Life with fibromyalgia before and after holistic nutrition

Check out my new blog post at www.ChronicallyHealthyNutrition.com/blog/ !

I chat about life with fibro for 18 years, and how I feel now after discovering holistic nutrition and natural healing therapies.

I have a new lease on life now and it is ABSOLUTELY amazing!

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Hope to see you at my new blogging location!

xoxo

Lex

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“Chronically Healthy Nutrition” is now open for business!

Hi everyone!

Happy October / fall!

I am SO sorry that I have been completely MIA for the last 6 weeks, but there was a good reason for it! I have been working SO hard on getting my business up and running, and I am officially live and taking on new clients! If you or anyone you know is currently suffering from a chronic illness and are looking for a more holistic way of healing, please contact me for nutritional counselling.

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I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how much of a 180 I have done both mentally and physically over the last couple of years after following a holistic lifestyle, which has included changes to my diet, exercise, stress levels, etc. I cannot WAIT to help others begin on their path to wellness as well.

I can meet in person (located in Burlington, ON, Canada), or over Skype / FaceTime.

Check out my website at http://www.ChronicallyHealthyNutrition.com for further details! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as well 🙂 If you’re interested in chatting, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email (alexis@chronicallyhealthynutrition.com)!

xoxo,

Alexis (now officially a Registered Holistic Nutritionist)

15 day streak of awful sleep

I’m hitting new records guys – my FitBit (and my body) tell me I haven’t had a sufficient about of deep sleep in 15 days. Yup, you heard me, 15 days. I’m exhausted, I’m fatigued, I’m miserable, I can’t concentrate on my studies, I’m in severe pain, and I’ll stop right there so it doesn’t sound like a woe is me post. All I’m saying is id really enjoy one good night of sleep anytime soon. At this rate, this exam on Friday will not be getting the best Alexis student, that’s for sure. And on that note, I’m attempting to sleep on the couch tonight to see if that makes any difference. I’ll be re-reading “The Four Agreements” before that to help me fall asleep.

Night all.
Xoxo lex

This comic strip “nails down” living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This is a GREAT comic. It sadly explains what it’s like to live day in and day out with chronic fatigue syndrome. Originally posted by Laura Chamberlain here https://themighty.com/2016/07/comic-strip-that-explains-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/.

Introducing Maddie, a girl with ME, who in this episode, “Energy and Exertion,” is meeting her friend, “Normal” Nancy, for coffee.

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I have not had a decent amount of deep sleep in over 2 weeks, and my body is REALLY feeling it. I am starting to panic about my final exam I write on Friday. I am normally quite the conscientious student, but because I haven’t been able to sleep, I am in pain, fatigued, can’t concentrate, can’t memorize anything, I am just a  wreck. Here’s hoping that my 94% average and the information that’s lodged deep in my brain will show itself on Friday morning at 10 am. Chat with you all after that! Wish me luck!

xoxo Lex

I need a “vein finder device”

It has been SO long since I last posted, almost a month. I apologize, I have had so much going on since class ended in June. My older brother was home for 2-3 weeks to visit (from Singapore), that was an awesome time, then we packed up our rental house, got everything organized with the help of our families, and then we moved. You all know how FUN moves are! Well this one wasn’t THAT painful compared to how they can be!

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My family, minus Jackie, Bart and Nami

We are SLOWLY getting there. We have had a plumber, a brick guy, and a gutter guy here to work on the house (all connections from my brother, which is AMAZING), my mom has been over to help fix up the garden, Bart’s dad helped build part of Sully’s run (where he goes to the washroom), Bart is designing the backyard oasis to do next summer (which will include my veg and fruit garden!) and I’m working on getting things decorated and organized on the inside. Today I was trying to find curtains for the family room, so I took a bunch home with me, and we’ll see if any of them go with the paint colour and our furniture. It’s a struggle! I might put the decorating stuff aside until I write my final exam next Friday, and do my oral presentation the following Tuesday.

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Welcome to our new home! We have ONE picture up so far lol

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A housewarming gift from my close friend, her boyfriend, and her 2 girls. Love it! Joel and Jackie got us this AWESOME painting to go up on the wall in our family room. I’ll post once we have it in hand!

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Start each day with my coffee (still can’t cut it out), then my smoothie, then lemon water)

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Our new blender! It makes the BEST smoothies!

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My office is SLOWLY getting organized and decorated

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My desk / office is already a disaster while I study and finish my 14 case studies! Exam next Friday!

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Look at my niece and nephew! Cute cuddle monsters

I wanted to chat more about this IV therapy I have been getting for almost 2 months now. The IV therapy and injections are definitely making my chronic pain, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and PMS easier to bear, but I am running into a problem unfortunately. As you all know, I fainted on my 3rd IV, and had to come back the week after to get it done, which was successful (sort of), and today I went in for my 4th treatment. I came armed with lidocaine cream on my arm so that I wouldn’t feel the needle going in, I had eaten beforehand, drank water, did push ups to get my blood flowing, meditated, everything my doctor suggested, but it still didn’t go well. She was having trouble finding my tiny veins, and on the first prick, she missed, I bled quite a bit, and bruised a fair amount. Right after that, I felt like I was going to faint and vomit, so she gave me a cup to throw up in, put an ice pack on my neck, gave me juice and water, but I still felt faint. Once I started to feel better, I let her try again, and she missed my vein, I felt faint again and told her no more.

After that, we had a chat about the fact that the anxiety is just built into my body, and no matter what I do to prepare myself, I’m automatically going to be anxious. So this sounds like it’s coming from my central nervous system, a fight or flight response. Not good to hear there is nothing I can do about that. I was VERY frustrated because I had planned my day around this appointment, not to mention I was hoping to get my medicine in me because it is one of the FEW things that help! I went home and wanted to cry. This situation drives me insane. The only people who can sympathize are those who also have small veins, and come across the same situation. To those with big veins with no needle issues, they are so confused by this situation.

