not taking my thumbs and fingers for-granted, as I had done all my life, and trying to avoid putting undue pressure on them,  I have found that they don’t cause me many problems any more.  In fact, and this is quite amazing, they are straighter and stronger, and the knuckles are far less inflamed – happily they are not now very noticeable to other people, which is a good thing.

It’s important for me to keep my weight down as a few pounds extra can make all the difference with my knee and it can start hurting.  I also need to avoid too many stairs downward,  so often take the lift just to avoid them. I can walk down steps perfectly well but it puts unnecessary pressure on them.

Once it becomes a way of life to manage osteoarthritis, it is easy to do and prevents too much pain or discomfort.  My own experience and my background as a health journalist made me decide to write One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, so that others can benefit and take a positive approach rather than feeling downhearted about it.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis which is now available from Hammersmith Health Books!

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Are you One of the Billion Migraine Sufferers?

woman-migraine

There are one billion people in the world like me (and most likely like you too, since you are reading this blog): people who suffer from migraine. Although you already knew it was so common, you still probably feel (as I do!) that you are the only person in the world who suffers this much, and in a way no-one else can understand.

This is called the paradox of living with chronic pain disease. It is so much easier with flu: during the flu season most people around you are also sneezing, coughing and moaning, at workplaces or at home in bed. It helps to know that you are not alone. It makes suffering tolerable. When ill, you may enjoy being pampered by healthy family members. You may even update your Instagram with a photo of you on a couch in front of the TV with a blanket and a bowl of chicken soup. Post #sickasapuppy and empathetic faces, thumbs and hearts will fill the screen.

During migraine attack, there is no-one but you and the pain inside your head. The excruciating pain grabs all your attention, unplugs your power cords, shoots you with a taser, holds you to ransom. It allows no people in sight. Pillow adjustments by the loving spouse make no difference. Selfies do not even cross your mind. The only thing you care about is to get rid of the pain. You count the minutes.

Migraine is one of the most severe and disabling neuropathic pains one can experience. That is a solid fact. When, where and how migraine affects people varies considerably between people, and also within each individual. A billion people means several billion variations of migraine attacks. Not every attack is identical, nor are the triggers always the same. The pain-free periods between the attacks also differ. For the lucky ones, it is 24 months; for the unlucky ones, it is 24 hours.

A billion people is a massive peer group. That said, it is still only you who knows your migraine and only you can find the best ways to live a good and meaningful life with this disease. Despite this disease.

You don’t have to figure out everything by yourself, though. So much scientific evidence, and understanding of good practices, has emerged during recent years on effective ways to treat migraine attacks – as well as prolong pain-free periods – that all the tools you need for your own toolbox are already out there. You just need some easily digestible information, some perseverance, some help from skillful healthcare professionals…  and some support from the billion peers, of course.

Written by Dr. Helena Miranda, pain physician, chronic pain sufferer (including migraine), and author of the new book Rethinking Pain – How to live well with chronic pain.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Giardia – A Q&A with Susan Koten

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Experiencing the trauma and desperation of my life being turned upside down with the sudden onset of IBS symptoms fifteen years ago, and the lack of help available. This experience stayed with me and when I started to see and treat patients in my clinical practice who were going through the same experience, I knew I would one day write a book about it and Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Giardia is the end result of all that experience.

What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

This is my first book and when I started the project 10 years ago, I had no idea the amount of work that lay ahead to finally get it published.  This book has the potential to change people’s lives for the better so it was important extreme care and research went into writing it. With a busy practice to run, I would often start writing at 10pm and finish at 2am – this has always been my quiet time and I could concentrate with no interruption.

What has been the most satisfying part of the writing process?

My aim is to pass my knowledge on to those who need it and as I delved deeper into the subject matter, to understand how and why the clinical observations and patterns of my patients were presenting themselves, I have found writing it down and putting all this information together in a manuscript, has allowed me to achieve this.

Did anything surprise you while writing IBS & Giardia?

About seven years ago I changed my treatment strategy to a more gentle approach and the results surprised and amazed me which is reflected in the book.

What sort of people would benefit most by reading your book?

This book is for anyone who is struggling with the health of their digestive system and other related disorders. It is also aimed at health professionals, both allopathic and alternative, who are treating these patients.  It is my hope that the information contained in this book, and the personal testimonies of my patients who were suffering with what is currently a chronic and untreatable diagnosis, (IBS), will bring hope and healing to those who are unwitting hosts to the Giardia parasite. Of course I appreciate this parasite is not responsible for all digestive issues but in my experience a Giardia infestation is very often overlooked as the cause of digestive problems and this then leads to misdiagnosis and a life of misery for those affected.