I’m pretty frustrated because having to come back for another appointment tomorrow means I won’t be able to sleep in, I’m now missing my lunch date I had with a gf, and I have yet another day where a doctor’s appointment is taking up my day and I can’t devote the entire day to studying. I’m also annoyed because if a doctor can’t get my vein on the first try, I don’t think they should try again, because it just causes me even more anxiety sitting there, and also, for the next time. My doctor calls it a form of PTSD, and if that’s the case, then prodding me is making it worse! I know she means well and she really wants to help, but it’s just aggravating!

A friend of mine suggested I see my medical doc to get a prescription for an anti-anxiety to take right beforehand to calm my nerves (literally), and also, to bring Bart in with me next time to distract and calm me down, and lastly, another friend suggested I get the device that you hold over you arm that shows you exactly where the veins are before poking. I am going to make an appointment with my doc to see about that prescription, I will chat with Bart about bringing him in (I’m sure he’d be fine with it as long as it’s on a weekend), and lastly, I will chat with my doc tomorrow about her potentially looking for a “vein finder device”. My doctor suggested I not use the lidocaine because it’s not helping, it’s making the veins hide even more so, so I’ll be going in without that tomorrow.

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No wonder I put off getting IV therapy done for years – I knew this type of thing would happen. Sigh. I am now relaxing on the couch with a tea while I watch the Olympics. Wish me luck for tomorrow morning all. If it doesn’t go well, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing going forward.

Xoxo Lex

 

Coping with anxiety and stress during a move

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“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” 

Higher levels of anxiety seem to be the theme of my life the last few weeks.

We bought our house in Burlington on March 26, just 6 days after my 32nd birthday, we are picking up the keys next Thursday, July 28, and the movers coming July 29. We moved out of Bart’s condo in Toronto a year ago when it sold, into a house in Mississauga, and here we are with another move. Although this is an exciting time, it all of a sudden caused me a great deal of anxiety on Saturday when we did our “viewing” of the house. My throat felt like it was closing up, and my chest felt like it was caving in – I was paralyzed with fear. Fear that we made the wrong decision to buy a house, fear that we made the wrong decision to move to Burlington, fear that I wouldn’t like where we live, fear that maybe we would be better off back in Toronto, fear that I wouldn’t get enough clients in the GTA, I could keep going, but I won’t bore you! Since then, my mind has been going in circles. What’s better about this time around? I ACTUALLY spoke up and told my loved ones that I was feeling this way – I told Bart, I told my mom, and I told Bart’s sister. All three of these loved ones calmed me down in their own loving way, and every time a fearful thought comes into my mind, I try to work through it and turn it into a positive instead. It all comes down to the basic fact that I am TERRIFIED of change and I question EVERY SINGLE DECISION I MAKE, I can never just make a decision and be done with it. This kinda thing drives Bart INSANE. But, the fact that he can make a decision so quickly and be ok with it regardless of the consequences drives me insane too!!

I didn’t settle into our house in Mississauga until 3-4 months in, so I imagine it will be the case with our place in Burlington – I will just have to give it some time. What makes the anxiety worse is that Bart doesn’t experience ANY anxiety, just excitement, which freaks me out even more because I think “why can’t I think that way, why am I so scared of this, why can’t I get control over these thoughts”. But you know what, this is just the way I am, and now that I am aware of this fact, I know how to better prepare myself. Luckily, because Bart knows how anxious I do get with change, he will do whatever he can to help reduce it, and help me cope. For example, although he is the one working full time while I hang out at home all day, he has been working with the lawyer, the real estate agent and the bank, while only giving me pieces of tasks to get done, even while asking me if it’s too much for me to handle! I guess I’ve gone off the handle before and he wants to prevent that from happening again lol. On top of that, my mom and his mom are coming on Monday to help me pack EVERYTHING before the movers come, which again is BEYOND helpful! They both know how bad my fatigue and pain are, so this is a GODSEND. Are we blessed or what?!

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My mom, my older bro (home from Singapore) and I ran into my childhood friend Katie (who is also my maid of honour) at Longo’s supermarket this afternoon, and after seeing her and chatting, my fears calmed down a bit more. She lives in Burlington with her husband and baby max 10 minutes away from our new house, so she is going to pop by the weekend we move in! I’m SO looking forward to that 🙂 I have another friend in Burlington as well, so slowly but surely I’ll get used to the fact that I do have loved ones close-by (brother and family 20 minutes away, parents 10 minutes away, Bart’s sister 15 minutes away, Bart’s parents 25 minutes away) and everything will be ok! Not to mention, my yoga studio is a 2 minute drive or a 15 minute walk away, there are tons of coffee shops around to feed my addiction, and so many nice parks to take Sully out to play.

Anxiety is so annoying in that it can be completely paralyzing. It is for me right now.

My anxiety has taken over my productivity and has almost completely shut down my creativity. Since this anxiety attack began, I haven’t been able to do any homework, or study for my final exam. The worst part is that my anxiety doesn’t solve any of the things I’m worried about, and the blocked energy flow this negative emotion generates only creates more problems.

We are only as happy as we make up our minds to be, so knowing that my happiness is all internal, I have nothing but my own attitude to adjust if I find myself going sour on my new destination.

We can always move on if we don’t like where we end up, and while that may not be the ideal situation I had imagined, I will still be alive, healthy, and loved.

All of my fears, no matter what form they take in my head (which creates them in my physical reality), stem from feelings that I don’t want to feel.

I don’t want to make the big move and then feel unhappy in my new living environment. I dread feeling that I’ve made the wrong decision.

The chance of encountering any of these feelings and their related experiences is almost strong enough to stop me from going, even though it’s not a guarantee that any of these hypothetical situations will even occur.

What makes me hesitate, though, is that it’s not guaranteed that they won’t happen either.

The good news is, there is a way to keep these fearful experiences at bay.

After stripping my fears all the way down to the core feelings behind them, I realized that by worrying about these fictitious possibilities that may or may not happen, I am actually lining myself up with these lower vibrations—and I’m making myself a perfect match to attract these situations I fear.

It sounds confusing, I know. But understanding this emotional play is the key to freeing ourselves of anxiety and other paralyzing emotions. Knowing this “like attracts like” law of energy is our way out.

Every emotion carries with it an energy, a certain vibration, the highest of which are emotions such as love, appreciation, joy, and gratitude. Lower resonating emotions are feelings such as fear, guilt, shame, regret, anger, despair, humiliation, and anxiety.

Worry/anxiety is a vibrational match to humiliation, dread, and unhappiness, all of which I do not want to feel.

Therefore, if I worry about the possibility of encountering other situations that are going to bring me other emotions that I don’t want to experience, I will actually be setting myself to experience them!

The reason why I want things to work out in my favor is that I want to feel a certain way.

To open up to these feelings, I need to match that vibration emotionally—and non-stop worrying does not match.

If I want self-confidence, happiness, and security, I have to skip ahead to feeling that way now.

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If you find yourself fraught with anxiety, feeling fearful about the future, you will attract your worst fears. When anxiety tries to bring us down, there are 3 things we can do:

1. Take a moment and see what feelings underlie your fears.

Then see if you can figure out how you’d rather feel and choose to feel that feeling instead. If you are having a hard time lifting your mood, get busy doing something you enjoy that will raise your positive vibration.

It’s easy to raise our vibration. Engaging in our hobbies is a great way to bump our vibes up a few notches, and it can be anything really—playing sports, cooking, baking, gardening, playing music, cleaning, exercising, meditating, practicing yoga, singing, dancing, crafting, building, organizing, or snuggling with your pet.

When we keep ourselves elevated, it’s really hard for anxiety to find us, helping to keep negative experiences at bay.

2. Instead of gripping at fear and worrying about whether or not something will work out, just know that it will. 

This is what it means to have faith. Just know that no matter what the outcome, you will be okay, and if it is in your highest interest to have what you want, you will have it.

3. And last, ask the universe for what you want and then let go of the outcome.

Instead of focusing on what you want, focus on how you can be of service. When we are serving others, we are tapping into more of that feel-good energy, which will bring us more feel-good experiences.

Show up each day ready to serve the world, your family, your environment, and yourself. Focus on how you can add value to the lives of others. Good experiences will come to you.

Once we realize the root of anxiety, it is easier for us to transform it into positivity.

And on that note – I will now begin to take my own advice and turn my anxious thoughts and feelings into positive thoughts and feelings 🙂

Xoxo Lex

Vasovagal needle phobia

Today started out just like any other summer day off, except for the fact that I was up at 4AM because I couldn’t sleep. I had a coffee at 6AM then somehow went back to bed till 830. I figured out the reason why I wasn’t able to sleep, and I’ll talk about that in my next post (hint, it has to do with a new supplement I tried).

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It was my weekly IV therapy day today, so I had 2 cups of coffee (I know, not just my usual 1) then headed off to see my doctor. Because I had IV therapy done in my right arm the last 2 weeks, and it was looking pretty bruised, I suggested we try my left arm today. Why? God only knows! What ensued was my type of nightmare – first she heated up the area to get the veins to “pop” up, which they didn’t, and then she felt around for a while, and even though I could tell she couldn’t see or feel any, she poked me anyways. First time, she couldn’t find anything, so she began to poke me a second time – that was GAME OVER! I felt my head start to buzz, I was dizzy, I had cold sweats, and I told her I was going to faint. She said it’s ok, grabbed me some apple juice which I guzzled down, she put a cold cloth behind my head, had a nurse come and put my feet up and help monitor me, at which point I passed out briefly and then immediately came back to reality (slowly). She was VERY good about the entire situation, and I was incredibly embarrassed. She asked what I ate that morning, to which I replied with “nothing” because I can’t seem to eat in the mornings. Well, that will be the first and last time I do that. The sugar in the food I would have eaten could have potentially prevented me from fainting.

So we didn’t do the IV therapy, but she did inject me with the needle in my butt which helps my cells generate energy, and therefore, reduce my fatigue levels. She was going to inject the severe pain in my mid back with magnesium, but after I fainted, she decided it would be best if we left that for another day.

Good times eh? As you may have read in my article a couple weeks ago, I am terrified of having needles poked into my veins, and so are my brothers (they tend to pass out too). So I researched this phenomenon and found out we are NOT the only ones who experience this. This “situation” is called “Vasovagal needle phobia” and I’ve read a bit about it below to help you better understand whether you are one of these like myself, or if any of your family members suffer as well. Funny how I can have 30 needles injected into my neck and back on a bi-weekly basis, but I can’t handle a needle in my vein. The two are clearly distinctly classified differently in my brain!

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Fear of needles

The condition was officially recognized in 1994 in the DSM-IV as a specific phobia of blood / injection / injury type. Phobic level responses to injections cause sufferers to avoid inoculations (this used to be me but I’m fine with those now), blood tests (I avoid these like the PLAGUE – my last bloodwork was done 4 years ago), and in the more severe cases, all medical care.

It is estimated that at least 10% of American adults have a fear of needles, and it is likely that the actual number is larger, as the most severe cases are never documented due to the tendency of the sufferer to avoid all medical treatment.

Vasovagal type of needle phobia is a type of needle phobia uniquely characterized by a two-phase vasovagal response. First, there is a brief acceleration of heart rate and blood pressure. This is followed by a rapid plunge in both heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes leading to unconsciousness (hence what happened to me today). The loss of consciousness is sometimes accompanied by convulsions and numerous rapid changes in the levels of many different hormones.

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Although needle phobia is defined simply as an extreme fear of medically related shots/injections, it appears in several varieties.

Vasovagal

Although most specific phobias stem from the individuals themselves, the most common type of needle phobia, affecting 50% of those afflicted, is an inherited vasovagal reflex reaction. Approximately 80% of people with a fear of needles report that a relative within the first degree exhibits the same disorder (my brothers).

People who suffer from vasovagal needle phobia fear the sight, thought, or feeling of needles or needle-like objects. The primary symptom of vasovagal fear is vasovagal syncope, or fainting due to a decrease of blood pressure.

Many people who suffer from fainting during needle procedures report no conscious fear of the needle procedure itself, but a great fear of the vasovagal syncope reaction. A study in the medical journal Circulation concluded that in many patients with this condition, an initial episode of vasovagal syncope during a needle procedure may be the primary cause of needle phobia rather than any basic fear of needles. These findings reverse the more commonly held beliefs about the cause-and-effect pattern of needle phobics with vasovagal syncope.

The physiological changes associated with this type of phobia also include feeling faint, sweating, nausea, tinnitus, panic attacks, and initially high blood pressure and heart rate followed by a plunge in both at the moment of injection.

Although most phobias are dangerous to some degree, needle phobia is one of the few that actually kill. In cases of severe phobia, the drop in blood pressure caused by the vasovagal shock reflex may cause death. In a 1995 article on needle phobia, the author was able to document 23 deaths as a direct result of vasovagal shock during a needle procedure. Crazy right?!

The best treatment strategy for this type of needle phobia has historically been desensitization or the progressive exposure of the patient to gradually more frightening stimuli, allowing them to become desensitized to the stimulus that triggers the phobic response.  

Associative

Associative fear of needles is the second most common type, affecting 30% of needle phobics. This type is the classic specific phobia in which a traumatic event such as an extremely painful medical procedure or witnessing a family member or friend undergo such, causes the patient to associate all procedures involving needles with the original negative experience (hence what happened to me while being diagnosed with fibromyalgia – too many negative experiences associated with needles!)

This form of fear of needles causes symptoms that are primarily psychological in nature, such as extreme unexplained anxiety, insomnia, preoccupation with the coming procedure and panic attacks. Effective treatments include cognitive therapy, hypnosis and/or the administration of anti-anxiety medication. I’m sure the cipralex I’m on for anxiety and depression is helping, and the fact that I trust this doctor also helps, but it’s this ingrained fear of needles in my veins that I can’t compute in my brain!

Resistive

Resistive fear of needles occurs when the underlying fear involves not simply needles or injections but also being controlled or restrained. It typically stems from repressive upbringing or poor handling of prior needle procedures i.e. with forced physical or emotional restraint.

This form of needle phobia affects around 20% of those afflicted. Symptoms include combativeness, high heart rate coupled with extremely high blood pressure, violent resistance, avoidance and flight. The suggested treatment is psychotherapy, teaching the patient self-injection techniques or finding a trusted health care provider.

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Hyperalgesic

Hyperalgesic fear of needles is another form that does not have as much to do with fear of the actual needle. Patients with this form have an inherited hypersensitivity to pain, or hyperalgesia. To them, the pain of an injection is unbearably great and many cannot understand how anyone can tolerate such procedures.

This form of fear of needles affects around 10% of needle phobes. The symptoms include extreme explained anxiety, and elevated blood pressure and heart rate at the immediate point of needle penetration or seconds before. The recommended forms of treatment include some form of anesthesia either topical or general. This is partly my issue as well –  my Naturopathic Doctor takes my blood pressure and heart rate beforehand and it is THROUGH the roof, then once it’s all said and done it’s normal again 🙂

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Whilst witnessing procedures involving needles it is possible for the phobic present to suffer the symptoms of a needle phobic attack without actually being injected. Prompted by the sight of the injection the phobic may exhibit the normal symptoms of vasovagal syncope and fainting or collapse is common (I can’t watch this). While the cause of this is not known, it may be due to the phobic imagining the procedure being performed on themselves. Recent neuroscience research shows that feeling a pin prick sensation and watching someone else’s hand get pricked by a pin activate the same part of the brain.

Comorbidity and triggers

Fear of needles, especially in its more severe forms, is often comorbid with other phobias and psychological ailments; for example, iatrophobia or an irrational fear of doctors, is often seen in needle phobic patients.

A needle phobic patient does not need to physically be in a doctor’s office to experience panic attacks or anxiety brought on by needle phobia. There are many triggers in the outside world that can bring on an attack through association. Some of these are blood (me), injuries, the sight of the needle physically or on a screen (me), paper pins (me), examination rooms, hospitals, white lab coats, hospital gowns, doctors, dentists, nurses, the antiseptic smell associated with offices and hospitals, the sight of a person who physically resembles the patient’s regular health care provider, or even reading about the fear (me).

Treatment

The medical literature suggests a number of treatments that have been proven effective for specific cases of needle phobia, but provides very little guidance to predict which treatment may be effective for any specific case. The following are some of the treatments that have been shown to be effective in some specific cases:

  • Ethyl Chloride Spray: (and other freezing agents). Easily administered, but provides only superficial pain control.
  • Jet injectors: Jet Injectors work by introducing substances into the body through a jet of high pressure gas as opposed to by a needle. Though these eliminate the needle, some people report that they cause more pain. Also, they are only helpful in a very limited number of situations involving needles i.e. insulin and some inoculations.
  • Iontophoresis: Iontophoresis drives anesthetic through the skin by using an electric current. It provides effective anesthesia, but is generally unavailable to consumers on the commercial market and some regard it as inconvenient to use.
  • EMLA: EMLA is a topical anesthetic cream that is a eutectic mixture of lidocaine and prilocaine. It is a prescription cream in the United States, and is available without prescription in Canada and some other countries. Although not as effective as iontophoresis, since EMLA does not penetrate as deeply as iontophoresis-driven anesthetics, EMLA provides a simpler application than iontophoresis. EMLA penetrates much more deeply than ordinary topical anesthetics, and it works adequately for many individuals. I have tried this as the suggestion of my friend who works in medicine and it froze my arm really well before I went in to give blood. I will be buying more of this for my next IV treatment!! I bought it over the counter at Shopper’s Drug Mart in Canada.
  • Ametop: Ametop gel appears to be more effective than EMLA for eliminating pain during venepuncture.
  • Lidocaine and tetracaine patch: A self-heating patch containing a eutectic mixture of lidocaine and tetracaine is available in several countries, and has been specifically approved by government agencies for use in needle procedures. The patch is sold under the trade name Synera in the United States and Rapydan in European Union. Each patch is packaged in an air-tight pouch. It begins to heat up slightly when the patch is removed from the packaging and exposed to the air. The patch requires 20 to 30 minutes to achieve full anesthetic effect. The Synera patch was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration on 23 June 2005.
  • Behavioural therapy: Effectiveness of this varies greatly depending on the person and the severity of the condition. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of behavioral treatments for specific phobias (like blood, injection, injury type phobias), though some data are available to support the efficacy of approaches like exposure therapy. Any therapy that endorses relaxation methods may be contraindicated for the treatment of fear of needles as this approach encourages a drop in blood pressure that only enhances the vasovagal reflex. In response to this, graded exposure approaches can include a coping component relying on applied tension as a way to prevent complications associated with the vasovagal response to specific blood, injury, injection type stimulus.
  • Nitrous oxide (laughing gas): This will provide sedation and reduce anxiety for the patient, along with some mild analgesic effects. I was given laughing gas before I had my wisdom teeth taken out surgically at 18 and it made it much easier to handle the needle going in my arm. I’m just not sure whether this contributed to my after surgery nausea!
  • Inhalation general anesthesia: This will eliminate all pain and also all memory of any needle procedure. On the other hand, it is often regarded as a very extreme solution. It is not covered by insurance in most cases, and most physicians will not order it. It can be risky and expensive and may require a hospital stay.
  • Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam, may help alleviate the anxiety of needle phobics. These medications have an onset of action within 5 to 15 minutes from ingestion. A relatively large oral dose may be necessary. If my fear of needles continues, and the other therapies I try to do not work, I MIGHT ask my doctor about this just to calm my nerves a bit. 

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The funny part about all of this is the fact that my fiance Bart has NO TROUBLE what so ever with needles, so much so, that he is a regular blood donor, going every 6 weeks! He is in and out in no time. I envy this part of him!! I would love to be able to donate blood but A. I’m on medications that are contraindicated and B. I would pass out every time I tried to donate my precious A- blood lol. We’ll see how I do through the coming years.

I see my doctor in 2 weeks time and I’ll let you know how that goes using the EMLA cream!

We are off to Niagara Falls tomorrow – should be a great day!

Xoxo Lex

How to handle travel anxiety

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As you know, Bart and I recently went to Quebec City for a quick 4 day getaway. Although I now love to travel, I used to be TERRIFIED of airplanes, and had to work through that anxiety by taking as many flights as I could afford in order to work through and face the anxiety head on. I am NOT good with change – it takes me MUCH longer than the average to adjust to it, which probably explains why although I love to be in other cities and travel around, why I didn’t do much travelling over the years compared to my friends. Although every ounce of my being wanted to travel all over Europe during and after university, I could not bring myself to do it, whether it be alone, with friends, or in a group of people. I forget just how anxious I get about change, until it is about to happen, or is already happening.

The morning of our flight, my anxiety began, and it came out with irritation and anger towards Bart. I settled down once we got to the airport – thankfully for both of our sakes. When we got to the hotel and checked in, my panic began to set in – we were in a new place, and I had none of my comforts around. I began to panic about the entire trip, and questioned why we were even there. Did I tell Bart any of this? Of course not! I have gotten SO USED to these thoughts that they are normal for me, and even if I recognized that they were abnormal thoughts, I doubt I would share them! After a day or so in Quebec City I was fine, but it does take my brain a while to adjust to a change like this.

SO, what do I do to handle this type of anxiety so that I can enjoy as much of the trip as possible? Here are my tips:

Be Prepared

When making your travel plans, also put some effort in planning and preparing how you are going to deal with your symptoms. Anticipation of uneasy travel will often bring on more stress and anxiety about your upcoming trip. Be ready to face your panic attacks by having a plan of coping skills ready beforehand. For example, deep breathing techniques, visualization or meditation may be all you need to get through your fears. Practice relaxation techniques and other self-help strategies in the weeks before you travel and you may find your symptoms stay under control on your next trip. I train my brain into believing that every aspect of the trip is going to be fun and I have nothing to worry about. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

Use Distractions

When traveling, it is not uncommon to focus more on your symptoms. One way to manage your symptoms is to put your focus elsewhere. Instead of concentrating on the sensations in your body, try to bring your attention to other activities. For example, you can bring along a good book, favorite magazines or enjoyable games. I always have my kindle, a magazine, and my iPad on me for constant distractions!

Turn your negative thoughts around by diverting your attention to happier thoughts or visualize yourself in a serene scene. Use affirmations to center on more calming thoughts, such as repeating to yourself: “I am safe” or “These feelings will pass.” When the plane is taking off and landing, I always tell myself “you’re ok, the plane is safe, you aren’t going to die” – how sad is that?! Meanwhile, Bart is fast asleep and clueless next to me!!!

Another way to distract from any unpleasant physical sensations is to bring awareness to your breath. DEEP BREATHS will calm your ENTIRE body down.

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Focusing on your breath can have a calming effect. For instance, start to bring attention to your breath by breathing slowly and purposefully. You can become even more focused by counting each of your breaths, counting on each refreshing inhalation and again on each deep exhalation. Once your breath has steadied, you can also relax your body. Intense feelings of panic and anxiety can bring tension and tightness throughout your body. To refocus and relieve these sensations, try doing some stretches, moving through a few yoga postures, or practicing progressive muscle relaxation. Bringing awareness to your body can allow you to counteract your somatic symptoms.

It can also be beneficial to focus on what you are looking forward to on your trip. Have an itinerary that will include activities you enjoy. If you’re traveling for business, see if you can schedule some time to check out a new restaurant, get a massage, or fit some exercise in at the hotel or outdoors. By concentrating on fun activities, your excitement for your trip may take over your worry about your symptoms.

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Don’t Fight Your Panic Symptoms

If your symptoms become too overwhelming to distract yourself from, try to simply allow them to run their course. Panic attacks often heighten within a few minutes and then gradually taper off. If you resist your panic attacks, you may actually experience increased anxiety and panic-related fears, such as feeling that you are having a medical emergency, losing control of yourself, or going insane. If you have panic and anxiety while traveling, try to surrender to your symptoms, reminding yourself that they will soon pass. Consistently conceding to your symptoms may reduce your fears around them and strengthen your sense of control.

Go with a Travel Buddy

Many people with panic disorder have one or more loved ones that they feel comfortable and safe with. If possible, try to enlist a trusted friend or family member to travel with you. Make sure that your travel companion is aware of your fears and anxiety. Your loved one may be able to assist you in coping with your symptoms and boost your sense of security while traveling. For some, just having that person there is all that is needed to have a much more relaxing trip. I never travel alone, and if I do, it’s to visit a friend or family member. My last trips have been with Bart, my family, my mom, and to visit Chris in Japan. I brought the comforts of home with me I guess you could say!

Natural Remedies

I find that drinking chamomile tea, smelling lavender essential oil, or lemon balm also helps calm me down.

Living with a panic disorder can be challenging, but your diagnosis should not hold you back from having a fulfilling life. With practice and preparation, you may be able to travel without taking your panic and anxiety with you.

Hope these tips will help you on your next trip! We are headed to Japan for my brother’s wedding in October, so I will need to employ ALL of these during that time, especially since my body will be completely out of whack due to the 12 hour time difference!

Speaking of my older brother Chris, he is home for a couple weeks to visit! We haven’t done much this visit outside of just relaxing with the family, which has been awesome! Here are some photos from the last few days!

Xoxo Lex

Intravenous (IV) therapy for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue

I have been reading about IV therapy for years, and FINALLY pulled the plug last week and had my first appointment with a naturopath in Burlington who specializes in administering this type of therapy. I’m sure what kept me from going all these years was my fear of needles…

I had a quick appointment with the doctor (who was fabulous by the way – 10 thumbs up) – I would have asked if she was looking to hire a nutritionist in her practice if she didn’t already have one working there! She asked me a bunch of questions about my fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, etc. and we had a quick chat about the IV. It was kinda neat to talk to the doctor as more of a colleague than a patient, because everything she mentioned I understood and have studied in school 🙂

She asked how I am with needles – I’m fine with injections in the arms or butt, but in the veins in my arms and hands, I am HORRIBLE. Because I was poked and prodded as a kid before my diagnosis, I have become utterly TERRIFIED of having anyone inject needles into my arm veins. My veins are TEENY TINY and are hard to find, so the anticipation of having the needle just kills me! Mind over matter Lex! She was SO understanding, and basically told me I probably developed some sort of PTSD from my needle experiences as a kid and never got over it – makes sense. She spent quite a bit of time looking for my veins, and she wanted to be absolutely sure before we poked me. Once she put heat onto my vein in my right arm for 5-10 minutes, she was able to see and feel it a bit more, so she poked (it stung a bit) and then we were done! She walked me over to this cozy leather lazyboy chair, gave me an iPad to watch netflix on (I chose friends of course), brought me a peppermint tea, and I was good to go to let the IV drip into me for an hour.

She mentioned that some people develop bruising in their arm, taste the vitamins and minerals, or feel faint during the IV drip, and I felt none of those – win! Once I finished, she injected my hip with a solution to help my cells generate energy, and then I was good to pay and leave!

I went home, worked on some homework, and didn’t feel a difference until 4 hours later when I was BOUNCING off the walls. I had SO much energy. It was INSANE! So much so that I actually wasn’t able to sleep very well that night, or the night after, 3rd night I was ok. The next day I still had a ton of energy – I was singing around the house. I was in such an upbeat mood and loving it! The energy has decreased today (3 days later) but my pain is still manageable.

I go for 6 weekly IV treatments at which point she assesses me and I most likely will then go for monthly treatments for the rest of my life. Of ANYTHING I have tried to this point in the last 20 years, I put this up there as a HUGE win! High fives!!!

So, what exactly is IV therapy you ask? Here’s some info!

By giving nutrients through an IV, your digestive system is bypassed, thus allowing for higher levels of nutrients to be delivered to your cells via the bloodstream.  This is especially helpful for people suffering from cancer, malabsorption and digestive concerns or when the therapeutic dose is simply too high to take orally, such as cancer.

How it works

IV therapy uses high dose vitamins, minerals, and natural substances intravenously or intramuscularly. It is primarily used for chronic or debilitating conditions that require additional support in the healing process and for the chelation of heavy metals. IV therapy allows for high concentrated nutrients to enter cells more easily in order to heal and repair cellular damage caused by chronic diseases or heavy metals and environmental toxins.

What is the difference between taking oral nutrients vs. intravenous nutrients?

IV therapy provides a route of administration that bypasses the digestive system and liver filtration thereby guaranteeing a greater concentration of nutrients into the cells. This helps the cells function better, which usually leads to the patient feeling better.
Normally, nutrients taken orally enter the cell through active transport; this process requires cell energy, and the cell’s ability to transport the nutrients from outside the cell into the cell. Diseased cells lack the energy required and the ability to absorb nutrients effectively, thus decreasing the amount of nutrients that reach the cell. With IV therapy, nutrients enter the cell without using the cell’s active transport.

Which conditions may benefit from IV therapy?

Colds or Flu (Immune)
Stress and Fatigue
Aches and Pain
Adjunct to chemotherapy
Cancer
Immunocompromised states: Lupus, Arthritis, MS, Epstein Barr virus
Chronic candida
Bell’s Palsy
Alzheimer’s disease
Cardiovascular disease
Restless leg syndrome
PMS
Acute infection – bacterial / viral , Hepatitis
Wound healing, Sport s Injury
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Parkinson’s disease
Fibromyalgia syndrome
Macular degeneration
Pre / Post surgical support
Irritable bowel syndrome
Ulcerative colitis
Crohn’s disease
Arrhythmias
Restorative health / anti-aging

How many visits will you need?

IV Therapy is based on the individual and their health condition(s). A typical treatment regimen can range between 4 to 12 visits to over 12 if being used for cancer support. The frequency of visits is discussed with your doctor.

How is IV therapy performed?

IV therapy can be administered two ways:
1. Through a gravity-drawn “drip”. This method takes between 30 and 120 minutes to administer.
2. Through a “push”. This is where the naturopathic doctor manually injects via a syringe at a predetermined rate. This method is shorter and usually takes 20 minutes to administer and is only feasible for certain types of injections.

IV Therapeutics
Myer’s Push:The All Around Pick Me Up A combination of vitamins and minerals: calcium gluconate, magnesium chloride, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 (cobalamin), Vitamin C and selenium. •  Improved Immunity
•  Pain relief – especially joint and muscle pain
•  Boost in Energy
•  Allergy relief due to the anti-histamine effects
•  Improved mood
Myer’s Immune:The Immune Force A spin-off of the Myer’s, this formula contains a combination of vitamins and mineralswith enhanced levels of Vitamin C, selenium and magnesium •  Boost Immunity
•  If sick, decrease duration of illness
•  Kills Viruses strongly
•  Headache or migraine relief
•  Energy Gains
•  Allergy relief due to the anti-histamine effects
High Dose Intravenous
Vitamin C
Doses of Vitamin C that range from 25,000 mg to 100,000 mg with balanced mineral ratios of magnesium, calcium and potassium •  Potent anti-cancer agent
•  Supports the effectiveness of conventional chemo drugs
•  Reduces unwanted side effects from both chemo and radiation
•  Increases quality of life
•  Reduces cancer cell survival
•  Also beneficial for chronic viral conditions: Epstein Barr, CMV, viral hepatitis

Is IV therapy safe?

IV therapy has an excellent safety record. Sensitivities and allergic reactions are possible though rare. Some other risks include infection, clotting and loss of the vein, leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissues, bruising and occasional pain-these are extremely rare and every measure is taken to prevent them from occurring. All naturopathic doctors that practice IV Therapy should be board certified and regulated.

I have done my research over the years, and IV therapy can drastically reduce your symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue. After learning about the human body in great detail over the last year, I truly believe this is the best option for me (as part of a larger treatment paradigm). I think I am headed in the right direction…FINALLY! I will let you know how the rest of the treatments go!

Xoxo Lex

To Quebec City we go! Travel tips for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and chronic pain

I started to write this blog post while we were away this past week, and then got side-tracked and didn’t have the chance to come back to it until now! Rather than editing it, I will leave it mostly as is 🙂 We can just pretend I’m still in Quebec City writing this, ha!

Classes are officially over for the summer, and that means, I am now on semi-vacation, and Bart has the next week off of work! So, we decided to do an end of class trip to my home province, and we’re currently in Quebec City (the capital of Quebec) for 4 days. While packing, I was bending over, folding, walking to and from rooms in our house, and had to take a breather mid-pack to lay on the couch from the pain and fatigue – what a bummer! So, I thought this would be a good post to write, as I’ve had to learn the hard way my limitations while travelling, whether on short or long trips!

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Those of us with fibromyalgia and chronic pain illnesses know the conflicting emotions when planning a trip or vacation. We are excited about getting to see family and new places and having new experiences. We dread the thought of hotel mattresses, having to sit for long periods of time, and not getting enough rest—all of which can create a terrible fibro flare, and all that while away from home.

If you plan ahead, the trip you have been looking forward to does not have to turn into the one you dread. Keep in mind, fibromyalgia will not take a vacation from you—so we cannot take a vacation from proper management of fibromyalgia or chronic pain illnesses! Here are my top tips for totally terrific traveling.

1)Extra Rest: Before, During and After
Travel requires more energy than everyday life, shrinking your available energy. If you don’t adjust your activity level to match the lesser energy, you risk a flare up of symptoms. The most common travel strategy I use is to rest: before, during and after a trip. Store up extra energy by taking extra rest before a trip (twice normal), limit symptoms during a trip by taking extra rest while away, and take whatever extra rest is needed after to bring you back to normal.
If I am going on a week long vacation, I plan for a two-week period. I make sure that I don’t take on any extra activities for a few days before and a few days after my trip. I also make sure that I pace myself carefully during the trip, resting during non-active times. After returning, I continue to take extra rest.

Day 1 after arriving in the afternoon on Friday, scallop and apple salad (delicious!) and a cappuccino. I shockingly did not get a crepe, Bart did, but I can’t find that pic (I did eat a few over the weekend lol).

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2) Plan for pleasure, and to remember the good time you had
Peruse the travel brochures and decide on what experiences you would enjoy the most. Get pictures and videos of you having fun in nice surroundings. They will be a reminder of the great time you had and can help relax you on those “bad” days that may come after you get home.

3) Get your prescriptions and supplements stocked ahead of time
Don’t be caught without enough medications and vitamins right before you leave. If you need any refills, call your pharmacy or doctor 10 days before your trip. If you are using prescription pain medications, check with the country you are visiting to know if any special arrangements need to be made beforehand for a refill so you don’t get caught with a shortage.

My toiletries and makeup for the weekend:

4) Prepare to sleep with comfort
If possible, carry a foam pad or air mattress to cushion unfamiliar beds. Sometimes I travel with my own pillow as well. Doing this can be a life-saver, and a back-saver!

4) Adjust Your Expectations
Making mental adjustments is crucial. Don’t try to do everything you used to do on a trip – adjust your expectations to fit your body’s limits. For example, plan to stay in one place for a while, taking time to recover from travel before beginning sightseeing. Keep your schedule flexible to accommodate unforeseen events or higher than expected symptoms. Replace resentment of all you can’t do by focusing on what you can do.

5) Pace Yourself
Another common travel strategy is pacing: alternating of periods of activity with times for rest. To help you decide how to use your time, you can prioritize the activities you want to do, as mentioned in the example above. Take a rest day between active days or have a flexible schedule that allows more rest, if needed.

Enjoying a cold drink before our dinner at a French steakhouse:

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Bart trying to understand the menu aka googling lol (I speak French but he does not):

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6) Opt Out of Some Activities

If your travel companions would like to do more than you, you can agree to do some things together and let them do other things on their own while you rest. Sometimes I stay at the hotel and sit in the hot tub or relax and read, while others do some sightseeing, and then meet them later for dinner.

7) Use Creature Comforts
Ask what you need to be comfortable while traveling. I always carry a “Fibro Rescue Kit” a bag that contains my medications, supplements, water bottle, heating pads, bio-freeze and essential oils. I also ensure I have healthy snacks on hand. When flying longer than 1.5 hours, I bring a pillow and a blanket on the plane.

Our first crepe meal together – SOOOOO good. I introduced him to the butter and sugar crepe which is my favourite and I tend to make at home, and he actually loved it (no surprise with the amount of sugar they put into it – WAY too much!) As a side note – the majority of the meals we ate in Quebec City were not nutritionist approved and not the way we usually eat!

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8) Ask for assistance.
If you need a room with a shower only and no bathtub, a room closer to the elevator, a helping hand up and down the bus steps, or someone to lift a bag into the overhead compartment—ask for it! Don’t be shy about asking for help or special accommodations.

9) Don’t seize up—do your stretches.
If you are doing a lot of traveling by plane or car, you may be required to sit for extended periods of time.  If driving, stop every two hours for a 10-minute stretching break. If you are on a plane, take a walk to the restroom. You can also do some stretches in your seat. Stretch your arms and neck. Wiggle your toes and ankles. With your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels and tighten your calf muscles. Don’t forget to do your daily routine of stretches in the morning and before bed.

7) Sleep is NOT overrated
Enjoy your trip, but get the well-deserved rest and sleep you need. Enjoy the opportunity to rest and put your feet up rather than going all day and all night, if you have a chance for naps, take them. Get your eight hours of sleep and don’t cut yourself short. Come home from your vacation feeling rested, not like you need another vacation just to rest!

8) Your feet were made for walking, so take good care of them
Sore, swollen feet will take the fun out a trip fast. Ditch the flip-flops and wear good shoes. At the end of the day, pamper your feet by a nice soak, massage and lotion. Put your feet up and give them a rest. In the summer I walk in my Birkenstock sandals, in the fall I wear runners or comfy flats, and in the winter comfy boots.

Relaxing watching the crowds go by:

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9) Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to see it in a day
Don’t try to see it all, try to see it more fully. Look over what the daily options are and choose the ones that will be most meaningful to you. Spontaneity is fun, but planning your trip will help keep you from overdoing it.

We walked closed to 20k steps daily 🙂

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10) Allow plenty of time.  
Acknowledge that delays will happen. Don’t add to your stress by being booked too tight. Planes get delayed, trains get side-lined, and ships can take forever to debark. Build extra time into your schedule. Take a good book, some needlework, or your journal to fill in the time. Better yet, take a power nap and be ready for the next stop!

The good news is, I followed these rules while I was away last week, and I had an absolutely fantastic vacation! I slept well in the king size hotel bed with the air conditioning cranked on high (which drowned out Bart’s snoring!), I walked all day in Birkenstock supportive sandals, I took breaks when needed (and shockingly it was Bart who needed them more so than I did because he doesn’t do as well in the heat as I do), walking was great for my pain, because I slept well my fatigue and pain were at bay, and my mood was amazing because we were on vacation! Although I drank too much coffee, ate pastries and foods I shouldn’t have, I still had a great time, and my body didn’t suffer TOO much! Always have to follow the 80/20 rule!

Yesterday, I met with a new Naturopathic Doctor and had IV therapy and injections done for the first time, which I have to say have made a positive impact on me ALREADY! I will share more details on that in my next post. Stay tuned!

Happy Canada Day! 149 years living in a country that has served me quite well!

Xoxo Lex